How the Tasar Started

How the Tasar Started (reposted from Yahoogroups)  Frank Bethwaite 

This is a new audience and the story is still interesting, so here is how the Tasar started forty years ago.  In early 1959 my family moved from Auckland to Sydney, and within a few months we had found a home in Northbridge. One Saturday I heard guns, investigated, and found a small group of adults race-managing about thirty enthusiastic youngsters off a tiny half-tide beach. (The boats were VJ's - Vaucluse Juniors, a sliding plank and spinnaker flush-deck 11 footer.) They were short-staffed so I helped, and helped the next Saturday too. Came the invitation "We sail our own boats on Sundays. Would you like to join us?"  It so happened that my wife and I had recently purchased a used Cherub (a 12 foot dinghy) which my wife and I sailed without trapeze or spinnaker, and I had brought this boat with me from Auckland. We joined a motley group of heavy boats similar to Herons or big Herons, which sailed from a tiny commercial boatshed without facilities. Within a month or so three most interesting events occurred; -  They had their two-minute, three minute, seven minute handicaps. We didn't fit. Our handicap was to sail three laps to their two.  One day there was a torrential downpour. I said to the drenched company "My home is just up the hill. Come and use the bath to warm up". We had a huge room overlooking the water and from that moment on our home became our Sunday clubroom, with wives, girlfriends, children, toys and dogs all vital and all welcome. 

A few weeks later one of the group, Hal Myer, then a senior exec with the Sydney Morning Herald, chose his moment, asked for silence, and said "Frank, you and Nel are doing what we all dream of doing. You sail across the harbour and back to visit your friends. You capsize and right your boat and sail on. We can't do those things because we do not have the performance to get there before the sun goes down, and if we capsize it's an outside rescue job because our boats swamp - they won't right and sail on. Should we all make boats like yours?" (I regarded this development as remarkable. Usually the outsider who is different gets kicked out. Here was a whole group intelligent enough to look ahead and not afraid of change.) I answered "No way. The Cherub is a kid's boat. Our knees are round our necks".

Somebody - I wish I could remember who - then said "Should we build boats like yours but a little bigger?" At that instant the Tasar was conceived, but the gestation would need fifteen further years. There was a pause. I think it was i who said "We are onto something here. Let us take the time to get the object right." 

Within a few weeks we were agreed. The environment was that we wanted to sail with wives, daughters, girl friends. The sailing scene in Sydney (and elsewhere) was then fiercely chauvinistic. At that time there were good dinghies for children, and good dinghies and skiffs for young athletic males - the Olympic classes and the 12', 14', 16' and 18ft skiffs. But there were no boats in Sydney or elsewhere which appeared to us to be truly suitable for a man and a woman. So we agreed that we had to do it ourselves. 

The object became "Most fun and highest performance within the strength of a man and a woman to handle in the water and out." 

The design logic was governed by the availability of superb lightweight marine ply and an aeronautical engineer's approach to structure, which made possible a strong hull at about 10lbs per foot of length. This was about half the Northern hemisphere norm. We reasoned that a man and a woman could lift 140lbs from a trailer to the waters edge, and 200lbs from the water's edge into the water, so the length became 14 ft (Sixteen feet and 160 lbs would have been too heavy). I drew out the lines of the Cherub to 14 ft. The women for whom the new boat was being designed were not specific about what they wanted, but they were unanimous about what they did not want. They did not want trapezes, and they did not want spinnakers. (In those days all spinnakers were complex gybing pole arrangements.)  I looked out the mean 1200 and 1500 airport winds from December to March (ie. the summer afternoon sea breezes) for Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth. Perth averaged 17kts, Adelaide 14kts, and the East coast cities all 11 to 12kts.

I calculated the sail area which a typical man plus woman crew of 300lbs could just hold up to windward in 12 kts and it was 90sq ft. To give more life downwind (no spinnaker) I increased this 10% and rounded it to 100sq ft. For stability I chose a chine beam of four feet, and the rise from keel to chine eight feet aft of the bow was eight inches. This logic defined the boat we built.  We formed a syndicate of seven to share the cost of a prototype. Pat Smith, a scientist with whom I shared an office, was one of the syndicate and he also build a second prototype for consideration. He felt that the stability of the draw-out Cherub might be inadequate, so he made a wider flatter-floored multi-chine hull which in truth sailed equally well.   We evaluated the two boats for the rest of the season - say Feb to April 1960 - and approved mightily what we had created. Over this time, John Spencer, the noted New Zealand designer who had created the Cherub also brought out a new fourteen foot hull called the Javelin. It was almost identical to my drawn-out Cherub, but in my opinion better in dynamic detail. John had been my neighbour in Torbay in Auckland, so I made arrangements with him to use his basic hull lines. I lowered the gunwale and altered the interior.  

This was the design we chose to sart with. It was immediately successful in that it sailed astonishingly fast as compared with the trapeze and spinnaker racing boats of the time, and it attracted like-minded sailors in increasing numbers. Our "women are welcome" credo was unique and we were enormously supported by organisation-effective women. We called the boat the "Northbridge Sailing Club's Seniors' Dinghy" which was soon shortened to NS14. We structured developmental class rules based on the International 14 but simplified. The class became officered by generally professional women and men who nurtured and steered its growth as it spread. Within a few years we numbered a thousand. 

Over the years of growth, 1961 to 1968, those of us who had created the class tended to leave its management to others and busied ourselves with research and development to make faster boats which would be even more fun. This work is reported in my book. 

In the winter of 1969, I think, two seminal developments occurred. My elder son Mark designed a new very-fine-entry hull with revolutionary dynamics, which he called Medium Dribbly. My work on rigs finally culminated in a practical, flexible, adjustable, aerodynamically efficient wingmast rig. The efficient rig on the breakthrough hull was devastatingly fast. Mark won the National Championships at Xmas, then moved into FD's and represented Australia at the Munich Olympics in '72 and again at Montreal in '76. (For the record he is the current World Champion in the Laser Masters class.) I An economic note is of interest.

One of the strongest arguments advanced in favour of one-design is that if a new design should obsolete existing boats their value will fall. In our case this proved false. The outstanding performance of the new design so focused interest on the class that the value of existing boats increased. 

The downside was that the new design proved weight sensitive. From 1960 until 1969 the men and women for whom the boats had been designed raced happily and I do not recall any mention of weight, ever. Some parents sailed with children but the good men and women won, so the various pre-1969 designs must all have been remarkably weight tolerant.  All this changed with the Dribbly hull and rig. In winds stronger than 7 kts an adult/adolescent 250lb crew was able to beat a man/woman 300lb crew by ten minutes in a two hour race. The effect on the class demographic was potentially devastating. Women who had felt welcome and secure for ten years suddenly felt unwanted because they were no longer competitive, and began to leave. Decisive action was needed. 

I tried for a political solution - different scoring for different weight crews - but those who were going to win did not wish to be called Junior Champions, and blocked this approach.  So, strongly supported by a committed core, I went for the technical solution, plus a new rule. The hulls remained exactly right for man/woman crews. The dynamics of the new flexible adjustable wingmast rigs called for more sail than the old stiff-mast full-sail conventional rig. I examined the probable performance of rigs of 110, 120, 130 sq ft, and found that at about 123 sq ft we could expect faster all-round performance, plus windward planing in strong winds plus tacking downwind in lighter winds. We trialed this rig and it worked.  

We called the new boat Nova (New Star) and stated "Everyone is welcome to sail with us but if you weigh less than 300 lbs you must carry the difference in ballast.   That did it. The time was the winter of 1972. Over the next year or two large numbers of owners re-rigged their hulls with the bigger sails, the new design comfortably out-performed the 100sq ft. NS14's with their light crews, it routinely knocked off 470's and Fireballs when they met, and the mature core of the NS14 class became the core officers and members of the new Nova class. Most importantly, most of the women who had left came back.   Eighteen months later, Ian Bruce (who knows fourteens - he won the Prince of Wales Cup twice) visited Australia to set up an Australian Laser plant. We met, he sailed the Nova, and immediately said "Your boat is twenty years ahead of anything else in the world.

I have a business based on a single boat, the Laser. Would you join with Performance Sailcraft to create a two-person boat for the world market based on this boat. It is understood that the class will be rigidly one-design".  The first production Tasar was exhibited at the Anapolis Boat Show in Oct 1975.

The Tasar is a consumerised Nova, which was a re-rigged NS14. We had enjoyed the privilege of fifteen years and a thousand boats to get its design reasonably right.   FDB  (This story was originally posted to the Yahoogroups TasarSailors list, 2001-02-14)