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Flight Deck REPORTS – Performance Yacht and Advanced Yachts Review | 2018

BY BEN COOPER

The New Year heralds many new ventures, but one overriding sentiment is the ‘new you’. Low fat, gym membership, detox, no booze, all in the overriding pursuit of weight loss. A $66 Billion dollar industry per year in the capitalist mecca.

All started by the Romans of course. They had different techniques, but we won’t go into those.

Insanity prevails for a month before the slow release of the belt buckle, a sigh in the face of reality, and a realisation of a predetermined existence comes home to roost.

What on earth has this got to do with yachts you may quite rightly be asking?

It is of course true that although they have a soul, yachts are not organic and it is up to designers to determine the attractive qualities of their offspring, aesthetically and technically. Over the past few years, or perhaps decade, the trickle down from racing yachts to cruising yachts has accelerated towards the fun factor of lighter and lighter displacement, beamier yachts with more form stability, and with much larger accommodation for the length over all literally, more bang for your buck!

There are exceptions to the rule of course, not everyone enjoys being in a hurry, but lighter yachts often equal more sailing distance per day, less fuel, less load, and so it goes on.

Ever since it was found that yachts could indeed hop up onto the plane, and remain stable, weight has been the enemy in all the handicap rules, as a single figure TCF could never replicate the jump in performance. Initially around 50 feet was the cut off where yachts could be competitive upwind but now with increased draft and stability that figure has come down to 40 feet and perhaps ultimately across the board? The jury is sitting.

Out of this has grown the Fast 40+ concept, spawning a dedicated group of sailors who have built 40 yachts purely for racing and ring fenced by deed of a restriction of a few key parameters, mainly Displacement to Length Ratio, to ensure each is of similar performance and type. The beauty of these yachts lies in their dual purpose with general handicap racing as well as restricted handicap racing. The first round of stabilisation is underway for the class, with some really very good options available on the brokerage market, for easy entry to the fleet without breaking the bank. Inevitably, some new yachts are under construction and are quite radical and it will be interesting to see what effect they have on the class.

To maintain stability and decrease weight, drafts are lowering and structures are more important than ever, with new generations of engineering coming from the aerospace world and beyond. Vacuum infusion is the norm, as are carbon decks, with glass hull for cruising (much quieter than full carbon, but a nod to weight saving and stiffness for the structure).

In the world regatta scene, stability continues. The staple Mediterranean diet of the Rolex Series continues apace, with healthy entries and enthusiasm as they embody the spirit of competitive racing with fun and chic onshore entertainment, and more importantly in the sun!

Offshore 600 mile races continue to attract enthusiasm, the Middle Sea, Fastnet, Sydney-Hobart and Caribbean 600 are incredibly healthy.

One Design is booming, the J70’ having taken the world by storm and is seen by many as the training ground for bigger and better things. Many of the big racing teams have 1 or even 2 of these for the crew to practice in, as the fleet sizes are so large. Other classes are ebbing and flooding; the NYYC/ Melges 37’ promises to be a new dawn replacing the Swan 42’, but has enormous potential to be adopted by the big yacht clubs all over the world. If the price point is right, any of these classes could really change the perspective of club, and inter club racing. Cough, Cough, Admirals Cup, Cough!!

This season will see the first of the dual scoring IRC and ORC championships; it will be really quite interesting to see how this fares and, I predict that the same suspects (ahem) will be at the top of the leader board, making for great headlines and certainly interesting times. Some of you will recall the unique dual results (IOR and IMS) in the Berthon Source regattas in the early 1990’s!

The Cruising world is certainly offering some achingly beautiful designs. Nauta in Milan are creating some stunning open plan interiors for many different manufacturers, Advanced, Solaris, Southern Wind and so on, are now certainly the leading lights in the new breed of performance cruising yachts. 300 – 400 mile days are easily achievable now, all from the comfort of a beautiful interior with plenty of natural light. A far cry from the dark, dank interiors of the last generation.

It was pointed out recently that this generation of yachts could have a 3 – 4 week cruise in the Med and quite easily cover Spain, France, Italy, Corsica and Sardinia. That would never have happened 15 years ago.

Looking into the crystal ball, I see some spectacular Performance Cruising yachts coming out of the yards at the end of this summer. They will be aesthetically aligned to the world of racing, but interiors will be much simpler, and very chic. A real blend of the race yacht, day sailor and cruising yacht.

On the racing side, regatta sailing will continue to be stable, one design continues to grow among smaller yachts and handicap racing should see larger fleets at the big events this year.

Offshore racing is a staple and continues to be well supported – 84 yachts entered the tenth anniversary Caribbean 600! I cannot see this collapsing, certainly not anytime soon.

As mentioned above, displacements are decreasing all over the board. Cruising areas are expanding, racing yachts are faster and more furious and more enjoyment is being had at the wheel rather than on autopilot.

Also a very good year on brokerage, in fact the best year yet. We are certainly busy at present, the ‘B-Word’ does raise its head reasonably often but we have not seen any negative effect, despite shifting currencies.

So keep an eye on the changing scenery, those futuristic hulls poking out of the marina docks are likely to become the norm over the next few years. All this typing has made me hungry though…the diet is certainly over!

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