Orange County's Westerly Marine to build Super 12 yachts

SAN DIEGO (AP) Westerly Marine in Orange County will build the new class of yachts to be sailed in the Super 12 Cup beginning in July 2017 on San Francisco Bay.

The Super 12s are a modernized, one-design version of the venerable 12 Meters that were used in the America's Cup from 1958-1987.

The Super 12 Cup, also known as the San Francisco Yacht Racing Challenge, was founded by former America's Cup executive Tom Ehman.

Some in the sailing community have doubted whether Ehman could pull off the regatta, which he plans to run annually.

''This makes it real,'' Ehman said Friday. ''For the prospective owners, the organizers in San Francisco who are beavering away, to now actually have a design that's rapidly progressing, to have a boat company of considerable repute, this makes it all real. It's a big step.

''Prospective teams have been waiting for this and now they see what the boat's going to look like, where it's going to be built and what it's going to cost,'' he said.

Ehman hasn't announced any teams yet. He said each 65-foot boat will cost just under $2 million. That's down from the original estimate of around $3 million. Sails will be extra.

Lynn Bowser, a co-owner of Westerly Marine in Santa Ana, said the first Super 12 is expected to be completed next fall. Once it's done, Westerly can be working on four or five boats at a time in various stages of production.

The boats will be launched in Newport Harbor and undergo initial sea trials before being moved to Long Beach for further trials in stronger wind.

''Everybody has kicked in really, really fast on this,'' Westerly co-owner Steve Lee said. ''Who wouldn't want to build a fast 12-meter boat, the majestic style of it? It's going to be a fun construction.''

The Super 12s are being designed by Farr Yacht Design of Annapolis, Maryland.

Super 12 lead designer Britt Ward said Farr has worked before with Westerly on custom projects. Being one-design, the Super 12s will all come out of the same mold. They'll be built of fiberglass and carbon fiber, making them lighter and an expected minute a mile faster than the 12 Meters.

''It's going to be interesting to pull all our resources together to pull this off,'' Ward said during a conference call. ''What's unique about a one-design of this style is it's a very high level of craftsmanship that's typically associated with custom build, but we've got to build essentially one a month to an incredibly exacting standard. It's been a complicated problem and a really good experience in a lot of directions so far in what both sides are bringing to the table to pull this off.''

Ward said every part of the Super 12 will be 3D-modeled by January.

''Our objective is to be able to build these boats without a tape measure being required,'' he said. ''There's an awful lot of engineering to go into coordinating this. The more we can do up front in 3D, the fewer hiccups we'll have down the line.''

One challenge is to lay out the deck to accommodate both the crew of 12 and an onboard cameraman, Ward said.

Bruce Farr has come out of retirement to consult on the Super 12 project. 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.''

Westerly built two boats for AmericaOne, which reached the finals of the 2000 America's Cup challenger finals. AmericaOne lost to Italy's Prada Challenge. Westerly also has built boats that have won the Transpac and Sydney to Hobart races.

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

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