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Womens Olympic Skiff proves a point in a 25kt breeze + Video

by Richard Gladwell on 28 Apr 2012
FX sailing off Takapuna, Auckland with Alex Maloney and Molly Meech © Richard Gladwell www.richardgladwell.com

http://www.mackayboats.com/index.cfm/boats/!Mackay_Boats, the team behind the FX, one of two preferred boats to emerge from the recent Olympic Womens Skiff Trials have responded to the http://www.sailing.org/news/38219.php!report_presented to the International Sailing Federation and comments made by other parties.

In his response to the ISAF, Dave Mackay, a former youth world champion and Olympic representative, reminds the world body that the FX won 10 out of 11 races sailed in the ISAF Evaluation Trials sailed in Santander, Spain.

That result was achieved with a variety of crews, and not just with the crew who have been sailing the FX for eight months during its development process.

The result also seems to have dispelled the claims of those who felt that 'cut down' rigs on existing boats would never work. The FX uses the proven 49er hull used for the Mens Olympic Skiff, with a rig that is one metre shorter. Critics had likened the FX to the Laser Radial.

Another myth which has gone out the sidedoor is the assertion that the powerful FX would be too much of a handful for the womens crews in big breeze. The accompanying video, shot in winds gusting to 31kts, shows a boat that is easy to handle in capable hands - upwind and downwind, plus recovering from the inevitable capsize.

Tha majority of the sailors in the evaluation trial (11 of 20) rated the FX the top boat, given a choice of three.

However it is in the http://tinyurl.com/7f8kgy3!Appendix_to_the_Evaluation_Committee_Report where the merits, and otherwise of the trialists are revealed. And the FX does very well.

In the upwind sailing factors, the worst score the FX attracted was only an 81% approval or 'good 'rating for tacking, and the highest score was 90% approval/good for the feel of the boat upwind, with two other scores in the high 80's. Its rival the RS900 scored only two approval ratings of above 80% in the upwind sailing category.

In Reaching sailing, the RS900 rated higher (only two factors rated).

In Downwind sailing the FX was clearly ahead of the RS900 in five of the six factors rated by the sailing crews. The FX's highest rating came in the general sailing of the boat downwind, followed by course stability and steering. It rated worst for pitchpoling, which is a little hard to understand, given its subsequent performance in a 25kt breeze, which it didn't show any sign of heading down the mine.



In terms of Overall Impression of the FX, it was clearly ahead on all three questions: General feeling about the boat; Challenge offered by the boat; and Excitement level of the boat.

Mackay Boats are a very successful builder of boats for three of the Olympic Events - the Mens and Womens 470 and Mens 49er. Mackay Boats won all three Gold medals at the 2008 Olympics and were clearly the most successful boat builder at the Regatta. http://www.mackayboats.com/index.cfm/about/successes/!Click_here for the full Olympic medal and world championship result list.

In his response to the points raised in the Evaluation Committee's Report, Dave Mackay made the following points:

The trials were well run, the process was good and the sailors were able to give formal input over a wide range of criteria. Their opinions are fundamental.

I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some very important additional information.

Crew Weight

A crew weight of 120 kg was a fundamental condition we put on the design of the FX rig. The design process that we went though was extensive with very solid science behind it. The experience gained from many years evolution of 49er crew weights provided the ideal base line from which to design the FX rig.
Our designer, John Clinton, has been a designer with North Sails for 20 years, and lately with Southern Spars for seven years. John designed the latest 49er rig in 2008 with the goal of increasing the 49er crew weight by 10kg. The success of that rig is well documented for meeting the new target weight, and is evidence of the high level of accuracy this design process achieves

It's important to put the physical size of the rig into perspective. It is substantially smaller than the 49er rig. The mast is nearly 1 metre shorter. In terms of righting moment this is a lot shorter. The upwind sail area is 2.7 sqm less or 12.4%.

Interestingly, on the windiest day in Santander, the FX convincingly out-shone the RS900 not just in speed but also in terms of how the rig performed and how the boat handled the waves. Unfortunately it was not seen in 25 knots where the outstanding heavy air performance could be witnessed.

In Santander, in fully powered up conditions, (where weight is most advantageous) the committee put a 155kg 49er crew in one of the FX's. The guys had no discernible advantage upwind, and in any of the lulls they were noticeably slower than the girls. Downwind they were much slower.

Most importantly, we have done a lot of testing here in New Zealand. The girls have been sailing the boat regularly for over eight months now, and have been racing against the 49ers in local regattas. We have put heavy crews in the FX in two boat testing. The overall results throughout the wind range are heavily in favor of the lighter crews but most significantly the results of heavy air (25 knots) testing show only a marginal upwind gain to a heavy crew. Downwind and in any condition and upwind in moderate to light air, the lighter 120kg crews are faster and overall they are much faster.

The sailors in Santander voted the FX as the safest boat after a capsize. With 120kgs crew weight the FX was proven to be easy to right (check the timing for yourself off the video, above).



Cost

The discussion on cost is much wider than just the advertised price of a new boat.

1. The initial cost to get started in the FX is low. There are over 1000 49er hulls spread worldwide. The FX rig fits onto an existing 49er hull for EUR5500. The FX is a fantastic opportunity to get womens skiff sailing started quickly and inexpensively

2. The cost of the FX as with the 49er is well proven. With the RS900 it is highly likely that the true costs of building a boat to Olympic standard will only become fully apparent later. For example:

• Modifying specs and engineering for strength and durability.
• Rejecting parts that are out of spec
• Putting checks and procedures in place to ensure strict one design construction.
• Perfecting tooling to ensure strict one design construction
• Replacing broken parts

Notwithstanding the 1 year price freeze on the RS900 and the open book price control, significant price increases remain highly likely in the long term.

The FX is the only boat presented with a proven cost structure at the levels of durability, longevity, and strict one design construction required for Olympic competition.

3. The cost of equipment is only a small part of an Olympic campaign. The shared 49er and FX platform provides significant cost savings.

• The opportunity to share equipment, coaching, transport and regatta costs between male and female team’s thus reducing campaign costs.
• It's easy to run joint training and racing. There is very little difference in performance between the FX and the 49er.
• The 49er and FX classes will be able to run joint regattas
• Provides a ready pool of talent to get the girls up to speed quickly.
• The second hand market for 49er will be large
• The FX will become a strong class for high performance recreational sailors.
• There is already an abundance of 49er equipment around the world that is available to be used.
• Measurement is simplified at major events

Boat weight

A lot of emphasis has been placed on the boat weight. At 131kg the FX is only 12kg heavier than the RS900 presented at the evaluation. The FX is a longer boat than the RS900, so of course it is heavier. It is proven in the 49er that the boat needs to be this weight to withstand the heavy duty usage of Olympic sailors. The FX is only 6 kg heavier than a 470.

It is interesting to note in the report that RS intend to drop the weight of the RS900 by 10kg from the weight of the boats presented in Santander. How can the strength and durability be tested in time?
The sailors in Santander loved the performance of the FX . The FX won 10 out of the 11 races in Santander no matter who was sailing it. The weight was not an issue.

Supply

The timely supply of new boats to MNAs and sailors will be the most critical issue. It is already a tight schedule to be ready for 2016.

Hulls are already out there in the hands of MNAs and sailors. The first 50 rigs will be ready for distribution within 10 weeks of the selection being made. Any woman who wants to campaign a skiff can start training within 10 weeks.

The Southern Spars production facilities in Sri Lanka are well proven with the supply of the 49er rig as if the production capabilities of North Sails.

It is important not to underestimate the benefits of a proven hull platform. The inevitable delays due to teething problems associated with bringing any new class to Olympic standard will be averted with the FX on the 49er platform. The builders are already well proven Olympic class builders and the production tooling is already in place and operational.

Strict one design construction

This is already well proven with the Olympic 49er class…..it’s the most strict one design class. This is proven by the 50/50 split in the sailors choice between Ovington and MacKay hulls.

Mackay summarises the FX as follows:

• It's the boat the sailors want.
• It has been very carefully designed and tested to sit in the middle of the weight range.
• It's on a proven platform.
• The costs are proven.
• The quality and longevity is proven.
• It comes from a very strict one design environment.

The ISAF Council will make a decision as to which boat to take into the 2016 Olympics at its May Meeting in Stresa, Italy starting on 3 May.

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