Had the opportunity last night to race on a boat that will never do the ARC or any other ocean crossing - an Ultra 30.
For those not familiar with the Ultra 30, the boat was designed and developed in the late 1990's as a way to bring the thrills and spills of high performance racing to the masses, and lure sponsorship and advertising so as to provide a livelihood for professional sailors. All of these very good goals, which we now see pursued by Larry Ellison and Russell Couts in the current AC72 / AC45 efforts.
The boat itself is basically a carbon skiff with a massive square-top main, 408 kg / 900 lbs of lead bulb on a lifting keel, and aluminium racks for hiking. There are no winches, and the main is trimmed 49er style from the boom. As one can imagine, the boat is extremely weight-sensitive, requiring constant movement to keep it from tipping over. Don't want to guess what the angle of vanishing stability is, but I can tell you it would be very easy to find out in a hurry - if you don't mind swimming.
The boat I sailed on is the reincarnation of the boat in the photo - Team Zombie - relocated to Long Island Sound and de-tuned for casual beer can racing (which seems ridiculous, once you see the boat). The trapezes are now gone (forbidden under LIS PHRF) and the spinnaker is only deployed when fooling around in lighter breeze.
To reduce windage, the nets were removed from the hiking racks, which now sport hiking straps in the absence of trapezes. This makes getting in and out quite the adventure, while there is nothing quite like the feeling of hiking on a hard aluminium tube covered in anti-skid, with no support for thighs or buttocks. Made me appreciate the luxurious comfort of Laser hiking.
For all that, we saw a top speed (SOG) of 10.1 knots last night, in about 8-12 knots of breeze, and were doing steady 7.0-7.5 knots in 6-9 knots close reaching. However, with a PHRF rating of 0.00, we fell victim to a well-sailed Farr 395 (a very nice boat in its own right, and quite quick in light air), a Beneteau 40.7 and a J122 (a Paulo favorite). Not sure if I'll be a regular crew on this boat, given my advanced age and declining health, but it was definitely a fun experience.