Being an Open/Restricted class dinghy, rather than a strict one-design, ensures the ethos of our beloved class is to continuously develop, be up to date in design and materials and, in modern parlance, stay “relevant”.
This presents opportunities that intrigue the most creative of boat designers, builders and amateur sailors alike. We amaze each other with our ingenuity in developing ways of controlling our three sails and reducing the drag on our hulls and appendages. Few large classes have seen such invention as witnessed by the interest seen at the Dinghy Show.
Central to this development are the restrictions within our Class Measurement Rules. These need to be kept under review to ensure that any developments devised by clever and creative designers and sailors do not threaten the ongoing appeal of the class, for reasons of ethos, cost or practicality. Some new restrictions have been very consequential, as in the case of the earlier revision to the bilge keel rule to prevent the fairing in of planks, or less so in the case of rudder fences*. Either way, this creates a cycle of continuous improvement and provides hours of discussion in the bar. More recently, hours of Zoom calls!
(*Rudder Fences. Please note that the pre-2020 rule that prohibits fences has now been re-instated. Best check your rudder complies for the new season!)
As a National Class, crucially the RYA is the final arbiter of our rules and any changes supported by a vote at a Class general meeting require RYA ratification. The Class is encouraged to discuss potential changes informally with the RYA to pre-empt later difficulties. Similarly, any individual owners who believe they have discovered a loophole that could provide a mind-blowing advantage are also encouraged to approach the RYA directly for advice, rather than springing it on the fleet only to find later on that it is not allowed. However, before reaching a decision on any individual enquiry or proposal for a rule change it is the RYA’s practice to consult the Class for its views on the matter.
Apart from this need for the rules to keep abreast of new developments, the 2014 transition to the ISAF format has continued to give rise to a significant number issues whereby the intention of the rules has been inadvertently changed, becoming either more or less restrictive, or indeed ambiguous. A good example of this was the miss-interpretation of our Hull Weight description that was identified by Dan and subsequently rectified by the RYA.
Whilst these have in the main been addressed and corrected as they arose, more recently there has been an increase in the number of matters arising and, in some cases, in their potential complication or importance. The lack of a recent general meeting has also resulted in a backlog of resolutions to be determined.
To assist in addressing this difficult situation your Committee, under Chris’s chairmanship, has recently taken two initiative, Firstly, the role of Technical Officer carried out by Dan Alsop is now being supported by a newly constituted Rules Sub Committee. Secondly, an independent comparison of the pre and post ISAF rules has been undertaken by an external review group whose report is currently being considered by the Rules Sub Committee. Those items with legs will subsequently be put to the main committee and finally the AGM for approval.
However, to avoid the aforementioned hours of discussion in an AGM (above a noisy and inviting bar), we propose to share these with the membership for written discussion some time before to ensure all pros and cons are considered and subsequently shared with members. In a more streamlined and efficient process, we can then vote online (or other) on the final proposals for later submission and approval at the AGM.
We hope that this methodology will maintain the evolutionary nature of the Merlin Rocket and pro-actively encourage the creative, ingenious and down-right bloody minded to continue to produce both safe and wildly extreme designs, and everything in between.
While the current restrictions and Zoom are a challenge, look out for updates in the summer. If you’re not too busy on the water.
Happy designing, experimenting and sailing.”