Tuesday, 8 May 2012

But What if you...?

The Article below is the first part of a personal look at the state and future of the Minisail class by Ed Bremner, founder member of the Classic and Vintage Racing Dinghy Association (www.cvrda.org), who, despite (or possibly because of) his love of old racing dinghies, enjoys casting a keen eye into the future.

I hope his thoughts will generate discussion! 

Part 2 to follow very soon. 

But What if you...?   

Some thoughts on further development within the Minisail class.
Hi, I guess I should first introduce myself, my name is Ed Bremner and I am the owner of two Minisprint MkII II hulls and one set of 'rig and foils’, none of which are quite yet ready to sail.  I started sailing at a young age with my father in a Fairey Jollyboat, mainly in the idyllic surroundings of the Greek island of Skiathos.  But the first single hander I sailed was an early Minisail Monaco 1, with the flat flush decks.  My father bought 3 or 4 to be rented out from our local taverna.  Now to be honest, I have to admit... I wasn't a great fan of those boats, much preferring to crew for my dad in the Jollyboat, but nonetheless, they have always held a special place in the memory of my childhood.
This post is a few of my thoughts on the Minisail as a development class.  What does that mean and where could it go from here.

Why did the Minisail class fail?

It is hard to think of any dinghy class that has gone from having such a large number of registered boats and a busy racing schedule to disappearing and becoming a 'lost class', seemingly almost overnight.  However, I think that one should remember that most Minisails were bought by families simply for 'fun' sailing rather than racing and it is normally 'racing' and indeed 'racers' that are always the back-bone of any class, so when the racing stops... it is not long before the class collapses.
So why did the racing stop?  Well, I am sure there were many reasons, but reckon that the arrival on the market of both the one-design Laser, better suited for racing and the one-design Topper, better suited for family, (but still with good racing), were the main reasons.  So that begs the question of whether the Minisail would have done any better if it had taken more effort to remain a true one-design rather than allow itself to become a semi-development class.  I think one of the reasons that the Laser and Topper took over was simply because they were such strict one-designs in an area of the market and at a time that this was exactly what people wanted.

So, is it really a development class anyway?

OK, but is the Minisail truly a development or semi-development class anyway?  Yes, there are at least 2 hull designs and at least 5 different deck layouts, with countless other mixes between the two including sliding seats, racks etc... all of which can be chosen or disregarded, depending on the water you sailed on.  But still to me, these seem more like 'choices' rather than evidence of true 'development' as such. It seems a similar situation as the National Firefly, which has 4 different internal/deck arrangements, three possible masts, two rudders and two centre-plates and yet, that class considers itself a one-design, not a semi-development class.
To look at it from another angle, I find it very interesting and remarkably telling, that no different PY number was ever given for the Sprite, Monaco or Sprint, with just the qualification that some of these designs went better on the sea, some on the lake, some in a blow and some in a drift and a presumption that in the end it would all kind of average out. 
I would like (most humbly) to suggest that the Minisail doesn't seem like a true semi-development class, simply because there hasn't been any real development since the class started to fold and with the great benefit of hindsight to point out that it may well have been the attempts to bring the class up to date, with the Minisprint MkII which actually had the effect of hastening the death of the class all together.
But here, I will come clean, I love development classes.  I am not going to suggest that the differing designs were a bad thing or that development was bad for the Minisail.  It is,  for me one of the main reasons I like the class.  Dinghies are all about tinkering, thinking, changing, personalising, building.....which is all 'development' and I love it.  Long may development continue in the Minisail.

So what does it mean to be a development class?

Let 1000 ideas flourish!  The Minisail is a semi-development racing class.... or so the brochure says!
OK... but if Minisail is a semi-development class, then what would we develop next?
Well, this is the kind of question that runs through my head as I go to sleep at night and diverts my mind in those long boring meetings, scribbling little drawing on the back of the agenda. So, how do we make a Minisail go better and what development would be possible within the ethos of the class and what lies outside the current rules? 
It also begs the question:  What do we want from the class anyway?  Do we want to develop it... or should the remaining boats be left as they are, in aspic? Are we interested in building new boats?
I think we also need to consider some of the same design issues and fundamental questions that possibly lead to the demise of the class in the first place.  Do we want a family boat, or a racing boat?  Do we want it to sail on the lake or sea?  Is it possible to have one class that does all these things anyway?
I don’t have the answer to these questions, but it amuses me to roll the possibilities over in my head at times and I would really like to encourage all of us to have a little fun kicking some ideas around.

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