Racing Sailboats Fly In Boston Harbor

By Luke Boelitz

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Jul. 2, 2011

The GAC Pindar boat sails downwind with the aid of its gennaker, the large white sail attached at the front of the boat. (Luke Boelitz for WGBH)


BOSTON — You may be used to seeing sailboats on the Charles River or out in Boston Harbor. But this weekend, Boston plays host to a group of 40-foot-long catamarans: Big, fast, racing sailboats that definitely don’t belong among the underpowered daysailers and fat cruising boats that usually populate the city's waters.
 
They’re here for the Extreme Sailing Series, a popular event in Europe that’s docking in the United States for the very first time.

Bowman Jono Mabeth hoists the gennaker on GAC Pindar. (Luke Boelitz for WGBH)

Although the double-hulled boats are 40 feet long, they are made from carbon fiber, which means they’re very light. When racing, the boats usually fly one hull completely out of the water to reduce drag. They can literally sail faster than the wind. That fact, combined with the series' short courses, mean collisions could be common.
 
The five-day series is being held at Fan Pier Marina, right by a temporary racing village. “It’s a great waterside venue, great harbor for racing––we can get all the racing in front of the public,” said Stuart Whitman, the series manager.
 
It also happens to be right in front of major land developer Joe Fallon’s latest construction project. Although his two newest buildings are just foundations, 1.1 million square feet of office space have already been leased to Vertex Pharmaceuticals. According to some parties, this is the largest lease in Boston’s history.

It’s Fan Pier's first high-profile sailing event: in 2009, it hosted the Volvo Ocean Race.
 
This past Thursday, the Extreme 40s had their first day of racing in the Harbor. The morning saw strong breeze from the northwest, although boats struggled with inconsistent wind pressure toward the end of the day. Relatively light, shifty wind is a weakness of the Boston venue.

Still, Whitman's confident the weekend holds exciting sailing.
 
“We’ve been running these boats for the last five years and everywhere we go to they’re a big hit. The crowds love them,” Whitman said.

If he’s right, chances are good we’ll continue to see world-class sailing at Boston’s Fan Pier.

A Red Bull Air Force skydiver comes in fast for a landing on one of the floating docks at Fan Pier.



Team Artemis flys a hull as they sail upwind towards the top mark.

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