Which Singlehander?

General chat about boats
Chris 249
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Chris 249 » Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:50 am

DavidC wrote: The SMODs have done more damage to the sport of dinghy sailing than anything else.
I'm curious about the reasoning behind the idea that the SMODs, which are now the majority of the most popular classes, are responsible for the downturn in the sport. What do you feel the mechanism is?

If the traditional classes were such a tower of strength, why are they suffering and if the SMODs are so bad why are many of them doing well?

Of course, I suppose you may be referring to the burst of "temporary SMODs" that came and went a few years back, but they are surely quite different to the SMODs that have been a backbone of sailing in many places around the world since the early/mid '70s.

I know there is a feeling that the SMOD sailors are all ignorant, which worries me as one of those who sails both development classes and SMODs. Do we lose a bunch of IQ points when we hope on our SMODs and gain them when we get back on our development boats? What hope then for those of us who sail a SMOD that fits inside a development class? Are we fools or genuises or do we switch from one to the other each millisecond? What happened to make the development-class world champs or placegetters (not me, but several SMODders around here) who now sail SMODs into such fools?

davidh
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by davidh » Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:13 am

Chris,

I'm sure you're right but............................ the situation down in Australia might well be very different to that here. I know, from talking with Richard Gladwell over in Auckland, that RS have not gained a huge 'foothold' there, but then neither have they done so across much of Europe. Go to the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Spain.... which some of us on this website do fairly regularly for sailing related purposes and you'll not see the overbearing weight of new classes that is impacting so much on the sport here.

Instead, the continental approach is, in the main, to support the adopted 'international' classes. The 505s are a great example.... struggling here, yet go to Germany and it is a busy, thriving, go ahead class.

Some of the 'smods' released onto the market are actually quite good, one or two are 'very good' - but there is also a lot of dross out there! This can result in sailors 'buying in' to a class in good faith, only to have the rug (along with their class association) pulled from under them. It has happened before and in the current climate, I've no doubt that it will happen again.

And as for the ignorance/IQ issue............ well, I'm sad to say that in SOME cases (thought I stress the SOME, not all and in reality, even then it is 'not the majority') this is very much the case. Without burdening the website with too much detail - though most on here have seen some evidence of this, the UK trend is for people to take a sailing holiday and to them come back and buy whatever it was they'd been sailing in. Nothing wrong with that, though racing on a wet and cold Sunday at Netley is very different to just reaching up and down in the warmth and sunshine (and steady breezes) of a Greek Island. Sailing where you do, you must be the best to be aware of that!

These sailors have little background in the sport other than what they've been taught on their holidays. If they then move into racing, one of the big issues is that they think that everything will be laid out on a plate for them....almost a case that having bought the boat, they've bought the sport as well. This means that the people who work hard to make things happen at local clubs find that the people who are now sailing, are far less inclined to 'muck in' and even less inclined to acknowledge those whose efforts are central to running things smoothly, be it just at club level, at open meeting or at National Championships.

It is not just this website though that picked up on this - some of the (better) classes did too. I've the greatest respect for the people in the RS 200 fleet, as they've done and are doing a really good job in rule education and event behaviour....like their big brother in the 400s, they are a matured, competitive, exciting fleet.

But there are others where code flag I really does indicate not just a level of "don't know" but also a case of "not bothered knowing". For my sins, I've race officered a number of the SMOD fleets so can speak from 1st hand experience. In the past, there was one lot that I said that I'd not manage again - we solved the problem by just not inviting them back to the club, plus another lot that have seen me hang up my rule book and flag hoists and retire! When committed helpers, giving their own time, do that, then maybe these classes do have a case to answer.
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Ancient Geek » Fri Nov 28, 2008 11:52 am

Last year or was the year before fleet behaviour got so bad in a certain SMOD Keelboat Class at Cowes Week the Fleet was called together off the water and "TOLD" I am told the bollocking had a significant success at least for that week. The person telling them was a retired Captain RN who was no doubt used to being Master under God and was an expert at bollocking.
A similar pre race "tell em like it is" - with such phrases as will not hesitate to DSQ from whole event, will not hesitate to protest you under rule...... report to RYA etc etc.
We simply have to stamp on this wherever it occurs though I doubt at CVRDA event far too gentlemanly!
Simples.

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by davidh » Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:00 pm

AG,

They were indeed!!!!

However, I think the issue goes beyond just that of 'on water rule observance'.

Most of us have grown up with 'life' and understand that what you get out is related go what you put in.

The particular issue with SMODs (and here we have to be mega careful NOT to make generalisations - some are good and have been very good for the sport) is that we're getting into the thorny issue of 'managing expectations'. There is now just too much opportunity for the "spend money = instant gratification" mindset. There is no sense of identity, either within the fleet or towards the greater community of sailing.

There have been some shocking examples of rule behaviour in the old and established classes, witness the problems the PRO had at the Poole Nationals, when he sent the fleet home after using up a whole box of shotgun cartridges in recalled start after recalled start (this was pre black flag rule days). Yet, as a fleet, few classes have such a strong and well developed sense of 'identity'! So it is not just a case of how you behave on the water, but ashore, when a visitor in another club. This really does then sort out the 'men from the boys'.

yes, we are wrong to hold a blanket denigration of SMODs just because they are not what we like - but that said, many of the issues discussed here are very real and off their own making.

D
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Michael Brigg
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Michael Brigg » Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:59 pm

Chris249 Said:-
I'm curious about the reasoning behind the idea that the SMODs, which are now the majority of the most popular classes, are responsible for the downturn in the sport. What do you feel the mechanism is?
When faced with a difficult debate it seems to me that the thoughts of many members of this forum turn to Beer and in the Film "Animal House," the president of the Frat house, on the discovery that the House is on Double Secret Probation exhorts his brothers: "My advise to you is to start drinking heavily."

Watney's Red Barrel was the first but a number of others, Courage, Distillers and perhaps a few other large multinational breweries have tried to wrap up the alcohol trade by production of cheap bland tasteless keg brews at the expense of the small local brewery. CAMRA sprang up in response and with its campaign came a return to the concept of real Ale as a drink in a class above cold fizzy keg bitter.

The cult of Lager is all a part of this and the Aussies have always been quick to exploit a potential to create profits from monopolies. (including their fallen hero Alan Bond) so there is little surprise to find that SMOD's work well in Australia along with Fosters, Castlemaine and formula Chardonnay for the average priced palate.

Cheap fleets of boats take over club racing programmes as traditional craft are dropped in favour of the "maintenance free option." Without a position on the club's programme of starts, the older class faces an uphill battle to re-establish itself even if the newcoming class subsequently fails to sustain its popularity. Is this happens all through the country then without sales the class will loose their manufacturer and sink below the horizon even if it is the best boat for its purpose.

Having said that it can be seen that there may still be some green shoots of recovery. An example of this is the Firefly which has capitolised on its suitability as a team racing boat and manged to compromise it's One design philosophy with a well designed new hull construction. One can see similar things happening perhaps for boats like Merlins, fireballs, Enterprise Mirror and Wayfarer which still "do the job they say they do on the bottle" and have enough construction layups to suit every palate, but at the end of the day it remains vital to keep the older racing craft on the Sailing club's start programme.

This needs a continuing process of lobbying as there is always going to be pressure from new members to provide starts for whatever trendy new class has tempted them into the sport, to crowd the start programme with newer supposedly "better" boats. Unfortunately many of these prove to have a short competitive life and however hard one tries some of the older "indestructible" hulls inevitably look scruffy and will ultimately be abandoned in the boat park to provide a home for rats and the like.

"The Man in the white suit" discovered he would destroy his trade and so destroyed his formula. We cannot rely on the SMOD industry doing the same for the small builder.
Michael Brigg

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Ancient Geek » Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:21 pm

There have also been some pretty bad example of bad form by clubs and committees in logic & equity surely fair play, tolerance and good behaviour should apply to them too, not to mentuion some measuring conspricies in some of our more respected classes!
Simples.

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by davidh » Fri Nov 28, 2008 3:10 pm

AG.

100% agree - I've seen some horrid howlers by race Committee, none better than when the course to the winward mark was 100 degrees. Now they only had one zero to go on the info board out on the committee boat. So, instead of putting '99' - (without the change of hands), or 101..... they put '10'!!!!!! Then they wonder why they got slam dunked in the Protest Room!!

This, measurement issues (always the fault of the measurer Mr Chivers!!) and other issues all stem from sailing leapfrogging forward, from a happy amateur pastime, into a money focused sport. As with football referees, the Officials have had to play catch up. IN the UK, one thing the RYA has done very well is the Race Official Training Programme, a success story if ever there was one. Of course SNAFUs will still happen, but not with the frequency of old!!

A'int that so Pat????

D
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Chris 249
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Chris 249 » Sat Nov 29, 2008 1:47 am

David, there's a lot of sense in what you say. We have been lucky enough to have been spared the wasteful excesses that saw so many similar SMOD classes hit the water in the UK, to the detriment (arguably) of all. Of course, in the past the same thing occurred with other classes, but many of them are long gone and some (Merlin and Rocket, for example????) saw sense and combined.

It's sad to hear of classes that create the atmosphere of which you speak; we don't get much of that here AFAIK although it has to be said that Laser sailors often don't create a strong club/class atmosphere these days.


Michael, may it not be best to leave national stereotypes out of CVRDA discussions? By the way, Fosters is famous for being the Australian beer that Australians don't drink.

Re "there is little surprise to find that SMOD's work well in Australia along with Fosters, Castlemaine and formula Chardonnay for the average priced palate."

Sorry, the facts indicate that you have it the wrong way around. Actually, SMODs are much more popular in the UK than in Australia.

The most popular 20 classes in Australia are; Minnow (like an Opti but with looser rules and often home-built), Laser, Laser Radial, Etchells, Sharpie (development), Flying 15, Hobie 16, Couta Boat (timber gaff fishing boat of open design), Paper Tiger, Sabre, 125, OK, 420, Int. 14, Heron, 16 Foot Skiff, Cherub, Tasar, A Class, NS14.

That's 9 multiple builder ODs, 1 OD with a single hull builder (Etchells); 1 OD with very open rig and hull construction rules (16); 4 SMODs (Laser, Radial, Tasar, H16); 4 development classes (A Class, Int 14, NS14, Cherub) and one very loose classic class. Most of the ODs here still have strong home-build aspects. There are some junior classes missing from my list, but they would probably be three ODs, one development class and a SMOD, they wouldn't affect the trend.

Apart (perhaps!) from the 29er and 49er, there hasn't been a really successful new SMOD dinghy here since 1976. It would be nice to see the MPS and some of the RSs work down here, as I'm sure we're losing people from sailing because there are gaps in what we offer.

In contrast, the UK top 20 seems to have 7 or 8 SMODs (the Firefly has just one builder at a time and comes complete with supplied rigs and sails and therefore could be close to the original SMOD, couldn't it?) one OD with a single hull builder (Squib); 9 ODs; and 2 development classes (Salcombe Yawl and Merlin).

The US top 20 seems to have 5 SMODs, 8 tight ODs with a single hull builder appointed by the association and multiple sailmakers etc (Etchells etc), one very tight OD with two hull builders but SMOD rig, and 6 "normal" ODs.

In other words, if there is some 'nasty national characteristic' that leads people to SMODding, it may not be something that should lead to finger-pointing!

None of this is attacking British sailing, which in many ways should be the envy of the world and the model the rest of us should learn from. I wouldn't doubt that 505s are bigger in Germany but isn't dinghy sailing as a whole smaller and less healthy there?

One of the things that interests me is that the UK fleets seem to be so strong (although this is an impression from a distance and I hear club fleets are struggling) and therefore maybe now the SMOD builders and traditional classes have both worked out how to avoid the destructiveness of the past.

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by DavidC » Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:23 am

I have to agree with David and AG comments. The thing with bad race management is that we can (we may chose not to but it is choice) complain through the protests room and get involved in the RYA schemes mentioned. This is not necessarily so easy in a class rule with SMODS.

Yes there have been measurement problems in the past, often caused by lack of experience from the measurer or just being afraid to act quick enough. Sometimes of course the measurer does not want to be disliked - this of course goes with the job! Of course measurement problems often show that people are thinking.

It is human nature to generalize and there are of course some SMOD's which work well. I suspect that some of it may be the market place that they are in. Generally I think that many of the "traditional" classes are in good health as then have kept the heads done and maintained their strong roots.

I think we confuse what we mean by a SMOD. It is not necessarily a class built by one builder. The Firefly keeps being used as an example but it is not a SMOD. It may only have one builder, but that is a licensed builder, not one who has control. The class has an owners association and and independent body to look after its interests (in this case the RYA). The class rules are transparent and boats can be checked. If a rule change is proposed, it works through a process which is again open and democratically voted on. You may have voted against but you will have seen the whole system through. Most of the classes Chris mentions fall into this category even if they only have one builder.

The SMOD is a class where although there may be an owners association, it is the builder that owns all the rights and will do what he wants when he wants with no reference to any democratic vote. And yes it happens. He can change the spec, the resin, the weight, the layup and anything else he wants when every he wants. This may be fine or it may not, you will never know until it is to late.

Just taking the big 3 SMOD builders in the UK, think how many classes that they have started and dropped in the last 10 or 12 years. Hardly a great advert for investing in a dinghy.

If you own the copyright you are King. Some classes have gone from one builder to another but the owners may have no say in what happens at all. I can think of a single hander that is now a MkIII built in epoxy and some 20kg lighter than the MkI. What value an early boat? Another more traditional class that has a new builder who also bought the copyright have a latest model that bears no resemblance to any existing boat and did not measure to the rules. However, it is legal because the builder says so and the rules will be changed because he owns the copyrights and says so and the existing owners can take it or leave it!

It will be an interesting few years ahead in the marine trade.

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by JimC » Sat Nov 29, 2008 3:53 am

DavidC wrote:Hardly a great advert for investing in a dinghy.
*Investing* in a *boat* David? Be serious. Although I guess the kind of investment the worlds financial wizards have been doing over the last two or three years seems in hindsight to have resembled boat ownership...


On a related topic... I charted up the "lifespan" in sales of some of the last twenty years SMOD classes where I have the data... They mostly peak in year two, drop off in year 3/4, have a smaller peak about yr 4/5, then sales decline and most are negligible by year 10. By and large I don't think one can blame the manufacturers for this, because they don't seem to be supplanting them with new models, its the boat buying public that's fickle! The only one that's maybe looking set for a longer lifespan is the RS200, which took 5 years to reach a sales peak, and is now around 2/3 of that, although the RS400 is byno means dead at around 1/5th of peak sales.

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Nigel » Sat Nov 29, 2008 8:32 am

Hi all,

if we take all of this to its logical conclusion, the economic downturn will limit the take up of new classes of boats, the SMOD manufacturers will either drop low volume boats or change the spec to make them cheaper to produce, SMOD class racing will suffer - some people will always have enough money for a new boat but they still need others to race against. Old (cheap) boats may start to gain interest. Handicap racing will increase as class racing falters or classes will become more focussed on particular clubs as they opt for a particular defunct SMOD. Age related handicaps may even become more commonplace to provide good racing. It is starting to sound like an unintended takeover of the sport by the CVRDA (followed quickly by a hostile take over of the CVRDA by either men in suits or men in blazers).

Meanwhile, the RYA has its sights firmly set on its medal haul at the next Olympics (cue a "What has the RYA done for me?" Life of Brian copyright infringing discussion).

Nigel

Michael Brigg
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by Michael Brigg » Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:40 pm

Chris wrote
Michael, may it not be best to leave national stereotypes out of CVRDA discussions?
I fully concur Chris.

I was trying to make a light hearted stab at the southern Hemisphere. Perhaps I'm still feeling rather sore about last week-ends Rugby Results. Like the England game my point was poorly planned and even worse in the breakdown.

The more serious point I was trying to make was to do with the way that Sailing clubs encourage the development of their racing and sailing. I suspect that this is an area where, as in most sports the Aussies really can teach us some lessons.

There are two or three very important things that will keep people in the sport. The club is perhaps the key to this and above all needs to give all of its members a sense of inclusion. If one or other group of fleet sailors feel that they are not welcome the it is only a matter of time before the sailors in that fleet are lost to the club and possibly ultimately to the sport and this applies to SMOD sailors as much as traditional dinghy sailors. At the end of the day SMOD sailors (bless them) are only trying to enjoy the wind and waves like the rest of us, and often a whole lot more.

When it comes to our sport whatever floats your boat should be welcome as long as it doesnt actively obstruct the other players wether that be Racing cruising, or even (god help me) fishing. David is a longtime supporter of the CVRDA and will continue to be so even when SMODing along on the crest of his wave wherever.

I do have a personal issue with things like Toppers but that is because in my own club I saw the problem that agegroup was having, in that 15yr olds would choose not to sail if the wind was light. Had they been in a 2man boat the choice would not be there but again this comes down to club organisation.

Attitudes such as discouraging members with young families, (No children under 12 in various parts of the club, no breast feeding in public areas etc) or School kids (strictly enforced dress codes after 6pm.) or Students (no rowdy behaviour tolerance) are all potentially able to alienate important sectors of the community that makes up a healthy club. More contentious perhaps is a membership criteria that is over dependent upon features of class (that British disease again) and at the risk of controversy perhaps this is where the anxiety over SMOD's arises. Back to Drink again but this time its Red Bull, assotiated the Sports boats Lager/binge drinking and a taste like cheap bubble gum. If the sponsor had been Whitbread (curiously another beer far removed from the real thing) maybe things would be a bit different.

So eor the sake of harmony I'll say it. SMOD sailors are people too.
Michael Brigg

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by davidh » Sat Nov 29, 2008 7:33 pm

Chris(249)

Hurtful though it may be for me...... I would have to agree somewhat with Michael, at least in what he was trying to say (if I understand him right).

The analogy he makes between CAMRA, the 'Campaign for Real Ale' and the CVRDA is actually quite clever and insightful. CAMRA rose to prominence in the 1970s, as big name breweries starting buying up, then closing down, the smaller names who often has strong links to one particular area. In Southampton, which let's face it was hardly a mega metropolis back in 1976, there were 11 different breweries represented. A student pub crawl taking in all of them (considering you'd have Eldrige Pope 'Best Bitter' and Gales HSB, a beer that in Australia you'd probably only get on perscription from a Chemist) made sailing the next day problematic indeed. CAMRA fought a losing battle against overwhelming odds and in the end, the British 'pub' is disappearing fast.... across the country, the closure rate is two a day.

The CVRDA is likewise trying to stem the tide and whilst the Association does a grand job, the way the recession is heading here does not bode well for a lot of our traditional classes.

If you want the official 'viewpoint', the RYA commissioned some Management Consultants to look at the sport. I've seen their report and can tell you the picture looks like .................

Marine Leisure activity...... UP
Youth Dinghy Sailing..........Strong
Olympic Representation.....Excellant
Club Dinghy Sailing.............Down.... by, across the country, 3% pa.

The RYA is now caught in a cleft stick, not all of it's making. It has to keep driving ahead with the Youth and Olympic scene, as that is where the money comes to fund the car park full of top of the range Volvo 4x4s

But try to talk to them about Club sailing and the eyes glaze over and the attention goes... that is NOT where their attention is today. Yet this has to be short sighted opportunism, for a healthy club scene will spawn yet more Ainslies, Morissons and Goodisons.

The factor that no one has picked up on yet (though with the likes of Dave C we've had many a discussion on this) is the demographics. If this recession lasts for 4 to 5 years, which it could well do, when the UK finally starts to recover, those people who would have bought into the traditional boats, will have passed their shelf life and won't be coming back into dinghies. At which point, it could be game,set and Match to the SMOD builders!

Mainland Europe on the other hand may see a different result, as their patronage of the traditional international classes may well see them lose the battle, but win the war.

Any generalisation is wrong.... but the spirit of what Michael and many others who've contributed to this discussion has shown the very real concerns of just what might be 'the shape of things to come'.

D
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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by JimC » Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:23 pm

davidh wrote:Chris(249)
The RYA is now caught in a cleft stick, not all of it's making. It has to keep driving ahead with the Youth and Olympic scene, as that is where the money comes to fund the car park full of top of the range Volvo 4x4s
More to the point the money that comes in to fund those things is ring fenced for those things only...

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Re: Which Singlehander?

Post by jpa_wfsc » Sun Nov 30, 2008 7:49 pm

JimC wrote:
davidh wrote:Chris(249)
The RYA is now caught in a cleft stick, not all of it's making. It has to keep driving ahead with the Youth and Olympic scene, as that is where the money comes to fund the car park full of top of the range Volvo 4x4s
More to the point the money that comes in to fund those things is ring fenced for those things only...
There is a difference between Volvo supplying cars which through their use by RYA staff are advertising the Volvo product, and the sponsorship monies that come in from Volvo and other sources.

WSC we have been dealing with RYA development staff, and their aim is not focused (just) on the top of the pyramid. Over the next four years (including 2008) some £1M is to be spent on developing club sailing, with a whole team of club development coaches having been recruited during 2008 to deliver club race coach training. Volvo development clubs (as we are becoming) are able to access about 8 to 12 free RYA coach days a year to train volunteers as instructors, race coaches, etc. and to directly deliver coach level race training to youth sailors. What percentage of the "Olympic bonanza" that £1M represents I am not sure however. And over the number of clubs in the region, it does spread fairly thinly.

I do agree with a significant point - club level involvement in racing is dwindling. At our club, a few years ago, 20+ boat starts in every race every Sunday were common, now its more like 10. We used to have class starts (Laser, GP14 Mirror and Nat 12) now we just have fast and slow handicap. Wednesday evening racing is bucking this trend - but the trend is definitely there.

Lots of people are sailing socially, and special interest group sailing is flourishing (Youth, Ladies, Disabled) so overall activity is perhaps up - but bread and butter club racing definitely down. For whatever reason it is not appealing to most club members.

I have no solution to offer, but do observe that cvrda style social sailing and -I don't know, how do I put this? "winning-is-not-the-main-point" racing is perhaps more attractive to people than the typical open circuit type racing. So I would support anything that we can do (including being flexible about what boats can race with us) that encouraged participation either at our open meetings or indeed by owners of cvrda type boats in club racing. A national league anyone, collecting points for SMOD's beaten on handicap in regular club events?

I feel its great that Dinghy Sailing Magazine has recently had good contributions about starting open meeting sailing from an RS200 and a Cat sailor, each relating their enjoyment at taking part despite being nowhere near the pace. They were of course sailing SMOD's. Perhaps something CVRDA could do is to support such an article, somehow, about taking part in one of our meetings in our kind(s) of boat(s)?
j./

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