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Ultra 30: World’s Coolest Yachts

Published on September 1st, 2021

Yachting World has been asking top sailors and marine industry gurus to choose the coolest and most innovative yachts of our times, and Eddie Warden Owen, whose drive took him into the British Olympic sailing team, then on to race J/24s, big boats and the Admiral’s Cup, before he was propelled towards the international match racing circuit and three successive America’s Cups, nominated the Ultra 30. Here’s the report:

“The Ultra 30s were the coolest boats, were way ahead of their time,” says Eddie Warden Owen, who skippered an Ultra 30 and also ran the circuit for several years.

The Ultra 30 circuit was the original spectator-friendly sailing concept, with short-course, crash-and-burn style racing broadcast on BBC Grandstand, the prime Saturday sports show of the 1990s.

It attracted Olympic sailors and commercial sponsorship, and developed a multi-stage circuit.

The dinghies were monstrously overpowered, with bowsprits up to 15ft long and over 500ft2 of sail area balanced by a crew of nine that required complex crew co-ordination in every maneuver.

“You had nine crew on racks and then we put trapezes on – it led to a huge step up in speed. They were unbelievable to sail.

“Even the best would capsize and at the end of a 20-minute race the crew would be completely exhausted. And we’d have three races a day,” Warden Owen recalls.

Ultra 30 statistics:
Top speed: 25 knots
LOA: 30ft/9.1m
Launched: 1988
Berths: 0 (9 trapezes)
Price: £65,000
Adrenalin factor: 95%

For Yachting World’s list of cool boats, click here.

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