Looks may have saved the old boats, but that doesn’t help much in the understanding why new boats were being built. Was the magic attraction the unsolved mystery of the rule itself? What other explanation could be given for the fact that after some 500 individual 8-Metre designs by the world’s best naval architects, that ultimate shape to beat all others has yet to be found?
I often wonder, if the perfect shape has not derived after a century of attacks and plots by the world’s greatest naval masterminds, then isn’t it fair to assume that no-one has ever fully mastered the infinite number of variables that shaped these yachts? So, who am I to think I could explain something no-one ever truly mastered? It’s probably better, or say, more elegantly closer to the truth, that the complexity of the formula is not indicated by the formula itself but in the infinite variables which influence the shape deriving from it. What was a fast and winning boat in 1908, wasn’t capable of making that same impression 3 years on. Did that make the 1908 design a bad one? Boats were designed and built with the knowledge and instincts at the time, not years ahead. The secret of a great Rating Rule like the International Rule is that it worked like a puzzle, the only known quantity was the physical size but the number of pieces was unknown or known to be infinite.
What differed the International Rule from earlier as well as later rules? I believe Lloyd’s had a lot to do with it, for sure no other rule before or after had these specific scantling rules included. Lloyd’s specified construction methods, panel weights and materials. These seemingly static rules and numbers did however result in boats that lasted, avoided freak constructions and most importantly, shapes rather than materials employed have been, and still are dominant in the performance of the boats.
Knowing that my story is one of today, I have the luxury of being able to look back and start all over again. I’ll try to navigate through a century of Metre boats, inevitably we need to pick an occasional buoy for a short break to stop and stare at some of the technical intimacy, but I will try to keep these interruptions as brief as possible, realising I am at risk of losing your attention. The Metre boats have been defined by the First, Second and Third International Rule, in which the two most important factors remained the same: waterline length and sail area. The guiding principle was simple, longer boats are faster than short ones and, boats with more sail are faster than those with less canvass. Knowing this, the playing field is levelled by making the sum of length and sail area a constant. If you wanted to increase length then sail area had to be decreased, and if the thought was to go for maximum sail area then you had to pay for that by decreasing the length. If only it was that simple…., a great number of more variables and measurements come into play.