One-Design is a racing method where all vehicles or boats have identical or very similar designs or models. It is also known as Spec series. It is heavily used in sailboat racing. All competitors in a race are then judged based on a single start time. One-Design can be compared with the Development Class, the classic example being the Americas Cup 12-meter class, or to the Box Rule[1] used for example in the TP52 class.[2]

However over the last 15 years a third setup has quickly risen through the ranks and has become at least as large as the above two setups. This is the formula based class setup. The mini 650s, also known as mini transats, the open 70's monohulls, the large ORMA trimarans and the Formula 18 racing beach catamarans are the exponents of this new approach. The two setups are often confused with each other as in both setups class legal boats race each other without any handicap calculations. However under One-design the boats are virtually identical except in details while the Formula setup allows the boats to differ much more in design while keeping a few important specifications the same. As a result the identifier "One-Design" has been used more and more exclusively to denote a class that races only identical boats.


Features of One-Design

As manufacturing technologies became more efficient and effective over the course of the 20th century, racers realized that there was an important need to equalize the design of the vehicles that they were competing in. The important factors being measured in One-Design racing help to equalize the vehicles and put more emphasis on the skill of the competitors.

One-Design is utilized in a variety of racing sports. Primarily it refers to sailing, where the One-Design Class Council creates, monitors, and enforces the rules that define what classes of sailboats are One-Design boats. It can additionally refer to airplanes or motor vehicles, such as IndyCars, where teams are required to meet certain specifications such as vehicle weight, engine displacement, weight, fuel capacity, and a variety of other factors are measured and regulated, or classes limited to a single make, such as the Yamaha RD Cup.

In motorsport, this term is commonly known as one-make racing and this term is predominantly given to series for production based cars such as the Porsche Supercup.


There are two primary methods of competition in sailboat racing: One-Design and handicap (see: Portsmouth Yardstick, PHRF and LYS (Leading Yard Stick)). One design refers to a racing class that consists of just one model or design of sailboat. In one-design racing, the first boat to finish wins the race. This is contrasted with handicap racing, where time is added or subtracted from the finishing times based on design factors and mathematical formulas to determine the winner. Having a rigid one-design specification keeps design experimentation to a minimum and reduces cost of ownership. The popularity of one-design increased in the 1970s with the introduction of laminate construction using fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) and mold building technology. This process allowed the mass production of identical hulls of virtually any size at a lower price.

The one-design design idea was created by Thomas Middleton of the Shankill Corinthian Club located 10 miles (16 km) south of Dublin, Ireland in the year 1887. He proposed a class of double ended open dinghy of simple clincher construction in pine with a lifting boiler plate capable of being lifted. The boat was called The Water Wag. The idea was quickly adopted by sailors in Ireland, England, India and South America. The Water Wag Club still thrives in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.[citation needed]

The Solent One Design Class was one of the earliest O.D. classes formed after discussions took place in 1893 and subsequent years It quickly became popular, and was patronised by some of the most energetic and best known yacht owners in the Solent, Portsmouth and Southampton waters including Sir Philip Hunloke, the Kings yachtmaster. Formed under the auspices of the Solent Sailing Club the class was adopted by the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Island Sailing Club in 1895. The dimensions of the boats were length overall, 33 ft 3 in; Waterline length, 25 ft; Beam, 7 ft 9 in; Draft, 5 ft; Sail area, 750 sq ft.; Displacement, 5 tons with 2 tons 13 cwt. of lead in the keel. Cutter rig with 6 ft bowsprit. Designed by H.W. White, ten were built in 1895/6 by Messrs. White Brothers of Itchen Ferry, Southampton and another twelve were built in the following year. The class enjoyed ten years of keen racing but the Metre Rule, which was introduced in 1907 effectively killed the class. The only boat still afloat is Rosenn, formally Eilun, sail number 6. Now, fully restored, she has been identified as meriting inclusion in the National Register of Historic Vessels of the United Kingdom. She is kept in Lymington where she is still racing and winning on the Solent.[citation needed]

As a general rule, the tolerances are strictest in smaller boats like dinghy classes and small keelboats. All one-design classes will have a class association that will determine the measurement rules for the class. Olympic one-design classes have some of the strictest tolerances, for example Laser, Finn, Star, and the former Olympic class Soling.

For classes where the boats are physically smaller, this might mean that everything is designed and produced at the same factory, or by only licensed manufacturer in any country or region, so that all racing vehicles have identical parts. Examples of this include the Laser, Melges 24, Jet 14, 49er, or Town Class boats. This is also true of the larger International One Design.

In medium- to large-sized boat classes, One-Design would refer to conformance to a standard specification, with the possibility of alterations being allowed as long as they remained within certain tolerances. Examples of this are the J/24, Sunfish, Santana 20, Tartan 10, Etchells, J105, Schock 35, and the Farr 40. After the hull length overall (LOA) exceeds 27 feet (8.2 m), people generally refer to the boat as an offshore one-design boat or yacht.

In other classes, the one-design class may have organized around an existing fleet of similar boats that traditionally existed together often for commercial purposes such as sailing canoes, dhows, and skipjacks, or boats that developed a common hull form over the years (such as A-Scows).

In contrast to 'one-design', other offshore sailboats race under a variety of handicapping rules and formulas developed to allow different type boats to compete against one another. Handicap rules include Portsmouth Yardstick, PHRF, IOR, IMS, IRC, Americap and LYS.

Car racing


Schweizer SGS 1-26 one design-sailplane

There have been several attempts to bring the advantages of one-design to the sport of competitive glider racing. The most successful of these has been the Schweizer 1-26 class with 700 aircraft completed and flown between 1954-1981.[3]

Schweizer Aircraft principal Paul A Schweizer was a proponent of the One-Design concept. He intended the company's 1-26 to be the aircraft to establish a one-design class in the United States. He wrote:

"The true measure of pilot ability and experience is usually shown by his final standing in a contest. What could be more indicative of this when pilots are flying identical sailplanes with identical performance. One design competition is the sure test of soaring skill."[4]


  1. ^ Bill Lee Thinks Outside the Box Rule
  2. ^ Transpac 52 Box Rule
  3. ^ Activate Media (2006). "SGS 1-26 A,B,C & D Schweizer". Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  4. ^ Schweizer Aircraft Corp: The 1-26E for Sport Soaring, page 3. Schweizer Aircraft Corp, undated.

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