Some of the recent comments on Pam's cheating post focused on centerboards. I have some very strong opinions on this.
When I first arrived in
more than 40 years ago, I was fortunate to meet Frank Bethwaite and was able to assist with some wind tunnel testing and NS-14 class management. Frank's company at the
time was called Starboard Products (now Bethwaite Design) and one of its
specialties was making rudders and centerboards. Frank
started with raw lumber, used an ingenious routing machine to get the rough
shape, then shaped by hand, and then painted them with 2/3 resin and 1/3 thinner. The results were spectacular, and all of the high-performance boats in Sydney used them. Sydney
One of Frank's first overseas clients was a Tornado sailor in
. Frank made a beautiful set of CBs from alternating light and dark wood, and the craftsmanship would have put
most cabinet-makers to shame. They were beautiful, but the best part came
later. The Tornado sailor was so pleased that he wrote Frank explaining that
they were so fast that he had to de-tune the rest of his boat just to make
it fair for the other sailors. I learned that, yes, CB shape is really important. Hawaii
The Starboard Products logo (drawn from memory) shows Frank's belief that sailing is really about two foils - one in the air and one in the water. It was a great logo because it showed the importance of what very few people at the time knew - what's under the boat is just as important as what's on top.
Sadly, wooden foils were phased out in the late 80's. At the 1992 US Laser Masters, one of the competitors brought along wooden foils that were in pretty bad shape. But I knew that Frank could restore them, so I traded my new white foils for the old wooden ones (the guy thought I was nuts). Off they went to
Sydney, Frank restored them (with notes assuring me that
the shape had not been altered), and Mark brought them to the 1993 Master
Worlds in .
Call me old fashioned, but having beautiful, legal, wooden foils from Frank was like owning a piece of history. New Zealand
And then someone objected, saying that this would give me an unfair advantage. I thought, how can this be? Everything was from an authorized builder and the foils were restored to their original shape. Jeff Martin's decision was that he could not prevent someone from protesting me, so I decided to sail the Worlds using the rudder and CB supplied with the charter boat. My gorgeous wooden blades have a sentimental value but have never been used at a national or Worlds competition.
People must have had some pretty strong feelings because after the Kiwi Worlds, the class added a rule stating that a wooden rudder or CB could not be used on boats manufactured after a certain date. I have never understood this because they perform the same and its easier to alter painted blades.
Fast forward to another national championship, where a good
sailor and I
went out to practice. This fellow had the most amazing trick - going upwind in
waves he would sail with his bow one foot behind my rudder... and stay there. Like,
I could not shake him loose. It was like he was drafting behind me upwind. I
thought, that's a trick I have to
learn because it would be like a get-out-of-jail-free card off the starting
line if I was pinched off by the boat below me - I'd just slip behind and then
draft. But when we switched places, I could not and have never been able to make this drafting work. US
On shore, I asked this fellow how he did it. He just smiled and said, "it's the centerboard." He explained that he had borrowed this tricked-out CB from a very well-known NA sailor and it made all the difference. This was my first exposure to altered CB's. All I know is there appears to be more than one way to make them faster and it costs at least $500. I have since seen them used at national and Worlds events, but people don't like to talk about it. The closest explanation I ever got was "if you want to win, you have to have one."
The Aussie Laser that I bought 3 years ago came with the brown CB and rudder (these now come painted white). While I do not understand the reason the manufacturing process was changed, I liked the brown boards because they would be nearly impossible to alter.
And I disagree with those who think that you need a cheater CB to win. I've won two Master Worlds and, with some hard work and a little luck, look forward to maybe doing it again.