Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Intensity 7.06 Class?

I didn't want to write this post. I don't like the conclusion it's going to reach. But I'm an anal-retentive, analytical bastard and I have this incredibly annoying habit of following any argument to its logical conclusion no matter how unpalatable it is or who it upsets. Just ask my wife.

I've written a couple of posts recently, Fairness and We The People... about how the high price and low durability of the official class-legal Laser sail are driving the sales of much cheaper replica Laser sails from other sources, and how more and more local fleets are allowing the use of these sails for their club racing and even in their regattas. The most popular supplier of such sails in North America is Intensity Sails.

But there's a right and a wrong way for such fleets to do this. They can't just add a sentence in their sailing instructions saying something like, "Competitors are allowed to use Intensity sails." And not only because the Laser class might not like it. Such a change to the SIs is actually not allowed by the Racing Rules of Sailing.

Rule 78 says that a boat must comply with class rules. And if you are running a Laser fleet or a Laser regatta that means the Laser class rules, which say that your sail must be manufactured by a licensed builder.

And Rule 87 says that sailing instructions may change a class rule "only when the class rules permit the change, or when written permission of the class association for the change is displayed on the official notice board." (Good luck with your application for such permission.)

Bottom line, you can't change the SIs to say Intensity sails are allowed because that is a change to a class rule and the Racing Rules of Sailing don't allow you to do that.

But what could go wrong, you say? We're all friends. Our fleet voted by a large majority to allow Intensity sails. We'll just do it.

Well, it only takes one asshole to ruin your plan. What are you going to do when someone sailing with a one-year-old worn-out legal class Laser sail protests everyone who beat him using a nice crisp fast Intensity sail, and he argues at the protest hearing that your change to the SIs to allow Intensity sails is invalid and null and void because of Rules 78 and 87? Or maybe he files for redress under Rule 62 to have his finishing positions adjusted ahead of everyone using Intensity sails because of "an improper action of the race committee or organizing authority" i.e. aforementioned incorrectly written sailing instructions. Or maybe he does both. And if your friends on the protest committee reject his protest and request for redress, he appeals to US Sailing. It only takes one asshole to ruin your plan.

Can anyone who understands the Racing Rules of Sailing better than me tell me if there is a flaw in my logic above?

But fear not, my friend, even if my logic above is correct there is an easy solution. You need to create a new class. Let's call it the Intensity 7.06 Class. (Full rig Laser sails are 7.06 square meters in area.) You write some very simple rules for what equipment is allowed under the Intensity 7.06 Class Rules. In the SIs you say that your regatta is being sailed under the rules of the Intensity 7.06 Class.

End of problem. (I think.)

There are a couple of precedents for this approach. That inventive chappie Steve Cockerill, owner of Rooster Sailing, came up with a larger rig for the Laser. He called it the Rooster 8.1. They hold Rooster 8.1 regattas. They even held a Rooster 8.1 UK National Championship last year. As far as I can tell it's all perfectly kosher and compliant with the Racing Rules, because there is a Rooster 8.1 Class Association. Membership is free, and you are allocated a membership number when you buy a new Rooster 8.1 rig from Steve. Or if you buy a second-hand Rooster 8.1 sail you can apply for a membership number by email. Very simple. Very cheap. (Free is cheap, I think.)

College sailing in the US also went down this route. You might think that college sailing regattas are sailed in Larks, or FJs or 420s. They are not; many colleges modify their boats so that they no longer comply with class rules. Worse than that, college sailing allows certain kinetic moves such as ooching which are not allowed in Rule 42.

But Rule 87 says that SIs can't change the class rules. And Rule 86 says that the SIs can't change Rule 42. How do they get away with it?

Simple. They created a new class. All college sailing in the US is sailed under the rules of the Collegiate Dinghy Class. And, by the way, it is legal for class rules to modify Rule 42. So they did. Simple! Matt Knowles at his excellent rules blog Unruly has more on this at College Sailing & Rule 42.

So, I think it's inevitable that, sooner or later, the increasing number of folk who are racing Lasers with Intensity sails are going to form a class association, if only so that they can have correctly written sailing instructions that comply with the Racing Rules of Sailing and so that they avoid the risk of that asshole protesting half the fleet. It might be me. (Only joking.)

I don't much like the prospect of an Intensity 7.06 Class (or whatever they call it.) I think it's a bad thing for Laser sailing for all sorts of reasons. But this post has gone on way too long already, so I'll save that discussion for another post.


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

OMIGOD! How/Why did I miss out on the Rooster 1-Design class? I was born too early. It says it would suit anyone over 90kg! That would include 220 lbs? Right? I would have loved that!

Tillerman said...

That's right Doc. 90kg is about 198 lbs. Actually I think a lot of guys lighter than that are having fun with the Rooster 8.1 rig in light airs.

Norm said...

We have a Portsmouth fleet that includes Lasers and good luck to anyone that would protest someone with non-standard sails. He couldn't find a committee to hear it. And what would he get the for his pleasure if he appealed to us sailing? No one would bother to change the results on the webpage.

You worry too much about assholes they can be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tillerman, here at ARG we have the same problem.....and the end is so sad.......our fleet has be broken in two parts:
OFICIAL SAILS & ILEGAL have lost a lot of friends......

so sad.

Dr Loser

Tillerman said...

That's my major concern Dr. Loser. I fear we are heading for a schism in the Laser class and it may be too late to prevent it.

Anonymous said...

I am all for inexpensive sails and boats. However, as a member of a fleet that decided to allow Intensity Sails this fall without taking the proper steps you have described, I can honestly say I do not like the trend of allowing these sails in fleets.

This fall I heard weekly conversations at my club and via email about the merits of each sail, the validity of the changing the rules and how person X used it (or was not using it) and seemed to be faster.

While I know I am in the minority of the fleet, I would prefer we all use the class legal sails. I am tired of the discussion. It made being part of the fleet and sailing incredibly unpleasant because this fall was less about sailing, learning and having fun.

Joel Taylor said...

My Sailing School uses intensity sails. When we take them to local races the RC ignores the fact that they are not class legal and essentially ignores the issue. In this case choosing not to make a decision has made the decision.

tillerman said...

Interesting perspective Anonymous. One of the beauties of the (old) Laser class was that there was so little variation in equipment allowed that we didn't have to be always thinking about which manufacturer's sails (or other equipment) was fastest. It sounds as if this purity of one design sailing in the class is falling apart as fleets adopt the replica sail option.

Teejman said...

This whole problem can be boiled down to a business model problem. The royalties and royalty agreements on the class sails are too rich for North and Laser to pass up. Now a natural "gray market" has cropped up and the enforcement mechanism can't cope because it is blatantly profit motivated without a shred of real performance or quality rationalization to justify it. I am sure that there is an licensing mechanism that could allow more legal producers of sails using the "class legal" cloth and perhaps the intensity sails would cost a bit more and the North Sails a bit less and the revenue would perhaps even out to Laser because everyone would buy more sails. Some classes have "Sail Buttons" that are purchased and permanently snapped into the sail when they are measured. A sail is legal when it meets the measurement standards and has a one design button. The measurement button is required on all competition sails. Perhpas all class members buy or get one per year and it can be transferred during the year.

This problem is a repetition of the breakdown of high profits and royalties in the software business, music industry etc. Every inventor/designer deserves their cut but as the runaway success of a design increases the volume of product sold then the profit per unit has to go down. I agree the Laser one design should be preserved but support does not have to permit open season on the wallets of the supporters of the class.

Brass said...

I don't think it is necessary to create an 'alternative' class association.

If it is what your club WANTS, I think it is possible for a club to define a 'Laser-like' class to include fully complying Lasers and Lasers that comply in every respect except the Class Sails. If you wanted a less confronting work-around you could run a yardstick division for complying Lasers and non-complying Lasers where the yardstick numbers for both were miraculously exactly equal.

If that's the way your club WANTS it, then of course, nobody will protest to get your arrangement overturned.

Anon, I am also sorry that you have people still complaining about what I hope was a democratic, majority decision to let alternative sails in. Maybe one of your club 'elder statesmen' could take these folk aside and ask them, firstly, if they genuinely believed that they were being beaten by boats with 'alternative' sails because the 'alternative' sails were faster, bigger, better cut or whatever, and when they admit that this is not the reason they are being beaten, try to persuade them to stop bad-mouthing other club members who are just going along with the democratic decision.

tillerman said...

Good point Brass.

After I wrote this post it struck me that I was confusing, to some extent, the concepts of "class" and "class association." It would certainly be possible to define a "Fake Laser" class for the purpose of sailing instructions without creating a class association for such beasts.

But I do think you are being a little hard on Anon. Once you start to allow another sailmaker to make replica sails for Laser racing, it is inevitable that sailors are going to compare the performances of legal and replica sails. It could just as easily be the ones who voted for and who are using the replica sails who are generating much of the discussion. It sounds as if the discussion in Anon's fleet has been hijacked by this topic, at the expense of more constructive ways to sail a Laser better.

Brass said...

I heard a story at our recent Laser Masters Nationals (182 boats, woo hoo) about a Laser Master who, after many years trying finally won a cube. "OK" he said, "you know how much this means to me: when I die, it goes in my coffin with me."

So cubes are important to Laser sailors.

Cubes come from the Class hierarchy. So you can't expect cubes if you don't fully comply with the Class rules. So that automagically sets the level below which you can race Laser-like classes, with non-complying sails and above which you have to fully comply.

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