National 12 - find out more...


Paul Oakey N3385

The last few years have seen numerous new classes which have taken existing and potential owners away from Twelve's. Compared to the opposition the boats now seem tame particularly for a crew downwind unless it is blowing oId boots , on a championship style course, the crew rarely sits out on the reaches, you could set tighter reaches but is that really the answer? I often wondered why the reaches always seem broad in a TweIve but tight in a spinnaker boat where the pole never seems to leave the forestay. The latest asymmetric boats now make it obvious, apparent wind, if you go quickly the wind is always ahead so you go quicker still, by today's standards the Twelve lacks horse power!

In the period I have been sailing National Twelve's there have been numerous rule changes to buoyancy keels and weight alI of which are potentially expensive for existing owners but none of which have made the boats significantly faster. By significantly faster I mean that the handicap comes down by at least two minutes in a hundred. If the class is to survive and prosper we need more sail area, but definitely not another sail. The boat must remain as a two sail no trapeze class to retain its niche in the market.

Over the last fifteen years or so I believe the Twelve has developed to maximise performance in light to moderate conditions to the detriment of its ability to sail well in strong winds, and this paradoxically is because it is now relatively under powered. The first race of Burton Week an Tenby was abandoned after two laps because half of the fleet was struggling. The weather was grey grim and grimy the sea was surprisingly confused but it was not very windy, probably only 15 to 20 knots. (i.e if measured with an anemometer rather than after a few pints and with an arm on the Bar). If it had been a Fireball or 505 championship race it would have been regarded as a good thrash round, with the majority of the fleet racing, not just surviving.

So how will more sail improve the classes' ability to handle a bit of wind? This mans mad, possibly but read on. Sail a 505 and you spend your whole Iife trying to get rid of some horse power consequently when it starts to really blow it's not a shock just a natural progression of how you normally sail.

A Twelve is different, most leading boats have relatively stiff masts with lowers, or struts, anything to generate power particularly off the wind. De-powering on a reach in a Twelve means not easing the outhaul and the leeward shroud, as opposed to easing the kicker and pulling on heaps of cunningham which is common in powerful boats- Even upwind we have adjustabIe rigs but don't use them. On my 505 I used 125mm of jib halyard range to rake and bend the mast between powered up and fully de-powered settings, on the Twelve I use about 30mm. I know the boats and rigs are very different but the principal is that in a Twelve you do not have to do much to de-power the sails. In an old Twelve newsletter there was a reproduction of an article by the late Ian Proctor, who designed a number of successful Twelve's, about how the advent of the self bailer has effected the design of the boats. Before bailers it was essential that the boat was seaworthy even to the extent of minimising the amount of water shipped from spray. Self bailers enabled the development of the current wide beam, fine bowed, flat rockered Twelve.

Imagine what more sail area could do for the class. There would be new incentive to design boats to make use of the power, for example increase the fullness under the mast, maintain maximum beam further forward, even go for less than minimum rise of floor and hence waterIine beam. A more balanced and aesthetically pleasing rig may develop with relatively bigger jibs, a feature which would improve control in a blow and add to crew interest.

Any rule change wilI make boats uncompetitive but so do old sails, we all have to buy new sails sooner or later even if they are second hand, bigger sails shouldn't cost significantly more. Providing that any rule change ensured that there was no need to change existing masts and booms upgrading existing boats would not be a problem, perhaps initially by putting all the area into a big jib. At least you can buy new bigger sails and your boat will go faster. Try removing 10Kg or even 5Kg of weight from a boat without correctors, DIY will take time and money, get it done professionally will cost lots of money, and what difference will it really make when the all up sailing weight of hull, rig and crew is about 220Kg.

The current crop of strict manufacturers one designs make even the latest Twelve's look relatively slow and dated. However, they are stuck with it locked in time, would you sail a Twelve if it had not moved on from where it was thirty years ago? The class has changed lots of rules to allow thoroughly modern hulls, why not consider a rig to match? The sails are the only thing that's pushing you forward everything else is holding you up.

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