As we all learned, or in my case heard in the background while wistfully watching the trees wave in the wind through the classroom windows, Speed is a product of distance and time. We are all told now, and believe that time is a precious commodity and therefore we must cover as much distance as possible in the smallest amount of time. This is the crux of yacht racing, and more commonly the holy grail of cruising. To make the most of each destination requires time not spent getting there.
The relative performance of cruising yachts has always been a trickle down from the racing fraternity, which ironically were restrained in the past by handicap rules that perhaps did not favour outright speed, and therefore led to some rather ponderous cruising yachts. Fast forward to the last 5 years, with handicap rules that are more in favour of fast and light displacement yachts, chines have come in hard and softened; and displacements are now being side-lined with talk of righting moments. These are trickling into the performance cruising market and creating a spectacular rebirth of high volume, but relatively lighter yachts with great performance and large internal volumes. Shorthanded sail handling has become much easier with the development of reliable, simple furling systems from the ocean racing fraternity. Furling booms are now the go to method, for the simplicity, and the safety blanket that you can always just pull the bl&^5y thing down if it all turns to custard.
We are starting to see some wonderful fast cruising yachts on the market; custom and semi-custom offerings are always quicker to respond to modern design developments and the more conservative production yachts are starting to follow suit. The incredible Finot Conq – FC53 NICA and the Jason Ker designed 63 DARK HORSE OF ENGLAND are excellent examples of a creative and semi-custom approach to design and handling. Both of which re of course on the market through Berthon, the former having recently sold having shipped to Berthon from New Zealand and now en route to Italy.
The wondrous Solaris 50 is a great example of a modern performance cruising yacht, when compared against her ponderous peers, some of which are significantly more cumbersome and expensive. Some other interesting options have come through the NEO 570 (though more camping than cruising), the Shogun 50 (wacky and wonderful, and with only slightly more displacement than a TP52) and goes like the transom is on fire. It is an exciting time for performance cruising yachts, with some great ideas now filtering into the mainstream.
The biggest market, though, is to lift this to another level, with two hulls! Catamarans have been growing in popularity for space, performance and ease of living. Historically there were two divisions – racing and cruising and nothing in between. Now almost every manufacturer has an ear to the ground and some great products are appearing on the market from McConaghy, Gunboat (the benchmark) HH and many others. The very Orange BYZANTINE offers a very wonderful experience – fast and fun, as well as a second home.
The world of racing continues its stretching out of Covid hibernation, the booming of the Cape 31 class continues to dominate all inshore racing; out of the Antipodes, where they prefer something a little bigger and dryer. Key West (sorry old habits..), the Southernmost US regatta continues to draw in sun seekers in the New Year and is growing at a pleasingly steady rate and the home of One Design in Miami, Biscayne Bay continues to draw in the crowds to the revolving regatta machine in Coconut Grove. J70’s and small one designs are flourishing and it is interesting to follow the developments with the long-awaited rebirth of the Admirals Cup, with more coming later on this year.
We must not forget the plethora of 600 mile courses, either; offshore continues to be stable, a full entry book to the Fastnet, fun and games racing around 11 Caribbean islands, Sydney Hobart, Middle Sea Race and the Aegean 600 prove demand is still high, all providing great images, along with lots of Media on The Ocean Race, although small fleets are a hard sell for the TV.
2023, what will we see? I think these trends will continue to grow, with multihull racing growing quickly. Inshore and offshore and the Fastnet will be a blinder to watch, either from the rail or from the comfort of the office.