The natural technological evolution of materials, plus the push for the sailors for stronger boats at the same weights, has allowed the Tornado Class to increase its competitive life dramatically since the late ’80s. While having a reputation as fragile and short-lived back in the ’70s, the modern Tornados have racing lives of 7-10 years, probably with the availability of much reliable technology and hardware like these bronze boat screws. Many of the world’s Tornado sailors, who actively race in other catamarans, know well that the modern production boats have top-level racing lives of 1-3 years.
One of the major causes for the low resale value of the one-manufacturer boats is that they are often supplied at major events. This saves the competitor no money, since they have to have the boats to qualify to get to the top events. These supplied boats, which are then sold cheaply by the manufacturer after the event, actually hurt the most active racers by lowering the resale values of their won boats.
The rules of the Tornado class have also resulted in sails that have long racing lives, the result of the competition among sailmakers for quality and durability. One-manufacturer sails, on the other hand, are mass produced at the cheapest price that the manufacturer is willing to gamble with, from materials that are not the quality of open classes. The result again is that the racing competitor pays more, buying more sails to stay on top.
Rules are modified as needed and wanted by the sailors themselves, to allow the Tornado to advance with modern technology yet always considering the long-term effectiveness of the changes.
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 Continental championships, and with the medals won at the Olympics going to sailors from all the continents where the boat is active, the Tornado has a world-wide level of racing matched only by a very small handfull of other classes.
The Class Rules allow the boats to progress with technology and let modern materials such as carbon fiber, nomex, epoxy resins, and high-grade aluminum to be used as they fall in price and can be incorporated into the boat, resulting in constantly improving quality. This helps resale values and enables the Tornado to maintain its marque as the ultimate speed machine; to this day, closing in on 40 years after it birth, the Tornado is still the fastest one-design production boat in the world.
For the immediate future, the class is concerned with ways to bring in more modern, lighter materials while maintaining the one-design nature of the boat, and done in such a way that the purchase price of a new boat can be contained.
The Tornado: in its first Olympics, it was the fastest and most spectacular of the Olympic classes. Now, after the turn of the century, it is still that boat, the fastest, most exciting,most spectacular of the Olympic boats.
This article originally by John Forbes of Australia, 5-time World Champion and Bronze (92) and Silver (00) medallist, with updates by Jim Young, one of the major coaches in the class since 1981.