Vanguard's newest offering, the SunGlider, is an attempt to combine the best elements of windsurfing and sailing.
Novelty is often the name of the game when it comes to distinguishing your product in a crowded marketplace. And novelty is often mistaken for true innovation. In the case of the new SunGlider from Vanguard Racing Sailboats, there's a little of both at play.
This hybrid craftpart sailboard, part Sunfishwas conceived as a platform to divert guests at sunny, waterfront resorts as well as a quick, easy toy for second-home owners to get on the water and enjoy a little recreational sailing without the hassle of extensive rigging or trailers. At 90 pounds, the fiberglass hull is relatively easy to muscle from high ground to the beach or dock to water, and with a minimal complement of parts to assemble, getting underway isn't much of a chore. In fact, right out of the box the SunGlider takes 10 minutes to rig.
The SunGlider's innovative steering-sheeting system is about as simple as it gets.
The SunGlider's principal innovation is its steering wheel, which definitely turned heads when the boat made its debut at the Miami International Boat Show earlier this winter. That's right, this 12.5-foot craft is engineered to be driven like a car. The wheel and telescoping shaft are easily detached from the deck by way of a quick-release push pin, and the linkage to the rudder is permanently installed under the deck, keeping everything clear for maximum enjoyment and minimum clutter. A 2:1 mainsheet system is carried up the steering shaft to a cam cleat so that sailors can easily adjust the 63-square-foot sail. The SunGlider's rig consists of three Laser spars custom cut to size (two for the mast and one for the boom), and its appendages are essentially what you'd find on a Sunfisha spring-loaded, wooden rudder and a wooden daggerboard. In this case, the daggerboard pivots in the fashion of circa '70s and '80s sailboards.
The SunGlider's rig is easily stepped and kept in place by a 1:1 down haul set in a jam cleat.
Vanguard's marketing spin on the SunGlider is that it delivers the "thrill of windsurfing with the ease of sailing." But don't go thinking that you'll be jumping waves with this ride; the smallish sail plan means that accomplished sailors will need 15-plus knots before "thrill" comes close to describing the experience. It is, however, very easy to sail as the 4.5-foot beam and a full hull shape offer good initial stability, with the rudder appropriately sized to provide responsive steerage. And like any sailboard, the sailor will almost always go in the drink on his or her own before the SunGlider will capsize.
Standing up on the SunGlider is easier than one might imagine. The good stability of the hull makes it a simple prospect to climb aboard from the water and stand right up, using the wheel to steady yourself. Once upright, you can simply sheet in, turn the wheel, and you're on your way. And the sleeved sail is built with a broad window so that the operator has a clear view in all directions. To tack, you just turn the wheel, duck under the waist-high boom, and step to the other side.
With a slight rocker in the hull shape, Vanguard's SunGlider can handle a moderate amount of chop.
One word about safety: Because the SunGlider will ultimately find its way into the hands of less-experienced sailors, it's important that this population realizes the danger of an inadvertent jibe. With the boom set about waist height, an inattentive sailor runs the risk of being surprised and potentially clocked by the boom. That said, with the right supervision, this unusual craft could be employed as a fun learn-to-sail platform. Just stay in relatively protected waters and you're good to go.
The SunGlider retails for $2,800, which includes sail and mainsheet. For additional information about this novel ride, contact Vanguard Racing Sailboats at www.teamvanguard.com, or (800) 966-SAIL.