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General Makeup Of The Racing Yacht

( Originally Published 1911 )



THE general tuning up of a racing boat (I speak of the smaller classes, and of wooden boats, not metal, as their treatment would be quite different) consists in perfecting various members that go to make up the whole and then the treatment of the yacht as a unit. We will take as an example the twenty-one foot water-line knockabout, or raceabout, the type of which is fast spreading over the entire globe.

This boat embodies five separate elements that are essential to speed : first, the design ; second, the helmsman ; third, the set of the sails; fourth, the condition of the surface of the boat that comes in contact with the water; fifth, the general construction. I do not say that these are necessarily the order of importance, but they are the main features.

I will first take up the general requisites of design, and these depend on the type and class you intend to build in, also whether you will sail the majority of races in home waters or abroad. If an owner can tell an architect the general weather conditions to be met with, then the architect can design the boat accordingly, and in many cases this knowledge of conditions means success where other-wise it would be failure. For instance, if your majority of races are in Massachusetts Bay, especially at Marblehead, where the weather and wind conditions are generally light, with a long easy ground swell, the type of model which has proven itself to be superior is the round, easy form, easy in movement and quick to get headway in the light conditions.

Quite opposite to these conditions of wind and water are those of Kiel, Germany, or those of the South Shore of Massachusetts and Connecticut, more especially perhaps Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts. I mention these localities merely as examples, so that I may better show the different conditions to be provided for.

The prevailing wind on the South Shore is the strong, smoky southwester, and this, with the strong current in Long Island Sound, stirs up a very heavy, short, quick sea. With the shoal depth of water in Buzzards Bay, the effect is the same.

The boats that seem to be best suited to these conditions are the wide, powerful centerboards, with large flat bottoms, giving a very large initial stability and showing great power to stand up and sail.

I will give here two illustrations of the "centerboard" and "keel" types, pitted against each other under the different conditions just mentioned.

A "centerboard" boat came to Marblehead and raced a fleet of "keel" boats, being badly worsted by seventy per cent of the fleet. Another year the crack "keel" went to Buzzards Bay, and in a match race was beaten by a "centerboarder." This goes to show the general idea, but, of course, there are exceptions to the rule.

Again, this idea of design depends a great deal on the restrictions of the class in which you are going to build, as different restrictions work out in favor of one or the other type in all conditions of weather.

We will now turn to the very important factor in the success of the racing yacht, the helmsman and crew. As the racing to-day, in at least a great many classes, is among one design boats, and in a great many others practically one design (as the various sets of class restrictions limit the variance in the design), it sends the trend of naval architecture in one direction, and thus it comes down to the successful management of the yacht, broadly speaking.

In the classes in this part of the world there are always one, two, or three men who are considered to be somewhat superior to the other sailors in the fleet; this, however, should never discourage the younger men, as there is example after example of cases where, by keeping at it, they, in time, catch up and pass the older men. As beginners they have over-looked the small things that seemed in those days insignificant, but are now being care-fully taken care of. Thus, as in no other sport, the details should be carefully looked after.

The set of the sails is, of course, a matter of the greatest importance, the boat's only means of propulsion being the sails, and especially in a boat sailing to windward the least pocket or flat spot in the wrong place will greatly retard her progress ; more so than most people imagine, as it is a very slight moment of positive pressure that she is subjected to. This sail matter is not so important when the yacht is running free, as then it is simply an area of cloth, held out for the wind's direct pressure.

Another point well to mention here in a general way, is the skin resistance, that is, the water touching the sides and bottom of the boat's body. Surface friction is a great detriment to a boat's headway through the water, and we are yet a long way off from a discovery of some really good coating that will satisfactorily stand against the action of salt or fresh water, while still giving the least possible resistance to the water passing by it. There are, to-day, all sorts of paints, greases, black lead, and the bare metal bronze plates of the large yachts, and it is far from being decided which is superior for a racing composition, although almost every one has his preference, and thinks his own coating infinitely superior to his rival's.

On the general construction of a small yacht depends, in a great measure, the surface you are able to obtain on the outside of the planks. A boat must be built as light as possible, yet have a great rigidity in order to hold her form and prevent buckling and twisting as far as possible, so that the putty and seam filling placed between the planks shall not have a chance to work out and so break the outer surface, at once offering added resistance to the water as the surface becomes roughened. In the case of the deep keel boats with from two thousand to six thousand pounds of lead hung on a slight narrow fin, the chances for twist and strain are very great, especially as this lead has a great leverage, being down five to eight feet below the surface. This means, to prevent leakage, etc., that the construction must be of the very best and most carefully thought out and put together, the best of material being used, including the toughest and lightest of woods and non-corrosive metals.

I have now given, in a general way, the most necessary points that go to make up speed in yacht racing. They all overlap each other and rely on one another ; all are important and cannot be too carefully worked up to perfection. I have intended this chapter to be simply a synopsis of "Part First," and will give the detailed accounts in the Chapters following.



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