torstai 1. maaliskuuta 2012

Aesthetics of Sailing II

This the more or less independent second part of my text on the aesthetics of sailing I promised to write. You would find the first part on this blog, written in February.

In order to sail beautifully the yacht has to be shaped accorded to the weather and sea conditions it is planned to be used in. A long and narrow skerry cuiser is well suited for sailing between the thousands of islands of the Stockholm and Turku archipelagos on the Baltic sea. They are relatively fast, easy to handle and docile. With an appropriate set of sails they can be sailed effectively in the light winds. Although long and narrow, they are agile, which means that they are easy to operate in cramped harbors or frequently changing winds between the skerries. On the other hand, they are miserable in high seas. The steep waves created by bigger ships can easily flood their deck, because in the bow and stern there is not enough volume to climb to the crests. Sailing offshore is pure stupidity and even on the coastal seas the skipper of a skerry cruiser should decide to seek for shelter early enough.

Traditionally offshore yachts used to be shorter according to the breadth of the yacht. Current offshore racers seem to be totally different kind of vessels. Traditionally the bow and stern are quite full shaped in order not to dive through the waves. On the other hand, excessive fullness makes the yacht slam on the waves when sailing upwind and slowish and directionally unstable when sailing down. To increase stability and dampen the movements caused by the waves the off shore yachts used to be heavy. Once again, the modern racers are made light so that they can plan downwind and sail fast upwind with relatively small sail area. These properties makes them uncomfortable for sailors. On the other hand, ocean racers are not seeking for comfort but a win. This does not mean that classic off shore yachts are inherently slower than, say, those skerry cruisers. They just need bigger sail area, which, on turn, is heavier to handle.

Thus, to me, it seems that a beautiful yacht is one to suit well to its expected usage. I would not say that a skerry cruiser is more beautiful than a hydrofoil trimaran. The beauty in this sense is not in the eye of the beholder. It deals with the body of the sailor and the expectations of sensations the yacht is going to give. There is, however, another view. I feel that the most of the poeple tend to regard old wooden yachts as more beautiful than modern offshore racers or multihulls. This everyman's view is perfectly understandable and acceptable to me, too. If I look at a crowded guest harbor the shining white plastic boats make huge contrast with the surrounding. At least the Nordic guest harbors are usually situated away from the cities and the surroundings consists of cliffs, woods, sand beach and so on. The environment is dominated by the local nature and gleaming plastic boat does not blend well within their surroundings. Classical boats are usually not as highly polished and even well maintained they have often marks of wearing. They are usually lower and narrower, so they do not dominate the landscape when seen from the beach.

More over, glass (or carbon or aramid) fiber reinforced plastic is as material more contrasting the typical surrounding of yachts than wood or even metal. This is the point of view where the beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Indeed, I should say that the beauty is in the brain of the beholder, because in the extreme cases, all of any material can be seen from distance is the surface. Plastic can be painted to look like wood and wood can be sanded and painted even and shiny enough to remind plastic at least temporally. Still, if the boat is recognized as a wooden by its shape and appearence, it is usually appreciated. Plastic painted to look like wood is easily regarded as false and graceless, if it is not done skillfully. So, appreciation depends partly on knowledge.

I used to be an academic researcher. Therefore I tend not to write openly about my own appreciations. Again, to be honest one should know oneself.
Sorry, I should have written: "To be honest I should know my self."
Being honest about own values and appreciations is a key to be honest to all the other people. Thus, I will give you a list of yachts I appreciate as beautiful.

6mR, 8mR and 12mR classes

mR Classes are based on the same formula, which yields a result in metres. Calculated features are the waterline length, sail area, height of the freeboard and girth difference, which I do not describe here more precisely. The formula itself is pretty simple, but there are several rules how to get those measures. Originally the results in metres were to be close to the waterline length of the yacht. The actual length over all of a 6mR yacht is something between 10 and 11,5 meters. 8mR class yacht is, then, around 15 metres and 12 meters R class yacht is a bit over 20 meters long. The waterline length is a bit more than the class name says. R class yachts are long, narrow and heavy. Even the old ones are really fast upwind. According to the modern racers, they are quite slow downwind. I have been sailing a 6mR yacht Marianne and she really is impressive. Fast, agile, and easy to handle. I actually sailed her singlehanded one day and through a thunder storm with my big brother in 2007. I cannot remember anyone sailing faster upwind and in moderate wind she is rarely slower to any single hull yacht downwind either. We even won a Contender class dinghy during an ad hoc race in very light winds. I would say an R class yacht is a great instrument to communicate with the sea, but it is not a yacht for offshore sailing. In spite of that, Marianne has sailed on coastal waters without problems.

The Skerry Cruisers are based on a rule that originally limited only the sail area. There were several classes: 15, 22, 30, 40, 55, 75, 95 and 150 square metres. As R class yachts, Skerry Cruisers (SK from skärgårdskryssare, literally: archipelago cruiser or archipelago upwind sailer) are long and narrow, but considerably lighter. SK 30 were said to be as fast as 6mR. I used to have a Mälar 30 class yacht, which was originally designed to sail an one design SK 30 class. Displacement of Marianne is close to four and half metric tons, my Mälar 30 was about two and half tons. I cannot say exactly which one is faster. However, Marianne used to be very successful between 1934 and 1946. She is still a potent racer among classic 6mR class. Both the classes, 6mr and SK 30 use huge spinnakers. I would say that "a six" is faster upwind and "a thirty" is considerably faster downwind. My M 30 did not plan, but she was surprisingly fast downwind. Nowadays I have a smaller Mälarkryssare, a M22 Spike II. The class is based on A 22, 22 square metre archipelago cruiser. Compared to her bigger sister M 30 or 6mR she is livelier, and, of course, more cramped. She is a bit slower too, which should not surprise any sailor.

The Swan 46 (marks I and II) is a serial production or semi custom yacht made by the famous Finnish boat yard Nautor. 109 of them were built between 1983 and 1997. The Swans are still regarded as elite yachts, although the older yachts are now purchased by more or less ordinary people. A Swan 46 in good condition would cost between 200 000 and 300 000 euros, which is, of course, far more money than I would ever see. However, it is price of a typical one family house here in Finland. The yacht it self reminds IOR class off shore racers. She could be seen as a cruiser/racer and as far as I know, she is pretty fast. As an offshore yacht she is not as narrow as R class yachts or Skerry Cruisers, and design is, of course, something totally different. With her high rig she sails fast even in light winds. I have never visited a Swan 46, but I suppose there are quite comfortable cabins, saloon and galley. She is also big enough to accommodate a good navigation desk with all the modern sailing, navigation and communication instruments.

The International Contender is one man dinghy. The class is maintaining a picture of demanding small yacht which is not for anyone. I have been sailing Lasers and Europe class dinghies, which are probably far slower, but also harder to sail, because they do not have trapeze. Trapeze is a wire running from the rig to a west wore by the sailor in order to give possibility to balance the heeling moment caused by the sail. These small, light yachts aren't really forgiving or docile. A mistake means often swimming. There is no heavy keel to turn a yacht back up when capsized. Sailor has to climb on the centerboard and use her/his weight for that. The seaworthiness of this kind of boats depends on the sailor's skills and psychic and physic condition. They can be seaworthy almost up to gale force winds and heavy seas, but if the sailor is exhausted, they are dangerous. So, they are great instruments to communicate with the sea, but for the sea they might be dangerous means to communicate with the sailor. Feeling of speed, acceleration and power is, however, extraordinary.

This far I have described the beauty of the contender only as the instrument of feeling the sea. The boat itself is beautiful, but the beauty is rarely visible. She is so low, that the hull is seen completely only occasionally during sailing. The hull is simple and somehow naturally straight forward shaped for fast sailing. Still it is not as extremely shaped for the fastest planing possible as, for example, the 49er. There is some kind of shapes for slower speeds left in the Contender. The most of the dinghy you can see is the single sail. Forty years ago it was something hot. Nowadays it looks like traditional. More to this, the hull can be constructed of plywood, which makes the boat look like more docile than it probably is.

The last boat on my list is the International Tornado. It is the only multihull boat sailed on olympic games. As far as I know, the Tornado lost its olympic status. For decades it was the fastest sailing yacht on ordinary sailor could purchase. To be honest, I do not now, if the current F18 catamarans are faster than the modern Tornado. However, the Tornado is fast. Her top speed might be somewhere close to thirty knots. I have never sailed it, but I have owned a smaller, Topcat 16 class catamaran. Based on that, I have some ideas about the behavior of the Tornado. First and foremost, she is a speed machine. As a multihull yacht she has to be sailed with a bit different technic than monohull boats. Sailing upwind is keeping up the best upwind speed, not pointing as high as possible. In any other sailing direction, she should be sailed fast. Sailing slow, except by spilling the wind by easing the sheet, is telling only that there are several forces and moments waiting for your mistake. Those might lead to breaking the boat or capsizing it.

Catamarans are not especially comfortable on high or steep waves. The tend to accelerate and decelerate in surprising directions. Sailing the other hull over the water or just touching the crests of the waves makes the sailing easier. The possible uneasiness of the yacht is not a reason access slamming, splashing or instabilities as beautiful sailing. The long an narrow hulls of racing catamarans gives a hint of not stopping on every wave you meet. The boat just has to be sailed so that it do not dive in the waves. So, I suppose, the Tornado should be sailed, balanced, quiet, one hull over the water and as far as possible, without slams and sprays.

Aesthetically, if only looked at on the beach, could she be regarded as beautiful? Without thinking about her performance, she might look like an uncleared unit of hulls, beams, ropes, mast, poles, ropes and lines. Looking at one narrow hull at a time her ability to high speeds can be sensed instinctively. Does it make the Tornado beautiful. I you had a living room big enough, would you like to have one there? I surely would. The only condition for that is that I should be able to sail her during the summer. These multihull yachts are an interesting exception in my sense of beauty. I tend o appreciate long, narrow lines, whether i was looking at boats, aircrafts, trees or beautiful ladies. Maybe the reason is that my knowledge of the Tornado makes me appreciate it. Then again, I can see the sleeknesses of the boat through the superficial complexity.

For me, the beautiful yacht is proportionally narrow according to where it is planned to be sailed. The shape of the hull and rig should promise easiness according to the speed and seaworthiness. There is something romantic in my attitudes towards sailing and the sea. On the other hand, I appreciate performance, easy handling, stability and silence. Speed by any means is not my goal. It can be achieved by buying the fastest motor boat I can afford. I do not underestimate the skills necessary for driving fast power boats. Still I appreciate more the ability to sail effectively using only the natural powers.

Finally, what is the most beautiful yacht I know? The Marianne is a good candidate. My Spike II would be a good runner up, or even vice versa. I have totally omitted single questions, whether the transom should be this way or that way or what is the most beautiful color of a sailing yacht. For every colored yacht there is at least ten white boats and three of varnished wood. In the picture of the Spike II you could see color scheme I painted. The comments have been enthusiastic and, probably, those who do not like it have been polite enough not to express their opinions. Anyway, the scheme became instantly so characteristic for my boat that I cannot change it. During the last summer I heard several times people saying: "Hi, I saw you sailing last week here-and-there." So, to the end of this article, I would add that to be beautiful, a yacht hast to be somehow unique, too.

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