The end of an era

Gilles Martin-Raget / BMW Oracle Racing
With the demise of the America's Cup Class, so Murray Jones, John Cutler, Paul Cayard and Rod Davies contemplate the end of heavyweight monohulls and the implications of this
Unless some mad fool decides to buy them all up, the America’s Cup Class monohulls, used to contest the ‘Auld Mug’ from 1992 until 2007 sailed their final race last Saturday at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai. The demise of the ACC comes at the same time as the berth of the 100 year old Star’s place in the 2016 Olympic Games is under threat with the keelboat failing to get selected as an event for Rio, subject to a final decision next year. It seems that we are at the end of an era – not just that of another genre of America’s Cup boat, but it could be that historians of the future will look back on 2010 as the year that marked the death of the heavyweight keelboat. Being a fan of fast lightweight boats, the AC45 and AC72 wingsail cats being among the most extreme examples, we are personally not sorry to see this trend. While multihulls have pretty much always been lightweight machines capable of huge speed, with monohulls the move to lightweight – or ideally variable displacement, like the IMOCA Open 60s - has been some 30 years in coming. While the largely French offshore monohulls such as the Open 60s are a case apart, the thrills and spills of lightweight monohulls have been demonstrated since the early 1990s across the globe in sportsboats starting with the likes of the J/80 and Melges 24 up to the most recent Melges 32. This trend has filtered through to most areas of monohull sailing and even into cruising boats with a couple of exceptions such as the Volvo 70 which has been allowed to get heavier for the next round the world race (wrongly so in our view) and specialist match racing boats such as the Elliott