The first U.S.-built open 60 class yacht has been launched and will soon begin entry into some of the elite open 60 races around the globe. The lean hull – 12.5 feet in beam and 17,000 pounds – was seen racing around the docks at Pacific Sail Expo in Oakland in April under command of skipper Bruce Schwab and the watehful eyes of designer Tom Wylie. The vessel was built by Schooner Creek Boatworks in Portland, Ore.
The vessel sports an unstayed carbon fiber rig, and the mainsail is shaped and held in place by a reverse carbon-fiber double vang; instead of rising from the base of the mast and joining the bottom of the main boom, the wishbone-like double vang that goes up from the boom to purchase point about 10 feet above the deck.
Wylie explained: "The pusher vang was popularized on the 49er, or the Olympic dinghies, which enable the two crew have room beneath the boom; they have enough to trip over. On a low-boom boat, such as the Olympic dinghies and open 60s, there is no space for a traditional puller vang. I also used a pusher vang because on an unstayed boat the mast bends with a change in the wind velocity. But with a carbon fiber rig we know that the mast bend is the same at a given wind speed, which means the pusher vang can automatically control sail shape. We want the leech to stay the same shape. If we had a puller vang, it would require a crewmember to trim the traveler and main sheet to accommodate the new length of the leech in a gust of wind. No one can do it that fast if you’re shorthanded." Wylie believes the pusher vang will gain increasing prominence in singlehanded sailing because of its ease of use.
Does it work? "Works great!" said Schwab, a professional sailboat rigger and seasoned singlehander. Schwab has his sights on the Gold Race, New York to California (2002) and the next Around Alone (2002/2003).
Interestingly, Around Alone was just purchased by Clipper Ventures, a British-based company headed by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to circumnavigate alone, non-stop.