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The Life of a Measurer: Ray Sebo recalls 40 years with the Flying Fifteen class

by Jonny Fullerton 17 Aug 2021 07:51 PDT
Ray Sebo, F15 © Ray Sebo

Ray Sebo's early sporting life was dominated by tennis, squash and golf until, at the age of 34, he was transferred in his employment to the small town of Esperance on the south coast of Western Australia.

Even though he had never sailed, a friend suggested that the local yacht club, Esperance Bay YC was the most social club in town and he should join instead of drinking at the local pub!

Soon after this, one of the locals suggested that he should buy a boat, taking a half share with him. This friend was a competent helmsman and suggested Ray could be his crew.

"After more and more beers, I agreed."
(He had never heard of a Flying Fifteen, but this is what he got.)
His first sail was in 25 knots in the rough seas of the Southern Ocean!

On arriving home he was having second thoughts. This boat was a Shand Mk 1, GRP, No 1365 called 'The Sting'.

Following that first season he dismantled the boat for repairs and maintenance and when reassembling was required, he read the class rules, which initiated his interest in measuring.

Ray returned to his home town in Perth, WA in 1978 and joined the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC), where he remains a member to this day.

He continued to sail a Flying Fifteen as a crew, qualifying for the inaugural World Championship at RFBYC in 1979 sailing in a Shepherd boat number 2339 called 'FFidelio'. Boats to follow were 'FF Troop' 2757 (Windebank II), 3572 'Relience 17'(Shand Mk 4) and 4000 'Relience 4k' (Ovington 10).

Ray qualified as a measurer in 1983 at which time ten new boats each year were being built in Perth so he had a lot practice at measuring!

He was appointed Chief Measurer of the WA FF Association (FFIWA) in 1983. He also served as President of FFIWA for three years. In 1994 he was appointed as a 'Life Member'.

He was appointed Chief Measurer of the Australian FF Association (FFIA) in 1992, thus joining the Technical Committee of Flying Fifteen International (FFI) and attained the status of International Measurer ratified by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

In 2007 he was appointed a 'Life Member' of FFIA. He was appointed Chief Measurer of FFI in 1995. In 2011 he was presented with the Uffa Fox Gold Medal in recognition of outstanding service to Flying Fifteen International (FFI).

Ray sailed in five World Championships and attended a further six Worlds as Event Measurer/Technical Officer. He has also competed in the inaugural Europeans, 19 Australian National Championships, and 27 WA State Championships.

But Ray recalls: "The social aspects of the class were always better than my sailing performances, although I did manage a few single figure results, the best of which was a fifth place in an Australian Nationals. The lowlight came at the Brisbane Worlds when we capsized downwind in 20 knots and the top of the mast became stuck in the mud for a minute or two with the keel standing vertically above the hull. I did helm the boat occasionally but preferred crewing. This gave me more time look about and then 'coach' my helmsman (in the nicest possible way)."

Ray summarises his involvement in the class by saying: "The highlight of my 40 years as a Fifteener has been the opportunity to regularly meet other Fifteeners all around the world and share their friendship. There are many hundreds. Thank you to my Flying Fifteen family worldwide."

Chris Waples, current FFI Commodore, said "After circa 30+ years involvement with the F15 class, not least as Chief Measurer, we should not let Ray's contribution pass without some recognition".

Peter Rooke, former FFI Commodore, applauded Ray's skills with, "Ray has been the World Measurer for a long time and is responsible for the stability of the class rules and ensuring that strict measurement practices have been maintained".


Ray says, "In my early days as a measurer I became frustrated with members who ignored the class rules so I wrote the following piece which was published in the local newsletter." It was entitled 'The measurer's bricks and bouquets'.

  • Measurer's love...
    • All skippers and crew who understand the class rules and read the handbook regularly;
    • New sails which have been measured a couple of weeks before opening day;
    • Owners who write to him when they buy and sell a boat;
    • Comfortable gunwales which are less than 76 mm wide;
    • Sailmakers who get the measurements right the first time; making only one trip to measure a new boat;
    • Skippers who ring him for advice before they try to bend the rules;
    • Masts which have four big black bands painted on them.
  • Measurer's hate...
    • Lost measurement certificates;
    • Measuring a new spinnaker an hour before the first race of the State Championship;
    • Skippers who think the "sheerline" is a new brand of pantyhose;
    • Spinnaker poles which are 5mm too long after the skipper has measured it at least twice before calling the measurer;
    • Helmsmen who win the Saturday afternoon trophy using a new set of unmeasured sails;
    • Anchors which can only be used after moving all the buoyancy from the forward bulkhead;
    • The owner who complains about the design of his boat when it sinks after a broach;
    • Life jackets which are kept neatly stored in the garage at home.

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