A look at the Artemis 20 keelboat designed for able and disabled sailors. Sue Pelling reports 21/9/06

One of the most interesting looking exhibits at the Southampton International Boat Show this year is the Artemis 20 – the new Simon Rogers-designed, Vizual Marine-built, 6m carbonfibre keelboat for able and disabled sailors.

This scaled down America’s Cup style carbonfibre, hi-tech racer with canting/sliding seats and a whacking 25sq m asymmetric kite is the brainchild of David Rutter who funded the entire project as result of selling his IT company a couple of years ago.

Chatting to yachtingworld.com about the conception of the design Rutter commented: “The idea came from sailing radio-controlled yachts and a desire to want to sit in one! In fact the original idea was to build a scaled down J-class where you just had your head sticking out but at 20ft the bows would have had to have been so fine that if we’d hit anything, we’d slice somebody in half. So we approached Simon Rogers at Rogers Yacht Design and chatted about the concept and decided to go for the more modern America’s Cup feel.”

With a tandem seating arrangement on this relatively narrow hull Rutter and Rogers developed the design into what they believe could be the ultimate class for disabled sailors with the possibility of achieving Paralympic status for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Feeling fairly naïve about the current trends in disabled sailing Rutter headed to Perth earlier this year to the IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship to seek the opinion of disabled sailors. Interestingly, Rutter discovered that the connection between disabled and able bodied sailors was fairly distant, commenting: “From the feedback I received there seemed to be a bit of an us and them situation so we decided we wanted to open up the class to both able and disabled sailors and develop a boat that was good enough that able bodied sailors would want to sail and disabled sailors to be able to sail at a very high level – to Olympic standard. The boat’s got enough good performance to do match racing and the performance to be an Olympic standard boat.”

The interesting feedback from the disabled sailors in Perth fuelled Rutter’s desire to achieve a design capable of allowing both able and disabled sailors to compete equally, and with such determination to make this class work was offered sponsorship to carry forward the idea by Mark Tyndall – CEO, Artemis Investment Management. Rutter added: “Although our aim is Paralympic status and we’d also like to see this new yacht being used at international level for match racing because it performs well and is incredibly easy to handle on the water and on shore. We’re actually taking our demo fleet to St Malo for the start of the Route du Rumb and other significant events for PR purposes.”

Although we’ve not yet had a chance to sail this new, 500kg, 20ft keelboat, a close look at the layout and the build quality gave a good indication of what’s expected on the water. Her stylish ACC lines with narrow waterline, open transom, 225kg bulb on her keel, and sliding/canting seat arrangement means her tacking ability should be fairly swift and ideal for close-quarter racing such as match racing. And her ability to fly a 25sqm asymmetric spinnaker (same size as a Hobie Tiger) will provide plenty of excitement offwind in all conditions.

The systems layout has purposely been kept simple with all lines leading back to the cockpit ‘dashboard’ just in front of the foreward seat, including the pulley line for the lifting keel purchase system.

The steering system is a simple rod which slides fore and aft on a Harken track and which can be used from either a foreward or aft seating position. The canting seats are adjusted by simply lifting the levers either side of the seat. For those who wish to sail the boat in a conventional style, with no seats, there’s an option for that too by adding a tiller to where the rudder comes out aft. Although Rutter was quick to point out that it wouldn’t be possible to race under the class rules. Or if they did allow it there would be a time penalty.

This interesting new yacht, which markets for £19,800 (ex vat) ready to sail has attracted a lot of initial interest including one firm order and three more in the pipeline. Building will commence next month at Projects by Design in Cowes and demo boats are available. The demo fleet will be heading to Greenwich to participate in the RYA Sailability event on 12-13 October. For more details log onto www.vizmarine.com.