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Stealth Arrives Under the Radar

Sneaking across the border from Canada is the Stealth, a solo dinghy with plenty of zip. A boat review from our April 2009 issue

March 17, 2009
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The Stealth Dinghy 368

Walter Cooper

When Chuck Allen, de facto dinghy expert on our Boat of the Year selection panel, gets excited about a new boat, we know it’s a good one. Granted, it doesn’t take much more than an adrenaline bump to get him fired up, so it was hardly surprising when he stepped off the 14-foot Stealth dinghy last fall and delivered a classic Allen debrief: “Awesome.”

Later, he expounded. “Aesthetically, it’s wicked pleasing. And the sail handling, upwind and downwind, is friggin’ great.”

The Stealth dinghy may be better known in parts north of the U.S. border; the boat is built by CL Sailboats in Ontario. Its arrival into the States has certainly lived up to its name. It first appeared in prototype form at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md., in 2007, and after extensive tweaking to the hull and sail controls, reemerged last fall a virtually finished, slick-looking, high-performance sailing product.

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Its designer, Tim Kernan, of Long Beach, Calif., likens it to a singlehanded skiff, one that will “appeal to skilled sailors, but remain within reach of novice and intermediate sailors.” Yet Owen Miller, who has served as CL’s head of development and test pilot for the Stealth for the past year, and has more time in it than anyone, likens it to a Laser when sailing upwind, and well, something entirely sportboatish when you send it downwind under its 145-square-foot asymmetric kite.

“I see the boat as a great alternative to-or even a transition to-the Musto Skiff, Swift Solo, or RS 700 type of boats [singlehanded, trapeze dinghies],” says Miller, a long-time Laser sailor himself. “You get a skiff-like experience without the super steep learning curve or the need to be a trapeze artist. If you’re proficient in a Laser, you’ll have no problem whatsoever with the boat.”

Allen is plenty proficient in quick little boats. When it came time to test sail the Stealth, he turned to Miller and asked, “Tell me what I need to know.”

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To which Miller responded, “Down is your friend.”

Down, of course, refers to the need to sail deep when launching or dousing the spinnaker, just as you would with any A-sail boat.

Allen hopped in and, minutes later, was off, zipping around the Chesapeake under the kite-nearly planing in less than 10 knots of wind.

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“It goes upwind kind of like a Laser, and reaches like one, but then when you put the spinnaker up, it’s an entirely different dimension of off-wind speed and sailing,” says Allen. “It just had a real nice speed; you know, it’s got the modern sails and the carbon rig, and all that.”

Like many other boats of this ilk, the Stealth has enjoyed a long gestation period that has most definitely helped it get to its current refined state. According to Kernan’s designer’s comments, the origin of the winged dinghy dates back to 1998. For CL Sailboats, which is known in Canada for its significantly lower-tech daysailors (the CL 14 and CL 16), the Stealth is something altogether different, but Miller says they’ve put a great deal of resources into the boat. In the latest push to a finished product, he says, they’ve updated its construction with CoreCell foam throughout the hull, deck, and wings, resulting in a really stiff boat. The tapered carbon rig is from Forte Carbon Fiber Products, and the high-aspect Pentex sails by Force 10 Sails (in Oxford, Md.). The cassette-type, high-aspect foils are aluminum, with internal framing and solid leading edges. Miller, however, does have his own carbon foils.

Following the boat’s 2008 Annapolis debut, Miller has demo-sailed it extensively around the country, showing up at a few Portsmouth-scored events (its initial Portsmouth Rating is 88, which he says, “might be optimistic for the boat.”) In most cases, he has been grouped with Lasers, Force 5s, and other disparate singlehanders.

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In doing so, he has further refined the boat’s systems, as few as there may be.

As far as sail controls, the essentials are all in place: vang, outhaul, cunningham, mainsheet, and continuous spinnaker sheets, each led outboard to the wings. The spinnaker halyard is a continuous launch and retrieval line, which pulls the spinnaker out of and into a sock on the floor. Allen says it took him three-or-four pulls on the halyard to get to full hoist-something he felt could be improved.

And it likely will be, says Miller, who tells us that one-design rules have not been developed because there’s still some tweaking yet to go. The hull, foil, and rig designs are final, but changes are in the works to refine the sail plan; the latest iteration has more roach up top, and 6 inches added to the leech, allowing for lower boom angle and better shape out of the bottom third of the sail.

With the worldwide entrenchment of the Laser, which is still the ultimate bang-for-your-buck singlehanded dinghy, Stealth owners will struggle to lure converts into their fray. Miller, however, sees himself as a Stealth dinghy poster child: as a long-time Laser sailor, he wanted a greater challenge, and the enticement of a spinnaker was all he needed to make the switch.

“It’s one of the most comfortable boats to sail in,” he says, drawing further comparison to the Laser. “With your feet under the hiking straps, the shape of the deck follows the curve of the back of your legs. But still, it’s the same as the Laser; the harder you hike, the faster you go.”

In side-by-side comparisons, he says, the boat struggles to match the Laser in light winds, and even upwind in breeze, because it must be sailed deeper to maintain flow across the narrow foils. The same is true on a downwind leg, where the Laser regularly wins the VMG battle hands-down. But then again, one wouldn’t expect a Melges 24 to be fairly stacked against a J/24; each simply requires a different style of sailing.

One of the challenges newcomers will find with the Stealth is handling all the various lines when it comes to dealing with the kite. But Miller says it’s pretty simple once you get used to it: “With a douse, the main is cleated off anyway, and you sit on the tiller, over-sheet the kite to collapse it, turn deep, suck the kite into the sock, and turn upwind.”

To date, interest in the Stealth is growing, says Miller. CL is offering the boat at $8,995CN ($7,255) “to just get the boats out there,” and there are a half-dozen sailing in North America. Miller says a shipment of boats went to Puerto Rico this winter to marina owner Jose Luiz Rivera, who has intentions of anchoring Stealth Fleet No. 1 in the Caribbean.

Stealth dinghy Specs

LOA 14’6″
BEAM 5’8″
DSPL 160 lbs.
SA (u/d) 105 sq. ft/145 sq. ft.
Price $8,995
www.vaxxine.com/clsailboats

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