The Thistle is a high performance
one-design racing dinghy, also used for day sailing, popular in the United
States. The Thistle was designed by Gordon K. (Sandy) Douglass who later
designed the Highlander and Flying Scot. Starting in 1945, 4000 boats
have now been built. Their construction originally used molded plywood.
The builders started using
Glass-reinforced polyester or "fibreglass" in the late 1950s.
The current hull configuration uses a glass-reinforced polyester molded
boat with wooden rails, centre board trunk, thwart, fore grating, and
aft grating. The spars were once made from spruce, but are now of entirely
extruded aluminum construction.
Thistle hulls are relatively light for their size; they have no decking
or spray protection, which saves weight. The sail plan is large for a boat
of this size, consisting of a marconi rig with a main, jib, and symmetrical
spinnaker. The sail plan is larger for the boat’s weight than in
many other dinghies, which makes Thistles perform extremely well in light
wind. Their hulls have wide, rounded bottoms, allowing the boats to plane
in winds as low as 10 knots. It is not uncommon to see thistles efficiently
making their way, while other dinghys of similar design are becalmed.
Thistles are generally raced with a three person crew: a skipper, a middle,
and a forward person. The optimal total crew weight is generally 450 lb
to 480 lb (US) depending on wind. The crew weight, however, is generally
not the deciding factor in determining the outcome of the races. In fact,
class rules do not limit crew weight. In all but the strongest winds, an
experienced two person crew can manage the boat. Hiking straps are permitted
for either droop or straight leg hiking, but a trapeze is not. The class
is generally family friendly, though experienced sailors will still be
challenged at the higher levels of competition.