The Thistle is popular as a one-desing racer as well as a day-sailer. The Thistle was designed by Gordon K. (Sandy) Douglass who later designed the Highlander and Flying Scot. First constructed in 1945, 4000 boats have now been built, and the thistle has been recognized as one of the most active sailing classes in the US. Their construction originally used molded plywood. The builders started using fiberglass 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 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 larger for the boat’s weight than in many other dinghies, which makes Thistles perform extremely well in light wind. The mainsail, jib, and spinnaker are simple to rig and operat, keeping the needed gear to a minimum. Their hulls have wide, rounded bottoms, making them stable and allowing the boats to plane in winds as little 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. The class is generally family friendly, though experienced sailors will still be challenged at the higher levels of competition.
|Draft Up (ft/m)||0.5||0.15|
|Draft Down (ft/m)||4.5||1.3|
|Mainsail Area (ft2/m2)||191||18|
|Spinnaker Area (ft2/m2)||220||20|