The initial spark that turned into the NYYC Swan 42 had as much to do with how, and by whom, the boat would be sailed as how it would look and perform. Led by current New York Yacht Club commodore David Elwell, the group that created the class envisioned a performance one-design keelboat. It needed to score well under IRC, be sturdy enough to race offshore, and be easily converted into a comfortable cruiser, which in turn could be handled by a couple. Perhaps most importantly, the founders wanted a boat that could be raced hard by amateurs, creating a class that fostered Corinthian competition. Many had experience with grand-prix classes such as the Mumm 36 and Farr 40, where being competitive requires hiring a handful of professional sailors. In the NYYC Swan 42 class, each boat is restricted to no more than two Category 3 (professional) sailors, one of which must be the boat’s captain. And no one, no matter his or her International Sailing Federation classification, can be paid to race.
Courtesy Nautor’s Swan| |****| “I firmly believe there’s a large untapped audience of people who have an interest in sailing bigger high-performance boats,” said Elwell in the fall of 2006, “but have no desire to have a professional crew to be competitive.”
Three proposals, all in the 40- to 43-foot range were ultimately considered, with a German Frers Jr. design built by Nautor’s Swan winning the bid. Elwell said he set his threshold of success at around a dozen boats. Before the first boat-Conspiracy, owned by Elwell, former commodore George Hinman, Richard Werdiger, and Donald Elliman-splashed into Narragansett Bay in late 2006, 30 had been sold, mostly to New York Yacht Club members.
Racing started in 2007, with eight competing in 2007 Block Island Race Week, 11 at the 2007 Swan American Regatta, and 18 at the first class championship, the NYYC Swan 42 North Americans in September.
The class championships in 2008 and 2009, both in Newport, as was the inaugural regatta, have each featured 20 boats. Success within class competition has been elusive. It’s not unusual for a team to do well in, even win, one regatta, and find themselves in the bottom half of the standings at the next.
The class has also expanded overseas with racing in Europe-Nautor’s Swan owner Leonardo Ferragamo has been racing his Courdeleone actively on the Mediterranean Circuit. More than a dozen boats have been sold to European-based owners. Earlier this summer, Jean-Luc Boixel’s Genapi finished second of 110 IRC entries in the 243-mile Giraglia Rolex Cup.
While the initial polars for the boat suggested that sailing hotter angles downwind might produce a VMG gain, racing has proven the low road to be the path to success in all but the most extreme wind conditions.
Even at broader angles, however, care must be taken to avoid stalling the rudder. Whether bearing away at a mark or for a duck, or coming out of a jibe. Wipeouts are not uncommon. While the sprit-boat configuration reduces the number of lines on the deck, handling the nearly 2,000-sq. ft. spinnaker in 15- to 20-knots or more requires finesse, timing, and strength from the crew.