The International Tornado class had its rule changes adopted by ISAF yesterday (March 1) writes Hugh Styles. This comes as a monumental step forwards for the class in its 30-year history since being designed by Rodney March in the late 60s. The issue of changing the boat to add twin trapeze spinnaker and a bigger mainsail and jib has been one that as long ago as 1992 there were moves a foot to update the catamarans performance.

In the last year the class has come under increasing pressure from ISAF to conform to the norm in comparison to other high performance cat classes, and add twin trapeze and spinnaker. This was apparent at the Quiberon evaluation event which ISAF ran in March last year to gain an idea of the comparisons between the Tornado and the other F18 and F20 type cats. ISAF came away from the evaluation event determined to push the Tornado towards being more spectacular and high performance. I believe in the first ruling of its type at the November ISAF conference 2000 the Tornado class was pressured into adopting the assigned changes dictated by the ISAF Events committee, in order to maintain its Olympic status. It has taken till March 1 to change the class rules legally in order to ensure that the class maintains its Olympic status for the forthcoming Olympiad.

The position for the Tornado sailors is now one of huge change as a spinnaker system and a whole new development for mainsail and jib are required.

New rig specifications

  • Spinnaker: 25 sqm (none on the boat before)

  • Mainsail: 16 sqm (compared to 15sq m) – the main has been made square top with a much larger roach

  • Jib: 7.2 sqm (compared to 7 sq m) – this is now permitted to be fully-battened, but has to sheet to the front beam

The rule changes are effective as of March 1 and the next Tornado Olympic class regattas will be raced in the new format. This gives a tight timescale for Olympic crews to carry out development in order to have their boats race ready for the first of the Eurolymp regattas which begin in the early part of April.

I for one am pleased that the changes have been brought about for the next Olympiad as the class was in danger of being left behind. With the F18 and F20 classes continuing to develop a good competitive racing circuit and push their technical development towards the cutting edge of high performance catamaran racing. The new format Tornado (which may have a name change in the near future) will be far more spectacular than before with colourful spinnakers which will improve the boats performance downwind, to make it comparable around the race track to a 49er, if not faster! Upwind the extra trapeze should make the boat faster, and will also add new dynamics to the crew work onboard the vessel. This can only bode well for the class, as it provide new challenges for sailors and my feeling is that it will also entice many top quality sailors from a variety of other different classes into the fray.

For Team Styles and May a great deal of boat development is now the order of the day so as to ensure that we have the systems onboard the boat are working effectively for the start of the season, in April. Holt are working closely with us to develop specific systems and fittings that will match the new requirements for the big rig Tornado. On a similar front Marlow ropes are also developing ropes specifically adapted to cope with the high working loads encountered on the Tornado, they are also using the our Tornado as a test bed for research and development of some of their new hi-tech ropes.

Both Adam and I are looking forwards to the challenges that the new rig brings, it will be more exciting and challenging to sail and at least for the first few outings much more entertaining for spectators to watch as I try to helm from the trapeze. I am sure that there may be a few swimming sessions as we learn how hard we can push things when sailing in