Notes of Open Forum Discussion
Wednesday 11 December 2002
Fremantle Sailing Club
The open forum meeting was held in the measurement tent at Fremantle Sailing Club while racing was under postponement because of lack of wind. The Class President, President elect and Secretary were present, and throughout the meeting there were between 50 and 80 members present.
During the course of 2002 there had been a few problems arising with interpretation of the measurement rules. In the case of at least one of these, the IEC believed that there had been a precedent but could not find it. The question was asked if a record could be posted on the Web of IEC/IRC rulings on any interpretation issues referred to it so that these were readily available for inspection. It was agreed that the Officers would implement this as part of the redesign of the Web site. It was pointed out that written records of older IEC/IRC Rulings may be difficult to find.
A problem was arising in Australia due to a lack of templates. There were now three active builders, in NSW, SA and WA, but there were no templates in WA or SA. Would it not be preferable to have a system of licensing moulds thus avoiding the need for measuring every new boat with templates? The International Secretary advised that the IEC had agreed to fund the creating of a digital file that would make the cutting of further copies of the templates easier and more reliable. Experience had also shown that it was possible for minor shape adjustments to be made after the boat came out of the mould. One of the new Australian Builders, Young Marine, had a mould with an adjustable rocker, so not all boats coming out of a mould were necessarily identical. Brett Van Munster said that he did not consider individual measurement of hulls to be a problem in view of the low numbers involved. It also gave an independent check on the builders work. The general view was that if National Associations ensured that they had a set of templates and a suitably qualified measurer close to each current builder, there should be no problem.
There had been renewed discussion on the e-mail list recently about the merits of reducing the weight of the boat. It would be possible to build the latest pre-preg carbon boats up to 20kg’s lighter than the current limit, (the highest amount of correctors yet recorded is 17kg). This represented a potential reduction in weight of about 15%. A few people felt that reducing the weight of the boat would help market the boat to the younger generation. The view was also expressed that this would help generate a supply of second hand boats, as the front of the fleet would be forced to upgrade to lighter models.
However, the contrary point was made that it was still only a relatively small minority of boats still sailing that could lose a significant amount of weight, and even some brand new boats only had minimal correctors. Since the widespread use of epoxy resins and other construction techniques started in the late 1980’s, boats have a much longer competitive life, and the comment was made that this is a much stronger selling point than reducing weight. The point was made that hull weight is not a critical factor to most people when choosing a boat, and few classes feature it as a selling point.
After a brief discussion it became clear that there was little support for a change in the minimum weight. A significant majority supported the view that the main problem was in getting more people sailing 505’s, and cutting the weight was an irrelevance from a marketing standpoint.
The President also asked if the idea floated by Joergen Schoenherr of having some form of weight equalisation by including the weight of the helmsman with the hull found any favour. There was a lot of comment but no serious support for this, with a number of people pointing to the practical difficulties of policing this, and making the point that it was the crew weight that was of greater importance in determining performance in any event. The point was also made that this would lead to a greater importance being attached to the crew size and weight that could exclude more people from the class.
Marketing – fleet growth:
The discussion then moved on to marketing and the President invited fleets that had seen strong growth recently to share their experience with the meeting.
Paul Von Grey spoke for the Seattle fleet which has grown strongly in recent years. Their approach had been to get people into sailing, not just into 505’s. The boat is perfectly suitable as a first boat as it is not difficult to sail and has less vices than many others. A small hardcore group of people started targeting newcomers by taking them for a sail, initially crewing for a more experienced sailor. Those who caught the bug were then encouraged to buy a boat. People were helped to sort out the boats they bought, and then the fleet worked with them to improve both the boat’s and the sailor’s performance. The typical demographics are people in their late 20’s and early 30’s with usually limited funds to spend initially, looking for cheap fun -- hence inexpensive older 505s, but some are now upgrading. There was also a strong emphasis on the social side. The fleet had recently received a further boost with the return of Carl and Carol Buchan to the class, after a long spell in Tasers, with a new boat. Carl is a past Star World Champion and Flying Dutchman gold medalist, as well as having won the US Laser National Championship at least twice. Other new boats are on order for the Seattle area fleet.
The Los Angeles fleet had not shown the same growth in numbers, but “Team Tuesday” had become a major force at the last couple of Worlds, (they finished with four boats in top ten at Fremantle). Howard Hamlin said that they had tried trial sails to attract newcomers and in did not work for them. What they had done was to target good sailors in other classes and get them into the boats and give them all the tuning info to get them up to speed, and then have regular practice and social events. The easy availability of the Ullman Sails tuning information developed by Team Tuesday was mentioned as a factor supporting the growth of the San Francisco area, Seattle area and San Diego fleets.
Matt Hansen spoke of the West Australian experience. They had had the advantage of the Worlds as a target. They always emphasise and promote a big event a year or so ahead to give the fleet something to aim for and look forward to. They also emphasise and strongly promote a couple of mainly social regattas per year that are great for fleet building. The short course format is also far better both for the newcomers (who don’t get left too far behind), and the old-timers who need the boat-handling practise. They had grown from a handful of boats to 20 -25 racing regularly. The fleet had imported some cheap boats that it was able to sell on. It also had targeted the 420 fleet, which is strong in WA, and held joint events with them, and had attracted a number of their older sailors into the 505. They also worked hard on helping people, and found that pairing an experienced person with an inexperienced helped the latter come on much more quickly, thus increasing their enjoyment. Some people are put off by the boat appearing complicated, but there were some boats with a simple layout, and it helps to have these available for class newcomers so that they do not become intimidated. The 505 does not see itself as being in competition with other classes, they tend to co-operate with the other classes to try and grow dinghy sailing generally.
Holger Jess said that the German fleet had become the biggest active fleet in the world by targeting 470 and 420 sailors, both of which are strong in Germany. Local fleets have a policy of being seen by going to mixed class regattas. They respond to claims that the boats are expensive by pointing out that the life cycle costs are relatively cheap. They also have an active second-hand market with boats being “recycled” through the fleet, which always means that there are boats available for newcomers.
The President thanked everyone for contributing to the discussion. It was clear that no single solution would work in every location, but the common factor in each case was enthusiasm by a small group to start the process moving forward, and an understanding of the local target market.
Following on from the introduction of the 6 metre spinnaker and the possible introduction of carbon fibre masts, the President asked if the general view was that there had been sufficient change and whether we should have a period of consolidation. On a vote only one person indicated that they would be happy if there was no further development, with the vast majority present supporting the view that the class should continue to evolve and embrace new developments. The meeting was asked for ideas of what changes might be explored.
Dave Alexander introduced himself as a sail maker from South Australia. He asked if the class had considered fully battened mainsails? The Sharpie class in Australia has a similar size rig to the 505 but adopted fully batten mains a few years ago. The principle advantage is that the sail on a Sharpie lasts about four times as long as one on a 505, which more than offsets the additional initial cost. Howard Hamlin made the point that he felt that the life of current 505 mainsail was already pretty good as he and Mike had got over 70 days racing out of their current one. After a short discussion, the President asked the meeting if this was something that the members would like the IRC to investigate. Over 35 confirmed that they would, with no votes against.
There followed discussion about altering the jib dimensions to allow for a higher aspect ratio. On taking a straw poll an overwhelming majority wished the IRC to investigate this possibility as well, subject to the proviso that the jib halyard point from the mast remained as existing. A request was made that the possibility of a fully battened jib also be investigated.
Following the discussion at the 2001 Worlds, which had been inconclusive, the IGC had once again settled on a seven day nine race format, as this came closest to meeting the criteria that had gained most support. The President asked if people were happy with this. After discussion much stronger support emerged for a lay day in the Worlds series than previously had been the case. Howard Hamlin made the point that to work as means of making the events more family friendly or improving them socially, it was important that the day was sacrosanct, i.e. it should not be scheduled as a spare day for racing if there had been a postponement earlier in the series. There was strong support for the Worlds remaining a nine race series over a total of seven days, with a lay day in the middle.
The point was also made that on two race days the duration of each race should be shorter than on single race days, as it was unrealistic to expect competitors to do two races of over two hours duration back to back, and also the time required reduced the Race Committees options where there were restrictions imposed by the weather or daylight. The existing guidelines still reflect the timings for one race a day. It was agreed to review the guidance to Race Committees.
The meeting was asked if it was happy with the course format. Although a few people advocated windward leeward only courses, a strong majority favoured retaining a triangle for the middle lap as this introduced another tactical consideration and skill.
Although there had been discussion at Cascais about a leeward gate, this had not been implemented for this championship. The Race Officer had offered to introduce one for the Worlds at the beginning of the championship, but the IGC’s view was that it should be first introduced in a pre Worlds to give the fleet the chance to get familiar with it. However, there was strong support for a gate to be introduced at the end of the first downwind leg only. Its purpose would be to help reduce the congestion at the first leeward mark, but it would also open up another tactical option. It was agreed that the IGC should amend the championship guidelines to allow for this configuration in at the 2003 pre Worlds and Worlds.
posted 21 January 2003