2011 April 6, Letter from Bob Duffy to IOD Membership

April 6, 2011

Dear Class members

As you may have heard, the NEH Fleet was given permission, to experiment with the development of a carbon fibre rig.  That rig now exists and has been tested over the last two seasons.  The rig is a very sleek looking piece of equipment; single spreader with no jumpers – see photograph.

On this website, you will find copies of correspondence between the NEH Fleet Technical Committee and your World Class Executive which lays out the current situation.

However, as with many things, it is not really that simple, so perhaps some Class history is appropriate before proceeding to the correspondence.

Also, please use the comments section on the bottom of the summary page for discussion of the issue.  You are encouraged to comment, offer opinions – or anything else that you feel may contribute to the discussion.  The webmaster will edit or decline any submission that gets personal or steps outside the boundaries of accepted propriety.

So to the history.

Seventy five years ago Bjarne Aas designed, and subsequently built International One Designs in Fredrikstad, Norway.

These original IOD’s had sturdy wooden rigs typical of the technological developments at the time.  By today’s standards: heavily built and heavily rigged with limited flexibility, prone to rot and very expensive to maintain.  

Fast forward forty years to 1976.   IOD’s designed and built in 1936 on a tight budget – approximately $5,000 with a life expectancy of five years – are getting tired, expensive to maintain and relegated to second tier status as high performance boats like the J24 and Etchells 22 hit the market. One important issue by then was the uneven quality of the wooden spars. Some were Norwegian originals, some had been repaired, and some had been replaced by spars from other manufacturers.  This was not deemed to be all that important since fleets were geographically isolated and there was little inter-fleet competition that required boats being moved about.

The Long Island Sound fleet was particularly affected by this transition, losing its traditional “first class to start”position in the YRA races.  Many of the better sailors in the area chose to sail in the higher performance (modern!!) boats.  As a consequence, the LIS Fleet membership who remained dedicated to the IOD, decided to invest in a modern aluminium rig to increase the performance of the boats in the traditionally lighter winds of Long Island Sound: in an attempt to keep high caliber sailors interested in the Class. 

This was the first in a series of mistakes that, compounded, leave us where we are today. 

Not only did the LIS Fleet change materials from the original design (wood to aluminium) but they also changed the mast configuration from double spreaders with big jumpers, diamonds and a 3/4 headstay rig to single spreaders, small jumpers, much lighter, more flexible and a 7/8 headstay rig (see photograph) – again, to produce a rig suited to the LIS conditions. At that time, there was very little formal World Class authority. There was no approval of these changes outside LIS – and, as it turned out, the IOD’s still could not match the performance of the Etchells.  

For the sake of the discussion I will call this the ‘modern’ rig and the original, the ‘classic’ rig.

As original ‘classic’ rigs around the world continued to deteriorate (or become too expensive to maintain), fleets continued the move to the new aluminium (‘modern’) sections starting with Bermuda: interestingly, the rig turned out to be quite unsuited to the sail design and the heavier sailing conditions in Bermuda.  Many masts broke because the sections, in conjunction with deeply cambered sails, were too light.  Bermuda have since specified a thicker wall section (giving a stiffer mast) and also shortened the boom by a foot to deal with the heavy weather that is often typical in Bermuda.

No World Class approval there either.

Never-the-less, this modern rig has spread round the world and more than half the IOD fleets in existence now use it, or a variation thereof.

Marblehead had also been studying a shift to aluminum with the goal of making all 26 boats in their fleet race more evenly. Engineers saw the failures in the “modern” design used in other fleets and did not wish to invest in a spar that seemed likely to break in the significant ‘nor easters’ that occur in Marblehead.   

Consequently, when the MHD Fleet finally moved to an aluminium section they essentially replicated the ‘classic’ rig in aluminium – same configuration, same section, same weight, same balance. MHD went to Kenyon, an established company that would be able to provide spars for the foreseeable future, and selected the section then used in production of the J-30. Partly for economy in making the change, the standing rigging was the same as the original Aas design so members could transfer their standing rigging almost intact from their wooden spar to the new one.  What they produced was the equivalent of a telephone pole, which has withstood 30 years of sailing in all conditions. It also had the desired results of making boats in the the fleet sail far more evenly than with the wooden spars.

Fishers Island next began to build a fleet, and many of their boats came from Marblehead, so it was natural for that fleet to select the Kenyon section as its standard. Nantucket, too, selected the Kenyon sections as they began to build a new fleet.  The advantage to the World Class has been that three fleets, located relatively close to each other, were in fact one design in all respects.  For a period of time, all three fleets were even on the same sail rotation plan with the same sailmaker and it became possible to bring boats together to host a larger World Championship than was possible with just the boats from any single fleet.

In 1999, the MHD Fleet at an Annual General Meeting proposed (and lobbied hard for) a modification to the Class Regulations and By-laws: in the perhaps vain hope that the Class could move back towards a single rig.  The class approved the concept stating that any new fleet and any existing fleet proposing to change spars for an entire fleet (away from wood) use the Kenyon ‘classic’ rig configuration.

This was error number two!  This time by the Class Executive for allowing the change without addressing the outstanding issue of the ‘modern’ rig.

Why?   Because the ‘modern’ rig has never, in thirty five years, been approved as a Class rig!

So, now we have two rigs, three if you include the original wood, one of which is illegal!   Ridiculous, I know, but there you have it.  Half the fleets in the world are sailing with an unapproved rig and are therefore NOT International One Designs.  But, hold-thepress!  We actually have four!!

Just to complicate things, NEH, the Fleet that has retained the largest number of original boats, elected, in 1938 to import boats from Norway with masts that were 8 inches short of the design requirement – their thinking at the time was that they experienced heavier winds than LIS and would need less sail area/mast height.  Given the expense of building a new mast it is also possible that some masts have lost a few inches in repairing the rot to the bases of the masts.

Hello!  Now we have yet another mast configuration!  This was error number three – in the very early days of fleet development and later compounded by the fact that the Class Executive continued to not make the necessary decisions to correct the issue.  Now, three quarters of the world fleets are sailing with illegal masts!!!

You will begin to understand why so many of us refer to our class as the ‘International almost One Design Class’.

So where do we go from here?

Well, one of the first things we can do is leglise the ‘modern’ section rig.  This change will be placed before the Class membership at the AGM this year for ratification. 

We cannot, and, in my opinion, must not, approve another rig configuration …………..of course, it may not be your opinion which is why we are asking for input; although the Class could perhaps accept another material (carbon fibre) if the configuration, weight and balance matched  ‘approved’ Class rigs.  You will gather from the correspondence that this is considered to throw away the benefits (light weight) of using carbon fibre.

Which brings me full circle – back to the NEH correspondence…………and the help we need from you, the Class membership, to resolve the issue.

To ensure the discussion is full and fruitful we should be aware that there are also some other options.

One might be to move in the direction proposed at a Bermuda meeting of the Class back in 2005…………but perhaps not very palatable for a variety of reasons, paramount of which is aesthetics and financial.   Make the carbon fibre mast the approved Class rig and we all change.  That way we have one rig and move a step closer to being a ‘one design class’.

Another might be to consider the San Francisco ‘Ballinger’ rig (see photograph) as the Class approved rig.  Aluminium, sturdily built to withstand the rigours of racing on San Francisco Bay and with (almost) the original rig configuration.

Yet another, may be to consider adopting a ‘box’ rule wherein the Class would dictate the height, total weight, tip weight and centre of balance for the rig but the section, per se, could be anything that fitted into the required box – see detail.                                                                                                                                                                       

This, as you can see, is an open circulation letter deliberately written to elicit response!!

So, a final note with respect to how this all happened in the first place.  In all the discussions that take place, bear in mind that there was no World Class Association until about 1960.  Consequently, where fleets developed, they set up their own rules and ran with a high degree of autonomy…………..which is often why there are significantly differing opinions with regard to the authority that the WCA has to direct the actions of individual fleets and why the Class Constitution, Bye-laws, etc. are not the ‘in-depth’ documents you will find in many other classes.

So, one last thought.  If each individual fleet remains true to a ‘one-design’ principle in that fleet – in other words, if every rig is the same, if every hull is the same, if every sail purchase is the same……………………do we care?

Please log your thoughts and comments on the webpage.
The Executive looks forward to your input.

Robert Duffy
Interim Class President