Does length matter?

Much has changed in raceboat design with the advent of better materials and new stability solutions. In fact many of the old rules now no longer apply – advocates Juan Kouyoumdjian

Within the context of racing sailboats, length has always been treated as a major performance parameter. Therefore, most racing rules either limited length or dealt with it in one way or another. It has also always brought some magnificence with it that was not necessarily only related to pure speed. But there is now a case for a rebirth of the Maxis at the top of our sport, something that is taking place not only for monohulls but also multihulls with the Ultime Class. Beyond this magnificence, the Maxi ‘raison d’être’ is that it represents the environment within which the fastest monohull can be conceived. The intention of the following words is to try to explain why this is the case.

In the case of the largest racing monohulls, they are today gathered around the International Maxi Class [IMA] which, based on tradition, stipulates a few rules of engagement. Among them, length is restricted to between 24m and 30.5m, which is the reason why most modern maxis are at the long end of this range.

Indeed, one could be forgiven for believing that length is still everything in terms of performance, but this is not the case. The appropriate relationship between length, weight, power and the capacity to use it properly is what makes the difference. No element on its own can output high performance without balancing with the others. This is precisely why a smaller [shorter] sailboat such as a dinghy can outperform a much bigger [longer] one.

The single most influential parameter in this equation for sailboats this size is draft because it impacts weight and power; and it is obvious today that if we are talking about high performance at this size of boat, we can only consider a canting-keel set-up.


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