The event was Cornucopia, an annual 75-boat PHRF and one design regatta, hosted over the Labour Day weekend by the friendly folks at the Dalhousie Yacht Club in St. Catherines, Ontario. This would be the ideal venue to put our magazine staff and this tricked-out rocket to the test. Real life. Real sailing. Real review, so to speak. Now the only matter left to resolve was, "Who would steer?"
And at just over 1,900 pounds that just about sums it up, for the SR is a 25-foot dinghy. Like the other sport boats in its size range (the Melges 24, for example), this single-purpose design brings together exhilarating off wind performance, light weight, a stripped interior, simplified sail handling and trimming systems, trailerability and a no-compromise, no-holds-barred, strictly racing philosophy. The line drawings rendered by C&C's designer at large, Glen Henderson, show a fine bow section as well as razor-sharp, low-drag foil sections on the rudder and a lifting bulb keel. Other conspicuous features of the 25 are a wide and open transom, a vast, shallow cockpit, pronounced hull flare aft of the primaries, spinnaker sheets that lead under the deck, a twin-spreader 7/8ths rig, and the choice of either an almost-masthead symmetrical spinnaker or an asymmetrical, flown from a retractable bow-sprit.
With all this emphasis placed on a light, stiff hull for speeds sake, one might expect that the SR would sport a fairly large spread of sail. Yet with a sail area of 275 sq ft, the sail plan on the SR 25 is anything but radical ñ moderate is probably a better word. Even with a sail plan that is over 50 sq ft smaller than that of the J-80, the SR 25 is billed as an all-round performer. Designer Henderson explains his approach. "Generally, sport-boats receive ratings based on their ability to plane off the wind in a fresh breeze. Unfortunately, these handicaps are often tough to race with in light to medium airs. And since we spend most of our time sailing in these conditions, this is one of our boat's strong suits."
While the knee-jerk reaction to boost light air performance is to stack-on more sail area in an effort improve a boat's sail area-to-displacement ratio, Henderson approaches this problem by looking below the waterline, not above the boom. To ensure light air zip with a moderate sail plan, the SR bow has a sharp entry, the hull is narrow and therefore easily driven, and the wetted surface area is so low it barely gets wet.
As Cam attended the skipper's meeting and tried to establish our PHRF rating (a preliminary figure of 120 seconds a mile with a symmetrical spinnaker), we looked over the layout of our steed. Our crew observed that C&C has not cut-corners in the hardware department, and all the equipment on the SR is top-notch and appropriately sized. Key components include Harken two-speed primaries, a Harken traveller, Spinlock sheet stoppers on the dog-house, as well as Harken control blocks. Composite Spectra halyards and spinnaker sheets are also standard.
On the way out to the race course, we gawked at some of the other well-conceived features of the SR. The cockpit floor, for example, is spanned by molded foot braces that permit the crew to sit comfortably when the boat is heeled. Similar braces exist up on the bow so that the foredeck does not go for a swim in the middle of a gibe.
There is not much to observe about the SR below-decks as the cabin is virtually empty, apart from a token stove and sink. There are a vee-berth and two quarter berths down there, but the folks at C&C can't properly call this boat an overnighter - without their fingers crossed behind their backs. For one, the needle-nose shape of the bow cramps the forward vee berth so much it is just large enough for a spinnaker bag and a single crew - any more than that and things would be very squishy. Something that would warm up the Spartan interior of the 25, however, would be the addition of a wood or fiberglass bin for keys, wallets, race instructions and sunscreen.
One of the most innovative features of the SR 25 is a lifting keel, which is raised and lowered in its trunk using a small trailer winch. With the keel wound up, the boat draws 16 inches -- barely more than a loaded canoe. The rudder, which lies slightly inboard from the transom for improved control, will also lift out of a cassette-style slot for trailering.
Even in the two- to four-knot conditions, we were able to tack the SR extremely fast. In fact, we lost very little boat speed coming out of our first tack, and rapidly accelerated again into top-gear -- our five person, 1,000 pound crew notwithstanding. As we tacked again to consolidate our position, Cam observed that the SR felt more like a dinghy than the Lightnings he grew up in. Indeed, roll-tacking this boat in light-air is key.
During one of our looser tacks, we swung the SR so hard that it nearly dumped the crew in the water to leeward. Moments later, as we sailed though the lee of an Andrews 30, our helmsman piped up, "This thing is a treat to steer." From my spot back at the main traveler, I also concluded that the SR points very high for a boat of its size. During the second windward leg, the breeze built to five knots. Sensing that we were not flat enough, our helmsman called for some weight and three of our crew dutifully slid out to weather. Hiking in five knots? So what will this machine be like in 20?
When we turned the top mark and ran off-wind, this Glen Henderson design remained a stable as an aircraft carrier. And while other boats broached violently around us, we avoided the foul-ups, surfing from tough-to-trough. As our confidence built, we began to experiment with our gibe and heel angles and concluded that the 25 felt quickest with a bit of windward heel.