IOM World Champs 2003

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Vancouver, 2003

We sailed from the breakwater of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Our boats and sails were laid out in the tent on a pontoon to the side.  Both these features are visible in the site photo, taken from the fourth floor of the RVYC clubhouse.  Quite a walk to the sailing area, then...

I liked the weighing stand, used during event measurement, which did not require an assembled boat.  Instead, you put your fin, bulb, and rudder on the base of the stand, your hull in the centre cradle, and your rig on the top shelf.  To weight the boat with each of its three rigs was very straightforward -- you just took one rig off the top of the stand, and laid the next one on.  Very quick and easy.

There was a flotation tank for draught measurement, and the sails were measured on a large, long table.  Some sailors were seen to be drilling and filling, some were seen filing, and some were cutting pieces of lead to glue in place.  The organisers laid on the necessary materials right next to the weighing station...  Very thoughtful!  Don Martin was quick to explain that, if anything caused a problem, he wanted to provide the solution as well.

Weighing stand
The fittings on Thomas Butler's (AUS 169)  boat caught the attention of a number of sailors.  In collaboration with Geoff Smale (NZL 161), Thomas has developed a consistently different approach to rigging his booms which he called "screw-less".

The booms are hand-made, being sheet aluminium bent over a specially-fabricated mandrel.  Maximum cross-section dimension of the boom is 20 mm.  Thomas wants the maximum size for "unmeasured" area downwind.

The boom ends are SAILSetc plastic fittings cut to size and shape.

Rigging is attached to the boom with a fine hook of stainless steel wire;  I estimate the wire diameter to be about 0.75 mm or 0.8 mm.  The eye of each hook is closed by silver soldering, both to prevent snags and to add necessary strength.  The hook is held in place by a sleeve of slightly flexible plastic tube, dia around 15 mm or 16 mm.

Rigging adjustment is made using a series of small holes, about 1 mm dia, spaced diagonally across the boom such that each increment in adjustment is itself small, about 1 mm or 2 mm.

In the first picture, the jib downhaul is adjusted by a hook which has a choice of 12 holes, each hole giving an effective 1 mm adjustment.

The second picture shows the aft end of the jib boom, and the third picture shows the adjustment holes for jib topping lift, jib outhaul, and jib sheeting.  Not an adjustment screw in sight!

The fourth picture shows Thomas' gooseneck and main downhaul arrangement.  A SAILSetc ball-raced gooseneck has been milled, and two further ball-bearings added, so that the gooseneck itself, and the kicking strap, enjoy separate rotation.  The purpose of this is to allow a precise main downhaul, a loop of wire which runs either side of the boom and gooseneck fitting, and which can then be adjusted by a line taken to the boom.  Notice that the downhaul adjustment line passes through an eye that is slung from the boom end and not from the kicking strap pivot.

1 Jib boom - forward end

2 Jib boom - aft end

3 Jib boom - aft adjustments

4 Gooseneck, kicking strap, and downhaul

Geoff Smale's boat sported a downhaul arrangement similar to Thomas'.  The photo makes it easier to see the boom end fitting that is used to adjust the downhaul line.

The picture also shows Geoff's mast partners, with the mast ram calibrated with ciphered annotations for various conditions of wind and water.

Downhaul, ram, and partners

Brad Gibson's (AUS 142) Disco design has a cover over the cockpit.  There is a half-circle cut-away for the kicking strap, and holes for access to the pot, the main sheet post, and the aerial.

Brad said the cover helped prevent water being scooped up by the aft cockpit during a tack, particularly in waves, and that its effectiveness had been demonstrated in home events.

The result is an aft deck that, if it were "solid", would have a strong similarity to the Bantock Ikon and Italiko arrangements.  The SAILSetc Web site has a FAQs item which explains Graham's thinking on "skiff" cockpits and why he prefers to lower the mast using a dished cockpit rather than an open one.

Deck cover

Don Martin's (CAN 88) boat had a carefully faired cover for the two deck blocks which routed main and jib sheets.  Don didn't want the blocks causing excessive drag when heeled, or the sheets being disturbed by turbulent water.


David Potter's (GBR 20) boat had a foredeck which took these pivot inserts.  The insert carries a length of line.  One end is attached to the end of the insert, line travels up the insert to the boom, and the other end attaches to a hook on the boom.  The hook is placed into one of a row of holes on the under-surface of the boom for pivot length adjustment.

The insert is placed into the foredeck fitting, and turned 90 degrees to lock it into place, using the little handle.  The foredeck fitting has a sprung plate which engages with a slot in the insert.

Pivot insert

I found racing in the current off the breakwater quite a challenge which I only started to master on the final day of the event.  To start, I had great fun sailing on what seemed a perfect layline to a mark, only to under- or over-stand it by several boatlengths.  Then, the breakwater caused eddies that could turn a boat without the rudder being touched.  During the first day of practice, I was convinced my boat had developed total radio failure when she did a 360 near the end of the breakwater all by herself.  I frantically got her ashore and tore through the radio installation attempting to isolate the non-existent problem.  It was only an hour later that someone mentioned the eddy stream as a "well-known" feature...

I found it very difficult to anticipate and accommodate changes to the apparent wind when tacking with a relatively light wind following a relatively strong current.  During the tack, the apparent wind vanishes, and so the tacking angle is nearer to 120 degrees than to 90 degrees.  The boat must be left sailing free for much longer until she builds up speed and can be pointed.

I also found it difficult to manage the boat on the run with a relatively light wind following a relatively strong current.  Again, the apparent wind on the boat is very low, and while the boat certainly seems to be moving along at a reasonable clip, it simply has no response on the helm!

Sailing when the wind was against the current seemed a little easier, because the boat at least behaved itself more predictably, even if it usually seemed to be sailing quite furiously yet taking forever to get to where I wanted to go.  An interesting point was that, though the wind speed measured on the breakwater might be 2.5 m/sec or 3 m/sec, it was usually necessary to change down from no.1 to no.2 rig because the current (and waves) would add to the apparent wind on the sails.  I started by not changing down until my "usual" wind speed of 4.5 m/sec or 5 m/sec, and discovered I was hopelessly over-canvassed until I did so.

Tuning the boat for the waves and conditions involved sheeting the main out to around 10 degrees or 15 degrees instead of my normal 3 or 5 degrees pond setting, and increasing the twist on the jib by about 7 or 8 degrees at the lower batten, and 15 to 20 degrees at the upper.  I sailed the first two days in C fleet, the next three days in D, and only managed promotion to B for the last two races of the event -- I found it a steep learning curve that I failed to master until the very end.

The course was an "upwind - downwind" course, set with a windward mark and an offset mark about 8 boat lengths to port of it, while there was a leeward gate consisting of two leeward marks which could be passed to either port or starboard at your preference, the gate also being about 8 boat lengths wide.  The advantages were that umpiring and course setting was easier, but the disadvantage was that there was virtually no reaching, the boats only ever beating or running.  Adjusting the course for the prevailing conditions might have been attempted more often;  the starting line was significantly biased for a number of C, D, and E fleet heats, the windward mark could be fetched with little more than one hitch tack for a number of heats, and there were one or two heats which might have been profitably delayed until the wind settled on its new direction or strength.

Umpires were used with what I considered great success.  Their calls were proactive only if you touched a mark, and were strictly reactive (to your protest hail) otherwise.  Competitors who failed to make a protest when contact occurred against a boat from the same country were given official warnings, and re-offense did not occur.  As always, there were some calls made which did not meet with universal approval, and there some calls not made that perhaps should have been.  The end results, however, seemed fair and helped to make the event very much more pleasant for the competitor.

Update:  At around this point, I had a little "What if?" analysis -- what if the event had used HRS 2000 instead of HMS 2002?  I have been given to understand that some sailors thought this "devalued the winner and the event" and "seems a joke in bad taste".

I recall the fuss that was made by some sailors when it was announced that international events would use HMS, and wondered if the results from Vancouver would have anything to say about it. The outcome of my "What if?" was that everyone's places changed by one or two or three or four places, not just the average guys, but the top guys as well. Hmmm.  Then I got to wondering which system gave the "better" result.  I was there.  I saw the sailing.  Did the "right" sailor win?

I also have received a fair number of e-mails, some telephone calls, and heard some talk at the pond-side asking me pretty much the same question. I'll quote an example e-mail here, and my reply:

> Thanks for your views on the worlds & was wondering
> if Trevor's win was his good sailing or is his new boat
> better than [the] TS2?

Both I think are true. Given the balance of the conditions, the TS2's gave a very good performance, in my opinion, but not the best show. The Isis is an excellent design. And against world class competition, in my opinion Trevor sailed against them and beat them, regardless of hull design.

I personally have absolutely no doubt that "a true World champion" won, to quote from one of the prize-giving speeches.  I am perfectly comfortable publishing the "What if?" 'cos I think it shows that HMS gave the right result.

HMS 2002 was used, and the advantages of immediate promotion of the top four boats into the next heat seemed to outweigh the disadvantage, experienced three times, of holding up the racing while a protest involving a promoted boat was settled.  Had HRS 2000 been used (promotion occurring in the next race instead) then we would have had very different results all round, depending almost completely upon how many times you were demoted.  Other things being equal, the following table shows what might have happened to the top 10:

Actual (HMS 2002)    What if... (HRS 2000)
1 Binks T 1 Smith
2 Smith 2 Kovacevic
3 Jones 3 Binks K
4 Gibson 4 Binks T
5 Kovacevic 5 Jones
6 Roberts 6 Byerley
7 Binks K 7 Gibson
8 van Rossem 8 Roberts
9 Smale 9 Smale
10 Byerley 10 van Rossem

As a final note, the Inaugural Executive of the IOM ICA was voted in at an evening meeting preceeded by a superb dinner and mid-event prize draws.  I must have been an extremely bad sailor in a previous life (nothing much has changed, then!), since I found my just deserts were that I was the only candidate for the Chairmanship of this growing association.  It was announced that the 2004 Europeans would be held in Spain, and the 2005 Worlds in Australia, site still to be decided.  Ken Dobbie has since e-mailed me to sound a note of caution, "Neither ARYA nor IOMA have made [formal] application to conduct the 2005 Worlds;  however this is not to say it won't happen."


2022 Lester Gilbert