Let's face it, left to its own devices, design evolution in the sport of sailing proceeds pretty much at a glacial pace. The boats we all sail these days really haven't progressed that far from the awkward yet serviceable steeds that ferried the early Greeks, the Vikings, and even Christopher Columbus around on the brine. Sure the materials boat builders now use have taken several steps forward since those early days, and the application of some gearGPS receivers particularlyseems suitably contemporary, but taken as a whole, sailboats pretty much do what they've always done, many of them at relatively the same speeds.
Still, change is a natural process borne of the human drive to make things "better." No matter how incremental or slow, we ought to properly appreciate such advances. To that end, we examine two distinct cases here. In each an original design has been modified in an attempt to enhance time spent on the water. While both efforts have the potential to attract new players to the sport, they also share the prospect of alienating sailors that favor the original design. Have a look:
Caribbean Cross Pollinization Chris Rosenberg is a lifelong sailboat racer who lives in one of the best places on the planet to race sailboatsSt. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. The only problem is that the sailboat racing activity in this archipelago peaks in the spring with the region's popular CORT Series and not much of note happens for the rest of the year. Several years ago Rosenberg took the initiative and decided to do something about that. He reasoned that if he could come up with a boat that would be easy and comfortable to sail, and affordable, he could revitalize the racing in his local waters and perhaps get regional yacht clubs to join him and stage more events throughout the year.
Rosenberg, a 44-year-old general contractor and self-acclaimed sailboat racing fanatic, credits sailmaker/author Dan Neri with the idea for what became the InterClub 24. "Over dinner, I asked him what would be the perfect boat for club racing around here, and he suggested a J/24-type hull with a Melges 24-style cockpit. It made sense," explains Rosenberg, "because we needed an economical boat that was durable, comfortable, and fairly well performance-minded, and because there were a lot of J/24s available."
Working with fellow racer and local fiberglass artisan Morgan Avery, Rosenberg experimented with a new cockpit design loosely modeled on the popular Melges 24. According to Avery, they chopped out the aft portion of the existing cabin on the prototype J/24 and moved the companionway forward to make room for a cockpit larger. Then they grafted the new cockpit on to the old hull, and voila, they had a new boat. Rosenberg dubbed it the InterClub 24, or IC 24.
In January, Rosenberg and Avery produced a mold for the new decks, and then started cranking out boats. They managed to get six IC 24s ready in time for the CORT series in April, and the new class was an instant hit. According to Rosenberg, it means level racing, no matter the size or strength of the crew. But the best appreciated aspect of the new design appears to be comfort. Instead of a deck contour and layout that tend to punish the crew, the IC 24 features more broadly radiused joints between the cockpit and the deck, and for the cockpit seats. The cockpit itself is 12 feet long, and according to Rosenberg, is more comfortable than a lot of 40-footers.
According to its proponents, the impact of the IC 24 thus far has been tremendous. Though the existing boats are privately owned, Rosenberg has arranged with the owners to make them available for lessons through the St. Thomas Yacht Club on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, introducing more people to the sport. On Fridays the fleet of IC 24s is used for short, informal races with the owner bringing one crew and the club using a sign-up sheet to fill the other three spots on each boat.
Rosenberg and Avery say they've got 10 more prospective owners interested and expect to sell another seven boats by the time the Rolex Cup Regatta rolls around next year. But if that doesn't happen, Rosenberg says he's not worried. Even if the IC 24 doesn't take off and become accepted by other sailors around the Caribbean, which is the designer's fervent hope, he says the boat has solved the problem of rejuvenating sailing at his own club. "It's getting more people out on the water. That alone is a pretty good measure of success."
Sibling Sensation "Don't call it the new boat," say its critics. "Call it the other boat." A relatively recent initiative to breathe new life into the 24-year-old Sparkman & Stephens designed Tartan Ten has some folks associated with this 33-foot one-design taking sides. According to Rich Stearns, the long-time Chicago area sailmaker who is largely responsible for the "redesign," his new take on the T-Ten is nothing more than an attempt to update a proven design.
Stearns, a Tartan Ten owner for years, was a big fan of the design. Still he felt that the boat could be improved and that design updates would help the class to move confidently into the future. He explains: "We knew that we couldn't sell the [existing design] in this day and age the way it was, so we conceived a cabin house for interior comfort, a larger cockpit for performance, and a scooped transom for safety."
Despite Stearns and company's pledge to bring the new boats (dubbed LS 10sL for Larsen and S for Stearns) in at an identical weight as the original design, with the same rig and sail plan, the idea of a new boat has nonetheless ruffled the feathers of many T-Ten class members. For those folks, it didn't help matters when the class officers agreed to elect a review committee that would examine the new design and determine how it relates to the original regarding performance. For three days this spring in Detroit, that group presided over a series of measurements and performance tests and ultimately deemed unanimously that the new boat was indeed acceptable on a one-design basis.
"We did everything humanly possible in a two-and-a-half-day period to test the two boats," says T-Ten Class President Ralph Richards. "After two days of testing, the new boat committee felt that there weren't significant advantages to the LS-10 and they gave it provisional approval."
"The first thing that everyone notices is the drink holders," says Stearns about the new LS-10. "We've made it so that it's pretty nice to sit on. The old design used to be uncomfortable
.Now it has the cockpit of a 45-footer." According to Stearns, the new boat lives up to its billing as a versatile machine. "We also wanted to make it a better cruising boat. Now, as a daysailing, short-range cruising boat, it's hard to beat."
Richards also finds himself among the proponents for the new boat. "My belief is that the new boat will add life to the class...It's important, however, that the existing owners of T-Tens feel comfortable that the new boat doesn't offer any performance advantages over their boats. That's the bottom line. If this is done right it's going to be good for the class. If it's done wrong, it could be a disaster. But I believe we're on the right track."
The Cost of Change
If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' goes the age-old maxim, which is one reason why some proponents of the original J/24 and Tartan Ten might not welcome efforts like those of Rosenberg or Stearns. Another reason might be money. Rosenberg says that used J/24s can be had for roughly $6,000, and his IC 24 modifications will set an owner back an additional $7,000, meaning you'll need about $13,000 to play the game his way. Jeff Johnstone, President of J/Boats (the company that markets and sells J/24s), doesn't expect that too many current J/24 owners will opt for the IC 24 modifications. He notes that a good used J/24 can be had for a little more (roughly $9,000) and made competitive with another $7,000 worth of sails, etc. He also says that the class is very healthy as is; his company still gets orders for the original boat.
As for the LS-10, which Stearns' company sells for $89,500 (not including sails), its T-Ten sisters can be had for anywhere from $15,000 to $28,000 in a competitive state.
For additional information on either of these boats, check these websites: LS-10 (www.lsboats.com); Tartan Ten (www.tten.com); J/24 (www.jboats.com). There is currently not a website for the IC 24.
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