El Toro (dinghy)

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El Toro
Class symbol
Hull weight36.28 kg (80.0 lb)
LOA2.44 m (8 ft 0 in)
(Originally 7 ft 11 in)
Beam1.19 m (3 ft 11 in)
(Originally 3 ft 10 in)
Mainsail area4.55 m2 (49.0 sq ft)

The El Toro is a one-design class of sailing dinghy. The El Toro is quite small—approximately 8 feet (2.44 ) long—and very simple to sail.

Design and use[edit]

The El Toro was designed to serve as both a racing dinghy and a tender for ferrying people and material to and from a larger yacht. The hull measures only 8 feet (2.4 m) long and 3 feet 11 inches (1.19 m) at its widest point. The design features a thwart, or bench, provided for use when rowing.

The available space for the sailor is smaller still, as the sailor usually sits on the deck in the area behind the thwart.

With a characteristic snub-nosed bow and high sides, the El Toro design is a sharp contrast to the low-profile, more sleek design of the Laser or many other newer boats. However, the stability of the El Toro makes it ideal for teaching sailing.

Many junior sailing programs use the El Toro to introduce new sailors to racing, as the boat is easier for the young or inexperienced to control. Lasers, and other similar boats, generally require a larger person and quick reactions to keep the boat under control in brisk winds.

While the boat is often used by children and junior sailors, and many adults complain of the small space available for sitting in, the boat should not be considered a "youth only" boat. As the annual regatta season makes clear, there does exist a community of adults who continue to sail El Toros long past their early junior sailor days.

Although it is possible to sail an El Toro in the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay, the boats are most often used on more protected waters of the lakes and estuaries in the Northern California region.


The El Toro design is traced back to the Richmond Yacht Club in San Francisco Bay Area around 1940. This is one of many boats derived from the MacGregor Sabot design, which was published in Rudder magazine in 1939.

The El Toro features a decked-over bow, which distinguishes it from the Naples Sabot, which is the predominant Sabot-style dinghy in Southern California. With the decked over bow, the El Toro is able to handle the rougher waters of the San Francisco Bay.

The El Toro name and the shovel sail insignia are attributed to being named after the 'bull sessions' which gave rise to the boat and the program.

The original El Toros were made of wood, with newer materials approved for use in the 1970s. The 1970s also saw the introduction of the self-rescuing El Toro, which includes air tanks that prevent a capsized El Toro from completely submerging.

The First El Toro was built in Berkeley, in a night school shop where Ernest (Bud) Coxhead taught boat building. Coxhead, Hal Decker and Bill Warren were instrumental in selecting the design for the Richmond Yacht Club, which wanted a small boat for use as a yacht tender and sailing dinghy.

The trio drafted the El Toro design by copying and modifying plans published in Rudder Magazine for the MacGregor Sabot, an eight-foot pram.

The Richmond Yacht Club's 40 members, who had been debating possible designs at regular meetings, adopted the plan and named the boat after these bull sessions.

According to the El Toro International Yacht Racing Association, there were over 11,000 El Toros in the class in 2002.


Throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, there is a year-round series of regattas in the El Toro class.[1]

The Bullship Race has been running since 1953 and represents one of the most harrowing El Toro regattas in the racing schedule. The skippers carry their boats through the Sausalito Yacht Club entering the water off the SYC dock. The SYC Auxiliary provides the skippers with a Continental Breakfast before the race. The course starts in Sausalitoin front of Ondine Restaurant, crosses the bay between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge and ends at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.[2] The original name for the race was the Ano Del Gran Concurso Barco Toro, which translates roughly into "Golden Gate Bullship Race".

There is a similar Bullship Race in Kaneohe, Hawaii that leaves from Kaneohe Yacht Club rounds coconut island and returns to the yacht club.

BULLSHIP RACE HISTORY The first Bullship Race was April, 1954. Charles O’Gara and Lynn Pera set out to prove the merits of sailing to Barnaby Conrad, author and bullfighting expert, by racing from Ondines in Sausalito to the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. O’Gara lost the race (and by tradition has been the last skipper ever since) but Conrad was convinced that the El Toro class was worthy of a trophy to perpetuate the event. The trophy was the tail of a bull awarded each year to a last place sailor. In 1956 the Monterey Herald donated a perpetual trophy for feminine skippers and in 1958 George Guatekunst gave the Ondine Perpetual trophy for Maiden Voyagers only. In 2006, two new trophies have been designated by the committee; the Robert Cresswell Woody Award for the first wooden boat finishing, and the Clydesdale Award, for the first finisher who weighs over 200 pounds. The legendary Tempest Storm has served as honorary meteorologist since the early years. Traditionally, the race is held on the Saturday after Easter to take advantage of favorable tides. After 134 El Toros raced in 1962, a limit was set at 100 entries per race. The skippers carry their boats through the Sausalito Yacht Club and put them in the water off the SYC dock. The race starts and 9 am. A continental breakfast is always provided to the racers by the SYC Auxiliary starting at 7:30 am.

Narrasketuck Yacht Club, located in Amityville, New York, holds an annual frostbite series for El Toros. The series kicks off with the Bullshot Regatta, held on New Year's Day.[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "El Toro Regattas". El Toro International Yacht Racing Association. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  2. ^ "Bullship Race: El Toro TransPac Challenges Prams". The Log. Archived from the original on April 21, 2003. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  3. ^ Narrasketuck Yacht Club