The Thistle is a high performance racing dinghy, also used for day sailing, popular in the United States. The Thistle was designed in 1945 by Gordon K. (Sandy) Douglass.
The Thistle Class Association, with fleets across the country, holds local, regional, and national regattas throughout the year. All Thistles are built to the same lines by authorized builders. Class rules limit innovations in rigging, restrict sail purchases, and prohibit electronic navigation gear. Old and new boats are evenly matched, with the owner of Thistle number 1 winning the national championship in 1990.
Thistle hulls are relatively light for their size, doing away with decking and spray protection to save weight. The sail plan is larger for the boat’s weight than in many other dinghies, making Thistles good light wind performers. Their hulls have wide flat bottoms, allowing the boats to plane in winds of 15 to 20 knots. The sail plan is large for a boat of this size, consisting of a marconi rig with a main, jib, and symmetrical spinnaker. Thistle #1 won the Lake Erie Districts in 2013!
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 class is generally family friendly, though experienced sailors will still be challenged at the higher levels of competition.
The Thistle is used as the baseline for the U.S. version of the Portsmouth yardstick system for handicapping small boats in mixed-class fleets.
sail area 191 ft²
spinnaker area 220 ft²
hull weight 515 lbs.
# of boats built 4,000
active US fleets
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MI, MO, MT, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA