The first article I wrote about this was way back in November 2019 – Pre Covid still at a time when F16 was trying to scrape its beaten and bloodied body off the canvas.
Nacra 15 appeared to be forging ahead – unstoppable. Nacra, Australian Sailing and their apparent horde of youths were dancing down the path toward Olympic glory, putting the odd boot into the limp F16 body.
Nacra 17s were going full foiling and of me-oh-my how good did that all look. The bruises on Lisa Darmanin were as well concealed as the glaring car wreck of youth catamaran performance sailing that was unseen, barreling down a side street toward the fleet.
F18 had reluctantly said ok to F16s joining in at F18 traveler series regattas but still F16s were getting booted out at regattas and state titles and sent to the miscellaneous division. No new boats had been sold in years, owners could not give second hand Vipers away and everyone wanted an F18 for the F18 worlds that were coming to Australia. Hell I even went and bought an F18– that’s how bad things were.
The deck sweeper that was in the first review was gen 1. It is still a good sail, but like all things the newer ones are better and faster.
Its not all technical
What I wish to highlight in this article is not the technical aspects that can be argued infinitum. Rather what happened after “To Sweep or Not to Sweep” was posted on November 19 2019. When I read the article again I can actually feel my negativity fogging in from the screen. I can sense the indecision in the words and reasoning. So what happened after November 19 2019?
We held a F16 national in 2020, standard sails were used – that was the rules in March 2020. I dragged anyone I could bribe and entice to come sailing. Three of the boats at that national belonged to me. Another the legendary “Banger” had just been sold at bargain basement pricing to Ben Clark who brought along Beau Delaine to race with and borrow sails from, then Ben was to take Banger to its new home in Adelaide. I borrowed a Blade from Neil that had been on the market forever and spent a whole day changing fittings, screws and rivets etc to make it sailable for two kids I borrowed from the local club. I enticed a pair of Taipan sailors to come down from QLD and lent them the glorious Viper “Slider” to sail. Brett Goodall borrowed a boat from a guy in VIC who could not sell the boat despite his best efforts. Murray borrowed my brand new foiling Viper that I converted to F16 mode. The only other boat owners were Sophie and James. We had 3 Boat owners at the national.
At that AGM I cautiously announced the decksweeper question. As the author of the “To Sweep or not to sweep” I was not sure what would be the right way. Break the status quo and risk everything and destroy the fragile ruminants of F16 in Australia – or continue to manage the total implosion of the class.
To my surprise the room lit up and now all of a sudden there was positivity. A key comment came from the Taipan sailors who said they wanted it because it makes the boat modern and at the front of sailing tech. We took a vote and it was 100% unanimous. I voted yes because there really was nothing left to lose. F16 as a class was really gone and this effectively was the birth of a new class, organisation and vision.
In July 2020 we received push back from Queensland F16 sailors who did not attend the National and vote. This started a bit of a furore with the QLD crowd lobbying and reporting AUS F16 (me) to the international class because we had seemingly unilaterally decided to flout the F16 rules, change sail plans, build sails and just go racing. Dark days… but the majority of the sailors wanted DS. Ben was a new boat owner and had just invested in the class from an F18 background – what was he to think now. We held our ground against the pushback and continued down the DS path. We were not entertaining the 400mm shorter DS as this needed either a new mast or looked stupid.
The rise of the sweepers
But then Simon the “Skooginator” with his new Deck Sweeper took Nick reader for a sail on a Viper. Nick fell in love with the DS Viper, Nick took Angus Sailing, he loved it, Angus bought the Skooginators Boat, Nick and Simon bought another boat. Angus took Alice sailing, she became his full time skipper, George went for a sail and bought a boat, he is a key organiser in the Catamaran Single Handers International Tournament next weekend. Then Mario went for a sail on one of these cool looking “new” boats and he bought one. The hype was ignited, Nick was a fire breathing Viper Frother of the worst kind and beat anyone within range into F16 frothership.
Element sails build the fastest F16 sail ever!
Element sails produced a beautiful looking deck sweeper that outran my new C2 on the smooth waters at Speers point. Even through the depths of Covid sails kept developing more boats sold and started sailing again. Boats that had been on the market for years were sold. Prices went from $ 10 000 for two vipers on a trailer in 2019 to 7k to 9k to 12k to 14k and now today – 17k for a 10 year old boat. New boats have as a result been sold because there’s no more second hand boats. 4 brand new Vipers in the last 6 months have sold and there is increasing talk around the boat park at events of new boats.
Then in the middle of the roaring pandemic the now highly motivated and fun seeking gang of F16 sailors organised not 1 not 2 but ultimately 3 Nationals. The government lockdowns and border closures killed the first two attempts. Many sailors still have the 2021 Meningie National T-shirts from a national that never happened as proof. We last minute pulled the VIC state titles up to National status during a brief lull in the “pandemic” and pulled a magicians 9 Vipers out of the hat to sail in a 22 boat F16/F18 fleet and have a F16 National. This in a year when all other classes just pulled the cancel cord. Every F16 rolled up with a deck sweeper but two. At that point there were 9 deck sweeper F16s in Australia.
That means Goodall and Element had sold 9 more sails to 9 motivated F16 sailors which meant they were able to invest back into the class, which resulted in more sails and more motivated sailors and sponsorship for the F-Cup to come.
The First day of the 2021 National had huge chop, strong wind and an enormous night out. On that first day I piloted my Viper through the insane chop to be top 2 around the top mark against F18s and F16s. I steered the Viper around cartwheeling F18s and thee ridge sets of chop to finish all the races, chased by Ben Clark, Beau Delaine, The Skooginator et al. A true testament to the ability of a F16 when a Deck sweeper is used.
Next day on a windless morning in Frankston after a massive celebratory night out the agm was held though a very hazy hangover. No.1 priority on the agenda was the Decksweeper. The proof was in, the adoption of the new sailplan had supercharged the class and made the boat better. More than that though it had ushered in a new ethos to the class. Australian F16 was about listening to what the sailors wanted, the association would do what the active sailors wanted. Australian F16 would flout the rules if the rules did not facilitate what the sailors needed. The rules needed to suit the sailors – not the other way around. The class was now about the sailing experience and making sure we raced hard but more important enjoyed our boats and events to the maximum. The new sail plan made the boat better to sail, look fast, modern and fun. This identified with people, they bought boats and sails and came to events.
The 2022 F Cup – a record
The culmination of all this was the 2022 F16 National and F Cup. We achieved a record 16 x F16s at an Australian National. I know I was a principal organiser in this event so maybe everyone was being polite when they said it was the best event they had attended in years. Everybody I spoke to at the 24 boat event said it was a fantastic regatta, we had kids, teenagers, women, young men and old farts the whole spectrum was represented at a spinnaker cat event in Australia, it had been a long time.
Even though the Covid B.S. and club restrictions made it hard. The F16 “can do” ethos pulled out a vey memorable week. The video we produced can never do the experience we had justice. 10 of the 16 boats were running deck sweepers. Of those 3 non deck sweepers were “covided” out of attending at the last minute. And of those 6 non DS boats in January, 3 boats have upgraded to deck sweepers….
The Story of Tristan @ 15 Yrs old
Before the F16 Deck sweeper boom took off, my 15 year old son who had become tired of going to F18/F16 catamaran events because they were attended predominantly by older men and no teenagers. The Youth teams that sailed N15 were sidelined to “special” regattas that always conflicted with the major F18/F16 events. Tristan left the catamaran fleet and went to sail 29ers. I received coaching bills, the kids went to regattas, they had training days – the pressure to win was immense. Ultimately stepping off a 20 knot rip snorting F16 onto a wobbly 9 knotter 29er coupled with the expectation to win broke him. He won’t even watch sailGP today.
If only we had then what we have now.
And what of other comparable classes during the F16 Boom that was directly attributed to the adoption of the decksweeper?
Well… no N17s attended Sail Melbourne 2022…… You cannot sell a Nacra 15 for anything near what its worth. F18 after a huge surge in 2020 pre worlds is reducing in participation numbers – we had more F16s (7) at VIC states than F18s!
So in reality its tough times in the world of spinnaker catamaran sailing yet with the adoption of the Deck Sweeper F16 Australia has pulled ahead. We have improved the sailing experience of the boat, given sailors more confidence in the boat in all weather conditions and shown the boats to be evolving and modern. Most important Australian F16 has given sailors confidence that we listen to our sailors and potential sailors. We make every effort to maintain a good class formula and hold fun, inclusive and rather wild events.
To the Vote
The point I make is this is not a vote about a purely technical deck sweeper argument. Its bigger than that. It is also about the association and its sailors.
I love sailing more than anything, but I have found that it is not sailing that I love. What I love is sailing F16 Vipers and foiling Vipers, drinking beers, sledging, laughing and sharing these experiences with F16 sailing people that have a forward thinking although slightly wild personality.
In the current formula and if a stagnated ethos is to prevail, F16 international is going to continue to decline and get hammered by the lacklustre N15 and schizophrenic N17 (LOL it took two boats to compete with the F16 ). Ultimately catamaran sailing will be poorer for it.
So, make F16 great again (I could not resist), put F16 first and save children from the heavy underpowered clutches of the N15 and 29er. Make couples and mixed teams confident to take their boat sailing no matter the conditions. Give Olympic hopefuls a better platform to skill up before taking the campaign plunge. Go faster, higher and widen the groove. Vote YES
On a Technical Note
For actual sailors reviews of the decksweeper, the rule change request etc. please check out this page on the site https://ausf16.net/f16-rules/
- If you Vote YES you don’t have to upgrade to deck sweeper, you can keep your old main and sail it till the stitching perishes or you fall through the old brittle window on one of your many pitchpoles.
- The cost of a new decksweeper is the same as a 8100mm sail – there is no premium so don’t believe the B.S.
- You need a curved boom. Don’t go out for dinner twice, cook a home meal and it’s paid for.
- The gooseneck replaces your old gooseneck and can accommodate your new DS and older 8100mm sail and boom, the cost is negligible – less than new gloves. Oh, and any idiot can fit the gooseneck with a hacksaw and rivet gun.
Be aware of these lies by folks who want to keep the status quo. These are pure unfiltered organic horseshit
- You need a sealed trampoline
- You need a new Trampoline
- You need to modify your trampoline
- You need a new mast
- You need a trampoline underskin
- You need to modify mast rotation systems…only if you have old systems linked to the boom.
- Deck sweepers are more expensive than 8100mm mainsails
Vote YES for the Decksweeper and sit back to enjoy the ride F16 international is about to launch off on.
Vote NO and get left behind to get smashed further by Nacra 15s and 17s while needing a change of underwear for +18 knot days and choppy sea states.
Australia F16/Viper are DS and there is no way we will ever be regressing the boats, if we have to change the rules to fit us we will.
Sweep! Sweep it shall be! YES