While it's not exactly heresy, the bigger spinnaker used to exist - it was considerably wider across the foot - and it was done away with as of 1978. I vividly recall sailing an entire run of over a mile with my huge chute while the Brit behind me was sailing with the old and far smaller European-size chute in the 1976 Worlds. Over that time, we gained perhaps 50 feet. The next day, the same guy (Colin Wilson, the 1976 World champ) was again a couple of lengths behind us around the windward mark. The first reach was broad and we gained nothing but the next reach was much closer-winded. We tried to defend our wind with our big chute up but Colin easily sailed 10 degrees higher than we could - and considerably faster. I still remember the smile on his face as he breezed on by. It was bad enough that I asked my sailmaker about this. He said that neither the large nor the small UK spi was ideal for the parameters presented by a W - somewhere in the middle would be best. Could he design me something of an ideal in-between size, I asked. He came up with a spinnaker that turned out to be very fast and that came to within half an inch of measuring in for the new, universal measurements adopted the next year by the WIC.
Another example of bigger not necessarily being better that springs to mind is a CL16 (W clone) North Americans in 1978. My wife, Julia, and I were allowed to borrow a CL that was a known "dog" but we decided to sail it just for fun. When we took off the cover, there were two feet of water inside the boat with algae growing - and its gear was not much better. We had to use the CL's main and jib but had brought our W spi (the new, "intermediate" size that is now universal in W's). In three Saturday medium-air races, we were outclassed in pointing and speed upwind and rounded behind their top 5 guys off each first beat. The ensuing first reaches were too close to fly the big spis then used by most W's and all Cl's, but our smaller spi was just fine. When we hoisted, we began to gain, so the leaders figured it was spi time. But their big spis had to be strapped in so close that they went even slower and in each race we passed the five leaders on that leg and lost literally nothing to the bigger spis on the dead run. We won all three races. Need I say more!?
And even if bigger were faster, such a chute would make all the current spis obsolete, something that would not be good for the Class.
In a 1965 vote, we were considering changes that might make the W faster and one of our guys replied: "Even if you added supersonic thruffle nuts, you'd never make a 5-0-5 out of a Wayfarer!" Since those days we have tried to allow only new things that make the boat easier for people of all sizes and physical abilities to sail on a level playing field (e.g. rigging systems easily handled by delicate spouses, etc.) or safer - but nothing intended simply to make the boat faster. The latter is, in my opinion, rightfully opposed on the grounds that the W will never be a Flying Dutchman anyway, so if we make it a tiny bit faster, all we're doing is forcing every other racer to spend time and money to remain competitive - and then be sailing a more expensive bathtub that's a tiny bit faster.
Finally, on the subject of the Wayfarer World which was largely introduced because the main UK market for W's, the sailing schools, demanded a boat with features such as spi launchers and asymmetrical that are part of the approved RYA Training standards. Marc and I sailed Ralph Roberts' World before the 1998 Worlds in Denmark, and were appalled to discover that with the asymmetrical chute, the W must be "tacked downwind" instead of sailing straight down the run. The big asymmetrical chute being like an oversized jib that collapses from lack of air once you bear away beyond a certain point (about 20 degrees high of dead downwind!), you have to zig-zag down the run. I am sure that on most days, this extra distance sailed would more than cancel out any extra speed you might get by sailing higher with a bigger chute, and I for one would love to sail a few series head-to-head against a Wayfarer World with bowsprit and asymmetrical spi and see who would be faster. I suspect there would be no great advantage for either boat - except I would expect to axe them on the dead runs!
What I love about racing W's is that almost always, it is a matter of who sails his or her boat the best and that no amount of money thrown at the W can automatically make it a boat that's impossible to beat. I know that other sailors prefer the "development" Classes such as the International 14 where they constantly try to make the boat even faster, but the W just is not that kind of boat. What it is, as you have discovered, is a very versatile boat that is still fast enough to beat many dinghies - even performance dinghies in light to medium airs! - and give bigger boats such as Lightnings, J-22's, etc. all they can handle boat for boat in most races. What you likely have not seen is how beautifully the W handles a nasty chop like the one we often get off TS&CC. The Danes say it very well: The W is the "boat for all occasions". Once you have decent sails and rigging, you can relax knowing that the rest is your skill against the skill - rather than the money - of the competition!
Wow, Richard, I certainly did manage to go on, eh? I think it's great that you are so keen and went to the effort of suggesting a possible improvement - and I hope you will keep doing so. Best wishes for good races against the "faster" boats at your club,
Uncle Al (W3854)
----- Original Message -----
From: Richard Johnson
Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 9:28 PM
Subject: Heresy of the highest order: Bigger spinnakers
In Europe I've seen pictures details of a high performance Wayfarer with an asymmetrical spinnaker. That spinnnaker by the way is two square meters larger than our present symmetrical spinnakers. I also know that asymmetrical spinnakers are all the rage. Personally I don't want to even consider an asymmetrical, and I consider the new souped up boat as a threat to the class. But the idea of a slightly larger spinnaker could have merit.
I'm sure this subject has been discussed before. I would be curious what has been discussed in the past. I would be curious if anyone is interested in considering it now. We all know that spinnakers can be a two edged sword. Handled well and they are a secret weapon, handled poorly and they can sink you. So my feeling is that a larger spinnaker may not be the death of the class, and may not necesarily obsolete boats with a standard spinnaker. In fact spinnaker size could possibly be left to the disgression of the skipper depending on wind conditions.
Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not thinking about a huge overpowering spinnaker, but perhaps the addition of a panel or two to the bottom of the spinnaker. The spinnaker must be manageable by two people.
If there is some positive interest I would be glad to work with a sailmaker to have one made and would modify my boat as necessary to accept the new sail. Basically I'll put my money where my mouth is. But I'd like to get some feed back on what would be a reasonable increase in size for the boat. Also there may be a benefit in attracting new sailors to the class, which would not be a bad thing either.
I look forward to your responses, scathing or otherwise.