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As anyone will tell you, I'm a rather poor racer.  Usually, I have an adequately fast boat, but have no proper idea of where to put it on the starting line or how to get it pointed in the right direction on the beat or run.  I need help!

Usually, I'm pretty religious about having my sails covered in telltales and running with a burgee or wind vane at the top of the mast.  They give me some clues about the wind.

I've tried a number of burgees, and far too often find I cannot say whether they are pointing north or pointing south.  I told you I needed help...  The reason being that, at a distance, the outline of the burgee looks the same.  I experimented with an older style of SailsEtc burgee, cutting away the rear and sticking on a bit of orange 'day-glo' paper.  It worked, and I could now tell north from south... but still not too far away...

So I built myself a couple of prototype wind vanes using bamboo knitting needles and shaped polystyrene.

Making a prism shape of a block of polystyrene allowed me to stick a large patch of day-glo on the back of the vane, and I can now tell north from south at 150 metres.  Hooray!

2011 Lester Gilbert