Dee Smith – High End Sailing On Tour
Published on December 8th, 2010
(December 8, 2010) -To learn more about the RC44 class that is racing this week in Miami, and will be heading to Key West in January and San Diego in March, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck contacted professional sailor and project manager Dee Smith, who is the RC44 Agent for North America:
What is the motivation for the RC44 class, which is nearly all European based, to make the U.S. trip?
There are two reasons to bring the fleet over. First, it gives the fleet a good chance to keep sailing in the winter. As you know the Euro season runs from late May to October. The second is to give the U.S. a chance to see how great these boats are. You look at pictures and video but that really does not paint the whole story.
Racing a RC44 appears to be a very high end program. Is it?
What is high end is the RC44! Just like any other competitive class, you have to be good to win. You see it in Farr 40, Melges 32’s and everywhere. This fleet is very strong from top to bottom. There are teams that don’t have the top names and still compete just fine. But while it is very high end, it is a good value. The running costs of an RC44 are pretty far under a Farr 40 that travels because it is so easy to ship. Most of the other alternatives have hidden costs that are included in the RC44.
The RC44 events are unique in that their venues typically pay the class a hosting fee. Is North America ready for this?
This is what happens in Europe when the class can attract good media. Here in the states it is much harder. San Diego has been very aggressive on getting a regatta there. When we get our fleet going here, we most likely will run first on existing regattas and then move to stand alone races. We want more people to see the boats racing to start off.
What are the classification rules for crew?
Four Group 3 crew (professional sailors) are allowed, or about half the crew. The regatta format had been that half the schedule was match racing with a pro driver, and the other half with an owner driver for the fleet racing. But the format has been changed for next year, with all owner driver fleet races for the season.
How does this type of class fit into the current racing landscape in North America?
For the person that wants to race an all carbon F 1 boat, this is it. Yet the costs are kept under control with the easy way to ship. The boat fits in a box and has a similar running cost of a Melges 32 with only one more Group 3 sailor and bigger sails. Everything else is really close to the same. But it also can be the big fish boat in the local arena. The RC44 has a good PHRF rating that the boat can sail to. I believe it is the most fun Wednesday night boat you can have. It is so fast in the light air and easy to sail fast. You don’t have to travel to have fun with an RC44.
Anything I forgot?
All I can say is it is the best balanced boat I have sailed. It is fun from 3 knots to 30. Hard to find this in any other boat.