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InSunSport - International - Tough

Can a 29erXX and I-14 share the same track?

by Lizzi Rountree on 27 Jul 2011
29er Class
The 29erXX was invited to join the recent I-14 Gorge Regatta, held earlier in July on the Columbia River in Oregon. Skippered by Kristen Lane with crew Charlie McKee, the new Melges built 29erXX even won a race! This had less to do with being a faster craft than it did with staying upright in the challenging conditions of the Gorge.

'The 29erXX is not that hard to sail, but it is hard to sail well,' says Charlie McKee, Olympic 49er sailor, about taking line-honors in one of the races.

'The I-14's were very generous to let us race with them. It opened some eyes for sure! The I-14’s are very fast, powerful boats, a fairly complicated machine. They are very impressive, but a completely different kind of boat to the one-design simplicity of the 29erXX.'

Melges Performance Craft has just come on as the US-based builder. Renowned for their furiously fast designs, CEO Harry Melges describes taking on the 29erXX: 'We're always looking for new cool projects. The 29erXX is great and the reception so far has been incredible. We're keen to be involved with such a great class!' And then he adds, 'Heck, I want to sail one too!'

Developed to fit the proven platform of the 29er, whose hulls were already racing around the world for nearly a decade, the first 29erXX rig left the factory in 2005.

Like any good product, the same team of international builders that developed the 29er, wanted to test the limits of the new rig and see how she fared. And what better testing grounds than the big waves and hard breeze of San Francisco Bay.

Top sailors jumped at the chance to test the new double trapeze experience. For most it was a dream come true, as San Francisco Bay is not the easiest place for smaller and/or female sailors to enjoy the more powerful full-trapeze skiffs such as the 18-footer or 49er.

After its initial year of testing the sailors in dialogue with the engineers worked on some improvements such as fuller sails and rail extensions, and with these the 29erXX headed to its first official trial in 2007 at the first Women's High Performance Dinghy Evaluation Event sponsored by ISAF held in Hyères, France.

The 29erXX easily met all the conditions determined by ISAF, and met with great favor among the test-event sailors. Again, general feedback on what the sailors would like to see went back to the designers concluding in another generation of the rig. The result? Now the 29erXX boasts an even more powerful rig with square top main, longer spinnaker pole and rudder gantry. A well-balanced racing machine perfect for female and mixed crews, the 29erXX has enough power to rip around the track, but is still very manageable for sailors worldwide.

Since its inception this process has continued, and the 29erXX has undergone four generations of testing and development. A testament to the class, the 29erXX has received encouragement for the development by the sailors themselves, which has allowed the engineers to achieve the right balance of power and speed the rig has today.

'I have become more and more impressed with the boat the more I sail it,' reports McKee. 'There have clearly been some improvements: rigs are very solid and reliable, rudder gantry and rail extenders have all made the boat better.'

And how about strong winds? 'Heavy air bear-aways are no problem, the boats don’t nosedive or pitch-pole like other similar boats; they are a real joy to sail in breeze!' adds McKee.

With the development years under its belt, the 29erXX class has experienced exponential growth, with the number of sailors in the class doubling every season. The current international circuit attracts an equal share of top female and male sailors from all over the world – often traveling to another continent for a chance to race! Having received official International Sailing Federation Recognized class status this past May, the class is poised for its first World Championships.

'It’s good time for the 29erXX class to grow with more and more sailors keen to get into the 29er and the XX,' says Melges.

Where can you pick up your 29erXX? Reaching well beyond the Sydney factory floor, the 29erXX is built by world-renowned engineers Ovington Boats, MacKay Boats, and Melges Performance Sailboats. Dealers are in nearly every country and used 29er hulls are easy to come by the world International 29er Class Association website
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