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eMailbag- The Club keelboat fleet debate

by Various correspondents on 19 Nov 2008
Day 2 2008 Club Marine NZ Keelboat Nationals © Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz
Ken Burt writes in response to out previous editorial: 'As we have said previously it was a great move to use the Platu 25's, and Royal Akarana's initiative has developed a great resource for NZ keelboat sailing which will sit well alongside the facilities and fleets offered by other keelboat clubs in New Zealand.'

In your latest newsletter gave me pause to once more consider the choice of the Platu 25 by RAYC for a fleet of keelboats. I presume they will be used in a training scheme and as such in Auckland compete against the Farr MRX as a keelboat. The MRX has proved to be a great boat for both racing and training and I wonder what led the RAYC down the road they have gone.

Are we to see the Auckland war of the yacht clubs to reach another height?

While not in possession of the full facts as to the decision I wonder why they did not select the Foundation 36 designed by well known and current NZ resident designer Brett Bakewell-White. These boats are more definitely a keelboat rather than a day sailer and have proved themselves overseas (Warren Jones International Youth Regatta and the Monsoon Cup) where B B-W is recognised.

I am sure that you are aware that our new young guns are having to go to Perth in order to train on the Foundation 36.

Wouldn't it be great if we could do things that placed us on an even footing with overseas - they are after all our competition!!

cheers

Ken Burt

Leading NZ designer, Brett Bakewell-White of www.bakewell-white.com!Bakewell-White_Yacht_Design has been involved in several club fleet design and build projects in Western Australia and Asia, including the fleet that will be used in the Monsoon Cup.

Dear Richard,

I am not sure what I am getting into here, but it is nice to have a local fan!

Firstly I have to agree with your comment that it is good to see a yacht club take an initiative and get more people racing keelboats. The continued deterioration of our keelboat racing here is demoralising - look at the almost complete lack of keelboat representation at this year's YNZ awards.

There are a number of reasons, some cultural, social, and economic, but also I believe as a direct result of NZ winning the Americas Cup and the resulting drain of good sailors away from NZ leaving us with a pool of club sailors to keep the home fires burning. It is also a sad commentary on our state of affairs when NZ has to import a fleet of boats from overseas when that design was originally born and bred here.

So my first comment is that anything is better than nothing!

My second comment is that I remember the Platu as being a cool looking little boat, but I must say they have rather dated. They also strike me as being a rather cranky looking scaled down keel boat rather than a stiff modern design. But at the end of the day none of this matters if they are all the same and they are getting people out sailing

The short answer is that the RAYC and Kiwi Yachting have made it happen and all power to them.

The $55k was I am sure a large incentive.

Our own Foundation 36 design is well past its use-by date in terms of design, but they continue to be very successful and after 13years the Perth fleet continue to be sailed every day of the year except Christmas day. They are also used for the Monsoon Cup (these are the original 13 year old boats from Perth) and as well, there is a healthy fleet of privately owned F36s as well.

If there were a suggestion to use our boats then I would certainly be more inclined towards the new Korean Match 36 fleet, or even our recent Korean 30 fleet for the recent Womens Match Race event in Busan - photos attached.

The ideal would perhaps have been to have a new fleet of purpose designed and built New Zealand boats - modern, powerful, and fun. But it isn't going to happen in our current climate, and I am sure that there would still have been people who criticised the choice of designer or builder or both, so I am just glad that somebody has done something.

What are the critical issues for clubs sorting a new fleet? A clear goal stated early and a sensible achievable financial plan to get there.

It is important to maximize the use of the boats as the fleet could not be justified simply on the basis of hosting one or two events throughout a season. As I have said the Foundation 36s are used every day of the year and are usually earning money doing it.

The Western Australian 8m fleet is being run on a similar basis where the boats are used for, match racing, fleet racing, sail training, adult/teenage learn to sail, corporate racing and cake days, and advanced sail training. The fleet needs a strong maintenance programme and a good administration.

The club need to either have a strong financial base of sponsors, or an owner programme similar to the RNZYS/RAYC model to make it stack up. The key to forming any strong class or fleet is to hit the water with numbers - not one or two boats at a time, but an instant fleet of 8-10 boats so that there is close strong exciting racing immediately, and so the relative merits of the design become less important so long as they are all the same. Simplicity and robustness of build and fit out are also of great merit from a maintenance/operational perspective.

I hope that this helps.

Cheers,

Brett Bakewell-White B.Arch., ARINA, SNAME Principal Designer. www.bakewell-white.com!Bakewell-White_Yacht_Design


Richard Macalister of Royal Akarana YC and Kiwi Yachts responds:

The choice of the Platu was done after much deliberation however first and foremost we wanted a vibrant International One Design Class that was affordable. As a consequence we had talks with a number of parties and looked seriously at yachts such as the MUMM 30, Melges 24 and Melges 30, along with several others, however they all disqualified themselves because of cost and to some degree they were too performance orientated in terms of what we trying to do with the programme. With the Platu the racing is close and any reasonable yachtsman has the ability to beat Dean Barker or any of the big guns on a given day. The National Keelboats provided proof of that.

In terms of a local designer/builder we also looked to support the local industry but to our knowledge there were no yachts that fitted the vibrant International One Design requirement and in the I include the Elliott 6m. I am not sure how the Foundation 36 gets mentioned as it is certainly not an vibrant International One Design and as a consequence was never considered as being 36 ft it would also disqualify itself on affordability. We spoke to Kim McDell about rekindling manufacture in New Zealand, however he didn't have the capacity, as the only local licensed builder, however we supported the local industry with rigs and sails.

The point about the Clubs at war is as far off the mark as you could possibly be. We have had meetings with RNZYS Flag Officers before announcing the programme telling them what we were doing and making it very clear that it was RAYC's policy not to compete with the Squadron Youth programme and in fact offering them use of the fleet if they ever saw the need. We felt it was very difficult for Clubs such as RAYC to run events with the MRX Fleet and as such chose to look after our own destiny. In fact if RAYC's offer to both RNZYS and Buckland Beach is taken as it was offered you will in fact see a strengthening of the relationship between the Clubs, however all RAYC is make the offer to work together which has been done.

The MRX's have been a great feature of the Auckland landscape, however it was our view that it was time for a change. They are old and need work. We had conversations with one of the parties t

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