Enterprise Sailing Dinghy

The Enterprise dinghy is a two person, non trapeze, non spinnaker one design double chine hull dinghy. Designed by Jack Holt in 1956, the design has withstood the test of time and the class provides some of the best sailing and racing to be found anywhere. Over 20,000 are registered worldwide. It has exellent qualities both as a cruising and two-person racing boat. The Enterprise dinghy is also very seaworthy and can be sailed offshore with confidence.

It is a well established class which means that good class racing and open meeting racing is readily available all over the country. The National Enterprise Week usually attracts over a hundred entries. The class is also growing at a rate of approximately one hundred new boat registrations every year.

Enterprise sailing dinghy

Enterprise sailing dinghy

Enterprises are constructed using a variety of materials. A large proportion of new boats are glass fibre with a new style of interior layout. Alternatives are the composite boat for those who like wooden decks without the fuss of fitting out a wooden hull. You can also obtain a conventional all-wooden boat from one of the specialist builders, or one of the newer wood/epoxy boats built in a mould and to a simplified internal design/layout.

Secondhand Enterprise dinghies can be purchased for a couple of hundred pounds. They are invariably of wooden construction and care must be taken when buying one that needs a lot of work.

Length : 4.04m
Beam : 1.6m
Weight : 94kg
Sail Area : 10.5m sq


I am the proud owner of a wooden hulled Enterprise currently berthed at the Weirwood Reservoir, West Sussex. I have been trying hard to sail this dinghy alone as I was assured it is a dinghy that can be sailed single handed in the right conditions. My experience so far is quite the opposite although I keep trying. I love the boat but find it at times heavy to launch & recover & difficult to handle two sails with one pair of hands. Am I alone here or does anyone else agree its definately a double crewed dinghy? Should I consider selling up ?
Adrian – West Sussex

Hi Adrian,

I am considering buying an enterprise myself and am also hoping to do some solo sailing but i’ve already considered that I might have to do without the jib, at least initially, have you tried with just the main ? I’m not expecting that to be a problem…..

Sailing the enterprise single handed is fun.I would not sail it without the jib as you will not get through the wind when tacking.
Is is advisable as well to back the jib slightly when tacking.
However broad reaching is great just sit towards the stern and the boat will take off down the lake.
Hope this helps

At Chipstead SC, near Sevenoaks in Kent, we actually have a racing series for single handed Enterprises. The series is of 7 races and is held at lunchtimes during the summer months. Single handed Ents are also alowed in the clubs handicap races with a special PY number. My tip for sailing an Ent single handed is to tie the ends of the jib sheets together. Then, if it is windy enough to sit out on the side, you can place the jib sheet on the deck beside you, the weight of the knot drapped over the side will keep it there so you can adjust the jib on the other side. If it does fall in the boat you can always retrieve it because the jib sheets now form a contiuous loop.
I would definately never sail without the jib as it is the jib which tensions up your rig and without this you are likely to have the mast pop out of the mast step and damage your foredeck, before crashing down.
Andy Howard Enterprise Fleet Captain Chipstead SC

I have sailed my Enterprise single handed on Lake Ontario many times, BUT, never in any kind of appreciable wind. So a nice day with a beer in one hand and the main sheet in the other with the jib sheets handy and enjoy.

I regularly sail an Ent single handed on Chichester harbour, and she can be a bit of a handful in a blow but she is managable, one could always reef the main but that would make those long planes down wind not nearly so rewarding.

Its great to hear that there are other single handed Enterprise sailors out there. I regularly race single handed on the Thames at Oxford. There are several other club members who do the same. Most times you can manage without a crew, though if the forecast looks like there may be a bit of a blow I will try to get someone. I agree with the tip about tying the jib sheets together. Another suggestion from a single handed Heron sailer is to lightly cleat the windward jib sheet just as you tack. Not tried this yet though I suspect I may get wet!

Would not recommend sailing the ENT. Without the jib the boat will not tack,you would have to jibe to go through the wind. As has been previously stated tie the jib sheets together.

The enterprise can be a fantastic single handler dinghy. I started sailing in Jan 2008 and wanted to take all the family out reguarly. They were keen to start with however I wanted to sail when others did not. Thankfully I had logged on to the ‘go sail’ site and seen others sailing the ‘enterprise’ single handed and that is what prompted me to origianally purchase it as although it is a larger dinghy it is so adaptable. I did buy a slightly reduced main sail off ebay which allows me to sail up to 16mph on my own and its such fantastic and great fun. I’d recommend it to anyone.It’s not as difficult as one might think.

I sail my Enterprise single handed, and sail at Loosdrecht (NL). She is a handful when there is anything beyond a breeze, but reefing helps with that, even if it upsets the balance of the boat a little, and spoils what could be fun were I prepared for a few capsizes!


I have just learnt to sail an enterprise,it is an old one but still provides a great experience.Taking up sailing at the age of nearly 60 is to be recommended! Nick.

I secure two 25 litre water containers either side of centre case, under thwart. Also attach to mast support. Result is a much easier sail.

Hi Adrian,

In response to your note about sailing an Ent Dinghy single handed, I find it relitively easy in light winds. I have however not yet attempted sailing in stronger winds.

I am far from an accomplished sailer in fact today was only the second time I have taken out the Ent. Both times, I have managed a couple of hours of sailing single handed. I find that once I have launched, which clearly would be easier with another pair of hands, the jib is largely an after the boat has turned through a tack or gybe.

Keep trying is my advice as I certainly will.

Best of luck

Hi Adrian,

I have had the pleasure of owning 2 Enterprises now, both a GRP and a wooden one both of which are sailable singe handed. It takes a bit of practice but i find the best way to make tacks and gybes easier it to un cleat the jib just before moving the tiller, making the turn and sheeting in after wards. This method has served me well enough for cruising and some friendly racing both on the lakes where i sail, Cotswold Water park, and in some slightly more challenging locations such as Cardiff bay and along the Pembroke coastline. Once a suitable technique has been found the enterprise is the only boat i have sailed that serves an all round purpose whether it be for cruising or racing or single or double handed, definitely worth keeping hold of.

Fair Sailing

Hi all,

I’m a bit suprised at the comments about sailing an Ent single handed without a jib, I did this for years on the Thames and never had any problems. The centre board needs to be lifted a little to get the balance right and you can also rake the mast forwards which helps. In the mid 70’s this set up was as good as an OK and because of the Ent’s superb roll tacking ability we had many good duels. If I were going to have another one I would fit a roller furling gear for the jib (the Wanderer I am using has one and it’s great) and the kind of centre main system as used on Lasers. As for the comment about the mast junping out of the step, you can always tension up the forestay, mine had a lanyard…..no worries.
Lastly I would buy a glass one with built in tanks…blowing up that front bag can be a real pain and that sinking feeling is even worse. Happy memories.


I have owned E178 built by Jack Holt since new(really). She is now at our summer place in Finland and gets sailed every summer as much as I can. I still sail her single handed and best of all in gales with the small and now very old original cotton sails.

She is magic- I’ve had more fun than I can describe- she’s been raced ar Wraysbury in the very early days, Rock, Cowes and the Isle of Wight, Burnham Overy Staithe and now on Lake Saimaa in Eastern Finland. She gets stored under cover in the winter.

Great boats and huge fun to sail- I’m now looking for a composite hull as I daren’t think how much longer the hull will last

I’ve been sailing my ENT for 7 years most of that has been single handed racing even in stronger winds.My advice would be tie jibe sheets and raise centre board as much as possible this will reduce the fulcrum effect and reduce the number of capsizes in stronger winds.


They can be a lump to launch single handed but I find the worst bit is recovery up the slipway. Its worth some thought, an old pulley block and a long line is worth its weight in gold sometimes.
I have a bungee cord (from Halfords) which hooks between port and starboard benches ahead of the rear thwart. It can be lifted up over the tiller and released effectively lashing the helm. This gives you time to go and fiddle with kickers, bailers etc.

Without a crew, give some thought to where ropes fall and how to keep them tidy and tangle free. I have a bakers ‘tray’ aft of the rear thwart to contain the trailing end of the main sheet. Make sure rope ends are tied / stopped so you don’t lose them overboard!

Make sure equipment is set up properly e.g. the rudder bungee, friction pad on centreboard.

Finally, consider cruising sails.



I’ve E178, which I’ve had since 1957! I raced her a lot in the early days at Wraysbury Lake, Rock (before it became smart and then Burnham Overy Staithe. We won a race at Cowes in I think 1959. She is now at our Finnish summer place in Finland, where I sail her on Lake Saimaa.

I’ve a set of cruising sails (the original cotton) which I use in high winds.

I find her easy to sail single handed as long as it is not too windy. Without the jib, performance is not great!

Try reefing the main down. I love the boat, which still gives me great sailing.