Staff member
Dear F18 and other Sailors,

A word of caution as week think about rejecting class innovations like DS, hard launchers and C-Boards under the principle that “new fangled stuff will add cost and drive members away.”.

As an “old” salt who owned one of the first batch of lasers back when my area was all about Force 5’s - my heart leans towards Bill Hardesty who points out the Laser as the model of class preservation. I wish that was the way US sailors thought, but my observation of actual behavior of the modern American consumer-sailor shoots some gigantic holes in the Laser theory of class management as a template for keeping numbers in the face of innovation.

Just look at the J/80 to J/70b shift. I was a J/80 sailor – loved having a sport-boat that I could leave at the mooring and actually day sail with friends and family. The 2011 J80 worlds in Newport with 70 boats and top sailors from around the showed the health of the 20-year-old class. European regattas regularly attracted over 100 boats. When Jeff shared his plan for the 70 – I thought he was nuts – a Melges 20 Mark II – another little lead mine that you couldn’t leave on a mooring and couldn’t take day sailing with non-sailors – all for the privilege for going 10% faster. It seemed stupid and tragic to me and I used the same examples Laser, Hobie, and the J/105.

It turns out that the modern American Sailor is a fashion consumer who places little value on sustainability or being inclusive. The only profitable scale US business in the industry is North Group – and their profits are based on customers who prefer Carbon Sails that wear out faster than a Schick razor blade over a Vectran sail that could last 4-5x – foul weather gear is disposable – boats and classes are disposable. It took the J/70 about one year – with a little help from North pros – to kill the J/80.

Sailing has fully morphed into a fashion business. An uncomfortable truth. But ignore at your peril US F18 class.

I am a Cat newbie, but the DS looked pretty good and fun to me at the CataCup. Hard chute launchers to help make tacking easy seems smart. I have a foiling A Cat as well – am an engineer who understands CFD models, etc. and C-Boards seems a bit silly – but if they want fins on cars, give them fins on cars.

Chris Bulger (so old fashion, he uses his real name)


Loose Cannon

Super Anarchist
Planet Earth
I think that the challenge is that there are a lot of companies trying to become the next laser.  They all have X amount of dollars, drachma, sheckles to market the hell out of their designs in hopes of creating scale that will be sustainable.

Windsurfers rocked, when they were the only game in town.  Ditto lasers, sunfish, hobies, lightnings, j24s anon.

The development and upgrading of a class spec is essential at least in the growth years of a class, and slow down a bit after that.  I will be interested in how the Acat evolves into the foiling and floating flavors of the same development class - but appreciate that they tailor to the needs of their constituents.  (and me at 200lbs will never be flying one, as an example) . Interesting thoughts.  Perhaps if yacht clubs didn't suck and had less politics - we might be able to create cradle to grave positive experiences for kids and keep sailing alive for more than the rich and or committed.



image.png  Hard Launcher



Super Anarchist
Chesapeake Bay
Take a look at history for the model of evolution you want to follow.

The Tornado class voted on the addition of a spinnaker and self tacking jib.  Mitch Booth had produced a sort of prototype called the Tornado sport. ISAF and the elite of the T fleet were crystal clear that the class future must have the spin upgrade.  The class voted the change down. The club racers simply were not up for either the investment or the new challenge (or thought they could preserve the value of their boat) ...  whatever.. 

ISAF made it clear that the Tornado must have a spin for continuation in the games.  Somehow, a way was found around the class vote ( I think it was at the annual meeting)  and the class evolved and the rule set with the Spinaker/ self tacking jib was approved shortly after the first vote.  Next quad.... the class allowed a carbon stick provided by Marstrom as a SMOD piece of equipment.   Bottom line... evolution was driven from the top of the class ... Survival may require you to dump the democratic principles of the class.   (of course ISAF wanting the change was a big help in greasing the end game result)

IMO,  far better outcome in the T class compared with the A class.  Despite a democratic vote that in theory would STOP hydro-foiling and preserve rule 1 of the class with rule 8.... evolution happened.   A feckless leadership failed to immediately recognize that Foiling and Conventional A cats were actually two competitive groups. They took refuge in the failed class rules and the class rule change process and did nothing.  It took years to implement the two divisions within the single class at the championship level that you see today. 

If the F18 racers at worlds want some rule changes...they will face the same issue as the A class.  How much of a lifting foil can you allow and not have the boat foil out of the water.  Can you write an effective rule?  For A class's,  C boards and T rudders made the boat better to race in breeze downwind... BUT.... the ineffective rule allowed the technology which evolved from the bottom up and the boats now foil. 

The N17 half assed the problem and got a silly boat that created spectacular photos of the boat flying out of the water uncontrollably.  As a SMOD controlled by Nacra and ISAF....   well they do what they (and the IOC) want to do.  (How much the neutering of the Tornado voting history influenced the class vote on the foiling package is unclear)

So....  every F18 sailor should go to school on history.... you don't have a unique problem.  Consider democracy is just one way of running things AND it requires a fully informed electorate...    In sailing...    that fully informed part may be a stretch! 



Hazard to Navigation
South of Spandau
Tornado was an OD class. There was no need to add a chute (that did not make it any faster) other than pressure from the IOC. And wat did they gain in the end? 

A-Cat is box rule development class. Why not allow anything that makes it faster? 



New Zealand
The modern or Sports Tornado is now significantly faster than the classic. At the worlds, the Sports do three laps to every two for the Classic.

When the trials were held to select between the Classic and Sports, there was little speed difference, but since then, with development, the Sports is a lot faster.

One design boats like the Laser and the Hobie 16, are designs locked into a certain time (1970's) and after a period of time, they will fall out of fashion, as there are now better, easier designs to sail. Just because there is a million Lasers stored under houses around the world doesn't make it a great design of today.

To extend the usefulness of a one design class, there needs to be a certain level of development allowed, and sometimes, the class needs to make big changes to stay competitive and fun to sail. The Weta Trimaran has made changes to the manufacturing of the hulls and the sails, plus there is a new larger main coming online. These changes improve the boat and the class overall.

Once the Laser is dropped from the Olympics, it will disappear fast as a new class takes over. The Laser is an old design, well passed it's used by date. It needed to update it's rig, sail and manufacturing process to stay current, and to fix the issues we all know if suffers from.

For the F18, they need to fix in the key parts of the design,  Length, weight, beam etc, and leave area for development to allow the class to develop and grow.

The competitive sailors will always keep their in good order and up to date. Changes will always filler down from the top of a class to the bottom.




Once the Laser is dropped from the Olympics, it will disappear fast as a new class takes over. The Laser is an old design, well passed it's used by date. It needed to update it's rig, sail and manufacturing process to stay current, and to fix the issues we all know if suffers from....
  No, I don't think so. Firstly, the Laser isn't popular because of the design of boat, but because of the class and philosophy that sustains it. Which is why it's still popular despite a long series of new classes that have been going to take over. I daresay many of them were "better" boats but they didn't offer a compelling package to supplant the existing class.

The Laser is in the Olympics because it's popular, not popular because it's in the Olympics.

 One crucial thing that often seems to be missed in these discussions is that a boat that's going to appeal to a wide range of abilities needs to be easy to sail badly AND really difficult to sail well. That's a key driver behind the continuing popularity of both the Optimist and the Laser... You don't need to be an experienced sailor, or have a lot of money, to get out and have some fun in either but you DO need to be consistently good to finish at the front of a fleet of them.





Super Anarchist
Greenville, SC
I own a very competitive F18 (2012 Nacra Infusion) and A-cat (2007 Bimare XJ in excellent shape) and a J22 for club racing.  I do well at the regional level and am a competitive sailor/racer.  I like racing boats and studying wind, water, and tactics.  I abhor wallet racing the guy next to me to spend more money on the latest and greatest go-fast thing that does nothing but distract me from the actual racing.  I'm also entering my upper 40's and feel a very distinct "get off my lawn" phase of life coming so take this as you will. 

A hard deck on the front of an F18 does not make tacking easier or better - it's an end plate to make the jib more efficient but does let your crew cross up there so you guys can spend (waste) more of your money on a deck sweeper mainsail setup and 1/2 wishbone boom that the crew can't get under.  Leave the mainsail at normal human height and your crew can cross under it like a normal person.  C-boards will make it incrementally faster but make working on the deck with boards raised a pain in the ass because they're now at brow level and protruding across the trampoline.  And for heaven's sake, if you REALLY want to go to those lengths to get 5% more speed,  why in the hell are you racing a 420lb F18? Get off my lawn.

This very topic of a class allowing development that risks obsoleting legacy designs is an impossible question to answer correctly.  If you don't develop the class, the wallet racers inflicted with shiny-itus get distracted and move to something else.  If you do develop the class, the guys like me get kinda irritated and stop going to events where wallet racing prevails.  Either path causes more participation losses - but I think the shiny-itus sailors are more excitable and louder than most which gives an impression that they are more of a majority than they really are.  I'm not a fan of opening up class development for an exceptionally well established class like F18.  Rather, I believe that if the class is truly outdated and the sailors move on to other more high tech stuff, fine - that should be the natural order of things.  Leave the class alone - adjust the rules for reasonable changes related to safety, convenience, and cost only (the foundation of the F18).  If it dies because of it, fine - it dies staying true to what created it and the new class comes along leaving the lines of what-is and what-isn't an F18 very clear.

I'm going to keep sailing my old "classic" (as the class has deemed my boat) XJ and my ancient F18. 

PS - For the love of god, who thinks a 164lb carbon fiber A-cat should be called a "classic" and what kind of marketing does that do for the class?   



Super Anarchist
Greenville, SC

For the F18, they need to fix in the key parts of the design,  Length, weight, beam etc, and leave area for development to allow the class to develop and grow.

The competitive sailors will always keep their in good order and up to date. Changes will always filler down from the top of a class to the bottom.
At what price?  When I started sailing A-cats (not THAT long ago...8-10 years?) I could buy a new boat ready to go for about $15k-$18k. Less if I get a slightly used one after a worlds event.  Now a new A-cat is twice that not including the foils you need to upgrade in 6 months when the new ones come out.  I bought a brand new F18 in 2005 for $12,500. I guess that's fine if you have a demographic to support it but can the F18 class also absorb the cost increase that comes with that development?  What new boat class remains for someone interested in getting into one design catamaran racing that costs less than $25k?  A Hobie 16 is pretty much the last one standing as it is - not that there's anything wrong with that but 30 minutes from now we'll all be pondering again why sailing isn't growing.

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