Dear Association Member,
Further information relating to Special General Meeting 7 December 2019
Dear members of the Etchells Class,
The IECA asked both North Sails and Doyle Sailmakers to provide their thoughts and perspectives on the proposed changes to remove the Annual Sail Acquisition Limit and Sail Card as well as the adoption of a sail royalty system. As the primary Sailmakers to the Etchells Class (as well as numerous other One Design classes around the world) they are uniquely positioned to share their insights and experiences.
From Skip Dieball, North Sails:
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the upcoming proposal to abolish the sail card and the other initiative to implement a royalty system on sail purchases.
From the North Sails perspective, our overall position relates to that of supporting the fleet and regional level racer in their quest to learn, grow and create memorable experiences from Etchells sailing. Back when the sail-card came into effect, this was one of the purposes as it helped control the costs associated with racing Etchells. These days, if someone wants more sails, they simply buy another boat. This isn’t a bad thing if, and only if, they use that additional boat regularly. We are not seeing this.
Sail acquisition rules really become almost a hindrance on those that sail more! Why punish those that sail a lot?
Make no mistake, there are areas of Etchells sailing around the world that truly embrace the sail card as it was intended. We have representatives within North Sails that actively support these areas and they’ve expressed concern that their constituents be heard.
To that end, I have suggested to these folks to look at the upside of losing the sail-card. There will be no more “hoarding” of sails. As a sailmaker for over 25 years, I have seen far too many Etchells sails go into the trash bin....all used up because they are squeezed of every ounce of value due to being on the sail-card. The likelihood of having sails that end up in the trash is far less as you can balance your inventories and contribute to what we feel will be a more vibrant, active and value-oriented 2nd hand market. Selling (and acquiring) slightly used sails for $1000s which have way more life and value than what is currently offered. The sails that are currently available on the existing 2nd hand market (if we can even call it a market) have run their course in the sail-card scheme, and generally are only fetching $100s with little life left.
Now, perhaps, the owners that have had multiple boats to circumvent the sail-card system will put those boats into circulation and our fleets can grow. Our hope is that from the grass roots we get a new group of younger sailors that spend their time locally and regionally to help build the base.
With regard to the Royalty System, we are in full support of the proposed $50/sail. A fair number of active class associations enjoy this revenue stream and it will help the class organize fleet-building initiatives that we’ve seen successful in other classes The proposed amount is very reasonable, compared to other classes. Doing good with the income is paramount. Some examples are below.
- Fleet Level Workshops and Clinics
- Regional (annual) Crew Clinics
- Regional Event - Fleet-wide Coaching
- National and World Event - Coordinated Debriefs sponsored by the class
- Promotion of the Corinthian Division at all event levels
- Marketing the class professionally
- Proper maintenance of the classifieds on all respective web pages
- "First year free" incentives at events subsidized by the class
- R&D into innovative ways to sail the Etchells more efficiently
From Jud Smith, Doyle Sails:
I understand the conflicting arguments for saving the sail-card and acquisition limits. Reducing cost of participation, keeping the competition fairer for all sailors and all those concepts matter. However, this system we have now is broken. It’s become irrelevant. Let me explain my experience with the sail cards and offer an alternative.
As a sailor and sailmaker for the Etchells class for 40 years I have seen the sail acquisition habits in many classes at both ends of the fleet. The Etchells sail card may have been relevant 20 years ago with sail limits and fleet racing but that no longer applies. Owners that wanted more sails just own more boats. It’s not your father’s class anymore. That was more relevant in the fleet racing days. Fleet racing is essentially limited in a few solid areas and they can have their own sail limitations within their fleet if they wanted to regionally. I see no issue with that.
I believe as a first step the sail-card and 6-sail limit should be abolished. Doyle One Design support the class leaders on this proposal and here’s why.
Limiting sails at Regattas is the only real controlling factor in most other successful classes. Star, J70, J24, Lightning, Snipe, Melges and many more have only regatta sail limits. The second hand sails turn over quickly at a huge discount to other teams. The system works very well in the aftermarket. That is a proven winner and helps the teams on a budget that in turn get great sails at a huge savings. Conversely, The Etchells sail-card encourages hoarding of measured sails and they don’t make into the aftermarket until there is no more room in the garages and the trailer boxes.
Unless Etchells owners are limited to only one boat there is no limit to sails currently. This is not a new phenomenon -- it has been this way since the get go. The sail-card accomplishes nothing at the travelling/campaigning level of the class. Most owners lose their cards anyhow and the whole thing is an unmanageable sham. The truth is the teams that want 6 or more sails a year buy them now for multiple boats anyhow. They currently don’t make it to the aftermarket until they are no longer relevant.
If you really wanted to control sails purchase, one suggestion I have been advocating is to limit the regatta inventory to one jib and main and two kites. That works in the J70 and will work in the Etchells class. This is the only way to actually reduce the arms race. Back in the day we used to measure three mains for a regatta and we don’t miss that. The reality is one jib would be just fine too. It works in J70 just fine and keeps the cost down. I recommend that Miami should trial that concept at one of their non-sanctioned regattas.
In the meantime I think the sail limits at the class level should be controlled at the regattas only. At the fleet level they can all control sails as each individual fleet wishes. They’ll find out that the second hand market fixes all that automatically. The aftermarket works like any free market and takes on a life of its own. It’s self-regulating.
I know this is causing much angst around the globe but I “speakith” the truth. The sail-card and 6 sail limit controls nothing. It is merely a mythical bureaucratic instrument that has zero impact on sail purchases. Whether or not the sail card remains or not will have virtually zero impact on new sail purchases with the top of the fleet. If we do away with the sail card it will put a lot of good sails into the second hand market and that will make those teams more competitive. Empty out the trailer boxes and put those sails in to the hands of teams that could benefit from them.
Doyle One Design also supports the Etchells sail royalty proposal. The royalty system is what has worked in all successful one design classes. It’s a long overdue proposal.
Sail purchase limits are used in J111, J105 and Farr 40 and Farr 30 classes and they use buttons to control sail acquisition. I don’t see how that has helped any of those classes endure. Those fleet sizes are much smaller and shrinking. They are much larger one design boats with more exotic sail materials. Sail acquisition limits have not saved those classes.
The classes that have endured are the Star, Dragon, J24, Lightning, Sonar and Snipe. None of those classes have sail acquisition limits. Much of the fleet are very happy buying very competitive one or two regatta used sails. That system has withstood the test of time in the Star, J24, and J70 classes.
Doyle Sailmakers, Inc.
Proposed Rule Changes - Member Feedback
We thank Class Members for providing comments on the proposed rule changes. With these members approval we have reproduced their comments below.
We have now distributed the following:
- Rationale for removal of the Annual Sail Acquisition Limit from Chris Hampton, IECA Vice Chairman;
- Need for Sail Royalty Income from Jim Cunningham, IECA Chairman;
- Proposed system for Sail Measurement from Andrew Palfrey, Class Governor;
- Sailmakers perspective from both North Sails and Doyle Sails;
- Member Feedback
We reaffirm that the proposed rule changes have the overwhelming support of the Class Governors and advise that this is the last posting before the December 7 Special General Meeting.
We hope you have had a chance to review the information and familiarize yourselves with the issues and perspectives presented.
Member Feedback - Thoughts and Perspectives on the Proposed Rules Changes
The comments and views included here are representative of all the input we have received and we appreciate these member contributions to the discussion through their shared experiences and perspectives.
Graham Bailey - Accomplished UK sailor with experience in the Etchells and Dragon classes
I am pleased to be of some assistance and have always shared a deep interest in the class, having started racing Etchells with H over 27 years ago (maybe more?).
By way of background: I have won the Edinburgh Cup 3 times (Dragon British Championship) and the British Etchells Nationals once so far. I have been on the International Dragon Association Technical Committee for fifteen years and chaired it for three years, delivering electric pumps and vacuum infused construction.
As with any proposed rule change, the concern is as to unintended consequences, so the Dragon experience may be a good reference.
- Dragons have no restriction on the number of sails a team can buy.
- Each sail has to have a permanently fixed IDA royalty label which are bought from the IDA secretary. 2019 price is £45 per sail (note also that masts have a similar requirement at £20 per mast label)
- No more than 2 spinnakers can be carried on board whilst racing.
- No more than 8 sails measured in for a championship
With no restriction on the number of sails, the question is whether this has led to an arms-race. The Dragon circuit has no shortage of high-budget teams. Whilst occasionally some have been said to turn up with their own tweaks to a sail design, by and large, the development has plateaued and anyone can buy the same sail as Lawrie Smith or Andy Beadsworth or the Russians etc, so the big budget teams are not managing to develop sails that are not available to the rest of us. Accordingly there is no arms-race in the development sense.
The only question is whether enabling teams to turn up with new sails for every regatta will somehow harm the class. It seems to be no issue in the Dragons. At the main events all contenders turn up with good sails and nobody feels out-gunned.
The great thing about the high budget teams is that their trailer boxes fill up over the season and so lower budget teams (like ours) can buy very good sails second hand. We have taken national events and races at big international events using second-hand sails.
I am sure you will have healthy debates, but removing the sail card looks straightforward.
Sherwood Kelley - Long-standing (40 years) Corinthian member - USA 1092 - San Diego Fleet
This proposal is really a request for exoneration and regularization of rules that have been openly ignored for the last 10+ years. It is of value that individuals who have felt this behavior to be necessary to be competitive have come forward with a desire to fix this problem. These rules were set 50 years ago, and the Class thrived under them for many of those years when cost limits contributed to Class growth. That said, Jud is correct that the Class is not “your father’s Etchells Class anymore”, and those who now make up the Class should set rules they are willing to follow. They should also consider other electronic and manufacturing materials changes currently available.
The main response to those who still think that restricting sail acquisitions builds class participation and new members is that it no longer does. It may have worked at one time, but there are other issues now.
My view after 40 years in the Class: (a) set no limits on sail acquisition; (b) use measurement aka “royalty” buttons which are numbered and recorded by the sailmaker in an encrypted Class-controlled file; (c) sail with whatever sails are on file in sanctioned events, pre designated on participant’s entry form, ie, no more sail measuring at an event; (d) allow event administrators to determine sail restrictions, thus giving consideration to light or heavy air venues.
Ian Trotter - Corinthian member - San Diego Fleet
From personal experience in the 2017 worlds, we were not thinking we were going at the end of 2016 and we ordered a couple sails, by the time it got here and we carded those sails and another used one it was too late of be carded for 2016. When we decided to go to the 2017 worlds we were down to being able to only card 3 sails. Being San Francisco we needed more than that and it forced us to have to stick with a couple old sails and leave two brand new ones in the box uncarded. We don't own two boats and we follow the rules and card everything. This forced us to not be as competitive as we wanted for the worlds while other boats were fully stacked with a full new inventory. I know poor planning does not make a good excuse but the way the card has worked did not favor the "Regular" non-pro boats like us.
I sailed in the J24 fleet for years. With no limitations and only royalties I would purchase a full set of sails (main, genoa, jib, kite) and sail those sail for a couple regattas and then sell the entire set at a good discount and then purchase another full set. This helped boats that could not normally afford a full new set be able to get a very competitive set for a good price and I then had a new set again. I never ended up with a box full of sails and the rest of the fleet benefited from this. I also never had to worry about what happens when you ruin a sail and your card is full. Also, when the J24 class allowed for better materials the genoa lasted longer making for less wasted money and sails, it also brought the costs down and made selling them used a much better deal for the second owner.
Gary Bunyard - Corinthian member - AUS 747 - Melbourne Fleet
Whilst an experienced sailor I am relatively new the Etchells Class and compete primarily at Club level on a restricted budget.
Our sails are nearing the end of their useful life. Notwithstanding we derive much satisfaction matching the performance of much better equipped boats at Club level and are of the view that our greatest percentage gains will be achieved through skills development and practice.
We have no concern with the proposed withdrawal of the sail acquisition limit but consider that we will benefit greatly from the ability to acquire ex regatta sails in good condition from well funded teams at a large discount to new price.
Eric Doyle - North Sails and long-standing Etchells sailor - San Diego Fleet
I am in full support of getting rid of the sail card and putting royalties on the Etchells sails. Either the Star buttons or cloth stickers work well. It is not easy to transfer from one sail to another and if the class numbers the royalty sequentially, one can make sure that they do not end up on different sails for multiple regattas. The cloth stickers would be a better option for spinnakers.
The class should include in their new rules that all sails used during any Etchells event must have a royalty button attached to it. We attach royalties to every single sail that leaves the loft in classes which require them. This ensures that even if the sail gets re-sold as a used sail to a different owner, the sail will be legal for any class race. We build the cost of the royalty into the overall price of the sail.
We purchase the royalties directly from the class offices and generally supply a purchase order number that we must pay within 30 days. We generally buy in bulk and each class keeps records of what each sailmaker buys during the calendar year. This is a great indicator of how the class is doing overall and can be very useful to indicate trends in the class, both good and bad.
Matt Reid - Tom Abrey’s "Jolly Roger, GBR 1352" Team – 2019 UK National Champs and winners of the inaugural Champion of Champions series on the Solent - Cowes Fleet
We’ve had a good year on Jolly Roger.... I’d say it’s just down to consistent sailing throughout the last few years.
So, an insight to our sail wardrobe. This year we acquired a main and two jibs that have sailed the whole season. Spinnaker-wise, we were running 2017’s which have now done 3 seasons. We also used just one main for the 2016, 17 and 18 season, but that was pushing it and you then run into issues like batten pocket failure. We only acquire 2-3 sails per year for the Cowes summer racing.
So you can see our sail acquisition is under half of the quota, relaxing this limit would make no difference to us in Cowes.
Ruairidh Scott - current J70 World Champion and accomplished Dragon Sailor of many years experience - Sail Designer at North Sails UK
In my opinion, removing sail card restrictions is a good thing. Sail restrictions penalize people from actually going sailing which has to be a bad thing. Better to allow teams to get better by actually sailing and then getting a new sail when it’s required. The classes which do not restrict sails are the most successful OD classes. J70, Dragon, Melges 24, Star etc
However an absolute top budget J70 team will buy 1 or 2 mainsail, 3 jibs and 1 kite per year, if they are doing a lot of sailing. The number of jibs is due to the damage that occurs in a bad furl rather than when sailing. This is not a lot and by no measure an arms-race. This is the number of sails we bought this year and did a lot of sailing with those sails.
Realistically how many mainsails would you go through in an Etchells if there was no restriction? I’d say two at the most for very active teams, once you found the design that worked best for you. The lighter-used of those two would be fine for the following season. I don’t think you would go through many kites either. More jibs possibly, as these could be a bit more venue specific? San Diego vs San Francisco for instance.
We sell our 2nd-hand sails (in both the Dragon and the J70 classes) on to teams all over Europe at half price or better. This is pretty common with a good 2nd-hand culture being well established. We sell these on when they are still in decent shape so the purchaser gets a good deal. Mains might be a year old but headsails are normally 3-4 regattas old.
Laurence Mead - 31 years of Etchells sailing, with 7 years as a boat owner - former Fleet Captain of the Cowes Fleet - current Regatta Director of Cowes Week (the UK’s biggest and most prestigious sailing event)
I previously expressed some skepticism about this change when I heard about it, but it’s true to say that the current system doesn’t work and the proposed rule changes will generate both revenue for the class and hopefully trickle down sails of usable quality.
I’m happy to support on that basis.