Ideal Weight and Dynamic Sailing
Sailing crew weight is seemingly best dealt with by most major sailing federations by making it clear that if the sailor is outside the ideal weight, they must get as close as possible to ideal before even being considered for National Sailing Teams.
What we find inconsistent about this attitude is that the ideal weight for each sailing class varies year on year. For example, the ideal 470 class weight of around 130 kg was challenged by Paul Forster and Kevin Burnham some years ago. They came in some 10kg and more than the other crews, won 2 golds and changed the boat for everyone else. Of course the “ideal weight” went up. Ben Ainslie began to sail the Finn class and won his first Gold Cup (Worlds) at around 95kg when most of the fleet were weighing in around 110 to 120kg. Oddly enough, “ideal” came down. There are many other examples of this movement of ideal weight, largely caused by taking ideal as the weight of the people who are winning.
It soon becomes apparent that heavier sailors have an undoubted advantage in heavy winds, and correspondingly light sailors have an advantage in most classes in light wind. This is a situation we will probably never get away from regardless of how boat design evolves.
If we go class by class, the Laser class is undoubtedly the narrowest weight band class of winners – always around the 79-83kg mark. The probability is that the rather simple sail design and old school mast precludes alternative ways of sailing the boat, which is probably why there is this predominantly narrow weight band of winners – the ultimate untunable rig! In contrast the winners in the Laser Radial seem to come from a much wider weight band, as witnessed in the Olympic games, but Anna Tunnicliffe won an awful lot (including Gold in Qingdao) at a reported 57kg, yet Annalise Murphy weighs in around 20kg more than this. The reason is probably that the additional shape of the Laser Radial sail enables much greater variation of sail shape and mast response through pulling kicker, out haul and Cunningham than the much flatter Laser Standard sail enables.
If we go to the classic Olympic One Design, the 470 now offers a relatively large weight variation, and sails can be chosen that afford the sailors this luxury. OK – anyone over 73kg as a crew and much over 65kg as a helm may be overweight, but compared to the old school ideas there is now a massive bracket where the boat may be rigged to be competitive. Similarly, at the lower end, it is possible to be competitive in the men’s fleet at under 130 kg, and in the women’s fleet at around 115kg. The expertise of the team in choosing sails and masts are the key to making it happen in the best way. Too often the mistake in this class is to use the more powerful sails (e.g. the North 13) just because the current winners have been doing so.
Windsurfing is rather akin to Laser – the windsurfers guys and girls tend to weigh within a narrow band, largely due to relatively narrow ability to adjust the rig. However, of interest is that Dorian is heavy, and Nick Dempsey is probably around 5 kg lighter. The result of this is that Dorian tends to win the heavy air regattas, and Nick the lighter ones. None the less the racing between these two in the crossover range is amazing, and there are Israelis, French, Italians and others well in that mix.
If we move to the skiffs, we are yet to see the 49erFX pattern, but in the 49er the massive adjustments that are able to be made to the mast shape gives a decent weight range of winners. The masts are the key in this class, and the ability to depower is considerable and affects the boat tremendously.
Having summarized above the sailing boats that can and cannot be successfully campaigned outside of ideal weight range, the goal of the blog is to let you know the Toplevel Sailing attitude to weight. We believe that in the boats where there is a large weight range of winners that dynamic sailing is the key issue to success. Clearly there is a Rule 42 that must be obeyed, but achieving trim adjustments is dynamic, and equally steering to the conditions. If we observe the videos on YouTube and other sites, we see huge advances in dynamic sailing. Whether or not the traditionalists like it, the future IS dynamic sailing, and “ideal weights” will, we believe change as radically as the Finn class did when Ben Ainslie introduced dynamic sailing to that class because of this factor. We believe in talent!!