HERITAGE CLASSES - 5.
Restoring the balance.
In the first four parts of this series we have taken an initial overview of the current
status of the various designs we have identified as heritage classes, both in an overall
sense and as they related to levels of yachting that we have defined as junior,
intermediate and senior.
From this initial assessment the deficiencies are glaringly obvious, as is the task of
restoring the balance of our centreboard yachting structure so that it provides a much
greater range of options and therefore a higher level of participation at all ages and
levels of society. Yachting as a sport is still recognised as major feature of the
sporting scene, but under successive YNZ regimes its focus has deliberately narrowed
and targeted at serving a minor portion of the overall sport, to stroke the ambitions
and egos of those who are fixated and obsessed with ISAF and Olympic sailing in
Northern hemisphere style outdated one designs as the be all and end all of yacht
In doing this they have ignored the fact that a huge portion of sailing at every level in
the major centreboard sailing countries, provides for those yachtsmen and women that
have no interest in this type of sailing and least of all in sailing the dull outdated
unimaginative classes that are dominant in this arena.
Therefore the first challenge is a philosophical one. Those clubs and members that are
content with the vision of YNZ will continue on their current path, and given that
many of the people involved in them will have little experience or knowledge of
Heritage type classes, it will be a long process of education to show them a better
way. Those clubs with active members who support the Heritage concept and its
wider focus will at least have a head start, but even they will be handicapped by the
lack of readily available information on the yachts themselves.
It has been six long years since there has been a dedicated Yachting magazine
published in New Zealand, and this is a very sad state of affairs that has already had
long term repercussions for our sport. When you compare NZ status in yachting terms
on the world stage, with many other nations who have their own magazines which
regularly feature articles on their national and local classes, the gravity of the situation
in terms of educating people involved in the sport becomes even more apparent. So
given this one aspect of education alone, the question has to asked that even if clubs
have the philosophical belief that a major change is necessary how are they going to
go about it.
You can be absolutely certain that YNZ are going to do everything possible to
continue to downplay and even denigrate the regeneration of Heritage classes as it
goes against their fundamental approach for the last thirty years.
Therefore are yachtsmen, class and club members prepared to accept the fact the
YNZ in its present form is incapable of giving the leadership and support needed to
restore balance to the centerboard class structure?
If they do, they are going to have to take the initiative as their fellow yachtsman did
in the 1950’s and ignore the class structure of the governing body and develop one
that suits the needs of their members. So in the first instance the key task will be to
create an accessible forum to provide information and support for Heritage type
classes that can fit into an established club structure. I will look at this aspect in more
detail in Heritage 6.
I have already outlined various options at each level in the previous articles so in this
segment I will endeavour to draw up a possible design and existing class structure that
will offer solutions to the problem areas already indentified.
Before we look at the actual segments, I feel it is important to clearly define what the
2006 version of Heritage classes should be. In the first instance they should follow
the principles of well designed yachts, of strong yet lightweight construction that can
be sailed in our varying wind and sea conditions. Above all they must be fast, fun and
They must also be innovative and take advantage of the newer materials available
where their use would improve the quality and longevity of the yachts themselves, as
did their forebears in the 1950’s and 1960’s. While they trace their heritage back to
the golden age of centreboard sailing(1950/1970’s) that does not mean to say that we
should slavishly follow the designs of that period. In many instances they are still
excellent craft, but there have been developments in centreboard yacht design and
construction in the last 15yrs that can be incorporated into the Heritage concept to
make them even better.
Perhaps most important of all they should be yachts that can be enjoyed whether
racing or just going sailing. It is not necessary to have to race to enjoy yachting in a
well designed and set up Heritage class yacht. As one of New Zealand’s best 18ft
sailors often remarked, some of their most enjoyable sailing was just “going out for a
blast” in their World Championship winning yacht. How many of the current YNZ
class structure yachts do you seen been taken out just for a “blast”.
Now to look at a new class structure starting at the junior level. Firstly I believe that
the junior age limit should be reduced to 14yrs. Peter Mander held this view and I see
no valid reason for any higher limit. Our skill levels in the 12/14 age group
particularly in two handed yachts are far behind Australia and the UK.
Our new junior structure will be founded on the following principle.
“Yachting at this level is intended to be for the learning and teaching of skills to boys
and girls to appreciate and understand the sport of yachting. It not intended to be an
exercise in the building and fitting out of the classes used, to a point where the value
of the equipment and expenditure far out weighs the actual value and sailing
capabilities of the yachts as designed.”
As I stated previously in this series based on the level of debate that appeared in a
recent discussion on the merits or otherwise of the P and Optimist classes, the actual
knowledge and understanding of junior centreboard yacht design is equally abysmal.
The question is what to do firstly with what we have and then look to something
The Optimist was originally introduced into New Zealand as an introductory yacht to
teach the basics of yachting, simply because the P class had serious design flaws that
led to too many young sailors being turned off yachting because of their initial
experience in the P class. As a basic starting boat the Optimist will continue to have a
role to play in the meantime, but purely as a learner’s yacht for two seasons at the
As for the over indulged expensive fibreglass versions, they are simply a liability.
After two seasons the Optimist simply doesn’t challenge any average to good skipper
skill wise. They can sail it in their sleep. Furthermore the ridiculous levels of
expenditure on fancy fittings, super braid ropes, sails and carbon foils when the
design characteristics of the yacht simply preclude it sailing faster, no matter how
much you try and embellish it, just shows how stupid the class administrators are in
allowing such nonsense, and condoning such a total waste of time and money doing
The international competition line is a myth, and more often than not simply exposes
kids to the nefarious antics of the Government sponsored teams of many countries
that see yachting as just another sport to further their political status. Furthermore
participation in many of these so called international events, against nations with no
interest in Yachting outside ISAF and Olympic ordained classes, continues the decline
in our actual skill standards to levels below what they used to be, as belatedly
acknowledged by most objective assessments now.
The whole concept of 14 and 15 year olds staying in the class to go a World
Championship in a learner’s yacht is a nonsense. “It is a “duck pond” dinghy for
learners, which is exactly what it was originally brought into New Zealand and it
should be returned to that level now.
The P class has reached the end of the road as well,and for the good of junior sailing
and racing it must be dumped as the premier junior racing boat. There is not one valid
reason for continuing to support this outdated, badly designed over indulged little pig
of a yacht, which has done more damage to junior yachting in terms of the numbers of
young people who have dropped out of the sport while sailing it than any other factor
in our sport.
The Australian version of the Sabot will be the Heritage class structure junior racing
and championship yacht. It is a better balanced, better sailing yacht with a modern
rig, simple layout and fittings, centreboard and rudder. It is a proper yacht that looks
appealing even to the newcomers to the sport.
Because it can be sailed two up until 12yrs of age (junior division) it immediately
addresses the problem of learners who want to sail together, yet then allows another
season or two for the top skippers to sail on their own in the senior division at both
National and ID level.
An Interdominion series at this level is a much more realistic option for sailors and
their parents that will allow a much greater level of participation for those sailing
Sabots. You can also be sure of one thing, the competition against the Australians will
be as good as it gets and being part of a winning New Zealand Team against the
Australians will be a real source of pride for young New Zealanders.
The introduction of the Australian Sabot is not as difficult an exercise as one might
think. Sabot hulls are freely available from Australia in foam/glass, and there is a
mould available in NZ to build ply hulls. Although these have been virtually
superseded in Australia there is no reason not to build them here. More importantly
the rig in profile and sail area is very similar to the P class, so with some minor
adjustments it is possible to meet the Sabot restrictions. In effect you could take all
the fittings off a P class and outfit a Sabot, simply for the cost of a new hull, which is
an economical way of developing a high quality fleet. This could be done over a two
season period before settling on the final version of the class in NZ which would
further minimise the adoption and integration process, while still providing for the ID
The most important change in the junior class structure is the introduction of a two
handed yacht with a two sail rig. This is an absolute priority and at last it seems after
thirty years of neglect, clubs are prepared to take the initiative.
The Glendowie BC in Auckland has taken an interesting approach under the guidance
of Brian Peet. Based on a 1960’s design of Des Townson, the Tui, they have adapted
a Starling hull, to a redesigned rig, of the same area 60sqft and introduced the Starlet
as a starting boat for junior sailors.
In effect they used the standard Starling mast cut down, recut the mainsail and made a
new jib, added a set of jib sheet cleats and had the Starlet ready to go. The cost of this
exercise was just a few hundred dollars. The Starlet was launched in September and
the first pictures of it sailing were impressive. The problem will be that at 9ft 6in
(Loa), it is a foot shorter than the Flying Ant and in fact a smaller boat all round, so
although it will be fine for younger sailors starting out, they may outgrow it size wise
within one or two seasons.
We simply cannot escape the fact that there is still an urgent need for a larger junior
two handed yacht. I have covered the options in H 2 based on my articles written in
2000, “Doing a 360” and “Put on a Happy Face”, ironically I have contacted again
this year by several people who now accept that the JB 360 concept is what is needed.
Having considered all the relevant factors with small group of experienced yachtsmen
I have refined the JB360 to suit the agreed criteria and what has emerged is an
updated version of the Flying Ant, the best junior trainer of all.
When John Spencer introduced the Flying Ant in Sept 1960 issue of Sea Spray, the
FA had already been well tested for the previous eighteen months, and as John said
the young sailors were adamant that although it was a junior yacht it had to look and
feel like a thoroughbred.
The Cherub was the iconic yacht of the Heritage era, yet if you look at the hull shape
the Flying Ant was twenty years ahead of its time. It had much less keel spring and
flatter sections than the Cherubs of the day, which made for a fast planing, yet well
mannered hull. In fact the deeper forefoot with shallow keel spring forward of the
mast of the Flying Ant was not a feature of the Cherubs until the fast planing designs
of the 1970’s appeared. Compared with boats like the Cadet (1947), the Mirror
(1964) the FA hull shape was, and still is light years ahead, yet these designs are still
being touted as possible junior trainers.
The NuAnt as we have named it, has some key differences. The length OA has been
increased by a foot making it 3.55m long (11ft 6in), simply because numerous studies
have shown the children today are growing bigger at an earlier age. The rest of the
hull shape is the same as the JB 360 with the modified aft sections as described in
Sept 2000 Sailing NZ, in effect very similar to the Flying Ant, but a little straighter in
the aft sections. The hull weight is 45kg, which means the crew can carry it or move it
around without needing help.
The deck and buoyancy arrangements are in line with best current practise. The
NuAnt has a foredeck and neat side decks with 45dg angled inner and outer flat edges
for comfortable sailing. The buoyancy consists of a bow tank that extends
approximately half way back under the foredeck, to a shallow minimum height false
floor that runs through to the transom. This is now considered the best practice in the
UK development classes as it gets the buoyancy as low as possible making the yacht
float lower when capsized, so it doesn’t float away so readily, yet can still be righted
comfortably. This is an important point for junior sailors, for whom a capsize in the
deep water and trying to climb up on a slippery centreboard with the boat rapidly
floating away can be an unnerving experience. As with the FA the hull is plywood,
although suitable for foam/ glass construction as well. The plywood hulls are ideal for
kitset construction as they are modelled on the Cherub construction principles that
were so efficient, with the added advantage of using the latest techniques available.
The rig and fitting out follows the JB360 pattern, which is simple and efficient and
very strictly controlled in terms of types of fittings allowed. Flash and expensive
fittings at the starting level are out, full stop.
The NuAnt will also have a further feature in line with the latest requirements for
versatility, as exemplified by the RS and Topper range of yachts in the UK, which are
targeted at a similar market.
After two seasons using the starting rig of main and jib, the crew can graduate to a
full spec bigger rig, with main, jib and spinnaker. The big rig can use the same spars,
or if desired an automatic gust response rig may be adopted by fitting a flexible
topmast to the standard mast section. This rig combination will give most crews at
least five seasons sailing in the same boat, and prepare them to a point where they can
step up to the Intermediate classes in a smooth transition.
Most importantly it will emphasise again the important role of crewing which has
been totally neglected at junior level for over thirty years.
It is hoped the Nu Ant will make its appearance in 2007.
In summary the junior structure would use the Optimist as a strictly learners boat for a
maximum of two seasons, until the Sabot fleet is established. Then the Sabot in either
one or two crew versions would take over. Those youngsters, who wanted to sail with
a friend, have the option of the Sabot (two up), possibly the Starlet if it is accepted,
but certainly the NuAnt in its basic format, or big rig spec will give crews a minimum
of four seasons with one boat, with sufficient challenge and skill development to
prepare them for the next level.
The introduction of two handed boats at this level also gives those children whose
parents who cannot afford or justify the expense of a yacht for one child, a chance to
try sailing, which is not available to them under the current YNZ monotype only
Before we leave the junior structure, there is one other element that was fundamental
to the whole success of New Zealand yachting since the start of the last century, the
amateur/ home built boat.
John Spencer’s Firebug, so ably developed and nurtured by Peter Tait, and the team at
Firebug HQ is the ideal craft for this role. For those who just want to try to build a
boat and go sailing, the Firebug is a key component in the new structure. Yachting in
NZ has been straight jacketed into a total racing mentality, and this is wrong, and
YNZ treatment of this initiative that has put over 500 of these little yachts on the
water is a total disgrace!
To finish the junior structure we will add a boat craft element as well, for kids who
just want to play around in boats. The plywood Sabots will have a rowlock plate inset
into the gunwale, add a pair of oars and a simple seat that fits into the centercase and
you have a boat you can sail and row, which was what the Sabot was originally
designed to do.
Having laid a much broader based foundation in the junior classes, we now look to
consolidate the options in the next level which I refer to as intermediate rather than
the over worked “youth” description so beloved by administrators. There is a logical
reason for this as the Heritage structure incorporates classes at this level that can be
sailed as senior classes.
By this stage many of the youngsters who started in the heritage structure will have
had a much broader based introduction to yachting. One of the great failings of the
excessive focus on junior/youth yachting under the YNZ regime, has been the lack of
exposure to senior classes and sailors at club level, to the point that younger sailors
have a totally over inflated view of their position in the sport. So many of the so
called leading junior clubs in the Auckland region have no senior classes sailing, in
total contrast to the Australian and UK club scene and the 1950/1970 period in New
The intermediate single handed structure will obviously start with the Starling,
although to me 16/18 year olds still sailing 9ft yacht in cause for concern.
For those skippers that are enjoying their sailing at a less intense level than the
Starling racing, training squad regime, and the kids who have tasted the Firebug
approach and want to do something a bit more adventurous, the “ Stinga” scow as
described in Heritage 3 is an obvious choice.
The Stinga 50lb double chine scow hull, a standard section alloy mast and boom with
a fully battened loose footed 60sqft mainsail, will give the younger teenagers, plenty
of thrills without being uncontrollable. Again it is simply rigged without expensive
fittings. It can be built at home, so the successful Firebug builders will have the
confidence to take their skill to another level .
However there will also be a group at this level who would prefer to sail a “boat out
of a box”, such as Laser, but who don’t want to sail or be involved in the “Laser
culture”. This will certainly involve more experienced teenage female sailors who are
simply not equipped physically to sail the Laser Radial, (as explained in Teenage
Dilemma), but really enjoyed the Byte with the CII style rig.
The Byte dinghy with its CII rig is ideal in principle, but it is a North American and
European based international class with no Southern Hemisphere manufacturers, and
has never appealed to NZ before this. The Splash dinghy has a small following here,
but it’s only real difference is that it has a better mast and more adjustable rig than
the Laser, but it is a “Finn Style rig from the 1980’s and as another European based
class has little appeal to the average club sailor.
Neither boat has the versatility or wider options that the Alan Warwick designed
Spiral offers, and the adoption of a CII rig for the Spiral would really make the class
an attractive one for the older teenagers in the intermediate group with both boys and
girls being able to compete and enjoy sailing a well mannered yacht with a fun rig that
has been such a success since being adopted by the Byte class.
The Spiral with a CII rig will be an ideal yacht for young women sailors during the
transition from intermediate to senior level, and indeed many would be happy to stay
with the class at senior level as is the case in Australia. Therefore at a time when
demands of study, lifestyle changes, limited finance are very much part of their lives,
a yacht that can be put aside for a year or so or just sailed on a casual basis, when
other social activities permit, at least keeps them in touch with the sport.
For those sailors whose growth spurts have made them too big for the Starling or
Stinga, or whose skill levels have increased significantly, the Moth still has no peers
as an affordable, fast, fun, all round yacht suited to New Zealand conditions. The NZ
version remains in a few isolated pockets, and it may still have sufficient strength to
undergo a revival. I have owned three, the first as a 15year old, so I have a soft spot
for them, but in reality the Australian double chine scows as typified by the Rob
O’Sullivan “Gidget” design are faster and better yachts.
Furthermore as the NSW association did in the 1980’s they produced a production
hull which enabled the average sailor to step into a competitive boat, without having
to build his own from scratch. The NSW association made a foam/epoxy/glass
laminate hull, with a kitset ply foredeck and cockpit that could be finished off at
home. Complete with wings the fitted out hull weighed 25kg /56lbs. A standard alloy
mast and fully battened loose fitted mainsail of 85 sq ft to IMCA rules, standard
controls, centreboard and rudder completed the sail away package.
In this format the yacht is a fully fledged International Moth, which you could fit foils
to as well if you wished. The Australian Moth class still has a scow division, as they
recognise that the latest development of foiling Moths is not for everyone. Here
again, if the yachting time is restricted, the Moth can be easily stored and yet brought
out for blast when the occasion suits. As I remarked a while back, if you haven’t
sailed a Moth downwind in 15kns plus, you haven’t lived in yachting terms.
Finally at this level for those wanting to sail solo, we will include the Farr 3.7 which
offers single handed sailing from the trapeze. Recently a number of ex P and Starling
sailors have moved into the class, and are enjoying it. This is a trend to be encouraged
not only because single handed sailing from the trapeze is rapidly growing world
wide, with a new range of skiff type designs, but it also develops skills that can be
transported into the twin trapeze two handed classes.
Now to the two handed yachts for the intermediate age group. At this point in their
development most crews have a preference for the type of yacht they want to sail. As
I explained in H 3 there are two pathways to follow, the one design or closely
restricted design, or the unrestricted development classes.
At the intermediate level the most successful and widely sailed class was the Junior
Cherub. When YNZ decided it wanted to focus on international competition at this
level, it decided that the Junior Cherub had to be replaced by an international class.
That decision has to rank as one of the worst they have ever made, as since then not
one of the International classes tried has got within a hundred miles of the level of
participation that the Junior Cherub enjoyed, let alone justify the hundred of
thousands of dollars of parents and crews money wasted on a series of dead end
classes. Now the situation is even more farcical, with the 420 now being promoted, a
55yr old outdated French sailing dinghy, while the modern 29er, the ISAF youth boat
from 2007 onwards is not being supported by YNZ this year.
The one design role will be taken up by the Mistral, which is now linked to the
Zephyr class admin. In this role it has been very successfully used by Kerikeri Y.C,
as part of their intermediate level sailing. Already produced in fibreglass with a
modern rig and symmetrical spinnaker, it has all the necessary requisites for the task.
Its beauty is that it can be sailed by a variety of age group combinations and thus can
be sailed at senior level as well, making it an ideal club yacht, particularly at the
transitional level between intermediate and senior where we lose too many sailors
from centreboard sailing, because they cannot see a pathway ahead that appeals to
However the alternative for those crews who are drawn to the more speed oriented
skiff sailing (as it is now commonly referred to) is not so clear. The Junior Cherub
was an ideal lead into the Cherub, Q and R class fleets that were so strong in the 60’s
to 80’s era and from where many of the latter day champions emerged, but it is no
longer with us.
In Australia with the strength of the Flying Ant and Flying Eleven classes, and the
level of skill development, crews are comfortably able to move into Cherubs which
have evolved into a much more powerful yacht than the original concept. While the
Cherub remains very strong in Australia, there is just a handful left here and that
situation is unlikely to change.In NZ we will need several seasons of two handed
sailing in the yachts selected as part of our junior structure, where the NuAnt will
perform the role,before we would get the skill levels up sufficiently to cope with the
transition to the Cherub as it is today.The same scenario applies to the R class and
twelve foot skiff.
Therefore to meet the challenge we need some creative thinking. In effect we need to
regenerate the Junior Cherub concept, into a modern day version that will provide
crews with a full grounding in skiff sailing principles.
As I outlined in H 3, a standard epoxy/glass/foam sandwich hull based around the
Paul Macintosh designed VDO/ Design Source shape, which was specifically
designed for lightweight crews, rigged with a Standard flexi-top mast section and
closely restricted sail plan, main and jib of max area 120sq ft (11.15sqm) and an
asymmetrical spinnaker will complete the craft, which we have designated an
Restricted 12. As such it fits into the 12ft/ R class restrictions so there is a natural
affinity and pathway to the full blown 12,14 and 18ft skiffs. While some would argue
that this design is close to the Cherub and the 29er, the plain fact is neither of these
two classes has made any real impact in recent years, where as the proposed restricted
12 can be upgraded to either an R or a 12ft skiff making it much more appealing long
For the recreational sailors at this level, who may prefer an all fibreglass one design
type craft, Alan Warwick’s Phase 2 design still has a solid following in NZ and as
such is like sister ship the Spiral, suitable for the older level intermediate crews and
senior sailors at club and national level.
Finally at intermediate level we look to multihulls for those in the 16/18 age group.
The Paper Tiger is still the most successful single handed multihull and its junior
division 18yrs in Australia is thriving, and with the widespread popularity of the PT in
NZ we have it as essential part of our class structure.
But for the two handed multihull enthusiasts there is nothing comparable on offer, so
once again creative thinking is needed. As I mentioned the 12ft Kitty Cat was the
most successful small cat (loa) ever designed and it lasted as a class for over thirty
years. However its length was one of its inhibiting factors that led to its decline, so to
bring it up to date and offer the intermediate and younger senior sailors a real fun
machine we have revisited the original concept and updated it.
The actual hull lines as designed by Jim Young are still sound in terms of contempary
design trends, but as extra length is always as an advantage we have stretched the
overall length from 12ft to 14ft (4.27m), but retained the same beam and hull shape.
Alloy cross beams and a mesh tramp complete the hull.
The mast height is raised to 22ft 6in (same as a PT) which enables us to redraw the
working sail plan (150 sq ft) to a more modern configuration. The spinnaker becomes
asymmetrical set off a prod. Single or twin trapezes for the crew complete the
makeover. For the 16/ 24 age group the Kitty 4000 will give them all the thrills they
could want in our typically fresh breezes.
So summarising the Intermediate structure for single handed sailors, we have the
Starling for the tactical racing/squad development segment, the Spiral ( with CII style
rig) for the bigger male and female sailors who like the Laser type style of yacht, and
then Int. Scow Moth, and 3.7 for those who prefer a skiff type approach.
For the less intense recreational sailors, the Stinga Scow, Spiral and Int. Moth offer a
range of options, and the Paper Tiger provides an entrance into multihull sailing.
The two handed yachts start with the Nu Ant crews moving into either the Mistral or
the Restricted 12 when they grow out of the Nu Ant, to follow their chosen racing
path, or the Phase 2 for the recreational/casual club sailor, with the revamped Kitty
4000 catamaran opening the two handed multihull pathway.
More importantly this class structure gives the younger sailors a much wider
experience and skill base and gives them a full range of options to look forward to as
senior yachtsmen and women. They can move into keelboat sailing if they wish but
they will always have a thorough dinghy grounding to base their future sailing on.
The senior structure needs a complete rebuild, as there is very little to excite anyone
looking to step up from intermediate ranks or return to from keelboat sailing.
In the single handed yachts the Zephyrs have the most active numbers and profile and
the resurgence of interest in the class is due to the acceptance by many experienced
yachtsmen of their value as an iconic heritage yacht. However many of the sailors in
the class are on the “grey side” and probably a little heavy to get the best out of them
but with no alternative, they have committed to the Zephyr. For those of us who saw
this year’s 50th Anniversary regatta and the huge turnout of quality yachts and sailors
involved it reinforced the belief that senior centreboard sailing has much to offer.
As for the other single handed classes at this level, the Int. Moth, and 3.7 offer options
for the light to medium weight skippers, and are automatic choices in our
structure.The Spiral is an excellent alternative to the Laser, that will fill the occasional
club racer recreational role, particularly as its better handling and more sensible
cockpit mean you can take a youngster for a sail in reasonable comfort.
However there is simply nothing for the bigger skippers or the less agile or older ones
who want to enjoy the fun of a centerboarder.
In the UK the Phantom is a successful class designed for the 90kg plus skippers, but I
don’t see it as having any appeal for NZ. The Contender could be considered, as it
continues to enjoy world wide popularity, but interest in it died here in the 1980’s and
has shown no sign of reviving.
The most interesting development in the Northern Hemisphere has been in the one
man skiff types with gennakers. But if you look closely at them they are really little
more than super charged Contender types, requiring fair degrees of agility to sail them
and being all around 4.5 to 5.0m (loa).they are not really suitable to the average club
However the concept of UK development class designer Keith Callaghan, in
producing an attractive flat floored, minimal keel rocker design along the lines of the
latest Merlin Rocket designs, has much more promise. His 2004 Haze design 4.0m
loa, 1.8m beam with 8.5 sq.m of working sail plus an 8.5 sq ft gennaker was
specifically designed for a former top level Merlin/ Rocket and Phantom sailor , who
was over 90kgs and thus although still fit and active was struggling to compete in
those classes. Constructed from wood/ epoxy / glass she is ideal for home
construction. Haze has a very modern sail plan and there is also provision for a lightly
ballasted centreboard to assist upwind in fresher conditions. Such a concept is ideally
suited to NZ conditions, and as such would provide an immediate option for club
sailors in NZ, who as former Moth, Zephyr, OK, Finn, Cherub, R.Q, Javelin 18ft
sailors would like to have some fun in a modern dinghy. Haze also fits into the
recreational sailing role equally well.
As a starting point for the revamped single handed class structure the classes
mentioned will cover a range of options, but that does not preclude a new design or
concept emerging, except that we have no structure in place to develop or even
encourage any emerging talent either young or old.
Therefore in line with current practice we will incorporate a Box Rule restricted
development class into our structure. The single handed rule will have a max length
3.8m, a minimum waterline beam, maximum beam, minimum depth, minimum hull
weight and a few other checks and balances to ensure that well balanced and
constructed yachts emerge. Sail area will be 9sq.m max working sail, with future
provision for extras if that is the wish. The PSF 380 as it will be known will address
one of the most glaring deficiencies in our current structure.
The current senior two handed options are very thin to say the least. If we start at the
non trapeze level with main, jib and spinnaker only the Mistral would be considered
as a strong racing option. As suggested they are a transitional class in our structure but
they have a role at senior level. The same could be said for the Phase 2 which
combines both the club racing and recreational roles as a reasonably priced, low
maintenance yacht. The Phase 2 has regional support as well,however although they
are part of the structure, neither class is likely to attract more than a small number of
younger skippers or older sailors to their ranks.
Yet if we look overseas where centreboard sailing at club/national level is flourishing,
it is the12/ 14ft (3.7/ 4.5m) length range where the significant new growth is apparent.
In the UK for example the RS and Topper ranges have enjoyed a good deal of success
in attracting a range of people into dinghy racing.
One of the best examples is the RS 200 designed by Phil Morrison in 1995. At 4.0m
L. 1.83m B. 78kg hull weight, the RS 200 carries 11.52 sq m in the fully battened
mainsail, and jib plus an 8.29 sq m set off centreline pole that can be swivelled to
windward. It is constructed with foam/ glass/ coremat lay up. Crew weights range
from 115 to 150 kg and many are mixed gender.
The first year 55 attended the national champs, this year 130 and it averages 90 per
year. No other comparable class has achieved anything like this level of active
participation over the past ten years. Like wise the semi restricted Nat 12 has enjoyed
similar solid support from many crews who want to try their own ideas. The Nat 12
has evolved into a state of the art carbon composite skiff hull with full carbon rigs.
The strength of the class is that over the last ten years five different designs have all
enjoyed success. When I showed photos of the latest Nat 12’s to some ex 12ft skiff
sailors at the Zephyr Nationals they were really intrigued by them.
Clearly then in New Zealand we also need to develop similar craft, as they are
proving to be what the modern dinghy sailors are looking for. Therefore to do so we
have a two handed version of our restricted development classes. As with the single
handed PSF 380, the two handed PSF 400 will incorporate the same design principles
as stated to produce fast well balanced craft, 4m.Loa, with a maximum working sail
of 11sq m and 9.5 sq m gennaker as a extra. This will give designers another chance
to test their skills.
As a starting point classes already in existence can are close to the PSF 400
restrictions, will be allowed to compete with them for the first two seasons, before the
restrictions are enforced. This may well encourage owners of craft not being sailed for
lack of regular class racing to at least get out on the water.
In the 12ft range the Cherub, Q and R classes formed much of the backbone of the
Heritage classes, but in the last ten years as the Cherub has faded out and the
emergence of the 12ft skiff/ R class hybrid has brought together the Auckland,
Wellington and Canterbury 12ft fleets, it would seem that the 12ft Skiff is the best all
out racing option, and it is still without peer as the best all round test of building,
rigging, tuning and boat handling in the skiff world. Now that the 12ft skiffs have
spread to Europe, it is only a matter of time before they attract the same level of
European support as the18’s. The 12ft skiff is our premier racing class in this size
range at senior level.
The Fourteen foot yacht has always been the premier senior centreboard yacht in New
Zealand. From the days of the X class nationally, the predominantly Auckland based
T and Y restricted classes, the Int.14 in the 1950’s and the Javelin from the 1960’s it
has been the 14’s in various guises that have attracted our best racing crews.
However today only the Javelin can claim any sort of class structure. The Javelin is
included in our class structure, as it retains a hardworking and loyal following, but its
numbers are never going to be large as they were in the 1970’s. It also has a bi annual
series with Australia to give it further status.
The Int.14 has now evolved into a full blown skiff, and has established it self as a
premier senior racing class in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere, but the
lack of interest in it, as exemplified by the handful of New Zealand entries at the
World Titles off Takapuna in 2005 was a sad reflection on senior centreboard sailing
in New Zealand, particularly in a size of yacht that was dominant in New Zealand for
so many years.
Despite this situation the Int.14 is part of our senior structure, as its world wide
popularity offers international competition of the highest level.
In New Zealand we have tended to go from 14 to 18ft in one jump, whereas overseas
there are many classes in the 16ft (5m) range that have been very popular with bigger
crews. But in this category one stands out, the “Prince of centerboarders” the 505.
Designed in 1953 by Englishman John Westall the 505 was in many respects a
generation ahead of its time. A superb all round yacht it registered numbers are
closing on 9000 world wide. With outstanding class administration it has adapted with
the times, rig and construction wise, with the increase in spinnaker size in the last few
years to counter the skiff influence once again providing the class with another boost
in popularity. In 2006 the 505 is more popular than ever with strong fleets in
Australia, North America, UK and Europe, and it latest world titles attracted the very
best centreboard sailors. The 505 is a key component in a group of senior centreboard
classes, the Int.14, 49er, 505 and 18ft skiff that are attracting the very best crews
world wide, who are competing in two or three of the respective international regattas
or world titles each year, where sadly there is not a New Zealand crew in sight.
The 505 is in our class structure as a senior International class, which gives all our
young crews something to aim at knowing that winning an international title in the
class is a world class achievement against a far higher standard of sailing than you
would get in a 470 Olympic event.
That then leads to the 18ft skiff as the premier centerboarder. The Auckland Sailing
Club is slowly building a fleet to compete again at this level, but to show you just how
far we are off the pace in terms of developing crews, the Australians, Americans and
Europeans all have top level crews around 20/22 yrs old.
By comparison New Zealand’s few competitive crews are at least a decade older.
This failure to develop skills is addressed in our junior and intermediate levels with
the reintroduction of two handed classes. However the full spec 18 is an expensive
exercise that needs solid sponsorship, and that is not easy to obtain in the current New
Zealand climate.Also as with the 12 ft level I do not believe we have an appropriate
class to act as a stepping stone.
In H5 I stated that we needed to develop a restricted 18 , along the lines of what are
referred to as Classic 18’s based on the simple three handed ply wood 18’s that
followed from Bob Miller’s ( Ben Lexen) Taipan, Venom and Mambo2 designs, and
the Guinness Lady types that were popular in New Zealand. Within this design
concept and construction concept, a two rig and six sail limit, we have a fast fun three
hander that gives the crews all the basic tenants of 18ft sailing at a much more
realistic level of expenditure. It also has the added advantage of giving older sailors
the opportunity to compete as skippers or sheet hands, and pass on their knowledge to
That then completes the senior racing class structure, in a much more balanced form
with the opportunities to compete at any level you wish, starting with the Zephyr and
the hiking assisted Int. Moth (wings) and 3.7( trapeze), the Spiral club racer and the
Haze type centerboarder with gennaker for the heavier and less agile skippers, and
the PSF 380 box rule restricted class for the designers to develop their ideas as a
single handed structure.
The two handed classes starting from the Mistral and Phase 2, with the PSF 400
providing the box rule development options. The 12ft skiff / R class and the Javelin
plus the Int.14 , then the 505, the “Classic 18 restricted class” and the 18ft Skiff as our
premier centreboard class.
In terms of multihulls classes the Paper Tiger still provides the single handed option
and the revived Kitty 4000 as an interesting double handed option. The epitome of
single handed multihull sailing is the A class cat which has a small following here and
they are our premier single hander, but for the double handed multihulls the picture is
bleak. This again is a sad commentary on New Zealand’s demise as a centreboard
yachting nation, as this area of yachting commands huge interest and sponsorship in
Europe, with the F18 box rule being hugely popular and successful. Their has been an
attempt to bring in the F18’s to New Zealand, but with a price tag close to $30,000
NZ to get on the water I don’t see a future for them in our structure.
Finally in the senior section we now look at what may well turn out to be the key area
initially in restoring senior numbers, the learning to sail, recreational yachts that are
suitable to introduce the over twenties to sailing.
This is an area where we have fallen down badly over the last ten years, since the
winning of the Americas cup in the 90’s brought sailing into every household in the
country. I have been approached on many occasions and asked to suggest a suitable
yacht available in NZ not too expensive, easy to sail and manage on and off the trailer
etc where newcomers with a very little or limited experience can try sailing as a sport.
The key to this exercise is design, because people confuse an apparently simple
looking boat with very few ropes etc as the best way to start. That is a recipe for
disappointment and often disaster, simply because so many sailing dinghies of that
type are poorly designed, badly rigged boats that as soon as the breeze gets up simply
cannot sail properly. That leads to frustration and disappointment and the loss of
potential yachtsmen more often than not.
In the past people is this bracket tended to buy a racing dinghy that was no longer
competitive. This often worked out, provided some more knowledgeable yachtsman
lent a kindly hand to show them how to rig it correctly, and remind them to put the
rudder down so it would steer. But those yachts are no longer around in any real
numbers so what are the options.
The Sunburst is the first one that springs to mind, but it is heavy and in truth only in
its original format could be considered, and certainly it has never been considered by
many clubs for this role. The yachts that have been the most successful in this role
overseas have been the UK designs the Heron and the Mirror. Both were introduced
here in their original configuration of gunter rigged mainsails, jib and spinnaker,
which certainly didn’t interest NZ yachtsmen in the 1970’s.
However in the last five years both classes have introduced new rigs, with one piece
alloy masts and have enjoyed a surge in popularity. The Heron has really had a
transformation with a new sail plan featuring a new style mainsail, a choice of jib or
genoa and a spinnaker, together with a frameless hull built with epoxy fillets and glass
tape joins on all the plywood panels. Certainly in this mode the Heron is worthy of
consideration, as an ideal yacht for newcomers. It sails and handles well and at 140lbs
hull weight sturdy enough to take a few knocks but much lighter than a Sunburst.
The Australians have had huge fleets for years and many top sailors have learned to
sail in them. This year’s 47th national championship drew 62 entries from all the
major states, and as I have stated before the Australians don’t adopt dud classes. The
Mirror is a light weights boat and not suitable for two adults.
The best option in my view lies within our heritage. An attractive lightweight dinghy
built of plywood designed by a master of the craft John Spencer. Simply rigged with a
mainsail and jib, a very pleasant yacht to sail, balanced on the helm with no vices and
an ability to handle fresher conditions without scaring new comers.
The Frostply designed in 1955 was originally designed to replace the clinker built
Frostbite, as a all round family dinghy. It grew into a very successful and popular
class in the Waikato region, but the influence of former Q class sailors in the class
which divided the skill levels and led to a decline in interest for the lesser crews and a
drop off in interest, however there have been signs of renewed interest in the last year.
Having owned Frostply 118 Aroha , and enjoyed sailing it often single handed I can
vouch for its pedigree, it was a delightful yacht to sail and in my view exactly the type
of responsive dinghy people should learn the joys of centreboard sailing in. However
as a strictly learners yacht I would think it prudent to depower the mainsail with a
small reduction in area, until the crews confidence was established.
So in summary the Frostply and the Heron both designed by masters of plywood on
different sides of the world over 50yrs age still provide the answers for newcomers,
looking for a simple well balanced yacht to learn the art and endless enjoyment of
Neds Locker 2006.