Eight years ago I decided to build a Class 40 to give young British sailors the opportunity to race offshore. This gave them a chance to experience sailing at a high level on the global stage. It’s fair to say that, Team Concise has had some success. However, since those early days the World's economic outlook has changed dramatically and we have been forced to conclude that if we are to continue with our adventure we need more affordable boats. No more escalating costs, less capital depreciation, more bang for our buck!
There is no doubting the appeal of the Class 40's and their program. When we built Concise we were the 49th boat to be registered, by the end of 2012 boat number 120 had been launched and more are still in build. That is a fantastic expansion by any standard. However, the numbers mask the unhappy fact that a large number of the original Class 40 owners have been forced out, unable to compete with the pressures of maintaining a competitive boat. I have personal experience of the problem, having built two. When I bought Concise, our first boat, it cost approximately EU€350,000 (USD$ 460,00) including sails and electronics. To stay competitive with the subsequent designs being launched, we built Concise 2 (hull No 93) which to-date has cost us, EU 520,000 (USD 635,000). Meanwhile we sold the original boat losing almost 50% of our investment in the process. This was a 25% per year depreciation on a boat that had only recently won the Class 40 ISAF World Championships. Others no doubt suffered even greater losses.
The problem as we see it at Team Concise lies in the fact that Class 40 designs are governed by a box rule; a set of fixed parameters which nevertheless allow continuous evolving change. As yacht designers learn from their original efforts, at the owners expense, they are able to tweak their plans and if successful make the earlier boats obsolete. This of course makes sense for the yacht designers but leads to vast losses to existing boat owners. Additionally, as technical specifications become more exacting in the search for more speed, this increases the costs for potential new entrants to the Class.
I have discussed the most likely future for the Class with some of the worlds leading naval architects. Their prognosis is depressing. Without exception, they confirmed that the Class is following the classic route of other box rules before them. Building costs will simply continue to escalate. Ultimately only a few well-funded professionals will be able afford to build new boats. Meanwhile, more and more existing owners crushed by the cost of the "arms race" opt out, resulting in the Class imploding. As evidence of this well established phenomenon they cite the collapse of Open 40. I was amazed at the alacrity with which this premise was universally held and accepted. Furthermore, remember these same designers are the only ones that actually profit from this enigma so who can blame them for that? Be it as it may, this scenario does not suite my agenda, nor the many sailors like me that want to continue with manageable offshore racing campaigns.
Boats like ours have over the last decade proved themselves on the oceans of the World. They have given countless racers an affordable way to fulfill lifetime ambitions. Why should we submit to the perceived wisdom of the industry and accept the Class's inevitable decline? Especially when we have been forewarned of the pending outcome. After all turkeys don’t vote for Christmas!
For some time now I have been fascinated by the dynamics of the Figaro Class. These modest boats designed years ago are considered by some to be the very foundation of the French offshore experience. Used as fiercely competitive training platforms for up and coming sailors they still manage to attract some of the "big guns". Their popularity stems not just from their affordability but also from the fact that they are a carefully managed One Design Class, with strict building and equipment regulations. All of this contains costs, however, just as important is the boats being identical. The outcome of competition is determined not by the budget, but the individual racer's skills. That is after all what it's all about!
I often walk past the Farr 45 fleet based here in the Hamble (U.K.). These boats remain active despite being 16 years old; you can see them out on the Solent most weekends battling away. Their owners are still as keen as ever. It's because they know its the best team that wins on the day and they go home having had some fun and secure in the knowledge that there are years of competitive racing to come. Herein lies the answer. We have decided to build a boat that is effectively the "next generation" Class 40, still complying with all of the current regulations but will be constructed to precise one design rules.
The Forty(1)Design with its advanced structures and series building technique will be more than a match for anything currently out there. Ideally it should stay ahead of the game for some years to come. Meanwhile, we see owners buying into our idea and joining us on the racecourse. As the Forty(1) Design builds in numbers we will have more opportunities to race boat for boat, man to man, both under the Class 40 umbrella as well as in our own right.
The Class 40 Association has established a great program and I want my team to continue to support that. The Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre and more latterly the Normandy Channel Race are iconic must do events. However, I also want options. Sometime ago I took part in the Honolulu (Transpac) Race. The Forty(1)Design is made for that event. I also think it is made for the China Sea Race and The Newport – Bermuda Race. There is a growing Class 40 scene on the East Coast of America that heartily welcomes visitors. We want to see our new boat at all of these events.
How can we achieve a great boat, great build and an advantageous price? For us the answer was simple! First we went to a great designer, Ker Yacht Design. We then teamed up with the proven award winning series racing boat builder McConaghy. Finally, Team Concise invested heavily in plugs and molds to assure seamless production of identical quality components.
As I have said, it was eight years ago that I set out on a mission to get young English sailors into offshore racing. Since then we have won; the ISAF Class 40 World Championship, set a WSSRC World Record - around Britain and Ireland, won the Antigua RORC 600 twice, and more recently took first place in a hard fought Normandy Channel Race. We have beaten some of the best crews from across the globe. It's fair to say we have done well and learned a lot. I invite you to join us on the next leg of our voyage with your own Forty(1)Design. With us you benefit from our experience, knowing that you will have every chance, like us, of being up there on the winners podium. Your new boat will give you years of competitive sailing while uniquely maintaining it's value more than any other than yacht in the class.
Tony Lawson (Founder of Team Concise)