January 19, 2016

SAN DIEGO (AP) Farr Yacht Design has released the first 3D renderings of the new Super 12 yachts that will be sailed in the San Francisco Yacht Racing Challenge beginning in July 2017 on San Francisco Bay.

Britton Ward, the lead designer of the Super 12s, said the renderings are a big step in the process leading to the final design.

Ward said Tuesday that the entire staff in Annapolis, Maryland, is working on the project so tooling production can begin in May. The yachts will be built at Westerly Marine in Santa Ana. Westerly hopes to splash the first boat in the fall.

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. They have been described as having a classic look above the waterline while having a modern appendage package with a deep lead bulb with wings and a trim tab to provide exceptional upwind performance.

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

Some in the sailing community have doubted whether Ehman could pull off the regatta.

Ward said steps such as releasing the 3D renderings give the regatta more legitimacy.

''Every time one of these pictures goes up, the comment streams come flying in,'' Ward said from the Farr office in Annapolis. ''We know there are a lot of interested parties. Now we need to activate all the mechanisms to allow them to buy one. All of these things will happen rather quickly.''

Prospective teams have been waiting for detailed information about the boats before confirming their entries, Ehman said.

Ward said Farr Yacht Design will wrap up the conceptual stage in the next week or so and then move into the preliminary design stage, followed by the final stage, Ward said.

''The 3D renderings we produced are as much for discussion points as for anything finalized, to try to get enough feedback into something that we can wrap our heads around,'' he said.

''For instance, a lot of people are trying to look at the deck layout and understand what we're trying to achieve in winch placement. Are there simpler ways to do it? There's a lot to work through. We're trying to make a boat that's match-raceable, with a crew that ranges from teenagers to 65-year-olds, and we're trying to give the boats a long life span and build them at an affordable price.''

Because the boats will be built of modern composite materials, they will be lighter and stronger than the original 12 Meters, Ward said. The 65-foot yachts will be a little bigger than the 12s but six to seven tons lighter. The net result, Ward said, is a bigger, more efficient keel and a deeper center of gravity. The 12 Meters had a draft of 8 1/2 feet while the Super 12s are at 11 feet.

''Ultimately, because they're one-design, they'll sail at similar speeds, so that will reward those who sail them better,'' Ward said. ''It will reward teams that do better maneuvers. You'll see tacking and gybing duels from the America's Cup of yore that have kind of gone away. Every maneuver relies on every member of the crew to do their job properly, and it will make it that much more rewarding for the crew that does that.''

Being one-design, the Super 12s will all come out of the same mold. They'll be built of fiberglass and carbon fiber. They're expected to cost just less than $2 million. Sails will be extra.

''Tom's really hit on a vision that's pulled on lot of heartstrings for a lot people,'' Ward said. ''They have good memories of this kind of racing, and this kind of boat. We're trying to be true to that, what it looks like going through the water, and we can through bring modern technology into materials and deck hardware to make it easier to sail and more reliable.''

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

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