I've just got back from the championships at Weymouth. This was a good chance to look at one of the biggest collections of National 12s in the same place this year. What did I notice?
The most obvious is that the windward/leeward variable length do anything jibstick is here to stay. Of about 75 masts that I scanned one day, only about ten were not using the dangly pole system as described by Tom Stewart in newsletter #68. The great advantage of this system is that it is easy to set up without having to make holes in the mast, in fact some of the systems looked as thought they were still the owners original ideas that had never been tidied up. Newer boats have the shock cord hidden inside the mast, but there is still a lot of windage from the line that has to be mounted along the front of the mast. If you have a crew who can oversheet the jib on the beat, beware of getting the pole too long, otherwise they will be able to oversheet the jib on the reach as well, with the chance of bending the pole at the same time.
Incidentally although Tom ascribes the idea to Steve Lightfoot, in fact Barry Jones was using a similar system at the 1996 championships, so some credit due to him. Barry tells me that he has simplified the system further. The bottom end of the pole is permanently attached to the clew of the jib. This removes the need for a line inside the pole and a block at the top, so it can be thinner. Aerodynamicists among you will have to decide whether dangling in the slot, or along the mast is worst for the windward leg!
I am still using the system described in newsletter #67. This has the advantage that apart from the pole, there is nothing interfering with the airflow around the mast, and you need to pull less string to get the thing set. The disadvantage is that the bottom end of the pole beats hell out of the foredeck, and you need to spend a lot of time fiddling with pole length, position of universal joint and shock cord strength to get it to work well.
The common place for the pole control line cleat is on the deck [or space frame] beside the mast. For best efficiency, you should mount it on a swivel, because the crew needs to be able to adjust the pole length from anywhere in the boat. When you gybe with the pole still in use, the line tangles with the kicking strap. It may be better to lead the line elsewhere, but that depends on the interior layout.
So, be warned, without one of these systems you will be left behind on a long reach. Two years ago I had a distinct advantage downwind, but now that everyone else has copied the idea, I shall have to think of something else!
Malcolm Mackley has an entirely different solution to the problem of making the jib set efficiently on all points. His jib is smaller than usual, and permanently mounted on a jib boom and is self tacking. There are independent controls for fullness, twist and sheeting angle. He has now overcome a lot of the initial problems and is going well. [Look at the results.]
If you use a carbon pole, paint it white, because if they hang about in the hot sun for too long they can lose their strength! There are now a fair number of carbon booms, and a rather smaller number of carbon masts. These seem to behave well, and have much less windage. Kevan Bloor tells me that the variation of bend characteristic between 'identical' masts can be up to 20% - so maybe let your sailmaker measure the mast before making the new sail?
All the new boats this year have double bottoms and are self draining. This might seem a good idea, but my observation is that if you are in the habit of washing your burgee during the race, then these new boats like to do it properly and invert very quickly. Decide for yourself whether righting a conventional boat from 90 degrees and sailing it dry is quicker or slower than righting from complete inversion!
The new Waller boats have their shroud anchorages on a 450mm track on the gunwale, together with some clever 'stringery' that allows the carriage to be moved about without adjusting the rig tension. This works very well, until you put the boat on its side on the sand for a check measurement.
I didn't do a count, but I guess most boats have lowers these days. Decide for yourself what you want them to do. Set them athwartships for control of sideways bend only, or anchor them near the shrouds for fore and aft control as well. Paul Oakey has no foredeck and fixed length lowers, and adjusts his rig with about 50mm movement on the jib halliard. Maybe you should have learnt in a 505 to do it this way.
Some time ago there were a few dagger board rudders, with wings on the bottom for some reason or other, but they seem to have been abandoned. Dare Barry has a dagger board rudder without wings, and a curved transom. Also a centre main - one of three at Weymouth. Talking to crews of boats with centre mains they don't find it too restricting - so there's something you could try if you prefer looking at the mayhem at the gybe mark when approaching....
I guess that's about it, except for one thing that isn't really about equipment, but is relevant for pond sailors who don't go to sea very much. My notes say paradoxical positioning. This is a reminder. Inland sailors tend to sit forward on the beat, and further aft downwind when planing. Not in Weymouth bay, and not at Pevensey either! Up the beat, sit out on the widest part of the boat. Close together around where the thwart is - if you have one. This helps to prevent slamming on the waves, and with luck you can catch a cross swell and plane up the beat. By contrast: downwind, planing/surfing on the wave, I spend a lot of my time almost forward of the shroud, with my crew on the opposite side doing the same - keeping the nose of the boat down the next wave.
I hope that keeps you up to date - and good sailing wherever you are!