Some thoughts on rule changes

06/07/2011 22:12:51
Richard Parslow
In the last two issues of the Magazine the Committee has described and formally proposed some changes in the rules to outlaw certain recent developments that are currently permitted.  Before we vote at the imminent AGM it is worth taking a few moments to consider the history, philosophy and spirit of the Merlin Rocket Restricted Class.

As Merlin sailors we are a different breed from one-design sailors: we like the fact that our boats are different from each other’s and from those that have gone before; we give our boats names and refer to them by name; we talk about the changes in designs, rigs and systems. And we like having the opportunity to think up new ideas that may give us an edge!

In the late 60s Alan Warren and others turned up with their Watts-designed, Freeman-built 'Wot' boats: about about 8” wider than any existing boats. The extra leverage provided a clear sailing advantage in hiking conditions – and Alan and Barry Dunning won back-to-back titles in 1969 and 1970.

See “Width difference” picture here:

At that time the Class decided to introduce a maximum beam rule, so boats did not end up 14’ wide. They did not however seek to outlaw the new development: instead they set the limit at the maximum width permitted for road trailing: 7’ 2¾” – wider than any boat actually built at that point.

So a rule change was brought in that was permissive: it allowed development beyond where the class was at that point. How far-sighted that decision was. If the committee in 1969 had proposed a narrower maximum beam (perhaps giving "Krakawot" dispensation to race for 2 years!); and had the class members voted for it at the AGM that year, we would not have the gorgeous full-width machines we love sailing and looking at (and others envy) today.

Throughout the history of the class, people have invented, innovated and tweaked. The boats have become faster over time, as evidenced by the ever-falling PY number and the age-differentiated handicaps. At each stage, we believed we were at the absolute pinnacle of Merlin design: the Proctor IX, the Smoker’s Satisfaction, the Canterbury Tales. Who knows what the future might bring? We hope it will bring new developments, more refinements and maybe even higher speeds – as long as the rules permit...

We are not the founders or the governors of the Class, we are merely its present-day custodians. As such we owe it to future generations of Merlin Rocket sailors to move forward, not to take a backward step that could open the door for even more restrictive (and potentially retrospective!) rule changes in the future. The combined effect of such constraints could stifle development and lead to stagnation, destroying the ethos behind this extraordinary, elegant and essentially evolutionary boat.

If you agree with the sentiments in this post please turn up at the AGM at Salcombe YC and vote against the completely unnecessary changes to Rule 4 that have been proposed. It's up to us!

06/07/2011 23:56:07
Pat Blake
I couldn't agree with you more - your view of the history and development of our class is eloquently put.
However - I am not sure about how the bilge keel rules really fit into this scenario?
The developments that the 'Genii' design have brought forward are interesting and have shown up some ambiguities in the present rule which surely need to be addressed so that future builders know what the parameters really are.
What we need to consider, as the 'present-day custodians' of the class, is whether it is a useful improvement to be able to fill in one land? If so, should there be some restriction on how far forward this could go and is it (or should it be) restricted to just one land?
I think the committee are trying to address this in a fair way, although it is quite right that we should debate it in a sensible way.
Personally I don't think we should get bogged down in personal issues about a very few boats and we should all look at the big picture - or at least the biggest picture we can.

07/07/2011 07:14:55
Hywel jnr
Well said Richard, I completely agree with your sentiments.

07/07/2011 07:28:10
Chris M
Richard mentions the spirit of the rules. Is it in the spirit of the rules to have a clinker hull with a smooth bottom? This is a situation the rule writers never invisaged, and the class has been absolutely solid it it's retention of clinker hulls.

We have been here before, as documented in the Merlin book. Nitro was the result and the rules were changed shortly after to prevent another boat being constructed in the same way. The boat was grandfathered, and fortunatley, failed to acheive much success.

I'll be voting with the committee.

07/07/2011 08:51:17
Keith Callaghan
I want to make it clear that the comment from 'KC' above did not originate from me! I think it's about time we made it compulsory for contributors to this forum to identify themselves properly.

07/07/2011 08:51:24
Barry Dunning
Well said Richard and Pat.
Committees always come up with a camel! Keep the resticted spirit of the class alive.
Out of interest, the reason 7'2'' was chosen as the max width was that was the width of Alans garage door!

07/07/2011 08:52:53
Barry Dunning
Thank God he didnt have a double garage!!!

07/07/2011 09:58:50
Andy Hay - 3626 Business as Usual
I have been wondering whether to start a forum debate on this issue, but Richard beat me to it.

OK, cards on the table, I have modified Business as Usual to reflect the bilge keels that Jon first demonstrated at the Champs last year. The boat was modified prior to March 1st, as per the earlier magazine article, and reviewed by a MROA measurer on Sunday. She will be at Salcombe on Saturday and anyone is willing to have a look at what I have done, I will bring pictures of the work in progress and explain what / how I achieved the final shape.

I am fortunate to be involved in the review of the proposed ISAF format and was pleased to see in the very first line of the Introduction the words: quote

"The Merlin-Rocket is a development class where design and ingenuity is rewarded within the spirit of the rules."

So there you have it, surely we have all been within the spirit of the Rules as they are now? The fact that no-one had exploited this area (Winder did extend the bilge keel to the transom without success) is not a misnomer to ban things.

OK, to answer the negatives:

1. we lose the clinker form - maybe, but not in a visual way on the water. In marketing terms (one of the reasons this arguement was raised) the boat will still look like a Merlin.
2. costs - OK the Winder, due to the particular way they are constructed would have a costly modification to rebuild the outer structural laminate if an Owner wanted to make the change. A wood boat or Wreck'd 'em or Linton boat would be simple to remove the keels as they are not part of the planking / structure. Full time working on this area would probably be a 3 day job - Chris M or Dirtyhands could advise. Of course a Winder boat could simply fill and fair the area using some of the lead in the boat to correct for the filler added. If this costs £2K, then this is about a carbon mast. We all have those now since they were not banned when the class had the opportunity.
3. performance - theoretically, I have added 5kg of buoyancy at the aft end without affecting the waterline or the rocker line. This will, theoretically, make the boat plane flatter without affecting light wind speed. The bilge keels have also changed the angle of the second plank so that BAU has increased planing area. Whether I can notice the difference will be an interesting side thought after the first race on Sunday morning. Possibly, the stone that I have lost will make more difference, or the one-string, or the 2kg of correctors I have added, or thelack of practice not having sailing since Christmas!
4. sailing experience - one of the key arguments for banning this is that it does nothing to change the sailing experience of a Merlin. Personally, the sailing experience of a Merlin comprises two elements: 1. technical and 2. on water. They are key parts to the delight of this boat. In the good old days, the technical element meant which design of boat do I get built for the next season, whereas now this is more what detail can I refine. The boat bimbling part of sailing cannot be ignored.

I could go on.

I am also a bit miffed about the proposed "dispensation". On Saturday evening / Sunday morning depending upon when the AGM finishes, I could find that BAU is out of class and without dispensation as I do not fulfil the "normal positioning" criteria. I am aware that I will probably still be able to race at Salcombe & the Champs as the RYA would still have to ratify the changes, but still this would be casting a cloud over any results achieved (some hope that!). Having done nothing against the spirit or wording of the Rules as they were inforce at the time, and indeed when BAU was first certificated (an important distinction), I feel a little agrieved about this! Will the MROA compensate me for the reduced second hand value or pay for the rework?

That said, the bilge keel mods that Dave Lee did on 3660 are about 3 years old and would still be compliant with the revised Rule - i.e. fairing the 20mm x 10mm section out over the entire plank width. Nick Turner's boat is the same. As long as there is a 4mm gap to the next plank, this would be OK. So we are only left with three boats (that I know about) that could fall foul of the latest proposal (Dark Star, BAU and posibly the new JT machine - although I have not seen that yet).

07/07/2011 10:29:59
Just want to point out (having owned 2 Winders) that there are Mk1->Mk5, and practically every WInder built has been built with tweaks specified by the owner. And then even after being built modifications have been made retrospectively.

Not owning a Merlin at the moment, I won't be there at the AGM or voting, but I agree with with Richard's sentiment.

One of the joys of racing a Merlin, if like me you are not a top helm, is you can always blame the boat :-)

07/07/2011 10:47:29
Chris M
Once again, real names only please.

07/07/2011 11:31:17
alanf = alan fuller

07/07/2011 11:32:28
p.s. Chris M = ??? Real names only?

07/07/2011 11:37:25
Without sounding patronising the key to understanding this resolution is that the current rules regarding the bilge keels were written when it was perceived bilge keels were a disadvantage to boat speed, hence there is a minimum cross section and length rule but no maximums.

The Genii design (very cleverly) exploits this loop hole by filling in the lands and effectively making the bottom 2 planks smooth skinned.

Regardless of whether you think this should or shouldn’t be allowed, the argument of ‘we are a restricted class after all’, we must act on it and amend the rule to stop further exploitation to a more extreme degree.

As mentioned by Pat, the bilge keel rule does not have a maximum length restriction nor is it restricted to cover just one land. It is entirely possibly to build a clinker Merlin hull and then add stepped bilge keel (to the internal surface) with a smooth finish to the outside, resulting in a completely smooth skinned hull below the water line (apart from the first plank either side of the keel) . Do we want to go down this route?

To clarify, fairing in the lands with bilge keels as per the Genii design will unquestionably be faster. At the moment we do not have a like for like comparison but a Winder with them would be faster than a Winder without, not by much but a little. The modification would result in increased buoyancy, less wetted area and an improvement in hydrodynamics (smoother hull shape).

As for Andy’s comments regarding an estimated cost of circa £2,000 to modify your boat being comparable (and hence justifying the bilge keel mod) to the cost of a carbon mast, I feel this is inaccurate and not relevant, sorry Andy.

First of all a carbon mast is only £900 incrementally more expensive than a fully rigged aluminum mast and the performance benefits (speed, more forgiving, easier to sail, able to sail in stronger winds) greatly outweigh the performance benefits of a slightly more efficient hull shape.

Also let’s debate the actual resolution in hand and it’s implications as opposed to ‘are we restricted or not’? As custodians to the MR we have to do what is right for the long term benefit of the class.

07/07/2011 12:58:23
Ian Dobson
Andy, I think that you take on your own risk when deciding to make potentially contentious modifications to your boat. Searching for that vital 'edge' is never without risk.

Being a non-boat owning sailor I have little to offer regarding the joys of tweeking one's ship etc. And perhaps the concept of an 'Owner's Association' is lost on me. However, at some point in the near future I would like to become a merlin owner, but I will not do so until I see that the current bubbles in design concepts have settled down and I see a readily available standard race winning production boat. For the reasons of both protecting my capital investment and ensuring great 'near one design' racing.

I enjoy the merlin because of what it is now, not what it might become.

The Canterbury Tales design is (or was) virtually at this 'near one design' status. An important question is- Is it considered a benefit to be getting 100+ boats at the champs? I think so. This is achieved by sustaining a healthy 2nd hand market, where boats maintain their value due to excellent build quality and remaining the current competitive design. The converse to this is that 2nd hand markets are also boosted by encouraging the purchase of new boats. How do you do this without making older ones obsolete?

I think it is also prudent to consider the development status of the Merlin as applicable to the class as a whole and not just boat design. Develop the class by boosting competitors? Develop the class by reducing build costs?

All that said, I think you could well drop the corrector weight by the lower quartile of all corrector weights on boats at the nationals for example (if it isn't zero).

07/07/2011 13:01:40
Andy Hay - 3626 Business as Usual
Alex and I have debated the "cost vs adding to the sailing experience" at length and it seems that we are still on opposite sides of that argument. To bring a tin rigged boat to latest spec - which is what we are comparing here, we are bringing a non modified boat to modify it with the bilge keels to compare apples with apples on this issue - would require a £2K outlay for a carbon mast, ish. There have been a number of developments that have caused the fleet to upgrade - square top hoops, deck-stepped masts, the Winder boat itself, one strings ....

To clarify my understanding of the CURRENT rules, pre March 2011, is that the bilge keel (which includes any fairing) must be on ONE land and one land only. Therefore you could only smooth off two planks. You could take the bilge keel forward to the bow and have a forward spray rail a la 49'er and the latest generation of Open 60's. The Genii and my mod butt the bilge keel against the next land, but not over it, so we comply with the "one land" Rule.

I am not sure, but I anticipate that Jon actually designed the hull form with the bilge keels in mind, so they form part of the shape. Up to this point, the bilge keels were an unwelcome drag. I haven't worked out the surface areas, but there is little in it, expecially against the lozenge shape bilge keels that I planned off (and are on the Winder boats).

It will be an interesting debate on Saturday.

07/07/2011 13:45:32
Tim Fells
Why don't we just dispense with bilge keels altogether?

07/07/2011 13:47:44
Personally, I think that the main question which those with the best interests of the Merlin Fleet, as a whole, at heart should ask themsleves is 'what are the reasonably foreseeable consequences of allowing the bilge-keel issue to reach its logical conclusion?'. If that consequence is that the boats which the majority of current Merlin sailors/owners sail/own may require significant and, therefore, costly changes to keep pace (ignoring the abilities of any sailors involved!) with the 'long-bilgers' then I think that such a change should be prevented for many of the reasons Ian puts forward. 

At the moment the Merlin, although still seen as expensive and stringy, no longer has the reputation of 'needing a new boat every year' as it most definitely did up until the Canterbury Tales calmed things down and the 'off-the-shelf' Winder made the Merlin an attractive proposition to a whole catchment who previously wouldn't have touched the Merlin with a bargepole.

Perhaps this debate really divides into two camps - the 'I must sail better to go faster' camp and the 'I'd rather just have a faster boat' camp. The Merlin, in its current guise, is an enjoyable, challenging boat, which is attracting new sailors in their droves and let's face it, who can say 'the only thing wrong with my race was the boat!'?

07/07/2011 14:12:09
Andy Hay - 3626 Business as Usual
Yes Tim, I proposed that. Same argument about costs! As a new Winder Owner, would you want to take them off the bottom of your new ship?

I like to do both, sail faster and develop the boat to make it go faster. If I was only interested in the former, surely one would end up in a one design. The beauty of a Merlin is that you CAN develop / evolve the product for your own ends. Look at what Glen Truswell did with our boat, very different sails, very different hull and a Champs win. He sailed very well too and had a bit of luck. So one foot in both camps on this.

07/07/2011 14:12:49
Peter Mason
Tim Fells is qtite right in his question. Surely one of the attractions of the Merlin is that it is deliberately a moderately powered boat which can be sailed by all sorts, and so design developments are all about efficiency rather than adding horsepower, i.e mainly drag reduction. Eliminating bilge keels which are anachronistic will cost virtually nothing for the practical owner.

07/07/2011 14:22:18
Stud Muffin
I'm with Tim - what are they for; except to create a potential loophole?

07/07/2011 15:04:01
Captain Pugwash
...will eliminating the bilge kiel make the boat a bit less of a pig to tack? if so, off the bilge kiel I say!

07/07/2011 15:12:17
.. does that mean I have got to take the bilge keels off if I do not want to?
PS. Does Mervin's Kate (MR 1) have bilge keels?

07/07/2011 15:19:46
Captain Pugwash
not necessarily could just be a no requirement for ? or if you've got 'em keep 'em. Do they actually have a function(other than drag) now we have good trolleys etc?

07/07/2011 15:32:59
....if Prince Charles were a merlin owner he might well describe the bilge keels in the modern context as 'monstrous carbuncles on the face of a much loved and elegant friend' - thats how I feel about them. Pointless (as far as I can tell), slow and ugly!

07/07/2011 15:52:09
Peter Mason
National 12's removed the requirement for bilge keels a few years ago and have survived the change. At sub-planing speeds, bilge keels must add drag, unless by some wonderful serendipity, they have been lined up exactly with the flow; they will also scrub off speed in tacking. I suppose that it is possible that they add a bit of useful strength to the floor to carry the crew's weight when standing.

07/07/2011 21:22:13
"The Merlin-Rocket is a development class where design and ingenuity is rewarded within the spirit of the rules"  I am very concerned if that is what the new ISAF rules are going to say because that is not what our current rules say.  We are NOT a development class, we are a restricted class - see Owners Association Rules No 1 on Page 10 of 2011 yearbook. Before we get bogged down in minutiae lets be clear what we are!  I have always understood a restricted class to have many more restrictions on development than a development class. Am I wrong?
John Cooper - bewildered of Whitstable

07/07/2011 21:52:20
Chris M
I Think Ian Dobson and Alistair have hit the nail on the head, and it's good to hear the opinions of recent arrivals to the class.

They have to come to the class - as Ian says - for what it is now, and are perhaps less intersted in the evolution of the hull. Times have changed from the 60's 70's and 80's, and it's no accident that we have the best two man racing fleet in the UK as a direct result of an extended period of stability. Before a the Winder merlin became available we were at an all time low as a class, champs entries were below 50 and we had to resort to a 4 day champs because we were struggling to find a venue that would run a nationals for 45 boats. Classes were being introduced that directly challenged the MR. This was only 12 years ago, and we only just survived.

It may sound like i'm advocating a one design philosophy but i'm not. The Winder merlin can be tweaked, you can have an EZ Roller or a Make it So built if you wish - or a new JT boat - i have no problem with this, provided it measures. What worries me intensely is that we return to a situation where a competetive boat is beyond my financial reach, and that of the majority of good club sailors.

One of the main reasons that fleets at the champs have increased is because the good club racer that would not have bothered attending in his NSM or Smoker now has a boat that has a good chance of doing well if it is well sailed. My boat falls into this catergory, so do Dan's, Dickie Dee's and Tim Harridge's. These are among the oldest examples in the fleet, but there are many other 5-10 year old boats out there in the hands of people who fall into the good club racer catergory. It would be rather worrying if they disappeared from the big events.

In one way -I'm in a better position that most. I can fit Genii style bilge keels and it won't cost me £2000 (Not an unrealistic figure depending on how you alter the boat). I can remove my bilge keels completely and it won't cost £400-£600. But a lot of people won't be able or inclined to do this and that will not be good for the class. Almost every existing boat will be percieved to be at a disadvantage, regardless of whether what looks good on paper actually works underwater.

£2000 to alter the bilge keels to the Genii shape is almost two years worth of sails to most "casual" circuiteers. They are not interested in the cost of a carbon mast, they have one already. It would be just under a third of the current overall value of my boat.

Nobody considers the Merlin a cheap boat to run, there is no point in pretending that it is, but is there really any burning need to force people to make an alteration to their boat that brings very little to the party in terms of making the boat better to sail? Do we want to see smooth skin bottoms allowed in "through the back door"?

07/07/2011 23:20:04
Richard Parslow
Thanks to everyone for contributing to this discussion – I am very glad that it generated so many interesting comments and a lively, open debate.

Regarding Chris M’s and Alex Jackson’s concerns about ending up with one huge ‘bilge keel’ that covers the entire underside of the boat (effectively producing a smooth-skinned Merlin), the current rules already prohibit this. Rule 4(m)(iii) says: “ONE bilge keel…shall be fitted over A land on each side…” (my emphasis).

Having said that, the current rule does not have a maximum length, which means that the one bilge keel (per side) could extend all the way to the bow. I agree that this was not envisaged when the rule was written.

So what about simply setting a maximum length on the bilge rail, as originally suggested by Dan Alsop?

Current rule:
One bilge keel or chafing piece of which the cross section shall contain a rectangle not less than 20 mm x 10 mm for a length not less than 1200 mm shall be fitted over a land on each side of the hull, placed such that the weight of the boat will bear on the main keel and one bilge keel only, when the boat is on a level surface.

Additional wording to satisfy current concerns:
No part of a bilge keel shall extend forward more than 2400 mm from the aft face of the transom, measured along the plank to which it is fitted.

This retains the current look and it preserves the spirit of the class in allowing development within the rules. And since all current boats already comply with this wording, it will require no dispensations, no ‘grandfathering’ and very little administration.

I shall formally propose this alternative solution at the AGM and would be glad of your support when it comes to the vote.

07/07/2011 23:47:46
This is of little consequence to my ability or that of my boat, but surley a rectangle has 4 90 degree angles in it? there are not many (any?) bilge keels like that are there? I think I have followed the thread but what concerns me is that was the N12 not a clinker hull that has wound up smooth skinned and having little in common with its roots? It is the quirkey clinker appearance that attracts people loose at the peril of the class.

08/07/2011 00:35:47
Andy Hay - 3626 Business as Usual
Just measured BAU's keels: they extend to about 2.8m from the aft face of the transom. This is approximately in line with the forward edge of the mast. I took them this far forward as this was where the fairing board hit the original hull, the LIR has a quite sharp turn on plank 2 and the 2.8m seems to be the rough "spring" point for this plank. So the 2.4m restriction is no good for me.

When contemplating the bilge keels, I did think to extend to the stem but couldn't work out how to make a nice progression between the forward (think powerboat spray rail) and aft (triangular / flat section) without doing a nasty half turn.

See you at Batsons on Saturday.

08/07/2011 07:39:20
Chris M
Martin. The key word is contain. You can do what you like to fair it in outside 1200mm x 20mm x10mm.

Richard I'm well aware that only one bilge keel per side is permitted. Your proposal is effectively the same as the one by the MROA, but means that you could have a smooth hull for the bottom two planks aft from the point 2400mm forward of the transom. For all the reasons above committee think this is a bad idea. We've been down the route of a semi-smooth hull before, and as i said earlier it was banned.

Dispensation. If you read the proposal in the magazine, the committee is willing to give dispensation (With regard to the proximity of a bilge keel to an adjacent plank) to the 4 existing boats on a two year trial with a view to an indefinate extension. This is surely the most equitable solution, especially considering that one boat was altered with full knowledge that committee did not approve of this idea and were looking at rule changes. Dark Star would have to be altered, but it would also need to be altered if Richard's ammendment was carried and applied retrospectively.

08/07/2011 09:51:05
That is all well and good but the dispensation is not in the committee's gift it is the RYA.

08/07/2011 10:03:21
David Child
This thread started by Richard, and in my view not before time, shows that people care very much about this issue it is a lively debate that no doubt will reach a climax at the AGM tomorrow!
The one thing I find troubling is the issue of restrospective withdrawal of certificates of boats that are currently legal.
There is a long standing way of doing these things in sailing across the world, that is that as long as it complies with the rules in place when it got its certificate in respect of the section that is altered then it remains a valid certificate without having to bend the knee for exceptions to another authority. These people are necessary and do a good job, but are far from the grass roots of a specific class.
I do like Richards ammendment.
The Merlin Rocket is, as everyone agrees, the finest two man dinghy, I am sure everyone wishes to keep it that way.
I wish you good luck at the AGM tomorrow.

08/07/2011 13:12:15
Hi Just to say I support the Ian Dobson view and will, for once, be at the AGM!

David Charlton

08/07/2011 13:13:47
Stud Muffin
The current rules say nothing about fitting further bilge keels - the simply mandate a minimum of one and do not state "ONE AND ONLY ONE".

Similarly the rules state that it "shall be fitted over A land on each side…" not "A SINGLE"

IMHO: IF (note emphasis) JT's boats are not fitted with bilge keels AFTER building but built with the skin over a piece that represents/contains the part designated as the bilge keel, then that doesn't comply with the rule "FITTED WITH"

Something fitted after contruction not integrated during moulding - this may also cover all moulded boats, can readily be removed without compromising the underlying shell.

08/07/2011 13:47:08
Chris Downham
I am confused.  I find myself agreeing with the sentiments of many: yes, we are a restricted class, not a full on development class; yes I want the Merlin to gradually evolve and if I have a fantastic idea one day (unlikely), I'd like to have 'an edge' at least for a while until everyone catches up; and no, I don't want a hull without planks.

However, my main area of confusion is regarding the old rule and the proposal. Now I don't have my copy of the spring mag to hand, and I don't have a boat to hand right now either, so please bear with me.

The old rule states that 'a bilge keel.....shall be fitted OVER A LAND ON EACH SIDE, such that.....'. Now, is that a bilge keel on each side of the boat, as presumably it has been interpreted, or a land on each side of a bilge keel? Now, on to the rule proposal stating that the bilge keel 'shall be in contact with....., and no part of a bilge keel shall be within 4mm of any adjacent plank....', how does that accommodate the 'over a land' of the original rule, given that to my limited knowledge a land is, by definition, at the edge of a plank? Also, do we not uncover problems regarding the definition of a plank in a plastic boat, which doesn't really have planks in the construction sense a wooden boat does?

I look forward to someone unveiling some clarity for me.


08/07/2011 14:08:51
yup a minefield - chop 'em off - im sending the good Duke (he knows a carbuncle when he sees one) to the AGM as sadly I cant attend. The Grace has requested that the meeting be postponed until Monday 11th.

08/07/2011 14:09:53
yup a minefield - chop 'em off - im sending the good Duke (he knows a carbuncle when he sees one) to the AGM as sadly I cant attend. His Grace has requested that the meeting be postponed until Monday 11th.

08/07/2011 14:34:54
Andy Hay - 3626 Business as Usual
OK, Chris, you are not alone with the confusion. Stud Muffin was sort of right. The bilge keel has to be considered as a hull fitting, otherwise no-one would be able to comply with the plank thickness Rules (6-7mm for wood, 7-12 for plastic). This means that the current Rules restricting infilling on the inner edge of the plank land does not apply. Therefore you can push the bilge keel right against the next plank. My understanding of the phrase "a land" is a singular land. So the bilge keel could stradle one land but cover two planks. None of the boats in question have done this as far as I am aware.

Slightly off topic, Chris, you also highlighted the problem that I was grappling with the plug & mould Rules - hence the discussion point on the AGM agenda. Currently, we allow a lot of things on a GRP moulded boat as it would have originally come from a wooden boat or a wooden plug constructed both of which would have measured. Of course, you can then modify your mould. The only option that Will Rainey came up with was to use the phrase "those parts representing ...". This applies to bilge keels, planks, lands, the keel and a miriad of other elements.

Sense suggests that most people are a: in favour of incremental development to evolve the product and b: do not want smooth skins. From that point, we are only arguing about how draconian the revision should be. Fundamentally, the AGM will have to decide whether the bilge keels, as they have morphed into are good or not. If the majority want to allow this, but no more, then a sensible Rule revision to the current extent - 2.8m from the transom, one plank - would be a pragmatic limit.

Remember that unless the first resolution gets passed at the AGM, 75% of members present have to vote FOR a rule change as published to affect the change (assuming a quorum). Currently, there is no means for revising the text of a rule change unless the first resolution is passed and even then it will be at the chair's discretion. Abstaining is a vote against.

08/07/2011 14:36:47
Chris m
My interpretation would be that since the planks are usually 6mm thick positioning the bilge keel on a land will make it 6mm away from the plank underneath. Therefore no issues.

08/07/2011 14:43:20
Chris Downham
Cheers for the (partial!) clarification.

For those numpties of us that don't have the variations of bilge keels stored in our heads, and haven't been thinking over this for months, any chance of some photographs or even projected images at the AGM. I for one would like to see those on Dark Star/new JT boat, BAU, and 'standard' Winder ones.

Would be extremely helpful!

Andy, I take your point on CNC plugs, but that is another debate which I think as far as possible should be kept discrete from the clearly pressing bilge keel issue.


08/07/2011 15:10:06
Andy Hay - 3626 Business as Usual
Just printed out a pack of pictures of the work in progress on BAU for just that eventuality. Dan did a very clear sketch of the 4 current bilge keel sections. I'll email it to Mags and see if he can get it online. I hope that Dan would not object.

Chris M - the critical part is the inner edge of the land on the outside surface on the inner plank. Cripes, this is not going to be easy to explain. I hope that someone has the forethought to bring a flip chart to the AGM. Easier to sketch these things - beer mats in the SYC bar anyone?

Chris D - yes, agreed, hence the seperate discussion point at the AGM, if anyone is still awake or even still there by then.

08/07/2011 17:29:26
Tim Fells
Chris D - I may have come up with a fantastic about fitting our ship with two very deep bilge keels thereby creating a catamaran?

Lets discuss over a beer tomorrow....

08/07/2011 17:36:28
A few years back when we changed the N12 rules to remove the keel and bilge keel requirement we accidently opened up a loophole that would have allowed a catamaran.
It would have been a proper ugly little stumpy cat, but it would have been a cat. The loophole was closed before anyone tried to exploit it.

08/07/2011 18:01:25
Here's the diagram showing 4 different shapes of 'bilge keel' currently in use.

(I use quotes to show that I consider the use of the phrase hardly applies to some of these blobs....but what you're debating here is the rule interpretation so I shall shake my head and go away again!)
08/07/2011 23:28:47
Dave Lee
Unfortunately I will have to give my apologies for the AGM, but would like to add a few thoughts to the discussion.

Andy is correct that my boat 3660 was fitted with "type D" bilge keels just before the Looe Championships back in 2008, although all credit for the concept and build should go to Nick Turner. I believe the type D is an elegant approach if we really must have bilge keels (I'd be happy for the requirement to be deleted) and in no way detracts from the clinker appearance. I also believe it does reduce drag slightly compared to type B, but that said it’s probably less significant than, say, leaving a self bailer open around the course. The extra buoyancy low down must also be useful, but again, it's a small amount and can only be a marginal advantage.

So why did I bother? As several people have commented, one of the great things about the Merlin is that you can innovate and tweak within the rule space and this incremental development has led to the fantastic boats we are now sailing. I felt Nick's bilge keel concept looked great and, at circa £300 for the mod, was worth a punt as one of the less expensive things I could play around with on my boat. This is about the same as Kev Driver charged me some years ago to change the bilge keels on one of my previous boats, a Mk1 Winder, from the type A to type B shape. I'd therefore be surprised if we are talking £2,000 to professionally fit a Genii style bilge keel - or am I missing something?

I've no strong feelings either way about the type C bilge keel development or what Andy has done with BAU. Having seen Shabazzle close up last week, I don’t feel that the type C significantly detracts from the boats clinker appearance (as long as it is not run further forward). Also, to date, it does not appear to offer a significant performance advantage. However, I do take on board Alex’s point about needing to set some limits to prevent more extreme and costly development, and definitely agree with Chris M that we need to keep the cost of competitive boats within reach of good club sailors.

To me it seems clear that a line does need to be drawn on bilge keel development, but I’m not at all sure *where* we should draw that line. As per David Child’s comment, I also feel a bit uneasy with the proposed withdrawal of certification for boats which comply with the rules as they currently stand – is it really ok to move the goal post now? I know that the committee has already put a lot of thought and discussion into the wording of the proposed rule change, but perhaps Richard’s suggestion needs more consideration?

09/07/2011 10:02:05
Richard Parslow
OK, to address Andy Hay’s concerns we can extend the maximum length to 2800 mm from the transom – this will still not be visible from normal vantage points, thus preserving the clinker look that has been highlighted as an important concern.

Tim - that 'catamaran-style' implementation is already prohibited by the requirement that the boat should rest on one bilge rail and the keel when on a level surface. Nice try though!

As for the insinuations from Stud Muffin (whoever that may be) I can confirm that the bilge rails on JT’s boats ARE added on after building the hull. This is certainly NOT the case in any moulded boats.

In fact changing the shape of the bilge rails is in fact nothing new: over the past 10 years or so many people have modified the bilge rails on their boats (moulded or not) according to their personal preference. These amended bilge rails may or may not actually be "fitted on a plank" as such; however the overall shape (cross section and length) presumably complies with the rule, so they will give the appearance of having been fitted on a plank as an additional element.

Finally, I too am confused by the figure of £2,000 that is being bandied about as the price for amending bilge rails. I have no idea where this originated and I agree with Dave Lee and others that it seems ridiculously high.

Jon and I will be very happy to discuss all this at the AGM tonight and we look forward to seeing you all there!

11/07/2011 14:34:07
What was decided?

11/07/2011 14:53:15
Richard Battey
According to a very reliable source and Andy Hay's comment on another thread the AGM voted in the amendment to the Class Rules. Of a possible 100, 70 members turned up which represented 14% of a total MR membership of circa 500+. Good or bad? I'll let others decide that!

11/07/2011 16:21:02
Chris Rathbone
I suspect that for many with old boats, this is not a amjor issue. This will be regarded as the Edge only for our top of Fleet Experts.

As a sailor of an older boat, I am happy to defer to our front of fleet leaders whom I suspect will need such an amendment much more than I.

Best wishes,


15/12/2013 08:01:49
Gareth Griffiths
Just found this very interesting and emotionally charged thread.

I am just about to flip my boat over and work on the hull.

Would some one kindly let me know what is the best way forward within the rules..?

15/12/2013 08:43:33
Chris M
What do you want to/are thinking of doing? If you do anything to alter the shape the boat should be remeasured. The rise of floor is the rule to watch, but since that's in the middle it would have to be massive reconstruction to bother it. Plank curvature and exposed width are ones to watch too.

Construction wise if you stick with conventional materials anywhere near the hull you won't upset anyone, and I cant see any reason not to on an older wooden boat. Carbon and exotics (Kevlar, vectran etc) are not permitted in the hull shell which is planking and transom.

What you don't want to do is open a can of worms such as happened with this thread where the rules as drawn are not broken, but it constitutes a development that is not seen as being in the spirit of the rules. Quite a few loopholes have been exploited in ways that the rule makers didn't see over the years, and it's often been beneficial, but every now and then something controversial is done and the rules are changed - you'll never please everyone in those circumstances!!

15/12/2013 09:31:03
Gareth Griffiths
From reading the thread and noticing results it doesn't look that obvious that any one boat bent the rules in a massively favourable way.

My plans are just to clean up the hull, not to alter the shape. I will be flipping her upside down and removing all paint and filler until I have found a good surface. So far all the wood looks in great condition.

When re fairing ready for painting I just want to make sure I get a good surface that makes her as competitive as possible. If the trend has been to alter the bilge keel shape then I would like to follow the lead of the current trendy thinking.

Though if it is pointless or rule breaking I would rather just restore what I have.

15/12/2013 09:46:51
Chris M
You can alter the bilge keel in any way you like provided you comply with current rules.

The scenario that led to this thread was a little different in that the bilge keel merged two planks into one and was made full length, the rule at the time was rather weak in that it did not specify how long they could go. The bilge keels were thought of as a hindrance I suppose rather than something that could be used to aid boat speed! Innovative thinking, but not a path the class wanted to go down

15/12/2013 09:46:53
Chris M
You can alter the bilge keel in any way you like provided you comply with current rules.

The scenario that led to this thread was a little different in that the bilge keel merged two planks into one and was made full length, the rule at the time was rather weak in that it did not specify how long they could go. The bilge keels were thought of as a hindrance I suppose rather than something that could be used to aid boat speed! Innovative thinking, but not a path the class wanted to go down

15/12/2013 09:50:54
Andy Hay - Business as Usual
No one broke any Rules during this phase in the MR development. There was a few "interesting" interpretations going around which the class moved to close off.

If you are starting from scratch with your bilge keels / keel / keel band, etc, then make sure you have the right Rules from the RYA web site (March 2013 are the ones in play). People have been "psringing" planks, dropping and raising the bow and slicing planks for a while now. It seems to be common practice on the FRP boats. BAU has had her shape tweaked about 3 times, if I remember correctly. Again, read the Rules as they state when a Measurer must be consulted.

Oh, yeah - don't forget that bilge keels are "fittings" and can be made from any material .. :-) .. the Rules only prescribe the location, maximum extents and a minimum cross section. Shape is undefined.

15/12/2013 13:42:51
Gareth Griffiths Notting Hill Rigging Co
Thanks again guys... 

Will have to study the rules.

Any photos anywhere on the legal variations?

15/12/2013 17:30:46
Ben 3634
There are some excellent photos in this years summer magazine in an article by Andy Hay.

15/12/2013 18:53:32
Gareth Griffiths
Hey Ben

Thanks for that though unfortunately I don't have a copy.. New to the class.

Any other place they can be viewed, or other way to view them?

16/12/2013 08:06:21
Hi Gareth, join the MR association for less than the ptice of a can of paint and you will get the latest mag, years handbook and access to lots of 'Member' stuff on the website

16/12/2013 08:34:25
Gareth Griffiths

All been sorted

16/12/2013 13:00:35
Andy Hay - Business as Usual
If you can't get hold of the relevant magazine, I am sure I can dig out the soft copy I sent to Pat Blake. But basically the current vogue appears to be a lozenge shape semi-circular but flattened off on the underside slightly to give a small flat of planing area. Various different cross sections have been played with - I still like the triangular one that Chipstow were using.

Not sure yet what will grace the bottom of BAU when I get round to re-fitting the bumps .....

16/12/2013 18:26:19
Gareth Griffiths Notting Hill Rigging Co
Do the Brass rubbing strips have to be fitted to the hull along the keel band? Or are you allowed to just glass it?

16/12/2013 21:02:23
Andy Hay - Business as Usual
You have to have a keelband of given dimensional constraints on a woodie. Keelband can be any material though.

We have brass in way of the stem and slot gasket. Epoxy moulded ones faired in on the other parts which were applied after glassing the hull. No reason why you cannot glass them on & fair in after I guess. The keelband must extend from stem to transom (no gaps, so the pair holding the slot gasket on have to just overlap the bow & transom lengths), but it doesn't necessarily have to go up the stem, although it does give you extra waterline length (I am sure that the 3/16" will make a massive difference!). :-)

16/12/2013 21:30:51
Gareth Griffiths Notting Hill Rigging Co
Cheers Andy

So do you reckon I could have foam ones and glass over the top...???

17/12/2013 12:22:46
Andrew M
A bit of brass on the stem of your (wooden) boat is pretty vital if you are in the habit of T-boning Winder Merlins and similar obstacles at Salcombe...

17/12/2013 14:36:42
Gareth Griffiths Notting Hill Rigging Co
Hey Andrew M,

I am putting a flip out metal spike below the water line, a bit like Rossa Klebb's shoe in the James bond film "From Russia with Love".

Should sort out any FRP vs Wood issues on a crowded startline...!

17/12/2013 18:47:11
Andy Hay - Business as Usual
I rather need it to protect the sycamore gunwales not the stem ... something to hold the transom on too might not be amiss.

17/12/2013 22:19:38
Gareth Griffiths
A cannon?

Or is that too antiquated?

18/12/2013 14:15:38
Andrew M
Hi Andy!  Haven't taken the transom out of Heaven Sent for a while now since a famous occasion in Batson Creek at the bottom of a low spring tide.  I'm trying to pick the boat up from Laurie over the next couple of days after a fairly extensive rebuild - he had previously put a big thick knee on the transom which he reckoned would enable me to plough furrows in the next mudflat I hit.  May be back on the water for the Bloody Mary if I can work up the enthusiasm

20/12/2013 13:17:00
Kate does not have bilge keels


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