A big dilemma of yacht ownership is the choice of a one-off or a one-design yacht. Racing offshore, you have to have a rating certificate otherwise the club organizing the race is unable to provide you with a result but the trouble with rating rules they are fickle in nature.
Rating Rule changes come about because designers are constantly redesigning and building boats that will be faster for a given rating. Whenever they succeed in this venture, the older boats are outclassed, requiring the rule-makers to adjust the rating system to accommodate the latest innovation.
Even if an owner does not change his boat, the boats rating will tend to go up and down year after year as the ceaseless skirmish plays out between designers and rule makers. A boat owner wanting to be at the leading edge of racing will need to keep modifying his boat to stay abreast of the latest ideas, resulting in further expense and uncertainty.
To escape this vicious circle of change, the skipper can opt to purchase a production yacht-racer that has the same design specification which last for a number of years. This has its own problems in ensuring that racing remains fair between all the members of the class and controls need to be placed on the way the boats are equipped and used.
Take an instance, where one member of the class buys a complete outfit of new sails at the beginning of the season, he will have an advantage over the skipper who is making do with an older set. It will be then necessary in the spirit of fairness to create a rule declaring how often a new set of sail can be purchased.
This then would be an obvious class rule, but there would be a further need for more rules to control factors such as weight distribution.
- How much fuel and water need be carried when racing, and how is this to be verified?
- What is the weight and type of anchor and how must it be stowed?
- If the anchor and chain is allowed to be stowed under the cabin floorboards is there a clear gain in weight distribution, and is the anchor available to be quickly deployed in an emergency.
- How many crew can race on the boat? With the more people you have on the rail, the quicker to windward, but limiting the crew to a particular number, causes owners seek out the heaviest crew then it becomes necessary to weigh the crew.
These and other controls are required in order maintain a successful one-design yacht-racer such as the Sigma 33. A leading class for many years, mainly because of its strong class association, keeps any unruly motives under control for the overall benefit of members.
In practice this means that the class enjoys large fleets and excellent racing with boats remaining competitive for years and as a consequence commanding good prices in the market.
Conversely the design gradually becomes out date, whereupon sales of new boats dwindle and the builder eventually drops the model from his catalogue. Sailors do go on sailing production yacht-racers long after they are out of date, because they accustomed to the boat and represents an investment such as the Contessa 32 Class or the Sigma 33.
Many yacht builders take an attitude to building and selling a 'stock' boat with good performance but making no guarantee to maintain it as a one-design. There is the advantage to the owner who is able to use standard hull measurements in obtaining a rating therefore avoiding the expense of full hull measurement. In the passing years, the owners may decide to introduce developments to keep it competitive, or sell it on to an owner to race at a lower level of competition or use it for cruising.
At club level you will often find boats that were the top performers 15 years ago being raced in normal weekend events. They have dropped out of the rating system and instead are handicapped on a club-based empirical system. A better feature of the main rating systems is that boats are given an allowance compensating for the age of their design. Sometimes a well-looked-after old boat can be successful in racing, because they have been award a useful age allowance.
Buying a stock yacht-racer makes sense for number of reasons:
- It is liable to be a much better investment than a one-off because popular boats hold their value;
- The cost of spares and repairs will be low;
- Good, fair racing will be available at a variety of events; and
- The builder or the class association will arrange championships with good racing and social events.
It may appear boring to own another one of the hundreds of a popular class, but be confident that you are not spending money wastefully when you buy one.