One way to get people excited about a new performance dinghy is to say: "The hardest thing to get used to is the acceleration." That's what the builders of the Hoot, a 14-foot, single-sail dinghy with wings are saying about their new ride. The Hoot is the brainchild of a group of San Francisco Bay area sailors, one of whom is, Doug Kidder, who owns Kidder Racing, in Richmond, Calif., which builds rowing shells. The first prototype was one of Kidder's shells, cut down to 16 feet, with a windsurfer rig on it. While difficult to sail, it proved the effectiveness of the large wings off the main hull.
Designer Chris Maas, sailboard sail designer Bill Hansen, and boatbuilder Billy Service worked up a second prototype, which is the basis for the production version. After many test sails on San Francisco Bay's Berkely Circle, they made further refinements in rig, sail, wings, and hull. The waterline beam of the finalized Hoot is 31.5 inches, but when the wings are attached, the beam is 8'4". Fully rigged, the Hoot only weighs 140 pounds, of which the hull is 50 pounds, which makes it perfect for car topping and singlehanded launching.
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an extremely narrow hull with hiking racks and an efficient windsurfer-type rig combine to make a head-turning singlehander.
Kidder and his team chose relatively staid fiberglass boatbuilding technology, vacuum-bagged polyester resin, fiberglass cloth, and Divinycell core, and credits his company's shell-building experience for the relatively light weight of the hull. "We see most boat manufacturing as pretty crude," says Kidder, "lots of resin, very thick hulls. We routinely make 21- and 24-foot rowing shells that only weigh 35 pounds. We're used to very light laminates, so we knew we could make a light boat."
The two-piece rig is carbon, as is the boom. Hansen, who owns the sailboard company Windwings, originally envisioned the rig as a classic boardsailing rig with a wishbone boom, but the Hoot ended up with a "standard" sailboat boom when test sails revealed the board-sailing setup performed poorly upwind. The sail, however, uses other boardsailing concepts, specifically camber inducers, which help the sail rotate through a tack.
Sailing a Hoot is relatively simple, according to Kidder, and has a lot to do with figuring out how to balance the boat. Under each wing is a pod with flotation, an extremely narrow hull with hiking racks and an efficient windsurfer-type rig combine to make a head-turning singlehander.
which prevents capsizing in most conditions. The full-battened sail's shape is controlled with a mainsheet, vang, and a downhaul, with the downhaul controlling how powered up the sail is. Pull on the downhaul and the mast bends, the sail flattens, and the top twists off. The vang also controls mast bend, straightens the leech, and flattens the foot. Kidder says the Hoot planes upwind, sailing at 8 knots of boatspeed in a 7-knot breeze. They've also clocked the boat at 18 knots in 20 knots of breeze. $7,000, www.gohoot.com
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