Keeping our pants up, when a new design goes wrong

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by Tcubed, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. peter radclyffe
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    peter radclyffe Senior Member

    the buck can stop nowhere on the raceboat design roulette wheel
  2. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I've never had a catastrophic failure, even in racing craft. They've all floated on the marks (within reason), none have capsized on launch day, none have managed to kill anyone, though several have managed to embarrass their crews or skipper. I have had racers roll, pitch pole, break up at high speed and capsize, but none were because of the design. Racers by their nature are pushed, often well past design limits. My racer successes have been mixed, like anyone's, though much more to the good then the bad side of the coin.

    All this said, I've had masts break, but in high winds and/or accidental jibes, I've had rudders fail, but not design related as much as following the plan and assort other "issues", usually as "teething pains" shortly after launch, which is reasonably common, particularly on race craft.

    As to blame and the like, this is more a debate for lawyers and pen pushers, though really who ever has the most money to throw at a perception, rather then the actual truth. Tad nailed it down much earlier in this thread and it's insurance that handles most of this. As a rule a design firm isn't worth enough to warrant mashing into a legal pulp, so you go after the money, like the builder.
  3. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    Not wanting to make an argument TC, but I would like to respond to this very common problem with boat designers.

    You would have come across a whole heap of people trying to get boats designed, with no idea of their SOR. They get a lot of flack from NA's about their wooley headedness.

    But then, when someone who has a firm idea of whats is required, and can even refer to a 'nearly right' design, the designer heads off in a personal direction rather than deliver a specific requirement. Why do designers do that ?

    I realise that there is a question of copyright, moral issues etc, which is fair enough - but when the changes are significant enough to start again, so many designers egos don't permit them to deliver even a similar product.

    The original designer is not always the best person to approach with a request for a modifed design. Often they dont want to 'water down' their own concepts, or are too busy with their current designs. More often, they dont see the clients requests as valid for whatever reason.

    I have had several disappointing results when designers totally ignored current examples of other boats as an example of a new design, and just made a whole mess of starting from their own uneducated personal bias and limited understanding.
  4. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    Being a designer is not just the ability to draw in 3D following samples provided by Customer. There are many 'boys with computers' around and guys from China who have no name yet (and might never get one) - they will have no moral issue to copy or 'improve' someone else work. In my understanding, the designer is the one who 'deserves the right to design on his own and to make his designs happen' - by his skills, boating experience, reputation, recognized creativity, established style... Many of 'software users' will never get to that level; so for established designer working close to someone's else design is seen as a step back in their career.
  5. Tcubed
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    Tcubed Boat Designer

    I hear you Rwatson.

    Clients wishes are the priority.

    All too often however the client has his judgment clouded through an overdose of sailing or motorboat magazines or bar side 'expert' talk etc and so forms an idea as to what it should be like based on that and on the limited number of boats he has been on.

    Oftentimes there will be other better solutions to the real global requirements of the clients needs that lay beyond what he has any experience of. Sometimes it is not a long bridge to cross, other times it is too long and cannot be done or a suitable compromise can be derived.

    Although people requiring NA services come from many different parts of the spectrum, many come with a rather heavy bagfull of preconceived notions.

    It is therefore the duty of the responsible (both to the clients real long term needs and to his own rep) NA to steer the client in the direction of design solutions that will surprise and delight him in the end, even if it was not what he had in mind to start with.

    Rare is the client with a clear idea of the SoR but the NA should not have too much difficulty in teasing out the truth after a couple hours of engaging head to head. And that is always the real starting point for a new design.
  6. Tcubed
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    Tcubed Boat Designer

    I should maybe add that i have designs at various stages of completion that span the spectrum from tricked out diesel dragster, through delicate pulling boats, ULDB ocean goers, fast sailing cargo ships, medium disp conservative cruising boats etc. I'm pretty flexible.
    The idea though is for each one to really be appropriate, from basic concept up, to the real requirements, relatively unyielding to whim or fashion .
  7. Tcubed
    Joined: Sep 2008
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    Tcubed Boat Designer

    I might add here an appropriate anecdote;

    A really rich guy who was a mad keen fan of the "Star" class (i believe this all happened in the med) had a boat built which was an exact scaled up version of the Star, scale factor 3 (three).

    After umpteen catastrophic structural failures (unsurprisingly) , about half the draft got amputated and the boat re-rigged as a ketch where it did serve to a fashion.

    Seems the NA fell asleep during the class on scaling laws here or just did not have the backbone to talk the client out of his cloud....

    If anyone has any more info on this story let me know, this was pre internet and i've searched for more background on it but to without success.
    PS on the scaling link; My brief article on scaling laws needs expansion from just dynamics and kinematics into structural scaling ; that will come later.

  8. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    The old adage "the customer is always right" isn't something I subscribe to. The customer is only right if buying a candle at a candle shop, but if they're seeking professional help, they've surrendered their right to being right. It's one thing to try to please a client or meet their wishes and desires, but they've come to a professional, which in itself suggests they haven't the skills to make the "right" decisions and are paying for guidance in this regard.

    I find I'm talking clients out of things they want, fairly regularly. I'm tactful and understanding, but if a client insists, I get more forceful. The reason they're using a professional is they want it "right", so it is up to the professional to insure it is, in spite of the insistence of a customer.

    A classic example of not utilizing this "power" over your client is the story Tcubed mentioned. You have to be the one in charge, regardless of the client's influence, interests and insistence. In most cases, at least with me, I explain why things have to be different then the client's wishes and they have no trouble "complying" with my insistence this particular "feature" or design element has to be the way I suggest. Sometimes I'll offer options to the set of issues, but it's mostly just a client/professional relationship, which I feel out per situation. Some customers can be "manhandled" while others need to be coddled a little. Figuring out what your client needs, to keep them under control, is plain old people skill stuff and an important aspect of the business relationship.
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