Following the Top Gun regatta where we bust out the F16 decksweeper on our Viper we have the comparison to sweep or not to sweep. We feel that some feedback and opinion is needed from the experience.
* Mainsail area is exactly as the F16 ruleset at 15m2
* Luff Length is extended from the top of the mast to the trampoline (not F16 class Legal)
* Square top with maximum head width as per ruleset.
* 4 Races in 16-20 Knots, 2 races in 7-12, 1 race in 23+ and a 80km plus downwind run down the coast offshore.
We were extremely fast upwind in a blow even with the chop that saw us come last in the fleet with the standard sail in the final races of last years regatta at Kurnell. This year we were able to hold our position upwind and when we footed off we caught up to many of the F18s that have always been quicker than us.
Its faster upwind…. in a blow. Check!
The bear away seemed slightly easier double handed, single handed it is definitely easier. Check!
Downwind we pitchpoled and cartwheeled more than ever before…but we finished every race when others on F16s and F18s had scurried for the boat park…. In my experience with the deck sweeper is it is more manageable downwind, maybe we were just pressing too hard, maybe we felt we did not need as much main tension on and that opened the head and drove us arse over tit into the three bump traps of doom. – we don’t think its any faster downwind. Its certainly more manageable though.
Staying with downwind, the skipper did not get hosed with spray from the leeward bow blasting under the boom and hitting him square in the eyes. The deck sweeper is a great windscreen. This makes our drag racer driver much happier, but did not stop us from cartwheeling like a Romanian gymnast. Better downwind.. YES once you have crossed the boat and if everything is going to plan.
In the light we struggled, we lacked power and felt overweight for the boat. F18s had two on the wire and our 135 kg weight had us sitting on the windward hull watching the F18s gliding away from us. Loosening the diamonds for more power just bound the boat up. Maybe we are getting too fat but we got chewed in the first two races in the light. Better in light breeze? – No!
Tacking is the same for standard and deck sweeper…..If! your crew goes around the front of the mast. Those of us who are slaves to the sharp end of the fleet , around the mast is essential to keep your weight forward on the F16. If you do a standard tack…hmm it’s a bit like the Entrapment scene of Catherine Zeta Jones twisting through the laser beams while the boat does a wheelie. Nice if you have an attractive crew, not so nice when its your fat hairy dad. Is tacking harder – yes but only for amateur and less agile crews.
Gybing, is not as easy as the standard sail, its not hard and for a serious sailor not an issue. You just push under the sail and go. But for a beginner its not elegant and its intimidating. Gybing Easier – No
Getting to the other side of the boat when you left the centreboard up at the bottom mark or the mast rotation is uncleated….hmmm that is difficult in a blow. Especially with a heavier crew and light skipper. This very item was the factor that induced our suicide tack at Craig on the Taipan this weekend. Moving about on the boat – Not good. Slipping down to leeward in a lull on a downwind run to keep the hull flying is much tougher as is communication with your teammate when they are to leeward.
“What is F16?” is the question that leads to the answer to the Deck Sweeper debacle. F16s are the one boat quiver. F16s are the boat you take your kids on, the boat you sail singlehanded when crews get chicken or you want to train alone and improve you skill set. F16s are the boat you race like a maniac rabbid frother at regattas. You sail with your wife, girlfriend. You zip along with your mates who want to feel the rush of a spinnaker catamaran for the first time. You race it with your teammate who you commit to practice and train with in the hope of that elusive sailing god status. There is very little an F16 cannot accomplish. F16 is smack in the sweetspot of catamaran design. Small and loight enough to manage alone, big enough for double crews.
It fills a vital role in the F18 fleet, bringing kids and youth teams into the fold. Providing a platform for them to fall in love with F class catamarans. They are gloriously light, off the water, they are far more convenient in every aspect than the powerful F18. F16s are the lead in that creates the commitment required for F18 racing.
F16 does this while still standing alone on the world stage as an ISAF class. Where lighter F16 teams stay in the class, racing the Nationals, Europeans and World championships.
So while the decksweeper is excellent for upwind speed, tough bear aways and typhoon wind strengths. Do we need it as a class?
If we are to compete in the F18 mixed fleet and go toe to toe against the F18s on scratch? Yes, particularly if it’s a blowy spot..like Kurnell. But at this point F18 has not embraced the F16 as its adoring younger sibling. It would appear more that F16 is being tolerated by many F18 sailors, possibly a bit intimidated. However when fleet numbers need bolstering at regattas F16s are welcomed in like rent-a-crowd at the house party and the racing is ALWAYS fantastic.
If we are to continue to build the F16 fleet, show people spin cat sailing, train new crews and skippers, take our friends and kids sailing. The deck sweeper is not good for this. The hardcore kids that have Olympic dreams are not going to come race F16/F18 that pathway is firmly entrenched and viciously guarded in Nacra 15-17. So whatever we as a class do it’s not going to change the youth or Olympic catamaran. The bulk of the fleet at Europeans, Nationals and Worlds are never Olympic hopefuls, they are predominantly folks who want to see how well they can do at the event while having a good time, making friends and seeing the world. There will be a few guns out front yelling at the start and being sour but they never form the fleet’s core.
With these things considered, I believe the luff length rule should be maintained. Not because the fleet will need to invest in sails or because there are arguments about performance. It is about who is going to buy and sail boats to keep our manufacturers in business and our class going. We need to constantly re-enforce what F16 is. A standard main keeps the boat easier as an induction into the magical world of spinnaker catamarans. F16 is not a kid’s only toy, but the kids can play with it. Its not an A class foiling single hander warpspeed weapon, but it is the fastest non-foiling single handed boat.(oh and some can foil) It’s a magnificent double handed boat for a light crew, but you can certainly take your chubby buddy for a burn and clock 19 knots while laughing like a pair of kookaburras. It’s not as fast as it can be with a deck sweeper, but its faster than a N15 and dammed close to a F18. F16s deliver more high speed sailing days than any other sailcraft. That enviable sweet spot is what F16 occupies, the jury is in.
The perfect F16 sail quiver is a decksweeper and a class legal sail with a range of battens if you have the $$$. At open regattas against the F18 fleet where you seriously want to claw up the rankings and stay with the big guns upwind, switch to the decksweeper, no-one will stop you. We are currently suggesting to the race organisers the same 0.5 yardstick penalty apply as it did on the F18s. At national titles, states and world events go with the standard sail, there will be more people to race against and drink beer with after. When you are taking a newbie on the boat, or a less agile sailor, go with the standard sail.
Its all about where F16 is and what our path as the class sailors are looking for. If we were the hardcore Olympic class, grinding out the regatta circuit and social media in the hope of being recognised and sent to the Olympics, well then, we should be running decksweepers. F16 is not this and if this is your dream then F16 is not for you or your kids.
If you want the sweetest catamaran in the world to just sail, race the local big F16/18 spinnaker fleet, compete at international events, socialise with people who laugh quicker than they protest, learn, teach and explore the magical realm of wind powered euphoria. Then my moving air and water addicted comrade, the F16 is for you, decksweeper or not.