The Rig Debate

Andrew Simmons, in Perihelion 115 feels that a 3 way change is a step too far but did not rule out a 2 way change between Standard and Xtra.

Peter Mountford thinks –

Presumably a reason the jury is out with some members is that the Xtra sail can give an advantage under certain conditions over a Standard sail. In response I would argue that (a) the two types of sail have the same PY number, and (b) there are two other situations where a particular (Standard) sail can give an advantage over other Standard sails, yet there is no objection or restriction by CCA rules on the use of a particular Standard sail during an event, as follows:-

(1) I don’t think there is any argument against the fact that a brand new Standard sail gives a speed and pointing advantage (except in a flat calm) over a well-used Standard sail.

(2) When it is a flat calm, there is an advantage in using a very old (Standard) sail. A knackered old sail will have a much more flexible and responsive surface, and therefore will indicate wind puffs and changes in wind direction much sooner than a newer sail which will have a stiffer and less responsive shape.

(3) Maybe I am somewhat naive, but I cannot understand why “the jury seems to be out” amongst Comet sailors on such an issue which defies simple logic;- it is currently permitted to use different rigs at different open meetings held on different days (even consecutive days) and these open meetings count towards one trophy (e.g. an Aphelion trophy, or the Orbital trophy), but a competitor is not allowed to use different rigs on different days at a multi-day event (i.e. a championship). This is not consistent. If the CCA membership decide that changing rigs at a championship should continue to be forbidden, then in order to maintain consistency, the logical deduction is that a competitor must stick to using one of the rigs not just in each Aphelion, but in all Aphelions (because of the Orbital trophy).

Nigel Fern thinks –

Is it fair that if I fatally tear my Standard sail during race 2 of an Open meeting that I am not allowed to change to my Xtra sail for race 3?

Is it fair that having taken the time to travel to an event one has to retire due to an unexpected blow turning up between races 1 and 2?

So far, as far as I can remember, no Xtra rigged boat has won a major competition, the odd race maybe so the Xtra is not for  the “winners at all costs” sailor – it allows those of us who might not be as agile as we once were to continue sailing and enjoying our sport, this rule stops us doing that and we are supposed to be the ‘friendly’ Association!

A number of members have claimed that using an Xtra rig is ‘cheque book’ sailing! Eventually we all buy new sails and it is our choice which way to go and when; but it was interesting to see the number of very crisp looking sails at the Nationals! A cynic, not me, might ask were they purchased just for the Nationals?

Very tongue in cheek – Perhaps we should register our sail serial number on all entry forms and not be allowed to change until that sail has been witnessed as fatally damaged or until it is a certain age!


John Windibank C858 states

Do not change the rule.

Ian Coppenhall thinks

So that everyone is aware of the first of the class measurement rules:

COMET CLASS MEASUREMENT RULES 1. INTENTION & INTERPRETATION. a. The intention of the Class Rules shall be to maintain a one-design class in which racing is a true test of sailing skill.

My view is that the whole point of fleet competitions is that you are tested in all conditions in the boat which you are sailing. If you are changing sails within the competition then this is no longer the case, as it is far easier to control and manage an Xtra rig in stronger winds, therefore changing rigs would mean that it is no longer (referring back to rule 1) ‘a true test of sailing skill.’

If I had an Xtra rig (which I don’t as that would cost too much for me to buy) in a strong wind I would be faster with it than with a Standard rig, just as I would be faster in a light wind with the Standard rig. I don’t personally see how changing rigs when this is the case can be fair, as it then becomes a competition based on who has the better selection of kit than who has the better skill level across all wind strengths.

I believe that currently during a 3 day competition if there are any changes in the wind strength then the differences in rig are balanced out over the competition. The choice of whether to put the Xtra, Standard, or Mino rig (if you’re lucky enough to have the choice) on at the start of a competition is the same as deciding whether to go right on the beat as the forecast is for the wind to shift to the right, which is all down to your interpretation of the forecast and your prediction of timings.

In response to Peter Mountfords comments, I understand that there are different characteristics of older and newer sails, however how many people would even consider this when putting their sail on in the morning? I personally have 2 sails at a competition, my race sail (around 9 years old), and my spare sail which is my old race sail (around 12 years old), just in case.

As far as the different rigs for different competitions is concerned, the 3 different classes of boats are allowed to sail together and their results count towards each competition, so why would you not be allowed to count them towards the different aphelions and orbital, as it is a series of races inclusive of all 3 classes?

In response to Nigel Ferns comment about retiring as it is unexpectedly too windy after race 1 to compete in race 2 and 3, this is not the case. Under the current situation you are still welcome to compete, but you will have 2 sets of results. For example Diana Thompson, changes sail knowing it won’t count but enjoys her sailing, so chooses to change rather than struggle, and potentially retire.

As far as changing rig is concerned due to ripping of a sail, I believe that this is a different matter, as when changing sails due to damage you are supposed to ask the race committee for dispensation to do so. In this case you will simply be extending the dispensation to include a change of rig, and I doubt anyone would have an issue with this. After all if you were to deliberately rip a sail to change rig, then a) that would be unsportsmanlike behaviour and b) you have far more money than sense!

If allowing changing your rig size, why not allow changing boats as well? This way you can use your boat with the newer grab rails (in case of capsize) and the centre mainsheet in strong winds (easier on the upper body, and quicker to play it when the boat is tipping), and then use your boat with the rubbing strip down the centre and aftmainsheet in light winds. I hear you asking why not just change the mainsheet on the first boat? Simple…..comfort of where you are sitting in light winds – who wants to sit on a big mainsheet block!

As far as I’m aware no other class even when a development class allows rig/sail changes during the competition other than yachts and 18ft Skiffs. To point out classes in a similar position to ours, there are the Pico, Feva and Tera classes which all race as one, however you can’t change between rigs during competitions.

Alan Todd thinks

It is a shame that we are having this big debate in a ‘one design’ class.

Having said that I list below my thoughts.

I am now retired and getting less agile.I was considering buying an Xtra rig, as I liked the idea of a higher boom, see-through sail and more relaxed sailing.

While considering the cost, a newer Comet came up for sale with both rigs and over boom cover.

When sailing in strong winds I was able to control the boat better, pointed higher and did better.

I then took the decision to use the Xtra rig at Hedgecourt CMYC. We have a great Comet fleet with regularly 8 boats out. We compared the performance over 3 different race series. When the wind was stronger I did better, but we found that being a lake surrounded by trees, the wind is very variable and the Xtra rig still loses out to the full rig.As most of our Comet’s sail with full rig, I will be changing back using a zipped mainsail, which I find very convenient. Should I damage my sail, I have an old full sail to use.

The Xtra rig will be saved for the coast or when cruising.

My view is – do not change the rule.

I agree with John Windibank, Ian Coppenhall and Mike Thompson (who wrote the very good article when the Xtra was first produced).

Mark Govier adds

Here’s my tuppence-worth…

Other classes do allow complete rig changes during some events; for example the Solo class have an optional limitation that is set by the event race committee in the “Notice of Race”, not by the class. “C.9.2 LIMITATIONS (a) The Notice of Race may limit the number of sails to be used during an event.” There is no limitation on the number of different “flexibility profile” masts you may choose to use. People often sail a couple of different rig combinations or even a B-plan sail at a large championship.

Since day one we’ve had the ability to reef or not as conditions dictate and I can certainly remember several times, when sailing with a reef under proper control, is far more effective than struggling or even capsizing with the full rig.

I’ve not yet sailed a Comet with the Xtra rig but have certainly sailed against them and would suggest that it is not clear cut there is any significant difference overall. I’m tending to agree with Andy Simmons that interchange of Standard and Xtra may be fine within a series.

The other view is, however, equally valid: When many of us (old timers) purchased our craft it was a “one design” with only the Standard rig. The different rigs are each “one design” in their own right. If (richer) people sail different rigs when it suits them then the others will really have no clue about whether they’re improving their sailing relative to them. If you need something easier to handle in a blow, simply reef. So there is a very good argument for not allowing change of rig during any series. Where the definition of a “series” may even encompass a “super-series” such as the Comet Aphelions.

I wonder why the Comet PY has been rapidly increasing (seemingly a little more rapidly than some other craft) the past few years. Maybe because of all the “slower” rigs?

Carol Butcher (Comet 614)

Suggests that people should be able to change between the Extra rig and the Mino within a Championship on different days. Those sailing a Standard rig are able to reef if the wind increases (Andy Simmons suggests in his Builders Report in the Summer Perihelion that a reefed Standard rig is roughly equivalent to a Mino) however you cannot reef an Extra rig if the wind increases. I would certainly like to be able to attend the Nationals and Championships and not be sitting out for days on end as the wind has got too strong for me.

Another option would be to allow those at the back/ middle of the fleet to change rig between days (say anyone who has never had a top 5 finish in a National or Championship).

Mary Starkey adds

Herewith some comments for the rig debate:

For me the choice is not to swap from a Standard to an Xtra which clearly is a vexed question, but to a Mino. Whilst it would be nice to be able to do so freely, downsizing will put me towards the bottom of the fleet rather than increasing my chances to win (I wish). Therefore it is not appropriate for me to try and influence a decision that will have a bigger impact on individuals sailing (or not sailing) an Xtra rig. I would, however, like to put forward my perspective.

Having gone to the effort to attend an event, I have been reluctant to give up sailing when it has unexpectedly become too windy so I have swapped to my Mino rig.  Yes I can reef my Standard sail but I find that it acts like a spoon collecting water if I capsize it and I just do not have enough weight to upright the boat (I can generally right it if it is not reefed). I consequently have to retire on my first capsize whereas a heavier (and potentially less skilled) person would not.

I have always assumed that for say a three race event, if I signed in a Standard rig and then sailed Race 2 and 3 in a Mino rig, my Mino results would not count. I have therefore been careful, after swapping rigs, to keep out of the way of other sailors so I do not adversely affect their race; not claiming rights on starboard and so on. (I have always informed the Race Officer and presumed he has not given me a position).

Ian seems to think otherwise and suggests that if one changes rig mid-event, one can collect two parallel sets of results. Should the conclusion of this debate be to leave things as they are, I would welcome this to be confirmed / adopted and clarified in the rules.  After all maybe one day I would like to swap from a Mino to a Standard for those Races 2 and 3 and improve my chances of winning! At the very least it would be nice to feel I am sailing legitimately and will be given a position, even if I do not sail enough races in either rig to qualify.

As a relative newcomer I can say that Comet sailors are indeed a friendly bunch and have been exceedingly helpful to me.

Eddie Pope adds

On balance I favour the status quo. I think that the option to allow more than one rig to count towards results in a single event favours those with deeper pockets. That said it would not make me want to stop sailing Comets should the rules be changed, and I would be happy to go along with the majority view.

Dave Harris adds

Not sure whether the debate is out of date but I am very much in favour of one rig
for an event although I have no issues with someone reefing if conditions get too severe.
The ability to swap from one rig to another means that those that can afford two rigs have
a distinctive advantage over those that can’t. We will be having a carbon mast option next if
we are not careful.

Joan Taylor adds

Having read the “rig debate” on the CCA website, my view remains that I think a change of rig during an event should not be allowed, with the exception of replacing & changing a fatally damaged sail during an event (leading to a dispensation).

David Chesworth provides some statistical evidence for the status quo from Chipstead SC

At Chipstead sailing club the Comets agreed in for 2015 to use any rig one result ruling. These are the stats.

In 2015 there were 14 points difference between 2nd and 3rd place due to the top two boats using two rigs is that fair sailing when others didn’t have the rigs?

In 2015 you had 22 boats racing that season but only 13 in any one race.

In 2016 you’ve had only 16 boats racing this season but only 12 in any one race.

In 2014 when you only had one rig one result you had 26 boats and 14 out in any one race with 3 boats having 2 rig results which makes it a total of 23 boats overall racing its a drop of 7 boats between 2014 and 2016 due to the any rig one result ruling.

Stats don’t lie it was better under one rig one result.