Matthew Sheahan goes to Stockholm to test a new 28foot one design race boat that appears to offer superb value for money in a rapidly growing racing niche
Just over a year ago a little known Chinese yard, the Shanghai Fareast Boats Co. Ltd. made a big impression at the Dusseldorf boat show with a rocket red, all carbon, downwind master blaster.
Having moved from their familiar and modest stand of previous years where they were pressed up against a wall in a corner of the show, the company placed its new sportsboat styled Far East 31R centre stage on a new stand in the middle of the hall. But while she drew plenty of attention, she didn’t draw orders. One year later, after three had been built, just one was sold. Their big red hope hadn’t materialised.
But the Shanghai Fareast Boats Company isn’t a company that gives up. Indeed, while you may not have heard of them, many parents who have shelled out for a new Optimist have.
The company was founded in 2002 and shortly afterwards was licensed by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to build the Optimist. Today they are the biggest builder of the class in the world and along with the 420 that they build, they pumped out 1,500 dinghies in total last year.
Yet despite their ability to build big numbers to small tolerances along with the experience of a couple of small keel boat models in their range, the 31R was clearly too ambitious a step.
Undeterred and guided by the design team that had drawn the 31R Simonis/Voogd, along with International Sales & Marketing consultant Mats Runström, the company made another attempt at producing an exciting, open cockpit one design racer. But this time they took a different approach.
Whereas the 31R was full of carbon with a €108,000 price tag to match, the only carbon in the 28R is in the keel fin and rudder blade. Elsewhere she’s a straightforward vacuum infused, glass foam sandwich with a price tag of around one third of that of her flashy red sistership.
Yet dropping the price hasn’t meant a commensurate drop in quality, far from it. In fact she’s really pretty well built throughout, something that was easy to see empty interior. I had a good rummage around the shell like accommodation where a tidy bag and some non slip were the only furnishings and was impressed. Clean, tidy and with no sharp edges, there are plenty of boats on the market at twice the price and half the finish.
See June 15 issue of YW for the full feature