The little sister of the 12ft Topaz, Topper International’s 9ft 8in TAZ weighs just 88 pounds, making it a breeze for junior sailors and their instructors to manhandle. Although it can be easily singlehanded by a beginner, the TAZ can accommodate a child and adult together, making it ideal for training purposes.
Better still, this is a boat with a Bermuda rig that both prepares beginners for the rigs they will be handling as adolescents and adapts to their needs as they develop as sailors. The basic rig flies a 48ft2 Dacron main, a la the Laser and countless other performance dinghies. A higher-performance Mylar main of the same size is also available.
To take things to the next level there’s a “race” version, which includes an 10ft2 headsail. Combine the race rig with the TAZ’s slippery hull form (with a true “pointy bow instead of a square one” as one young sailor described it to me during the Annapolis boat show), a self-bailing cockpit and flared topsides that cry out for aggressive hiking, and you have a boat that will keep kids excited for years.
The TAZ features Topper’s proven Trilam construction, which produces a foam-cored rotomolded hull that is stiff, light and durable. Under sail, the TAZ is so buoyant the cockpit stays well out of the water when capsized, making it a piece of cake to get back on its feet again. Be warned, sailing instructors: in light air your kids may prefer tipping over their boats for the fun of it when they should be sailing!
There is an ingeniously hinged “gate,” which locks in the two-part mast after it’s been stepped, and a kickup rudder that can be easily locked into an up or down position using just the tiller. Handles in the bow and on the transom give you something to grab when hauling the boat up a beach.
Under sail, the boat is just a bit on the snug side for a 6-footer like me. But it was a lot of fun tootling around Annapolis harbor under the watchful eye of all those grownups back at the pier. Most importantly for a guy my size, I could easily tuck myself in up by the mast leaving plenty of room for someone much smaller to work the tiller and mainsheet aft. If I can fit myself in with room to spare, so can you! The boat will be perfect for two kids.
As for the nimble kid who repeatedly gybed, tacked, capsized and then righted the boat after I brought it back to the dock—enjoy your youth while you can. Alas, it is far too fleeting.
For decades, designers and boatbuilders had been striving to create a dinghy to challenge or at least join the ubiquitous Optimist as the trainer of choice. With the creation of the TAZ, Topper International may have finally done it.
LOA 9ft 8in // LWL 9ft 8in // BEAM 4ft
WEIGHT 88lb // Draft 2ft 8in
Sail Area 48ft2 (Dacron main)
10ft2 (optional jib)
DESIGNERS Ian Howlett and Rob White
BUILDER Topper International,
U.S. DISTRIBUTORTopaz Sailing, Annapolis, MD, 410-286-1960
Photo by Topper International (top) and Peter Nielsen (bottom)