National 12 - find out more...


The Rules.

In a development class it is certain that members will always question the exact meaning of the rules as part of their quest for innovations within them. It must therefore be accepted that a governing body has the ultimate authority to interpret these rules when unforEseen innovations appear. It is impossible to legislate against specific features in the rules because future development cannot be predicted and the semantics of boat terminology are particularly vague. There must be incorporated in the rules a section giving powers to this governing body to interpret them in the best interests of the Class. Clearly this governing body must be democratically elected by owners and will therefore be a committee of the Class Association. The R.Y.A. is not democratically elected by the Class owners, does not necessarily interpret the rules in the best interests of the Class and is no longer suitable as the governing body.

To assist this governing body, the rules should ideally be issued with a parallel guide showing the intention of each rule. This must not concern itself with specifics or relate to boats at the current state of development but should indicate the basic intentions behind each rule, highlighting what are considered undesirable features by the majority of active owners. If the owners wish to change the intention of a rule as well as the wording of the rule itself, then the guide should be consulted and changed at a general meeting.
At present, the Technical Committee can advise on rule interpretation but where there is doubt, they must refer the matter to the ultimate authority-the R.Y.A. In the case of daggerboards, this should have been done in 1975 when Jo Richards first raised the issue. Subsequent events would not have happened if the intention of the rule (8b) had been made clear.

Hull Design

Hull design will develop further along the lines seen in recent years, i.e. boats will become wider across the decks, particularly towards the transom. Rockers will become even flatter with maximum depth extending from the stem to some considerable distance aft. Sections will become slightly wider to compensate for the shallower rocker, the main variation being in the tightness of the turn of the bilge. In general, design will give more consideration to three-dimensional water flow, bearing in mind that the boat floats at the surface.

Hull Construction.

Within the current wording of the rules, hull construction is capable of radical change. Evidence of this is being seen this season. As techniques and materials improve, non-wood construction using plastic/glass/exotic material laminates will became competitive with wood. The majority of Twelves will still be built on a one-off basis so, until laminates can be efficiently handled without an elaborate mould, wood construction will still be common. Improvements in wood construction seem likely to come from cold-moulding techniques incorporating epoxy adhesives and possibly carbon fibre. The result of all this will be lighter or stiffer hulls putting renewed pressures on the weight limit. At present, the 1980 weight limit is just attainable using normal four-plank construction methods. Glassfibre is at a disadvantage at the moment.

Rig Design.

Sail shapes will develop gradually as they have done in the past. Most sail developments are unseen at first and rarely have a dramatic impact since they require considerable tuning and sometimes, a re appraisal of sailing techniques. The loose-footed main is an exception to this although David East tells me it has all been done before (and he should know). Close-sheeting is the current trend and there is no doubt that the mysteries of this technique will occupy more and more helmsmen in the future. Generally, more thought will be given to treating the whole rig as an aerofoil and the "slot" as an extremely sensitive device for extracting as much potential from the rig as possible. Sail materials will remain recognisable as such with development hopefully concentrating on creating more durable cloth with fewer fillers and less distortion under load.


Controls in Twelves will always be as individual as the owners. They are the easiest feature of the boat to alter as the owner muses on what to screw on next. It is inevitable that there will be more of them but the real progress will be in making them effective. The ergonomics of the layout will be much more important since there is little enough time in a Twelve to operate the controls now. Traditional methods of controlling the rig with bits of string and pulleys will be replaced by more sophisticated systems incorporating levers, push rods, and even hydraulics. These will be used to link controls, e.g. clew outhaul to cunningham. The day of the servo-assisted twist grip tiller extension may not be far away.


This is a new area of progress which has been neglected in the past by Twelve owners. In the days of clinker boats, it was enough to slap on a few coats of varnish all over when the boat was new and say how nice it looked compared with an Enterprise. When the boat got a bit older it might be painted and the odd freak would occasionally go two-tone. Anything more radical was discouraged. Nowadays with four-plankers and plastic boats, varnish is confined mainly to the decks and this presents a large coloured area down each side of the boat. Up till now, very little has been done with this area except perhaps to paint the boat's name in big letters at one end of it.

If the ocean racers are anything to go by, this could all be changing and it will not be long before we have multitone stripes in suitable pastel shades all along the topsides. There is no doubting the psychological advantage of having a flash boat when everyone, stares (or falls violently ill) as you cruise by. It could soon be as important to select the right artist as it is to choose the right hull designer.

John Sears  

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