sportboat surge

sportboat surge

The zillions of people who read Sailing Anarchy every year defy categorization.  You’re made up of every size and shape and color and nationality and age and gender, but the one thing that we all share is a love for sailing, whether it’s a 100 year old schooner, a 4 knot shitbox, a luxury cruiser, or the latest and greatest carbon porn rocket.  And while any day on the water is better than a day off it, we’ve always felt that speed is good, and that if you’re gonna race, you might as well get an adrenaline rush from it whenever possible.

So we’re stoked to see that most of the embers glowing in a dark and gloomy economy are coming from people who would’ve believed Bill Lee all those years ago when he began preaching that "fast is fun."  We’re excited to see things like F-18s and A-Cats growing steadily and drawing big numbers all over, and we are almost incredulous that an America’s Cup is even being considered in boats that’ll go 30 knots – mono or multihull.  We’re psyched that another no-holds-barred G-Class multihull race is on the table, and that the Volvo and IMOCA classes are still breathing.  But our own little quest to spread a love for fast sailing as far and wide as possible, we’re probably most excited to see sportboats enjoying some of the strongest numbers of any type of sailboat racing today.

The same things we love about sporties are the things that are helping keep them stable or growing in even these times:  Easy to transport, easy to sail, reasonably priced, and in any decent wind, they leave a grin on your face regardless of where you finish.  We understand that some of you prefer the nautical equivalent of a chess game, and that some of you truly believe that "we’re happy to race in bathtubs so long as they’re all the same," but the rest of us – and it’s obviously a growing group – enjoy getting wet, hooting and hollering, and being a little on the edge of control…

‘Tis The Season
Our antipodean friends have been playing around with sporties for seemingly forever – in fact, the archetype of them all – the Melges 24 – is said to be a direct descendent of some of the overcanvassed Kiwi and Aussie boats from the late 80s.  But up North, summer means warm weather, warm water, and sportboat racing, and we’re in the thick of it now.

Leading the way is a boat builder surrounded by fields of corn that specialized in flat-bottom inland lake boats for decades before moving into more seaworthy boats with the famous Melges 24.  They’ve mastered the genre and come up with enough products to offer something for most budgets without cannibalizing the others too much, all while growing their name from farm products to prestigious builder.  Despite the dropoffs facing numerous classes and more than half of all events, the Melges 32 – no bargain-basement discount buy – is showing up in comparative swarms, with 17 of ’em in Lake Garda last week as a twenty-something year old helmsman won the Audi Sailing Series, and around the same number expected at the US Nationals next week in Harbor Springs, MI enroute to a likely 30 boat Worlds in San Francisco.

The Melges 20 has enjoyed even faster growth, from zero to 37 boats at this weekend’s Gold Cup in Malcesine – all in just more than a year.  The US Nationals next month will see perhaps 25+ of the easy-to-handle baby Melgi in Holland, Michigan, just 16 months after their first race ever at an event that’s enjoyed record growth over the past three years almost entirely due to the sporties’ power – Charleston Race Week.

The Laser SB3 may have fallen off a bit from its highs of a few years ago, but there are still 104 boats at this week’s Worlds just down the lake from Malcesine, enjoying the kind of breeze they’re built for in Riva Del Garda, and with fleets in a number of key areas in Europe and Asia they’ll be strong for years to come.  And the Platus – a sportboat with a symmetric – are seemingly everywhere in Spain and France.  The Viper continues to roll, the Shaw 650 is in production, the Opens own SoCal and are spreading North, and even the big boats are all starting to resemble the boat that started it all – the Melges 24 – which continues to attract the best of the best with 84 boats registered for next month’s Estonia Worlds.  Even the big boat production yards are getting in on the action, trickling up from the sportboats more than they’re trickling from TP52s and mini-maxis; the Soto 40, the new McConaghy 36 we featured yesterday, that pretty Bakewell-White, hell – even (dare we say it) J/Boats new J/111 are all closer to sportboats than anything we grew up with.

Whatcha waiting for?