National 12 - find out more...

Where to now?

Started by Jerry G, 08 Feb 2018, 09:09

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Jerry G

Neil Kennedy's article in the Newsletter is very interesting and summarises the general decline in dinghy racing very well.  I think the trend has been downwards in most clubs and classes since about 1980.  However, some clubs seem to buck this trend: Brightlingsea Sailing Club (host of the 2016 Burton), for instance, still seems very active.  How do they do it?
Graham Ireland (RHYC) made an interesting comment a few years ago.  He pointed out that the clubs that had a good progression of junior members moving on to sail the "grown-up" boats had two-handed dinghies as their junior class (Brightlingsea had Mirrors, Waldringfield had Cadets) while the clubs that had Oppie, Topper etc struggled to retain their juniors when they grew out of the starter class.  We regularly sailed our Twelve at Brightlingsea's Pyefleet Week and noticed how the little ones started out crewing for more experienced kids then a year or two later they would be helming with a new child as crew while the original helm was crew or helm in one of the grown-up classes.  With single-hander starter classes most kids were not big enough to move on to Laser or Phantom etc and were not interested in crewing for an adult having always helmed.
I think its a great idea to boost the interest in the older Twelves, they are very good value for money (and if you need new sails get them second hand from the Burton winners!).  In 1979 I bought a Proctor IX to introduce my 7 year old son to crewing (I now crew for him on his 25ft cruiser/racer!).  Later my wife and I had a lot of fun racing a Design 8 specially when the Gill series started and had an "Admirals Cup" division - so we weren't going to open meetings just to make up the numbers but had some real competition.
We only gave up Twelve sailing due to age and me needing a new hip.  Our 30ft catamaran is more suited to our loss of agility!


It was good to see that Gerry still follows the class. I was surprised that nobody followed up this post. I feel that time should be made at this years AGM to see where owners see the class going and to ask the Tech. Comm. to look at ways to revitalise building of new boats and get existing boats sailing. It has been suggested allowing single handed sailing in some situations. With the shortage of crews that could make sense. As to the building of new boats the class in my view needs to see how boats can be built more cheaply. At the present time to produce a new design using similar moulds to the DCB I recon you would be spending between 5k -10k for just the mould, that means a lot of costs to produce 2/3 boats. I would like the tech. boys to look into going back to 4 plank boats but using composite materials. At present there is a DCB mould and a Highjack mould, the HJ mould if not purchased in the near future will be cut up. That does not leave the class in a very strong position.
Other owners must have ideas which need to be aired at the AGM, and I would ask that time is made to discuss 'where to now'
Dare Barry     


If the class was looking for cost savings then surely the elephant in the room is the wings! I'd consider getting back into the class if they were banned and I suspect they're a turnoff to many others too. Restricting the use of carbon in hulls seems to serve the merlins rather well too.

Also on cost saving, I never understand why dinghy classes don't use sail limitation rules as they do in many yacht classes. Only one jib per year and one mainsail every two to be allowed to be measured in?

The majority of the professionally built DB boats will be around for many decades so there's enough boats to have a very healthy class (especially with what seems a huge crash in the second hand values in the last few years) if the class embraced the 'restricted' rather than 'development' part of the name and worked on maintaining stability over a long term. Taking a starting position of 'it must make the boat cheaper to own' or 'easier to sail' or both on any new development would be a good way to avoid any more dead ends.

There's also the huge number of events...numbering almost more than actual boats entered in Burton Week in recent years. Time for a rationalisation (I think I remember making this point on here in 2004-5...) down to a handful that could be rotated from year to year. Supply and demand?

Related to that is that maybe people are less willing to drive round the country (not just in the 12 class) so the days of 'the 12s have always been an open meeting class' are numbered. Less events - more time for building club fleets (and getting those juniors in as Gerry points out).


Gerry has a good point clubs which don't use the normal RYA teaching model of using singlehanders to teach sailing tend to have stronger youth fleets of double handers and more people sailing in general (Bassenthwaite Sailing Club is another one). There is also appearing a weight of evidence suggesting the RYA's approach of focusing on singlehanded sailing may have also done some structural damage to sailing has a whole leading to less people sailing in general.

Given the 12's size, responsiveness, good valve second-hand market and scope to try out your ideas. Makes the 12 ideally placed for teenagers looking for something different it just how does the 12 compete with the x-factor of the Feva, RS 200 and 29er?

After a recent experience of trying to establish a 12 fleet at Milton Keynes Sailing Club (perfect place to sail 12's). Which after some interest at the start so faltered and came to nothing (Beggers Maid is on the market to possibly be broken up due to not able to find a new home). Instead the last 18 months MKSC has started growing Feva and 200 fleets. Which has lead me to think there must have been parents looking for a boat the sail with there children but 12 failed to capture their interest.

I don't really having anything to suggest apart a 12 still offers a good boat for a teenager looking for something different to sail and a more of a challenge than your normal SMOD or parents looking for an fun boat to sail with their children (this last point is a strategy which is working well for the class). I do wonder though if by playing to different groups (being vibrant and exciting to attract teenagers while appearing save and easy to handle for parents) risks attracting neither one or the other successfully. In saying that by opting to target parents and child sailing is a good investment in the future but by no means guaranteed. When you consider how many sailors started sailing 12's when I did and are still involved in the class.

In stimulating more boat building I wonder if cost is really the problem given sailors are still finding money for moths, 14's and merlins . Unless there really is group of people out there with boats drawn but projects on hold due the cost producing moulds.

If there is then have they considered a male mould? Which would be cheaper than a full set of female moulds.

Limiting exotic materials would save money and I do question if a 12 really does need to be made from nomex so I could see good reasons for limiting the use of carbon (would be interesting if the tech committee could do a cost comparison for limiting carbon to high load areas only). I don't think a sail limit will have much effect because as far as I'm aware there isn't an arms racing going with sails and the front of fleet at the moment and if there is it benefits the rest of class through trickle down of decent secondhand sails.

Something which might stimulate some boat building would some rule changes?

I know this not a popular suggestion but what about reducing the amount of lead boats a carrying? In other words a weight reduction.

While I don't have the figures I get the feeling all boats built in the last few years are carrying a few kilos of correctors, is this true?

If this is the case and how do amateur built boats compare to the professionally built boats?

An left field option which will help keep the value in the current boats and tooling which has been produced. Might be to freeze the hull design around the DCB or Hijack or both and free up the development around sails while leaving the rules around foils as they are. So there still something for people to tinker with.

This last approach as worked well for the 18ft Skiff class for reducing costs and has largely saved the class.

The futures bright the future is rivers and lakes


Quote from: smilie on 31 Jul 2018, 08:41
Something which might stimulate some boat building would some rule changes?

I know this not a popular suggestion but what about reducing the amount of lead boats a carrying? In other words a weight reduction.

*bangs head on desk...repeatedly  ;D ;D ;D

I think the lack of new boats is more simply explained in terms of relative (rather than absolute) cost. Put yourself in the shoes of someone outside the class - would you really spend most of the price of a new Merlin (with the prospect of huge depreciation) to race in 5 boat Gul Series open meetings and a champs that struggles to get past 30 boats...?!

If the class managed to increase participation using the existing boats, then the boat building would likely take care of itself.

However I wonder if the class has passed a tipping point, with the most expensive ever 12s racing in the smallest ever fleets?

Banning the wings might render the DCBs and others uncompetitive, but they are probably already so depreciated that it makes no odds. Then as you suggest the rules could be frozen on the pre-wings era boats, of which the class has a large number of well matched and built examples.

I haven't read the 12 history recently and don't have copy to hand, but what bubbles up most readily is a sense that most of the major developments when the class was popular were things that made the boats easier and cheaper to build, sail and maintain. Clinker to plywood, cotton to terylene, wood to aluminium. Foam sandwich, carbon masts and dangly poles fit within this continuum whereas winged rudders seem completely at odds with it.


Yeah OK I did deserve that :-) but I was thinking if on arrange all boats built in the last 15-20 years are carrying about the same amount lead then we may as well get rid of it.

Absolute cost could be  an issue but I wonder when someone is getting into a class a sailor isn't really thinking how much a new boat costs. It something which might come later. As a result I can't see the cost of a new boat being a bar to stop people joining the class because there will be lots of other factors at play as to whether get a 12 or not.

eg. If I'm honest I have both looked building a new 12 and upgrading to newer 12 in my time I have been involved with 12s. In the end I didn't build a new 12 because I felt the rules were to restrictive and didn't give me the scope I looking to try out new ideas and test and learn about dinghy design and I ended designing building a new Cherub.

Then 10 years later when it came to considering a newer boat for mostly club racing and a few open meetings. Once again the we decided the 12 wasn't for us the, my wife found the floor height of the double bottom 12s uncomfortable and to be honest I didn't fancy living with the big winged rudder and we now own a RS200. Cost did also play a role because I'm pretty confident if put the 200 back on the market then I will pretty much get my money back. Which was more of a Brucey bonuses than deal breaker.

I do wonder how many people been through the same process and not plumbed for a 12.

Just in case you are wondering why I care how the 12 does long term it's because it's one of the reasons I got into sailing in the first place, taught me a lot about sailing and boats and recently was the boat me and wife chose to start sailing together (which I still own the 12).

Looking at the open meeting numbers for this year with 14 and 22 boats for the 2 Gul series this year, 15 boats at 12 Fest, 9 boats at NWNW and 11 boats at Salcombe with the only blip being Trent Valley at 5 boats (we would have been there apart from uni work got in the way). Turn outs to open meetings have been pretty good when measured against other classes. There seems to be a steady flow people popping up on here asking questions having just got in to the class. Leads me to think everything everything is heading in the right direction. 

Tim, Maybe your suggestion about less open meetings is a good thing and gives people dates people to focus on in their diary's.

It is a slightly shame though the 1 day restricted water open meeting might have died now.

I feel it would be good if the committee off the back of discussion at the AGM could publish a route map of how they plan to see the class growing in the coming years. It would also be good know if they positive about the future or not.

Tim on your comment about taking the design back to pre DCB I think both the foolish and Big Issue moulds have been chopped up so I guess there's no going back.

The futures bright the future is rivers and lakes


Quote from: smilie on 14 Aug 2018, 08:10

9 boats at NWNW

We would have had at least 4 more if work, operations, moving house and Salcombe Week hadn't got in the way.  A few usual sailors missing from Salcombe Week too.

I've thought a lot about responding to this thread and won't yet, but I'll leave the below thought:

In 2013 or before, a friend and I were thinking about a double hander, the Lark was more favourable as we'd sailed one but by 2014 one of us had a 12 and by 2015 I had one too. Looking at the Lark Circuit for 2018, looks like we opted for the correct choice - we had 14 at Salcombe & 23 at RHYC, the Larks seem to just squeeze past 10. However, I know that Salcombe and RHYC seem to attract 12 sailors.

Interestingly for overall 2017 both the classes had 60 different entries over the series. The Firefly 'vines' series had 40 overall with 12 the highest turnout outside of the nationals. But they have a very active online profile - especially Instagram - which gives the impression of an active class. Any feedback on the 12's Instagram would be welcome.

N12 - 3198, 3513, 3551


Personally I think it is the foils, and the fact that they do make such a difference that is stifling the growth of the class. And i say that as some one who likes them!

People on the outside looking in will see that to be competitive you need a modern foiled boat (yes i know there are exceptions to that statement but they are the exception not the rule) and modern foiled boats rarely come on the market... so you don't get new people into the class.

If we really want to stimulate growth and attract more people into the class there needs to be a greater stock of competitive boats so we ether get rid of the foils or find some other way of making the majority of non foiled boats competitive again?


Tom Jefferies

I got my first 12, 3229 at 15. At that time we had a strong 12 fleet at Saltash and would regularly have 6-7 boats racing on a Tuesday night. What made the 12 class special was how welcoming and helpful everyone is. I don't think this has changed. There is always someone available to help or work late In the boat Park. I think almost everyone had benefited from grazz's toolbox!

The competitive side of the 12 fleet has changed, I believe markedly since the introduction of the foils. Yes double bottom boats were generally faster but an old admirals cupper always had a fighting chance against her younger faster sibling. It is harder to see db boats having the same fighting chance against foils in anything past a drift fest.

I think one of the biggest differences between the the 12 class and other classes mentioned like the 200 is that it is very hard to jump in a 12 and go quickly from the offset. People like being competitive, and let's face people buy a 12 (definitely a db 12) because they want to race. They are not known for being a comfortable cruising boat! We need to do more to help people yune their 12's.

The discussion on whether or not to get rid of foils will be debated for a long time but a discussion at the AGM, held at Burton week, we have established this is now an event of diminishing numbers dominated by foils will not solve the problem. A wider fleet wide consultation is required.

An interesting option that the class might be interested in trialing is allowing boats to race off their recommended PY at open meetings and Burton week. It should add interest and allow people with "uncompetitive" boats the chance to compete for overalls not just some subsidiary.

I would personally attend Burton week regardless in 3438 but unfortunately life is currently getting in the way and we are limited to evening sailing, but I can't deny that I would look forward to the racing more knowing that if we sailed our boat to the maximum potential we still have a chance!

Tom Jefferies


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