David Rowen on The Future Of Short-Handed Ocean Racing In The UK

Joint Managing Director, Projection Yachts

I have been studying your short handed discussion document and am very intrigued on how close many of your points are to plans that we have been throwing around at Projection recently.

We are obviously aware of Mark Turner’s efforts to establish short-handed sailing in the UK, encouraging and introducing British sailors into the French short-handed forum. However we feel that there is a requirement for a dedicated, UK- organised, short-handed structure that encourages newcomers to the sport and allows amateurs to race against professionals in the UK. To do the above, and for the results to be meaningful and useful, this racing must be done in one-design yachts, as we all know one-design is perfect for improving performance in either fully crewed or short handed events, plus it is far easier for public and sponsor alike to understand – thus making it more user friendly overall.

We are working on a full proposal that will be available in about a week, but here is the concept and outline:

We are currently working on the design of a 40ft one-design class based on the Open 40 concept: with swing keel, rotating mast, etc. We are also working on a nine month test programme for these boats that will be for professionals to campaign full time. The events will include single-handed, double-handed and some fully crewed ’round the cans’ spectacle racing.

The races will be varied as well such as cross channels and transatlantics but most importantly, all races will visit highly commercial ports to enable sponsors to attract clients for corporate entertainment and also large enough docks/marinas to allow large spectator crowds.

The skippers who do the circuit full time will become highly skilled in all aspects of sailing. The yachts that do the full circuit would either be owned by the skipper, or their sponsor, or a main event sponsor or by Projection Yachts on a lease arrangement.

Other ‘amateur’ short-handed sailors will be highly encouraged to join in with the circuit. Obviously work and family commitments will mean that they will have to select races they choose to do. The ‘amateurs’ will also be encouraged to either buy a boat or charter one for a race. Extra prizes would be awarded for amateurs. It is obviously hoped that the best amateurs can attract the sponsors and move on up.

As the feeder into this, another circuit would also run concurrently with the fleets, meeting up as often as possible. This would be in 25ft one-design short-handed boats. We are also working on designs for this boat utilising our 762 hull mould, and putting on a new deck and other short-handed ‘toys’. This hull form has proved exceptionally fast, stiff and controllable.

The same principles would be used for this circuit as for the 40ft yachts. You may say on an initial look that we have copied the French Mini Transat and Figaro formats – but on a closer inspection because Projection would also create, along with a body like the RYA, a full race training programme and run the race circuit for both boats, we will have created an extremely structured and professionally organised operation that will be attractive for sponsors and give sailors some real goals to aim for and most importantly something simple for the public to follow and understand (like BT Global Challenge, for example).

At 25ft the small boat is inherently more seaworthy and safer than a Mini Transat boat. Having raced against Minis, the 762 has proved quicker around a course as well. At 40ft with all the modern ëtoysí the larger boat will be considerably faster than a Figaro and will be a far better grounding for the sailors to move on to true Open 50s and 60s than the Figaro, as the boat will be more like her bigger sisters.

I hope this concept is of interest – obviously