June 23, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) Acclaimed yacht designer Bruce Farr is coming out of retirement to consult on the design for an updated version of the 12-meter class that will be sailed in the San Francisco Yacht Racing Challenge starting in July 2017.

Farr will consult with Farr Yacht Design, the firm he retired from in 2012. Farr has extensive experience in one-design classes, and Farr Yacht Design drew the plans for the 65-footers that just completed the closely contested Volvo Ocean Race.

Farr also was part of the team that designed the fiberglass Kiwi Magic 12-meter for New Zealand Challenge for the 1986-87 America's Cup challenger trials in Fremantle, Australia.

The boats for the SFYRC, founded by former America's Cup executive Tom Ehman, will be called Super 12s because they won't be designed within the limits of the 12-meter rule. While capturing the classic look of the yachts that were sailed in the America's Cup from 1958-87, they will have updated keels and rigs.

Ehman decided that the Super 12s will be one-design in an effort to hold the line on costs, meaning all the boats will be identical.

Farr said the hulls of the Super 12s will be built with a combination of fiberglass and carbon fiber.

Farr helped cause a stir in the America's Cup nearly three decades ago with the design of Kiwi Magic. While other 12s were built of aluminum, KZ-7 was the first to be built of fiberglass and was nicknamed the ''Plastic Fantastic.''

Dennis Conner took another view, hinting that he thought the Kiwis were cheating. While practically invincible in earlier rounds, Kiwi Magic lost to Conner's Stars & Stripes, which went on to reclaim the America's Cup for the United States.

''One of the things we really take from that era and bring into the modern era is that they will be very robust boats that will have very long life spans and not much maintenance,'' Farr said from Annapolis, Maryland. ''That's all good in a one-design class that sails in the rough-and-tumble of San Francisco.''

Farr and Britt Ward, who will be the lead designer, say Farr Yacht Design will be under somewhat of a tight timeline to allow for production beginning next summer so there are enough Super 12s for the inaugural SFYRC in 2017.

Ehman has said his goal is to have 10 yachts for the first regatta.

''There's been a pretty positive reaction from all over the place,'' Farr said. ''It wouldn't surprise me if in six months we're trying to figure out how to build 15 instead of 10. It seems like it's struck a nerve with a lot of people as a way to get back into wonderful sailing in big boats at a lot less cost.''

Ward said he thinks the cost of a boat could be substantially less than Ehman's initial estimate of $3 million.

Farr said the Super 12 will mix the classic look of a 12-meter with modern design elements.

''Visually, it will look a lot like a 12-meter,'' Farr said. ''People who have that attraction to the elegance and style of the 12s will see a 12-meter. But it will be a thoroughly updated boat. Not being designed to the 12-meter rule gives us a lot of freedom to make it a better boat. The 12-meter rule had idiosyncrasies that corralled you into certain things, and some of them were not fast.''

Ehman said one of the biggest concerns is that the Super 12s be tough and have a long, competitive life, ''especially for the windy and tough conditions of San Francisco Bay.''

The 1986-87 America's Cup was the last sailed in 12-meters. Only one 12-meter has been built since 1986, launched days ago in Norway. It was built of wood from a 1939 design.

---

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

You May Like