Boat Buying Guide

The guidelines below were very much guided by those on the GBR 420 Association website for which they must receive great credit for producing. Both the GBR Association and the International 420 Class Association are a great source of information and guidance.

“What should I buy?”

Unfortunately, there is no one answer, it’s about what suits you and how much money you want to spend.  You can pick up a great 420 starter boat for around €2.5k; this will have everything you would need to get started in the Class and racing at events.  Coming new to the Class we understand that it can feel quite daunting, especially if you’ve come from an Topper, Mirror or Feva where they there are limited options to change your rigging.  If you are coming from an Optimist then you’ll be used to having some options to change your rig to suit your weight and the conditions! BUT ultimately at the start the make of boat, age of boat won’t make too much difference – all the boats are rigged and sailed the same way!  You need to learn how to rig the boat, how to sail the boat and how to race the boat; you don’t need to spend a fortune to get started – once you are established in the Class you may want to upgrade and by then you’ll know what you need/want.

Which hull make to buy is definitely an interesting question; in Ireland at the moment a MacKay is being favoured by the more tenured sailors however when you get to the continent sailors tend to favour a Nautivela, Blue Blue, Lenam or Ziegelmayer.  What we are saying is there is no right answer; choose what is right for you and your sailor at a price that suits you……………. older, cheaper boats still win races!


Top Tips

As with any boat, if you are planning to buy a second-hand 420 then there are some top tips to ensure you buy the best possible boat for your money:

Hull Construction Check

  • Check the tank to floor flanges to see if they are parting.  If there are any signs of de-lamination then beware as this is a job for the professional.  A cumbersome repair will be very evident. It doesn’t mean that the boat is a no go but you should bear this in mind when considering the overall cost.
  • Move to the gunwhales and check for parting of the hull-deck joint. If all is in order, check the stem head fitting for security – remember this anchorage takes a pounding and can work loose,
  • Look under the hull carefully and check for splits or bodged repairs especially in the vicinity of the centre board slot.

Foil Check

  • Check the foils for general wear and tear; they are indeed replaceable but expensive. Try to borrow a thickness gauge to check for maximum thickness of 20mm. Wood foils can fail on thickness but GRP foils are generally trouble free.

Spar Check

  • Spars should not be a problem, but watch out for missing black bands on masts and booms.


  • When starting out don’t worry too much about the sails; you will spend a lot of time swimming in the first 6 months so you definitely don’t want to be using brand new sails to start with!  420 main sails tend to wear quite well; jibs and spinnakers less so.  You’ll find that most sailors have a number of training mains/jibs/spinnakers that they’ve picked up second hand or downgraded from a race one and keep a decent set of racing sails that they only use for racing.  It’s probably worth having the same make/cut for training and racing as the settings will be different depending on the sail.
  • Check your sail to see if it matches the boat number; don’t panic if they don’t match, you don’t need them to for training but this will be important for RYA Youth Nationals, Class Selection events and any International Events.  If the spinnaker number doesn’t match your boat you can block this out to start with. Remember if you want to use sails at any of the above events then theyll need to be signed , by a measurer.


  • On arrival ask to see the certificate, every 420 has one.
  • Determine the age of the boat, now check the certificate registration number against the plaque number in the hull, if these tie up registration is in order.


  • The next and most important step is to check for correctors, the certificate will tell you what correctors, if any, are fitted. Correctors on modern 420s are fitted to the transom but on earlier boats they were fitted under the thwart. If correctors are listed but not in place they have been removed illegally i.e. without the authority of an official measurer, who would issue a letter stating that the boat had been reweighed and the new weight should be recorded on the certificate.
  • Most boats gain weight after a season’s hard racing; a one year old boat will probably gain one kg and a three year old boat probably two to two and a half kg. depending on after sailing care.
  • Many new boats are built up to minimum weight of 80kg at the client’s request, whilst other clients like to see correctors. The advantage of a second hand boat with correctors is that the weight can be reduced by their removal.

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