then and now

then and now

Steve Clark shares a Tempest tale….

My brother and I at the 1969 Atlantic Coast Champs, this was the last race we sailed together, we were on fire upwind.
I sailed Tempests through the 1972 trials. My Dad and I were the oldest and youngest competitors and finished 8th.

Tempests were really fast boats but you had to sail them properly, and to do that you had to be big and strong. At 6’1" 190 pounds I was a small crew. I wore the max weight ( at the time 20 kg) and had a cup on a bungee so I could keep my weight jacket sopping wet. There have been very few small boats that I wasn’t strong enough to muscle around, but the Tempest was one of them. I was rowing pretty competitively during those years and there were things that just didn’t happen if you didn’t catch the moment just right. People thought the loads would be about like those on an FD, but they were more like those on a half tonner. The best crews were over 6’6 and that’s why David Hunt built his platform dinghy boots. These were deemed to be "hiking assists" and were therefore banned, but we all shopped for the thickest sole boots we could find and added insoles to be as tall as we possibly could be and not get busted. The boats could fly.

The Tempest was repeatedly and ruthlessly hacked by the Star class and it’s supporters in the IYRU. There wasn’t a single thing about the boat that wasn’t belittled or criticized. Hypocrisy and intellectual honesty weren’t even a concern as long as the Tempest was killed an the Star reestablished as the Olympic keelboat. At the time I didn’t understand that it s not possible to sail a legitimate Olympic regatta without the Star and the Finn because those two classes epitomize yacht racing to the majority of IYRU delegates.

The Tempest was, however, a product of it’s time. It would look different if you did it today. The Keel in particular was terrible. The raising feature wasn’t done well, so they were all bonded in the down position, and the mild steel flat plate rusted constantly. Other than the fact that a flat plate keel was just wrong, it was a constant maintenance headache. The construction also was mid 60s vintage single skin mat and roving laminates that were not very stiff by modern standards. Add to that the fact that the hull deck joint was a shoe box ( which just doesn’t work well, and the floor stiffeners were hard to bond to the underside of the cockpit and you have a product that wasn’t always right. The Mader boats were assembled with more care and thus were generally better. Like so many things, value engineering forced compromises that didn’t really save anyone any real money, but made the product harder to own and maintain.

The biggest thing Mader did was to cheat the keel specs. There was a tolerance on how heavy the keel had to be. It started by letting people drill lead out of the bulb to keep their older boats down to weight. The bulb was cast in halves from official molds, and Mader started pouring the minimum amount of lead into each half. Thus his bulbs were quite a bit thinner than everyone else’s. There was really legal way to modify existing keels to look like Maders. and a bulb that is something like 30mm thinner is a whole lot less draggy.

I have drawn the second generation Tempest on the back of more than one place mat and in the margins of more than one boring agenda. The existing boat can humiliate most modern sport boats, the next one (with double wires and and a masthead a sail) would treat them like a prison bitch. But I have never done anything serious about it because the original boat, which was so fucking brilliant, got such a shaft from the yachting establishment. If the market couldn’t accept what that design was capable of, why would they accept the thing that came next. The anti Tempest propaganda is so dense that it has become regarded as fact. Most people think I am totally nuts when I say the Tempest was a great design, do it again with what we know and have available now…..

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