What is Hard is Good

Published on December 12th, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Paul Elvstrom was one of the first recipients of World Sailing’s Beppe Croce Award, which honors an individual for their outstanding voluntary contribution to the sport of sailing. When accepting the award, Elvstrom shared the observation, “It is much harder to build a strong and vibrant International Class Association than design a new boat.”

Elvstrom’s message is as true today as when he said it in 1990. Creating a new boat is easy, but creating the inertia to sell many, and managing boat owners to remain committed, is hard.

The 470 class, designed in 1963, recently produced a promotional video, to which a comment said, “The 470 would potentially make a fantastic revival if it incorporates an asymm chute with bowsprit of course, and ideally a foil. You need a 2 person boat, one that can take sizable waves, and has new generation technologies, because asymm chutes and foils are dominating or will very soon. Can it be that hard to modify the 470 and make it work well? I suspect not. I’d love to try one!”

And that can be the attitude, what with so many new boats being launched with these features. But what the 470 might lack in new-age design, it has an abundance of class members. Used as Olympic equipment since 1976, the 470 is sailed in more than 61 nations around the world.

This is because the 470, like many enduring one design classes, are as much about competition as they are community. The success of a class relies on both the people and the boat. For a class to be strong and vibrant, both need to be well managed and fit the needs of a wide swath of people.

But when done well, there is tremendous value for the sport and the sailors. And if it was easy, everybody would do it.

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