Boats without MDS

Boats without MDS Image

By Pietro Fantoni – SCIRA Commodore

The Snipe Class is a one-design class.

Our SCIRA Constitution, Section 3, states:

Object [of the association]

To promote racing of sailboats of the International Snipe Class properly regulated to insure that all boats have identical racing capabilities to as great a degree as possible.

One of the tasks of the Board, the National Secretaries, the Fleet Captains, and the measurers is to guarantee fair competition.

Hull number and MDS

Every manufactured boat must have a hull number and a Measurement Data Sheet (MDS), before the builder can sell it.

Bylaws – Section 5 states:


Each boat, to be eligible to race, must hold a Certificate of Measurement recommended by the Measurer and approved by the Rules Committee of the Association. To obtain such a Certificate the boat must be examined by the Measurer who shall report his findings on a Snipe Class Measurement Data Sheet currently approved by the Rules Committee. If the boat complies in all respects the Measurer shall fill out a Measurement Data Sheet (MDS) and send one copy of the same to the National Secretary with the owner’s current dues and the original to SCIRA Office. The owner then becomes a member of the Association.

Every single boat must be measured and have an MDS. Only this will ensure that our class is truly one-design.

Unfortunately we have a serious problem: there is a long list (more than 100) of boats built between 2015 and 2018 without an MDS that are currently racing at a local or national level. This is unfair!

As I have already written in an article on ST, compliance with Class Rules is critical to ensure that our class does not lose credibility. If class rules are not both respected and enforced, more and more people will cheat. Those who respect the rules will no longer play this game without rules.

For rules to be effective, first they must be written in a clear and precise manner. But this is often not enough; they must also be respected. Otherwise the rule will eventually lose its function and the structure of the Class will be altered. This will create deep tensions among members, as well as businesses who support the class like boatbuilders, and sailmakers.

I believe the rules are clearly written, so the problem must be with respect.

Unfair competition

Boats that race without an MDS are a disaster for our class. We have to preserve a fair competition. When I say fair competition, I mean fair competition among sailors and among companies (boatbuilders).

Potentially a boat without an MDS could not be a Snipe. It is unfair if we sail against a boat that is not legal.

It is also unfair for our rules-abiding boat builders to be forced to compete against companies who produce boats but fail to provide an MDS. Building a Snipe means measuring the boat and complying with the process required by our class rules. This measuring adds cost, which is usually passed along to the buyer. So a company that doesn’t comply with our rules can offer boats at a lower price, giving them an unfair advantage, which we cannot tolerate. This is called “market distortion.”

SCIRA Builder Certification

Our Class provides a special certification system for a boat builder. The document called SCIRA Builder Certification says:

A close relationship should exist between builders and sailors for such relationships are among the many strengths of the International Snipe Class. The intent of this Builder Certification Rule is to provide a workable structure for this relationship and to provide a measure of protection for both builders and sailors alike.

To be certified as a Class Builder by the Snipe Class International Racing Association (SCIRA), a builder must agree to and abide by the following requirements.

  1. Certification by SCIRA will be required before hull numbers are sold to any new or established builders.
  2. To renew the certification, at least one boat of any ten manufactured or one boat per year, whichever is shorter, shall be completely measured by an International Snipe Class measurer or an ISAF measurer.
  3. An International Snipe Class Measurer shall measure all new moulds of new builders and the first boat manufactured from the mould at the builder’s expense. Certification will be given after the first five (5) boats manufactured will be found regular by the Builder’s measurer. There will be International Snipe Class measurers selected for Japan (1), For Europe (1), for South America (1), and for North America (1).


  1. The Builder’s Measurer shall measure all the fittings, appendages, rig and spars of new boats manufactured by the builder, to include weighing and the Moment of Inertia (MOI) test, at the purchaser’s expense. A Measurement Data Sheet (MDS) shall be completed in full by the Builder’s Measurer for every new boat manufactured by the builder. The MDS shall then be mailed to the Executive Director of SCIRA, and a Measurement Certificate shall be given to the first purchaser. In the event that an MDS cannot be completed, for whatever reason, the MDS shall be mailed to the Executive Director of SCIRA with an explanation of the reasons why the MDS could not be completed. A copy of the MDS and the explanation shall also be mailed to the builder’s regional International Snipe Class Measurer. The purchaser shall only be charged a prorated measurement fee corresponding to the percentage of the MDS that was completed.

Read the entire document

Function of Control

SCIRA does not have a police force. Internationally, we can only check that a boat has an MDS at our major events (World Championships, Continental Championships). We rely on our class officers and fleet captains to enforce the rules.

National Secretary

Each National Secretary is responsible for making sure these rules are enforced. Per the Snipe Class rules, boats cannot be issued a decal unless they are completely measured. Also, if the MDS is noted as “partial” (for instance without the MOI – moment of inertia), then the missing pieces must be updated/measured and an updated MDS sent to the SCIRA office.


All class measurers (at Fleet, National, and International Level) must check that all boats have a full and valid MDS. A boat without a full MDS should not be scored at any regatta, no matter how local.

Sailors and regatta organizers

We need the cooperation of every sailor and every organizing authority. At registration, the competitor should be asked to show the measurement certificate (along with sailing federation license, insurance, and of course SCIRA membership). Any boat without a valid measurement certificate cannot complete registration.

Also, if a sailor knows that a boat doesn’t have a full MDS, s/he can and should protest that boat.

Sanctions system

The SCIRA Board can decide to not issue any new hull numbers to builders that don’t respect the SCIRA Class rules.

Also, SCIRA can revoke a company’s right to build Snipes, according to Section 8 of the SCIRA Builder Certification:

“Any certified Class Builder who repeatedly fails to comply with any of the foregoing requirements, or who breaches the requirements in a material way, shall lose their certification as a Class Builder, after due notice, and may not be recertified for a period of at least one (1) year.”



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