Which Singlehander?

General chat about boats
DavidC
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by DavidC » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:02 pm

With regard to the DSM article you have to remember the author is just a mouthpiece of certain SMOD classes and therefore will spout the party line. The big insult is that he implies these classes have proper class rules to start with. If they had them, then people would support the class, whilst they remain a rip off then let the copies rule and he can take his insults elsewhere.

We must also remember that unlike the great names - and we can think of many - the SMOD manufacturers are not boat builders and despite what they say are not actually interested in sailors. They are production companies selling "units". (no insult to Mr Thomas of course). The fact that these "units" are boat shaped is unimportant as long as the unit sales add up and a new unit will be added or an old one dropped when ever needed to keep the market correct. The SMODs have done more damage to the sport of dinghy sailing than anything else. The is one hope of course is that the small boat builders with low overheads and good management will survive the downturn and the big names will not. I feel sorry for those who have been landed with the boats but in the long run it could be for the best. This does not mean the market should not move on and new boats should be designed. There is however, a difference to the two systems of growth because it is good and growth through deals and marketing only.

AS to ISAF and I have been dealing with them for 25 years and been to many conferences. Despite the grand claims to represent the sport as a whole it is mostly self interest. There are obviously some people on committees who have excellent knowledge and do understand things but they are often ignored. The is a much larger group who have no knowledge at all and are interested mostly in remaining on the committees for the ego trip. The technical knowledge is the poorest on many committees and they are usually seduced by the implied cheap cost and ease of supply meaning they do not have to do anything, nor spend any money.

Ok I feel better for that rant. :twisted:

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JB9
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by JB9 » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:23 pm

Thanks for all the useful replies and the slightly off piste comments too. There are some interesting debates emerging at my club, not least a call for windward/leeward courses for the assymetrics etc in preference to triangles and trapezoids as they do not like to reach. But, do we all have a choice where we spend our money? Of course we do.
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davidh
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by davidh » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:52 pm

JB9,

You have a choice.... today, but you might not have it tomorrow.

There are two conflicting lines of discussion here. One is the view as expressed by dave C, that the smods are changing the sport too fast and not always for the best.

The other view - the undeclared agenda of Isaf, is to manage expense out of the sport. So, a SMOD, where a boat built in Brazil will be the same as the one in Botswana is a great 'ideal' to pursue. Then there is the cost issue (one of the problems incidentally with the Tornado and before it the FD). But as has been shown this year at Qingdao, boat costs are a quite small part of running a successful Olympic campaign. So, the poorer nations, who ISAF are trying so hard to spend more of their hard earned (by us) aid money on sport stay off the rostrum.

As I mentioned on this site in another 'string' - I recently interview Jim Saltonstall and he made no secret that post Atalanta (Savanah for the sailing) that their funding shot up - and now they can build success on success.

So back to the issue of note: Today you have a choice but take care, for the credit crunch and the attentions (or otherwise) of sailing's bureaucrats could leave you with a choice of the SMODs, Laser or Topper, Rs or Ovington.

By the way, although not exclusively so, this problem is very UK centric. Abroad, there is a far greater committment to the established international classes (or which the Europe just happens to be one)

You could even attend the 2012 classic Olympics in one.................

D
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Rupert
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Rupert » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:23 pm

Starting with the original purpose of the thread, I have owned most of the boats mentioned at one time or another. The Europe is a nice boat, but I couldn't recommend it for a youngster due to the low boom. Nothing more off putting than being bashed every tack. For all the antiplastic on here, the Topper is actually a great boat for a kid to sail. There will usually be others sailing the same type of boat, it can be bumped and bashed without worry, and when bored with sailing it can be used as a raft, a capsizing tool for even, if the weather gets cold this winter, as a sledge. The hull shape means a small person can go on the foredeck to get ashore without the boat falling over, and if he ever decides it is time to race, there is a circuit set up to join in with, where, unlike what you might think, there isn't to much pushy parent syndrome. Or there wasn't 7 years ago when I sailed one. All in all, a fun boat which would look very pretty cold moulded, but is rather more practical in tupperware!
As for the other part of the thread, the SMOD bashing, I don't think anyone out to make "units" of something to sell would choose dinghies, when the track record of such companies is so poor. Portaloos or kitchen units would give better return on investment. I'm pretty sure that the bean counters have taken over at Topper, and possibly at Laser, but the smaller SMOD builders (and I include RS in that, assuming they are still smaller than Topper and Laser) are certainly wanting peopleto enjoy the activity (not necessarily sport) of sailing. Comet, Rondar, Ovington, Hartley and many others make SMODS. without them the sport would be smaller and more expensive. Where sailing be if Fairey's hadn't come along after the war and kick started the small boat revolution?
As for the non SMOD one designs - I feel they were part of the reason that single manufacurer one designs got a hold in the 1st place. They became more and more technical, with hulls being expensively tweaked so that an old boat stood little chance of winning, with sail development programmes by those who could afford them making the rest outdated very quickly. The best of the SMOD classes have stopped that process, and made a more level playing field for the fleet. The worst are pretty horrible, but hasn't that always been the case?
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Nessa
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Nessa » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:59 pm

I do agree with what Rupert says about the advantages of the Topper, but for the point of the pushy parents. I did safety boat duty at the Topper Nationwide event at Oxford. There were 200 boats taking part. The kids had, for the large part, the best, most up to date kit their parents could buy, and I'm afraid that while the kids were pretty much as normal as competitive kids could be, the parents were hell.... :twisted:

To some extent boat choice for youngsters has to be a compromise between what you can afford, what they will enjoy, and what they can manage in most conditions, with these latter two being fairly inextricably linked.
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LASERTOURIST
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by LASERTOURIST » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:11 pm

Well....maybe i'll disagree a bit with the panel concerning the Europe VS Laser Radial
Problem is most old style europes even the most beautiful ones (like the wooden ones made by Rolland, Sylvestro or later Cristalli ) were a bit fragile when it came to rough wind and sea conditions , and their mast step system was allowing water in the boat like old style finns and OK's ..the very low boom didn't help either when tacking or heeling when bearing away.

As for the hlmsman / or helmswoman optimum weight , it was well above 45 Kgs except in the really light winds , more nordic walkirie style than oriental geishas .

The last trouble with the Europe was that it was impossible to recycle it as a club / sailing school boat after it's racing life...
For somebody around 40 /45 Kgs the optimum boat could be a second hand Laser plus a 4,7 sail and lower mast...the 4,7 fleets are booming everywhere in southern Europe (Croatia , Italy , france...)

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Pat » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:21 pm

Having come across several youth sections on our travels including sailing amongst a Cadet Regionals at Frensham I'd encourage any youngster into the Cadet or the Mirror. Double handed sailing teaches teamwork, communication, commitment and reliability - essential social skills.
It's great to see the strength of the Brigtlingsea Mirror squad, particularly when you see the plastic units factory churning them out just around the corner. Plastic top, plastic bottom, slap them together and add a few fittings and that's another one out. No boat building skills there, whereas go round to Rondar's and there's enthusiasm for the sport and pride in their work.
Few classes can support more than one builder and new boats are usually not wood but tupperware from a mould for cost and lightness - does this make the boat a SMOD? I don't think so and while we have the low tech Enterprise, Firefly, GP14, Wayfarer and other traditional classes available, it is surely the marketing and advertising budgets of the SMODs which has pushed them to the forefront. We await the effects of the recession with interest.

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by JimC » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:36 pm

Rupert wrote:or even, if the weather gets cold this winter, as a sledge.
I advise against that. At low temperatures Toppers get very brittle. I know of two cases where hulls have actually shattered in sub zero impacts. One was in fact sledging, the other was when Dad caught the boat on a fence post towing the boat into the rive on a very cold day and it just disintegrated. Daughter was not best pleased.

On the other suject the Topper parents aren't too bad on the whole. Probably because their offspring tend to be old enough to say "Shut up daddy you're embarassing me". Oppie parents on the other hand... After we hosted a Zone Champs the parents at my club vowed never to buy their kids Optimists!

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Rupert » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:52 pm

University boats are wonderful things! And it survived...
We did the same with a canoe, but tied to the back of a landrover going along snow covered roads in the west wales mountains. Fine till you go round a corner a little fast and it all ends in the ditch...
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DavidC
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by DavidC » Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:10 pm

To just cover a couple of points Rupert raises because I do believe that what is presented is not necessarily reality. I spend a lot of my work dealing with the many classes and manufacturers, both writing rules, judging and measuring boats at events and builders and working with quality assessment.

The comment about producing "units" came direct from the mouth of a senior person in Laser, so I rest my case. He said that their main aim now was marketing and selling units. Quite sad really.

I would class the main SMOD builders as Laser, RS and Topper. Comet are a very small operation and although a SMOD are low key and do try to keep a high quality. Ovington and Rondar are certainly not SMOD builders. They build mainstream classes where there are either other builders around the world, or they are licensed to build under a set specification which can be checked if necessary. They are certainly not at liberty to change what they want to do on a whim. It is the independent class rules or external assessment which gives the sailors security in their purchase. Indeed Fairey's certainly helped start the small boat racing, but there boats all quickly had external class associations with transparent class rules and in several instances the RYA to oversee things.

Looking back over the many classes I have raced I would not have said there was endless spending on development and the need for a new boat or sails every half year. Obviously a few development classes exist like that and rightly so but it is a choice to sail them or not. The idea that the SMOD classes have made a level playing field is of course excellent. Would that it was true. I see the difference in finish. If you think that a difference of 15kg in a 14foot hull is equal then fine, personally I don't so how that can be regarded as fair level sailing. Of course with no exact class rules and external control there is nothing you can do about it. :(

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Rupert » Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:20 am

So which classes are that far out in weight? I've heard many times this mentioned but rarely an actual case. It sounds like you have the inside track on such things, so maybe an example, if only so we know what to avoid?
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JB9
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by JB9 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:16 am

I still think that, to a large extent, it is a case of buyer beware. I know of people at BBSC who have bought new SMODs and rejected a number of hulls before getting a good one. But, surely the current downturn will make people think twice before buying a new "unit". As someone who has started to take a look at the 505 class I was astonished at the price of a new one compared to say an RS400.

Still, back to the original point, my son has aspirations to sail a foiling moth. An older "lowrider" can be bought for not a lot, made of ply too. A little more technical than a Europe perhaps?
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Garry R » Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:28 am

Anyone with a freezer will know that Topperware is brittle at low temperatures - just try taking the lid off!!!

Michael Brigg
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Michael Brigg » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:09 am

Is there such a thing as a "Topperware Burp??!"
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davidh
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by davidh » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:18 am

JB9,

at the risk of sounding a 'smart arse' - one of the problems is comparing 'apples with apples'. Sopunding even more of a smart arse, just a couple of months ago I covered this very specific subject matter in one of the articles. I was looking into the 'cost' of sailing and the research was quite informative.

Using the Merlin as a worked example, it went like this.

You could go to Dave Winder, write him a pretty big cheque and a long time later you'd be in possession of a superb bit of kit, with (today) a good resale value, a boat that would turn heads in any dinghy park. If the cheque was big enough the boat would come with Chipstow mast, foil covers, tie downs, hitch it onto the back of the car and drive off to your first event.

or

You could go to RS, buy a 400 to the same specification (foil covers, tie downs etc. In round terms, the cheque you write to RS would be about 60% of the one you'd have had to write to winder.

or

You could go to Topper, give them a cheque and drive away with a brand new Xenon on the back of the car (yes, complete with foil bags etc). The difference now is that for the price of the Merlin, you could actually buy not one but two Xenons..... ergo, half the price.

Fine.... but then I looked into this another way.

People might buy the Xenon because that is what they know after their two week holiday at a sunny beach location. If you're not steeped into the culture of dinghy sailing, a 'comparable' boat that is ony half the price, is used for the Endeavour Trophy and would (in today's market) probably be discounted is an attractive proposition. People who buy 400s on the other hand like the RS scene (something that they do manage very well), they know enough to see that they are getting a damn good product, well designed, quick for club racing and with a strong 'don't worry about a sailing club, just keep it on the trailor and do the open circuit' mentality - all very strong reasons for buying.

The Merlin on the other hand encompasses many of the RS values (strong open meeting circuit, good product) with something extra. Buy into the Merlin fleet and you bu into 60+ years of an at times elitist culture, but a culture that has set and contines to set the boat up on a pedastel. Merlin sailing is not just a choice of boat - it is actually a lifestyle choice. Most of the people who sail them can afford the differential and so help keep the boat right up there at the leading edge.

If you've been looking at a 505 and thought 'ouch' when you saw the price tag, that is no great surprise. If you want a boat ready to go and sail in the Worlds, complete with all the latest gear, then you're looking at a big price tag, but probably no more than you'd pay for that top of the range Merlin.

However, if you want a club racer extraordinaire, then you can pick up a good 2nd hand 505, complete with combi and big kite, for no more money than you'd pay for a good 2nd hand 400. (I say this with some confidence having just seen a Carbon Fibre hulled 505 go for less than £1000.

The trouble is - for that you're buying a rocket ship that doesn't take kindly to a lack of skill at either end of the boat. A 400 is not an easy boat to sail but a five-O is not the 'top predator' for nothing.

So it is back to that 'apples against apples' question! You pay your money and make your choice!!

D
David H

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