When walking up to the Fusion 15 at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis for our dockside inspection, a small crowd had gathered to look at the boat. As I got closer, I could see why they looked on with such interest: the Fusion 15 is definitely an eye catcher. Every little detail is well thought out– from the access to the rudder backing plates, to the custom snuffer for the asymmetric kite, to the halyard pocket built into the main. Steve Killing, the Canadian designer, has put a great deal of energy into getting the Fusion 15 just right.
Targeted for recreational sailing, club racing, and junior learn-to-sail programs, the boats criteria includes enough performance to entice youngsters, but stable enough for adults. Killing has done a good job making the inevitable trade-offs to achieve the right combination of fast hull shape and modest rig configuration. The result is a boat thats fun and easy to sail in a wide range of wind conditions. Built using polyester resin over a Corecell core to strict one-design class specifications, each boat weighs 290 pounds, all-up.
Sailing the boat was a ball. It was easy to find the groove upwind, and once you got there it was easy enough to stay in it. With its pitched bow, it never seemed to dig into a wave, popping right up–great feel. Because theres no backstay, a key control to making this boat perform is the vang. The jumper stays on the mast give the vang some control of mast bend and the ability to shape the class-standard Mylar mainsail.
The boat has a single trapeze with non-skid on the rail for sure footing. This is ideal for a couple or father/daughter who want to have some fun sailing together. The self-tacking jib made for easy tacking. I was a bit skeptical of the narrow-diameter line that you pull from the centerline as the jib sheet, but the purchase system was more than enough to handle the job. It actually made for some nice fine tuning in the different breezes as easing through the lulls was no problem. Another neat feature is that youre able to pin the jib traveler car so it stops on the track wherever you like it. I thought this would be great for those light-air days when you want to induce twist in the sail. I sailed the boat both doublehanded and singlehanded, and sailing by myself was made much easier with this jib-tacking system.
Fellow BOTY judge Meade Gougeon says the Fusion 15 has the easiest spinnaker launching system of any dinghy hes sailed, and Id have to agree. There was very little friction going up or coming down. The tack is pre-set and the sheets are led perfectly for sheeting. While the crew hoists the kite and rolls the jib away, the skipper is able to trim the chute as you make those perfect roundings before passing it off. Takedowns are simple: The jib unrolls and the kite comes down quickly, and the lazy sheet doesnt go under the bow with the rise built into the design. And as my buddy Meade says, “This together with a roller furling/self-tacking jib and no pole to wrestle with, takes the grief out of downwind sailing. Add to this a boom thats placed high enough for even the eldest to duck under and you have a truly fun sailing dinghy appropriate for a wide age and skill level of sailors to have fun in.”
Part of having fun means not being afraid to capsize. While the Fusion 15 has good stability, I was in charge of the “flip test” and can report the boat is easy to right and reenter through the open transom, and the water drains quickly out the stern.
From a performance point of view Id suggest installing an adjustable traveler for the main, rather than have the single-point stationary bridle, and Id make the kite tack adjustable, but thats just me–the relentless tweaker and not necessarily the target for the boat. Id also recommend adding the asym and trapeze options to the modest $6,300 price. Other than that, the Fusion 15 sails, is well conceived, well executed, and my pick for the best performance dinghy.