I’ll come straight out with it, there are some boats that hit the spot from the outset and for me the VX One is on that list. In fact I’ll go further. This two/three crew 5.79m (19ft) performance keel boat was my favourite boat of 2014. It is quite simply, superb.
Bridging the gap between dinghies and keel boats has always been tricky. What’s good for those used to hiking with their well trained quads, honed stomach muscles and a backsides that only feel right if they keep slapping the tops of the waves, is not what will appeal to those more used to hiking facing outwards. For this group, draping their bodies over a 4mm wire like washing on a line, while occasionally lifting their sea boots over the waves, is the norm. Such differences go towards illustrating why the switch from keel boats to dinghies has always proved troublesome. The performance downgrade for dinghy sailors has often been equally unappealing.
Yet back in 1947 Uffa Fox figured out how to tempt both camps when he designed the world’s first planing keelboat, the Flying 15.
Blending dinghy performance with keel boat stability, the Flying 15 established a new concept and continues to be the datum in this field with over 4,000 boats built and a world championship fleet that can still draw up to 100 boats at a time. There has been no other boat of this type that has been anywhere near as successful. And while many have tried to emulate Fox’s success with a more modern boat, no one has succeeded on this scale, at least not yet.
Although the VX One looks nothing like the Flying 15, the comparison is a good way of describing what the VX One is all about.
With her wide, shallow and open cockpit, complete with toe straps and a smattering of control lines, the VX One is every bit a modern high performance machine and yet she’s designed with ordinary racing sailors in mind.
“From the outset I wanted the boat to be light and lively,” said designer Brian Bennett. “I wanted a boat that was good in light airs and outstanding in heavy airs. It also had to be bulletproof, current in terms of design, incorporate modern systems and be easy to handle. But in addition to being the perfect race boat, it needed to be a fun day sailor as well where you can take your family and go for a 15 knot blast.”
Sales talk you may think, but when it came to sailing her that is precisely what she delivered. Had I looked at her anticipated Portsmouth Yardstick rating estimated to be 860 – 885 which is close to that of a twin trapeze RS800, or even her IRC at 1.012 (the same as a 32ft JPK 1010), I would perhaps have been more prepared when we lit the blue touch paper.
But, having joined Bennett aboard his boat for the last day of the inaugural national championships held in Torquay last Autumn, the sub 8 knot breeze provided little clues to what she’d be like at full throttle and plenty of time to talk about the design concept and her layout. The real fun came a few weeks later when I borrowed another boat from the builders Ovington Boats and sailed her in more lively conditions out of Lymington……….
See the full feature in YW – out this week
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