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Measuring the strength of a one design class

Published on July 11th, 2019

While one design class builders are guided by class rules and occasional oversight, it is at championship events when the expert officials gather for the best look at how standards are maintained. And if you’ve been involved in one design racing long enough, you’ll see an occasional kerfuffle when problems are discovered.

Of course, given the effort and expense to attend championships, this is the worst time for illegalities to surface, particularly when non-conforming boats cannot be brought within measurement tolerances. But what are rules if not followed, which was the reality recently faced by the Club 420 Association.

Here’s the class statement:

The Club 420 Association Class Measurer, in consultation with the Class Board of Directors, has determined that certain boats recently delivered to the United States do not meet the requirements of the Class Builders Construction Manual.

Following a thorough inspection of new Club 420 boats which entered the US from China in 2019 under the brand “PS2000”, it was determined that these boats do not meet the requirements of the Class Builders Construction Manual. The non-conforming elements in violation of Class Rules are:

1. These boats were built using a resin infusion method and materials that are not class approved. Using this infusion method affects durability, boat stiffness, and other issues.
2. These boats have additional structural elements at the bottom of the centerboard trunk alongside the stringer which is expressly not allowed by the Class Builders Construction Manual.

It is a core mission of the Club 420 Association to ensure that the Club 420 sailing dinghy is the product of a strict one-design regimen so that the Club 420s are built to consistent, uniform standards so that racing is fair and that the sailors, not the equipment, determine the outcomes.

It was determined that if these boats were used at the upcoming Club 420 North American Championship, their use would constitute unfair racing conditions. As a result, boats with specific Club 420 plaques, as listed on the class website, were disapproved for Club 420 class events.

The Board’s action was intentionally swift in order to initiate and facilitate alternative arrangements for replacement equipment for the affected sailors. The Club 420 North American Championship is being held at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco from July 11-13, and 16 boats were prohibited from registering.

“This was a really difficult and complex problem to address, but the Board’s decision was the right one,” said Class President John Morgan. “What has pleased me about this unfortunate situation is how the C420 community — the Builders, the Class, its members and supporters — have stepped in to ensure those 32 sailors impacted by the situation would be able to compete as planned.

“After our announcement, 17 boats were located and delivered to St. Francis Yacht Club. One Board member located several available boats, jumped in his car and picked up those boats and delivered them to St. Francis.

“This is how the class pulled together and made certain that there were race ready boats. It is a great part of a tough story and exemplifies the core values and mission of this class of youth sailing.”

“I truly wish this did not coincide with one of our major annual championships, but we had no choice but to address it head on,” shared Dan Bornarth, Class Measurer. “One of our cornerstones in the class is the level playing field we have between all the boats, no matter the builder or the age of the boat when well maintained.

“Allowing a builder to supply a boat that has a clearly perceived performance advantage, as well as not following the builder specifications we command our builder to follow, would have eroded very quickly the integrity of the class.

“While it is a struggle for some of the sailing families that this ruling has affected, I am extremely impressed with the C420 sailing community, and how they have banded together to rally and find boats for the affected teams to use. This truly is a credit to our class and how they pull together to correct an unfortunate issue that has happened to one of our builders.”

The Class is working with the Builder of the PS2000 to address the concerns of our membership to ensure positive outcomes for all our sailors.

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