Sunfish blasphemy question

254X

New Member
Thread starter #1
I'm new to Sunfish (still shopping for one) and to the forum (thoroughly appreciate it) so, as I did as an eight year-old in Sunday School, I'll go ahead and ask the blasphemous question while I'm still a newbie. Please be kind.

A two-sentence background: My first experience on a Sunfish was a brief 20-minute sail where I asked myself, "Gee, this is really fun! They race these? What a blast that would be!" That was four years ago.

So, this year, and after being out of sailing (raced a Flying Scot for a couple of years--not very well) and missing it I decided that sailing and racing a Sunfish would be a great way to get back on the water and having some fun. Inexpensive. Simple.

Ok. So there's a Sunfish and a racing Sunfish, huh? Ok.

So my blasphemy is this: What makes racing with a racing sail and the added lines so much better that racing with the typical recreational cut sails? What's up with that? And when did the one-design Sunfish start down two paths: Race version and recreational version? Seems to me that racing the same boat is the fun!

And...if the racing cut sail is so much more "one-design fun," then why do we as a class not open the manufacture to any sail loft who wants to make them and get a little price competition going? If they're all made the same way, using the same measurements, the same cloth, then we could all watch the price go down. And it'd be even more fun!

Fire away.
 
#2
You summed it up nicely. The Sunfish Goose is being roasted nicely, and when it's done the winner$ will take all the marble$ they made selling racing sails and performance part$ and go somewhere else.

The other problem is trying the crowd from defecting to the Laser and Butterfly fleet. The problems you mentioned ain't going to help, maybe speed its demise.

Thank you Agent 254X for your insight, this thread will self destruct in 30 seconds. . .
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#3
[Soap Box on ;)]

And...if the racing cut sail is so much more "one-design fun," then why do we as a class not open the manufacture to any sail loft who wants to make them and get a little price competition going? If they're all made the same way, using the same measurements, the same cloth, then we could all watch the price go down. And it'd be even more fun!
[Disclaimer – I do not speak for anybody but myself]

In a nut shell, there’s mutual cooperation between Class and builder and as part of this is the agreement to be a “factory class” in exchange for class support.

Judging by the lack of aftermarket supply interest for most parts, new and old, there's not a whole lot of demand out there. A little demand appears to exist when viewed from here inside the "help group" box, however, the Sunfish forefathers just made the boat too darn well. That doesn't leave a whole lot for a company to exist on in an extremely low volume market.

Have you become a Class member? If so, you can participate in these decisions.
http://www.sunfishclass.org

… on the lighter side … it could be worse (or more “normal”) depending on how you view free enterprise.


[Notice]
Starting next year we all have to upgrade to Sunfish 2.0 (project name - Ecnam-rofrep Resal) like it or not, because the new release of the Wind operating system, Wind v2010.1 will not be backwardly compatible with current release 1.8 of the boat or any earlier versions. Support for Sunfish v1.0 - v1.8 will cease at the end of March, 2010, at which point Wind v2010.01 will be in full force. By this date, the final release of Wind 2009…, Wind 2009 v1.12 will only operate with diminished highs and lows until activity reaches a state of dead calm.

Watch for the new iBreeze, to be released mid-year 2010. . . . . (not race legal)


I think one very real question is..., why does the recreational cut sail exist at all any more? Making just one cut of sail would combine sales, theoretically increasing volume, and lowering cost.

I can answer my own question partly... Different colors stretch at different rates so colored panel sails wouldn’t hold race-worthy consistency as long as the all white version. ...and colored panels sell boats.



So my blasphemy is this: What makes racing with a racing sail and the added lines so much better that racing with the typical recreational cut sails? What's up with that? And when did the one-design Sunfish start down two paths: Race version and recreational version? Seems to me that racing the same boat is the fun!
That’s a really really good question. You could reason the split came in 1960 when the lighter, faster fiberglass hull was introduced. This innovation not only hit Sunfish, but nearly every boat (motor or sail) in production around the same time. People really did have to buy a whole new boat to be competitive. Then in 1972 the rudder was redesigned…

Here’s a list of some of the design change points that may have contributed to segregating recreational from performance boats.

(excludes accessory options like, hiking strap, tiller extension, dynamic outhauls – which have been allowed nearly from the inception of the racing Class in 1969)

From the Sunfish Timeline in the Knowledge Base
1952 – 1956 (Basis) Wooden Hull – 142 lbs., Ratsey-Lapthorn Cotton sail (75 sq ft), paddle shape rudder, wood spars, lashed-on sail.

1957 Ratsey-Lapthorn Nylon Sail

1960 Fiberglass Hull, Aluminum Mast & Spars, Dacron polyester sail, Round end rudder shape, Hull Wt 139

1969 Sail draft increased. Sunfish racing Class is organized by builder AMF.

1972 Shadow daggerboard, new rudder shape, new rudder kick-up mechanism

1979 Sailmaker Fogh Sails of Canada

1980 Barrington daggerboard design

1984 Hull weight reduced to 129 lb

1989 North race sail (optional), recreational sail is still standard

1992 Neil Pryde Sails makes the recreational sail

1993 Composite, foil-shape Daggerboard (optional). Barrington daggerboard design is still standard

1997 Hull weight reduced to 120 Lb

1998 North Sails makes both recreational and racing sail



The Sunfish Class represents less that 10% of the Sunfish sailing and it’s elitist by it nature…, not a criticism, a reality of upper echelon competition. I can no more enter my family car at Indy or any race leading up to it…, so what about everyone else ?? Well, a lot of it is initiative. What happened to the “River Races”? We could use a few “Sailing Man” (human) get togethers. The numbers speak for themselves, not everyone wants to compete, the silent majority just want to sail.

[Soap Box off ;)]
 
#4
Wayne,

I am sure this is a simpleton question, but I'll ask it anyway because I haven't finished my first cup of coffee this morning. Re: rec vs racing sails, why do some colors stretch more than others? Also, are they now cut/sewn to acheive the same draft or is there still a difference? Thanks in advance!
 
#5
From what I was told the different dyes affect the materials differently.
As to difference today between the racing and recreational sails. while the have the same foot anf luff length the larger draft of the racing sail actually gives apx 85 sq ft versus 75 sq ft of actual area for the recreational sail.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#6
Re: rec vs racing sails, why do some colors stretch more than others?
The pigments added to the raw polymer during formulation influence the behavior of the plastic from that point onward. The exact behavior depends on the pigment type and its color, but in general darker colors tend to elongate more easily after they are extruded into fibers.

Now, we're talking tenths of thousandths of an inch per inch (0.0001"), but over time the result is a little more noticeable bagging of dark panels over white or uncolored ones.

The best situation is no colorant in the plastic and that's exactly what you see in big race boat sails. The natural hue of uncolored polyester (and some of the other sail fabrics) is often that straw yellow you see. All the graphics are applied on top of the fabric, not part of it.

Volvo Ocean Race

The other sail color you see today is..., none. Many of the "laminates" like Mylar are colorless, hence the clear sails.



Also, are they now cut/sewn to achieve the same draft or is there still a difference? Thanks in advance!
There's a difference. The North Sail (Sunfish OEM) recreational sail has less draft (camber) than the race sail. Other sailmaker's sails are made to resemble the OEM recreational sail, except Intensity Sail's "practice" sail which they claim is cut like the OEM race sail. I've not had a third party sail side by side with my OEM sails to scrutinize what, if any, differences in cut, material, or workmanship there might be.

SLO Sail and Canvas - www.SloSailandCanvas.com

 
#7
I think part of the answer has to do with the consistency (or perceived lack thereof) of the non-racing sail. Sometime in the mid-late'80s the racing sail was introduced as a way to get a good, consistent saidl. Prior to that there had been a series of manufacturers who had each made slightly different sails, each having an advantage/disadvantage in different condidions. The way I remember it, the class decided it would be better to have a bigger, better, more consistent sail built to make the non-racing sails obsolete than to have the perception that it was a lottery every time one went to buy a sail.

If you are just getting started with racing, a racing sail will not make you competitive. I'd stick with what you have for now and focus on getting better each time out. At some point you will know that you are ready for the better sail. Boat handling, reading the wind, tactics, etc are far more important than the sail when getting started.

Eric W
NE Rep to the USSCA
 
#8
It seems we may have gottten away from the original post of why the changes were made to the Sunfish in the first place, the question seems to be, 'why was not the boat left in its original form'. If that is true, I will give my opinion. Originally the Sunfish was copied, many clones were on the market. Price, not design was a factor, although some companies advertized as being 'faster than a Sunfish'. When raced, Sunfish were raced by themselves, or in open fleets where the Portsmouth ratings were used. It was not until the Laser came on the scene that Sunfish had a competitor by design. The Laser was faster and was less forgiving. Sunfish introduced the "Super Sunfish" (which I am not real familiar with, but I think it has a sail similar to the laser) to counter. Changes, from a producers point of view, are made to maintain market. Sunfish has had several manufactures from the original Alcort to AMF to Pierson and on. These producers had to keep the boat desirable to the boat buyer. At sometime the producer of the Laser and Sunfish became the same. The producer now has no competitiion as the number of single handled sailboats being produced has decreased as has the interest in sailing. The only way to generate cash for a company is to generate interest in the product. If the producer feels more interest will be generated by changes, changes will be make. As far as sail makers are concerened, if you have many producers each producer will try to make thier sail 'the' sail to have. they may do this by offering unique color combinations or they may alter the sail in a small way to gain aperformance advantage. It would be hard for the class to measure each sail produced to protect that someone does not gain an advantage by getting a 'custom' sail. Just my opinion
 
#9
"...The producer now has no competition as the number of single handled sailboats being produced has decreased as has the interest in sailing..."
The entire boating industry has a decrease in interest; hence the 2005-onward "Discover Boating" advertising blitz in Canada...

...and the USA...

(Title: Dogs Need Weekends Too).

With wobbly gas prices and today's questionable economy, Sunfish sailing may enjoy a resurgence even above power boating. :)
 
#10
The pigments added to the raw polymer during formulation influence the behavior of the plastic from that point onward. The exact behavior depends on the pigment type and its color, but in general darker colors tend to elongate more easily after they are extruded into fibers.

Now, we're talking tenths of thousandths of an inch per inch (0.0001"), but over time the result is a little more noticeable bagging of dark panels over white or uncolored ones.

The best situation is no colorant in the plastic and that's exactly what you see in big race boat sails. The natural hue of uncolored polyester (and some of the other sail fabrics) is often that straw yellow you see. All the graphics are applied on top of the fabric, not part of it.

Volvo Ocean Race

The other sail color you see today is..., none. Many of the "laminates" like Mylar are colorless, hence the clear sails.




There's a difference. The North Sail (Sunfish OEM) recreational sail has less draft (camber) than the race sail. Other sailmaker's sails are made to resemble the OEM recreational sail, except Intensity Sail's "practice" sail which they claim is cut like the OEM race sail. I've not had a third party sail side by side with my OEM sails to scrutinize what, if any, differences in cut, material, or workmanship there might be.

SLO Sail and Canvas - www.SloSailandCanvas.com




Thank you for sharing this:p
 
#11
Great post, seems to be a lot of variables at play. Does anyone think the Sunfish would benefit from having a separate fleet with recreational sail and wooden dagger board? My idea being inclusive of all the rest of the non racing sunfish. Here's the bottom line. I can buy a decent Butterfly for $350 and start racing. To get my SF racing I'd have to spend $600 for a foil and racing sail. I understand that doing this would result their being a bigger difference in individual boat performance. Anyway, I can't see where setting up some trail races would hurt.

Second idea, give the stock boats a handicap and put them in the same race. The would necessitate less resources being needed to run a race. Might provide more tactical interest making the faster boats work their way around the slower boats. Maybe also produce a nautical version of 'road rage.' :eek:
 
#12
We've tried the recreational seperate class. Problem is one will have the rec sail and wood. The next will have a racing sail and old wood, and the third would have a plastic dagerboard and rec sail.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#13
It appears Sunfish "One Design" is in the same situation as all other racing worldwide..., cars, motorcycles, planes, bicycles...
The racing Class keeps pace with evolving technology and for those who want to compete at that level, staying up with the evolution is the cost of participating in the sport. Some vehicular sports also have a "Classic" Class, but even there a line has to be drawn as to just where in the production timeframe a Classic is defined.

What you have described here . . .
We've tried the recreational seperate class. Problem is one will have the rec sail and wood. The next will have a racing sail and old wood, and the third would have a plastic dagerboard and rec sail.
. . . is a free-for-all fun gathering.

The only way I know to make order out of chaos is to let go of the "One Design" idea (since it doesn't work in a "make everybody happy world") and go to open racing with handicapping. Even there different handicap categories would need to be developed for different eras of the boat's development. Further, if hybrid boats wanted to participate they'd have to race X-number of events to establish an "individual handicap".
 
Thread starter #14
Enlightening discussion, gentlemen. And thanks for the insight and ideas so far.

Thinking about it, I don't really have any objection to carefully considered innovation. The post-'71 rudder attachment and the new longer daggerboard are probably good examples. I guess my biggest quandry is the departure in sail design and subsequent awarding of the production monopoly to a single firm.

I'm just not sure how much fun and enjoyment is gained from the "faster" sail and added lines. Of course, I am speaking out of turn: I have yet to sail a 'fish with a race sail and I (obviously) have never raced one.

But, bottom line, and unless I am missing something key, it seems a cost solution lies with something along the lines of what the Flying Scot class does. Any loft can make class-legal sails. They just have to be made according to class guidelines. Everytime you buy a sail you also pay a small royalty to the class (through the sail manufacturer) that, I guess, ensures the sail was made to class specs. Result: Price competition as opposed to monopolistic pricing. (We can fire up a separate economics thread is anyone is interested--or is suffering from insomnia!)

The two main attractions of the Sunfish (to me and others I know) are low cost and simplicity. If you have to throw those out to simply enjoy racing I'd say that concession alone would be at the core of any eroding interest in the boat.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#15
I guess my biggest quandry is the departure in sail design...
Two sails, one cut for leisure sailing and one for competition is not unique to Sunfish. Other sailboats have the same option, for example...
http://www.schurrsails.com/fs.html

As a matter of fact, other sailboats come in versions for leisure and competition..., also at a significant difference in cost.
http://tinyurl.com/choice-of-application



... and subsequent awarding of the production monopoly to a single firm ... But, bottom line, and unless I am missing something key, it seems a cost solution lies with something along the lines of what the Flying Scot class does. Any loft can make class-legal sails. They just have to be made according to class guidelines. Everytime you buy a sail you also pay a small royalty to the class (through the sail manufacturer) that, I guess, ensures the sail was made to class specs. Result: Price competition as opposed to monopolistic pricing. (We can fire up a separate economics thread is anyone is interested--or is suffering from insomnia!)
The Class has freely chosen how this works...


We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us



The two main attractions of the Sunfish (to me and others I know) are low cost and simplicity. If you have to throw those out to simply enjoy racing I'd say that concession alone would be at the core of any eroding interest in the boat.
The idea seems to be, you can buy the whole enchilada, but without the skill to make use of all the ingredients you're off the back of the pack anyway. ...and it's been demonstrated, someone with good sailing skills can win consistently with a simply equipped yet well maintained boat.




... But, bottom line...
Bottom line is no one races and expects to be in the running without:
  • Good sailing skills (a good handle on most all lateen rig tactics given in The Sunfish Bible)
  • Boat with a hull that isn't fatigued or waterlogged
  • Racing Sail in good condition
  • Composite daggerboard
  • Post 1971 rudder

This sort of basic laundry list holds true for all mechanized sports. What muddies the waters with Sunfish and even Scots is the Class rules are backward compatible for every stage of development, even though being competitive across the whole evolutionary spectrum with anything less than the above basics is purely an illusion.
 
#16
Minor correction..... Those sails shown in the start of one of the Volvo Open 70 round the world legs are not uncoloured polyester, they are Kevlar Mylar laminates, Kevlar has that straw colour.
Given that Sunfish dinghies are a one design class it would seem logical to make all of them identical from sails to foils. Doing this would enable an owner to sail solely for recreation, or if desired, to race....without the need to upgrade.
 
Thread starter #17
..... Given that Sunfish dinghies are a one design class it would seem logical to make all of them identical from sails to foils. Doing this would enable an owner to sail solely for recreation, or if desired, to race....without the need to upgrade.
This is what I was driving at.

This, and spreading the sailmaking among numerous lofts to keep the prices as low as possible. Again, why does the class award a monopoly for sails?

I completely understand and respect that other classes have different rec and race sails and setups. But, an attractive uniqueness of the Sunfish class would be a true one-design boat that could be a rec boat or a race boat and with a variety of sail sources. Would certainly work for me!
 
#18
I doubt if the Sunfish sail market is the bread and butter of North Sails, and if the load was to be further spread out nobody would make much on them. Going with a single loft is important for consistency. Speaking of monoplies (although not in the truest sense) The Sunfish itself is only made by one licenced builder as is the case with most non-home built boats.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#19
Minor correction..... Those sails shown in the start of one of the Volvo Open 70 round the world legs are not uncoloured polyester, they are Kevlar Mylar laminates, Kevlar has that straw colour.
Yes, thank you for the clarification. I mentioned polyester in relation to the material a Sunfish sail is made of and also pointed to other plastics in their raw form…, but you are right, I didn’t make the distinction from the sails pictured.




This is what I was driving at.

This, and spreading the sailmaking among numerous lofts to keep the prices as low as possible. Again, why does the class award a monopoly for sails?

I completely understand and respect that other classes have different rec and race sails and setups. But, an attractive uniqueness of the Sunfish class would be a true one-design boat that could be a rec boat or a race boat and with a variety of sail sources. Would certainly work for me!
I don’t disagree, a simple boat is what Sunfish started out as and what its original popularity centered around. Somewhere along the way, evolutionary improvement gave way to divergence of design and intent. Apparently the simple design fell out of favor with the buying public. The sportier Sunfish on steroids… strike that… make it just Redbull, got more recognition.

Significantly since the 1980s, the trend in sailsports has been more toward the extreme. By the 1990s that put hundreds of small boat builders right out of business. Only Sunfish and a couple of others that didn’t shift to a more extreme design have hung on… and I will surmise this is because the boat is only one part of a broader spectrum of boats in the builder’s line. I seriously doubt Sunfish or any of the Sunfish-like boats still in existence could survive as a standalone in today’s marketplace…, except as very limited or custom production for a counterculture still seeking sailing simplicity.

. . . then again, there’s nothing stopping anyone from organizing a “Classic Sunfish” Class. That might even take a huge weight off the shoulders of both the builder and the ISCA. The ISCA could stop feigning “One Design Fits All” and focus on upper echelon racing and international competition. The builder could breath easier, no longer shackled by backward compatibility issues to mollify the Class.




I doubt if the Sunfish sail market is the bread and butter of North Sails, and if the load was to be further spread out nobody would make much on them. Going with a single loft is important for consistency.
I belong to three sailing groups for boats open to using any sailmaker. Like Sunfish, the volume is low so prices are not reduced by competition. The sails for these boats are only competitive for their generic size range, but in no way is the price now lower than it was when they were only made by a single OEM sailmaker.

It’s not just competition it’s also about volume and, despite the number of Sunfish out there, replacement sails don’t appear to be a high volume item. I believe the price difference we currently see is the difference between a regular sales margin and a margin padded to overlap other, even lower volume parts… or low volume runs in a high volume loft… or operating costs to help keep a business alive who wouldn’t otherwise remain solvent using a more competitive pricing model. Conversely, the $140-$160 street price may be a loss leader price in an attempt to test what the actual annual volume may be. We could very well see the real price, OEM and third party loft alike, settle out at some compromise level in the future.
 
#20
Going to multiple sail makers will raise the price of competitive sails, not lower them. Look at Optis. Those sails cost $500+, and they are the same size as the cover I used to put on the wheel of Stars and Stripes when she was at the dock! What has happened with Optis is the sail makers have gotten into a battle, and they are spending money on R&D and materials. Everyone wants to have the best for their children, so they pay whatever it takes. The same thing would happen with your little Sunfish. Someone would make a cheapo racing sail, but it will be smoked by the expensive ones with the R&D behind them, so no one will buy the cheapo one. You will end up paying almost as much for a Sunfish sail as I did for a jib for Stars and Stripes down in Australia.

Dennis
 
Thread starter #21
<textbookOn>Multiple producers that cannot achieve differentiation are in a commodity business and therefore compete on price. They will try to differentiate; but, if (in this case) the class enforces materials and measurements the products are all the same. If the products are the same, producers will try to differentiate on brand. And it often works to garner a higher price.


Laser Performance may be the only producer of Sunfish. But that doesn't make them a monopoly on sailing choices among similar boats. They have to compete against other boats for sales and the re-sale market. But, once a sailor buys a Sunfish to race, new or used, he is faced with a "legal" monopoly in sail choices for racing. There's only one.


Prices are set in non-monopolistic markets by supply and demand--not by costs. Costs simply determine if there is enough profit to produce the product or pass on it. Costs have very little to do with pricing. (Seems counter-intuitive, I know.)


A monopolist is a price maker; there is no supply curve. The monopolist sets the price to achieve the units he wants to sell and avoid attracting new entrants. Thus, a monopolist supplying a part of a product can determine the entire number of customers for the whole product by his pricing mechanism. In our case, the price of racing sails has a huge impact on the number of racers.


We see many, many sailing classes lamenting the demise of their numbers. There are reasons.</textbookOff>




Ok. Back to happy thoughts about the pure enjoyment of sailing a Sunfish! I had a great afternoon: About 8 kts on the lake, just a small whitecap here and there, and really had a blast! My tacking is still terrible. But there was enough wind to really get a sense of the differences between port and starboard tacks. Downwind was a good time, too!
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#22
Ok. Back to happy thoughts about the pure enjoyment of sailing a Sunfish! I had a great afternoon: About 8 kts on the lake, just a small whitecap here and there, and really had a blast! My tacking is still terrible. But there was enough wind to really get a sense of the differences between port and starboard tacks. Downwind was a good time, too!
Good to hear you're having fun, that's what it's about after all.




"A little revolution, now and then, is a healthy thing, don't you think?". . . . . . . . . . . . . Captain Ramius
 
#23
They are marvelous little boats, aren't they? Even with all of the back & forths on which rig or equipment is better or faster, etc., sometimes I just marvel at how much fun you can have with such a simple set-up--feel like I am "getting away with something" it's so easy to enjoy!
 
#24
I think you have omitted a few useful chapters from your textbook. My comments below

<textbookOn>Multiple producers that cannot achieve differentiation are in a commodity business and therefore compete on price. They will try to differentiate; but, if (in this case) the class enforces materials and measurements the products are all the same. If the products are the same, producers will try to differentiate on brand. And it often works to garner a higher price.

Prices are set in non-monopolistic markets by supply and demand--not by costs. Costs simply determine if there is enough profit to produce the product or pass on it. Costs have very little to do with pricing. (Seems counter-intuitive, I know.) No need to be condescending!!!END QUOTE

You are trying to imply that if Sunfish sails became deregulated, somehow all sails made by all producers would be the same. Regulating that would be virtually impossible. If you require them all to make the same sail, you would have to require them to buy their sailcloth from the same supplier, and then someone would need to be employed by some entity to be sure all the sails are the same (not sure how you are proposing to do this - sounds expensive for the class association to hire someone to fly around and monitor sail production. And measuring sails after they are made is an inexact science, and a real pain for the Sunfish class, which has never had to worry about measuring in sails) If you could somehow achieve this, either one of two things are likely to happen:

1) several suppliers enter the market. Prices will fall to rock-bottom as the sails are truly commodities. They sell at rock bottom prices. When a manufacturer want to achieve a profit increase, they will have to cut costs. Quality will decline, and either the firm that cuts quality sells more sails, so either, a) everyone else cuts quality, eventually to the detriment of the class or b) the firm with higher prices holds quality, and since their quality is better, they can then start ratcheting prices up, because the alternative is to buy a lousy sail for less money.

2) No suppliers enter the market. Who WANTS to join a commodity market?? Generally nobody - as you say, usually firms in commodity markets try to de-commoditize so they can charge a premium. So here is what happens. A new supplier enters, like Intensity, with rock bottom prices and drives North out. No one new wants to enter because its a commodity product, with very low volume, so little money to be made. So now Intensity has a monopoly, and when no new suppliers join the market, it is a natural monopoly and they can slowly raise prices, or they hold price and cut quality, to the detriment of the class.

HOWEVER, there is no way the scenario where all makers have to buy the same material will come to pass. What WILL happen is your little Sunfish will end up like Optimists. Optimists have rules governing sailcloth, cut, etc. Here is what happened. Several firms entered the market, like Olimpic. To try and decommoditize, they innovated and made faster sails. As you can find out, sails that the winners in Optis use cost $500+. Low priced players also entered - the Dinghy Shop on Long Island sells private label Opti sails for half the price Olimpic and the others charge. Do any top sailor use Dinghy Shop sails - NO. The business has migrated to the expensive fast sails. Same as will happen with your little Sunfish.

In our case, the price of racing sails has a huge impact on the number of racers. And you have concluded this how? Name a growing class aside from Lasers.


We see many, many sailing classes lamenting the demise of their numbers. There are reasons.</textbookOff> And those reasons are???



Ok. Back to happy thoughts about the pure enjoyment of sailing a Sunfish! I had a great afternoon: About 8 kts on the lake, just a small whitecap here and there, and really had a blast! My tacking is still terrible. But there was enough wind to really get a sense of the differences between port and starboard tacks. Downwind was a good time, too!
Good idea.
 
#25
At $440 the Sunfish sail is less expensive than just about any one-design sail from any major sailmaker. It’s also sturdy and lasts a long time. Plenty of races are won with five- year old sails. If you do club sailing and regattas and sail 100 races a year, after five years that’s only $0.88 per race. For 50 races per year it's $1.76 per race and you could still sell it second-hand.
 
#26
Thinking about it, I don't really have any objection to carefully considered innovation. The post-'71 rudder attachment and the new longer daggerboard are probably good examples. I guess my biggest quandry is the departure in sail design and subsequent awarding of the production monopoly to a single firm.

--The sail production has always been a monopoly (or duopoly when race sails are North and standard sails are someone else). This is a manufacturer Class. It's best to visit sailing.org and read up on the difference between a manufacturer Class and a One-Design Class. The idea with the Sunfish is to be able to open up the box (specify the racing version, per se), put it together, and go out and be right there.

We must keep in mind that the Sunfish is the most fiscally responsible singlehanded boat available. While the Class seems to attract the tightest of tightwads, we're dealing with a boat that is extremely low cost, high quality, lasts for YEARS, and will provide far more enjoyment than many other toys bought for far, far more!

Do runners gripe about having to buy new shoes? Maybe a little, but they do it anyway and go for quality. Same thing with racers. The ISCA Board grappled with a huge issue on the sails. Back in the pre- "racing sail" days, racers in the know built good relationships with their nearby dealers. Dealers would notify them when a new stock of sails arrived. They would go, lay them all out, pick out the 2 or 3 good ones, and leave the rest for sale to the general public. New racers would suffer as they didn't know this kind of homework was required. And, the "lottery" for having a great sail show up in that next batch was never guaranteed. There are a couple people who still have their pre-1989 sails that save them for certain conditions because they are the perfect shape for that setting. To remedy this insurmountable problem, the "race sail" was adopted to (1) provide better drive for the boat in lighter air, (2) to make the sail quality issue a far smaller issue and make the stock fairer for all involved, (3) to increase safety by changing and enlarging the window, and (4) to make the shape best suited to the Sunfish (Hans Fogh did tons of testing with panel shapes and seaming so the sail, with adjustments, would be most suitable for the spars and space available).

The racing cadre is completely happy that we don't have the widely varying shapes and funny looking panels like we did in the old days. When there's a real problem, a real solution must be found.

Recreational sailors, by far the majority of Sunfish sailors, are just as happy with a recreatonal sail and it makes the boat go well.
 

254X

New Member
Thread starter #27
...... The ISCA Board grappled with a huge issue on the sails. Back in the pre- "racing sail" days, racers in the know built good relationships with their nearby dealers. Dealers would notify them when a new stock of sails arrived. They would go, lay them all out, pick out the 2 or 3 good ones, and leave the rest for sale to the general public. New racers would suffer as they didn't know this kind of homework was required. And, the "lottery" for having a great sail show up in that next batch was never guaranteed. There are a couple people who still have their pre-1989 sails that save them for certain conditions because they are the perfect shape for that setting. To remedy this insurmountable problem, the "race sail" was adopted to (1) provide better drive for the boat in lighter air, (2) to make the sail quality issue a far smaller issue and make the stock fairer for all involved, (3) to increase safety by changing and enlarging the window, and (4) to make the shape best suited to the Sunfish (Hans Fogh did tons of testing with panel shapes and seaming so the sail, with adjustments, would be most suitable for the spars and space available)....
Excellent insight and explanation...thanks!

The racing cadre is completely happy that we don't have the widely varying shapes and funny looking panels like we did in the old days. When there's a real problem, a real solution must be found.....
Seems to me that having sails from different lofts with the same measurements wouldn't be an issue. But I'll defer to those more in-the-know.

No doubt the 'fish is an economical boat. And at $439 the racing sail isn't overly expensive compared to other class sails. (Although it is over three times the price of a Neil Pryde rec sail.) But I know that competition would result in lower prices and likely greater participation.

How do I know? I live in an area where there is no Sunfish class within a three-hour drive. But there is a languishing sailing club on a local lake. Five of those members have expressed interest in joining me in some Sunfish racing on the lake. None of those five have any interest in buying a race set-up. They want to "save the money" and just race the rec Sunfish they already own or can buy for relatively little. They're the ones who spurred my thinking about this with comments like, "Man, that's just not worth it," and, " It's just a Sunfish--I'm not spending that kind of money on that boat."

Would a $150 reduction in racing sail price mean more of those guys would go the full-race route? Maybe. But it'd benefit us customers--and that's something I can certainly support.
 
#28
Seems to me that having sails from different lofts with the same measurements wouldn't be an issue. But I'll defer to those more in-the-know.

No doubt the 'fish is an economical boat. And at $439 the racing sail isn't overly expensive compared to other class sails. (Although it is over three times the price of a Neil Pryde rec sail.) But I know that competition would result in lower prices and likely greater participation.


If you had a Lightning, would you race it with recreational sails? How about a Farr 40? Or a TP 52?

How do I know? I live in an area where there is no Sunfish class within a three-hour drive. But there is a languishing sailing club on a local lake. Five of those members have expressed interest in joining me in some Sunfish racing on the lake. None of those five have any interest in buying a race set-up. They want to "save the money" and just race the rec Sunfish they already own or can buy for relatively little. They're the ones who spurred my thinking about this with comments like, "Man, that's just not worth it," and, " It's just a Sunfish--I'm not spending that kind of money on that boat."

Just a Sunfish ... Hmm. The most adaptable and adjustable singlehanded one-design that can be nearly equalized if adjusted properly to allow those 4'10" to 6'6" and 100 to 210 pounds to be competitive. Its World, North American and National champions have gone on to amazing sailing careers in other Classes. It may be humble, but it's a fantastic boat at an incredible value (shh! This is just OUR secret!).

New boats are now in the $4200 range (I think), less than an Opti, way less that the L-Class boat, yet the Sunfish is still sailing and racing when it pipes up over 35 and everyone else is swimming! The only issue is everyone can find an old boat for $500-$1200 and then they struggle with the upgrades to make it up to speed. If it was an old Rebel or Flying Scot there wouldn't be a QUESTION about tricking it up. If we, the Class leaders, could figure out how to educate people about how the changes were made to make sailing the boat a more even experience and to save people time from tinkering (ohh, the hours I spent with a sander trying to perfect my old round daggerboard) and allow more time for fun and racing, we'd be VERY VERY happy. So, either someone plunks down for a new boat or they buy a used, trick it up and end up spending less than half the cost of a new boat. C'mon, folks. It's not that much money! And, there ARE tons of fleets that are racing with all recreational equipment (but this takes self control. Everyone has to agree to rec sails and rec daggerboards and stick to it). Believe me, most of the racers I know (me included) carry at least 2 rigs with them to big regattas (if big wind is forecast I have a terrific old rec sail that is perfect in steady 25+). Some even bring their old wood board so if they damage their new composite one they can sail in between races and swap them out.

Understand, too, it's taken me 25 years of participating and gathering to get to where I have all these different items. No one just plunks down and suddenly has all these spares, etc.



Would a $150 reduction in racing sail price mean more of those guys would go the full-race route? Maybe. But it'd benefit us customers--and that's something I can certainly support.[/QUOTE]

You know, there's nothing that says the non-official fleets can't all agree to get the one-off "racing-mimic" sail. Just know that if they want to go to qualifying events that they'll have to buy the real deal.

Truthfully, if a whole fleet agrees to take a year, skip a beer per outing and put the coin in a jar on their dresser, they'll likely have the coin raised and can implement it as a "fleet-love" project together.

Somebody, please help me understand why the Sunfish gets picked on over this? Think about it ... No other Class has "recreational" sails. If they did, then there likely would be this kind of brouhaha on other notice boards, too!
 
#29
Would a $150 reduction in racing sail price mean more of those guys would go the full-race route? Maybe. But it'd benefit us customers--and that's something I can certainly support.
We need our dealer network in place to make the boats and equipment available. Without them, we're all in trouble. Some how, they need to make a few bucks (they like cold beverages, too). The official rec sail is a lower price than the official racing sail. Keep in mind, there are not hundreds of thousands of Sunfish sails being made every year. Their margin is very small and should not be maligned.

And, I'll again draw everyone's attention to the ISAF definition of a "Manufacturer Class." www.sailing.org Until I read about it, I didn't really understand the difference. The Sunfish Class is NOT like the Star, Flying Scot, etc. Also, be sure to read the Class rules www.sunfishclass.org.
 

254X

New Member
Thread starter #30
This conversation spurs two comments and raises three questions in my mind:

First comment: In my business I've yet to consult to any company suffering from low sales whose leaders haven't said, "If people would only understand how good our products are!" Well, that's not the problem. You have to listen to why people don't buy and meet their demands. Telling them that they're wrong usually doesn't result in any new sales.

First question(s): Just what is the margin on a racing sail? Who sets the price? If their margins are low, whose fault is that?

Second question(s): How much would you be willing to pay for a racing sail? $500 $600 $700 How much is "too much" and who gets to decide that? Presently, it's decided by one manufacturer who is engaging in (class condoned) monopolistic pricing.

Second comment: I'm not trying to change the Sunfish world here. I admitted up front that I was risking blasphemy. But I can't help but find reason and common sense in what an earlier poster said: If it's a true one-design, then it seems that all the boats should have the same stuff and you could buy one and race it or enjoy it recreationally at the same price.

Third question: If a $439 racing sail is superior to a $150 copy-cat sail (say, the one from Intensity), or even superior to a $140 rec sail, then why can't a sailor show up at a sanctioned event and race those (if they have a window)? What's the risk to the $439 sail or to the class?

Help me understand. I'm open to understanding.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
#31
This conversation spurs two comments and raises three questions in my mind:

First comment: In my business I've yet to consult to any company suffering from low sales whose leaders haven't said, "If people would only understand how good our products are!" Well, that's not the problem. You have to listen to why people don't buy and meet their demands. Telling them that they're wrong usually doesn't result in any new sales.
Hmmm... Heresy can help to raise awareness, but I'm afraid you're preaching to the choir. 90% of everyone here are not Class members, rather just recreational sailors looking for help to keep up their boat. Did you think this is The Sunfish Class??
http://www.sunfishclass.org

The people who have sought out and discovered the discussion groups are the ones interested in becoming informed. You see a lot of chatter on the topic of parts prices, but if you look closely you'll find most of it comes from newbies asking "what gives" and veterans pointing the way to the alternatives. So, the grass roots dynamic you describe is happening right here. We are voting with our dollars and though that’s the most powerful ballot anyone can cast, the process is slow.

Is anyone from the boat builder paying attention, we can only hope so. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to look on the wall of the sailboat shop or the web pages on the internet and notice a slight price difference for the same or equivalent pieces. But, you do have to make the effort to look.

Sunfish fairlead w/screws $10
http://www.apsltd.com/p-23736-halyard-bullseye-fairlead-wfasteners.aspx

Harken Large fairlead w/o screws $4
http://www.apsltd.com/p-3213-bullseye-fairlead-lg.aspx

On the other hand a bag of 30 official Sunfish sail rings was up to around $22 and is now down to $15.



First question(s): Just what is the margin on a racing sail? Who sets the price? If their margins are low, whose fault is that?
I can only assume that would be the builder, Laser Performance. You'll have to ask their people that question.
http://www.laserperformance.com/main




Second question(s): How much would you be willing to pay for a racing sail? $500 $600 $700 How much is "too much" and who gets to decide that? Presently, it's decided by one manufacturer who is engaging in (class condoned) monopolistic pricing.
Looking for equivalents, it seems a number of similar size "One Design" boats are all in a Manufacturer (monopolized) Class..., Butterfly, Hobie, Laser (LP again), Opti (several builders, but still constrained).

Given the company Sunfish Class racing keeps, when you look through those glasses, the pricing takes on an appearance of being "normal", even lower than some.

...."pay no attention to the man behind the curtain".




Second comment: I'm not trying to change the Sunfish world here. I admitted up front that I was risking blasphemy. But I can't help but find reason and common sense in what an earlier poster said: If it's a true one-design, then it seems that all the boats should have the same stuff and you could buy one and race it or enjoy it recreationally at the same price.
I wonder if there's a dichotomy class?

So your saying drop the "Pro" boat from production and keep the "Rec" boat or visa versa.

My thought is drop the Rec boat from the Class. IMHO, it's the "One Design Fits All" idea that's the fallacy not differently equipped models of the same basic boat. I Can't think of any Class that doesn't have non-conforming boats out there sailing for pleasure.

On the same note, simply buying and owning a particular boat doesn't automatically make you a Class member either. It’s a separate choice to join in and subscribe to the rules and regulations. Until then, you (and your boat) are free agents.

http://www.sunfishclass.org/join-the-class.php



Third question: If a $439 racing sail is superior to a $150 copy-cat sail (say, the one from Intensity), or even superior to a $140 rec sail, then why can't a sailor show up at a sanctioned event and race those (if they have a window)? What's the risk to the $439 sail or to the class?
Hmmm… I’m not sure where the notion of “superior” sprang up from. I was under the impression the argument all along has been equivalence in material and workmanship, only for a radically different price.

Windows are simply an option by the rule book, standard equipment on some sails, but at the discretion of the sailmaker.
http://www.sunfishclass.org/ISCA_CLASS_RULES_10052006.pdf

Speaking of price, wasn’t Intensity Sails’ “practice” (racing) sail around $235 not too long ago. It’s down to $150 without any “sale sign”. Is this a new gauntlet being thrown down in the price war”?

I can't speak for the class..., but you'd think there'd be some sort of allowance for non-members to join in racing, at least for awhile. Might be a good way to recruit new members. …sort of a sampler, as it were.

.... could be a nightmare for the Class Measurer, though. Tech inspections could go on for days prior to a big event. At $30 a year membership, it’s not a wealthy yachting organization with oodles of personnel swarming the race venues.


Help me understand. I'm open to understanding.
OK, you’ve expressed a displeasure with the monopolistic parts supply at the racing level…, welcome to the club. You’ve voiced disapproval of US Sailing’s lax structure, allowing a One Design with a dual personality to exist among its ranks. And you’ve scolded the Sunfish Class organization for not being egalitarian between its members and corporate sponsors. However, you are saying this to a gathering of enthusiasts who, for the most part, share your frustrations, but also like you have been reluctant to join the class, learn all the facts, deal with the politics of garnering support from the builder while participating in formulating constructive solutions. So if you’d like to see some change for the better you’ll need to step up to the challenge and become actively involved instead of railing from the back of the room.


Wayne
 
#32
I guess I'm not really getting the controversy here. If someone is thinking of getting into Sunfish racing at a local fleet level, I can't imagine many local fleets would care one bit if you used a non-official sail.
BUt if that same person wants to compete in class-sanctioned events like regionals, midwinters, north Americans, etc, then he/she would have to comply with class rules. But even then, speaking for myself as the New England Rep., if someone wanted to come race at a Regional with an unapproved sail, mainsheet blocks, etc, I'd look the other way if they were at the back half of the fleet.
In my experience, once someone gets the bug they will want to buy the better equipment anyway. And if someone is making a better Sunfish sail for $150, or any price really, than I'd think the class would want to understand it. The idea is to get people involved in the class, not involved in buying stuff. They would have to join the class, of course. That’s not negotiable at sanctioned events.
I think part of what’s going on here is that the Sunfish Class is actually quite laid back (for the most part). People are super helpful and open to newcomers . But when discussions like this happen in a public forum there is a feeling that it’s all about rules and regulations. Don’t get me wrong, the rules are critical to the success of the class and need to be followed. I would be the first to object if someone took home a trophy (or Worlds bid) by (essentially) cheating. But my experience tells me once the rail meets the ripple, nobody is going to raise a stink if someone kicking the splash rail on the class has a knockoff sail – again, assuming that person is not at the front of the fleet.
 
#33
Hi, I am head of the Advisory Council for the International Sunfish Class assoc., and thought I would weigh in. First, I agree with what Wayne and Gail have said. I also think that you would find that "Dennis Connor" had a pretty accurate take on what would happen with sail pricing if it were opened to competition. Also, Wayne is right - if you want to lobby to change the class, you will need to join the class and participate. We are always looking for motivated folks to help manage the class. I will say that convincing Laser Performance and the class association to permit anyone to make a legal Sunfish sail is going to be one heck of an undertaking - you will have a lot of work ahead of you. A couple comments below on your comments.

First comment: In my business I've yet to consult to any company suffering from low sales whose leaders haven't said, "If people would only understand how good our products are!" Well, that's not the problem. You have to listen to why people don't buy and meet their demands. Telling them that they're wrong usually doesn't result in any new sales. As Gail pointed out, we have a pretty good product. One problem is a lack of advertising or PR dollars to tell people "what we have and why it is better." Part of that is the economics of small sailboats. LP made a major acquistion about two years ago right before the economy tanked, and I doubt they are flush with money to be running a campaign. Secondly, they also make the Laser. I think it is quite possible they have decided to devote their limited dollars to Lasers. Why? You would have to ask them, but it could be the margin is higher, it is Olympic, Sunfish sell well enough for them on their own, etc. etc. Finally, the class association is run pretty much at cost by volunteers. We unfortunatley do not have the money to run an ad campaign, but we do push PR efforts, which recently resulted in our World Champion, Paul Foerster, being written up for his Sunfish exploits in Sailing World, and we keep pushing for more PR.

First question(s): Just what is the margin on a racing sail? Who sets the price? If their margins are low, whose fault is that? Laser Performance sets the price they sell to their dealers, and the dealers decide how much to charge us. If the margins are too low, they can cut quality or raise the price.

Second question(s): How much would you be willing to pay for a racing sail? $500 $600 $700 How much is "too much" and who gets to decide that? Presently, it's decided by one manufacturer who is engaging in (class condoned) monopolistic pricing. You get to decide if it is too much. If it is too much, you will not buy one. As a side note, if this was opened up to more sailmakers, and one sailmaker was just PERCEIVED to have a better sail, I bet you would find hardcore racers would pay $600 or more! Just look at the price of Optimist sails.

Second comment: I'm not trying to change the Sunfish world here. I admitted up front that I was risking blasphemy. But I can't help but find reason and common sense in what an earlier poster said: If it's a true one-design, then it seems that all the boats should have the same stuff and you could buy one and race it or enjoy it recreationally at the same price. You can. Just buy the SF Pro. You will be set for racing, and it will work just fine for rec sailing. But for those who do not plan to race, I think the rec version makes a ton of sense.

Third question: If a $439 racing sail is superior to a $150 copy-cat sail (say, the one from Intensity), or even superior to a $140 rec sail, then why can't a sailor show up at a sanctioned event and race those (if they have a window)? What's the risk to the $439 sail or to the class? You can show up with a rec sail as long as it is a class approved sail, currently made by North. Here is the risk. We are a one design class. Lets say Neil Pryde decides to make a sail better than a legal racing sail and sell it for $150. Everybody will have to go buy it to stay competitive. Then 2 months later Intensity makes one better than Pryde and charges $150 for it. then we all need to ditch our Pryde sails and buy an Intensity. This is exactly the reason we want to sail one designs - we are competing with each other in highly regulated boats where the sailor determines the outcome. If you want the ability to buy whatever suits you, take a look at the Moth class and you will see what happens when you have a skeletal set of rules.

Help me understand. I'm open to understanding.
 

254X

New Member
Thread starter #34
I certainly appreciate everyone's candid replies. Thanks.

What I am hearing is that the class is trying to avoid brand competition among sailmakers. In a market where there is one winner (the perceived fastest sail in this case), then demand is almost vertical for that one product and the producer becomes the price maker and all other producers suffer. That is, until someone else comes out with--real or imagined--the next fastest sail and then there's another huge shift. Makes sense. And thank you for that clear explanation.

Gail suggested that I learn what a "manufacturer class" is. It took a while to find it; but, isn't the Sunfish Bible neat and helpful?! I found a great explanation, along with the history and rationale on pages 23 and 24. Also was some history about where early Sunfish sailors strongly pushed for opening sail making to multiple lofts (page 24). Interesting.

Please understand, I am not against class progress. I think the new daggerboard, and probably the new rudder proposal, and some other evolutions over the years, are fine things and worth the money. But...............

Wayne said:
OK, you’ve expressed a displeasure with the monopolistic parts supply at the racing level…, welcome to the club. You’ve voiced disapproval of US Sailing’s lax structure, allowing a One Design with a dual personality to exist among its ranks. And you’ve scolded the Sunfish Class organization for not being egalitarian between its members and corporate sponsors. However, you are saying this to a gathering of enthusiasts who, for the most part, share your frustrations, but also like you have been reluctant to join the class, learn all the facts, deal with the politics of garnering support from the builder while participating in formulating constructive solutions. So if you’d like to see some change for the better you’ll need to step up to the challenge and become actively involved instead of railing from the back of the room.
I beg to differ this one point. I'm not just railing from the back of the room.

I am shopping for a boat. It's taking some time as there are no boats for sale near me (except one). The nearest Sunfish I can find that would qualify as a decent race boat for learning is at least 3 1/2 hours, one way. Most are an average of a ten-hour drive, one way. Too, with no Sunfish fleet, sailors or races nearby it's taking a little time to learn what to look for, think about and explore.

I have signed up for a Sunfish clinic to learn about these boats. And it's about a forteen-hour drive. One way.

I've borrowed a Sunfish, an older model (1970), bought the owner a new sail, fixed up his trailer and cleaned and polished the boat and replaced missing or damaged parts. I've, at small expense, advertised locally for people who might be interested in buying a Sunfish and starting a fleet. I've fielded calls of those interested, helped them shop for boats, met them at two lakes and showed them the borrowed 'fish and answered all the questions I can (see the Big Question, below). Others, who own a Sunfish, I've helped fix up and get back in the water.

I have bought a set of race marks and arranged with a marina on two lakes the use of a PWC for going out and setting the marks if/when we get some racing going. I've also arranged a tentative place to store our boats, if/when we get a fleet going, at one of the lakes.

I've arranged to bring a couple of guys who race Sunfish from a regional fleet, at my expense, to come over for a weekend and work with us if/when we get a fleet started.

The one impediment to all this happening? It's the question, the Big Question, I get from almost everyone who has expressed an interest: "So, for me to sail in a class race I have to get a $400 sail? Why?"

I'm looking for better answers than, "That's just the way it is, dude, and the class has its reasons."

Perhaps I'm being a bit selfish; but, I'd really like some more Sunfishers around here to play with.
 
#35
First... a disclaimer. I am the President of the US Sunfish Class. What is said here is my personal opinion, based on my recollection of history. It does not represent the opinion of the Sunfish Class, LaserPerformance or any of the prior manufacturers of Sunfish. This is a hypothesis, with some factual basis to it.

As Gail has pointed out, one of the big differences between the Sunfish (boat), its class and competitors in the sailing market is that the design and name Sunfish are owned exclusively by the manufacturer (LP). Sunfish is trademarked, which I believe means you cannot use the name without permission of the owner of the trademark. So, the class cannot ask another company to create sails or other parts without the permission of the current manufacturer. Similarly, I do not think the class can even exist without the permission of the manufacturer. This makes the Sunfish Class different from the Laser Class because the Laser class owns its design and the associated trademarks, and licenses them to the manufacturer.

Given that, the changes to the boat that are often complained about can be looked at and analyzed more clearly.

A major change to the hull occurred around 1990. That design change led to the reduction on the weight of the boat that Wayne mentioned, added a hiking strap, made the cockpit bigger and introduced the rolled edge. These changes were the exclusive decision of the manufacturer Pearson and had nothing to do with the class's influence (or lack there of).

As was already mentioned, there was wide variation in the sails during the late 70s and 80s that resulted from different weight fabrics, colors and sail makers. The sails stretched very differently. Some people had HUGE, legal sails that could easily reach the ends of the spars, while others had much smaller sails. There was always chatter about a person not being able to compete because they had a particular sail. It was desirable to improve the one-design characteristics of the boat because the Sunfish was a major international class and competed directly with the Laser. At the time, I believe the Sunfish Class was bigger than the Laser Class in the US). The new racing sail accomplished its goal and leveled the playing field among racers.

The decision to have a single sail maker build the sails was made by the manufacturer - they own the rights to the design. Although I might be wrong, I believe North (as we know it today) became the manufacturer of the racing sail in the early 90s, when Sunfish Laser Inc purchased the rights to the Sunfish from Pearson Sailboats. If my memory serves me correctly, North had some ties to SLI as a partner, owner, investor or some other business relationship.

In the early 90s it was announced that the Laser would be an Olympic Class for the 1996 games in Atlanta. Around the same time, there was consolidation of the dinghy market in North America. This was the first time the Sunfish and Laser were manufactured by the same company. Prior to that, the boats and classes were direct competitors. Under the same roof, the manufacturer thought it would be more profitable to not have their products directly compete in the same market. By leveraging each products' strengths, they focused on attracting a different market segment to each boat. The relative performance characteristics of the two boats made it a logical business decision to focus the Sunfish on the recreational market and the Laser on the performance and racing market.

So why is there a racing and recreational Sunfish? Think about it from the manufacturer's point of view. First of all, you have a large, established population that races Sunfish. It is in the manufacturer's interest to support the class because they help promote your product. Second, for the sake of discussion and understanding why there is a racing and recreation Sunfish, imagine a scenario were there was only a recreational Sunfish and no racing class. How would this impact the transition from recreational sailing to racing?

Many people have used the recreational Sunfish as a gateway into racing. If there were no racing class, a recreational sailor (consumer) who is interested in trying to race would probably have no option but to buy a brand new boat - a Laser. The difference in performance, and extra cost, would discourage many people from trying to race. The manufacturer wants to profit from the recreational sailors that are interested in venturing into the racing world. So, they lower the cost of entry by offering the Sunfish racing upgrade.

If the class had its choice, I suspect there would be no recreational sails sold today. There would probably be only white or colored racing sails (similar to the colored sails found at the World Championship). This might help the class grow because the recreational sailors would have almost no cost of entry to try racing. However, this scenario would probably not be as profitable for the manufacturer. And since the Sunfish is a manufacturer's class, the class has minimal power to influence this business decision.

When the Sunfish and Laser were first built under the same roof, the manufacturer's decision to continue to support the Sunfish's Racing Class obviously kept the relatively large population of existing class members happy. Offering the "racing sunfish" brand helps further the class's efforts to grow. The Sunfish Class is extremely fortunate, and grateful, to have a manufacturer that supports us so much.
 
#36
The one impediment to all this happening? It's the question, the Big Question, I get from almost everyone who has expressed an interest: "So, for me to sail in a class race I have to get a $400 sail? Why?"

I'm looking for better answers than, "That's just the way it is, dude, and the class has its reasons."

Perhaps I'm being a bit selfish; but, I'd really like some more Sunfishers around here to play with.
This may not be the answer you are looking for. But, the truth is you do need to buy a $400 racing sail to participate in the class events. There are class legal sails out there that can be used in any of our events and cost much less.

The most obvious ones are used racing sails. They can sometimes be found on the forum or ebay. I actually have a few I am going to sell. There are also plenty of used boats out there that come with racing sails. Similarly, there are lots of boats that have the old class legal sails that pre-date the racing sails. You can use those sails too. In fact, I believe you can use the recreational sails that are sold with the new Sunfish today. What you cannot use at the class major events are the knock off sails that are made by non-authorized sail lofts.

As explained in my prior message, the lack of competition among sail lofts is a business decision of the manufacturer and not the class. I honestly think Dennis Connor and Chris Williams made very good points about this subject. Look at the Laser Class. It has a single builder on each continent and is also one design. However, the top of the class seeks out what they believe is the best and will buy it from all over the world. Obviously this inflates costs drastically, and you even see it at the local level. Do we really want that for the Sunfish?

While the various sails and parts that are not class legal cannot be used at the major championship events, my experience is that many people at the local level would have no problem with you using them. These fleets truly want to grow the class, help people learn to sail Sunfish and share the joy of the sport. This is the true value proposition of the Sunfish Class - it is a support network to help you become a better sailor. You will be surprised how welcoming, encouraging and supportive people are. It is not unusual for members of the class to lend out racing boats just to get people on the water. (I do it all the time)

The problem with the large majority of the sails non-racing sails is that they won't be competitive against the racing sails. This might not matter when you are first learning. But eventually it will, and the difference in performance takes away some of the fun of racing. Using different sails creates a situation similar to 20+ years ago which ultimately lead the class to create the racing sail. They tried to consolidate everyone into a single, superior design to level the playing field.

What is important to remember is that the Sunfish world is very much dependent on the circle of life. The survival of the organized support structure that comes from the class depends on enthusiastic and dedicated people joining the class, and the generosity of the manufacturer. So, like so many things in life, it is important to pass on the gifts you receive. After you learn to love the sport and racing, get involved. Join the class, spread the word and support the manufacturer that supports us.
 
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