Best Handicap Racer: Ker 40
Purpose: IRC and offshore racing
Recommended race crew: 11 to 12
Best attributes: build quality, cockpit
layout, and versatility
Price: $318,000 (base)
In the realm of IRC handicap racing there are two realities: If outright speed is your endgame, then a bigger, expensive custom build is your only option. At the other end, where the greatest number of owners can afford to compete, IRC levels the playing field by encouraging new builds to be heavier than they should be. The Ker 40, built by McConaghy Boats, best addresses this contradiction in high-performance handicap racing with a semi-custom production boat, allowing owners to enter the grand-prix IRC game with a boat that’s custom fast, without the custom cost. As with McConaghy’s other BOTY-winning boat (the MC38 One Design), the judges said the Ker 40 was a work of boatbuilding art and excellent under sail.
“In the 40-foot range in IRC, because the boats are typically heavier, they’re not as exciting downwind,” said Stewart, “but this boat is much more aggressive and wicked-up than what you might otherwise find.”
Jason Ker and McConaghy borrowed a lot of ideas from IRC’s big-boat fleet and applied them to this, added Stewart. “It’s a big 40-footer. Its beam is wide aft because of the flair, and IRC gives a lot of credit for the beam. With this shape you have a hull that goes through the water on a narrow waterline, so there’s not a lot of drag.
“I could also tell they spent a lot of time on the deck layout, figuring out the leads, like the mainsheet stoppers that led to the winches, which is hard to do right. We got on the boat having never sailed it, and had no problems with any maneuvers. Everything worked great.”
The test boat presented for the judges is campaigned by an owner coming out of a J/122 program, and, says project manager Geoff Ewenson, he’s the type of owner that prefers to not be bound by one-design rules. The Ker 40 offers the flexibility to do both handicap racing and a selection of distance races, and race results from Ker 40s being campaigned overseas confirm that the design is one to be reckoned with. To meet its dual-purpose role, the owner of our test boat customized his with a Harken pedestal, a generous nav station, pipe berths, and other offshore accoutrements.
“What I like about this boat is that you’re not just saving money with a semi-custom boat, but you’re also saving on the overall campaign costs of a bigger boat,” said Rich. “The thing is incredibly well built, and if you’re the guy who wants to play with rules and have something unique that’s grand-prix, this is it.”