Monday, December 07, 2015
Report from the testing of the new Rondar Squib vs. Parker built 881.
We were fortunate to have perfect conditions for the testing. Wind was pretty steady in direction around SW shifting around 5 degrees at a fairly low frequency , so most testing runs were unaffected by shifts and ranged from 12-20k. Wave height ranged from around 0.25m to 1m . The tide was ebbing for the first two hours , wave height and wind increased when the tide started to flood later.
Earlier in the year we had spent a day sail testing on the same venue with Malcolm and Andy in 819 ( and we have prior to that spent many hours two boat tuning with them on different venues) 819 is a 2000 vintage Parker boat , which was bought new by me and sold to Malcolm and is perhaps representative of the best era of Parker boats in terms of quality and strength . For those tests Jack and I sailed 881, one of the last Parker boats built, with which Mike Budd won the Nationals at Abersoch. The boat has had a bit of a controversial history in that when we bought it , it needed significantly more weight added than the maximum correctors allowed.However our early season testing showed it to be virtually identical in performance to 819.
We chose to use 881 to trail against the Rondar boat for a number of reasons. It has the same keel as the Rondar boat, It has a polished gelcoat hull finish and perfect foils. It also has the Superspar mast , which is the same as the Rondar boat. So to all intents and purposes it is the best example of Parker's later Squib boat building. The rig set up is identical as that on 819 giving us a good "control" on what represents currently the best probable 'pace' in the Squib fleet.
The Rondar boat was set up to mimic as far as possible 881 ( and therefore also 819's) set-up . Mast heel, forestay length,shroud tension , barber hauler positions, tack positions were measured and replicated.
The boat and crew were weight equalised using a load cell on the crane at Bradwell with 881 carrying 11k of weight to match the all up sailing weights of Jack and I in 881 and Malcolm and Andy in the new boat.
We used Hyde 315 jibs that had both been new at the nationals and were considered to be of the same state of wear. The Rondar boat had a new Hyde 315s mainsail to match the Superspar mast and 881 had the same design mainsail , but it was new at the Nationals and had been used at Cowes Week and the Last Chance regatta since. So the mainsail was slightly worn compared to the Rondar boat. But not to a degree that was considered significant.
The boats left the marina at about 11am having waited for Bas Edmonds and Jack Fenwick of the RYA to arrive to check over the new boat. With a risk of running out of water to exit the marina and therefore our preparation time was restricted. The hull of the new Rondar boat was perhaps not as clean as the highly polished 881- but probably not significantly different. But, importantly the rig on the new Rondar boat was not able to move in the gate as expected because the higher floor, allied to the necessary shortening of the mast to compensate seemed to alter the relative shroud lengths and rake so resulting in a rig that was effectively chocked off at deck level by approximately 2-3cm. With more time we would have been able to adjust the rig to suit , but unfortunately we had to sail with a compromised set-up in that the Rondar boat's mast would be less able to bend fore and aft.
Although we had brought a Hyde rib along, we did not have an available driver, which was a shame as some on the water objective assistance and filming is a highly desirable part of two boat testing. Nevertheless we had a well proven process for conducting the process and managed reasonably well without a rib. Jack did take some film and pictures using a Go-Pro which we will put on the HydeSails website as soon as possible-which I think lots of the class will find very interesting!
We had planned ( and successfully executed) to sail down the Blackwater to the Nass Beacon and conduct a series of upwind legs, first on starboard tack , with 881 to windward and the Rondar boat about two boat lengths to leeward and bows level, then on port tack with the boats positions reversed. After 4 of these legs we swapped crews and repeated the process. Between each leg we stopped and agreed what the "result" was and documented the conditions and observations.
Andy Ramsey has the best record of the detail of these legs and I am sure he will circulate the details if people wish to study the "science" in depth.
After each windward leg we ran downwind to the Nass again to repeat the exercise 8 times in total. We also used one down wind leg to evaluate speed on a run and one to evaluate reaching performance ( without spinnakers -the Rondar boat had no pole downhaul and therefore it was not realistic to use the spinnaker with out it).
So what happened?
Upwind it was clear almost immediately that 881 was quicker . This was borne out on every leg of the first 5 legs. The first legs were in 16-12 knots and wave heights of up to .5m . Whether to windward or leeward, on port or starboard tack and with either crew the new Rondar boat was significantly slower. On the first leg, 881 had pulled out around 1.5 boat lengths in about 2 minutes of sailing.
Why? The new boat was significantly more "powered up" than 881. in conditions that were perfect for maximum Squib speed upwind, the new boat appeared to have less gust response and pitched noticeably more than 881. So although we were trying to hike equally and not use exaggerated steering techniques the two boats were not comparable in speed.
After 6 runs we raked the rig further back on the new boat and applied much more vang than 881 ( we had been testing up to that point with equal vang, and sail settings on both boats)as well as considerable back-stay tension to try and compensate for the extra power that the rig was generating. This improved the situation and narrowed the speed gap, but on the final beat of the day Jack and I in 881 were still able to roll the new boat within 5 minutes of sailing upwind in what was now 20 knots with 1m waves.
On the down wind test, on a dead run with both boats side by side and goose winged sailing purely on the windex, 881 pulled out 4 boat lengths in 5 minutes.
On the reaching test there appeared to be no difference in speed, albeit at sub planing speeds with slight surfing .
Upwind the gust response difference was significant, but so was the pitching. The new boat pitched noticeably more than 881. Any impact on two waves in quick succession caused a noticeable slowing compared to 881. I thought that the new boat was slightly more competitive on port tack, where we were slightly across the wave pattern, rather than on starboard tack where we were more directly into the waves.
So there was NO DOUBT the new boat was slower than 881 upwind and down.
Tacking was fine- the higher floor meant a bit more of a duck, but it was manageable. It was not the problem we expected.
Moving the track forward seemed better ( according to Malcolm who sailed the boat back into the marina with the extra forward track being used )
The self draining floor was not a great success. The water pooled at the front of the side tanks, but this could easily be fixed by extending the side tanks as far forward as the front bulkhead.
The seats were less comfortable for the crew and helm, because they were higher and the coaming dug into the small of your back. Jack also said he felt "much less safe" as he was on the boat rather than in the boat downwind ( which is a surprising observation from a 18ft Skiff sailor!)
The new boat looked really nice and clean and well laid out. The fittings were well thought out and easy to use.
We agreed to sail again on tuesday next week after recalibrating the rig on the new boat to match the bend characteristics of 881.
We need to check the keel/rudder alignment in case that poor running speed is attributable to an error there.
Overall we were surprised that the performance difference was the opposite of what we expected. There is still some work to do to be definitive on the reasons for the difference.
But the new boat feels and behaves VERY different to 881. The extra structural stiffness and panel stiffness seem to eliminate any flex in the hull and therefore speed differences can be expected ( positive and negative) across the wind and wave range. To sail the boat competively in its current guise it would need to be set up differently, possibly sailed upwind differently and maybe need different sails. It may also benefit different crew weights to get the best out if in stronger winds to optimise the increased power available.
Its a very nice boat….but its a different boat to the current one.