because it is a friday and I'm feeling somewhat contrite you can have three answers here for the price of one.
Jim C: You are just possibily (but only just) being a tad unfair to the 5-tonner. The original idea was really good and as a design I would say that Phil Morisson was not far from getting it right -FOR THE TIME.
Then the boat was taken up by Laser who needed to make it 'ubiquitous' and therefore made it bomb proof, bullet proof and capable of use as an Arctic ice breaker, always assuming that there is still ice to be broken. When the Riva Trials came along, had they made the boat as Dereck Clark intended and stepped a lightweight carbon rig the result may have been different. I am not saying such a boat would have defeated the 49er for there were other factors at play BUT.... it would have been, as Wellington said, "a Damn close run thing".
But the original concept was sound if the delivery was flawed. Even today, with all that is wrong with the boat, the 5 tonner can still provide a wonderful sailing experience!!
Nessa; More than any other comment made of late - yours has hit the bulls eye. It is the process of ongoing development that makes a boat really great, for I cannot think of any of the (by Isaf definition) true one designs that would not be better for a bit of development.
David Thomas admitted as much to me when we were discussing the 1968 Trials, won by the Contender. THis was a very different boat to the 1967 version, which was a very different boat to...etc etc. Had David continued working at making the Unit better, as Bob Miller did, well, you're back to the Laser 5000 v 49er again. It could have done it.... after all, stranger decisions were being made by the IYRU, ergo the success of the Australis A Class cat - a decision that put international single handed cat sailing back by a generation.
Which brings me on to answer 3. The RS600.
This is really a good boat, maybe even a very good boat. Possibly had the potential to be a great boat. So what went wrong?
How about the answer being the RS700 and Musto Skiff? Once these boats came along, the same people who had deserted the Contender for the 600 then moved on again. The other factor could be that once launched, that's it. Deveopment stops (well, until the foiling 600 was developed).
Now think back to Contendering. Up at Weston, in one corner of the dinghy pound, is a Mark 1 Rondar. Now if you were to sail that, you would find the same order of magnitude of difference between that and the boats of today as there is between your Phantom and a modern FRP boat. Both classes have a rule structure that allows continous improvement, even if some of the changes may look retrograde (like transom sheeting to a cleat forrard of the plate case). So ideas get refined, sailors in time amend the rules (everything from lowers to carbon spars) and as a result the boat improves. Now apply the same logic to a boat like the 600 and think what you could do, over time, to improve it. How about changing the fully battened main, a right sod in any single hander, for a semi soft/hard, so that the boat tacks more easily. Or a cartridge style rudder box....so many little tweaks that would make so much difference.
Once any rule is frozen, development stops. This applies equally to dinghies, to the format of the CVRDA wings - or even to the sailing gear that has so revolutionised the sport.
Or maybe I am beginning to see that it is not the SMOD concept that is wrong, but the execution of how the boats are then allowed - or not, to evolve.
Now that is a radical way of thinking for here.