Marblehead fin Depth/ Race of Champions:UK

In a race in October in the UK called “Race of Champions” Marbleheads using a fin bringing the overall draft of the boat to 27.5" (!!!)cleaned up. The Starkers Squared design and the Crazy Tube Too were the top two boats beating Bantock short keeled designs as well as a Skalpel with a long keel that had pitchpole trouble due to low freeboard. The two boats above won 22 of 25 fleet races.
I find this very interesting and at the same time think maybe the Class has gone too far with draft. These were mostly medium to heavy air races; I wonder how the deep keel boats do against shorter keels in light air? Do they now have to have multiple depth fins for competition?

Doug Lord
–High Technology Sailing/Racing

The Race of Champions represented a select event to the best of my knowledge. The designs in the report were of fairly recent heritage but not too recent. If you took a poll of all the fin depths you would probably find most of the boats were sailing something fairly close to max depth. The higher winds that were present allow you to carry an A rig much longer if you have a long fin thus the success of those boats.
Fin depth in the M class is regulated but the max depth is often too deep to carry a long fin in many ponds so one is forced many times to shorten up. A shorter fin will be of advantage in air lighter than say 5 knots but once you choose a fin for a particular regatta you have to stick with it. The Bantock boats may or may not have been short finned they only listed one boat that was of shorter depth. A standard short fin for my M is about 22" deep vs. the 27" for the maximum depth. Many boats have only one fin of whatever depth the design originally calls for so long as the local pond will accomodate it. Has the M class gone too far-probably not because the boats are designed around the fin and the rig these days, it is also a developement class which allows for this sort of innovation. The class has adopted a maximum depth in recent years to stop the proliferation of super deep boats which cannot be sailed in many ponds. In 1999 I sailed the M Nationals in NY and came in second sailing my short fin configuration described above. The next year I came in 5th the third year I was knocked out early in the regatta and last year ('02) I was 4th or 5th. In the last few years i have attended the nationals the maximum depth boats have had an advantage any time the winds go above 4 or 5 knots so I would say that you really need to get close to that depth if you want to be a serious competitor on a national or international level but the race to the deepest boat is now over and the real competition revolves around rigs, tuning and thumbs. It in my opionion is a ridiculously fun class to sail. It goes in no wind and like a bat out of hell in heavier wind. By the way the boats mentioned as top performers can be had for under $1000 shipped including rig so those who say it is too expensive will have to reconsider. Compared to golf this sport is a bargain!

Bob, what do you think is the primary reason for the decline in the Marblehead class in the US?

Doug Lord
–High Technology Sailing/Racing

For the past several years the Skapel was the way to be competitive. That boat cost $2500+, or you could get a Bantock boat which is competitive but tough to tune well and almost as costly,there was at the same time a proliferation of kit boats for $200-$500 as well as the introduction of the IOM class. Now there are a few M’s available that are competitive that can be had in the $1000 range and there are a few hard core hold out areas that sail them so I would say the class is going through a cycle. Most people that sail them love them. The good news is that basically hull design has converged to a point where there are several that are good and many of those are not really that new, the Starkers is around 10 years old but they redeveloped the fin for it and it is very good now. The Firebrace design while newer is a very normal looking boat with no outrageous attributes that when combined with a good fin and good rigs is very quick as well. Rumor has it that is well under $1000 so there are options out there finally that can compete head to head with the Skapel at about a third to half the cost. To boil it down to one thing I would say cost of the best boat was a little out of hand for many sailors so they went to more restrictive classes where they didn’t have to buy into being competitive. As an FYI the longevity of M’s is very good with many having sailed the same boats competitively for 5-10 years the boat of the year which was a trend of the 80’s is really a thing of the past. I think the class offers a nice sized boat with a good amount of sail area providing a very fast and responsive boat-now available again at a price which most sailors can afford.

a thousand is a hell of a lot more than a hundred and forty.
Vintage M’s are actually increasing I think.

You get what you pay for…

Hello Bob,

The 99 nationals were a kick. Standley had a short keel and he seemed to be sailing in perfectly straight lines from mark to mark, without detouring around the shoals. The shoals were well marked – by stuck boats.

I was able to notice this pattern of events because I was watching Standley and you, rather than my own boat, which was firmly ge-stuck in the mud awaiting the rescue dinghy. Long fin. High tech.

It seems to me you were racing a Sting rigged Viper that year, with an older (original depth and bulb weight) keel. Which M are you racing now? I would be fascinated to learn your choice.

Best, Michael

I have been racing the same boat more or less. The fin is actually an inch shorter than standard depth with a 6.5 lb bulb. I also have a longer depth fin for it but hardly use it. This past season after a winch failure in the early season I switched to my 12 year old Pinter and campaigned that for the entire season out of laziness and won the overall locally. I did get a new suit of rags from GB for the boat and they were super fast. The fin and bulb were on the short side (16.5" from hull to bulb top) but we sail in light air mostly so it was the way to go. I was really shocked at how much faster the boat was when I threw on new sails (Cuben Fiber A92 no Gizmo-swithing to A92 Specials when the wind went solidly over 3 knots). Once the sails pop easily from tack to tack the specials held up through the top of A rig, saving the Cubens from really light air. Next year I am hoping to switch to the Firebrace with a short and long fin as well as Swings (A light, A, B and C). I always keep the shorter fin on the boat in a regatta that has depth issues-no Shoal Roulette for me thank you.
By the way for anyone who wants to know the M class is still the 2nd largest class in the World by a long long way. I think the word decline really isn’t the right one when describing this class. Yes it has been displaced from the top spot worldwide but I havent noted a serious dropoff in number of boats registered or attending national and world level competition and the local scene thrives all over the world with a fair amount of new designs being developed recently. The IOM stole some of the thunder but I would not say the M’s have been on the decline. Nationally the number of registered boats has held steady and many feel the class is poised for a new cycle of growth.

Bob, do you feel there is still room for development in Marblehead hull and fin design? In rigs?
This is not a criticism merely an observation: a lot of the new technology(and some of the old) in full size monohulls is off limits in the Marblehead class like movable ballast, square top rigs and spinnakers. Do you think this does now or will later hurt the Marblehead class in terms of what can be looked at for “development”?
Do you think as the state of development now is in the class that the Marblehead is more of a One Design than a Development class?

Doug Lord
–High Technology Sailing/Racing

The view of “what” the word DEVELOPMENT means is the key to your question.

Even sailors within the same class may have difficulty in agreeing what that word means. If one were to agree that hull, keel, sails and rig make up the basic components of a boat, then allowed changes to any of these components to allow them to be different from any others can be deemed “developmental”! In the case of the Marblehead - the hull is limited by length - so it can be “developed” within that general dimension. The rig and sails can be swing, standard or a combination - so that is development, and lastly - the keel can be any shape or length (up to maximum depth) so that can be considered developmental.

The fact that canting keels, moveable ballast, or spinnakers aren’t allowed doesn’t remove the class from being considered as “developmental” !

I really don’t see it as a one design class. Yes things have converged but there are so many options in terms of rigs fins rudders and those choices can vary from regatta to regatta. The aforementioned boats in your first post are results of continued development in the class. I do not think there is a whole long way to go on hull form, but I am not an expert, a high ranking skipper/designer in the class told me hulls are basically something to hang rigs and fins off of now but who knows, 20 years ago we thought we had the problem solved but the class continued to evolve quite dramatically. While there is restriction on movable ballast and such things there are no restrictions on other control devices for rigs. The Skapel was one of the first real developments in having rig tune controls that were usable while sailing, the Bantock Gizmo is another way to do it. Those do not exist in other classes yet are to my way of thinking a real difference in boats on water. Consider an Formula One car then consider the time and money that goes into developing one more horsepower for those engines. That is where we are now, not quite that bad but it really is a close approximation.The real work is in the details. What is the best displacement, what is the best sail configuration, what about fins(have they gone too far?), rudders, how can we simplify the controls to get the sails to change shape thoughout the race to maintain optimal tune, should the boat resemble the skiff shapes of the IOM class, how can we save weight…there are still so many variables to work on and work out in the class and it is tough stuff-there are no easy answers left in the class, the problems are complex and require carefull thought and consideration. In my humble opinion the rigs and appendages are the focus of development right now, mostly there will not be any breakthroughs like the Skapel but small gains after working hard on the problems yet maintaining a set of rules that allow the class to evolve at a reasonable pace for most. If you keep jumping from one new major change to the next you quickly alienate certain clubs and skippers leading them to choosing of a one design class. Is the class one design definitely denfinitely not there is still much work to be done, and there are at least four highly competitive yet vastly different commercially available boats->Prime Number,Firebrace, Skapel, Crazy Tube, Starkers whoops thats 5. None of them look like or measure like the other yet they are all competitive so what attributes does the Skapel have vs. the negatives which make it as fast as say a Firebrace? Why is a Firebrace competive with a Starkers? What are the compromises each boat makes to get it to sail? How can we minimize those compromises?

There was never any implication as to what effect that the lack of spinnakers, or movable ballast or square top rigs has; it was simply an observation about what is going on in full size development. My question was directed toward a person knowledgeable in the Marblehead class to see what his take on development within that class is. I know Bob is opposed to new classes and his thoughts on future development in the Marblehead class would be interesting.
In some past times rc sailboats led sailboat development with innovative solutions like deep fin keels, swing rigs, carbon,super narrow hulls etc. Now, however, it seems that full size sailing is light years ahead of most rc sailing with innovations in the use of movable ballast , square tops, asy spins etc.
Because of the way the rules are written it appears that the premier RC development classes can never adopt some of the newest in sailing technology-as I said before this is just an observation not a criticism.
I am interested in hearing what someone who actively races in the Marblehead class thinks of the state of development now and in the future for this class.

Doug Lord
–High Technology Sailing/Racing

<blockquote id=“quote”><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica” id=“quote”>quote:<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”>Originally posted by lorsail

There was never any implication as to what effect that the lack of spinnakers, or movable ballast or square top rigs has; it was simply an observation about what is going on in full size development. <hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”></blockquote id=“quote”></font id=“quote”>

Ummm, sorry Doug, my apologies - that wasn’t the way I interpreted the implications of what you wrote:
<blockquote id=“quote”><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica” id=“quote”>quote:<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”> <u>a lot of the new technology… is off limits in the Marblehead class </u>like movable ballast, square top rigs and spinnakers. Do you think this does now or will later <u>hurt the Marblehead class</u><hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”></blockquote id=“quote”></font id=“quote”>

When I read it, your reference (twice) toward the M Class was obvious and seemed it was just another way to (again) point at a class that is content NOT to endorse or use your ideas of technology. Clearly I must have been wrong!

Clearly you are wrong Dick on several points: the technologies referred to are not my ideas but technologies used in full size race boats; I think it reasonable to ask someone in the Marblehead class the direction and scope of their ideas regarding one of the worlds premier development classes in rc sailing. And to point out that in the past rc sailing led development in sailing as whole in some instances whereas now it appears that is not the case. Bobs ideas concerning what development he sees available in the class is interesting in lite of the development going on in full size boats.
One other thing Dick: don’t you think it would be more appropriate for you to post under your own name as opposed to posting under the cover of the F48 Multihull class? I’m a member of that class and I don’t think you should use the classes’ name to espouse your own personal opinion.

Doug Lord
–High Technology Sailing/Racing

Bob thanks for your response- interesting and thoughtful. Michael has posted an interesting piece under General Discussion:“Marbleheads and the Great Western Railway”-see what you think of that…

Doug Lord
–High Technology Sailing/Racing

<blockquote id=“quote”><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica” id=“quote”>quote:<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”>Originally posted by lorsail

Clearly you are wrong Dick on several points

One other thing Dick: don’t you think it would be more appropriate for you to post under your own name as opposed to posting under the cover of the F48 Multihull class?
<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”></blockquote id=“quote”></font id=“quote”>

Well, pardon me all to hell. Guess I must not have logged in correctly! AND - [:(!] I see you are still editing original posts made long ago - and without the identity of “WHAT” was being changed within the body of text! I don’t think I’m wrong on at least that one point … then again???

I think the case I have made that the class is not dead, maybe stagnant, but not dead is correct. Through development and refinement of the basics of the boat we have broken through the Skapel barrier in many instances and at a reasonable price. Adding things to the class may not be the right way to go because it requires in many instances wholesale reconstruction and for what benenfit? In terms of development what no designer has really been able to do is wrap their hands around the fact that the boats we have are small and at the sizes and limitations within any small boat class what are the absolute best attributes to have on a 50" boat with 800" of sail? What is the optimal fin and rudder config, what is the best sail config, best sails, best mast, how much should it weigh. Just because everything is coming in close to each other right now doesnt mean we are near total refinement of the class. Maybe there is a fin dimension that would allow a boat to point upwind with speed similar to a skapel yet be a screeming fast downwind machine. My guess is the class will re-emerge at some point over the next three or four years as the top class sailed world wide. The cost of an M and an IOM are getting very closer and at some point they will likely be very close. Mikes comments about the IOM are in my opinion along the same track as my thoughts. The IOM is a pig in light air compared to an M but shouldnt be disparaged. Many of the IOM sailors came from the M were in my mind scared off by the large cost involved with a top M a couple years ago and could no longer see investing that much money in a development class when you could get another development boat much more suited to home building, not that many are home built, at a more reasonable cost. Many many of us must like a development class with limits. The reasons are that you can do things to change the performance of the boat to suit different conditions but still have to rely on judgement and tuning ability to be fast and not be a cookie cutter of everything else on the water. The dimensions of that class are suited to changing little things on the boat as well as major things such as fin and rudder with little more than basic modeling or building skill. This is harder to achieve in the M due to more sophisticated building techniques required. What turns people off is having to spend your way to being competive. Sorry it is a rambling post but I have so many reasons and thoughts as to why the M and IOM are really good classes to look into-> Lots of manufacturers producing boats and parts, relatively cost competitive, ability to change and refine features of the boat and huge national and worldwide followings, great performance, and high caliber of competition. What more do we need??

I would like to resurrect the Marblehead class and get boats out that were built in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s and restrict keel depth to whatever the class limit was then . In talking with some older members of different clubs, AMYA flourished with the primary boat being the Marblehead. At one point, there were close to 2000 boats registered per Mr. Goodwin(CS). Where did they all go? I would like to reactivate a class for these Marbleheads, eliminate swing rigs and only allow 2 sized rigs. I am sure if word got out, we could possibly have a rebirth of a new old class. I have a Sterne Logic with Swing rigs and have no one to sail against…

Frank Vella
region 4 director AMYA
Commodore Detroit MYC