Sign in to follow this  
JimC

The Future of One Design

Recommended Posts

You know it occurs to me that we might have a big shakeup in the way one design dinghies are handled in the future.  The thing that might kick it off is the monopoly investigations into the Laser et al.

At the moment, it seems to me that we have two basic approaches to one design, which one might call measurement led and builder led.

--

Measurement led is the class association dominated model, where a relatively simple set of rules are defined on paper to a greater or lesser extent, and any boat that complies with those measurements is basically OK. Building may be open to anyone, or it may be open only to authorised builders, but the principle remains the same. The IP is generally owned by the Class Association, the designer or both.

The big advantage is generally seen as competition between builders.

The big disadvantage is that builders compete on performance, not price, and so the costs can escalate unbelievably. Europe Olympic masts being a case in point.

Another disadvantage is that there is a tendency for classes to be dominated by the "best" builder who may attain near monopoly status.

---

Builder led classes are dominated by a builder or consortium/cartel of builders, who typically specify manufacturing tolerances that are not publicly available. To comply with the rules the boat and components must have been manufactured by an authorised builder in accordance with a builders manual, and any measurement is simply to attempt to detect cheating.

The big advantage is generally seem as much less variation between boats.

The big disadvantage is generally seen as lack of competition between builders, and perceived poor value for money.

The one thing that is common across both models is that there is never competition on price within a class. Competition on price is between classes.

Another major disadvantage is that it is definitively a monopoly supplier situation.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Now we have seen increasing dissatisfaction with monopoly supplier situations from the smaller nations in past ISAF minutes, and now we also have legislative pressure against monopoly supply, resulting in ISAf having to look at classes in that respect. We have also seen, with Laser Performance, problems caused when the cartel of builders fall out or the builders aims no longer coincide with the Class Association.

Should we be looking for a new model?

At the Women's trials that led to the 49erXX one of the options, the Arup Skiff, proposed a concept based on modern ISO9000 manufacture, where multiple builders would be permitted, but there would be very tight controls on manufacture, instead of a measurement based approach, so that components would be as identical as possible. This is exactly the sort of process that is used in industry widely, and also the sort of controls that are necessary if a monopoly builder buys in components from sub contractors. At the time it was rejected as being impractical, but my experience in the high tech industries is that legislative pressure has a wonderful habit of making the impractical practical. I wonder if something like this could be an idea whose time might come?

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there will always be an appetite for the monopoly classes. Most people see the act of building a boat as a barrier to entry. Not so much that they can't complete with the best builders, but that they don't have the resources(time, money, skill, other) required to build. I think the Swift Solo has been suffering from this over the years. The other issue is that since the boats aren't popped out of molds, they are a bit more expensive to have one of the few builders to build a boat for you. Oddly, everyone thinks that the hull is the issue. I would say that at least 75% of my Swift is in the rigging. The hull was relatively easy to build and didn't cost a ton for materials. Class rules can be written in such a way that the boats don't become an arms race but at the same time, there isn't much reason to enter arms races in dinghys because there isn't a return on investment other than the thrill of sailing something you've built. We don't attract the big names and the big sponsors like the maxi yachts. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JimC said:

Now we have seen increasing dissatisfaction with monopoly supplier situations

Outside the Olympic classes and the issues with Laser, are we seeing "increasing dissatisfaction"? I don't hear a much dissatisfaction with what's going on with the UFO and RS Sailing has 1000s of happy repeat purchasers. A monopoly is the expected reward for the not inconsiderable cost of bringing a new OD to market with enough volume to succeed. Let's be careful what we wish for.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, dogwatch said:

Outside the Olympic classes and the issues with Laser, are we seeing "increasing dissatisfaction"?

I've seen a lot through ISAF minutes, yes. I submit the major SMODs are predominantly from english speaking first world nations. The rest of the world also has plenty of fine boatbuilding companies, but they don't get a look in. But its hardly likely those of us who do live in Aus/USA/NZ/GBR will see much of a problem.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you consider keelboats there are quite a number of French-built SMODs too, in fact outside J-Boats, probably the major builders of keelboat SMODs are French. And X-Yachts, maybe less than historically. So not all Anglophone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, TeamFugu said:

I think there will always be an appetite for the monopoly classes. Most people see the act of building a boat as a barrier to entry. Not so much that they can't complete with the best builders, but that they don't have the resources(time, money, skill, other) required to build. I think the Swift Solo has been suffering from this over the years. The other issue is that since the boats aren't popped out of molds, they are a bit more expensive to have one of the few builders to build a boat for you. Oddly, everyone thinks that the hull is the issue. I would say that at least 75% of my Swift is in the rigging. The hull was relatively easy to build and didn't cost a ton for materials. Class rules can be written in such a way that the boats don't become an arms race but at the same time, there isn't much reason to enter arms races in dinghys because there isn't a return on investment other than the thrill of sailing something you've built. We don't attract the big names and the big sponsors like the maxi yachts. 

+1- In my tiny world of experimentation, I throw away hulls, but not custom made foils, cabon spars (aluminum spars for that matter) , blocks, or sails.  Of course, if anyone is paying to have a hull built, It’s going to get expensive. Iirr, a Paper Jet, professionally built, was multiples of the kit price.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim describes the two most common models:

1. Class controlled. One design specification controlled via defined measurement.

2. Builder controlled .  One design specification obtained by SMOD (Single Manufacturer One Design) In the Laser Class, there are 2 manufacturers but they share an identical build book.

There is a third model. Class Controlled SMOD.

The Viper 640 is an example of the "close encounter of the third kind" :)

The owner members of the Class Association own and control the IP.  They appoint the builder and approve sailmakers. Instead of allowing builders to work within rules to build the fastest boat that they can, the Viper class members appointed a single builder working from a single build book with a quality/cost/price objective.

We are not the only class of the third kind, but as feedback we can tell you that it works very well.

 

 

 

 

Others have spoken at length about the problems that Builder controlled SMOD classes have experienced like the Laser, Sunfish, RS Elite, Vanguard 15 etc. (i) Legal fights with the builder. (ii) No sanction for poor service . The customer can complain but not punish the builder by taking their business elsewhere(iii) Monopoly or duopoly pricing.  (iv) Changes made to the boat and design without consulting class members. (v) The builder can suspend production at will if not enough volume.

But multi-builder approach also has its own problems:-

(i) One Design. Boats from different builders differ, each seeking to provide a faster mousetrap.

(ii) Price. Owners always want the fastest boat. Nobody wants to save a few thousand dollars and come last. Builders seek to build the fastest boat irrespective of cost.

(iii) Class promotion falls off a cliff from builders. Multi builders do not like to subsidize class promotion. The small builder doesnt feel like paying more than his fair share. The dominant builder does not want to subsidize price competition.   

 

The third approach needs some business skills within the class organization but it can run very well.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most none SMOD classes are classes of the third kind these days aren't they? Or at least a lot of them made the transition in the move from wooden to GRP construction or when a builder decided to stop building boats and the class bought the mold.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another issue, which has corrupted most od keelboats (including j24, etchell and Farr 40) is when a licensed builder goes feral, or where bits get modded...think foils in the etchell and f40.

Major championships in the above 3 classes have all been 'won' by non-compliant boats. In Melges also!

So it is a tough problem, even with strong class organizations.

And i guess even the Laser has failed at the basic level of controlling as a true 'no equipment advantage' od.

Which tells us, perhaps like a cherub or I14, simple measurement rules might work better for everyone over time?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Frogman56 said:

Another issue, which has corrupted most od keelboats (including j24, etchell and Farr 40) is when a licensed builder goes feral, or where bits get modded...think foils in the etchell and f40.

Major championships in the above 3 classes have all been 'won' by non-compliant boats. In Melges also!

So it is a tough problem, even with strong class organizations.

And i guess even the Laser has failed at the basic level of controlling as a true 'no equipment advantage' od.

Which tells us, perhaps like a cherub or I14, simple measurement rules might work better for everyone over time?

Wouldn't agree on the I14 addition to all of this. I started sailing those in 1990. In Australia the national championships have turned to CRAP (2017 --> 26 boats, 2018 --> 19 boats) and the http://i14vic.com.au/ list NO results nor any upcoming events. We used to get these numbers sailing in the victorian circuit races, around port phillip bay, back int he early 90's!

Seems like people are hanging onto a vision which is far removed from reality!

I think Guy B had it right when he left the class for a SMOD!

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At some point too there comes a point where the number of the second hand boats available is capable of supporting demand, or at least suppress demand for new boats to the point it's uneconomical to build them. Type 1 OD the builders get around this by continual minor innovation (Merlin Rocket) in the same way sail makers make incremental changes to sails in OD classes. Or they build to a high standard at a premium that will support a margin on the the labour and materials involved (505).

The issue there for type 3 is that class associations generally act to protect the value of their existing boats.

...

Aussie interest in 14s dropped off about the time they merged the rules didn't it?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Frogman56 said:

 

Which tells us, perhaps like a cherub or I14, simple measurement rules might work better for everyone over time?

I sailed in such a class for a while. It's a fun game but the cost premium is for a minority. At least 50% higher than a similar SMOD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, dogwatch said:

I sailed in such a class for a while. It's a fun game but the cost premium is for a minority. At least 50% higher than a similar SMOD.

I would figure that the time premium is something that hits most people unless you've plenty of cash to pay someone else. Not developing your boat due to being restrained in a SMOD class would be a good thing.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All valid points, but when the integrity of the od is compromised, what do have left? 

Not very much!

And this is the situation now of the Laser, F40, Etchell, to name a few.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the OD boats are developed enough that further development is futile would that create a better class? If the class bit the bullet and modified the rules such that improvements were already incorporated or easily banned those avenues for development would be cut-off. Control what you can, open up what you can't control. The class association should always have a significant say in how the boats are made, the whole laser class fiasco should be avoided.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In theory yes, but the builders are usually first to go into the grey zone, difficult for the ca to police, and then often progress to outright illegality

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Ncik said:

The class association should always have a significant say in how the boats are made, the whole laser class fiasco should be avoided.

I used to "work" (i.e. volunteer) for a SMOD class association and negotiated rule changes with the class rules holder, which in our case was the MNA. They'd only agree changes if all of their technical department, the class association and the manufacturer agreed. In practical terms it is next to impossible for a manufacturer class association to take actions with which the manufacturer does not agree. For starters, the manufacturer owns drawings and specifications which are essential to build the boats and are referenced in the class rules but are only available to the manufacturer(s).

Usually this works out. The manufacturer and the class association both want the class to succeed. Laser is however an Awful Warning of what can go wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup. The manufacturer does want the class to suceed. But then... a mate of a mate of the production 2ic gets a special that comes off the line late Friday. So then the mate is suddenly closer to the front of the fleet. And the mate tells his mate. So the mate of the mate of the mate coughs an extra 200 folding and gets a slightly better special...... repeat, repeat.

And about 2 years later the OD is essentially rooted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I'm paying for my 15 year olds boats i prefer OD not necessarily SMOD .It does tend to limit the arms race to a slight degree .

But when it comes to my own boats i do tend to favour Box rule classes . I have always found great satisfaction in putting my own slant into designs and rigging .

And there in I suppose is the underling issue with the cost spiral associated with those types of classes .

But incredibly rewarding when it all goes right .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Frogman56 said:

In theory yes, but the builders are usually first to go into the grey zone, difficult for the ca to police, and then often progress to outright illegality

It is easy, but a little costly, to test a hulls construction. Thinking of the laser, two boats from different builders and/or generations can be bought, flex tests done, hulls weighed and pitch gyradius measured, hull tokens cut out from various places and tested for panel weight, fibre content, even stiffness and strength if required. If they don't match reasonably well then ask the builders to please explain. The tests should be laid out in the construction plans with variability allowances clearly set-out. The builders really do have a contract with the "class" to ensure they are building boats that are suitable for the class, even if it isn't a written contract. It's in the builders and classes best interests. Infact I'd be surprised if this isn't already done in the laser, but other classes could also do this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Ncik said:

It is easy, but a little costly, to test a hulls construction. Thinking of the laser, two boats from different builders and/or generations can be bought, flex tests done, hulls weighed and pitch gyradius measured, hull tokens cut out from various places and tested for panel weight, fibre content, even stiffness and strength if required. If they don't match reasonably well then ask the builders to please explain. The tests should be laid out in the construction plans with variability allowances clearly set-out. The builders really do have a contract with the "class" to ensure they are building boats that are suitable for the class, even if it isn't a written contract. It's in the builders and classes best interests. Infact I'd be surprised if this isn't already done in the laser, but other classes could also do this.

As being someone who has seen the internals of multiple Lasers over a number of years i can most definately say there has been differences in construction and quality. Most being acceptable ranging right through to not .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/21/2018 at 8:10 AM, dogwatch said:

If you consider keelboats there are quite a number of French-built SMODs too, in fact outside J-Boats, probably the major builders of keelboat SMODs are French.

Lots of J Boats have been, and are being, built in France (J Composites).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/24/2018 at 3:02 AM, dogwatch said:

I used to "work" (i.e. volunteer) for a SMOD class association and negotiated rule changes with the class rules holder, which in our case was the MNA. They'd only agree changes if all of their technical department, the class association and the manufacturer agreed. In practical terms it is next to impossible for a manufacturer class association to take actions with which the manufacturer does not agree. For starters, the manufacturer owns drawings and specifications which are essential to build the boats and are referenced in the class rules but are only available to the manufacturer(s).

Usually this works out. The manufacturer and the class association both want the class to succeed. Laser is however an Awful Warning of what can go wrong.

This works fine as long as the class and builder are on the same page.  This worked well for the Laser in the 70s when there were a lot of people getting it sailing, the class is growing, and the builder is a sailor first and a businessman second.

Now compare that to the fiasco of the last few years.  The market demand is down due to both a shitty economy and a general decline of sailing as a recreational activity.  Add to the mix a builder whose owner doesn't give a rat's ass about sailing.  There is no longer an incentive to cooperate and get along.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/21/2018 at 8:10 AM, dogwatch said:

If you consider keelboats there are quite a number of French-built SMODs too, in fact outside J-Boats, probably the major builders of keelboat SMODs are French. And X-Yachts, maybe less than historically. So not all Anglophone.

those arent really SMODs... They're boat designers and manufacturers, and you can't really get someone to build a J109 for you other than whoever J boats has contracted to build them, but they're not SMOD's. Sort of like racing Miatas or Porches, i guess (i dont race cars). SMOD's are when you can't even decide who to get your sails from, your spars from, your foils, etc. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All those Platus, Beneateau 8 and Funs were certainly SMODs and built in large volumes. Some SMODs allow you to choose sailmaker, some don't. Laser is not the only model of how to be a SMOD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this