I recently read a nice article about a traditional “plank on edge” cutter that was built in England. The article is on my good friend, Gavin Atkin’s website.
The owner, Jeff Stobbe, did a beautiful job of building the boat.
But gosh, he has done a nice job! There are more pics and text on Gavin’s website – the link is above.
Jeff put in the hard yards, doing a wonderful job of working out the details, but found it too tender to sail effectively. It heels a lot in moderate winds.
Jeff apparently has decided to dismantle the boat and try to make it into a moter launch by trimming and simplifying the bottom.
So what about Rules and thinking about Boat Design?
However the article led me to think why such strange boats appeared in the past and if we are prone to the same thinking now.
Francis Herreshoff in some of his writings for Rudder magazine mentions how these boats developed because of rating rules.
Instead of actually measuring the beam, depth and length of hull to get some factor to represent displacement they measured the beam of the boat and squared it to represent the depth of the boat. At that time most normal boats had beam and depth measurements that were fairly similar … so they thought it would be a useful short cut for measurement and saved the boat being taken out of the water.
So if you only measure beam to estimate performance for handicapping then the the designer will attempt to improve the handicap by reducing beam and trying to compensate for the narrow beam with lots of depth and lots of lead.
I can’t remember who wrote it and whether it was reported by Herreshoff or Tony Marchaj, but there are mentions that some of these boats heeled over to 15 degrees FROM THE HORIZONTAL (!!!!) in normal sailing conditions. Also there is an eyewitness account that another boat could see one of these heeled over at a crazy angle in the distance. So they thought a squall was coming and reefed heavily to prepare.
When they got closer they found moderate sailing conditions, but that the “plank on edge” cutter was well heeled over.
There is a lesson in this about boat design. The English persisted in the idea that these boats were FAST. But in reality they were slow but the rating/handicap rule saw them as even slower than they were. The brits (or at least some of them) were not able to jump out of their paradigm.
It is pretty similar to the situation now with ocean racers with deep bulb keels that swing over to the side. They think they are FAST … again.
But the reality is that the next step is to get the bulb above the water … then you can have the “keel” as long as you like without hitting bottom and dramatically reducing the drag. Then to prevent excessive heeling or capsize to windward … why not turn the bulb into another hull allowing the main hull to be slimmer and allowing the bulb to be really light but much further out from the hull.
Hey … we have just invented the Catamaran. Which is why a 40ft multihull will burn off a 70ft canting keel monohull on just about any point of sail. Get rid of the lead and go for more width, I say!
And then you wouldn’t need the 250 horsepower diesel ticking over to provide the hydraulic lifting (pic above) to flip the keel from side to side. Every major ocean race should have a trophy for the lowest fuel consumption over the course!!! The engine runs 24/7 and automatically increases revs when extra winch power or keel swinging power is needed.
This is what the rule says or said …
42.1 Basic Rule Except when permitted in rule 42.3 or 45, a boat shall compete by using only the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease her speed. Her crew may adjust the trim of sails and hull, and perform other acts of seamanship, but shall not otherwise move their bodies to propel the boat
- (e) A boat may reduce speed by repeatedly moving her helm.
- (f) Any means of propulsion may be used to help a person or another vessel in danger.
- (g) To get clear after grounding or colliding with another boat or object, a boat may use force applied by the crew of either boat and any equipment other than a propulsion engine.
- (h) Sailing instructions may, in stated circumstances, permit propulsion using an engine or any other method, provided the boat does not gain a significant advantage in the race.
It is the most stupid thing and a massive waste of resources that could produce cheaper, simpler and faster boats … and is result of the fatuous separation between mono and multi sailing and corruption of the basic rules by lobbyists.
The real problem is because the “easy” solution of fitting big engines has been allowed then there will never be a technical solution found that will allow the keel to be canted without an engine. On smaller boats they have found ways for the crew to manually handle the keels without needing engines. So what might have happened if engines had been continued to be banned is that a series of clever ideas which would have allowed manual methods of keel canting to be incorporated into larger and larger boats as development continued?
Or just to see the BEST way to get weight out to windward is sailing a multihull. The canting keelers aren’t even close to this type of performance. Look at all that weight out to windward, little water drag, a triumph of simplicity.
Remember that a much smaller and cheaper multi than these will outclass a canting keeler on most points of sail in most wind conditions and probably hold together in rougher conditions.
Maybe there is something good about the America’s Cup after all!?
Pardon the (bitter) rant