I was surprised to see this happen. Why wasn’t it better publicized?
While the E-Blast mentioning the test weekend itself went out the week prior, there was a report about the project given at Governing Board Meeting in St. Petersburg in March 2014. Planning has been ongoing since those presentations.
Why do this now?
This trial is a component in a broader initiative ongoing in the class for generations: Keeping the boat itself and our Association practices contemporary and whenever possible innovative, so as to maximize the attractiveness of Lightning ownership. Said a different way, there is a tradition in the ILCA to try new things with both the physical boat (aluminum masts, fiberglass boats) and the Association (Introducing The Junior World and International Masters Championships, the Lightning Boat Grant Program).
Is anyone looking at what changing to an A-Sail has done to other classes who have done it?
Yes. I have interviewed boat builders who have both built new and physically retrofitted E-Scows and I-20 Scows. I have also interviewed owners in E-Scow and M-20 classes who have communicated many of the pitfalls and hard feelings that were unintended consequences of rule changes in those classes. Obviously, there are a lot of different perspectives on whether these shifts delivered on their objectives. It is true that the most significant E-Scow events are enjoying record attendance and the backlog of new orders for the E-Scow is at its longest in the boat builder’s memory. More perspective is better. If you know someone who has a perspective to share, I’d be happy to contact them or you can report back.
Who is funding this initiative?
Past President Rob Ruhlman contributed funds for an initial analysis of the current Lightning rig and sail plan executed by the North Design Services. This initiative resulted in the design of the two A-Sail alternatives, which were then made production-ready by North Sails. Rob’s contribution funded production of the sails.
Everyone who was present in Sanford paid his or her own way. In addition, Kip and Ruth Hamblet donated transportation/use/gas for their powerboat. Fisk Hayden secured another member of the Lake Monroe Sailing Association’s powerboat.
Who participated in the weekend?
Tom Allen Jr., Ryan Flack, Angie Hayden, Jeffery Hayden, Fisk Hayden, Steve Hayden, Abby Ruhlman, Rob Ruhlman, Nick Turney, Kip Hamblet, Larry MacDonald, Bill Faude, Jim Thompson, Laura Jeffers, Will Jeffers,
Kevin Morin, Will Tyner
This group includes both major commercial boat builders; 3 past class Presidents; 4 former World Champions; at least 4 North American Champions; one former chief measurer and the current leader of the technical committee. The Class Executive Committee and the current Chief Measurer are well informed about the initiative.
What was the objective of the weekend?
There were several objectives,
The primary weekend objective was to take the first step in evaluating whether sailing the Lightning with an asymmetrical spinnaker, larger in area than our current symmetrical design, would make the Lightning more exciting/enjoyable/attractive to sail and particularly, would it make it possible to safely enjoy the non-displacing characteristics of the existing Lightning design, more often.
A secondary objective was to see if one of the two types of Asymmetrical designs would prove itself significantly preferred.
What were some of the challenges?
In order to even get on the water, we needed to see if it was possible to create very low-cost, safe and practical boat and rig modifications that could be made to two boats without reducing their value. Both builders made boats available for the test, but to keep things as consistent as possible, 3 Allen boats were used. The two boats flying A-Sails were Allen charter boats. Steve Hayden owns the boat flying the conventional kite.
The rig modifications were done primarily at Allen Boat Company following a great deal of collaboration between Nickels and Allen representatives and thorough review of the forces quantitatively predicted by the rig/sail designers. Both builders provided running rigging. Neither sprit was designed to retract. Both were made of existing mast/boom sections mounted on the deck using a forward-facing gooseneck clamped to the mast and then sliding through a fiberglass ‘cuff’ at the stem that slides over the bow. To test the masthead Asymmetrical design, another fiberglass cuff holding two short spreaders employing the current stainless spreader bar stock was designed to slide down from the top of the mast. Two jumper stays were anchored from holes drilled into the mast cap (the only holes drilled.) The jumpers dead-ended using c-hooks around the existing spreader bars. Although these rigs were certainly successful and elegant, aesthetic beauty was not an objective. When looking at pictures of the testing, please note that these are limited-use installations.
Modifying new boats and retrofitting existing boats was not a part of this test. Thinking that far ahead is out of scope, but it is likely a retracting carbon sprit arrangement physically/aesthetically akin to what can be seen on competitive designs would be appropriate.
What did you test?
We tested two Asymmetrical spinnaker shapes. One hoisted to the top of the mast. One hoisted to the current spinnaker hoist point. Both were identical in area, approximately 20% larger than our current spinnakers. The masthead kite is designed to fly off a shorter sprit than the fractional version.