National 12 - find out more...

National 12 FAQs

The racing

Q: What's the difference between and Admirals cup, Double-bottom and Vintage 12s?

A: 12s are a development class and over time there have been marked eras in the class. Back in the class history there was a transition from Clinker construction to four-plank smooth hulls, the Vintage section of the class was then set up to encourage racing of these 12s. From 1996 onwards self-draining 12s were allowed which have double-bottoms. All the boats in-between are classed as Admirals cup 12s. All fleets race together at open meetings - for the overall prizes. In addition, the Admirals Cup prize is awarded to the first Admirals cup boat.


Q: Can women compete on equal terms with men? 

A: Yes, there are a number of all female crews and helms who are competitive in the class. The annual Burton Cup race (the premier race of the championships) has been won by a lady helm and many of the boats at the front of the fleet (but not all) sail with female crews.


Q: Are there any fleets outside the UK?

A: The 12 is primarily a UK class and there is an extensive open meeting circuit, a few boats have made it as far as Jersey, France and Germany but not much further. If you fancy starting a class in your country then give us a call.


Q: Being a development class don't the guys with the biggest wallets win?

A: A common misconception! On inland venues the older National 12s can be just as competitive as the newer ones and it is usually the good guys who will win in either. On open water the more modern designs have an edge being wider and lighter, however the boatspeed differences are more likely to be down to the age of sails, finish on the hull etc. than an extra few kilogrammes being carried around. The biggest difference with the latest 12s is the improved feel as they accelerate and respond that little bit quicker.


Q: Don't one designs have fairer racing

A: Not really. It is a unfortunate reality that in any class the newest boats and sails race faster and have an advantage. One designs do demand conformity in many aspects - where the national 12 sailor is free to experiment and express themselves.


Q: Do I have to join the association?

A: Unlike some other classes we believe that membership of the Association is voluntary. However we encourage people to join the community and there are specific advantages such as coaching sessions, tips-n-tricks, discounts and a wealth of information in regular magazines and on the website. So if you have a 12 why no join the party!


Q: How heavy should we be? 

A: Between about 18 and 22 stone combined crew weight is considered the all round competitive range. 16 or 17 stone is fine (and fast) inland but may prove difficult in a breeze and in waves. Up to about 24 stone is quite sailable but you may have to wait for a good breeze to compete near the front. A modern carbon rig will make you more competitive at either the higher and lower weight ranges. 


The boats

Q: 8.4 sq m seems small for the sail area!

A: 8.4 sq metres is the measured sail area which assumes the sails are triangular, in fact the 12 sails have a large roach and the actual area is more like 11 sq m. Don't be put off by the larger sail area as the power is easily controlled through mast bend.


Q: Aren't 12s boring without a spinnaker - what does the crew do downwind?

A: Far from being boring, the responsive hull keeps helm and crew on their toes upwind and downwind. The dangly pole which controls the jib downwind adds an extra dimension for the crew and the rig can be powered up significantly as you round the windward mark. Upwind the responsive hull shape means you are rewarded by every move you make, as gusts hit you hike harder and feel the speed! And planning is very exciting (have a look at the gallery)


Q: With so many designs to choose from what's the best design for me?

A: This really depends on your combined crew weight, sailing club, sailing style, preferred material (wood / GRP) and how much you'd like to spend. If the design guide doesn't convince you of the way to go than get in touch.


Q: What kind of people sail 12s?

A: 12s are sailed enthusiastically throughout the country by almost every 2 person combination you can think of. Youth helms crewed by siblings, friends, girlfriend or boyfriend. Husbands and wives, fathers and sons or daughters. Daughters with mothers, sons with fathers. Grandfathers with their grandchildren or with their friends. Shift workers and solicitors, accountants and sailmakers, engineers, boatbuilders, printers, naval architects, health professionals, graphic artists, teachers, OAPs, students and schoolchildren. Because a relative novice can crew a 12 and it is un-intimidating, children can really enjoy making a contribution. On the other hand an experienced crew can give (and enjoy) the winning edge.


Q: Do parent and child crews work?

A: Yes, 12s are a superb way of introducing children to competitive sailing and the adult world. It is quite possible to sail a 12 with minimal crew input and experience but children are more likely to enjoy it if trained up in handling the jib, jib pole etc as they have the strength and motivation. Quite a few of the current 'young guns' in the class started in 12s crewing their Dads. A good proportion of crews at the national championships in any given year are under 15. The fact that an older 12 can be bought and brought up to scratch on a tight family budget can be a big advantage.


Q: How difficult are they to sail?

A: Some people learn to sail in 12s but some prior sailing experience is recommended. You may find them 'tippy' at first but that soon passes The flared shape gives increasing stability when heeled so the boat is not just going to fall over. They are not a class where you have to be expert not to capsize. But they are lively, responsive and rewarding to sail which accounts for much of the attraction of (and loyalty to) the class. So they are reasonably easy to sail but be warned, considerable finesse is required if you are going to be first across the finish line!


Acquiring a 12

Q: Is it easy to buy a new 12?

A: There are several options to buying a new 12. It can be as easy or involved as you choose. There is the off-the shelf approach or do-it-yourself and various alternatives in between. The new boats guide should shed some light.


Q: Should I be worried that some second hand 12s appear very cheap?

A: Twelves tend to last a long time so older boats can still in be in good condition whilst being exceptional value, particularly for people getting into sailing on a budget. N1 is still in sailable condition quite a few years on.


Q: Can an amateur still build a competitive Twelve down to weight?

A: Yes, some of the most successful recent boats are home designed or manufactured (using carbon foam sandwich method or wood) and are stiff and light. There are loads of people in the class who would be happy to discuss how to go about building any part of a 12.


Q: How do I know if the boat I've got is a National 12?

A: Somewhere on the Thwart or place fairly visible should be a number, if you can find this and any other details then note them down and get in touch, we can check the Association archives and let you know. A big "N" on the sail is also a give-away.


Things its best not to do with a 12

Q: Can I attach an outboard motor?

A: Twelves are generally racing boats and if you try to attach a motor to a modern 12 there is a good chance it will sink or capsize with the weight, or maybe the transom will fall off . . . so best avoided.


Q: Is the 12 a suitable dinghy for cruising?

A: A 12 does not really make a good cruising boat since it demands too much contiuous attention from the 2 man crew (and it has minimal stowage space!). It is sailed by people who like to race or at least who sail to get the optimum performance from their boat.



Are all your questions answered? If not then get in touch

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