2009 June 1


When my kids were 6 and 8 years old I gave them the choice of a new outboard motor for the dinghy or a new sailing dinghy. I told them it's one or the other, but I can't afford both. They both wanted a sailing dinghy so I bought a Bruynzeel 8-foot El Toro. In no time the 8-year-old was sailing all over the bay and the following year the younger son was doing the same. It wasn't quite as easy as I'm making it sound now but my neighbors put up with my yelling from the beach, both kids survived and both learned the basics of dinghy sailing. I remain convinced that there is no better way to teach a youngster self-reliance than to push them off in a small sailing dink. One hundred yards off the beach Dad is not there to help or criticize.

The new Bug is from designer Jo Richards and is a product of the LaserPerformance group. To my eye, it is today's high-tech version of the old El Toro. It is clearly a more refined and sophisticated design than the El Toro, but the idea is the same. This boat is designed as a versatile trainer and racer that would "appeal to both beginner and expert."

The Bug is chock full of clever design features. This is a great little boat. There is an optional wheel that retracts into the hull forward and handles that pop out of the drain sockets in the transom so you can wheel your Bug around on the dock without a dolly. I like that. Oarlocks and collapsible oars both stow in the boat, making it an ideal tender.

But the most important thing is that the Bug comes available with two rigs. There is a standard rig with 41 square feet of sail that furls around the mast. This is the rig you would use when training a beginner. With that rig mastered you can move up to the race rig featuring a pre-bent topmast and a 57-square-foot radial cut laminated Mylar sail. A vang comes standard. The race rig is a sexy looking rig and would excite any youngster just getting into sailing. It looks high-tech.

I can't tell much about the hull form from the information I have but there is a distinct chine running all the way to the bow. The bow is full, but not as full as the pram bow of the El Toro. There is some rocker to the chine aft. About a third of the way aft the deck edge of the Bug flares out to make hiking more comfortable and more effective. Both the rudder and daggerboard are "floating marine grade aluminum." A hiking stick comes standard.

The Bug is built from "triple-layer polyethylene," so it is durable. But the downside of polyethylene is that it's not particularly light, and the Bug hull weighs 101 pounds. My El Toro, without the rig, weighed about 40 pounds. Still, that retractable dolly wheel is very attractive and makes the weight much less of an issue.
I'd like to try the Bug. My wife wants two dinghies so we can race each other. I was a bit big for the 8-foot El Toro, and at 225 pounds I was able to apply enough power to the little pram to peel the gooseneck off the mast regularly. But I have fond memories of that little boat after seeing my two boys learn in it. I think they would have been far better off in this new Bug.

LOA 8'6"; Beam 4'3"; Draft 2'11"; Weight 101 lbs.; Sail area 41 sq. ft. (standard), 57 sq. ft. (race)

LaserPerformance N.A., 300 Highpoint Ave., Portsmouth, RI 02871, (800) 966-SAIL, www.laserperformance.com.

OBE: $2,555
Our Best Estimate of the sailaway price