“VX.” Does that imply “very exciting?”
(I know. It’s corny. ) Moving on . . .
I’ve always been extremely jealous of European sailors. They have no shortage of new raceboats showing up every year. And, no, I don’t buy into the argument that too many new one-design classes poach and then kill off other struggling classes. It’s Darwinian, dude. Evolution should produce better sailing boats, and we don’t have enough of that happening in the U.S.
We can count on powerhouse builders like J Boats and Melges to keep up the new-inventory demand, but a startup production builder these days is a rarity for sure. It’s a risky venture launching a one-design class from scratch in a land populated by 1960 and 1970s one-designs, but if anyone can pull it off, I believe designer/builder Brian Bennett can (as he eventually did with the Viper 640). It’s not going to be overnight, but with his new VX One Design he’s onto something good.
We wrote about the boat in our September issue, and finally got a chance to sail the prototype here (Newport, R.I.) this week, as Bennett made the rounds in the Northeast. As he walked us through the boat he emphasized its prototype state: the rig geometry is nowhere near finished, nor was the keel and a few control systems, but when Senior Editor Stuart Streuli and I went for a sail in 10 knots, we hardly noticed. Even with three big guys, the boat went upwind quick (6 knots most of the way) with an incredibly light and responsive helm (we were about 100 pounds over the ideal weight) and it really lit up when the puffs hit.
The lulls required leeward weight to put the boat on its chine (six degrees of heel). Angled side decks made hiking (from straps) comfortable and the boat was very dry when sailing upwind in chop. A single jib sheet tied into a self-tacking jib track made life easy in the front of the boat; the middle crew, we foresee, would be doing tactics and flying the spinnaker, and the helmsman gets the tiller and boom-led mainsheet: that’s a good balance of jobs for a two adult/one young sailor team.
As with any sportboat, when we turned the corner to go downwind, the boat took off in the puffs—we hit a top speed of 13.5 knots or so against the current—and it wasn’t the least bit intimidating.
When we intentionally laid the boat on its side with the spinnaker up (hopefully not foreshadowing our first regatta in the boat someday), the hull form stability kicked in, and it just laid there until the rudder tip bit and we pumped it flat. Off we went, yard sale avoided. With a short LP length, the kite jibes through with about four pulls on the sheet and you’re off and running on the new jibe. With the self-tacking jib, you set it and forget it downwind—nice. It’s all good, but what we really needed was another boat to lineup against and few marks to bang around.
The introductory price, Bennett confirms, is still at $30K, which includes the boat, of course, sails, trailer, and compass. It’ll be in Annapolis at the U.S. Sailboat Show in the water in October (a more finished boat he promises), so get there and get yourself a ride. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.