National 12 - find out more...

The future of the N12

Started by STU W, 13 Mar 2014, 03:55

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Martin (Guest)

icarus interesting point pity in a way you make the comment through the cloak of anominity anyway the issue as Chris says is supply and demand currently there is very little demand throughout the fleet I think even a dcb sold a while back for 5 big ones. Who wants to spend 12 of them to lose such a huge amount in such a short space of time. If the class is serious about the future and can ignite demand then these older boats will have buyers. It's just the market is flat and it does nothing to install confidence in the class. 
Martin 3458

John Murrell (Guest)

It's with interest that I have followed this discussion.
For a while I have believed that the class went the wrong way when we voted in the double floors, and yes I voted for them at the time. And possibly we can go even farther back when we allowed smooth hulls, and yes again I voted for them too!
Having campaigned what was possibly the original double floored Twelve - 3396 - I was happy with the concept and hence the builds of 3435 and 3444, however seriously dodgey knees, a thickening of the waist band etc made me realise that actually sailing a modern Twelve wasn't fun any more so I traded up to a Merlin. I wasn't the first and doubt that I will be the last to do so. 

I thus joined a thriving class with good class racing no matter where you were in the fleet, new boats are still being built on a regular basis, great comradship, exciting venues, boats that retained their value, shall I go on?
Both classes roots were basically the same, indeed a number of Merlins were scaled up Twelves and visa versa. Oh and isn't the Lark a March Hare on steroids? 
So whilst the Merlins continued with their traditional values the Twelves went experimenting, the Merlins thrived and the Twelves withered.


Now this is a good debate that I am sure will offer up some good points of view.
From my side I have sailed in the Class since the late 60's when I crewed for my father and today still "race" the same boat. (N1833). I recently acquired another 12 for Club racing (N2701!).
The Class has always attracted those who like to experiment and fiddle and that is part of the beauty of the N12's. Linked to this there has also always been the issue of the pace of evolution to ensure that a new design innovation doesnt automatically render all the existing boats uncompetitive.....that matter appears partly covered now with the NTOA guidance of historical handicaps that should be applied for 12's of different ages. Unfortunately not all Clubs will adopt these. That said we have a situation where N12 Open meetings are now supported by boats from all sections of the fleet with clinker boats lining up alongside DCB's at the start line. 
However the latest stat's of new boat builds are somewhat worrying, although only time will show whether, as in the past, this is a mere blip or a distinct trend.
Overall we have a decline in boats being built, decline in numbers attending Burton Week and certain Open meetings, and a decline in NTOA membership.
There are potentially many factors at work here. And that is an essay in itself. Nonetheless its a concern.
John asks if the introduction of double floors was a retrograde step? My nagging concern is the introduction of win at the top level of the fleet it would seem that one must have a foiling DCB design but relatively few of them have been built. They are expensive and somewhat complex...
Has the Class taken a turn down an evolutionary cul-de-sac? Only time will tell. 
Personally I would like to see larger numbers of N12's being raced from Club level to Championship level. I have always been for consolidation over innovation. Just my view.

Interested Party

Historically, when the class was originally started there was a limit on how much that could be spent on a boat.  A noble idea, that was never going to work for all sorts of practical reasons, reading from Robin Stevenson's books.  But is this the issue?  Currently the modern National 12 is beyond what most people can or want to afford.  And it would seem that now, a professional build is the only answer(?) for these new boats, built with these exotic materials.  Whatever the external pressures are, a new boat is out of reach for most.  This has always been the case, with any class.  But, perhaps, more so now.  Whether it is the pace of developement that is the culprit, or lack of disposable income.  Or the proliferation of other classes, that might promise the same thrills for less outlay?  Or the current fashion for Asymetrics?
Perhaps, all that is needed to is to embrace the whole class as it stands today.  As is already being done in the vintage/classic fleet?  And instead of discarding the olders designs, keep them racing.  Fleets could be age related.....50s, 60s, 70s, 80s......This is probably not a new idea....
Steve Hawkins <br />N12 - Planet 672 -1948 (Holt modified 500 series)<br />N12 - Spider 2523 - 1971 (Spider) <br />N12 - Sparkle 2383 - 1967 (Starfish)


I remain to be convinced that cost is the reason for the lack of boats being built, I am sure that there are deeper rooted problems that need to be addressed.
I had a very interesting conversation with Kevin Driver yesterday on many things Twevle related standing beside the DCB molds that hadn't been used for about 2 years. From his prospective he needs a run of 6 boats to make it commercially viable, the Solo's, Grad's, Scorps', Streakers apparently have all managed to do that this winter as do the RS boats that they build for LDC. They are even in discussions on a build project for another National class where Kevin has built a prototype and is looking to take a mold and built 10+ boats.
With this in mind we looked at the Twelves that we had built, sailed and why. We both agreed that in all the above classes boats were being built for class members as a whole whilst the Twelves being built were for people aspiring to win Burton Week.
We then considered the physical profile of the people who can sail a Twevle compared to a Merlin, Scorpion etc and the truth is that you have to be on the lighter side on the current norm (Rules me out but Kevin the Whippet would still be ok!) Is the current national diet producing better nourished and hence larger people than the '60's and '70's did?
I wonder if we looked at the heyday of the class when boats were being built in garages, front rooms, student accomodation and anywhere else you could think of and get hold of. People had less pressures on their time, the life blood of the class - our children - didn't have computers, i-phones & social media to distract them to name up a very few.
I could go on, but possibly the class needs to look at itself very hard and establish exactly what it's offer and appeal is and then persue that route.
On a personal level I would like to see many more of the 'old' boats rescued from languishing and rotting away in the back of dinghy parks and brought back to life and am doing exactly that with Dinsdale. Ok Dinsdale will never be a competitive open meeting winner again but I will have a boat that I can do the occasional vintage wing open or CVDRA event with. But most importantly I will have a boat to enjoy sailing for the sake of sailing itself.


As someone who started in 12's and has recently return because they offer lots fun to sail  and good boat to sail with my girlfriend.  Kez hasn’t done lots of sailing and I feel 12’s offer the perfect comprised between a boat which isn't too complicated to sail (no spinnaker- symmetric or asymmetric) but interesting enough to stop me getting bored. It is said to have left a class in what seemed to be in rude health and returned to find the 12's looking sickly.

It's not all bad the classic fleet looks to be growing nicely. With plenty of people rescuing lots of boats from a fiery end and on personal note I hope the new 4 planker series follows the success vintage series. This also isn’t a bad time to get into 12 sailing as you can pick up a decent boat without breaking the bank. Plus it can't be all doom in Gul is still happy to support the national series.

But there does seem to be a feeling something is wrong and if I'm honest I have felt it before I left (I've been out of sailing for 10 years and left 12's a couple of years before that) This might be down to the fact that even though 12's inspired me to take my sailing further and get into boat building. When it came to designing and building my first boat I had already moved over to cherubs. Because I felt they offered me a more open set of rules to experiment. Looking around I don't seem too alone MikeyC is doing very well with is Rocket in the Moths and other people I used to sail with are sailing B14's. There also seems to be a lot of people who have migrated to Merlin's and other RS products. I don't know whether this is because they offer a wider weight range, there's better fleet racing or it's the case of sailing what friends/club sail. Judging by what John Murrell post these all might be the case.

New 12's have become expensive but the ball park cost of fitting out any boats is the same. In fact I could easily spend the same on a complete refit of Subversion as I did when I bought her. It's also worth remembering campaigning a boat to win a national title is never going to cheap in any class. But 12k for a new boat is lot of money to spend especially in this economic climate. In saying that, if you did spend the money given the pace 12 development you will get plenty use out of hull before you have to think about up grading (Dead Cat Bounce 2008). I guess there is still lots of optimization left to do with foils and their control systems. So given time there might be more of trickle down of technology bring old boats up to spec. This in turn should lead to increase in the knowledge base and tempt more people into designing new hulls. After all if really want win you stand a better chance if do more than buy a boat off the shelf. But this all depends on much and how many people are kicking new ideas about and playing with new ideas.

As already mentioned there have been some big changes in the wider world which the class cannot control. The committee and members just have to be aware of them and react accordingly. So fuel bills have gone up and there is a crowded market place. If there isn’t a regular flow of new people into the class bringing in new ideas and not discounting all the hard work it takes to run a class association. If people have got stuck in roles with no one coming forward to take their place can suck their enthusiasm from the committee and lead to stagnation. It is notable no one any of the committees has posted yet! And the forum does seem pretty dead these days.

A couple things are confusing me. The first is if double floors have made the boat uncomfortable to sail for some people. Why hasn't there more experimentation with lower floors or higher shear lines or semi draining boats. The other is the introduction of winged rudders. In class which has taken conservative approach do the adoption to new ideas. Having not around for last 10 years it seems winged rudders  were experimented with freely leading full adoption with boats being designed especially for them. I do wonder why during this period there is still some aversion to rudder gantries which might make life easier to convert existing boats. I also wonder why boats are still sailing around with lead in their masts (I hope I'm wrong on this). I also wonder why the sail plan hasn't evolved to free up restrictions around battens and sail shape. To me the boats still look very traditional but now sporting the latest in foil technology. I just feel like the 12 is giving out mixed messages.  

 With Crusader 3244 I also wonder if the RYA's long term trend for using single handers to teach people to sail is having an effect. I also wonder if then leads/pushes people into sailing SMODs. This is leading to lack crews and people who don’t get fazed by a boat with more than 3 control lines. This before they have start getting their heads round the fact all the boats aren't the same and if don't like something/think it can be done better you can change it.

 A good course of action might be a campaign of  'have a go 12's days' or when ever someone's intrested in your 12 take them sailing. It might also be worth doing some cunning marketing pushing clubs where there is still a strong 12 fleet and making more use of facebook and Twitter. The open circuit is still very strong while the numbers have dropped there looks to be plenty of close racing at all levels the fleet. This also worth shouting about! Remembering that to get to the front of the 12 fleet you are going to need to be good as the standard is very high.

The website does this very well  it's also worth promoting the second hand boat list with DB boats around the 2k mark. As good stepping stone into the class which will be lots of fun to sail along with giving you chance to still bag some decent results at club level and open events. As most boats around this price band have still lots of racing life left in them.
While on subject of promotion I remember I had a chat about 12's with a work mate. He mentioned he always felt the class was wasn't selling itself very well. Sorry, but he also felt the class was mostly sailed by old people who didn't really know why different developments had taken the route they had. I can kind’a  vouch for this at this year’s Dinghy Show while it is nice to be offered cake (being given cake is always good in my book) after brief chat my current idea about comfort over performance (I'm thinking rigging Subversion with a gnav) the conversation drifted into idiosyncrasies of measuring gunwale overhang. I'm an all round boat nerd and I could feel myself getting bored. Sorry guys I’m not getting at you and it was good to chat.

All this aside, there still some hope having returned to Ely sailing club last year there is one cadet at Ely who mad keen on his 12 sailing. Which is part of reason for me getting back into sailing and sailing 12’s from here I have been inspired to organize a 4 planker at Ely. In the hope it will inspire more people to get 12 sailing. Both of us have also benefitted from range of boats on offer on the second boat list. I was able to get back into 12 sailing for under 500 notes and he has just up graded his Crusader to Foolish for under 2K. Something which has got me thinking all is not lost is; Kez and me are going to start sailing at Milton Keynes Sailing and on first visit there they were very welcoming and excited about a 12 coming to the club. I have also sailed there a couple of times during their winter series and both times club members have said how good it is to see a 12 sailing at MK sailing club. Only time will tell is this interest turns into boats on the water. Which has got me thinking about organizing an 12 open there either late summer or early 2015 (this not just because I think it will cool to have a concrete cow trophy ;o)

All our worring could cleared up if there was a post from the people at the coalface manning the stand at this Dinghy Show. Fingers crossed there was tones of sailors keen to know more about 12 sailing and wandering off second boat lists in their hands. You never know someone might be out there now doing the maths and modelling coming up with DCB beater or convincing a boat builder it’s time to get the moulds out.
Sorry turned into a essay but I wanted to get most my thoughts and feelings down in one place.
The futures bright the future is rivers and lakes

Antony (Guest)

I am not sure any of this debate has changed since the 1990s... and you must all believe me when i say that everybody that has been involved in the running of the class in the last 20 years has been worrying about this and hunting for answers.
I do have my doubts about the merits of this discussion being public....
A few thoughts from me:
1. Dinghy racing is in decline generally - for whatever number of reasons - and two handed dinghies are declining  faster.  I do not think that the cost of a new 12 is the issue - stronger classes like the Merlin are a lot more expensive (think £18-20k new or £10-12k for a good used one).
2.  Being a development class has always put the class in danger of ending up as a small niche.  Even back in the heyday of the 1950s or 1960s there were big one-design classes launching and 'taking' people that might otherwise have sailed 12s.  The Moth was tiny and hit a unique jackpot, the 14s and Cherubs are hardly large and thriving classes.
3.  With hindsight, rather like John Murrell, I wish that we had done things differently with regard to the pace and direction of development.  I was there, and am confident that i spoke and voted in ways that with hindsight i wish i had not.  In particular i think that we let the class change too fast in 1997-9 with both double-floors and carbon rigs on top of a weight reduction.  They might have all been the right decision but they should have started earlier and finished later if they were all going to happen.
4.  The winged rudder was always legal - it was not permitted by a particular rule change and so none of us got to vote against it.  I voted with my feet and sold the boat.  My decision was as much to do with children and circumstance as the rudder development as we could have afforded to buy a DCB and continue to play at the front.
5.  We talk about buying a new boat often at home.  My son would like to crew for me in something faster than a Design 8 and keep up with his friends who now crew for their Dads.  It is not the only reason that we have not bought a boat (time and Oppies are more important factors) but seeing the turnout at events being so weak has certainly not encouraged me to splash the money.
Antony, N3348 but previously owning 3123, 3208, 3286, 3384, 3431, 3447, 3484 and 3514.


Antony, problem is where else can the majority of the class discuss this. Even at the AGM as a none boat owner but worried potential boat owner I could not raise it. I do wonder how the various committees feel about this issue, is it a priority or are they willing to maintain the status quo. As for wings think back to dagger boards. They were totally legal and had been around a number of years before they were perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be bad for the class and were outlawed. In this case even allowing a few boats to have a built in advantage. So historically it would not be such a terrible move to ban winged rudders in the interests of the class and it would be even less painful than the daggerboard situation where some boats had to retro fit regular boards and remove centre/ daggerboards. Those peopl who were around then will understand. The problem, as I see it, is that the committee is mostly built up of people who have or who want to win the Champs/ Burton cup and this development suits their interests. I am sure that they look at the state of the class as a whole but their emphasis is probably somewhat biased. 
To me the class has to do something to engage club sailors more and one area that could be used is a class magazine. This used to be a fabulous cad diction to what you got as a member of the association, what do you get now....... Not a lot for your bucks, and as has already been said bucks are short the more you get the better. I know I felt much more connected to the class when I got my hard copy news letter, in fact I still have most of mine from the 90's onwards. If anyone has any 70/80's they want to do ate I would love them.
I am not sure of the impact of double floors and carbon masts. The class was still healthy. Ally masts could easily be replaced and it was an easy retro fit to improve your A/C boat and get a little more speed. 
really not sure about wings on rudders, what is the next logical step, fully foiling twelves. Perhaps this is a problem.. Perhaps people are wary that this development will continue and make the boat less appealing to average sailors. Ok it's never been the simplest boat to sail but do we want it getting too complex. To me the way forwards is to simplify things, keep the weight limit as t is, reduce the amount of exotic materials and somehow make it more appealing to design and make your own boat.
i think to say there are too many other things about today is a little ingenuous as this has always been the case it was just we had a product which was exciting enough and accessible enough for people to get involved. Perhaps as Ben Brown proposed 10 years or so ago it is time to look at upgrading the sail plan to make the boat look more exciting, fully battered sails, big top etc.
I would hope this thread plants a seed somewhere, however small that might help the class forwards. I didn't want it ever to be a rant at the state f the class and a nostalgic look back at the hayday of the class. I feel we need to do something and we need to do it now
12's are for life not just for christmas.


Might help if the class suggest a revised handicap for the double bottomed boats that precede the DCBs. I for one have been struggling to be competitive in handicap fleets during the last few seasons and the latest 9 pt drop is going to hurt.
I would also politely suggest that the new Icon should be a wake up call for the class. A simple 2 sailed boat that carries weight.

Cc (Guest)

Hi all, I hope this comes over in a constructive manner... and maybe you can persuade me to buy a 12!
I have recently been looking at getting a two man boat to sail at my local club with the wife. we only sail on a relatively small pond so a 'simple' two sail boat is required, and therefore on paper, the N12 is ideal. The Ent seems a bit heavy and barge like and we are too small for an alb. If I sailed somewhere bigger, where faster more complex boats could be sailed, then I would buy an RS800 or similar - why sail a slow boat on a big bit of water, especially if everyone else is sailining faster boats?
Most of the time I will be club racing but I would be looking to do the odd nationals and open when time and money allows.  Now this is where the first turnoff jumps out at me... I used to sail t foil 14's so have a bit of experience of sailing with t foils, where generally we used to minimise tacks. Rightly or wrongly, I perceive the t foil 12 as being similar, i.e. not great at quick tacking or generally in the lighter stuff when using a t foil. In my mind it would make a t foil 12 rubbish for my local club. At the same time it's a real switch off buying say a foolish that would be better suited for my local club but on paper can't win any of the big 12 events. Going back to my earlier comment, if I can only sail the boat properly on bigger water then I would buy a properly fast boat. Is this just an urban myth that I have created in my mind? Has the N12 forgotten its routes and limited where a modern 12 can be sailed? Locally most of the 12's are all AC boats but for the above reason this doesn't appeal. 
The second turn off is the perceived competitive crew weight. I consider myself to be fairly small in the grand scheme of things at 5' 10" and 74kg. Me and the other half have a total crew weight of about 21 stone. Again I might have the wrong eng of the stick... But, most 12 sailors I have met make me feel rather heavy in comparison. Talking to friends, both I and others perceived the competitive crew weight for a 12 inland, which is where most club racing happens, to be in the region of 16 to 18 stone. I 'percieve' that me and the wife are just too heavy.  If I had a very young kid then this would be great, but I don't, and I certainly don't feel that I could sail one with a person similar in size to me.
I must confess that I don't know a huge amount about the history of 12's but has the perceived crew weight always been this light or is this a result of fully adjustable carbon rigs? One thing is certain, people in the uk are getting bigger.
Has the average nationals helm or crew age changed much in the last 30 years? I'm just speculating here but are the people that would have historically been 12 sailors now been drawn into the RYA youth squad classes? From my experience, while you might be able to steal the odd person from the 'youth pathway' I would have thought the key market today for the 12 has to be parent and child combinations along with husband/wife, boyfriend girlfriend combinations sailing at your normal inland smallish sailing club. The rs200 seems to be very good at appealing to young couples with time and money along with those coming out of the youth squad system. 
For the 12 to be around in another 40 years time does it need to be a class built bottom up (excitement at club leve with keen club fleets and local open meetings, exciting people enough to want to go to the nationals with club friends to have fun and sail with other 12's) or to be built top down (a need to win mentality where boats trickle down to club level in time as they become uncompetitive at the nationals and where most people are there at the nationals to race)?
I do mean these comments to be constructive and hope that they give people something to think about. To what am I going to buy, well the icon is tempting, but for some reason just doesn't do it for me, I'm still thinking on it...


Having looked at the range of suggested PY’s I’m kinda with Martin that makes sense look into adding another suggested PY.  For either boats not designed for winged rudders or boats not simply not using winged rudders.   I’m also wondering if it is worth taking it further and introduce prizes for boats not using winged rudders. As it might help entice those people who don’t want to get involved with playing with hydrodynamics out and about racing.

On the subject of weight carrying, yeah it’s always been the case that 21 stone is at the heavy end of the weight spectrum. This as much to with anything 12 foot long doesn’t carry weight very well, eg Cherubs are about the same.
Re; The Icon I know what you mean I like the look of it as well, it’s just a bit too much of a toned down NS14 for me.  If it’s not another SMOD than it’s another deferent threat for the 12.
The futures bright the future is rivers and lakes

Nigel Fordyce (Guest)

It is easier to suggest where the N12 Class has gone wrong than to point the way ahead. There could be said to be both internal and external influences which have shaped the class (and its decline).
Internal: 3 mistakes: a. abandonment of clinker construction
It could be argued that there have been internal and external influences which have shaped the class both in its early ascendency and now its sad decline. Internal: l. the abandonment of clinker construction 2. the introduction of the double floor 3. allowing foiling rudders. External: l. the proliferation of market-led alternative classes 2. the difficulty of finding crews when so many youngsters now have their own boats 3. the rise and rise of singlehanded sailing. The foiling rudder just has to be the killer punch. The N12 is now, surely, really a N13 with an extra foot or so aft of the transom quite apart from the turbocharging effect of cleverly manipulated foils  The fact that many of the foilers have had to move the mast aft for best performance perhaps proves the point. Regretably the stable door was left open some years ago and the horse has long gone. Will the class be remembered as the cheaper small brother of the International 14 as it was originally intended to be or as a classic example of the mistake often made of thinking that because you can do something it is automatically the right thing to do. I still have happy memories of my days in the class but not of the way it has been allowed to develop. Nigel Fordyce ex-1149 and 3535.


Not sure I agree re clinker construction but otherwise a very succinct summary of the issues!

David (Guest)

I agree with Nigel, but I would substitute relaxation of the double curvature rule for clinker construction, this was the moment that FRP or Cold Moulding became the main way to build competitive boats, pretty much killing the home or "one-off" builder, and also making experimentation with design much more expensive.  
The class has also pretty well shot itself in the foot with club racing, at Salcombe, which I think quite recently showed a glimmer of light for class racing, it would appear that the class has hit a bit of a barrier, yes there are plenty on the last generation of boats available at a reasonable price, but the step up to DCB is extremely costly for a boat that is poorly suited to the variable conditions of the estuary.
Maybe you do need to turn the clock back?  There are 11 DCB's on the register, some adjustment or sacrifice needs to be made to these boats in order to get a product that is suited to the venues where 12's are best suited, and where there is a realistic prospect of developing lasting club racing?
Could you reduce the allowable area of foils for boats that have them to a point that the last generation can race level, then ban them of boats going forward?
Development has always pushed toward developing Burton Cup winners, certainly from the time that I was first involved in the class.  Burton Cup = Sea Sailing, yet (and I stand to be corrected) there is possibly only one sea club and one sea open meeting (Tynemouth) on the fixture list.  
The truth is that there are loads and loads of classes being invented that are far cheaper and far more effective on open waters than the National 12.  The class needs to direct its attention to club racing at beat and running tricky venues, that is where it excels.
I don't know if I have the right to comment, or if it is appropriate on an open forum, but I do care, and despite having sailed all sorts of boats with great enthusiasm, I have always considered myself as a 12 sailor who sails an International 14 or Salcombe Yawl or Solo.  I suspect that there are plenty like me, some of whom I race against in my Solo!
All the best.
Ex 2925, 3165, 3221, 3281, 3461


Quote from: 1132Having looked at the range of suggested PY’s I’m kinda with Martin that makes sense look into adding another suggested PY.  For either boats not designed for winged rudders or boats not simply not using winged rudders.   I’m also wondering if it is worth taking it further and introduce prizes for boats not using winged rudders. As it might help entice those people who don’t want to get involved with playing with hydrodynamics out and about racing.

A prize is given out to Non-foiling boats.  I think one thing we cannot criticise the class over is there attempts to keep people happy by handing out prizes.  The list of different prize winners at Burton Week is pretty long...

I also turned up in my hopelessly uncompetitive Paper Dart to the Inland Championships 2012 and took away more prizes than any other boat - 4th AC, Oldest (surviving) boat, and first GILL event.  Best weekend sailing I've ever had.
N3162 (Baggy Trousers) "Bicycle Clips"
N2709 (Paper Dart) "Goose Hunter"

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