On Saturday, October 25th, on the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club Docks, there was a gathering of hot performance boats: Open 5.70; Viper 640; Melges 20; Laser SB3; RS K-6; and J22 and J80. This was a unique opportunity giving everyone involved a great chance to compare all of these boats on the same day in similar sailing conditions.
The day had been organized as part of a cooperative program by a group of area clubs (Stonington Harbor, Watch Hill, Masons Island, Ram Island, Fishers Island and Wadawanuck Yacht Clubs) to select a new one-design performance boat and establish a multi-club racing fleet. At the end of the day the attendees were given a questionnaire giving everyone a chance to share their opinions and have a vote in the outcome.
The weather could not have been better – with wind blowing 15+ knots all day, patchy clouds and temperatures in the low 60s it was great conditions for these boats. Sailing mostly within the outer breakwater the waves weren’t too steep making the sail to windward fairly decent and then around the corner all the boats enjoyed exciting downwind planing conditions. It definitely made for interesting sailing – although most of the sailors were experienced they weren’t all familiar with the boats making some rides more exciting than others!
I spent the day taking people out on the Open 5.70. Upwind we had the main fully trimmed and the boat wasn’t overpowered. We were traveled down slightly which wasn’t always necessary but certainly helped in the puffs – it also meant we didn’t really need to play the main sheet too much upwind. When the helmsman found the groove we were sailing consistently upwind around 6.2 knots. The small wind waves weren’t a problem at all and the ride was relatively dry. In terms of speed we were definitely holding our own with all the other boats, in some cases we weren’t pointing as high but the differences weren’t dramatic and could be more due to the driver than the boat. The Melges 20 and the Laser SB3 seemed to be overpowered at times with their mains luffing more than some of the other boats – they also seemed to benefit from more crew weight having as many as 5 adults on the boat at one time. I sailed mostly with 3, occasionally with 4 when the crew were lighter, younger kids for example. Downwind was fun. Even with only the jib and the main we were easily hitting 12 knots. We put the kite up on every downwind leg without incident. There were some good waves and great puffs to play with and our top speed of the day was 13.9 knots (11.9 best 10 second average)… Gybing was relatively straight forward given the conditions and we were back to planing in no time… We did have one hour glass on one of our gybes but never came close to broaching on any occasion. Compared to the other boats we probably weren’t the fastest although it was close… but that is what you’d expect looking at the numbers (our kite is the smallest in the group). The spinnaker was definitely very manageable on the Open 5.70 and some of the other boats were having problems during their gybes and takedowns. For other opinions about all the boats there is a great thread over at Sailing Anarchy.
In summary, all of these boats are fun, fast and simple to sail. Each one has it’s advantages and disadvantages and at the end of the day it comes down to personal choice. Where the Open 5.70 stands out from the crowd is in it’s versatility and stability. The Open 5.70 is probably not the fastest boat on the water but it proved that even in heavy air conditions it is a very manageable and fun boat. While it may not always satisfy the adrenaline seekers it does make it more accessible on a club level where the target audience is more diverse.
A lot of credit has to go to Stonington Harbor Yacht Club for pioneering this event. The attendance was exceptional and the feedback and media attention has helped promote both the Yacht Clubs and all of the sportboats involved. If you are a member/director/officer of a Yacht Club then you really should consider hosting your own event (feel free to contact us for more information). Even if you are not in the market for a new club boat your members will have a chance to sail something new and exciting…