Reigning IOM World Champion (twice) and European Champion, and designer of half of the hulls that will race in Vitoria, australian Brad Gibson, competing with the UK team is without doubt the man to beat at this European Championship.
Brad kindly accepted to answer a few questions for us, so here they are, as a warmer for the few weeks left until the racing starts. Thank you, Brad, and good luck!
Q&A: Brad Gibson
Brad, as the incumbent European and World champion you have right to a place to defend your title this summer in Vitoria. First question is obviously whether you can confirm your intention to attend?
Yes, I can confirm that I will be in Vitoria this summer, being my second visit to Spain.
– Last year you won the IOM Worlds with an unnamed evolution of your Britpop, which is the dominant ship so far in the inscriptions list, as it was in the Worlds, and I understand you did not wish to release it commercially as you intended to take some further evolution before putting your next model in the market. Can you advance what will be your hull this year? What are your plans for the next generation now?
The design I have been sailing since 2014 is named POP (short for Prototype). This is the same design that I have raced in the last 2 International events and is a slight variation on Britpop, having been the last of 4 original mouldings from 2011 that were made by myself and my wife Victoria. It is slightly narrower than BP with some other small modifications to test some ideas for when the time comes to move on to the next design. At present with BP still doing so well there are no immediate plans for another design to be released, but you never know what is around the corner….
– You released a line plan for a hull called Alternative, and I understand a number of those have been sold and hulls have started to compete last year. If we could speak of a market segmentation between Britpop and Evolution, and ready-built hulls versus line plans, how do compare both in terms of sailing features, etc.. Is Alternative fulfilling your expectations yet or is it too soon? Have you raced Alternative?
Many important characteristics of Britpop’s performance are evident within our Alternative design. Alternative is a narrower design with a reduced wetted surface area that is doing well with nice reports back from many skippers that are sailing it. I plan myself to build an Alternative when I get the time!
– Do you expect new technologies to have an impact in IOM design any time soon? For instance in last worlds some 3D printed parts appeared, and this technology is rapidly spreading, are you planning to have a look?, using in some way to facilitate prototyping?
Yes. It is always important to keep an eye on developments in every aspect of what we do and in areas that can make a process more cost effective to test and manufacture.
– Do you think hulls may soon be 3D printed instead of built out of fiberglass?
This is always a possibility and at the rate of development in the 3D printing field, I would not discard the possibility. The legality of such may ask a few questions though !
– You supply sails directly and hulls indirectly through other manufacturers, will you also look at developing your own parts and accessories to rigs, or is that not interesting to you?
When Britpop first went into production we offered a limited set of fittings and parts to compliment the way we liked to rig our boats, covering items that were not then available in the marketplace. Since then the overload in others now offering ‘similar’ parts has meant that for the time spent, we are better off in sticking to what we are most efficient at, which is primarily making sails and testing new designs in every way.
– The fact that many of your competitors are using or could have access to Britpop and BG sails is an indication that your success in IOM is not due just to the superiority of your designs at least as much to your skipper ability as to your designer/builder ability. Or do you have tricks up your sleeve in setting up your ships that still give you an advantage over other guys using the same hulls and sails?
If you ask any of our Britpop skippers you will find that I am more than open in offering full information on how I will set up and race my own boat. Nothing up my sleeve and no secrets.
At the highest level you will find that skipper ability will always have a bearing on performance, but I would also offer that without correct equipment, the best skipper will be at a disadvantage. I have been fortunate in gaining some good International results but it is also important to note that if removing myself from these events and in other events that the Britpop has still consistently done very well and made the podium.
Is it only good skippers that choose Britpop or is it that good skippers that have chosen Britpop done better?
– When approaching design of your ships, what importance do you give to computer tools analysis of designs vs. real life testing of prototypes? Some other IOM designs have stated that their work with computer tools did not lead them to designs as thin as the current Britpop trend has proven on the regattas with some surprise. How do you approach design of your ships? Are the present designs a fruit of refinement of many generations of IOM and other classes models? Or do you really use computer tools to improve your hulls and sails before committing to building and testing?
I use a basic Maxsurf program to design a hull shape to what I believe is needed. While I will look at the numbers presented, I will admit that I place far more importance on the ability to test a prototype and make changes according to feel. Any computer program is only as good as the information that is fed into it and will not do the research or testing for you. You must have a feel for how a boat is balanced and behaves, and if it is not correct know which areas you need to address to solve the design puzzle. I do not have the training or education in design of many others but I would say knowing how a fast boat should feel in a race environment is far more important than what any spreadsheet tells me.
– What is your training like for an event like the European Championships?
. I am very fortunate here locally in the UK to have some world class skippers to race against often.
– Any thoughts about the future of RC sailing and IOM that you would like to share?
I think the future for Radio Sailing is very good as the sport continues to gain further recognition and standing within the full size sailing world. The IOM continues to attract skippers of the highest quality and grow in many new countries offering something for all levels.