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The Resurging Cruiser-Racer

Published on March 2nd, 2020

Bill Wiggins, manager at Sailing Inc Charleston and Evolution Sails South Atlantic, sees the pendulum swinging back toward the good old days:

While attending a crew networking party for Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA), I was asked by a gentleman, “If you were going to buy a boat to race in this area, what would you look for?” For transparency sake, we are a J/Boat Dealer in this area, but with that said, my answer was quick.

“I would look at a 30-35’ Cruiser-Racer like a J/30, Beneteau First 30, or something newer like the J/99.” When he asked that I explain further, I revealed how I missed the days when we’d race to a destination, stay aboard the boat for the night, and either race or cruise the boat back to our club the next day. But, I added, “I truly feel that this type of program is beginning to come back.”

It’s true. Even though the past 10-15 years have been more about the sportboat or fully stripped-out racers which hardly have a pot to pee in when it comes to accommodations, it is time for the pendulum to swing back. With families having so much going on with too many toys in the garage, getting a racing boat with a camper allows the entire family to enjoy it.

Don’t get me wrong. When our buddies in Zenda started producing the Melges 24, Melges 30, and Melges 32, I not only drank the Kool-Aid, I swam in it. Racing these boats all over North America and beyond truly enveloped my life for close to 30-years. In fact, I am still a co-owner in a VX One and absolutely love sailing it at 51-years-old.

But it’s getting obvious the sailing community is coming back around to having boats which are a bit more versatile. We can already see designers creating packages that are quick and comfortable at the same time.

Hardware and spar manufacturers have also helped the cause by increasing the ability to furl pretty much every sail you have without interfering too much with performance, and sail designers are joining in too with sails that meet the needs of performance and longevity.

Regional associations and even individual classes have even been playing around with different racecourse configurations which will truly fit the Cruiser-Racer. The J/121 folks have put together an interesting Open Course format to help break the monotony of the typical windward/leeward course.

On the Solstice of 2019, CORA dabbled in the Open Course format by hosting a race out of Charleston Harbor to the “C” Buoy, down the coast then turning around a government and sailing back into the harbor to the finish.

This race was right at 100-miles. There were a few skeptics when this race was first added to the schedule, but everyone who sailed seemed to enjoy it and they will likely see twice as many boats for this event in 2020.

Even events like Block Island Race Week, Charleston Race Week, SORC, and the Caribbean regatts cater to the Cruiser Racer. These events offer distance races at least one day out of the series and folks can stay aboard in the evenings and enjoy the fun around the marina at night.

Who remembers the good old days in Youngstown at the Levels Regatta? Rafted 6-7 deep and the party never stopped. I am all-in. I look forward to seeing the resurgence of the Cruiser-Racer.

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