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The Tornado Story

The International Tornado Catamaran was designed by Rodney Marsh and Reg White in 1967 and gained it's Olympic Games status from the IYRU after winning a selections regatta held in Brightlingsea, England in the same year.

The Olympic status of the Tornado has brought some of the finest sailors from all over the world to the class. With over 22 nations regularly attending the annual World and European Championships and the three medals won at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games going to three different continents, the Tornado Class has a world-wide fleet matched only by a handful of other sailing classes.

The Class rules allow the boats to progress with technology and let modern materials such as carbon fibre, nomex, epoxy resins and premium grade aluminium to be used in the construction of the boat. This helps with the re-sale value of the boats and enables the Tornado to maintain it's marque as the ultimate speed machine of the water and to this day still remains unchallenged as the fastest one-design boat in the world.

The total weight of the Tornado is around 160 kilograms (similar to the weight of the two people sailing it) and with an upwind sail area of 22 square metres and an additional 25 sqm of spinnaker down wind the Tornado's top speed is in excess of 33 knots.

The International Tornado Association has been working extensively over the past ten years developing both the Regatta Format and the improvement of the Sail Plan.

The 1994 World Championship in Sweden was the first time the new Regatta and Course Format were introduced and they were overwhelmingly accepted by the 77 participants in attendance.

The Course is a simple Windward-Leeward layout with a gate rounding at the leeward end of the course. The introduction of the gate has provided much closer racing due to the advantage offered to the back part of the fleet being able to choose which side of the course they would like to go rather than being forced to go a particular way in a single mark rounding scenario. The Start/Finish line also allows the Race Committee to remain on station for the entire race enabling quick back-to-back races to take place.

The Sail Plan on the Tornado has been through a major development program including the use of spinnakers, bigger 'square-top' mainsails and lower aspect jibs. All the possible combinations were tested by the best cat sailors in the world during an evaluation event in France in 2000.

Taken into consideration was not only performance variations or enhancement but also cost controls and the ability to remain a strict one-design class. The final outcome was for the boat to include the addition of a spinnaker, twin trapeze, square top main sail and a higher aspect jib.

The Tornado is still by far the fastest and most spectacular Olympic Class and with the new hull-flying technique on the downwind legs coupled with the spinnaker and twin trapeze the Tornado is still the ultimate speed machine.

Over 4,800 Tornados have now been built and with 1,300 Class Association Members the International Tornado Class will be competing at its ninth Olympic Games in China in 2008.

 

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The Class Rules

The Class Rules for the Tornado have allowed changes in construction and running rigging techniques over the past 30 years which has enabled the Tornado to remain at the fore-front of one-design catamaran technology however the profile of the hulls, centreboards, rudders and sail plan still remain unchanged since its inception in the late 1960's.

The Tornado Class Rules have been constantly developed and now ensure strict attention to all details relating to the performance of the boat. Rules are occasionally modified or up-graded to allow the Tornado to advance with modern technology yet the ITA Committee always consider the long term cost effectiveness of the changes.

Class Rules of a "one-manufacturer" class are often primitive or kept simple due to the nature of the competition originally anticipated by the manufacturer. However, as time progresses and classes become larger and more competitive the rules are often not up-dated and often leave open loop-holes never anticipated by the original designer or manufacturer.

When a Class has reached an International level of competition and National Government or Yachting Federation monetary grants become available then competitors start to look for the "edge" in their boats and the first place they go for this is to the Class Rules.

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Changes

In January 1993 the Tornado Class undertook a major development program as part of the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta after a request from the IYRU to improve the public and media awareness of the sport of yachting.

 Two weeks of intensive testing and development was carried out involving the three medalists from the Barcelona Olympic Games as well as Tornado designer and 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Reg White, Edward Hyde and Mike Lennon from Hyde Sails UK and the ITA Technical Committee of that period. The Tornado Class Association spent nearly US$22,000 to ensure that the Ballot for both the rig plan, regatta format and course shape selection was infallible and by all means the best for the class.

The testing involved 10 standard (competitive) Tornados, one team with a larger main and jib and two teams with an assortment of larger mains, jibs and spinnakers up to 32sq m. A total of 14 races were contested over the Regatta and the conclusion was reached that on the Olympic Triangle course or the new short windward/leeward course with gates that the boat with the larger main and jib was marginally quicker than the standard boat, with the spinnaker clad boat only beating the standard and big sail boat in 2 out of the 14 races. The ITA then decided to ballot the larger main and jib to the class for the possibility to change and that rules for a one-design spinnaker be established for special long distance and one-off events. An extensive booklet was prepared by the ITA to explain to the sailors the testing procedure and provide an insight into the reasons for the rig selection.

A two-third majority (as required in the ITA Constitution to implement change) was not reached in the ballot and the Tornado Class sail plan remained as is for the next 8 years. The course and race format received greater than the two-third majority and so the short windward/leeward style course with gates was adopted by the Class.

At the time, the Tornado Class felt that the new style of course will have a far greater impact on the media and public awareness than any change in the boat as the course can be adjusted in length (both time and distance) to compensate the wind strength of any particular day or the number of boats competing.

The shorter than conventional windward legs also allows spectators and media to be able to see the majority of the racing without having to move from the designated areas. The fixed start/finish line allows Race Committees to remain on station all day, rather than having to relocate for each start and finish as required in the past. This allows for a quicker "turn-around" time in between the now common multiple races per day format. Since 1993 all World Championships have been contested using this style of Course and Regatta Format and it was well received by Race Committees and Competitors alike.

While the Ballot process was taking place the Class experienced an incredible decline in the number of boats built and attendance at regattas. The ITA would very strongly refuse any major testing and development in the future in order to help the Class keep its stability and constant growth. This is not to say that the ITA is not willing to progress with the times. In fact, the class has recently made legal the use of mylar sails and is still pursuing the possible introduction of the newly developed carbon mast and increased popularity of the one-design spinnaker. However, the method in which the Association is undergoing the testing is on a much lower scale of publicity and will continue up until November 1996 until a new ballot decision is reached.

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Crew Weights

The one-design (as opposed to one-manufacturer) Class Rules have allowed the Tornado Class to ensure close racing from similarity in design yet allowed teams to be competitive regardless of their weight combination or stature. This is available through the ability to alter the depth and draft of the sails without altering the sail profile and therefore the image of the class.

The problems often experienced with a one-manufacturer class is that items such as sails cannot be altered therefore crew weights must be strictly kept to the class minimum to ensure a team's competitiveness. With the ability to alter the sails in the Tornado Class it has meant a Class minimum crew weight is not required and it is often common to see total team weights vary amongst competitors up to 40kgs.

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Materials

Another advantage of 'One-Design' is the freedom to allow competitors to build their own items such as sails, rudders, centreboards and rigging. This ensures increased strength and extended competitive life of components as modern materials become available, which in turn leads to a lower maintenance and replacement cost over a longer period.

An example of this is from a one-manufacturer class an item such as rudders can become a costly replacement if the materials chosen by the manufacturer cannot be upgraded due to its "must be purchased from the manufacturer" rules.

Rigging is another example of high cost replacement. If the manufacturer chooses a lower grade material or part in order to keep the "new purchase price" of the boat down, in the long term it is the competitor who will have to replace that item as it quickly becomes worn-out, breaks down or simply out dated. A fine example of this is with pulley blocks or traveller cars where simple technology leads to a dramatic decrease in replacement cost due to the "one-design" ability to change and up grade such items.

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Life Expectancy

The natural technological progression of materials has allowed the Tornado Class to increase its competitive life dramatically during the past twenty years with the international competitive expectancy of a new Tornado now being approx 10 years.

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In Summary

All of the above as well as a sailor run Class Association without any commercial influence has enabled the Tornado to maintain it's marque as the ultimate speed machine of the water and to this day still remains unchallenged as the fastest one-design boat in the world.

The total weight of the Tornado is around 160 kilograms (similar to the weight of the two people sailing it) and with an upwind sail area of 22 square metres and an additional 25 sqm of spinnaker down wind the Tornado's top speed is in excess of 23 knots.

The Tornado is still by far the fastest and most spectacular Olympic Class and with the new hull-flying technique on the downwind legs coupled with the addition of the spinnaker and twin trapeze the Tornado is still the ultimate speed machine.

Over 4,800 Tornados have now been built and with 1,300 Class Association Members the International Tornado Class will be competing at its 8th Olympic Games in Greece in 2004.