Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Hate One Design Racing

I should clarify the headline, as it isn't the one-design racing that I hate. In fact, I have garnered my share of dinghy championship titles, and have found the camaraderie of small boat one-design racing to be to my liking. However, I do hate the measurement process in one-design racing.

Hmm, I better back up again, as I have found an amazingly loyal group of people within each class that are in the rules and measurement trenches, and that help maintain the one-design nature within the fleet. But I do hate the process at major class events.

I am not sure why I remain surprised by measurement surprises. My latest fiasco was at the measurement for this year’s Naples Sabot Nationals. Two years ago at the Nationals, I was measuring in an older boat that we had acquired for my son, and the wood rudder and leeboard were oversized. Lots of last minute sanding and shaping, followed by five coats of varnish (15 hours between each coat), having to go through measurement again, but the blades pass and I am done. Not much fun, but not unexpected due to the age of the boat. This year, I take the same blades to get measured (which haven't been used much), and they don’t pass. The word on the street is that the class found the previous measurement templates to be in error and made new ones. So who gets screwed in the deal? Me!

I don’t mean to pick on the Naples Sabot class, as my experiences during the measurement process at major one-design class events seem to regularly involve some oddity. I imagine that one’s experience may vary depending on the type of one-design class. I have never had to go through measurement in the Laser, but given that there is a single builder for the equipment, I would think it should be pretty easy. The other extreme might be a development class, but because they have few rules, maybe that is also easy. I have a hunch it is the tweener classes that have the hardest time, where there are multiple builders and loads of rules that, with good intention, are meant to keep all the boats the same.

Many times I have taken the same mast through measurement, and the bands mysteriously have moved, or that the mast is now too long. Sail measurement is another pet-peeve of mine, and the unlucky volunteers in that tent are often not trained well-enough. If your class rules don’t specifically describe how to measure the jib foot round, or find the luff mid-point along a puckered mainsail luff rope… forget it.

Perhaps what is needed is for each one-design class to take a good, hard look at what rules are really needed, and then get rid of all the rest. Heck, since only a small percentage of the boats in a class even go to these major events, a huge chunk never deal with this measurement renewal process anyway. Keep it simple, measure the stuff that matters, and measure it in a way that can be accurately duplicated. And then, once it has been measured, put a mark on it so that it need not be measured again.

As I began working on my Sabot blades, which will surely be a 12-15 hour job, I wondered about those who did not have the tools or skills to make the fix, or weren’t interested enough to do it (oh, there were plenty of “oversized” blades). In an era when we are working hard to retain membership in one-design racing, incidents like this can only work against that interest. - Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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