Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And when the need to create a new 20-foot design as a way of revitalizing double-handed scow racing on the inland lakes became apparent three years ago, the inventors in the Great Lakes region came up with the Inland 20. Introduced in 1998, this lively new scow is best described as a turbo-charged M-20 since it evolved from and uses the original M-20 hull design and sail plan.
The early, experimental development began at Melges Boatworks, but ultimately the folks at Windward Boatworks of Middleton, Wisc., persevered with the concept of producing a midsize scow fitted with a retractable bowsprit and asymmetrical spinnaker as well as a manageable price tag. Now, just 18 months after inception there are 33 of these 20-footers are in existence, with up to 20 regularly congregating at regattas around the Great Lakes region. (That count includes some initial M-20s that were retrofitted with bow-launching sprits and asymmetrical kites.)
From the mast partners down, the 595-pound I-20 is almost identical to the original M-20. It features twin bilge boards and twin rudders, a shallow cockpit and the standard two bailers. But two important factors distinguish this craft from its ancestor: a deck-mounted, retractable bowsprit and a carbon-fiber mast. According to builder John Hayashi, the bowsprit (also rendered in carbon fiber) and asymmetrical spinnaker were implemented primarily to give the hull more lift while underway in chop and avoid the deadly "nose-digging" that is a performance characteristic of M-20s in lumpy conditions and big breezes. This modification also yields a valuable byproduct - simplified boathandling. Unlike the M-20 and other scow designs, an I-20 crew never needs to go on deck forward of the mast except when coming to a dock. This makes the whole package more user-friendy, and therefore more inviting to novice scow sailors.
Above the deck is where the new boat makes its ultimate statement. A tapered, carbon-fiber mast built by Composite Engineering supports 176 square feet of working sail area. Not only is this lighter spar more-easily stepped (a real bonus for any trailerable vessel), its flexibility means that a 270-pound team can be relatively competitive with a 420-pound team simply by depowering the rig through a greater range of mast bend. The 268-square-foot spinnaker easily launches from and stows in a mesh bag mounted into the port sidedeck.
Hayashi and his employees at Windward Boatworks build the I-20 out of vinylester resin and E-glass vacuum-bagged over PVC foam coring in the hull and deck. To improve rigidity in the hull, the sides of the cockpit well extend fully to the sole (another change from the original design).
7005 Hubbard Avenue
Middleton, WI 53562
The standard package on the I-20 is available for $12,700, or buyers can opt for the race-ready version at $14,900, which includes sails, a trailer, and a windward-sheeting car on the traveler. The boat also comes standard with a 12-to-1 boom vang, a 4-to-1 backstay, lifting bridle and performance lines from Marlow Ropes. With a three-month backlog of orders it's safe to say the Inland 20 is here to stay for the near term. And, for husband-wife or parent-child sailing teams looking for some moderately priced excitement in one-design and Portsmouth rating events among the inland lakes, this boat is a strong option.