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HomeHistory of Rule Changes

NCESA Scantling Rule Changes/Issues Over the Years

   By Ted Beier


The E Scow that we race today has evolved quite a bit from the “traditional wood boat with a rotating wood spar that had been sailed for many years.  What follows is a short discussion of these changes during the time that I have been involved with the NCESA Rules Committee.


1970-1971 – Experimentation with deck stepped and bottom stepped aluminum masts occurred.  Sections involved derived from the Soling and Tempest class boats, plus an un-tapered section being considered for the C Scow.  A deck stepped Soling section adopted as an alternate to the rotating wood spar.


1972 – Initial discussions on fiberglass hulls.  Scantling rules for aluminum mast being cleaned up.  Minimum cloth weight for spinnakers set at ¾ oz.  Discussion about Soling spinnakers being sanctioned and/or taking place of traditional asymmetric reacher.  Board voted to allow two spinnakers of any type to be used at a regatta if they fell within the maximum dimensions.  Board decided to license builders instead of measuring boats.  Melges and Johnson will be considered licensed after Measurer Ed Malone measures and certifies one hull from each.  Thereafter, changes which bring the hulls closer in shape will be encouraged, and changes that increase differences will be discouraged.  By-law Article X on experimental projects initiated.


1973 – NCESA assumes control of E scantling rules from ILYA .  Board approved Melges request to build fiberglass boat, requiring it conform to the shape of a 1972 boat (no action followed).  Scantling rules approved for current large and small spinnaker dimensional ranges (except the foot max was set at 23 ft. instead of the current 22 ft.), and one large and one small will be allowed measured in for a regatta.  All spinnakers built to previous rules are grandfathered.  All spinnakers must carry numbers except grandfathered reachers.  Scantling rule for spinnaker pole rope downhaul as an extension of the topping lift approved.


1974 – In April permission was given to Johnson Boat Works to build a fiberglass boat, and sail the prototype in the Championship regatta.  Concerns about the insufficient amount of flotation in hulls were discussed.  The current flotation rule (By Law Article VIII, Section 14) was approved in form.  13 cu. ft. of foam were required.  A request to build a cold molded wood-resin hull was denied.  1975 production of Johnson fiberglass boats was approved subject to verification of shape by Measurer Malone.


1975 – Discussions on masthead flotation initiated.  1976 production of Melges fiberglass boats was approved subject to verification of shape by Measurer Malone.  The Rules Committee was authorized to reword the scantling rules to recognize fiberglass and wood hulls.  For glass hulls, the fiber portion must be 100% glass fiber, local indentations or buildups for deck fittings were allowed, and indentations for travelers were allowed providing they were self draining and not below the shear line.


1976 – By-law Article X on experimental projects adopted.  Measurer Malone presented a table of offset measurements for the Johnson and Melges fiberglass hulls.  These were adopted as the official definition of the E Scow hull.


1983 – Scantling rule approved to change measurement of spinnaker pole to measuring the overall length to a limit of 10 ft.


1984 – Masthead flotation still a big issue in the spring.  Two sets of foam pads for the head of a sail were tested during the ’84 season.  Discussion about reducing the boat weight to less than 965 lb.  Board declared that the weight should remain at 965 and the builders should use the “excess” weight to build strong boats.  Scantling rule changes approved to reduce underweight tolerance from 96.5 lb to 50 lb.  The spinnaker pole ring size was limited to 3 in. from the mast surface.


1985 – More experimentation with masthead flotation devices during the year. 

A proposal to allow mylar mainsails was defeated by the Board.  Scantling rule approved to increase the mechanical advantage of the backstay to 4:1 and eliminate the requirement for a jib luff wire.   


1986 – The Board approved the purchase of 100 sets of foam head panels covered in cloth with zippers attached.  The class will sell these plus the mating zippers to members upon request. 


1987 – Scantling rules approved that all mainsails starting in 1987 will be required to carry the mating zippers to attach foam panels, and panels are required to be carried on board, but their use is left to the decision of the sailor.


1989 – Experimental projects for:  8:1 backstay and backstays attached on hull centerline approved.  Scantling rules adopted to define the foot of the jib to control notched clews and specification that the vang may be controlled by block and tackle only were approved.


1990 – Scantling rule to allow an 8:1 backstay was approved.  The latest glass Johnson and Melges boats have been measured, and little to no difference in geometry was found.  A table of offsets can be defined with a + ½ inch tolerange which will envelope both shapes.  These are the official shape, and any changes will be required to fit in this envelope.


1991 – Use of epoxy and vinylester resins for new hulls approved.


1992 – Ban on Kevlar, carbon and honeycomb reaffirmed.


1993 – Scantling rule approved increasing the required hull flotation to 19 cu. ft. of styrofoam or other material of equivalent buoyancy.


1994 – Jib measurement template modified to reflect the configuration of the headboard.  Letter sent to builders reminding them that boats weighing less than 615 lb before adding ballast are not legal.  Also, fiberglass hulls must be delivered with fiberglass only decks attached to be legal.


1995 – Foil shaped rudder experiment approved, but no action followed.


1996 – Proposal for a mylar main with full battens and an asymmetrical spinnaker were not passed by the Board.  The current mylar main experiment was terminated.  Numbers on spinnakers are no longer required.  It was reaffirmed that the only legal masthead foam panels are those available from the class organization. 


1997 – Much discussion at the November Board Meeting about prototype boat with no aft deck, and that rules on experiments were not followed.  By-laws governing experiments updated, and experimental project required for any modification that may improve boat performance.  Builders will be allowed to build any number1998 boats without aft deck, but they will be considered experimental.  They will not be legal for subsequent years unless the membership approves a scantling rule change allowing same.   


1998 – Request approved for experiment on aerofoil rudders and asymmetrical spinnaker at beginning of year for the 1998 season.  Pole at annual meeting was “overwhelming” against asymmetrical spinnakers.  Change in scantling rules approved to remove the requirement for aft deck and to allow “non-wire” backstays.  Discussion about foil shaped rudders, which indicated significant Board interest in continuing experimentation. Existing asymmetrical spinnaker experiment expired and was not renewed.  Johnson Boat Works purchased by Melges, 1 July 1998.


1999 – Melges Boat Works encouraged to continue study of more efficient rudder.


2000 – Scantling rule approved to eliminate mastline black marker band on deck and replace with scribe line cast into deck.  Experiment approved for 3 - 5 sets of foil rudders to be used during 2001 season (only one set was produced).


2001 – Experiment on foil rudders expanded to allow 10 sets for 2002 season.  Scantling rule change approved to allow “non-wire” jib halyard.


2002 – Foil shaped rudder approved for 2003 on.  Significant discussion on asymmetrical spinnakers.  Consensus was that experimental process must be followed, and no action could be taken until a proper experiment was proposed.


2003 – Experiment initiated for 10 boats to use full-length top mainsail batten and longer length on other three main battens.  Initial scantlings for asail boat documented. 


2004 – Longer mainsail battens approved for 2005 mainsail production.  A multi-year experiment on asymmetric spinnakers was initiated.  Boats invited to Nationals, but not officially scored.  Rig configuration did not include upper spreaders.


2005 - .Some concern about several failed spars on asail equipped boats.  Adoption of asail configuration vote at the end of the year obtained a simple majority, but not the required 2/3 majority.


2006 – Requests to approve “non-wire” forestays and headfoils not approved by Rules Committee and not passed to BOD for consideration.


2007 – An additional asail experiment approved on a configuration with a second set of spreaders to further stabilize mast.  Asail received a 2/3 majority vote at the end of the year as “an approved configuration”.


2008 – Rules committee undertook a study to update some of the by-laws and the scantling rules to remove definition of configurations that are no longer used such as wood hulls, limitations on aluminum alloys, etc.  Epoxy removed from approved materials in this exercise.  Membership approved the changes.


2009 – A proposal to prohibit the use of GPS based electronics while racing for five years was not approved by the membership.


2010 – Rule defining use of the bowsprit and fine-tuning of asail dimensions approved by membership.

2012 – Changes approved by membership:

  1. Jib Attachment method was changed to add headfoil and/or zipper methods of attachments. Measurement method modified by adding ¼" to jib sail cord to allow for old style tabs and snaps. Attachment method is included in the jib measurement.

  2. Allow Epoxy Resin to be used (a correction because it was erroneously deleted in 2008)

  3. Changed jib top batten measurement to extend from the luff to leach.

  4. Minor changes the hull bracing using "longitudinal member" in place of "truss" and redefining lengths.

2018 - Delete Article XII.6.D of the NCESA Constitution (to send appeals to the NCESA Judicial Committee) because the Board of Directors have determined we are not in compliance with US Sailing’s prescription that appeals of protest decisions of RRS issues be sent directly to US Sailing.


2019 – Changes approved by 2/3s of the Boat Owner membership

  • Mainsails shall be constructed from woven polyester (3.8SM oz min), of panel construction, with pucker strings allowed on the leech and foot.  The clew patch shall be a 70 in max.  Main battens shall be of fiberglass only.
  • Jibs shall be constructed from woven polyester (3.8SM oz min) or mylar laminate (2.1SM oz min), of panel construction, with pucker strings allowed on the leech and foot.  Jib battens shall be of fiberglass only.
  • Asymmetric spinnakers shall be constructed from woven ply nylon (0.7SM oz min), of panel construction, with pucker strings allowed on leech, luff, and foot.

These details are to eliminate carbon battens, 3Di sails, and allow pucker string details that we currently have.  Old rule only allowed pucker string on leech and luff of spinnaker, and only leech of main.


  • Attachment point location tolerances are tightened to plus or minus 1 inch for upper spreader, lower spreader, forestay, upper shroud, lower shroud, spinnaker halyard, jib halyard, and mastline (aft face of mast to transom).  
  • Upper and lower spreader length tolerances are tightened to plus or minus 1 inch.
  • Spreader sweep angle shall be restricted, not free swinging.
  • Spreaders to be from aluminum equal or better to 6061-T6.

These details are to tighten down where shrouds, spreaders, etc can be mounted.  Current tolerances are as high as plus or minus 4 inches allowing potential for a very different rig setup.


Question-1: Lots of mast were converted with the asymmetrical introduction - will they be okay to use?
Clarification: A conversion still had to be within the rules at that time - measurements with appropriate tolerances at that point.  Most were quite loose, so likely they measured in.
That would be grandfathered since it was the rule at that time.
But, if you wanted to make changes now, you'd have to make sure you are within the rule proposed.

Question-2: "Spreader sweep angle shall be restricted, not free swinging." I don't think I understand this completely. How restricted / what does this entail exactly?
Clarification: Previously, the rule said that spreaders could swing freely, fore and aft.  We currently sail locked at a particular angle that you prefer and can adjust.  That doesn't change with this vote.
Some classes of boats have free swinging spreaders that rock way forward downwind and the rig rakes forward.  Then, upwind they rock back when the rig is raked back.  More of a game changer with inline spreaders, shrouds and backstays.  Tough to do with swept spreaders.


  • All scantlings governing symmetric spinnakers and associated gear are removed and grandfathered.
  • All scantlings governing backstays are removed and grandfathered.
  • All scantlings governing plate type rudders are removed and grandfathered.

Boats currently racing at local, regional, and national levels rarely use this gear anymore.


Previously, carbon spreaders, battens, tillers/crossbars, compass brackets, etc. were within class rules.  Moving forward carbon would only be allowed in bowsprit, tiller extension, and blocks.