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FAQs for Sunset Series

A non-exhaustive introduction to Cadet sailing at the Dabchicks. If in doubt – ask us.

What is Sunset Series?

Sunset Series is a series of (roughly) 12 evening sailing sessions taking place from the beginning of May to the end of July, on Wednesday nights. It’s for Cadets – ie, kids from 8 to 18. It is entirely volunteer run, by the parents of the kids taking part.

What is the aim of the series?

To introduce kids to sailing and having fun on the water; to help them develop sailing skills; and hopefully for them to grow up as sailors for life.

What boats do they sail?

Our kids start sailing in Optimists. These are single handed dinghies which are perfect for younger children. The best places to buy Optimists are either locally, or various Facebook groups – see links below.

They progress into a range of single and double handed dinghies; including Toppers, Lasers, Fevas, and Picos.

Who can take part?

Cadet members of Dabchicks Sailing Club. Each Cadet must also have an adult member present to help on or off the water – see below.

Can my child start sailing at any age?

Beginner lessons are targeted at 8-9 year old children. If you have an older child who wishes to start learning to sail, contact us. We recommend separate lessons to enable them to sail with children of their own age.

Who will they sail with?

Optimist sailors (our younger cadets) are organised into fleets by ability – and as they learn they will progress through the Optimist fleets. Other classes of boat sail in Outside Fleet; usually a combined fleet of all non-Optimists.

What do I need to buy/organise/pay for?

To begin sailing, your child will need:

  1. Dabchicks membership. See
  2. An Optimist – from £250. A cheap boat (£3-400) will be fine for the first year. Good boats currently start at around £800 and for most kids will be good enough for their entire Optimist sailing life. Do not buy an expensive boat for first sailing experiences – they will crash it at some point. See links below.
  3. Insurance – from £30. Insurance is mandatory.
  4. A buoyancy aid. New starters should have a suitably sized buoyancy aid with leg straps to keep them in place if they need to be lifted out of the water. Buoyancy aids are mandatory.
  5. A wetsuit.
  6. Wet shoes or booties. (Footwear is mandatory – no bare feet on the Hard)
  7. Ideally a spray top – to go over a wetsuit on colder/wetter nights.
  8. Boat storage. Peter Clarke’s Boatyard have an Optimist park (next to the Company Shed) which costs approximately £60/year. Clarke’s and Dabchicks offer storage for larger boats in their dinghy parks. See links.

What is my commitment?

Child and parent/guardian must be members of Dabchicks Sailing Club. Every child must have an appropriate adult on-site and volunteering at all times to be eligible for entry.

What are the key dates?

Latest planned dates are listed on the Dabchicks website on the main Sunset page. Key dates are:

Registration: Online registration for Sunset Series.

Boat inspections: All Optimists other than Gold Fleet must be inspected by a Coach before sailing starts.

Sailor Briefing: Mandatory pre season briefing, approx 2 weeks before first sailing; for all parents and Cadets

Safety Briefing: Mandatory pre season briefing for safety boat helms/crews.

Diamond weekend: All new Diamond Fleet sailors must attend a weekend of initial training at the Boating Lake.

Prize giving: This year we intend to hold a prize giving event to finish Sunset Series.

Cadet Week: A full week of racing and events for Cadets. The grand finale at the start of the Summer holiday.

How do I register for Sunset Series?

Join the Dabchicks – via the Dabchicks website. Then apply for Sunset Series online. Dabchicks members will receive email notification when Sunset registration is open.

Is a place guaranteed for all children?

Unfortunately, Dabchicks cannot guarantee that all children who apply will be able to sail. We may have to limit numbers if we do not have sufficient coaches to safely train them to sail. To date, we have not had to limit numbers and we hope that this situation will continue.

How does volunteering work?

If your child is sailing, you will be given a volunteering role. Roles include galley (feeding and watering kids and parents); beach (launching and recovering boats); fleet parents (herding one fleet of kids before and after sailing to ensure they’re in the right place; safety (driving or crewing a support boat); coaching (leading a fleet, organising activities, and training the cadets).

No charge is made for entry to Sunset Series for Dabchicks members. This is possible because everyone helps out; and because everyone helps other kids.

You will not be given a job you’re not capable of. If you’re in doubt about what to do, talk to the person leading that area, or ask someone who looks like they know what they’re doing!

What is Cadet Week?

Mersea Cadet Week is one of the biggest junior sailing events in the country; and (we think) the biggest on the East Coast. It takes place near the start of the School Summer Holidays.

Cadet Week is a full week of racing, in fleets; this is the chance for the Cadets to show what they have learnt. In addition to racing, there are evening events, parties, and entertainment. It is the highlight of the Cadet sailing year.

Useful Links



Sunset Series:

Cadet Week:

Peter Clarke’s Boatyard (Optimist Storage):

Facebook Groups

Optimists Boats for Sale:

Dinghy Bits for Sale:

More Dinghy Bits for Sale:

Boat bits for sale in Mersea:

Optimist Class Association (for some info on Optimists):

Feva Class Association:

Laser/ILCA Class Association:

Topper Class Association:

Rigging an Optimist (if you’ve just bought one :

Got any questions or want to sign up? Email or for more information.

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