We asked historians, round the world race winners and legendary sailors to name the yachts that changed the sport for good. In no particular order, these are the 50 yachts that shifted how we sail…
Photo: Guido Cantini / Panerai / Sea&See.com
Design: William Fife III
Mariquita is a living link between the ‘Big Class’ behemoths, such as Britannia, the J Class and all that went after, including the hugely popular 12-metres. The 125ft gaff cutter was launched as part of a new 19-metre class designed to pitch matched yachts against one another.
Just four were built. Mariquita performed well, particularly in light airs. She also, uniquely, survived. Having been used as a houseboat for many years, she was discovered in the mud in 1991 and lovingly restored to relaunch in 2003, and she still races today.
Photo: Oskar Kihlborg / Volvo Ocean Race
2. ABN Amro One
Design: Juan Kouyoumdjian
Two Volvo Ocean Race-winning skippers nominated Juan Kouyoumdjian’s ABN Amro One, the 5.6m beam, aggressively chined winner of the 2005-06 race. Her skipper Mike Sanderson comments: “I am biased, but I think ABN Amro One was very special and really did change people’s thinking about what made a good offshore race boat.
“As this was the first generation of Volvo 70s it was always going to be an interesting time seeing how people translated the rule,” says Sanderson. The other factor was many of the team’s involvement in Open 60 sailing.
“We very much looked at the concept of the boat differently: no spinnaker pole, furling No.4 Jibs, twin rudders, lazyjacks, snuffers on spinnakers… They all went from being equipment that was only used on single-handed boats to our team thinking it could make us faster around the world, day in day out.”
Ian Walker, winner of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, recalls: “This generation of boats smashed the previous 24-hour records and made the 600-mile day possible. ABN Amro was quite radical structurally but the key thing was she prioritised stability over anything else – such as wetted surface area.
“The Farr boats were lower wetted surface area and even started out with spinnaker poles! Asymmetric spinnakers meant sailing higher angles and more often needing righting moment.
“ABN Amro One also had twin rudders and more transom immersion, which meant it was slow in light winds but fast at high speed. There was some doubt when it was last in the first in-port races and because much of the race is in light winds, but it was so fast reaching that it negated any weaknesses.”
The black boat went on to win six of the nine offshore legs. Sanderson adds: “In all the Volvo 70s that where built – and to be honest in all the offshore boats that have followed (Rambler, Comanche etc.) – you can see a bit of ‘Black Betty’ as we nicknamed her.”
Photo: Thierry Martinez
3. TP52 Patches
Design: Reichel Pugh
Originally created to produce fast yachts for the Transpac Race, the TP52 class developed into an owner-driven inshore circuit which continues to attract the world’s best monohull sailors (these days as the Super Series). One development refined on the TP was the change to wide aft sections.
“We started off with quite narrow sterns and the working deck stopping well over one metre forward of the stern,” comments class manager Rob Weiland. “We now see an almost continuous width of the working deck from Beam Max aft and the working deck continuing to the stern.
“The ‘powerful stern’ is now the norm in offshore racing. I’m not sure whether we started it, but for sure, we were the test bed for how to refine that hull shape concept for windward leeward performance.”
First to have a working deck all the way aft was the 2007 Reichel Pugh Patches, a style then taken a stage further by ETNZ (2009), which added slab-sided topsides with a knuckle to create more hull stability when heeled. ETNZ also saw refinements in deck layout, elements of which have filtered down to more mainstream designs, such as transverse jib car tracks.
Photo: Ivor Wilkins Offshore Challenges / DPPI
4. B&Q Castorama
Design: Nigel Irens
‘Mobi’, as she was affectionately known, was the 75ft trimaran designed by Nigel Irens specifically for Ellen MacArthur’s solo round the world record attempt in 2004.
B&Q Castorama was highly optimised, being longer, narrower, and with more freeboard than the ORMA 60s, reducing the risk of a pitchpole.
She was also, uniquely, custom built for a petite female skipper, with a full-scale mock up of the cockpit created at Offshore Challenges office. The trimaran took over a day off Francis Joyon’s record to finish in 71 days and 14 hours.
5. J/24 Ragtime
Design: Rod Johnstone
It took 18 months for Rod Johnstone to build this 24-footer in his garage in Connecticut. It was designed to be simple to sail, with few rig adjustments, and light enough to be trailable. Rod’s family helped sand and finish the boat, and she was called Ragtime. Competing at their local race series in the summer of ’76, Ragtime was so successful that many people asked Rod for a sistership. He quit his job, and with brother Bob Johnstone set up J-Boats.
Their confidence proved well placed. Just two years later the J/24 class had its own one-design fleet at Key West in 1978, with 20 boats on the line. Now over 5,500 boats have been built and sold worldwide.
The J-boat line expanded to include one-designs like the J/70, as well as cruiser-racers such as the J/109. It has since has become synonymous with asymmetric sailing, doing much to popularise the use of asymmetric spinnakers on big boats.
Photo: Spike Abram
6. Gunboat 62 Tribe
Design: Morrelli & Melvin
When you are the son of the son of Bob Johnstone, one of the founders of J-Boats, keelboat sailing is in your blood. But when Peter Johnstone wanted to update his cruising yacht in the early Noughties he commissioned a 62ft catamaran.
Tribe was one of two custom Morrelli & Melvin designed 62ft cats commissioned by Clint Clemens and Peter Johnstone and built at Jaz Marine in Cape Town, South Africa. Combining comfort with racing yacht technology, Tribe reported intimidating speeds of 15 knots upwind and 30 downwind. The unique design was a big success and attracted a great deal of interest: the Gunboat concept was born.
Some years later Peter Johnstone formed Gunboat to build more 62-footers, subsequently Morrelli & Melvin also designed the Gunboat 66, 48, and 90 catamarans. Gunboat has since risen and fallen, before finally being sold. But the Gunboat brand continues, now under new ownership, and a slew of luxury performance catamarans from boatbuilders all over the world has since followed the innovative Tribe.
7. The Mirror dinghy
Design: Jack Holt
Not a yacht, clearly, but the Mirror deservers a mention for bringing thousands of people into the sport. Jumping on the trend for home-building sailing dinghies in the 1960s, The Mirror newspaper commissioned designer Jack Holt and television DIY expert Barry Bucknell to come up with a family friendly boat, which could be built at home.
The Mirror, with red sails to match the red-top paper, cost £63 11s, and fitted on top of a car. It was a huge success, with more than 70,000 sold over the years. The class was part of a movement which saw the sport vastly expand and, thanks to its symmetric spinnaker, was also the teaching ground for many of Britain’s most successful sailors – Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker is among its alumni.
Design: Camper & Nicholson
By the 1970s it looked as if the J Class was destined to fade from history. Endeavour exemplified the Js’ plight, abandoned to sink on the River Medina. Ten years later she was completely restored.
“In his seminal book Enterprise to Endeavour yachting historian Ian Dear said in the 1970s that the likes of the J Class would never be seen again. And who could blame him! But he had to publish another edition when, to his delight, he was clearly proved wrong,” recalls David Glenn.
“The re-build of Endeavour by Elisabeth Meyer, and of Velsheda by Ronald de Waal towards the end of the last century, not only fired the starting gun for a resurgence in the J Class which today draws crowds like the Red Arrows, but was a catalyst for the boom in superyacht racing in the first 10 years of the 21st century.
“Their power and sheer beauty are genuinely timeless and modern materials have made them manageable. Their 100th birthday in 15 years time will be worth waiting for!”
Design: Sparkman & Stephens
Tarantella was originally conceived for owner Pekka Koskenkyla who wanted a 36-footer built using the new glassfibre method.
S&S also adopted what was then a very modern keel arrangement, with a separate skeg and increased ballast aft, which reduced the hull wetted surface area and improved handling. The design became the first production Swan – 90 were built.
Photo: Jean Marie Liot
10. Pen Duick V
Design: Michel Bigoin/Daniel Divergie
“My choice would be Eric Tabarly’s Pen Duick V. This aluminium 35ft monohull was the first offshore racing boat that used water ballast successfully,” says former Yachting World editor Andrew Bray.
Pen Duick V was the smallest of Tabarly’s famous line of yachts, but one of the most successful. In her Tabarly won the 1969 solo San Francisco to Tokyo Race, finishing more than 11 days faster than the next boat.
Design: Bill Lee
Weight saving is the holy grail of yacht design today, but it wasn’t until the late ’70s that the first Ultra Light Displacement designs, or ULDBs, were launched.
Among them was Bill Lee’s 67ft Merlin, at 12.5 tonnes and just 12ft wide. Merlin smashed the 1977 Transpac course record, setting a time which stood for 20 years.
Officials, concerned that ULDBs were not robust enough for ocean racing, changed the Transpac rule in an attempt to limit it to slower IOR designs.
Merlin was heavily modified, but still managed to win the ‘Barn Door’ trophy for the fastest crossing twice more. The record was finally broken by the sled Pyewacket, also designed by Lee, two decades on.
Design: Gordon Baker
Legendary offshore sailor Loick Peyron nominates this futuristic design from the ’50s: “I think Gordon Baker’s Monitor is the one, which in the 1950s did a lot for the present and future of sailing.”
The 26ft Monitor is quite unlike anything else, made of glued mahogany with hollow, stainless steel hydrofoils which look more like windmill vanes than yacht foils – unsurprisingly, as that is what Baker Manufacturing had previously focused on. The early hydrofoiling yacht was reported to have a top speed of around 30 knots, using battened cotton sails.
13. Infiniti 46
Design: Hugh Welbourn/Gordon Kay
The DSS-enabled Infiniti 46 is the first yacht to be designed around the twin retractable foil system (rather than have them retrofitted) to increase lift, reducing drag and heeling angle.
Since 2016 she’s been campaigned hard, winning class in the Middle Sea Race and RORC Transatlantic Race.
14. Vestas Sail Rocket II
Design: Malcolm Barnsley
For two decades speed sailing was dominated by the race to top the 50-knot barrier. Yellow Pages Endeavour got to 46.52 knots over 500m in 1993, then ten years later windsurfers and kitesurfers upped the ante, finally pushing over 50 knots in 2008.
Macquarie Innovation became the first sailing vessel to nudge over 50 knots in 2009. Then in 2014 Paul Larsen on Vestas SailRocket II knocked all previous attempts out of the park with an incredible 65.45 knots in Namibia. Nobody has even got remotely close since.
15. Maltese Falcon
Design: Dykstra/Perini Navi
At the time the most grandiose yacht ever to be built, the 289ft Maltese Falcon was a technical triumph. Her three-masted ‘Dynarig’ system was created by Perini Navi at the behest of technology investor Tom Perkins, and is a modern day development of a 1960s concept created by Wilhelm Prølss.
Her gold and granite styling is not to everyone’s tastes, but the 2,400sq m sail area saw Maltese Falcon sail across the Atlantic in ten days. The systems proved so successful she was spotted sailing off her mooring in some venues – quite a feat for a 1,200-tonne vessel.
Design: Juan Kouyoumdjian
Launched as Speedboat in 2008, this 100-footer was initially designed with the express intention of setting records, specifically the transatlantic record. Following on from Juan K’s successful Volvo 70 designs, she was exceptionally wide at the transom with a deep canting keel and water ballast, but record successes were few and far between.
Re-optimised for IRC as Rambler 100 she had some race victories before losing her keel and capsizing in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, with five crew swept away from the boat.
All were rescued safely, but the incident intensified the focus on reliability in canting keel designs.
When owner George David commissioned the replacement Rambler 88, his new yacht includes fibreoptic patches on the keel fin and load sensors on the pin, with data continuously fed to the navigation station
17. Pen Duick IV
Design: André Allègre
“Built by Eric Tabarly, this was the first large ocean-racing multihull, which led the trend towards large multihulls in ocean races,” Robin Knox-Johnston nominates Pen Duick IV.
“For example, it encouraged us to ask Rod Macalpine Downie to design the 70-foot catamaran British Oxygen in 1973.”
Pen Duick IV took victory in the 1972 OSTAR with Alain Colas, who went on to sail her solo around the world – the first solo multihull circumnavigation.
18. Class 40
The Class 40s have provided a first step into ocean racing for many skippers. Less than a year after the class was formed, 25 lined up for the 2006 Route du Rhum.
Pro navigator Campbell Field explains: “It would be easy to nominate ‘Swiss Army knife’ foilers, or the super high tech IMOCAs. However, the Class 40s are complete in many ways. Affordable, bulletproof, ultra high performance, safe, and sexy [they can be sailed] one, two or four-up. They are simple, dynamic, rewarding, and guaranteed to thrill.
“A shortfall is their inshore capabilities, however what other class of yacht brings accessibility to top level ocean racing to a broad audience? They outstrip the performance of many much larger yachts offshore.”
Photo: Jacques Vapillon
19. Pierre 1er
Design: Van Peteghem & Lauriot Prévost
Beautiful and radical, the golden Pierre 1er was the first ORMA 60 and won the 1990 Route du Rhum with Florence Arthaud.
Vincent Lauriot Prévost recalls: “I think in ocean racing the first big change was to fly the hull with a trimaran as if with a catamaran.” Pierre 1er was swiftly followed by Primagaz, the first big tri to sail on one float.
Design: James Rich Steers & George Steers
The yacht which famously won around the Isle of Wight one August day some 169 years ago, America was also radical. Marc van Peteghem comments: “The schooner America brought something new. She was the first really wide beamed racing yacht to win against really narrow boats. It was a first really big step.”
21. One Tonner Jade
Design: Rob Humphreys:
The Admiral’s Cup was the perfect testbed for design experimentation, typified by the One Tonner Jade, which won the 1985 One Ton Cup and came second in the Admirals’ Cup of the same year.
Designer Rob Humphreys remembers: “She was designed to compete in what, with hindsight, was one of the most competitive One Ton Cup world championships ever. If I remember correctly there was a fleet of about 40 boats, counting probably 30 brand new ones.
“She was a very committed racing yacht – no compromises, which I was sometimes prone to do in order to add some value – and won the event.”
Owned by Larry and Debbie Wooddell, Jade’s talented crew included David Howlett and Rodney Pattison.
“She was a particularly good reaching boat but could hold her own in an upwind/downwind context,” adds Humphreys.
“The former characteristic was important because the Ton Cups then retained a strong offshore element and often one would sail with cracked sheets, and in this respect we tended to romp away from the competition. We were also leading our class in the same year’s Fastnet Race as part of the British Admiral’s Cup team, but lost our mast in ironically benign conditions in the Irish Sea.”
“With Jade’s [design] I sacrificed some draught against stability, and although it hurt a little upwind, in terms of VMG the power we had on a tight fetch was pretty awesome. The keel was heavily elliptical with a very short root-chord, commonly referred to as ‘Mickey Mouse’s ear!”
Photo: Marc Guillemot
22. IMOCA 60 Safran 2
The IMOCA 60 class has pushed innovation for 25 years, from halyard locks and kick-up rudders, to numerous ballast systems and safety features, and even Owen Clarke Design Group’s Acciona, the first boat intended to race around the world without fossil fuels (the attempt failed when Acciona capsized).
Its most spectacular development has been the dynamic foil system. The 2016 Vendée Globe was the first to see semi-foiling IMOCA 60s racing around the world, and the first boat to be equipped with the curved ‘Dali moustache’ was the VPLP-Verdier designed Safran 2.
“The new rules were putting the old boats kind of at a disadvantage because they had to have a one-design keel, one-design mast, restrictions on materials and so on. We knew that we couldn’t be as efficient in terms of sailing weight as we are with the old boats, so we moved onto the concept of how to use the dynamic system to lighten the boat,” explains designer Lauriot Prévost.
“Now, when they are sailing at say 10-12 tonnes they have something like half of the weight taken by the dynamic lift from the keel and foils, so it is as if the boat is sailing at 5 tonnes hydrodynamic weight.”
23. Damien II
Design: Michel Joubert
Jérôme Poncet commissioned Damien II in 1974, having already sailed below the Antarctic Circle and around the world. He, his wife Sally and family, lived aboard Damien II for 12 years, exploring everywhere from Europe to Brazil, Polynesia, Tasmania and New Zealand, as well as the sub-Antarctic islands, becoming the first yacht to winter in Antarctica in 1978-79.
“For me it is without doubt the Damien II, a 15-metre steel hulled, lifting keel schooner that has been the major influence for opening up high latitude sailing for generations that followed,” comments Skip Novak.
“Jérôme and Sally Poncet commissioned the Michel Joubert design and for the next 25 years routinely sailed in the far south on the Antarctic Peninsula, to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia and around the Falkland Islands.
“A few boats had dipped in far south around the same time – David Lewis on Icebird comes to mind, as does Bill Tilman years before on his Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters – but they were very much one-off voyages by vessels ill suited to the region. It was the Damien II that created a design type that was found to be a useful tool for remote cruising in cold, sometimes ice bound, conditions.
“This meant a robust steel hull, a lifting ballast keel to beach or access shallow water to avoid ice, the unmistakable French camber on the otherwise flush deck and the plexiglass bubble with a 360-degree view for inside piloting. The interior was cozy enough to raise three children aboard: son Dion was born on the saloon table in winter, on South Georgia. Otherwise systems were basic for ultimate reliability.
“This design, and not least of all what the Poncet’s achieved in pioneering voyages which included science surveys and supporting some of the best known BBC wildlife extravaganzas like Life in the Freezer, encouraged others to follow in various fashions.
“Thirty Damien hulls have been built along the same lines. My own original Pelagic, built in 1987, was an evolution with a sloop rig but modelled on the same concept and can be considered a ‘Damien type’ – as are any 45-55ft steel hulled lifting keel boats. Quite a legacy.”
24. Extreme 40
Design: Yves Loday / Tornado Sport
The carbon fibre catamaran used in the Extreme Sailing Series (2007-2015) showcased the short-course, close to shore, ‘stadium’ style of racing which many events, including the America’s Cup, now seek to emulate.
It wasn’t the first class to capture the public imagination – in its 1990s heyday the Ultra 30 class, , with its multiple trapezing crew, attracted mainstream broadcast television rights and big cash sponsorship. However, with the Extreme 40, organiser OC Sport took the concept of sailing as a spectator sport and marketing vehicle, and expanded it into a global phenomenon.
Navigator Michael Broughton comments: “It seems longer, but when the Extreme 40s were being built only 15 years ago, the America’s Cup was still sailed in 24-tonne monohulls with 17 crew. These boats have helped to make the careers of many elite sailors of today.”
25. Mirabella V
Design: Ron Holland
Launched in 2003, and now refitted as M5, Mirabella V has the tallest single mast in the world.
With an air draught of 290ft she cannot pass under the Golden Gate Bridge, but flies the largest jib ever made at 1,830 square metres from a huge carbon spar. Such vast loads required special battens which compress under shock load.
Design: James Wharram
James Wharram sailed the self-built 23ft plywood catamaran Tangaroa from Las Palmas to Trinidad, arriving two days before Christmas in 1955.
“It is impossible to conceive of a vessel further removed from today’s high-tech racing multihulls or luxurious cruising catamarans which now sail the oceans of the world, yet without her it is arguable that many of them would never have been built,” comments Tom Cunliffe.
“A true pioneer of western multihull voyaging, Wharram designed and constructed the affordable, effective Tangaroa himself. His crew were two German girls and Pepe the dog. This remarkable boat followed the philosophies of the traditional Polynesian seafarers, with her tiny plywood hulls connected by flexibly mounted beams and an open slatted platform.
“His team made no claim to be ‘ocean heroes’. Rather, they reflected early settlers discovering new worlds for themselves. Sixty years on, James Wharram remains an independent spirit whose refusal to compromise with the increasing bureaucracy that blights our times has made many a modern sailor ponder on what really matters in life. His stream of subsequent designs has set three generations free.”
Design: Charles Nicholson
Nicholson was just 22 when he created this elegant 59ft gaff-rigged cutter with a plumb bow and distinctive stern.
She proved successful both on the racecourse and as a cruising yacht, and launched the precocious Nicholson’s career.
German Frers on Stealth: “The brief was: ‘I want a boat that will give me pleasure. It’s going to be called Stealth. It’s going to be black with black sails.’ It was high-performance, good looking and pointed the way towards a new type of yacht.” Photo: Gilles Martin Raget
Design: German Frers
Launched 24 years ago, Stealth was intended to be avant garde in styling and still looks remarkably contemporary now, with her much emulated minimalist teak deck, black hull and sails, and brooding interior.
Designed by German Frers for Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, the 93ft Stealth was one of the earliest high performance cruising designs to use water ballast to good effect, taking line honours in the 2001 Fastnet Race and America’s Cup Jubilee.
Design: W. Starling Burgess/Olin Stephens
Ranger, the 135ft ‘Super J’ which won 32 out of her 34 races in 1937, was the first to be designed using tow-tank tests, and the last time the J’s would contest the America’s Cup.
Designers Burgess and Stephens each presented four designs, which were built to a 1/24 scale and tank-tested.
Analysis showed that the curious-looking model ‘77-C’, with her snub-nosed barrel bow, was top performer. The yacht was built as Ranger.
30. Lagoon 55
Jimmy Cornell says: “One aspect that has influenced long distance cruising in my lifetime, is the increasing popularity of cruising catamarans.”
Designer Marc van Peteghem comments: “Catamarans, which were considered a real niche market 30 or 35 years ago, are now something really big.
“The Lagoon 55 which we designed was a big change in that field, the first to really mix performance and control.”
31. Australia II
Design: Ben Lexcen
Few yacht design innovations are both radical and immediate in their improvement. Australia II, the 12-metre that became the first yacht ever to wrest the America’s Cup from its American defender, was famously such an innovation.
Australia II defeated Dennis Conner’s Liberty in 1983 despite repeated efforts by the New York Yacht Club to prove its illegality (and attempts by the Australian team to keep it secret).
Lexcen had turned to aeronautical engineering techniques. When heeled over his innovative winged keel gave Australia II increased lift and a lowered centre of gravity for a significant upwind advantage.
The trade-off was an increase in wetted surface area, which had a detrimental effect on downwind performance, but Australia II was able to lead Liberty around the top mark to gain an early advantage.
Winged keels remained a feature of the America’s Cup – and were also prevalent in many more mainstream designs for a period – until the last IACC class races in 2007.
32. Independent Bear
Design: Corby Yachts/Mark Downer
IRC is now a global rating, but in the 1990s it was known as CHS (Channel Handicap System) to reflect its Anglo-French focus.
Isle of Wight designer John Corby built a 41ft one-off, known as Independent Bear, which was so successful under the rule that she demolished all opposition in her first season.
Built of glassfibre and Kevlar with a lightweight foam core and carbon deck, she had a narrow beam but gained her stability with a very large keel bulb.
Independent Bear’s rating was raised a whopping 28 points the following year, but she still proved tough to beat. The CHS rule was adjusted, and saw a trend for wider IRC designs develop over subsequent years.
The ‘Bear’ programme also had a long-lasting effect on British racing, developing many young talented sailors aboard its successor Bear of Britain who have gone on to carve careers in professional yachting.
33. Club Med
Design: Gilles Ollier/Multiplast
The first non-stop, no-limits round the world sailing competition, known as The Race, set off in December 2000 from Barcelona. The event, and the enormous catamarans that competed in it, certainly had detractors.
Team Philips, Pete Goss’s experimental wave-piercing design, was launched to great fanfare but broke up before the race had even started. Yachting World magazine was among those uncomfortable at the time with how high the stakes had been raised.
“Of all the round the world races that have ever started, this has the greatest potential for a body count,” then-editor Andrew Bray told The Sunday Times. In the end, there were no serious incidents, although the skipper of the Polish entry broke his leg on the final approach to the finish.
The boats built for the event, such as Club Med, proved that not only could giant multihulls get around the world, but they could also set previously unheard of ocean speed records: Club Med set a 24-hour record of 625.7 miles before The Race even started.
These designs then directly influenced a whole swathe of ‘G Class’ multihulls and Jules Verne trophy holders.
“The Race and the boat was the brainchild of Bruno Peyron,” recalls skipper Grant Dalton. “It had a semi wing mast, was 108ft long and in its day was fast, very fast. People said we couldn’t get it round, it was too big, too fast and the engineering wouldn’t stand up. They were almost right: after it tore itself apart on a transatlantic we had to totally re-engineer it.
“But not only was it the fastest boat ever round the world at that time, we were the first boat to break 600 miles in a day, which we did multiple times. It remains my best campaign as it was so ‘against the odds’.”
Design: Rod Johnstone
The first asymmetric sportsboat, the J/80, was launched almost 28 years ago, one year after her larger stablemate, the J/105, pioneered the sprit concept for cruiser-racers.
Over 1,600 J/80s have been sold and dozens of sub-30ft asymmetric designs have been launched in her wake.
35. Farr 40
Design: Farr Yacht Design
With its planing hull, high aspect foils and non-overlapping jib the Farr 40 was athletic, fast, and a whole lot of fun. The one-design attracted crew lists with names like Scheidt, Coutts and Cayard.
However, it was strictly owner-driven, so a category system was developed to establish who counted as an amateur, later adopted by ISAF.
36. Wild Oats XI
Nicknamed the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for her many protruding foils, the 100ft eight-time Sydney-Hobart winner has carried various permutations of CBTF (canting ballast twin foil), twin daggerboards, a ‘caudal winglet’ on the trailing edge of the keel bulb, bow canard and DSS system.
Design: William Atkin
Suhaili was the first yacht to achieve the impossible – solo, non-stop around the world – but she was not, herself, a radical design.
The double-ended style was pioneered by Colin Archer. Atkin scaled down lines from Archer’s safety-conscious pilot boats to produce a series of smaller, leisure yachts, one of which became Suhaili, winner of the 1969 Golden Globe.
38. Foiling Moth
Ken Read comments: “In the grand prix world ‘flying’ is becoming more and more standard. The Moth evolved over the years as from a displacement style boat to a full-time flying rocketship.
“For sure the Moth was not the first boat to foil – far from it – but it became the poster child of a new foiling generation of boats. The Moth advertised to the mass market what is possible.”
Alain Thébault’s extraordinary 60ft l’Hydroptère was the first foiling ocean trimaran. It topped 50 knots in 2009, and once hit a peak speed of 61 knots before capsizing.
Vincent Lauriot Prévost says. “l’Hydroptère was a long development programme, maybe a 20-year project. It was a revolution. We expect to have flying ocean racing boats now.”
40. Mini 6.50
Built: 1991 & 1993
With just 21ft LOA to build a single-handed boat capable of crossing the Atlantic, designers are forced to find creative solutions in the Mini Proto class in the search for performance and stability. One development first tested in the Mini was the canting keel.
The first was Michel Desjoyeaux’s 1991 entry: “I made the first offshore racing boat with a canting keel, adjustable bowsprit folding along the sheer line, and a lot of details now common on those boats and bigger,” Desjoyeaux recalls.
“The adjustable bowsprit was for gybing the kite from the cockpit – in those days pilots were poor, and the kites were big.”
Ellen MacArthur then sailed another experimental Fauroux canting Mini, Le Poisson, in the 1995 Transat. Mark Turner recalls: “Minis are great for development as the loads are ‘hand-held’ level – so the original concept can be developed without the complications of power and hydraulics.
“Uniquely they didn’t get the hull fittings sorted in Ellen’s boat, so there was a totally blocked off area right up to the roof, which made living inside even smaller than a normal Mini. Of course that didn’t bother Ellen too much…
“Simpler to operate than water ballast, especially for the solo sailor (and much quicker to tack), the canting keel, which remains a mainstay system to this day, was an immediate performance leap. Of course it was the boat that started her solo racing career too.”
41. Jolie Brise
Design: Alexandre Pâris/Paumelle
The 56ft gaff-rigged Jolie Brise was originally built to do a job of work. Although she appears to be a traditional pilot cutter, Jolie Brise was unusual for the time in being built to plans.
She was designed to cross oceans rapidly, and was the last boat to carry the Royal Mail under sail. However, she was too late to really show her worth as a pilot boat, and as steam replaced sail suffered some ignominious years as a tuna fishing boat.
Her fortunes changed after she was sold and refitted for racing, going on to take part in the inaugural Fastnet Race in 1925, which she won. She went on to win the 600-mile epic twice more, a record which remains unbeaten.
Photo: Paul Buttrose
Design: Sparkman & Stephens
Designer Olin Stephens was just 22 when the 52ft yawl Dorade was launched, built for his father Roderick Stephens as a great gamble on the success of a new business venture, a design house called Sparkman & Stephens.
The yacht, which he described as “a kind of awakening”, was both beautiful and radical from the outset. She was narrower in beam and lighter in construction than her contemporaries, partly due to the hull frames being steam-bent rather than sawn.
Stephens was confident that a slim hull with stability gained from a deep lead keel, would pay off. He was correct – although his calculations were thrown into question at Dorade’s launch, when the waterline stripe was three inches below the surface.
Any detractors were silenced by Dorade’s performance in the 1931 Transatlantic Race when she, the third smallest yacht in the fleet, reached the line more than two days ahead of the next. On corrected time, Dorade was almost four days faster. She went on to win the Fastnet Race of the same year by a wide margin.
The yacht became the first in a new generation of deep keeled, slim hulled, powerful racing yachts. Dorade was famously restored to once again race in the Transatlantic and Fastnet Races in 2015, scoring podium finishes in both offshores some 84 years after her first win. Sparkman & Stephens, of course, went on to become the most prolifically successful yacht design office of the 20th century.
43. Sundeer 68
Design: Steve Dashew
An unsung hero of yacht design, Steve Dashew built small numbers of highly specialised cruising yachts.
Andrew Bishop of the World Cruising Club comments: “The powerful, balanced rigs are designed with sail handling for short-handed crews in mind, which, combined with their easily driven hull forms, make for consistently high speeds in a wide range of conditions. These boats were ahead of their time for modern fast cruising yachts.”
The range began with the 1978 Deerfoot, a 68-footer that featured the first swim platform, fore-and-aft watertight bulkheads, and an aft engine room.
They later launched the Sundeer range, which could comfortably cover 230 miles a day, a distance Dashew describes as “the magic number that keeps you safe and comfortable”.
44. USA 17
The 33rd America’s Cup pitted a 34m trimaran against Alinghi’s giant catamaran. For BMW Oracle USA designers, VPLP, the project was a golden opportunity to rapidly accelerate multihull development, resulting in the famous wingsail.
Lauriot Prévost remembers: “In the original brief the boat had to be designed and built in ten months, and then there were lawyers and postponements, which meant instead of having ten months we had almost two and a half years.
“So that’s how the wingmast came onto the boat. Having worked on the platform, on the appendages, on everything else, we had to work on propulsion.” The original idea came from design director Mike Drummond.
“It was a crazy project because even at the final finish, when the second leg had been won by USA 17, we still had some modification projects that were on the table, changing the main hull and so on,” recalls Lauriot Prévost.
“It was really, really very intense. But I think the America’s Cup is exactly this: you can have the skills and money to achieve in two years what would take five or ten years on a usual project.”
45. Contessa 32
Design: David Sadler / Jeremy Rogers
The gateway for many owners into yacht racing, the Contessa was a one-design, avoiding the vagaries and expense of IOR, and performed just as well as a family cruiser. Its seaworthy reputation was cemented during the 1979 Fastnet, when of the 58 boats in the smallest class, only one finished – the Contessa 32 Assent.
David Glenn explains: “The key to the the Contessa 32’s success was that the boats could perform two roles equally well. They could be raced as a one-design, which meant you didn’t have to adhere to the vagaries and expense of IOR, which was then the predominant racing rule, and perform just as well as a family cruising yacht.
“The David Sadler/Jeremy Rogers Contessa was designed in 1970 and more than 750 were built. At one time they had their own class in Cowes Week and they still race through an active class association. A good looking and very seaworthy yacht, chosen by many who wanted a go-anywhere, reliable and – for her day – fast boat.
“By today’s standards her accommodation is very limited. Nonetheless, a real winner in her time and many people aspired to owning one. They still do! She had that ‘must have’ ingredient.”
46. Aqua Quorum
Design: Adrian Thompson
Ocean racer Dee Caffari nominates Pete Goss’s Aqua Quorum. “Most of my racing offshore is spent on boats with canting keels,” she explains, “but if we go back to 1991, Michel Desjoyeaux sailed the first distance offshore with a swing keel in a mini 6.50. This then led onto Pete Goss sailing Aqua Quorum, an open 50, in the 1996 Vendee Globe becoming the first to sail round the world with a canting keel.
“From this moment the world stopped questioning the canting keel concept. We agree that there are risks and as a result many races have adopted the one-design rule to try and reduce the risk factor, but no one has moved away from the extra stability and power this design can produce. It sure beats having 15 people on the rail to act as ballast!”
Design: Blondie Haslar
With her unstayed Chinese ‘junk’ rig set on a modified 25ft Folkboat hull, Jester is unique. She was created by Herbert ‘Blondie’ Haslar, who believed that one did not need a racing machine in order to cross ocean miles.
He then sailed her in the 1960 race which he established for fellow singlehanded, Corinthian yachtsmen, from Plymouth to New York – at the time a revolutionary concept and the first solo ocean race.
It was won by Francis Chichester in Gipsy Moth II, with Jester second, and the race became the hugely successful OSTAR, held on a four-yearly cycle in various incarnations for many years since.
Jester competed in each one, until finally damaged by a rogue wave and abandoned in 1988. A replica Jester was built – and again raced in the OSTAR – in 1992.
Technically Jester was also very innovative, thanks to Haslar’s wind vane self-steering and rudimentary trim tab system, which he refined further over four Atlantic crossings – claiming to only take the tiller for an hour during the 1960 race. By 1970 over 600 units of Haslar’s Pendulum Servo Gear system had been fitted to yachts around the world.
Many other developments in short-handed racing were first tried during runnings of the OSTAR, such as the earliest weather routing in 1968 (it was subsequently banned).
48. Westerly Centaur
Design: Jack Laurent Giles
“Designed in 1968 by Jack Laurent Giles, this was the people’s cruising boat, the ‘floating country cottage’,” comments David Glenn.
“She was a motor sailer really but she changed yachting by getting families afloat in their thousands and she is a still much loved second-hand yacht. Westerly built (I think) some 2,500. Those numbers speak for themselves.”
Design: Camper & Nicholson
The 15-metre was the first yacht designed with a Marconi topmast, which was fitted with a track which meant the topsail could be hoisted from deck.
With 72 wins out of 81 starts for Istria, the gaff rig was rapidly demoted to the history books. Istria was also the first large yacht to be built using laminated materials to save weight.
Photo: Jean Jacques Bernard.
Peter Blake’s 68-footer with a bulb keel and flat stern was designed to surf around the world in the 1981-82 Whitbread, but she was dismasted on leg one. The crew set a jury rig and sailed 4,400 miles to rejoin the race and resume battle with Flyer.