Where the sport is heading.

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by CT249, Sep 14, 2016.

  1. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    Over in another thread, it was suggested that we look at the trends in new sales of dinghies to assess the future of design. Well, here's the results from ISAF reports, showing the number of boats sold over the past five years. I;ve included cats and some yachts for context. The Bic and Hobie classes don't provide figures.

    Optimist 15210
    Laser 8808
    Sunfish(est) 5000
    RS Aero(est) 2750 (if they continue to sell at the same rate as they have allegedly been doing since new)
    Hobie 16 2700 - estimated number of SAIL SETS sold - Hobie do not release boat sales figures. Obviously dramatically over-estimates boats sold.
    RS Feva 2300
    Int 420 1642
    RS Tera 1283
    Topper 1134
    Finn 1000 - approximate due to ISAF being slow, looks accurate
    470 912
    Formula 18 739 actual annuals for last five years. The class claims 1000. Oh well, we F18 sailors aren't very good at mathematics.
    29er 584
    49er/FX 564
    Moth 550
    Byte CII 500
    RS 100 410
    A Class 400
    Snipe 384
    Nacra 17 331
    J/80 300 approx
    Viper16cat 259
    RS 500 250
    250 Laser foiling kits (if they sold at their current rate for five years)
    Zoom 8 250
    Formula 16 235
    TopKat 16 233
    Micro 18 230
    SL16 223
    FJ approx 200
    Europe 180
    GP14 147
    Int OK 143
    Mirror 143
    Dragon 140
    Enterprise 139
    Contender 125
    Tasar 120
    505 101
    Star 101
    Splash 100
    Int Cadet 99
    Melges 20 96
    Fireball 93
    MPS 91
    Lightning 85
    FD 56
    Vaurien 52
    Dart 18 50
    Int 14 45
    Flying 15 38
    SB20 36 in four years
    B14 22
    Tornado 4
    Laser II 0

    So, what are the conclusions?

    One is obvious - conventional hiking dinghies still out-sell everything else. As a corollary, the skiff "revolution" we all heard so much about a decade or so ago was a flop, in that the skiffs did NOT take over the sport as people were claiming. They are great boats, but just as we've seen in their homeland over the past century, they are not a type that will take over from the conventional dinghy but a different sort of boat that will live alongside the conventional dinghy. Look at the numbers of 420s v 29ers, 470s v 49ers, or OK v MPS.

    The same applies to the sportsboat "revolution". They are great boats, but they are not taking over from conventional keelboats. The humble little Micro is out-selling high profile classes.

    Olympic and Youth Worlds class status doesn't guarantee success or failure. The Nacra 17 numbers include a bunch of boats that still have not been sold. The Viper, from a smaller manufacturer, is doing almost as well without Olympic status. The SL16 is listed as inactive despite being the official Youth Worlds cat for a while.

    Secondly, the kids are alright. The conventional kids boats are selling in big numbers. That may seem logical, but going back to the years of the dinghy boom, Optis were less popular in many places than 505s etc. We don't have to worry about kids boats - we have to worry about the adult's performance classes because that is where collapse has occurred since the days of the dinghy boom. Five-Ohs, Fireballs, etc used to be much more popular.

    There is NOT a swing towards faster craft. Foilers are not particularly popular.

    RS sailboats know how to make a winner.

    The future is in plastics, as they said in the film - poly boats are booming. The Hobie kayak sail rigs are selling in their thousands every year as well.

    Basically, if we respect the sailors of the world enough to assume they are buying the boats that suit them, we see a very different story to the one told by people who are sitting on the sidelines, or trying to sell their own product.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2016
  2. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready


    It's too early to draw any conclusions about foilers. For most of the past 5 years the only foilers available have been hard to sail, expensive and with an athletic crew requirement.
    New foilers are coming out almost daily with a completely different approach.
    Designed for flying in the whole wind range starting in very light air, specifically designed to be easy to sail and some of the least expensive foilers yet.
    The trully revolutionary Quant 23 foiling keelboat leads the way for larger boats with exceptional light air takeoff around 5 knots of wind and speed in 7-8 knots of wind above 19 knots. Upwind foiling in 8 knots of wind. This performance exceeds that of most other foilers including one of the newest on the market.
    And its just the beginning of a whole new type of easy to sail foiler with excellent light air capability that will help to change the perception of what foiling is all about.
  3. Skyak
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    Skyak Senior Member

    I am going to finish the discussion on the UFO forum and come back to this. I look forward to discussing this (I love data) but for now I just want to get a few things straight. Are you sure this data isn't just from ISAF reporting members? It also looks like it is only one design around the cans fleet racers. This may be the sailing universe as far as you are concerned but for me it misses a lot of the fun and attraction of sailing.

    Good threads don't start with conclusions, they start with assertions.
  4. SukiSolo
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    Interesting list CT. There's at least one UK National Class but not eligible to have a World Championship that has built 450+ in the last 5 years...
    and you can home build one!. That's actually a good point, you can do an Int Moth, maybe a Finn, then I'd guess a Snipe? as I'm not sure you can build an Oppie anymore that can measure for full competition. I could be wrong, it's not a Class I know other than as training boats...

    Lot of work now and you need different tools for the composite stuff compared to ply sheets but possible.

    Part of the question might also be - where do you sail? This can significantly affect the choice of craft. The wider the range of waters for a design, the more options a customer can perceive with it.
  5. gggGuest
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    gggGuest ...

    The source is the annual reports each International Class has to make to ISAF. Because the class has to supply each boat with a registration plaque issued by ISAF, and which they pay for, there's a strong incentive not to exaggerate numbers. Its to my knowledge the only reasonably reliable worldwide data on boats shipped.
    It is of course International racing classes only: there are rumours that some non racing classes are built in large numbers, but there's no source of data. The only other source of independant data out there I know of is the RYA portsmouth yardstick list, which gives numbers of races started by each class at participating clubs in the UK. It might be instructive to compare.
  6. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    You're dead right about the issue with home-built international classes these days. We've got an equivalent to the Solo down here, too, in the shape of the Sabre which is also extremely popular. There's also the Impulse, too. Both can be home-built. Such boats are important classes in terms of the demographics and direction of the sport, and it's an interesting question about whether including national classes confuses or illuminates. Most major countries have a very popular indigenous hiking singlehander or two, but then again in terms of looking at wider trends, the local singlehanders may be balanced out by indigenous crewed boats and cats and just confuse the issue.
  7. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    Maybe I could say that good posts aren't full of assumptions.... No, one design around the can fleet racing is not the sailing universe for me and it appears that from this and your UFO post that you are jumping to conclusions about motivations.

    The problem is that when you start moving away from the racing classes, you are all too often dealing with fabrication and rumour. My research into non-racing classes went as far as approaching the Hobie company to ask for some idea of the numbers of sailing kayaks they sell. As I expected, I was told they didn't give out such information, but someone from the industry kindly gave me an indication.

    Gut feeling is that if you could find accurate data on sales of all small sailing craft from other sources, it would merely bring in the Hobie sailing kayaks somewhere near the top of the list, bring in the Wave etc further down, and otherwise simply exaggerate the trends shown below. For example, there are many plastic pop-out Opti copies that are used in training programmes and club races. If you include them, it only underlines that the existing trends that show that training classes are extremely popular, and that poly boats are also doing well. Same thing if you include the Bic O'pen or the Laser clones like the Luch (if it's still around) or the 99%er, and classes like the Club 420.

    If we bring national classes into the equation we see that they are mainly hiking boats of moderate performance, like the Solo, Sabre, O-Jolle, Piraat, RS200, Thistle, Flying Scot etc. Such classes fit their local waters, as SS notes. They don't really change the overall trend in sales.

    You've brought in personal experiences and bias in some of your recent posts. Surely then it would be reasonable for you to fill us in on what you sail and have sailed.
  8. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    There are so many factors in what makes a type popular that predicting what will happen seems to be a highly dubious exercise. We've seen that in the case of skiffs, cats, tris and sportsboats, when in each case many pundits were wrong. That means that it is logical and reasonable to not just simply accept predictions, and it should surely teach us the lesson that making such predictions is a dubious business.

    It was interesting to interview Rod Johnstone of J-Boat fame some years ago. They are highly pragmatic and seem to accept that they can't predict what will work. Instead they listen to the marketplace and will chop, change and react in response. It's probably one reason they are much more successful than those who rely on predicting what will happen and often seem to implicitly try to say that they are smarter than their customers.
  9. Barra
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    Barra Junior Member

    Very interesting.

    Thanks or posting.

    There seems to be a disparity between what the AYF etc want us to sail and what we want to sail. Then again we've known this for a long time. I remember when our club killed junior sailing overnight by deciding to rid themselves of the 2 crew pelican and went with the AYF backed Optomist. A lot of the young kids loved sailing with their mates and not single handling, as it was a pretty wild, windy and scary place to sail. Just one of those regional quirks looking at your numbers. :)

    Its time for the governing bodies to have a good hard look at themselves and realise how responsible they are for the "failing"state of competitive sailing.

    Noisy Individuals and small groups vested interests, stuff everything up eventually for the majority.
  10. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I do not see any Puddle Ducks on the list. Should be an easy number to find from their registration numbers.
  11. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    It's a list of ISAF classes only. Other classes don't have to provide reliable figures. And with respect to the PDR, if we counted every class in the world it would probably be way, way down in the list.
  12. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I do not think the PDR would be that far down on the list. Clearly, the less costly the boat, the more are sold. I only bring up the PDR because it is very low cost, and it has grown as a class very rapidly because of the low cost.

    If you want to get more participation, you have to keep costs down. Nothing in this thread seems to recognize this. The PDR has done more to get people in sailboat racing in the short time it has been around I think than just about anything else suggested here.
  13. Skyak
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    Skyak Senior Member

    CT, I didn't make any assumptions yet -or conclusion, or biases...

    I just want to be clear of what the data represents, it is a large section of the round the cans boats, and a rather complete list of the serious, costly and high performance small boats. I do think it is a useful set of data for indicating what club racers are doing. I don't mean any slight. You are looking to add to club racing -fine.

    There is another world of sailing and for that we need to ask what percentage of new boats are not ISAF? You don't care about those? OK

    In analyzing trends there is more than just sales.
    -greatest percentage growth?
    -best and worst demographic trends?
    -most conquest sales?
    -worst churn
    -most new fleets
    -ARPU lowest and highest
    -highest customer satisfaction
    -monthly active users

    I am sure there is great importance in geographic and national differences.
  14. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member


    One thread can't recognise every factor, but the importance of low cost is generally implicit in the order of boats at the top of the list. They are all comparatively cheap. The PDR site indicates 100 boats per year. That's great and would put it about a quarter of the way down from the top, but it's not going to revitalise the sport.

    Here's the prices of some of the boats from the list. These are from the ISAF class reports, so they are in British pounds without sails (unless otherwise specified). I'm not vouching for any of these prices and quite a few of them appear suspect, but there's no reason to assume that they would throw out entire trends.

    Opti - 1200 (?)
    Laser - 4387
    Sunfish - 3,200 with sail
    Aero - 4,640 approx
    Hobie 16 - 8,300 with sails (approx)
    Feva - 4,090
    420 - 5,500 (?)
    Tera- 1,861
    Topper - 2,200
    Finn - 10,000
    470 - 11,373
    29er - 6,577 - hmmm looks too low compared to UK and US prices but Ok compared to NZ....
    49er/FX - 17,800
    Moth - 14,500
    RS100 - 6,900
    Snipe - 8,275
    RS500 - 5,800
    Formula 18 - 16,000
    Formula 16 - 12,000 approx
    Enterprise - 7,000
    OK - 7,500
    MPS - 7,812
    GP14 - 6,500
    Tasar - 9,000
    B14 -13,000
    Fireball - 9,500
    Mirror - 1,000 home built, 4,000 'glass
    Vaurien - 4,500
    505 - 20,500
    Lightning - 15,000
    Int 14 - 17,000
    A Class - 11,500

    Other boats I checked, approximate costs; Solo - 5,400; Force 5 - 4,000; Sabre 5,200 (professionally built in glass).

    A few impressions, in no particular order;

    * in terms of sales of racing boats, the Laser and Opti are in different leagues to everything else, and the Feva, 420 and Hobie 16 are probably in a separate league of their own. The Laser and Sunfish together sell about as many boats as the lowest 56 classes on the list. The Opti alone sells about as many classes as the lowest 56 classes on the list. All of them are cheap boats.

    * The Hobie 16, Opti, Laser and 420 may be so far out ahead in the popularity and international spread stakes that they could be put in a separate bracket as the only really worldwide classes.

    * The Finn, F18 and 29er are probably in a second bracket, in terms of the combination of worldwide spread and popularity. They are also in a different bracket, price wise. I don't know what this means!

    * The Feva and Aero are so new it's hard to tell where they will end up (although it does prove that it's BS to claim that people won't buy a new class or a non-Olympic/Youth class) and the class association membership indicates that the Sunfish is mainly a US funboat (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that the model does not seem to export very far).

    * We seem to be able to see a big difference between boats that are designed to be produced to a comparatively price (Laser, Opti, 29er, H16, RS 500, Feva, Mirror, Vaurien, perhaps 420) and others that are similar in performance and specifications but may be intrinsically costly to build. Although the database is very small, it may be that the traditional US classes (Lightning, Snipe) haven't had the same sort of redesign that some of the traditional UK classes had, to reduce building costs. I know very little about this, but is that a reason why the US market is struggling?? Is there a basic problem in that the big heavy traditional US boats cannot be produced cheaply?

    * It's interesting to see some very costly boats aren't too far from the top of the list, but once one looks at the actual numbers and sees that they are selling only 80 to 1000 per year across the globe, it does indicate that expensive boats will not revive or even preserve the sport.

    * When looking at price, some people mention bicycles as a comparison. It's happening on two other threads at the moment. Years ago, the Vaurien was designed to cost the same as two bicycles, and from the publicity of the time it looked as if they meant two pretty standard utility bikes. The Vaurien now costs 10-12 times as much as a quality standard utility bike, and three to four times as much as a fairly good carbon racing bike.

    The OK, MPS etc are around the 7,500 pound mark where "halo" bicycles start. But the "halo" bikes, the really glitzy top-end ones, comprise 1/40th of the market even for a manufacturer like Giant, which doesn't do lots of really nasty cheap department store bikes. I race bicycles and I don't know anyone who spends as much on a bike as you do on a Laser. So (as Dave Clark noted, and as an old article in Yachts and Yachting showed) boats have become dramatically more expensive when compared to other sporting goods and consumer items.

  15. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    It's not that I don't care about non-ISAF boats, it's that the information is very hard to get. As already noted, I've gone to the point of emailing the manufacturers of non-ISAF classes to try to get the information. I'm not going to ignore every piece of numerical data just because we can't get it all.

    Many of the claims being made about "the future of sailing" relate to boats that ARE ISAF classes, or boats where the active numbers are so small that they can be roughly tracked in other ways. For example, when the fad was to say "skiffs are the future" we could track the ISAF skiffs and the non-ISAF skiffs and show that it was a BS claim. If more people had done so, maybe they'd have been able to see from the start was it was BS.

    Secondly, there IS great importance in national and geographic differences and IMHO those effects are so great at national level that they obscure the wider issues. For example, there are strong Skiff fleets in two cities in Australia, but that is largely because of gambling, liquour and taxation laws.
    However, by using worldwide figures from worldwide classes, such localised factors should be reduced.

    Thirdly, by using ISAF figures we can obtain a sample of classes that is not the subjective choice of one person or a group of people. Such an subjective choice is likely to dramatically skew any findings.

    Fourthly, there are databases of national title fleets relating to some 150 or so classes in the UK, Australia and USA that reflect similar trends. Information from Germany and France indicate that their competitive sailing generally follows roughly similar lines. It's also not hard to track what is active in dinghy racing in places like India, South America, South Africa, etc to get a gut feeling to see if the information from ISAF and the US/UK?Aus info is way out of kilter. The indications are that the general trends shown in the ISAF and national title attendance information gives a reasonably accurate picture of worldwide competitive sailing.

    Things like greatest percentage growth are very difficult. Obviously a class that sells one boat the first year and 10 boats the next has a good percentage growth, but since so many classes get to a certain level and then stop growing we can't be sure that the percentage growth will be sustained. A class may also have very low percentage growth but have durable boats that keep on sailing, whereas another may be growing fast in some ways but merely because the same number of sailors are wearing their craft out and throwing them into the weeds.

    The story is the same with many of the other factors you mention. Since there is no way of getting any significant information on them, it seems best to use new boat sales and active fleet numbers as a proxy for many of those factors.

    It is also difficult to see whether some of those factors are good or bad per se. Churn is good in some classes and may be bad in others, so tracking churn may not tell us much given that there are so many other issues involved.

    I keep an eye on trends by using new boat sales, as well as they can be identified, and national championship attendances. The latter is certainly not perfect, and almost certainly under-represents the most popular classes, but it's better than relying on hype which seems to be the most common alternative. I'd like to kickstart a massive cooperative effort to track the number of racers by counting club-racer numbers, but that's too much for one person to do.

    Non-racing sailors are not the whole world and we can track them to a certain extent by using wider surveys.

    I have never claimed that the figures I look at tell the whole story, but it would appear to be a lot more valuable than ignoring the numbers. The numbers don't tell everything but they also don't lie, and you CAN definitely learn when some things are hype and BS.
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