Swan's New York 42

Swan's New York 42 rekindles love for one-design club cruiser/racers.

On October 14, the New York Yacht Club launched the New York 42, the first new one-design club cruiser/racer in 15 years, designed by German Frers and built by Swan. Even before the champagne would flow at the club's Harbour Court summer quarters in Newport, R.I., I took a preview sail on her from Nautor's yard in Finland.

First, it has to be said that the New York Yacht Club has a happy knack of picking winners. The club and its membership have been developing their own one-design classes for more than a century, starting with the Herreshoff-designed New York 70 in 1900. This was followed by the New York 30 in 1905. (Seven of these vintage yachts made it to the 100th Anniversary Regatta class last year.) The New York 50 was introduced in 1913, the NY40 a year later. In 1935, Olin Stephens drew the lines of the New York 32, of which 23 were built, including Peter Cassidy's Siren, which finished well in this year's centennial Bermuda race (third in class; fourth in fleet). The New York 40 of 1976 attracted 21 owners to the class, but most popular has been the Bill Cook- designed NY36, which developed into a 60-strong class.

Enter the NY42. Judging by the interest shown in this new one-design, a record number may be exceeded within two years-32 of them have already been sold from plans, 26 to New York Yacht Club members. Elsewhere in the world interest is also high, with four destined for Japanese waters and one to Bermuda. The latest word is that the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, the Royal Yacht Squadron in England and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Italy also are seriously considering embracing the new class.

This positive development is worth looking into. How was this class born and why have New York Yacht Club members taken to it in such numbers? "The previous NY42 class was introduced fifteen years ago and had reached its maturity," explains Commodore George Hinman Jr., who has ordered one of the new boats. "This coincided with the introduction of the new IRC offshore rating rule, which favors greater stability than the older IMS rule, so we thought the time was right to get people excited about a new class."

The club began its quest by announcing a design competition. This attracted 10 entries, which were reduced to three finalists: a Bruce Farr design, another from Ian Mills and the package deal by German Frers and Swan. "It was a difficult decision," admits Hinman. "The designs proposed by Farr and Mills were both excellent, but what swayed our members, a number of whom have owned Swans, was the quality package offered by Frers and Nautor. What we have worked to create is a truly Corinthian class to be sailed by owner-drivers and amateur crews that promotes high-level and high-performance competition," Hinman adds. "We wanted a multi-dimensional design, one that would provide great one-design racing around the cans, be competitive under IRC to race in premier events like the Bermuda and Fastnet races, yet also make a good cruising boat."

Ocean racing expert Mick Harvey was brought in by the club to oversee the project and practicalities, as well as work with Frers and Nautor to draft strict class rules. The overriding criteria here have been to keep the class Corinthian and contain costs. One of these rules is that the bottom has to be painted with antifouling paint to discourage the costly idea of dry-sailing the boats. Sails are also strictly limited after their initial purchase from any sail loft; owners are restricted to one new offshore sail per year. The strongest rules, however, are leveled at owner-drivers who must not have competed in the Olympics or America's Cup or won a world championship during the past eight years.

The hull and deck moldings are one of the first to be produced using Nautor's new, five-axis computerized milling machine, which forms precision tooling and very fair lines. The one-design aspect of this class is further enhanced by the new infused-molding process that Nautor has now embraced to produce a consistent laminate of E glass and carbon reinforcements. The keel and cored hull have also been engineered to absorb high-speed grounding loads-a priority when rock-hopping in close competition around Newport and Narragansett Bay or the Solent.

My first impression was that this is a big 42-footer, with generous beam and volume. She has a large open cockpit with twin pedestal steering. All halyards and control lines run through conduits within the deck, and the wide side decks provide comfortable perches for sitting out.

The carbon mast from Hall Spars is supported by two pairs of 20-degree swept spreaders to negate the need for runners and check stays. An aluminum boom further contains costs. Her 7/8 rig carries a narrow 106 percent overlapping jib set on a Reckmann furler with a dual-groove carbon foil that cleverly allows for easy adjustment to the length of the forestay. The class rules provide for both asymmetric and symmetric spinnakers, which are flown from the end of a retractable carbon bowsprit.

Minimal overhangs of this easily driven hull maximize her waterline length. The T-shape keel, with a lead torpedo bulb, can be replaced with a shoal-draft keel for cruising. The yacht also has a generously sized narrow chord rudder. Propulsion comes from a 40 hp Volvo Penta diesel sail-drive.

Belowdecks, the custom Swan "teak temple" interior has been tempered with an inner laminate lining around the deck and coachroof sides. Done to contain costs, this works well, providing a light and airy atmosphere. Accommodation is divided between three double berths-one forward and two beneath the cockpit, with two further Pullman berths provided by pulling up the settee backs either side of the saloon. The forward cabin and central dinette table in the saloon easily remove to provide sail stowage and packing space when racing. A small galley with an alcohol stove is situated to starboard of the companionway, opposite the nav station, which has the B&G instruments fitted on a cupboard door that is held open to face the navigator when sailing. The heads are situated just forward of the mast, opposite a spacious drying locker.

Sailing this 42 was a treat. Not only was she light and responsive to the helm, accelerating quickly from tacks and the merest gusts, but she also proved very stiff in a 10- to 15-knot breeze off Pietarsaar in Finland's tree-lined Gulf of Bothnia. The northerly winds had generated a short steep chop, but even so very little of it came onboard thanks to the yacht's generous freeboard. Her foils gave this 42 a wide performance groove that was easy to find and hold; off wind she really came alive, handling like a dinghy as we played the waves under her giant asymmetric spinnaker. Directionally very stable thanks to her tall rudder, the 42 stalled out only once, when one of our crew overdid the wave playing.

Her functional deck layout evolved from the Swan 45, with all control lines leading back to the cockpit. Her low coachroof was no impediment for the crew when tacking and the deck's non-slip patterning was effective, though if I was bowman I would want to see some additional grip on the flush forehatch.

A joy to sail, the NY42 shows how one-design club sailing can be encouraged to grow. She should offer Commodore Hinman and his crew many fun times during this winter's work-up-before the second wave of these one-designs arrive in American waters next spring.

Contact: Nautor; www.nautorgroup.com