The first of a series of articles in which Paul Metcalf, the creator of the Express 40 - an Owen Clarke designed Class 40 yacht - explains the Class 40 phenomenon, looks at the rules, the races and the boats.
The short-handed offshore racing world is undergoing huge changes. The advent of the Class 40 is allowing ordinary mortals to race across oceans against the full fledged professionals - without dedicating their entire lives to raising sponsorship.
This class of cut-down, cost restricted, Open 60's has caused a massive amount of interest in France going from zero to 25 entrants in the Route du Rhum – a solo race to Guadeloupe that has over a Million people watch the start – in a few short years. Now that interest has spread to the UK, with British sailors Phil Sharpe and Ian Munslow coming 1st and 3rd in the aforementioned race in the Class 40 division.
The French Class 40 box rules created by a group of designers, offshore sailors and naval architects are designed to promote a healthy, fast and challenging short-handed offshore race boat that is restricted in cost and still retains an element of dual purpose as a boat for leisure use. To a large extent they have succeeded in this aim.
Essentially the the rule is a box rule: 40ft long, maximum beam of 4.5m, height 19m, draft 3m and Main+Genoa sail area restricted to 115m2 (compare that to a Beneteau 40.7 at around 80m2 and a Farr 40 at 100m2)
In addition exotic (i.e. expensive) materials are banned as are canting keels. Carbon masts are in though as is a carbon bowsprit.
There is a minimum weight of 4.5 T “light ship” and both a minimum and now a maximum righting moment – simply measured by pulling the mast down 90 degrees and measuring the pull upwards. Water ballast is permitted up to 750kg either side
The first boat developed to co-incide with these rules was the Pogo 40, built by the Structures yard in N. France, already well know for their Mini-Transat boats of the same name.
Several other designers such as Lombard, Pierre Rolland, and Lucas have produced Class 40 yachts and many more have designs on the drawing board. In the case of Owen Clarke, for example, they have used their offshore design experience not only to produce custom Class 40s, but also to design a semi production version – The Express 40. In the case of the Pogo and the Express the production approach brings down both costs and time to water.
So the Class 40 has brought the realms of seriously challenging offshore sailing firmly within reach of the more adventurous sailor looking beyond the cans, or just frustrated with the need for crew in order to compete. The class is still young, but sailors are voting with their wallets and with more and more double and single-handed races opening their entry lists to the class it clearly has a strong future.
Next we will look at Class 40 construction and design.