Is Short-handed Sailing Leading the Market?

Published on November 28th, 2018

by John Burnham, Trade Only Today
As sailboat design progresses, speeds have increased, and many boats are easier to race or cruise with fewer crew. At the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md., in October, three major builders showed new designs that are reshaping the market, each in a segment that rewards short-handed sailing.

None of the boats represents obvious, evolutionary steps, as each anticipates the development of the segment, but all three are significant. It’s no coincidence that all three have strong connections to the de facto home of short-handed racing: France.

“A few years ago, we noticed that short-handed distance day races like San Francisco’s Three Bridge Fiasco were blossoming,” says Jeff Johnstone, president of Rhode Island-based J/Boats. “At the same time, classic offshore races like the Chicago-Mac, Newport Bermuda and the Fastnet were keeping people in the sport.”

Both types of races point toward a fast boat that can be sailed with fewer crewmembers. At last year’s Annapolis show, J/Boats displayed the J/121 — a loaded 40-footer with easy-handling roller-furling headsails and “water-ballast-assist” tanks carrying 850 pounds per side to take the place of four people riding the rail.

A year later, hull No. 15 was on display, and five more were on order. “Every new owner had a bucket list event or events in mind — the Middle Sea Race, the Caribbean 600, Chicago-Mac, the Transpac,” Johnstone says. “Four boats sailed Newport Bermuda last June, including one of the class winners.”

Across the dock, the Beneteau display featured three striking black boats. The largest, at 32 feet, was the Figaro Beneteau 3, which stood in stark contrast to the white-hulled models. It showed off a flashy paint job with orange accents and two orange foils protruding from its sides, curving provocatively outward, downward, then back toward the waterline. – Full report

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