(February, 1997, Stalights)
Interim Technical Committee Sail Area Reduction Report
by Bill Buchan, Technical Committee chairman
The Technical Committee has been requested to conduct a sail area reduction study to determine if that will neutralize what is presently acknowledged within the Star Class to be an unfair advantage for heavier skipper/crew combinations in medium to heavy wind conditions as a possible alternative or perhaps supplement to a crew weight limit. At the very least we wish to establish whether or not a reasonable reduction of sail area will have the effect of raising the wind velocity at which heavier combinations dearly outperform the lighter teams.
Two identical Star mains were constructed with the leech measurements reduced by 58 mm at the top batten, 50 mm at the upper middle batten, 33 mm at the lower middle batten and 11 mm at the bottom batten, producing a total area reduction of approximately .5 sq.m.
Two skipper/crew combinations participated in the test of the following weights:
Skipper 81.8 kilos
Crew 104.5 kilos
186.3 kilos total
Skipper 100.0 kilos
Crew 111.4 kilos
211.4 kilos total
The decision was made to choose a venue where we might expect the wind to gradually build during the day so that we could experience speed differences between the lighter and heavier crews in different wind strengths. San Francisco Bay during the day or two immediately preceding the Calvin Paige Regatta seemed to be the logical choice. Our hope was to run through a range of wind velocities with the reduced mainsail area configuration on both boats one day then the following day under the same situation wind wise with full sized mainsails on both boats, noting speed differences of minutes per boat length of gain for one boat over the other.
As luck would have it, we only tested on one day but the conditions were perfect and it became immediately apparent that our methods were correct even though we might be short on time. As long as the wind stayed under 10 knots the lighter crew showed a small advantage but whenever the puffs would hit, the heavier crew would gain slightly but the overall speed was quite even up to 14 knots. We both felt that we had a good enough handle on our relative speeds by late afternoon with wind speed of over 15 knots that it would be a good idea to switch to the full size mainsails on both boats in case the conditions were unfavorable the next day, which in fact was the case.
The following observations and opinions are passed on to the membership:
It appeared that the lighter crew showed more speed relative to the heavier team than I would have expected in wind speeds under 10 knots with the reduced area mainsails on both boats.
With the reduced sail plan the lighter combination of skipper and crew was more competitive at a higher wind speed than I would have thought possible going in. The determination a difference of crossover wind speed for the two sail plans will be determined in later tests.
The speed differences between the two crews was dramatically different in winds over 15 knots when the full size sails were hoisted with the heavy crew being much, much faster than in the prior test when both crews used the small sail in more or less the same wind. To me this was far and away the most significant finding of our testing program.
Even though we didn't have the benefit of testing over a long period of time, my impression is that the smaller roach will allow the sail to last longer. I can say for sure that the smaller sail was much more under control in the higher winds and I would say that the Class most likely would be able to race on days when we currently cancel races.
Aesthetically, the sails look very similar to what is presently the case so there shouldn't be any lessening of the appeal of Stars from that view point. To me this is a very important point.
The Technical Committee is also to study bat ten lengths and that wasn't done except for using a standard middle batten in the bottom pocket which should help the longevity of the sail. Even though it hasn't been tried yet, our current test sails will accept full length top battens, this will be tested with an anticipation of that being approved by the Technical Committee to further the life of our mainsails as well.
Vince Brun is proposing a girth measurement 100 mm down from the headboard to eliminate the practice of crowding excessive roach in the area of the upper leech. This number will be established once we determine the size of the sail to be presented to the class. A similar measurement needs to be established for the jib as well.
Right now the sails are in Miami for further tests and have been further reduced in area so that we can eventually find the point at which we have clearly "gone too far." It is the goal of the Technical Committee to have more factual information to present to the class by early summer so that the membership will have had time to form opinions in advance of the Annual Meeting in Marblehead.
A Solution to the Star Class Crew Weight Perception Problem
An open letter to the Star Class from Vince Brun, former Star Class World Champion and holder of 9 Silver Stars, sailmaker and noted sailor of many one‑design classes including the America's Cup Class.
Dear fellow Star Class members:
You may know my name because I am a sailmaker, because I have won the Star Worlds or just because we meet during a Star Class event. You may not know that I have saved Star boats for over 30 years, first crewing in my native Brazil and for the last eighteen years Lading Stars in San Diego. I have saved many classes but my first love is the Star Class. No other class gives me the sailing challenge and the camaraderie that the Star does. The Star Class is in a transition and we must take this opportunity to further develop our class. Two years ago we had a referendum on the weight issue. The vote fared to achieve the required two‑thirds, each side voting fifty percent for and against a weight limit. As a result fifty percent of the class is unhappy. As with any family this division can not stand.
There is a perception that the Star is sailed by super heavy weights and that perhaps it is too powerful a boat for the average sailor. Some junior sailors are downright frightened of the Star because of the sad area. The bottom line is that fifty percent of our own sailors believe a heavy crew has an advantage over a lighter crew. In the last several years crews have been getting heavier and heavier. When I won the Star World Championship in 1986, my crew, Hugo Schreiner, weighed 107 kgs (236 lbs). Today the average weight of a winning Star crew in top events has escalated to 120 kgs (265 lbs). Anyone walking around the 1996 Savannah Olympic venue could observe the substantial Star crews.
Hugo was fond of saying, "Hey, Star Boats are for big people ‑ don't mess with a good thing." We all love Hugo ‑ one of the World's best Star crews, but the class must face this "perception" problem to endure. Try to find a 265 pound crew at your local yacht club! The top sailors in the class have to look far and wide to find a suitable crew. My crew, Rodrigo Meireles, I found in Brazil; my previous crew, Mike Dorgan, came from Alabama. Paul Cayard, a San Francisco native uses a crew from Marblehead, MA. Mark Reynolds, Olympic Gold Medalist and 1995 Star World Champion, found his crew, Hal Haenel, in Los Angeles. Joe Londrigan, another San Diego Bay sailor and Star World Champion, imported his crew, Phil Trinter, from Cleveland, Ohio. Not many guys are willing to gain weight just to crew on a Star. Some, like Bill Bennett, who crewed in the US Olympic Trials and "bulked‑up" have said, "Never again will I gain that much weight for a Star Boat regatta." Today, with the emphasis on health, it is too much to ask and too much of a sacrifice to ask our crews to gain weight. Yesterday, driving with my old crew and friend Hugo Schreiner, he confided to me that he feels the Star Class should do something about the problem. He also is aware that not doing anything isn't a good solution.
The San Diego Bay Star Fleet is well known throughout the World. But all is not well with the Star fleet in San Diego. On a given one‑design race weekend the Etchells will field a fleet at least 50% larger than the Star fleet. This is true in Newport Harbor Fleet as well as San Francisco. The Melges 24 are also attracting sailors and have growing fleets. Neither of these boats can match the Star in performance or cost. Each require at least degree persons to crew and can not be trailed with the ease of a Star. Why are there not more crossovers from these and other classes to the Star? It is because of the crew weight perception problem! Two of the top Etchells sailors in San Diego would switch to the Star if dopey could find a good 265 pound crew. If the top sailors in the Star class have trouble finding crew, think of the fleet racers that are frustrated in finding a crew. Ross Macdonald, Star Class World Champion, recently wrote an article in the Starlights and offered three alternatives to the crew weight perception problem:
* Do nothing
* Have a weight limit
* Reduce the Star sail area
Doing nothing is not a solution‑fifty percent of the class wants the perception problem solved! And we all know that, at this critical moment, we can't afford to loose membership.
A weight limit adds all the associated, disagreeable problems that other classes with weight limits have, i.e., weighing in before a regatta, running in your dry suit to make a weight limit, dieting before a regatta, and other very unhealthy alternatives like diuretics. If an arbitrary maximum crew weight is established some present crew teams will not be able to sail together this will be the result of current weight limit proposals.
During the last 15 years the Star boat experienced a natural phenomena. Since we didn't have a 3/4 girth control on the mainsail, the mainsails got bigger and bigger. Just to give you an idea, the mainsails in 1981, when Alex Hagen won the Worlds in Marblehead, were about six inches smaller than what we have today. This extra area was only possible because of today's stronger cloth and better engineering. With this extra area, we got power, and with power the crews got bigger and bigger. The crew that won the 1981 Worlds, Alex Hagen and Vincent Hoesch, weighed about 170 kgs (374 lbs). Later in 1992 and 1993 the Worlds were won by even a lighter crew weight of Antonio Gorostegui and Jose Doreste, with a total crew weight of 160 kgs (352 lbs). And we aren't talking of just World championship competition, lighter guys were doing well on every racing level.
After this period, we slowly start to make more powerful and bigger sails, and the crew got heavier as a result. At the last two Olympics we have seen some of the top crews using two different profile sails ‑ one being the normal roach and the other called the "fat head" for an even bigger mainsail top (maximum measurement and the other about two inches smaller than maximum). Just last year the Star Class started measuring the top of the mainsail and the technical committee came out with a measurement that made all currently built sails legal. Again, this measurement today, is six inches larger than the sails we had in the early 80's.
The best solution is clear. Reduce the Star's mainsail area to a similar profile to what we had in the 80's, without reducing the profile to the extent that the Star is no longer the beautiful boat that has attracted many of us. This would take advantage of the so-called heavier crews, but they still would have their right to continue to enjoy sailing in the Star. These heavier crews are part of our character, besides many of these guys we have come to love.
Our Star fraternity is known for their camaraderie. It is commonly heard in the Class ‑ "I could never return to another class ‑ once you sail a Star you are hooked." It is important that any decision concerning crew weight be a popular decision to preserve the Star camaraderie. What other class replaces yelling with a light pounding on the deck announcing a Starboard right‑of‑way, or "You're clear, don't tack". In San Diego we can go a whole year without having a protest. Gentlemen sail Stars.
With the recent Olympic decision and the perception that the Star has a weight problem, it is important we face our problem head on. This is especially important to keep the Star family together.
Sail Reduction Testing
In October at the Calvin Paige Regatta in San Francisco, Bill Buchan and I went to the regatta two days early to test sails with a reduced roach area. It was a pleasure to test sails with Bill, a three time Star Class World Champion. Bill prepared a preliminary report on our testing and sent the report to the International Governing Committee.
We began our test with two identical mainsails, approximately 1 square meter (10.76 square feet) smaller than the existing sails. Most of the sail reduction was done in the upper part of the roach, but the mid‑girth roach was also impacted, with the concept of keeping the roach profile smaller but similar in appearance to our current sails.
Bill's total crew weight was around 209 kgs (460 lbs) and my total crew weight was around 184 kgs (405 lbs). We started testing in approximately 10 knots of wind and ended our tests in 16 knots of wind. We tested on one tack only and each test took about a half hour, wide Bill being the leeward boat and myself to windward. Since we were the lighter crew, Bill felt that the lighter crew would tend to sail higher than the heavier crew. During all of the tests, the lighter crew, would gain slightly in the lighter breeze and loose slowly as the wind increased in velocity. We felt the boats were even in speed around 13‑14 knots of wind. After five tests, each lasting a half hour, all tests ended with the same results. Bill decided to have both boats change back to our normal mainsails. The wind was a bit stronger then, around 14‑15 knots. The difference in speed was so dramatic with the different crew weight that testing was impossible. The bigger crew had a clear advantage over the smaller crew. The other obvious discovery was that the difference in speed was greatly amplified with the big sails. In other words, we found that the sail with the smaller roach profile made the smaller crew more competitive in high winds. In addition the mainsail was much easier to control in higher winds, which made the boat more seaworthy and fun to sail.
It is my opinion that sail reduction is a better alternative to a weight limit rule because:
1. The Class wouldn't have to discriminate against the big guys; other classes with weight limits can be more flexible in choosing their crews because they have three or more crew members.
2. The sail reduction plan would force the total crew weight down in a natural way, without any rules.
3. It you are big and like to be big, no problem, you can continue to sail the Star, its your choice.
4. We won't loose any membership at this critical time.
5. Mainsails will last longer.
6. Mainsails will be easier to control in strong winds and boats will be easier to handle.
7. We won't have to enforce weight limits at every regatta, making it easier for regatta organizers.
8. We will avoid having overweight crews, taking diuretics and other unhealthy weight reduction alternatives before the weigh‑in, as we see in some cases like with the J‑24, Melges 24 and E‑22.
Several of our class members have suggested alternatives to the sail reduction plan. These sailors also love the class and are devoting time to solve the weight perception problem. They should be commended for their efforts.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, Vince is a sailmaker he is just trying to line his pockets by requiring everybody to buy new sails.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Those of you that know me, truly know I love the Star and that I dearly want the best solution for the best one‑design class in the world. For all but the World Championship the traditional sail plan of existing sails could be grandfathered for one or two years. Since you must qualify for a World Championship and because those that have the time and resources traditionally attend this event, we should require that the new sail plan be used. Besides, it is rare a competitor attends a Star World Championship without buying new sails.
After considering the alternatives, I believe the solution lies in sail reduction. This is one of the ideas being advanced to solve the crew weight perception problem. What is important is that we find a popular solution to the problem at the earliest time for the betterment of our wonderful class. With this problem solved the Star family will be united, growth of the class will occur, the class weight problem will be behind us, and we will be in a strong position to have the Olympic Committee reconsider the Star for keel boat fleet racing in the 2004 Olympics.
Best regards to each of you, Vincent Brun