beware the future

Dear F18 and other Sailors,
A word of caution as week think about rejecting class innovations like DS, hard launchers and C-Boards under the principle that “new fangled stuff will add cost and drive members away.”.
As an “old” salt who owned one of the first batch of lasers back when my area was all about Force 5’s – my heart leans towards Bill Hardesty who points out the Laser as the model of class preservation. I wish that was the way US sailors thought, but my observation of actual behavior of the modern American consumer-sailor shoots some gigantic holes in the Laser theory of class management as a template for keeping numbers in the face of innovation.
Just look at the J/80 to J/70b shift. I was a J/80 sailor – loved having a sport-boat that I could leave at the mooring and actually day sail with friends and family. The 2011 J80 worlds in Newport with 70 boats and top sailors from around the showed the health of the 20-year-old class. European regattas regularly attracted over 100 boats. When Jeff shared his plan for the 70 – I thought he was nuts – a Melges 20 Mark II – another little lead mine that you couldn’t leave on a mooring and couldn’t take day sailing with non-sailors – all for the privilege for going 10% faster. It seemed stupid and tragic to me and I used the same examples Laser, Hobie, and the J/105.
It turns out that the modern American Sailor is a fashion consumer who places little value on sustainability or being inclusive. The only profitable scale US business in the industry is North Group – and their profits are based on customers who prefer Carbon Sails that wear out faster than a Schick razor blade over a Vectran sail that could last 4-5x – foul weather gear is disposable – boats and classes are disposable. It took the J/70 about one year – with a little help from North pros – to kill the J/80.
Sailing has fully morphed into a fashion business. An uncomfortable truth. But ignore at your peril US F18 class.
I am a Cat newbie, but the DS looked pretty good and fun to me at the CataCup. Hard chute launchers to help make tacking easy seems smart. I have a foiling A Cat as well – am an engineer who understands CFD models, etc. and C-Boards seems a bit silly – but if they want fins on cars, give them fins on cars.
Chris Bulger (so old fashion, he uses his real name)
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