One of most successful oceanic designs ever has doubled to over 100 in the last few years


The Class 40 has been one of the most successful box rule fleets of recent years, and example of how pro-am ocean racing can be sustained on a steady stream of mainly private money.

To date there are 103 registered Class 40 yachts in 22 countries. Most are French owned – 61 of them – but there are 16 in the UK, 5 in the US, and others spread in small numbers around the world, from Finland to South Africa to New Zealand.

The growth has been rapid; four years ago there were only 50 boats.

The reason is simple to see. This class ticks all the boxes.

The box rule has kept a reasonably firm hold of budgets: the rule stipulates that the boats must be built in glassfibre and PVC foam (although they can have a carbon mast, boom and bowsprit) and cannot have a canting keel.

This means the cost is reachable for private owners – a rich seam of youthful and ambitious business folk – as well as for professionals funded by corporate sponsorship or crew places paid for by aforementioned affluent amateurs.

Plus, the popularity of the class has kept secondhand prices and charter fees high.

Another undoubted factor in its huge success is the range of events possible, from the inshore World Championships to classic races such as the Route du Rhum and the OSTAR.

This year also sees Josh Hall’s inaugural double-handed round the world race, the Global Ocean Race. This formula has been proving a real draw. It looks as if it will field by far and away largest round the world racing fleet in recent years – and it sets the scene for a solo round the world race in Class 40s in 2013.

But as the class has grown there are some important questions to answer that, inevitably, come back to money. The new class president, François Angoulvant, will be overseeing some lively discussions in the next four years.

Those include how to keep the first generation 40s competitive – a ‘vintage’ fleet has been ruled out for now – and if or when to introduce more exotic build materials.

These are all fine lines to walk. It would be death to the class to restrict its development too much, but equally catastrophic if it killed off too many of the existing fleet.

Absolutely fundamental to the Class 40s is its attraction for the semi-professional and adventurous amateur. Making a place for private owners who fancy a lifetime’s challenge to race competitively is proving to be the biggest secret to its success.