505 Proposed Rule Changes: Ali Meller's Thoughts

You may have already seen the International Annual General Meeting Agenda which was sent to the e-mail distribution list, the proposed rule changes that were included, and Howard Hamlin's comments on the proposed rule changes. I would like to add my own thoughts to the discussion.
In my opinion.....

The proposals do not have to be linked, the discussions to allow carbon fiber (fibre when not in the US) spars, eliminate the hull own minimum weight check, and reduce all up weight can be discussed separately.

On carbon fiber spars....

I support the use of carbon fiber spars in the 505. I know of 6 or 7 carbon fiber masts that were used in the 505 class. Ethan Bixby/Larry Rosenfeld used such a mast in the 1979 Worlds. The others were built by Waterat (Larry Tuttle), and were used in the 1981 and 1982 worlds (finishing 1st and 6th in 1981, and 1st in 1982). According to Larry, the cost in 1981 of the unrigged carbon fiber mast was double the unrigged aluminum (aluminium when not in the US) mast from Proctor. I hope to have a quotation on a new carbon fiber mast from Waterat shortly.

It is worth noting that aluminum masts cost quite a bit more in North America than they do in England. Part of this may be due to shipping costs. I cannot comment on the difference between the cost of a carbon fiber mast and an aluminum mast in the UK. Given the growing popularity of carbon fiber masts, I would expect that there would be carbon mast manufacturers in the UK (after all, someone is making those I-14 masts).

All these carbon fiber masts I know of were intended to resemble the Proctor D in bend characteristics. The Bixby/Rosenfeld "snakeskin" mast was built to be the same size as the Proctor D, but lighter, while the Waterat masts were somewhat thinner (lower drag), and somewhat lighter, they also were stiffer at the top than the D.

Like Howard Hamlin I have broken few 505 masts (actually none in 18 years), but I have bent - to the point that they were unusable - several.

I believe a properly engineered carbon fiber mast will be stronger and will last longer than the current aluminum masts.

A lighter mast should make the boat faster, as Howard points out, but I do not believe the speed differences are as great as Howard argues. Bixby/Lewis were quite fast with the carbon fiber mast in 1981, they were still quite fast without it in 1990 (in the same boat, with minimal practice!)

A carbon fiber mast will be an advantage, but not enough of one that it will require everyone to get one. As an upgrade option, it would be much cheaper than buying a new boat, and would be an interesting alternative for some people.

I would expect that during a development period, there will be some masts built too light that will break, and others that will be unsuccessful. It may be that those who are willing to acquire multiple masts during this period will have an advantage over those who cannot. One way to mitigate this would be to require that the rigged carbon mast cannot be lighter than - say - the a rigged D, approximately 25 pounds. Carbon spars could be built to weight, or could be built underweight and brought up to the carbon mast minimum with lead (fastened at gooseneck level?). After some period of time, if it is clear that reliable carbon fiber masts are available, the class can remove the additional weight from the existing masts, and open it up.

By the way, the top North American I-14 sailor, Zack Berkowitz, is apparently going away from a carbon fiber mast in his latest 14. Apparently it is easier to get the tip flexibility in glass than in carbon fiber. It is not clear that a carbon fiber mast is a clear and significant advantage. I expect many people will continue to be competitive with current aluminum spars. No current boats are hurt by this change, as anyone could purchase the carbon fiber mast, and those than choose not to will not be affected much.

Regarding eliminating the hull only weight...

This is a pain to administer, and short of limiting the control systems in the 505, does little. The boats you race against are racing at an all-up weight plus sails, not a hull only weight. Virtually all North American 505s are over on the all up weight, though built to the hull only weight. I support removing the hull only weight.

I also support removing the restriction on correctors. As the discussion in the IAGM Agenda indicates, boat builders are building the boats underweight (20-25 pounds in the case of a Waterat), and then adding material in the center. A maximum corrector weight serves little purpose. Larry Tuttle suggested that removing the corrector limit would not change Waterat boats much. He might use a very little more lead and stop having to put so much material in the center. The boat would actually be slightly easier to build! Note that whatever lead is in the boat, is required by class rules to be placed in off mass-center locations. Lead makes a boat easier to bring up to weight than adding material, it does not make the boat faster. No current boats are hurt by this change.

Regarding reducing the all up weight of the 505.....

Provided the restriction on the amount of lead is removed, the class does not need to reduce the all up weight to allow carbon fiber masts. The issues can be discussed separately.

Since current boats are being built 20-25 pounds underweight, and are still competitive at 15+ years of age, the class could reduce the minimum all up weight without compromising strength and longevity.

Boats could be made another 20 pounds lighter with some material substitution, though at this weight they might suffer more wear and tear from collisions etc. and not last quite as long.

A significant weight reduction would make the boat faster and more exciting. I am not sure a 5 kg weight reduction will make the boats significantly better, and it will handicap boats that cannot get down to the new weight.

My understanding is that 505s in Europe are raced for shorter periods of time. Top sailors usually have a boat that is less than five years old. The average age of the 505s on the race course would therefore be less than what it would be in North America, where the first Lindsay-hulled Lindsay (6910) still races, and the top three boats at the 1995 North Americans were 15, 10 and 15 years old, respectively.

Getting 5kg out of the all up weight is not a problem for most Waterats and some Hamlins, but it will be a problem for the Lindsays. The weight reduction would therefore make these boats somewhat less competitive than they are now. It has been suggested that the 505 class in North America keep the current all up weight - if the International Class approves the weight reduction - for all North American racing, and those who go to International events simply remove 5kg of lead to get down to weight. With this approach, only the top North American teams who go to Worlds would need to get their boats down to weight.

If the 5kg all up weight reduction is not approved, but carbon fiber masts are, then older boats that are currently a few pounds too heavy have the interesting option of purchasing a carbon fiber mast and getting right down to all up weight (once through the carbon mast development period when the correctors come off the masts). Given that my older Waterat (a foam core, glass skin boat rather than the standard honeycomb, Kevlar) is about ten pounds over on the all up weight, acquiring a carbon mast and getting it very close to all up would be very interesting.

Since the 5kg reduction will not make a significant, noticeable improvement in performance, but will make significant numbers of actively raced North American 505s obsolete, I intend to vote against it. A larger weight reduction, further in the future might make more sense to me. For example, if the class determines that the boats should be 10kg lighter as of January 1st, 2001, all boats built from now till then could be built to that weight, but have correctors added to bring them up to the current weight (assuming we have removed the maximum on correctors). All those boats would be able to get down to minimum weight as of 2001, and only boats more than 5 years old would have problems (as stated earlier, most current Waterats could get down to weight). This would give the current boats that could not get down to the new limit 5 more years of competitive life.

I look forward to the discussions at the Annual General Meeting.