Precision’s 185 Daysailer is good buying, a snap to set up, and a whole lot of fun. Just check for wind warnings before you head out

From my experience, there are two guarantees about centreboard dinghy sailing: you will have fun, and you will get wet. Sail well and you might avoid this latter point. But sail poorly and you will certainly end up in deep water.
But that’s all part of the underlying appeal of the Precision 185. On this accommodating dinghy you can have endless days of summer fun, tugging on the ropes, grasping the tiller, and gadding about on the strength of the wind.
What’s more, the wind is free, making dinghies doubly smart craft in today's high-priced world. At $1000 per foot, the 185 is pretty good buying sail-away on trailer. The rig is light enough to tow behind a four-cylinder car, but big enough to cross bays and harbours.
While it's far from a classic dingy such as a 505 or Flying Dutchman, the new Precision 158 Daysailer proved a real breath of fresh air. The 5.5m Daysailer has all the controls but considerably more freeboard for a drier ride across the water. Or at least that is what I was hoping.
There's a centreboard, which retracts in a sealed case so you don't have water constantly leaking aboard, a rudder with a tiller extension attached and, thankfully, some dry storage and positive buoyancy in case you capsize – which I didn't count on doing.
But I did expect some action before I set out with the agent. There was a strong wind warning for NW/NE 15/20kts turning NW and reaching 20/30kts at times. Waters: very choppy. A chance of late thunderstorms, too.
Regardless of that weather warning, we set sail on Sydney Harbour with the intention of finding somewhere for lunch. The Precision 185 Daysailer has an esky that comes as part of the package. And given the amount of dry storage, you could pack a tent and swag aboard and camp on the shore for some real adventure on a big lake somewhere.
Our day of fun began at the boat ramp. The American-made, handlaid fibreglass Daysailer comes on a single-axle trailer. But such is its simplicity that even your grandpa will be able to rig the boat in about 30 minutes.

You start by attaching the shrouds, the wires that keep the mast up, the furling headsail and forestay, and use a halyard to step the rig, which weighs about 26kg. Next, you tension the wires and attach the boom, vang, mainsheet, optional 2hp Honda outboard (in case of no wind), but not much more.
We launched, put the rudder on the pintles, and packed our gear into the dry hold and that empty esky. Rather than use the outboard, we dropped the lift keel and unfurled the headsail. The jib carried us clear of the moorings before we hoisted the mainsail. There was about 8kts of northerly wind as we broad reached down the waterway.
Our attention was diverted to a little penguin and we saw many others during the course of the day. Such are the benefits of a stealthy sailing dinghy that you spot stuff that would otherwise just pass by.
The morning was spent gadding nonchalantly along the foreshores and sitting upon the Daysailer's accommodating decks, which are easily big enough for a family of four. The boat could do with a toe strap, however, so you can lean outboard with greater confidence.
At 2.2m wide, the boat is quite beamy. And with 16.81 square metres of sail, there is plenty of propulsion. The partially battened mainsail is particularly powerful, with the smaller jib mainly assisting with getting the bow through the tacks. All the deck gear is Harken including 2:1 jib sheets, so kids can trim the sail.

Everything was going along swimmingly, when our dinghy story took a sudden twist. The wind gusted to 20kts. So the camera gear was hurriedly stashed in the dry hold. Then it hit 25kts. So we put all our weight on the rail. But no dinghy is made for 30kts, which struck violently, putting the boat on its ear, forcing us to ease the sails. It took all of our considerable weight to prevent a capsize.
To right a capsized dinghy you jump on its centreboard and use your weight to bring the boat back up. Later, while sailing single-handedly, the boat's agent demonstrated this very thing.
But for the mobile phone and wallet that were sent to Davy Jones' locker, the Precision 185 offered plenty of good old-fashioned, affordable sailing fun for a couple of big kids. It is exactly the kind of boat we need more of to cement the boating future and remind us of our simple past.


Specifications: Precision 185 Daysailer

Priced from: $18,500 sail-away on trailer. Honda 2hp outboard extra
Material: GRP hull with foam floatation and strengthening
Type: Monohull
Length overall: 5.52m
Beam: 2.15m
Draft: 1.45m with centreboard down
Displacement: 268kg, plus 60kg lead added locally
Working sail: 16.81sqm
Berths: Two on deck
Engine: Honda 2hp outboard

Daysailer Australia
Phone: Stuart Loft, 0417 452 463

Originally published in TrailerBoat #212


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