For most of my years at Yachting, I carried weather with me on every boat test and delivery passage. I think it lived in the image of the Tasmanian Devil embroidered on the back of my favorite sailing shirt. When he began playing too rough too frequently, I left him home more often than not. I missed him, though, when I sailed Zaraffa on Narragansett Bay one steamy light-air day in August. Skipper Roger Erker, along with a few of his regular crew and a couple volunteers, had invited me to join in a day of testing and instrumentation calibration.
We sailed under main and 145 genoa in winds of no more than 12 knots true. Beating down the bay toward Newport, Zaraffa showed 7.5 to 8 knots in 11 to 12 knots of true wind speed and 31 degrees of true wind angle. At one point, the apparent wind angle tightened to the impossibly narrow angle of 21 degrees, but Zaraffa didn't slow. For this stellar windward ability we can thank her 12 feet of draft, the plan form of her keel and the deep, powerful rudder. Her steering was light and delightfully quick (2.25 turns from lock to lock), so corrections required a sensitive touch to prevent oversteering. Tacking was lightning quick and as sure as the sunrise.
By the time we finished tacking down the bay, the wind abandoned us. We broad reached up the bay in an average wind speed of 5 knots, making wind speed or better, depending on how attentive we were to sail trim and steering inputs. A short time before we dropped sail and fired up the Yanmar, Zaraffa gave us 4.75 knots in a true wind speed of 3.5 knots.
Reichel/Pugh has expertly juggled the small waterplane area with a flat run and the broad shoulders the yacht needs for offwind planing, so she's fast in most wind conditions. Her underbody is a squished semicircle but is flat in way of the keel. Her entry is fine and steep. This combination of characteristics and her light weight promise a lively motion at sea, more or less comfortable depending on the length of the waves.
Zaraffa and her ilk aren't for every sailor. High-performance boats, like their automotive counterparts, require a high level of commitment and skill, which is exactly the reason some of us fall in love with them. They stretch our abilities. A sophisticated boat of this sort could sell for about $1.2 to $2 million, depending on how high-tech you want the laminate and how you outfit her. Price, though, is irrelevant when you know what you want and where to get it.