Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why I chose F16 / Blade

I thought it might be helpful to someone considering the class to hear how I came at the decision to go F16 and buy my Blade.

My criteria set consisted of buying a performance cat that was a lightweight, single handed, fast boat that was versatile in terms of sail plan. For example, I really wanted to learn to sail a spinnaker. I am more of a recreational sailor than racer, but I also wanted the option to do more racing.

The first boat I looked at was the Hobie 17. There is some presence of this boat in the Midwest where I live and used boats were available at very reasonable prices, but it was primarily the weight that ruled it out. Lugging it around the beach and righting it looked like it would be a pain.

The second boat I looked at was the Hobie FX-One. This is really the boat that got me interested in high performance cat sailing. It had the modern hull design and the ability to sail a jib and a spinnaker, plus it just looked cool. Weight was a factor in not going with this boat, but also, both new and used ones seemed a bit hard to come by. While racing isn’t my highest priority, I couldn’t figure out who they were racing against – at least in the Midwest, anyway. I didn’t see any Regatta pictures that showed an FX-One.

I was e-mailing back and forth with someone who I met on the Hobie Forums and he suggested that I look at the A-cat. Wow, what a cool boat. I liked the idea of a light weight speedster and this was my introduction to open design where as long as you stuck to some basic parameters, the boat could use different materials, etc. Also, there seemed to be some racing of A-cats in the Midwest and a supply of used boats at reasonable prices. But, it was pretty much a racing boat and did not have a spinnaker. Also, it seemed a little too light for my recreational sailing.

I then looked at the Nacra F17. It met nearly all of my criteria, plus there was an active racing community in Wisconsin and Michigan. The weight of the boat put me off a little though, and I personally didn’t like the looks of the boat (nothing personal, F17 sailors).

Then I discovered the F16 site and the Blade. Again, a very cool design like the FX-1 that met all my criteria. I looked into building one, but while I think I was up to it technically, I didn’t have a spare 200+ hours the designer indicated it would take. Then I e-mailed Matt McDonald at Vector Marine. He gently steered me away from the home build and answered my questions about the Blade. He also said he had a used Blade destined for Europe, that wasn’t sent due to the unfavorable exchange rate. A couple of weeks later, I was in Florida on business, so I drove over to Titusville. Matt spent well over an hour with me showing me the production process and showing me a Blade he had rigged up. I was impressed by all the standard features of the boat, how it could be tuned from the wire and the quality of the workmanship. Also, Matt knew the production end, but was a sailor as well. Minor point but I have spent my fair share of time talking to people who don’t know about catamaran sailing (even Hobie dealers). It’s reassuring to buy from somebody that knows what you are talking about. I came home determined to figure out a way to buy it.

Below is a table comparing the various boats I considered (click to make larger). Data was taken off of web pages. I am told the weight for a F17 boat is closer to 300 lbs. Also, boats like the H17 and F17 do have a jib option, but I couldn't find any information about the jib dimensions.

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