BOAT OF THE YEAR 2018

Sailing World - - Boty - BY DAVE REED, PHO­TOS BY WAL­TER COOPER

Twenty knots of wind will make any good boat fun to sail, but to fully ap­pre­ci­ate it, a taste of light air is re­quired. When a boat is right, you can feel it, hear it and see the per­for­mance. It was with this un­der­stand­ing that our judges dived into our an­nual Boat of the Year sail­ing trials. Sail­maker Chuck Allen, naval ar­chi­tect Greg Ste­wart and boatbuilder Tom Rich pow­ered their way through 10 new race boats over five days in Annapolis, Mary­land, delv­ing into the boats on land and drilling builders for de­tails. Two hours (or more) on the wa­ter with each en­try fu­eled long nightly dis­cus­sions. The win­ners had to de­liver on three ba­sic cri­te­ria: de­sign pur­pose, qual­ity and per­for­mance. Four boats pro­duced on all three counts, with one ul­ti­mately sail­ing away with the over­all ti­tle.

WWith the HH66 cata­ma­ran’s sharp re­versed bows point­ing into a light northerly, the elec­tric hal­yard winch winds a square-headed main­sail swiftly sky­ward. A sin­gle crew mem­ber as­sists while stand­ing atop the car­bon boom while the rest of the sail­ing team stands el­bow to el­bow in the pit, ob­serv­ing the thick hal­yard tail snaking into its rope well be­neath the mast. At their backs, watch­ing through the cata­ma­ran’s large glass wind­shield, is the soli­tary helms­man, his hands rest­ing upon the pol­ished car­bon steer­ing wheel, an­tic­i­pat­ing the mo­ment he can bear away, un­furl the Code Zero, and watch the boat­speed race to 10 knots in a blink.

The speed build is fluid and easy. There’s no chaos, no clamor of crew grind­ing the head­sail home be­fore scur­ry­ing to the rail. In­stead, there’s a fine- tune but­ton press or two, and when the Boat of the Year judges — Chuck Allen, Tom Rich and Greg Ste­wart — fi­nally look up from all the con­trols and dis­plays at their fin­ger­tips, the dis­tant Ch­e­sa­peake Bay shore­line is blur­ring past.

It’s said that a big boat dulls any sen­sa­tion of speed, but with the H66, the judges are feeling quite the op­po­site.

“The boat im­me­di­ately comes alive,” says Ste­wart, who even­tu­ally aban­dons the boat’s in­side helm sta­tion and takes the best seat in the house: the white car­bon helms­man’s chair mounted along­side the tiller. For ex­pe­ri­enced sailors, the short car­bon tillers are per­haps the one simple and dis­tinct de­tail that im­me­di­ately sep­a­rates the HH66 from other cruiser/racer cata­ma­rans of this ilk.

“When you’re racing, you’ll be out at the tiller,” says Ste­wart. “It makes a big dif­fer­ence be­ing where you can bet­ter feel the wind and the heel an­gle. The sight lines through the win­dow and un­der the jib are good.”

For long pas­sages, or in bad weather, he adds, you can sim­ply duck in­side to the big, cushy leather chair.

The per­for­mance is re­ally there with this boat. It’s not just a step be­yond what we’ve sailed in the past; it’s steps ahead. TOM RICH

Even with the in­her­ent fric­tion associated with hav­ing two tillers and two wheels con­nected to the steer­ing sys­tem, the feel on the HH66 helm is light and en­gag­ing, says Ste­wart, and that’s partly due to a com­bi­na­tion of hull shape and the boat’s deep C- shaped car­bon dag­ger­boards. The boat, says Ste­wart, drives like a well- bal­anced big boat, not a big rig.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the in­flu­ence of pi­o­neer­ing Gun­boat Cata­ma­rans of the past, de­signs that pro­pelled the high-per­for­mance crossover cata­ma­ran genre to where it is to­day, yacht de­signer Gino Mor­relli says the HH Cata­ma­rans line — which spans from 66 to a 48-footer in the pipe­line — ben­e­fits from 15 years of make-and-break de­vel­op­ment. The HH66’ s hull pro­file is full for­ward, flat­ter in the mid­sec­tion, and big­ger in the tran­soms, says Mor­relli, which, when cou­pled with less rocker than his Gun­boat de­signs, re­sults in bet­ter han­dling in a se­away. Less pitch­ing, he says, is fast.

“Dag­ger­boards have changed dra­mat­i­cally over the years as well,” adds Mor­relli. In the old days, boards were short, straight, wide and thick, but as own­ers and race teams added more horse­power to the sail plan, the boards and plat­forms weren’t up to in­creased loads.

“C- dag­ger­boards in­crease ver­ti­cal lift and lat­eral re­sis­tance, which damp­ens pitch­ing,” says Mor­relli, “which makes for bet­ter all-around per­for­mance.”

The HH66 is light­weight for its size, scale and com­plex­ity. Teak soles, deck hard­ware and ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing the gal­ley sink, even­tu­ally tip the scale to 46,000 pounds. Weight sav­ings, says Mor­relli, is due to the lower cost for car­bon to­day, and HH isn’t afraid to cook the black stuff into the boat wher­ever they can.

“We’re racing these boats on one hull now,” adds Morelli, “so when we started, we knew it had to be a full car­bon boat. The glass win­dows too can now take the horse­power that’s be­ing put

into these plat­forms.”

It’s easy to be­come en­am­ored with the lux­ury- level con­struc­tion and cab­i­netry, but all the bells and whis­tles that will al­low an owner to play off- grid are equally im­pres­sive. “This is the first boat we’ve seen in a long time where it was as good- look­ing at the dock as it sails,” says Rich, a cus­tom race- boat builder him­self who can spot a short­cut or shoddy work­man­ship with one eye closed. “With the con­struc­tion of this boat, I couldn’t find a sin­gle thing to com­plain about,” he says. “It’s re­ally im­pres­sive what they’ve done with so many man- hours.”

The judges agree that a boat of this size and com­plex­ity de­mands a full- time boat cap­tain, ide­ally one that’s in­volved in the build, the sail­ing and the up­keep. To race it will also re­quire a few paid hands to get it around the track, and eight to 10 ex­pe­ri­enced hands, es­pe­cially for races in­volv­ing overnight ac­tion.

“We’ve made sure this de­sign is race-ready,” says Mor­relli. “The 66 is for an owner who wants to race and cruise, but it’s a big boat, and un­less an owner has sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence, they will need a pro or two to help.”

At Ste­wart’s fin­ger­tips in the tiller seat are push-but­ton con­trols that de­liver in­stant ad­just­ment to the trav­eler, sheets and dag­ger­boards. Flash has the racing hard­ware pack­age with up­graded winches, but there is also a turbo-rig ver­sion for those who de­sire ever more power in the sail plan. There’s no doubt about it, says Allen. “This boat is racy, and you feel it right away in the helm, even with­out the turbo pack­age.”

While the HH66 car­ries an allpur­pose A5 spin­naker, the judges de­ploy ev­ery­thing else in the fruit bas­ket — a Code Zero, an in­ner jib and a J1 — as they zigzag up and down the bay. “Ev­ery­thing is on hal­yard locks, and it’s easy to get ev­ery­thing up and down,” says Allen. “The rig­ging and the leads are re­ally clean.”

“Clean” and “so­phis­ti­cated” are the two traits that come up most of­ten in post-sail­ing dis­cus­sions. There is sail-con­trol re­dun­dancy through­out the boat and enough tech­nol­ogy de­signed into the sys­tems to keep an owner out of trou­ble, in­clud­ing Ocean Data Sys­tem’s Up­sideup anti-cap­size sys­tem, which mon­i­tors cap­shroud loads and au­to­mat­i­cally trig­gers an alarm, eases sheets or ad­justs the au­topi­lot to pre­vent the boat from ex­ceed­ing pre­set pa­ram­e­ters.

“I hear it all the time from guys who are sail­ing all these types of boats; they say it’s the way of the fu­ture,” says Rich. “I can see why be­cause the per­for­mance is re­ally there with this boat. It’s not just a step be­yond what we’ve sailed in the past; it’s steps ahead. It’s go­ing to be a great boat for long-dis­tance point- to- point racing, where you’ve got four or five ex­pe­ri­enced guys, a nav­i­ga­tor and a few pas­sen­gers who aren’t sit­ting on the rail the whole time.”

With such so­phis­ti­ca­tion, how­ever, comes the $4 mil­lion price tag, but even that, the judges say, is a sell­ing point. To build this same boat do­mes­ti­cally, with the same man-hours, says Rich, it would eas­ily be well over $6 mil­lion. You get a lot of boat per dol­lar, he adds, with the po­ten­tial for a lot of miles and a lot of fast, fun sail­ing along the way.

Chuck Allen trans­fers from the High­field Boats Deluxe 500 alu­minum-hulled RIB, of­fi­cial RIB of Sail­ing World’s Boat of the Year. The RIB han­dled flaw­lessly in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay’s steep chop, pro­vid­ing smooth rides and a dry, sta­ble workspace for pho­togra

The owner of Flash, the first U.s.-owned HH66 from the HH Cata­ma­rans in China, has in­ten­tions of hit­ting the 2018 Caribbean win­ter racing cir­cuit be­fore set­ting off an ex­tended surf sa­fari with his fam­ily.

The in­te­rior lay­out of each HH66 is cus­tom­ized to the owner’s tastes and de­mands — in this case, a small pi­ano is hid­den in the for­ward nav sta­tion to star­board. A well-or­ga­nized for­ward pit area at the mast base, with proper steps lead­ing to the fore­deck, is the op­er­a­tions cen­ter of the HH66. Furl­ing head­sails sim­plify sail han­dling.

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