Mistakes when assessing performance

Published on December 14th, 2022

Julian Everitt, yacht designer and former editor at Seahorse magazine, often rekindles the evolution of IOR race boats on his Facebook page. In this report, he highlights the brilliance of a boat and the error of its designer:

Another underestimated beauty from that epoch making era of ocean racing was the gorgeous S&S designed America Jane 11. Like Terrorist, AJ suffered misfortune in the 1974 One Ton Cup (arguably one of the greatest offshore racing events ever) that masked her real potential.

Unlike previous IOR race boat from S&S, AJ had an almost flat bottom with little fairing into the keel, as typified by the Dick Carter, Doug Peterson, and Ron Holland designs of the time, and she was quick. Every bit as fast as Gumboots or Golden Apple.

Like Terrorist, she had a good first race and was vying for the lead all round the course in the second light air race, but got dumped to the mid-twenties by a wind shift on the penultimate leg. That set back was to prove too much to recover from in terms of a top result, but AJ had shown, like Golden Apple race winning speed.

Apple’s speed – not her result – secured Ron Holland’s reputation, but the perceived speed of America Jane, marked the beginning of the end for S&S in the level rating classes. General reporting of the event and certain expert opinion persuaded Olin Stephens that not only was AJ too big for her rating, but that the experiment to go with a flattish bottom had not worked for them. Subsequent S&S designs reverted to a more veed midship section.

This was to prove something of a wrong turn, but had Olin, himself, been at the event in Torquay I am certain he would have seen the true speed of his creation and not read so much into the results. For me, this unfortunate outcome to curtail the development of the AJ design concept had two important lessons:

1. Never take any notice of third party opinions on boat performance. Always see for yourself so you fully understand all the parameters in play.
2. Never rely on the raw data of results.

First, second, or even 51st is meaningless in regard to assessing boat performance. You have to know the full circumstances of how results are achieved before you utilize the data.

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