As many of you know, there are ongoing serious concerns with the C420. Here at PS2000, we have been, so far, silent on the issue of decertification of some of our boats immediately prior to the North American Championships, in San Francisco, CA. While incurring many tens of thousands of dollars in damages and an unimaginable amount of stress on our staff, we have felt that it would be best for the C420 Class, and C420 sailors generally, to acquiesce to the mandates of the Class while they found a way to roll back these rash and unjustified actions with the least embarrassment and permanent damage to the health of the Class.
Throughout this affair, the C420 Class has presented itself as a paragon of one design integrity. And although this has always been the intent of the board, it is simply not true, has never been true. To claim that our decertified boats are the only ones that do not conform to the construction manual is the height of self deception and the rankest of hypocrisy. If anything, these boats conform more closely to the letter of the construction manual than any others sailing today. Their exclusion lies not in the actual rules of construction but in the clause in the manual that requires builders to notify the secretary of changes and gain approval in advance. Which we, in fact, failed to do.
And, in fact, no builder has ever informed the class of a change in lamination, materials or methods. Ever. The Class is wholly unaware of the materials, lamination schedules, construction methods and tools used by any of the builders. There has never been an independent certification of materials or methods. Ever. This despite the undeniable fact that construction of the boats has always been in a process of change and improvement for all the builders, throughout the life of the Class.
PS2000 has been, by far, the most open, cooperative and transparent of the 3 builders. We have been, likely, a cautionary tale for the other builders. When we built a new set of molds, we reported it to the class and had to go through a lengthy, but utterly fictional certification process. By contrast, our competitor is building boats out of at least 3 sets of molds on 2 continents and has never informed the class of an increasing number of tools being used. Another has changed builders at least 3 times and never informed the class. All this is obvious and widely known but goes unquestioned.
Let’s consider the issue of changes more fully. Because of the “inform and approve” clause of the construction manual, no changes are legal, even if within the rules, if not specifically reported and approved. Talk to any long serving maintenance staff at a club that utilizes the C420 and they will verify that the boats have most certainly undergone changes in lamination techniques and materials over the years. Ignoring the myriad of ways the boats can, and have, been altered that can’t be easily detected after the construction process is finished, there are some that can. In a single example, for years the rigs were perfectly interchangeable between the 3 existing builders and the past builders, regardless of spar or boat supplier.
As we saw at NA’s when we were swapping new masts onto other builder’s boats, the masts are no longer interchangeable. Why wasn’t this an obvious red flag? It’s clear that one builder has altered the boat in some way so that, once interchangeable, the rigs must now be specific to that builder. We don’t point this out because we wish to see those hundreds of boats made illegal, we point it out because in the course of a single regatta, one during which boats owned by a third of the fleet were being tossed out, it was at least as obvious, indeed far more obvious, that another builder had altered their boat and it went entirely unquestioned and unaddressed. To have righteous indignation that one change has been made and then to willfully ignore another seems, to us, patently unfair and, frankly, inexcusable.
There is a clear pattern of the Class enforcing some of the rules, some of the time and only for some builders. They are in possession of clear proof that boats being built for at least the last 5 years include internal stringers that are specifically banned in the construction manual.
So, within a matter of days, the board has voted to ban a large number of PS2000 boats because they have been built with methods not actually banned by class rules and then also voted to allow boats that are clearly built with expressly banned structural additions. More than this, the Class President and the Measurer have refused repeated requests to verify that the construction manual provided to PS2000 is the same document being used to make these decisions.
PS2000 has been asked to follow rules the Class can’t, or won’t, provide or verify. They’ve decertified boats that conform to the rules as provided, and affirmed boats that clearly do not. The sailors are the most important stakeholders in this struggle. We, at PS2000, hope they will speak up and send the Class a message that this kind of double standard can not stand.