by John Curnow
Ordinarily, you would not get too fussed by 80. However, in regards to Canadian Ian Bruce and the single handed Byte CII dinghy, there’s more than enough reason to get a tad inspired.
Singapore’s Darren Choy ahead of Germany’s Florian Haufe in Race 7 of the Byte CII One Person Dinghy 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG)
Ian has just commenced his 80th year on the planet and still works anywhere from 8 to 16 hours a day, so racking up an 80-hour week is quite easy to do.
Now the Byte CII owes a lot to the same number.
How, you say? Well, back in 1969 Ian commissioned Bruce Kirby to design the ‘known-around-the-globe’, 205,000 unit selling boat, originally known as the Weekender, now revered as, the Laser.
The Laser builder Ian, designer Bruce and sailmaker and the very first Laser sailor Hans Fogh were all around the 80kg mark, which is the absolute sweet spot for a Laser sailor.
At that mass, the sailor can throw the Laser around downhill and extract all the required performance, as their core muscles get a caning for their day out on the water.
There’s that downwind wiggle that comes as part of the Laser sailing skill set and you only have to watch the videos
of five-time Laser World Champion and 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, the truly amazing Tom Slingsby, to see just how much the top sailors throw the boat around.
Problem is, if you’re a kid or petite woman, you could be close to half that sort of mass and you just don’t get to sail the Laser in the same way as your heroes.
You drive it around like a ship and then as you grow, which applies only if you’re young, you end up changing your technique to account for the extra activities you can now carry out successfully.
Ian Bruce was aware of the problem and his Byte design was in 1996 the first dinghy class to receive ISAF recognition, he had changed the weight band as well as the construction method, delivering a smaller, lighter and stronger dinghy.
The Byte is a 45kg GRP/Foam sandwich vessel that had a 5.4m2 mainsail and was ideally suited to a sailor around the 55kg mark, +/-15%.
In 2004, Ian updated the Byte with a two-piece carbon stick, (that is where the CII comes from) with a glamour, see-through, Mylar sail that was easier to exhaust in the squirts, looked cool and went hard even in the very lightest of breezes.
The lightweight sailors were back as the Masters of their destiny.
Indeed this cross pollination has not only generated many a happy sailor in a boat more suited to their size, but ultimately a true global class.
The Byte CII largest fleets are in Canada, Singapore, Bermuda, Great Britain and Switzerland.
Virgin Island's Ian Barrows ahead of Portugal's Goncalo Pires and Ukraine's Pavlo Babych in Race 11 of the Byte CII One Person Dinghy at the National Sailing Centre on Day 10 of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) on Aug 24, 2010. Barrows finished at the top after 11 races. Photo: SPH-SYOGOC/Alphonsus Chern
In 2010 it was chosen as the boat for Youth Olympics and for 2014 in Nanjing, the Byte CII has got the nod, once again.
As Ian explains ‘This boat can be what I call part of the structured part of yachting. Parents will be able to buy this boat to get their children enlisted in a national program, to get them on a national team and pointed in the direction of the Olympics.
‘You know, what a lot of people don’t realise, is that when a kid finally comes out of the Optimist he or she is a hell of a lot more technical than we give them credit for.
‘The progression from the top end of the Optimist into the next arena can be a downward spiral until they have gone through two or three years, when finally they are up in weight and starting to learn something new.
‘I really believe this is where the Byte CII will make its mark. All of the kids that were sailing the boat who had come out of the Optimist and other qualifiers for the 2010 Youth Olympics just fell into the boat, and just as quickly, fell in love with it.
‘The young sailors found out they could do all sorts of things that they didn’t know they had the ability to do and it was a just such a joy to watch.’
‘Now that the Byte CII is the dinghy choice for the 2014 Youth Olympics, it will certainly help a lot of countries get their plans rolling.
‘Prior to the announcement there were many countries saying that they would really like to put this boat in their program, because it’s a perfect boat for youngsters transitioning out of Optimists but not big enough for Lasers. But the countries could not afford to take the chance, because if a different boat was picked for the Youth Olympics, then they’d have to go and get another boat or just scrap these boats and it simply wasn’t going to happen. Malaysia is set to buy 20 boats as a result of this great decision.’
Ian Bruce, rising 80 has now stepped back from the manufacturing and distribution coal face.
The long time Asia-Pacific Laser manufacturer Performance Sailcraft Australasia (PSA), after receiving permission from ISAF, acquired the Copyright and worldwide building and marketing rights to the single handed Byte and Byte CII dinghy in 2012.
The Byte CII is now produced by Zim Sailing, Rhode Island, USA. Nautivela SRL, Milan Italy, Xtreme Sailing Products Singapore, Zou Intermarine Qingdao, China, Armada Boats, São Paulo, Brazil and by Performance Sailcraft Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia.
Ian is now a very proud Byte Class President.
He concludes - ‘There is a strong path forward for the Byte CII and it is becoming part of the extended youth sailing family.
‘I really feel we did a phenomenal job over the last few years, running six major events on six continents and that is probably why ISAF were over the moon. We were enormously supportive of them and they are quite open in saying that they want to see the boat used again.
‘There has already started to be a solid rush on boats. Countries are going to commit and we will have enough time to try and put something together, which is more than just a bunch of charter boats being made available to countries to go and run their elimination qualifiers.
‘The boat is going to be perfect for Nanjing, as the Youth Olympics are being conducted on quite a small lake.
‘They will be racing in three to five knots and the Byte goes like a rabbit even with that little wind.
Just one more reason why it’s a great one design dinghy.’
See bytecII.com and byteclass.org for more information.