What happaned to the Mirror 16?

Just a bit of chit chat here, nothing serious. Was just wondering why the Mirror 16 never reached the same popularity as for example the original Mirror (11), Wayfarer, Enterprise, etc? Looks a nice boat at a glance; stable, fast, good sailplan. I know there were plenty about, and some are still about today, but just wondered why they never really took off. Pushing something new into an already saturated market perhaps?

The Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_16 says something about the plywood hull not being able to stand much punishment, but I'm not sure whether that's a reference to the previous sentence about popularity, or the sentence after it about not many surviving to today. Or both!

sail_and_oar's picture

I'll start off by saying I've been a little averse to boats which have undrainable bouyancy chambers ever since I found a kid with a sinking Topper just down from Dell Quay.

It was a little before my time but here goes;

The Mirror 16 was originally marketed as a fast camp cruiser and racing dingy. That put it immediately head to head with the exceptionally good Wayfarer. Camp cruiser type sailors have a tendency to sail rotting old hulks and nurse them along for half a lifetime. They don't like spending much money buying boats which are going to get beaten around and actually boat speed isn't especially important. Given the choice between Pre war clinker dinghy, second hand Wayfarer or a brand new Mirror 16 the Mirror unfortunately comes in third.

Next we have the hull problem. Camp cruiser types have a tendency to take the ground at night. This inevitably leads to the boat leaking. Normally we bail the boat as we sail it home then fix it before it's next time out except you can't bail a Mirror 16. The underfloor chamber fills with water and the only way to remove it is to bring the boat ashore. It really is potentially very dangerous.

In 1958 the Kestrel dinghy arrived. It was another cruiser racer 15' 7" and fast like the Mirror 16. The difference was it was fibreglass. It would never need painting and they are to this day damn fine boats. Slowly everyone headed towards fibreglass.

Finally I seem to recall there was a racing fleet of Mirror 16's which was doing quite well in terms of numbers. A squall tore through the fleet and flipped virtually every boat. This was publicised rather too well and sales immediately began to fall.

They were in many ways quite good boats and apparently very fast and a delight to sail. Just not the right boat for the right purpose at the right time.


62816inBerlin's picture

Heather Drugge, who sails and cruises a "normal" Mirror as well, has competed in the Race to Alaska for two years running in a Mirror 16. They played safe and broke off due to storms in 2015 and would have finished this year, but would not have met the time limit as bad weather was threatening.
I believe that the main reason that they did not spread as a class was, as Cliff wrote, the fact that there were quite a few comparable boats to be had at similar prices and which one didn't have to assemble from a kit. That reduces the potential owners to folks who like building things. However, that group can satisfy that desire at a lower price by building a regular Mirror.
We could include the Mirror 16s as a theme group here if enough people are interested.

Gernot H.

We still have a Mirror 16 racing at our club. Does anyone have any updates on the PY since the one last published by the RYA of 1097 in 1989?

beermatt's picture

Thanks Cliff & Gernot. I imagined it'd be something along those lines, nice to put some meat on the bones!