I ran out the door early Sunday morning on my way to the U.S Sailboat Show and grabbed my small camera, half expecting the battery would be dead, but hoping it wouldn't be. It was dead. So I postponed this post until fellow CMBA'er (Classic Mothist) and blogger (he prefers the term diarist), George posted his report and photos of the event over at Mid-Atlantic Musings.
I was pleasantly surprised at the higher than normal amount of companies exhibiting sailing dinghies. As soon as I walked into the gate on the backside of the harbor bathrooms there was the Rondar stand with an interesting new hiking singlehander, the K1 (at least new to the U.S. - from the Internet looks like it has been around the U.K. since 2009). It is another take on a singlehander with a keel, I assume aimed at the aging singlehander population. Not much longer than a Laser at 15 feet LOA, it is narrower and the hull shape is much rounder. Like the International Canoe and the Swift Solo, it sports a sloop rig, but no asymmetric spinnaker (to keep the costs down). With keel the K1 weighs about 47 kg (100 or so pounds) more than the Laser. A very interesting concept but I'm not sure if there is a market. Most of the geezers who enjoy dinghy racing seem to be flogging their Lasers and Sunfishes well into their sixties and after crossing into their 70's they seem to be switching to a roomy and safe tub like the Herreshoff 12 1/2 footer, a classic that they race singlehanded in the Annapolis Yacht Club winter series.
A scan of the K1 advert picture from the crumpled brochure taken from my pants pocket;
An interior shot pulled from the Internet (not from the Sailboat Show - note the very round stern);
Rondar, an English company, has set up an U.S. manufacturing plant up near Boston where they have been providing collegiate dinghies, such as two-man Fireflies to Tufts and new carbon Tech Dinghies to MIT.
The RS stand featured two of their glass production boats and two of their rotomolded products. Of interest was their RS Venture family fiberglass daysailor/racer with assymetric spinnaker, a seventeen footer with about seven foot beam from Phil Morrison. It looked like a modern interpretation of the venerable Ian Proctor designed Wayfarer dinghy and the price point was good at 15K, cheaper even than RS's high end RS100 singlehander which was up around 16K. We'll see if this design can make any inroads against the king of the hill daysailor/racer in the U.S., the Flying Scot.
Zim Sailing picked up the Megabyte and Byte designs from Ian Bruce this past May (after 40 odd years building sailing dinghies, Ian Bruce is concentrating on producing an electric Classic speedboat). They are also producing these dinghies in Rhode Island whilst their collegiate/high school 420 is built in Asia. It seems Zim Sailing is aggressively moving into areas left wide open by the recent travails and mis-steps of Laser Performance.
I took a peek at the hardware and rope companies. I didn't see much new in dinghy hardware. The U.S. rope manufacturers (Yale and Samson) are now all offering soft-hand, double plait, super-Spectra lines so the choice for Laser mainsheets and dinghy sheets of all types has now increased exponentially (before it was either Maffioli or Marlowe Excel that had the soft hand sheets).
The Comet class (U.S double handed 16 foot chine design circa 1933, often referred to as the mini-Star) coughed up the bucks to have a very well put together stand (it is rare to see a class association at the Sailboat Show). Go over to George's blog to get some pictures. The class is looking at mylar sails to gussy up the modern image of the class so, having been through the recent discussion with the Classic Moths, I spent a pleasant 15 minutes discussing the pros and cons of mylar sailcloth. The Comet class has a new fiberglass builder on Maryland's Easter shore and they have added a double floor much like the modern fiberglass Snipes.
I had a very technical discussion on sailcloth with the Dimension/Polyant guys. It seems their M2 string sails have been used successfully by the top 505 sailors but there is a price premium if you go that route.
The rain which looked to make it a very wet day, surprisingly went away after the first fifteen minutes and instead of a quick walk through of the show that I expected, there was much to keep me interested for many hours on that Sunday.