By Julian Everitt
Hindsight may be a great thing, but does it take a visionary to see the blindingly obvious? Julian takes a sideways glance.
I never thought I would hear myself say this, but it looks as if wind power generation has come of age.
Both the USA and Spain have embraced it with enthusiasm, building gigantic 450ft wind turbines. This might prove a little hard to take for the UAE, a part of the world that relies on oil for energy profits, but I do rather like the correlation between wind power and sailing.
There are plenty of sports with ‘green' credentials, but none like sailing. Sponsors should be queuing up to support our green sport! Also just around the corner, the first compressed air powered cars are being developed!
Yachting has rather obvious faults; like keels falling off.
There are also some pretty scary ‘kite' propelled merchant ships in the offing too! I say scary because can you imagine the loads connecting the ‘kite' to the ship.
And surely, in the ultimate ‘bad' situation, if the kite generates enough power to pull the ship along, it may well have sufficient energy to capsize the vessel! But, with the cost of diesel going through the roof how long will it be before the power boaters are also sail assisted?
The debate about canting keels and the fairness of IRC will probably drag on and on, but I suspect the keel movers will have their day eventually; like all the other developments that are happening in IRC against the spirit of the rule, they will end up with a handicap that further encourages their development to the cost of the cruiser racers and club racers, who this rule was initially intended for.
They call it development (not something IRC is meant for) but allowing boats to have ever more draft, or moveable ballast together with ever bigger sail plans, without the correct rating factors, will simply encourage trends that are obviously performance enhancing, but at the expense of practicality.
It's hardly improving the breed either to allow such obvious speed developments. We all know what makes a sailboat fast. It's not hard to design a fast boat. The difficult bit is to design it to be fast within a proper rating rule that has properly established limits.
Without the limits, well, you might just as well produce a multihull. And the more money you have you simply make it a bigger and faster multihull. Come to think of it, if sailors want canting keels and other go fast gizmo's, why don't they just allow multihulls to race IRC as well? I am sure the rating office can cobble up a handicap that will "give every dog its day" as RORC so eloquently put it.
At one of the first major offshore events of the season in Miami - the Acura Miami Grand Prix - there were only 12 IRC boats equally divided in two classes; compare this to the 28 Farr 40's and the 20 Melges 32. There is still something in this One Design racing then!
Sometimes the blindingly obvious eludes us. How many unlucky ships have been launched after a champagne bottle failed to break on its first impact. To prevent this happening, first scoring the bottle around the centre with a glass cutter.
You then put it in a net bag to prevent shards of glass causing injury - hey presto it breaks first time.
Missing the obvious reminds me of a piece of Formula One racing history. I was watching a retrospective the other day on one of Colin Chapman's first creations. Now this car made its debut in 1967 and it had aerodynamic wishbones on the front suspension.
How many years, after carbon fibre became the norm in the 1990's, did it take before the circular suspension pieces, exotically moulded in carbon, became aerodynamic once again? I can tell you it was quite a few and it was Mclaren that made the switch.
Yacht racing has a few blindingly obvious faults too. One of them is - keels falling off! The most recent example in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the death of one of the six man crew aboard the Cape Fear 38, Cynthia Woods.
Initial reports suggest the vessel hit something; but that's no excuse for a total keel failure, resulting in an almost instantaneous capsize.
If keels were properly designed, and not so absurdly small where they contact the hull (encouraged by ludicrous rating and box rules), then they would be able to withstand impacts commensurate with potential speed.
Rating and box rules that do not take into account keel size and attendant structure are responsible for leading this sport into very dangerous territory. Preventing so called offshore yachts from racing in anything over a fresh breeze is no answer either!
I don't like the idea of knocking the record breaking efforts of Mike Slade aboard his Farr 100 Leopard. But isn't winning a power assisted sailing record a bit like awarding someone a prize for sailing around the world with one hand tied behind their backs?
Some argue that all modern yachts are power assisted as they need to constantly run generators to power instruments, entertainment and communication systems.
These have become the ‘norm' in offshore racing across the size and cost spectrum - but powered keels and winches haven't. How about a record for sail assisted power boats? Now that would be ‘green'!
Known in the Middle East for his powerboat designs for Al Yousuf, Julian Everitt has a successful design practice that has produced many race winning designs. He has also been Editor of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's magazine Seahorse and a columnist for Asian Marine. Email: email@example.com Blog: julianeveritt.spaces.live.com