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One of the most significant differences between modern boats and those of an older vintage is the trend towards using an aft mainsheet bridle to centre-line the boom, rather than a traveller in the middle of the boat. Ultimately, both systems have their own merits in terms of sail control, but doing away with the central traveller also has the major advantage of allowing more room in the cockpit, and giving the helm the freedom to move forward easily in light winds.

Almost all 'classic' Fifteens were originally equipped with a central traveller; in some cases this was mounted on a wooden or aluminium bar across the cockpit, whilst others actually incorporated this bridge as part of the GRP deck moulding. On some hulls, such as the Shepherd for example, this bridge is fairly compact and can be cut out if desired, but on other types the central bridge is much more substantial, making the conversion more difficult. On the Wyche and Coppock hull the bridge effectively separates the cockpit into two parts, and is so large that it even incorporates a forward-facing seat for the crew!

We wished to convert 2663 to an aft-bridle system, and also fit a modern-style 'Ovington' centre console. Fortunately the traveller and existing small GRP console on our boat were easily removed, and the resulting holes in the decks glassed-up.

A new console was ordered from Ovington at a cost of £130, which arrived very promptly; there are two (or even three) variations available of the Ovington console - we chose the latest narrow type, which gives slightly more space in the cockpit than the earlier versions.

The Ovi console is very substantially built, as in a modern boat it is also used as a mounting point for the toestraps. It is consequently fairly heavy, but fortunately we were able to remove quite a bit of material from it's base and front side, in order to mount it around the front floor tank in our boat.

Great attention was given to bonding in the console to cope with the substantial mainsheet loads it would receive during crash gybes and so on - it has now survived lots very hard racing without any hint of cracking or movement, so it seems we did a good job. It will be seen in the photos that underneath the console we constructed a wooden 'shelf' device, through which various control lines emerge. What isn't so obvious is that this shelf is also used to terminate several purchase systems that run under the front floor - including the very highly-loaded kicking strap and rig tension systems. The top of the shelf is angled in such as way that the various systems are at different heights, which helps keeps them clear of each other, but more importantly it ensured that the whole construction is in compression, the loads being transmitted into the front floor tank and hull of the boat.

Console rear view showing the spinnaker uphaul guide being added.

Control console: carries main sheet, cunningham, pole height, outhaul, mast ram and spinnaker uphaul.