Racing in a New Dimension

© Stuart Streuli

When we arrive in a new harbor, lake, or other sailing venue, our eyes automatically scan the horizon for the tallest mast. Why? Because experience tells us that we'll find it stepped in the biggest, fastest sailboat around.

One hundred years ago, the lucky sailor might catch a glimpse of a racing vessel longer than 100 feet with names like Reliance, Columbia, or Atlantic. That era of legendary racers ended when Ranger beat Endeavour in the last America's Cup match between J boats. But a new era is upon us now. In addition to the restored Js--Endeavour, Shamrock, and Velsheda--dozens of new, technologically advanced designs are stretching their carbon spars higher than ever.

This development of bigger, faster, and higher-tech performance boats isn’t coming out of the America’s Cup or traditional rating-rule classes. It comes from an embrace of new technologies and a pure focus on speed and functionality with as little allegiance to rules and rating limits as possible. Many of these innovations come from the distance-racing classes based in France.

Wherever they’re spawned, our editorial offices are now awash in news of 180-foot rigs, push-button sail trim, push-button water ballast, canting keels, and even canting/lifting keels. Sometimes the performance of these designs is off the charts. Sometimes it’s their styling that’s over the top. One thing’s for sure. It’s more interesting than ever to find the tallest rig and check out the hull or hulls below it.

Starting this month, with the launch of our new Grand Prix Sailing section, we’re offering readers a regular opportunity to enjoy a taste of what we’ve been seeing. What’s custom, cool, and different always brings a new dimension to sailing and will now do the same for Sailing World, adding sizzle to our regular lineup of news, technique, equipment, and regatta coverage. The common denominator in our new section will be boats longer than 50 feet that really race, plus the sailors who own and crew them.

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| © Michael Ng|

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| A mainsheet winch from Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo.* * *|

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This month we introduce you to the glossy, 90-foot rocketship, Alfa Romeo, and take you for a ride aboard the 147-foot transatlantic record breaker, Mari- Cha III. We also invite you to listen in on a conversation with turbo-sled owner Roy Disney, who has a love of sailboat racing probably quite like yours. In the issues ahead, the section will showcase racing in open class racers, semi-custom 100-footers, the latest supercharged multihulls, and an array of owners, naval architects, builders, and other professionals who turn innovative concepts and bold visions into functioning sailboats.

We're not turning Sailing World into a dream book. We're adding more stories and extra pages each month to give us room to cover this exciting new dimension of the sport. Sailboat racing is still all about doing it, and this magazine will keep a principal focus on you and your sailing. If you're a Snipe sailor, we'll try to find out for you why Augie Diaz wins so consistently. If you're a weekend warrior thinking about gearing up for doublehanded racing, check out what Rich du Moulin did to win the Bermuda Race. If you're a youth sailor looking forward to college racing, find out what it's like for Annie Johnson at Western Washington University. And if you don't find what you want, please let us know.