The upcoming Around Alone race will host a number of innovative boat designs, perhaps most notably Sebastian Reidl’s open class 60 ketch Project Amazon, which features an unstayed, rotating rig.
The primary advantage to having unstayed masts, according Amazon designer Eric Sponberg of Sponberg Yacht Design in Newport, particularly on a vessel with more than one mast, is that while sailing downwind the chance of broaching is significantly diminished. The sails can be eased past the point where they would normally be hung up by shrouds.
This is the only vessel in the coming race to sport such a rig, according to race organizers.
Another difference in design is the vessel’s hull. While most of the high-tech Around Alone yachts are of composite construction and have a relatively flat bottom, Project Amazon’s aluminum hull has a dead rise of 15°, which should help the vessel track well. Sponberg hopes that several other design differences on Project Amazon will overcome the increased weight of aluminum.
"Most of the other Around Alone yachts have a rounded, shallow bottom so the boat doesn’t know in which direction it wants to sail," Sponberg said. "So the helmsman or the autopilot has to be really tuned in to prevent going off course, especially when sailing downwind when there is danger of a broach. Because there are no shrouds, the booms can be set well forward of the beam, so the rig now becomes naturally stable. And, because the hull form is directionally stable, the boat will find a groove."
Project Amazon also features a canting keel and a pair of lifting strakes that run the length of the hull, allowing the vessel to plane.
To qualify for the Around Alone race, owner Reidl sprinted alone from South Africa to Puerto Rico. "He told me when he got back, ‘If there’s anything wrong with this boat it’s the fact that we can’t slow it down,’ and I told him that if we’ve accomplished that, we’ve done something really significant," Sponberg said.
The 38 vessels and skippers now scheduled to compete in the 1998-’99 Around Alone Race will depart Charleston, S.C., on September 26.