something totally different

The question that I’m asking here is since the start of sailing, what would be the biggest leap forward.

I’m talking here all forms of sailing.

I know this could start some arguements, it’s not meant for that, it is just that some good discussion could come out of it.

Things that I can think of are

The Marconi rig
Exotic construction materials and sailmaking materials

Other opinions should be interesting

The Publishing of the book “Aero and Hydrodynamics of Sailing” in and all the research behind the book.

  • HJ

“Expertice is gained trough mistakes. However repeating
same mistake is not learning but stupidity.”

I would say computers.

They allow basic hull form design to be done in only a few hours.

hmm rc sailing…probably a cheap way to test things

_/ if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! _

I would say … the keel… first boats didn’t have one. This must be the biggest leap.


the biggest leap would definately be canting keels!!! :stuck_out_tongue:
mmm, aluminium would be a big leap forwards for the big boats or maybe composite materials, maybe bendy masts, maybe wing masts, maybe from square riggers to sloops, maybe from long keels to fin keels. there are to many to name.

I see said the blind man to the crippled nudist who put his hands in his pockets & promptly walked away.

It is certainly easy to pick out 5 or 6 major innovations that have occured in the last 4000 years of sailing. But most were evolutions rather than revolutions. For example the keel evolved by first adding ballast in the bottom of tall ships, then the J boats started deepening that keel to get the weight lower. The 12 meters started to sprout proper keels (short wing-like keels rahter than full length keels). So really it is hard to pick a point in that evolution and say “here is the first keel”. So it is hard to argue that it was a leap forward. More like a long slow crawl.

The same is true of rig design. The Marconi Rig was the result of a long slow process of improving the gaff rig. While the Marconi Rig did improve pointing ability, VMG was not really that much improved until battens were added. So again it was a rather slow process of evolution.

Wood - the original building material - is in fact a fiber/resin composite. The fact that it arrives at the boat building shed in a “pre-cured” form cannot take away from the fact that in most other sensed, it behaves very much like other more modern composite materials.

Even RC boats are an evolution from putting a dowel and a sail on a piece of flotsom that every 8 year old has done the first time they visit the seashore.

I would argue that some of the things that are going on today are much bigger leaps forward in a much shorter period of time than anything that has happened prior. Two major leaps are taking place that cannot be attributed to design evolution (please don’t shoot me for this): CBTF and Foils.

CBTF completely changes the role of the keel. By seperating the job of creating lateral resistance from the job of generating righting moment, you can do each job much mre efficiently. In the last 5 to 10 years, this innovation has progressed from the prototype stage to the premier maxi classes. The speed improvements associated with CBTF go way beyond incremental. The Schock 40 CBTF boat carries the same PHRF speed rating at the Santa Cruz 70 (A boat nearly twice the length and one of the fastest boats of the 1980s). I can’t think of any other innovation that has resulted in such a radical increase in speed potential for ocean racers.

Hydrofoils are the other innovation. Their impact has been a lot more localized so far than CBTF, but I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg on this design. So far foils are limited to a few dinghy classes, but foils completely change the way the boat is sailed. The speed improvement is huge. The reason this qualifies as a true innovation rather than an evolution is that you did not see any intermediate “missing link” designs. The closest thing to a missing link is the curved “banana boards” that are half daggerboard, and half hydrofoil, but these have been developed AFTER the pure hydrofoil rather than before.

Now before you complain that these designs have not helped (nor may ever help) the average sailor or even more than a few racers, let me just say that I agree. We may never see the day where every keelboat uses CBTF (or some derivative thereof) but you will see this technology contiue to grow. It will filter down to cruising boats and you will see a large portion of Grand Prix boat designs adopt this technology over the next 20 or 30 years. Hydrofoils will probably never gain that much acceptance. But you will probably see 5 to 10 classes that sail exclusively with Foils. Some may even be one design classes. I could see a Foiler 14 one design class spin off from the I14 class the same way the current OD14 class did a decade ago.

But don’t take my word for it on these innovations: Pick up the latest issue of Sailing World (pages 12 and 13) to see how they talk about Foilers. And you need only go back a few issues to find a cover story on Canting Ballast (“Full Tilt Maxis”). Going back further you will find equally enthusiastic treatment of Wild Oats and the Schock 40 as well.

  • Will

Will Gorgen

After Will’s very informative and interesting post…lets be a bit humorous.

now to answer Peter’s question:

Here is the only possible answer:

Q: “what would be the biggest leap forward.”



_/ if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! _

Well if you ask me whats the biggest leap to right direction i would say putting another hull next to one and removing all the ballast :slight_smile:

And the bible, AAHDOS, enabled more people to study the physics around the boat, so more people knew their stuff. And If we say that every 1 of a thousand sailors understanding the physics make an innovation we got much larger base for those innovations via AAHDOS.

  • HJ

“Expertice is gained trough mistakes. However repeating
same mistake is not learning but stupidity.”

A step further on Will’s comment …

plywood and fiberglass technology has probably been as instrumental as anything previous putting the building and affordability in the pockets of “Joe Average”.

If your weren’t a boat builder, you had to wait quite a while to get a boat that had ribs, planked hulls, a laid deck and huge wooden masts and sails.

First plywood made an impact on cost effective, easy to build boats - followed by resin technology that allowed for even cheaper, faster built boats using reinforced glass fibers.

Without this technology - probably most of us now would not have had the opportunity to sail a small (or large) boat - let alone have the monetary means to be able to afford one. In a sense, economic changes fostered the ability for many to own and sail - without having come from a big-name family with a personal fortune. Sure, today we have a lot of big boats (and models) which some can’t afford - but without economic incentives - sialing today would be done for work reasons, and there would only still be a handful of well-off families who could indulge in sailing as a sport/hobby instead of one of a professional nature.

Think back and then appreciate that <u>ALL</u> technical improvements allow each of us to enjoy the hobby - either on a small r/c scale - or on a big boat (or both).

what i would say is the biggest improvement is the people. you can say all you want about canting keels or exotic materials, but if it was not for the people involved. i look at the americas and you see a stagant developement . untill people like ben lexen come along and flip the keel. and add wings. if you look from far away. this was the first boat to not have a keel. but a fin and bulb. altough rough. but you can see that there. somebody had to take the chance on a bendy mast. before 1980 most develpopment was at a slow speed. then the cost came down to everybody. i do testing. and peter does testing. tom works with sails. sailing has become a testing ground for evrybody with a love of sailing.
if you want one thing. i would say people with strange idea. then test them to see if they work
long live the cup and cris dickson

Of course all these “leaps forward” are in terms of speed potential.

There are other things that maybe we should consider. So here is my list of leaps forward in other areas:

  1. Fun - Hoyle Schweitzer for inventing the Windsurfer

  2. Wetness - Bill Kirby for inventing the Laser

  3. Safety - The invention of Lifelines

  4. PR - ESPN for broadcasting the 1983 America’s Cup Races Live

  5. Closest Finish - Aukland in the '01-'02 Volvo Race where 2nd 3rd and 4th place boats changed positions in the last mile after racing over 2000 miles from Sidney.

Earning the “how the hell does that thing float much less set a world record” award - Yellow Pages Endeavor (1993)

And since Sailing has always been the sport for really rich guys, the award for biggest leap forward in money spent to go sailing goes to Larry Ellison from Oracle (followed closely by Bill Kock from America^3)

  • Will

Edit: I mistakenly credited the invention of the windsurfer to Hobie Alter. It was of course Hoyle Schweitzer that invented the windsurfer. A bit of a Brain Fart on my part, I guess…

Will Gorgen

Biggest leap forward … hasn’t happened yet. It will when the average 24’ or 30’ boat gets heads that are as convenient as what I have in my campervan… Flush 'n forget [:D]

Lester Gilbert

When “leaps” forward are spoken about they should be characterised into the
fin keel from the shoal draft
bermuda rigs instead of gaff/square rigs
exotics instead of timber(for construction including spars)
G.P.S instead of sextant
etc etc etc


actually, i think a flying fifteen is wetter in 15-20 knots than a laser is in 20-30 knots, well it is for me, being the crew & all.

I see said the blind man to the crippled nudist who put his hands in his pockets & promptly walked away.

As Beachbum said, The bible. C.A.Marchaj ‘Aero-Hydrodynamics Of Sailing’

Luff 'em & leave 'em.


There are plenty of boats that are wetter than the Laser. But the Laser was a giant leap forward in wetness when it was introduced. That’s my point. But most of those are meant to be a somewhat humorous way of looking at leaping forward (in areas that we wouldn’t necessarily think of) so try not to take it too seriously…

  • Will

Will Gorgen