Those of us who are predominately cruisers and voyagers sometimes look at ocean racing as a very different type of sailing than we do. Modern ocean racers with their reliance on the human ballast of their large crews and their minimal accommodations look very different from cruising boats. The constant sail changing these large crews are capable of and the vast array of sails carried results in a type of sailing far removed from a cruising boat with a limited sail inventory and minimal crew.
The Open 60 boats, developed predominately by the French for their singlehanded and double handed events, are also far removed from modern cruisers. Recently, however, a boat has come along that while looking different from most cruising boats is offering racing that most of us would understand. This boat is the Class 40 and one of the largest and best fleets of these boats is about to race for the Atlantic Cup here in the U.S.
Class 40 boats were developed to bridge the gap from small boats like the Mini (and others that are the starter classes for short and singlehanded racing) to the Open 60’s that represent the major leagues. The Class 40 has the basic characteristics of its smaller and larger brethren. It is a wide boat with a powerful sail plan and a deep keel; but the keel does not cant, the sail plan is not too extravagant, and the rules require decent accommodations, limit exotic materials and use a variety of other measures to keep the boats simple and costs reduced.
What has resulted is a style of racing more like modern ocean voyaging – shorthanded crews sailing boats with a limited sail inventory and with access to weather information similar to what many cruisers have. On May 11, more than a dozen of these boats will start from Charleston, N.C. on the first leg of the Atlantic Cup. A number of the top european teams find themselves on this side of the Atlantic and the level of racing will be very high.
The Atlantic Cup will have three stages. The first will be a doublehanded leg from Charleston, S.C. to New York City. The second will be a doublehanded sprint from NYC to Newport R.I., and the third stage will be a fully-crewed weekend series in Newport.
The first leg especially will be familiar to many cruisers as the boats make a springtime journey north along the eastern seaboard. Of course, the inside route and stopping won’t be in the cards, so these boats will have to deal with whatever the weather gives them – a problem familiar to many voyagers.