Dear Class Members and Fellow Viper Owners,
As many of you know, Rondar Raceboats is building two new sets of molds for the Viper in order to establish North American Production at the factory in Peabody. This is an exciting development for our Class. We have been asked by a number of members how the Class Association supervises this process and how we review any proposed modifications or refinements to the tooling. We thought we would share our answer with everyone.
One of the great strengths of the Viper Class is that we are a strict one-design class where the builder is appointed by the Class Association and the rules are controlled by the owner members. Importantly, our class has a proven track record of introducing occasional refinements to the boat that keep the boat modern and user friendly but at the same time maintain a one design level playing field. The emphasis is on one-design and not on change.
The Viper we sail today has evolved significantly from 1998 and is as contemporary as any sport boat on the North American market and yet boats from the original production series still finish in the top three in our North American championships.
It is an achievement that we should be proud of and it is one of the reasons why the Viper remains the fastest growing three person sport boat class in North America.
There are two processes for reviewing and approving any changes to the Viper:
The sails, hull weight, spars, running and standing rigging, equipment and fittings and crew requirements are all controlled by Part B of the class rules. Any change in Part B of the rules has to go through a two step process. First a rule submission is reviewed by your technical committee (all existing Viper skippers) who produce a recommendation to the rest of the membership. Secondly the membership vote on it.
Examples of rule changes in the past that the members approved include:
- The introduction of the carbon mast.
- The conversion to the Gnav (the first one design keel boat in North America to adopt the Gnav).
- The safety lines underneath the gunwales.
- Relocating the spinnaker blocks for faster easier gybes.
- Change in spinnaker dimensions to introduce a modern fast shape, that is easy to gybe and dowse.
- The introduction of “nobody paid to sail” rule. (unique to the Viper class)
Construction Standards of the boat “as supplied by builder”
Part C of the class rules gives the Class Association complete control over our appointed class builder. The Class Association is represented in this regard by your elected Class Executive Committee. Any change in builder or anything to do with molds and construction of hull, deck, rudder and keel or fittings is subject to the approval of our Executive Committee. The Class constitution gives the Executive Committee direction on this and the preamble to the rules gives them guidance . The fundamental rule of the Viper class states:
“The Viper 640 is a strict one-design keelboat where the true test, when raced, is between helmspersons and crews, and not boats and equipment”
Examples of improvement in construction standards that the Class Association Executive Committee has approved in the past include:
- New stronger stern post properly bonded to the hull – The stern posts were tearing off the older Pre-Rondar boats.
- Improved pintle/gudgeon system enabling a more consistent one design standard of alignment.
- Modified throat bar to reduce wear and tear on spinnakers – another first, introduced by the Viper class.
- A new keel box and cassette system which replaced the original keel box that was prone to leak and was vulnerable to damage in light groundings.
- A wider hull deck joint, for a stronger bond between hull and deck.
Some of these modification have been retrofitted to older boats. Any change that cannot be retrofitted to older boats is only allowed if it does not impact performance. The end result is that new owners benefit from the accumulated experience of existing owners but we maintain a one –design class. In the long run this is good for our class and good for all owners. The Viper is a tried and tested design that has been refined through interaction between builder and class members and remains at the leading edge of contemporary sport boats.
Over the last year and a half, the executive committee has stepped up their commitment to ensuring the highest standards of one-design consistency by authorizing the Technical Committee and a Builders subcommittee to retain yacht designer, Jim Taylor to produce computerized three dimensional plans of the Viper and a build specification book for the class. As reported on our class website, the class arranged for a sample of two generations of Viper hulls and foils to be laser scanned producing 3 D computer models accurate within a fraction of a millimeter. We are pleased to report that there were no determinate differences, defined by the highest industry standard of build tolerance, between current hulls and original hulls. The class owns a permanent electronic record of the hull shape of the Viper. All molds, now and in the future, will be required to meet the same standard.
We are very excited about the commencement of North American production of the Viper. We are also very pleased that Rondar has chosen to invest in building two new sets of identical tooling so that boats built at Peabody come from the exact same tooling as boats built in the UK. This ensures a worldwide one–design standard.
New tooling provided an opportunity for builder and class owners to pool their collective wisdom and consider if there are any modifications or refinements that could be incorporated in the new tooling.
Remember the preamble to our rules which guides the Class. We will not allow changes to the boat that affect performance unless they can be retrofitted at a cost effective means by existing owners.
Here are the refinements that are being incorporated, subject to approval by the Class Executive Committee.
- A new non-skid pattern. This can provide high grip where it is needed and less grip where it is not needed.
- The build process will shift to “resin infusion” molding. This allows precise control of the amount of resin used in production, ensuring a highly consistent weight from boat to boat.
- The replacement of marine ply as backing to fittings with high density, glass-reinforced urethane foam panel.
- Several refinements to keel cassette, keel lift system and keel top plate to make the keel easier to raise and lower. Most of these modifications to the keel system can be affordably retrofitted to existing boats which have the cassette system. There will be no change to the keel as presented to the water.
- Changes to cockpit lockers. Flattening a section of deck for better seal with locker flange and designing a better attachment of locker to deck/hull structure will provide larger, stronger, drier lockers.
None of these refinements affect performance.
Some of you will have seen reference to “2 dozen refinements” in the new molds. There are currently only five modifications but they can be broken down into a larger number of individual line item changes that the Class Executive Committee has to approve in detail.
This is your class. Feel free to contact the Class Executive, in particular David Nickerson, Technical Committee Chair, with any questions or suggestions.
We finish by quoting the preamble to the rules which guides the Class when we consider updates to our boats. We always ask ourselves: –
“Does it make the Viper either (a) Easier or more comfortable to sail (b) Less expensive to own (c) More fun (d) A safer boat or (e) Does it improve longevity ? Then we ask (a) If it affects performance, can it be retrofitted to existing boats in a cost effective manner? (b) Will it be adopted by all boats (c) Does it accord with the Viper mission of providing a fast, exciting , fun, easy, contemporary, high performance, one-design sport boat that is accessible to a wide range of sailors?”
We think this is a good mission and we care about it!
Dawn Kozak – Class President
David Nickerson – Chair of Technical Committee
Garrett Johns – Class Secretary
Tony Chapman – Class Treasurer
Justin Scott – Class Governor