Why I was absent from the German trials for the 1936 sailing Olympics
 
 

Dr Collignon wanted very much to participate in the German Olympic trials to be held in Kiel in June 1936.  

His previous boat,"Wasserman", was a big dinghy of the German 22 m² (or, in German, 22 q.m.) Rennjolle class.

 Since the Rennjolle wasn't an Olympic class, he decided to sell it and commission a Six, which was still an

Olympic class in 1936.  His Six was wonderful beautiful me.  

The best way to understand why I was absent from the Olympic trials is to recount my recollection of a crucial

 conversation between Dr Collgnon and my architect, Reinhard Drewitz, in the summer of 1935:

“Drewitz: Mr Collignon, you've asked me to design a boat for you with which you can win the 1936 Olympics.  As you know, I'm a dinghy specialist,

 so I'm not in a position to propose a traditional Six metre design based on years of experience, representing the latest step in my trying to come up

 with the ideal design.

Collignon: Yes, I fully understand this.  I could have asked any one of a number of Six metre architects to give me their latest design, but they would

 have given similar designs to other clients.  I wouldn't have benefited from a quantum leap forward in the boat I'd have built. I turned to you because

 you're an original thinker, in the hope that you could come up with a radical design which would give me a chance to win a gold medal.

By thinking outside of the box, you may come up with something radical, rather than the mere incremental improvements sought by other architects

 too steeped in the Rule.

I also know that you are sceptical of the “rating” approach for boat classes.  Your irreverence on this subject may give you an objectivity with regard

 to the International Rule that other architects don’t have.  I’m hoping you’ll discover a way to “cheat” the Rule.

Drewitz: O.k.  We understand each other.  But I’m afraid that at age 54, I no longer have the freedom of imagination and creativity of a young architect.

However, I can use my experience in dinghies to approach the International Rule in a new way.  What I’ve come up with is essentially a Six Metre dinghy

 with what I call a “fin” keel. 

Collignon: That’s fine.  My experience is in dinghies.  As a beginner, I couldn’t hope to compete with the top Six Metre sailors in the worlds in a traditional Six.

Drewitz: Getting back to the fin keel, as you know, with its chain girth penalty component, the Rule tried to discourage fin keels.  But, for my dinghy concept

 to work, the fin keel is necessary.  I need a wide flat under body with as little deformation as possible.

Luckily, the dinghy approach allows me to significantly reduce the waterline length component of the rating, thus compensating for the chain girth penalty.

Collignon: All the other architects contend that a long waterline length is essential to obtaining a maximum hull speed.  How can you get increased speed

by shortening the waterline length?

Drewitz: Hull speed isn’t the only important factor in design.  Wetted surface is also very important at lower wind speeds.  This is especially true for dinghies.

As you know, in dinghies, the crew moves forward in light winds to reduce wetted surface and then moves aft in stronger winds, going downwind, to increase

 waterline length and thus hull speed.

In the Six Metre dinghy which I have designed for you and which is almost finished, I’ve kept the weight very light.  The hull and ballast each weigh 1600 kg .,

for a total of 3200 kg .  That means that the 400 kg . of crew weight represents 13% of this total.  They can significantly affect the boat’s trim by changing position.

Collignon:  That sounds great.  Tell me more.

Drewitz: The boat has a good hull form when the wetted surface is reduced to a minimum.  The position of the ballast is such that that the boat slightly overshoots

 this minimum wetted surface, but arrives at the ideal position when four of the crew members are positioned just behind the mast.  The small “J” of the sail plan

 may seem old-fashioned, but is all part of my design.  I didn’t want the crew to have to leave the cockpit and sit on the foredeck when they were in this ideal position.

When the wind is stronger, the crew will move aft to lengthen the waterline length.  I’ve even designed a small rear hatch, aft of the cockpit, where two of them

can stick their legs to hang on to the boat.

Collignon:  As long as I can stay put at the helm in the cockpit, I don’t care if the crew has to move around.  They’re there to work.

Drewitz: The counter is lower, broader and longer than other Sixes.  It works is an integral part of the hull’s underbody.  It’s designed to be immerged

along almost all its length.

The boat weighs 25% less than other Sixes being built today.  She can easily afford the 5% reduction in sail area (compared to other Sixes) which was

one of the necessary compensations for the chain girth penalty.

In fact, she has almost too much sail area, to the point that it could decrease her heeling stability.  But here, the dinghy design approach comes to the rescue again.

  She is 400 mm . wider than just about any other Six and has very well defined chines which will resist heeling.  These have the further advantage

of reducing wetted surface when heeling.

Collignon:  That all seems fine and well thought out, but I just thought about weather conditions at Kiel in June where the Olympics will be held.

The usual weather conditions there consist of a wind of force 5 from the east with short high waves.  Sailors familiar with Kiel conditions in early June

 expect heavy winds and rain and breaking waves on the Stollergrund.  In addition, both weather and wave conditions can change abruptly, along

with the possibility of a current that can reach 1 kn.

Those are hardly ideal conditions for a dinghy.

Drewitz: The boat that wins the German Olympic trials at Kiel in June will turn out, by chance, to have been ideally designed for the weather conditions

 during the trials.  And the same can be said for the conditions during the Olympics themselves.  The two could not be more dfferent.

The weather of the trials is normally difficult and that of the Olympics is "erwartende leichte Herbstwetter " (easy autumn weather; see http://www.fky.org/yachtsportarchiv/ydw/sleipnir2.html for this description of the German Navy's weather expectations for the design of Sleipnir III).

I'd rather gamble that we have good weather for the trials and then be sure that we have a boat well suited for the Games themselves.

Many other architects preparing boats for the Olympics, and Bjarne Aas especially, are designing heavy weather boats.  If those conditions prevail,

I don’t pretend my boat to be a contender.  As a dinghy designer, it’s not my area of expertise.

My gamble is that there will be a stable high pressure system over Scandinavia, which will mean warm and sunny weather (which people unfamiliar

with Kiel mistakenly call "summer") with relatively light winds.

If these conditions prevail, I’m sure that my design will beat the other boats – and that your boat will represent Germany at the Olympics..

Collignon:  I more or less follow what you’re saying.  It seems exciting and well thought out.

I’m even prepared to accept your gamble.  Sailings as I do on the Wannsee in Berlin , my skills as a skipper – and those of my crew – have been honed

 under light weather conditions, with my former 22m².  Your design is perfectly adapted to our competitive advantage.  At this level of racing, you can’t have your cake

 and eat it too.

But I’d like to come back to my earlier question about waterline length.  What length waterline are you talking about and how to you achieve it?

Drewitz:  As opposed to the usual 7.10 m . waterline of today’s Sixes, this boat’s waterline, for rating as a Six, is only 6.60 m .  She will float with a very noticeable

 forward trim.  The aft end of the waterline will be at the top of the rudder post.  When sailing in light winds, as I just mentioned, the forward trim will be slightly

 reduced, but it will still be clearly visible.

Collignon: My God, man, you’re out of your mind.

Do you expect me to sail a boat whose mast tilts forward, with its bow down in the water and the counter up in the air like the hind leg of a dog about to urinate?

I'll be the laughing stock of the entire German yachting community.

Drewitz: No, I'm not out of my mind.  You said that you wanted me to think outside of the box and find some way to “cheat” the Rule – and that’s what I’ve done.

Collignon: I'm flabbergasted by your stupidity.  I've wasted my money on you.  I don't want to hear anything more about this boat.

Drewitz:  I'm extremely distressed by your reaction Mr Collignon, but the boat is virtually finished.  Mr Buchholz is at the point of bolting the keel to the hull.

Collignon:  I don't want a boat which looks like a submarine about to dive.

I don't care what it takes.  I want that boat converted to float like a normal Six.

Drewitz:  Yes, sir.  The client is always right.  To level the trim, I'll tell Mr Buchholz to cut two chunks out of the forward part of the lead keel, weighing 120 kgs,

 and then to add the same weight in the form of lead ingots just forward of the sternpost,.  But, mind you, she’ll no longer measure as Six.

Do you want me to also have the rear hatch decked over?

Collignon:  All I want is to spend a minimum amount of money to turn your wretched idea into something that resembles a normal Six. Tell Buchholz to change

the weight distribution, but to leave the rear hatch as it is.

Hmmm  ... Mr Thomsen of Kiel is having a new Six, Gustel V, built by Wilke.  Maybe he’ll sell me his old boat, Gustel IV, so that I can at least participate in the Olympic Trials

Hmmm … and I wonder who would be stupid enough to buy Drewitz’s monstrosity.  One can usually talk the good Dr Tubiak into anything.  It will be fun to see

 if I can unload it on him.”

Dr Collignon bought Gustel IV and renamed it Michel and followed it with two other Sixes named Michel II (1937) and

Michel III (1939), the latter designed by Sparkman & Stephens. Which brings up the subject of my names.  

My first name was also Michel and/or Michel Selig.  This latter name means Blessed Michael or Happy Michael, I've never

understood why.  He did, in fact, sell me to Dr Tubiak, also a member of the Wannsee yacht club, who renamed me "Avalun VIII",

 the Avalon of Arthurian legend. 

My architect was hopping mad at Dr Collignon's rejection of his plan.  Since it was he who spoke to the reporter writing the caption

 of my launching photos, he managed to have his original idea recorded for posterity, even if it didn't correspond to the boat

being launched.

If Dr Tubak ever raced me, there's no mention of it in the newspapers.

As for the gamble, Drewitz and Collignon would have lost it.

The Saturday 20th June 1936 edition of Die Yacht says that, when the German Olympic trials began, "Es wehte ein sehr steifer

 Ostwind, der nur die grösseren R-Yachtern aus dem Hafe locken konnte" (So hard was the east wind was blowing that only the larger

International yachts could be lured out of port.)