Logo Small Picture of a Topper

Topper - the Versatile Sailing Dinghy

The Topper Dinghy is a great all-round sailing dinghy for the beginner and seasoned sailor alike. Easy to live with, but nevertheless an exciting sail, many have cut their teeth on a Topper before progressing to much greater things in the world of dinghy sailing.

Topper Dinghy with Two Crew

Construction was originally of GRP (glass reinforced plastic), but very quickly Toppers were being produced in polypropylene using an innovative injection moulding process which has contributed immensely to the boat’s success. They are almost indestructible and require very little maintenance making them an ideal first boat.

Light enough to be lifted onto the top of a car by two people, Toppers are shaped especially to fit upside down onto a standard roof rack. The mast is constructed in two sections and splits to stow with the boom within the length of the boat . Rigging is possible by one person in a few minutes thanks to the innovative mast step design and overall simplicity. Although for racing, the crew is limited to one person, recreational Topper Sailing is quite feasible with a crew of two (particularly two children or an adult and child).

Buying a Topper

Over 50,000 Topper dinghies have been sold and they are still being manufactured so buying one is easy. Their popularity means that second hand boats hold their value extremely well so you should be able to sell later without losing out too much or at all.

The hulls are very tough and leaks are normally due to problems with fittings rather than the deck to hull joint. When removing the bung from the hull after use, a hiss should be heard as pressure equalises – if not check the tightness of the bolts holding the transom plate on and the sealing of the self bailer. Most things can be fixed fairly easily, but if the captive nuts from the transom plate have fallen off or turn, a tricky repair is required. This might involve cutting an access hole in the deck (welding the plastic back up afterwards as deck hatches are not allowed under racing rules). This is probably beyond most DIYers but is routine for a professional repairer.

The mast cup needs checking as although they are easy and cheap to replace (all parts are available for Toppers), if they do wear through, irreparable hull damage can occur. Also, heavy groundings cause damage to the semi-sacrificial plastic plate through which the dagger board emerges – this is a design feature to protect the hull and is fairly easily replaced.

Toppers can’t be painted and some colours fade badly if left in the sun unprotected when stored - grey and yellow are worst, with red and blue colours being less affected. Purple and pink boats suffer from bruising where the plastic becomes white at impact sites. It is possible to remove light scratches by sanding, and sometimes fading can even be removed by briefly melting the hull surface with a hot air gun; probably a job left to the experts!

Topper Dinghy Sailing on a Run

Topper Racing

The Topper Dinghy is a ‘One Design’ boat and hence the racing scene is very active throughout the UK and beyond. This means it’s likely there will be clubs and events near where you live – lakes and reservoirs as well as coastal venues. When racing against other boats, the Topper has a Portsmouth Yardstick Number of 1288 which is used to adjust finishing time.

In 2004 an option to use a ‘centre mainsheet’ was introduced. This has proved very popular as many sailors find this more comfortable, and it is also the arrangement prevailing on boats that you’re likely to progress to in time if you become hooked on dinghy sailing. This can be specified from new, or retro-fitted to an existing boat very easily.

2006 saw a rule change to allow a smaller 4.2 square metre sail for the first time. This has proved fantastic for lighter and younger helms, preventing the need for a reefed standard sail in higher winds, and hence making for a more competitive set-up in heavier conditions.

Remember, if you’re racing your boat (and even if you’re not), it’s always a good idea to store it upside down with the bung out to prevent hull distortion, and to roll the sail around a plastic pipe rather that fold it!

Other Sailing Dinghies to Consider

Alternatives to the Topper you may wish to consider include the following: Mirror Dinghy, the Laser Dinghy or perhaps even an Optimist Dinghy. All of these have a proven pedigree as small sailing dinghies, but if you do find yourself the proud owner of a Topper, you’re unlikely to be disappointed - Happy Sailing!

The Web's Best Source of Information on Topper Dinghies

Topper Facts and Figures:

Sail Area5.3/4.2m²
Hull Weight43Kg
Topper Dinghy with One Crew

Topper History:

1977Topper Dinghy Designed by Ian Proctor
2004Centre Mainsheet Option Introduced
2005Smaller 4.2m² Sail Available
Topper Dinghy sailing in light winds Topper beating to windward