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Scuttlebutt News:
'Yawn Design' Racing

(The following commentary comes from Bob Porter, and is reprinted from the RCR Yachts Racer's News #193, November 15, 2006. While some of it is very “tongue-in-cheek,” Bob's line of thinking provides some fresh fodder for the One-Design vs Handicap debate.)

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(November 15, 2006) Tell me the last time you gazed over a yacht club parking lot to see it filled with the same make and model of car. You'd be lucky to find any two the same. Foreign models, domestic models; pick-ups, station wagons, SUVs, sedans, vans, motorcycles; and in differing condition from ones with the sales sticker still in the window to ones where it is difficult to tell whether the rust holds the car together or the paint holds the rust together. Variety is the spice of life and the North American way. Who would even suggest we all buy the same kind of boat? "Yawn design" racers would!!

The idea of going out every weekend to race the same guys in identical boats is about as un-interesting as going to a Louisiana swamp to watch latex paint dry on an August afternoon. My experience would suggest after 5 or 6 times round the buoys, you'd pretty much know how the boats will finish, regardless of changing sea or wind conditions, event after event, year after year. Now this is "yawn design" racing!!!

Let's see, on Lake Ontario there are about 1300 PHRF racers. How many in a "yawn design" class? OK, 20 Beneteau 36.7s, and a dozen J35s, J105s, or Beneteau 40.7s. Let's see - race against 12 to 20 or 1300. Guess where the "Yawn design" racers go?
About that myth that one-design racers are identical boats: note the anal retentive measurements the J/24s go through before a major regatta - to assure they are similar. Also note J/35s when measured for IMS (and now IRC as well) differ by more than 21 seconds per mile between the fastest and slowest.

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While performance handicap racing has its drawbacks, you have much more variety and transportability. How does your boat perform in 6 knots, 12 knots, or 20 knots of wind? How are you on a beat, a close reach, a broad reach, a run? How about in glassy, 1 to 2 foot, or 3 to 5 foot seas? In a mixed fleet, different boats do better in different conditions and points of sail. Today might be your favored day while next week is your competition's day. You win the series by doing well in conditions that don't favor you - the real challenge. In "yawn design" all the boats perform identically in all conditions and points of sail. How boring!!!

It is also interesting to note that the manufacturers introduce a new "yawn design" about every year. Why aren't they selling the J/24s, San Juan 24s, Olson 30s, or J/30s (probably one of the best racer/cruisers ever built)? Where is your brand new "yawn design 32" going to be in five or ten years when the Gotta-go-fast 33 is now the boat to have?

And let's remember where ole "yawn design" racers end up. Hiawatha (the Catalina 38 that Bob skippers) was purchased to race with a fleet of 15 Catalina 38s out of Detroit/Windsor. It was the big boat fleet there for 15 years before it died. I'll bet she's putting more water under her hull racing and more flags on her hoist than she could ever do sailing "yawn design".

Consider the above-mentioned stuff a blatant distortion of the truth, but it helps make my real point. One design sailing clearly has advantages and disadvantages but they should be kept in perspective for the benefit of club, regatta, and offshore sailboat racing. We have little room for elitism or chest pounding if we are to keep our sport healthy. We can and must co-exist to the mutual benefit of all. - Bob Porter

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