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National 12 Rule changes debate

Started by Jeremy C, 04 Apr 2014, 09:50

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I see that some Grad sailors (is this a class we can learn anything from?) have adopted Gnavs presumably to free up cockpit space. Their latest mainsail shape looks interesting too.


Steve Hawkins makes an intersting point about going back to the 60's and 70's. It was a 'golden age' of Twelve building and some really pretty boats were built . Ok a lot tof these have goone to the great dinghy park in the sky but...........................

There are a number of boats that are still around, to look at they have definately lost their gloss, the decks are shot, foils have had a hard life but the hulls are still in good condition. To save the expense of making new frames etc, surely the way forward should be to aquire a golden oldie for a very cheap price on Ebay or the like and breath new life into it.

The main problem with boats from the 60's and 70's appears to be that the Aerolite used to glue the decks on has failed; for some reason this doesn't happen with a hull - possibly because the glue gets into the grain better  than it can with a sheet of decking? Spud, Kevin and I have debated this one at length!

And to prove that I practice what I preach, I bought Dinsdale for £150 on Ebay, let the boat dry out (for far too long!) and in 4 weeks an ugly duckling has become a swan. Fitting out will follow period practice of kicker, cunningham and outhaul. One or two more modern bits of thinking will also be put on - splitend main for example, but KISS is definately the motto.

And amazingly after 42 years the boat now weights less than when it was originally built . I think that it is also possibly stiffer and ready for the next 42 years.


John she looks even more beautiful than she did in 1986 when I crewed in her for Sue Pelling at Exmouth. Always was a beaut but she looks better than new
12's are for life not just for christmas.


John she looks amazing, I hope you are planning to bring her to 4 plank events to show her off ;)
The futures bright the future is rivers and lakes


The question of Aerolite glued decks giving trouble while the hulls do not may well be due to the fact that Dick Wyche used Aerodux on his hulls. Aerodux has a different formulation to aerolite and is much longer lasting in damp conditions. The Mosquito aircraft whose glued mainspars failed in India used aerolite. When Aerodux was used the mainspars did not fail.


I've been reading this and the 'other' thread over the last few weeks and there's some really interesting discussion going on.  My views on what should or shouldnt be done to save the class seem to change on weekly basis at the moment.  Certainly a few weeks back I was probably thinking baning foiling rudders was the way forward. But on reflection I am really not sure an outright ban would be the right thing to do. 
Equally I'm not convinced that any significant rule changes are the answer either.  All of us could make a list of things that would make a fast Twelve and the list would probably vary from reducing weight to making the sails bigger or even adding a kite. There's probably countless tweaks in between those extremes that could all outclass what exists today. 
I remember a simplification of the rules being discussed a while back possibly at the 1999 nationals but the problem was that most of the rules serve to make a Twelve a Twelve.  All the subtle things like Rise of Floor and the height /angle the jib luff make the boat what it is.  It does appear (my perception) that the class has focused its attention more on Burton Week(end) and to an extent forgotten grass roots sailing. From the relative outside, I can't see how foiling rudders would really work at somewhere like Earlswood or Twickenham.  
So here's my collection of thoughts. Some I wouldn't do even though I'd still like to try a Twelve with them. 
Sail Plan
In the other thread, STU W said that I was advocating changing sail plans about 10 years ago (thanks for the reminder STU i think it was actually 13 years :) ).  To an extent I do still think that would be an interesting development but it would change the boat over time and not necessarily make it more fun, simpler or any better at carrying weight.  I think at the time I thought that it would be better to measure 'real' sail area rather than how its done currently. That, combined with a tweak to the jib height rule, might mean that a bigger jib could be used than is standard now.  My memory of this could be wrong but I suspect I've read in High Performance sailing this would potentially make the rig more powerful /efficient / go faster.  I think at the time there was also a bit of discussion about over rotating masts too but i'm not going there tonight. 
Do all the double bottom boats that are for sale at the moment need someone to suggest moving the mast back by 10-15cm and playing with sail plan.. Probably not?
Increasing sail size 
Yes that would make the boats faster I'm not convinced more sail is the way to make heavier crews more competitive. My own experience of sailing a Big Issue (it had a heart on the sail) with 12.5m battened sails (3.5ish metre jib) was that the boat would become MUCH more lively off wind especially close reaching. With enough righting moment i.e. a trapeze, yes you can certainly plane upwind... Brilliant fun but probably not at Ely and definately not with a 10 year old in the front.  The problem with (crew) weight in any 12 foot boat is that physics is too difficult to avoid and even when you increase sail area, you still have a point where heavy people loose out to light people. When it's blowing, light people might struggle against the power of the heavier crews, or they might just go the same speed because of the Twelves amazingly controllable rigs.  Bigger rigs would probably create that binary performance problem that other 12 foot classes have. But the N12s have always been LOVELY in no wind - maybe its just me.   
Battened Sails
I am a fan they are fantastic.  They last ages, they set beautifully but when they are as big as we have on a Twelve they don't give you much thinking time. They keep driving when you don't want and then there's those 5 battens to pop rather than just the 1 when it's light.  That said those tricky little soslows don't seem to struggle with that issue so maybe its just me.  I'm not sure that a battened main would be much fun for parents sailing with their offspring for those reasons. 

Square Tops 
How very trendy. I've not got anywhere near enough experience to comment but im sure they have advantages. Are there any square tops without lots of full battens underneath? My current fear with this sort of development is that its a bit like sticking a assymetric on a wayfarer. It just looks daft (sorry Wayfarers). 
I've never understood why we banned them and actually they are something that could be easily retrofitted to any existing boat even Gypsy if we were being really reckless.  Allowing huge wings on the rudder but banning daggerboards because they might hit the bottom in restricted water seems a bit strange in my eyes. But that door does now seem locked and I think someone chucked away the key in 2002.. 
Mast Weight 
Correct me if I'm wrong on this but I thought the mast weight allowed for an average carbon mast and that a weight limit existed for the reasons Tom W said on the last page. i.e. to stop super expensive high mod carbon rigs having an advantage?  I'd probably vote to keep some sort of limit just because anything to keep costs in control seems sensible. 
Hull Weight /All up weight 
We've been building high tech hulls and filling them with lead for years. Certainly the fear that light boats would fall apart seems to be a myth (as we all knew it was at the time). I don't know what the ratio of light boats to those that a closer to the limit is, but it could be worth a discussion. It would make boats faster but it would make it even more difficult for the home wood workers.  That said Im pretty certain that the weight of a 12 is not something that puts people off? There's an argument that says that you need a heavy trolley to stop your boat blowing over too. The net effect is only good for the physio's out there. 
I think there's probably a discussion to be had (at least publically) about the size of the foils. I know my old mate Smilie favours the Darwinian approach but it could be a way of reeling the DCBs back in a bit if the class as a whole felt that was desirable? 
My overall conclusion. 
I've sailed boats that have made major rule changes with the aim of making the boat appeal more to the 'growing' UK market. It has made that class more popular but it is a completely different sailing experience now to the one that many of us enjoyed. There is a danger in development classes that we tend to look at rule changes as a the cure to all ills. But with the benefit of a few more grey hairs, I think what makes classes work well, is a great Association and sailors that are passionate and enthused.  The boat isn't the only issue.  You only have to look at boats like the Streaker (no offence) to realise that. And make no mistake the NTOA was/is a truely great association.. 
As I see it at the moment the Twelves are in a bit of a (deep) lull but - there's an opportunity to celebrate the fact that you can buy a seriously good boat for a couple of grand that will be great fun to sail alongside the Classics, Four Plankers, etc etc.  But we think carefully about alienating those people by doing anything radical... 
A don't to do something radical message coming from someone that put 15.5m of white sail, twin wires and a big bin bag on a Big Issue may seem a little strange but hey... Had to grow up at some point I guess. 
N3252 (Silently sitting in my garage waiting for some attention).


P.s. John your boat looks really lovely!


Thanks Ben et Al.
I think it goes to show how well Rowsell's were building the boats back in the '70's.
And Smilie, I think that there are 3 planks too many to the 4 plank series! Dinsdale is a genuine Rowsell 7 plank Doll. I believe from what Spud has told me is that Spud / Brian used the same frames for all their Dolls including China Doll herself - with the obvious changes to the first 3 feet of course. No doubt Phil could confirm this?
But to get back to the rules debate, I agree with Ben in that we should look at the origins of the class, however how many of the small 'puddle' & river clubs really still exist? I fear that the move to faster manufacturer one designs has to an extent meant that people have migrated to larger puddles?


John, not sure this is the case, these clubs still exist it's just the 12 fleets are no longer the backbone of club racing. Earlswood Lakes which Ben mentioned early is still thriving but instead of a fleet of around 15 twelves of which around 8 were regular sailors there is now 1 twelve in a large handicap fleet. I think as a club, where as in the past, established fleets were encouraged (at earlswood it was 12s, Merlin's, enterprises and Lasers) and stuck to through thick or thin, clubs find it easier to let anybody sail whatever rather than struggle to promote classes which are perceived as difficult to sail. We, as a class, need to rebuild these club fleets through more promotion and provide the type of boat which suits these small venues but can also be enjoyable at championship level. Not provide a boat to win Burton Week when most owners either have absolutely no interest in winning B/W or do not have the ability. If we get people sailing 12s at ground floor level surely this will encourage others to "give it a go".
12's are for life not just for christmas.


Again there are some really good and constructive points being raised in this thread. Before I comment further why dont we remind ourselves of what the National 12 is - "The National 12 is a fantastic two person two sail racing dinghy which is perfect for families, young teams and couples who enjoy racing. With a sail area of ~10.4m and a light hull they are ideal for inland sailing on rivers, lakes & reservoirs and also great fun on the sea"If we consider any changes then it must be with this in mind, surely? I have a fairly jaundiced view of radical changes; ie bigger rigs, more sail area, fully battened sails, spinnakers etc...there are plenty of classes that already offer all of these....
The comments on dagger boards and foiling rudders got me thinking. I'd never given the rudders much thought before, other than when having seen them, I thought they looked unwieldy and complex. Perhaps thats what potential newcomers to the Class think? So whilst they clearly work are they having (had?) a detrimental effect on the health of the class? The reason daggerboards were banned is well documented. A unanimous vote to ban them on the grounds that they may handicap owners whose clubs sail on shallow waters and it could lead to a rapid loss in value of boats....hmmm, have we not just seen exactly this happen with the collapse of secondhand boat values? So, should the foiling rudder debate/decision be re-opened?
I also note comments wanting the boats to be a better weight carrier....lets look at that...on our home page we have the words...The 12 is a development class so you can choose a design to meet your exact needs. The different hulls allow helm-crew combinations between 16 & 23 stone to be competitiveIt comes down to what your aspiration is....if you want to win the Burton Cup and top end Open meetings then you want a current design and crew weight combo that matches. If you just have a passion for the Class and want to focus on Club sailing or regional meetings then there are plenty of older and vintage boats that make great Club racers, especially with the application of appropriate handicaps. Look at Dinsdale!
I tend to agree that we need to focus on building the health of the Class at Club level. This will be achieved as Ben says by those with a passion for the Class, and most 12 sailors are passionate about the Class and that does rub off. If we need to reduce the number of events on the 12 calender to help support Club sailing then we should be open to that. 
We should try and reverse the decline in NTOA membership and as was mentioned previously I think that the  re-introduction of a (hardcopy) Class magazine would add more value to the cost of the annual membership fee and help "spread the word" and "fuel the passion" amongst owners....


As a Engineer (well in training anyway), I have reverted to type and looked at some data and done some maths

specifically a NHS study summarised on this site:
and NHANES study from 2006 for Americans through Wolframalpha

Assuming a N12 is sailed by Mr and Mrs Average, the crew weight from 1993 is 145.5kg and 154.1kg in 2008 this is a increase of 8.6kg over 15years or 0.57Kg a year, My boat was built in 1980, so in 2008 it would have been 28 years old, Assuming a linier average weight gain of the crew of 0.57kg, the crew weight will have increased by 15.96kg. so Mr and Mrs average from 2008 - 15.96Kg gives a average crew weight of 138.14kg in 1980. this is 21 stone 10 pounds. As you would expect  this falls within the 16-23 stone recommended weight.  

Assuming our N12 helm and crew are of equal weight and wanted to fall within weight range they would have to weigh 11.5 stone each, nowadays (well the data's from 2006) only 38% of adults fall below this value, so already we are excluding 62% of people from being competitive, I suspect in 1980 the percentages would have been the other way round.

taking me as a example, I weight about 85Kg so if I wanted to match Mr and Mrs average from 1980 I would need a crew who weights 53kg this limits me to 5% of the adult population or if I want to be within the competitive range 17%

I would be interested to know how many N12 owners bought their boat with a crew already in mind and how many, like me see who's about on the day/organise the week before


Sorry to go back to something I have bought up before but I have been spending time thinking through this issue of winged rudders and the ethos of the twelves.
I think that the top helms may be right when they say wings make  the twelve easier to sail but....and it is a big but. To new sailors, or sailors moving up from SMODs etc it appears a step too far. Having thought about it I think this is why the classic and A/C boats are more popular than the new winged ruddered boats which only appeal to the out and out racer intent on winning Burton Weekend and The Gul Series. This elite group is not the backbone f the fleet and is there a danger that we are driving development too far in this direction at the expense of the core group we appeal to.
having always sailed boats with regular rudders myself the thought of sailing with a huge appendage attached to the transom is very off putting especially as I have no dea how to use them to advantage or even the scientific theories involved.
do we aim development at the masses or at the elite sailor. Thinking about it this seems a fundamental question the class, as a whole, must ask itself.
12's are for life not just for christmas.

Miffy (Guest)

Quote from: 398  
For info, we are currently addressing the issue of a recommended handicap for non foiling DB boats.
Jeremy Carey
Chairman NTOA

A new non foiling handicap would be great and hopefully bring some value back to these boats which are in no mans land which are currently amazing value for money.   Can't wait to see it. 
miffy 3466


Always wanted a 12, finally purchased one and re-furbished it with the long term in mind .  I saw the 12 Class as friendly and welcoming with the ability to tinker with your boat and experiment for your own pleasure, it still has all of these. 
It is only my view but allowing foils completely took away any vision and possibility of ever winning a championship race. The fleet immediately became split for the minority allowing only crews with the ability to sail and cash to buy a DCB, in with a chance.
The Merlin Class I believe had the foiling debate and opted not to go that route.
Would taking away the use T foils be such a bad thing looking at the long term interests of the class? 
John - N3500

martin 1262

It would be interesting to see if there was a vote amongst the association membership whether they would get enough votes to keep foiling rudders. If non foiling rudders make the class more appealing and given this is what the thread is all about then surely the  folk that run the class need to consider that.  I know there will be some that would say we are in a development class but   Is this one development too far and not in the long term interests of the class?

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