Talk to those who have switched to short-handed offshore racing and you’ll be hard-pressed to find many who want to go back to a weather rail stacked with crew. It’s not that they’ve suddenly realised that they don’t like sharing the experience with others, or that the boat just feels cluttered below, but that it is just more satisfying sailing two-up. Plus, it’s often a lot cheaper.
It’s these two factors above all that surely explain the increase in popularity in this kind of sailing.
Yet, unlike the moment when we realised that planing sportsboats were a lot more fun than the tubby lead mines of the day that rolled downwind like metronomes, or the sudden realisation that gybing an asymmetric spinnaker was no harder than tacking a jib, the growth in short-handed offshore sailing has been more gradual. And it is also building from another corner of the sport as the momentum for the new Olympic offshore class in 2024 gathers pace.
As the plans for Paris 2024 are now starting to take shape, where mixed-gender entries will be a requirement, there is also a feeling that there will be opportunities for a wider range of age, experience and crew weights. This has triggered a fair bit of interest among a broader group of sailors than normal. It has also drawn the attention of some of the world’s top builders as they look into producing boats that might tap into this new scene.
Of course some, like Beneteau, have been in this space for a while with their Figaro range of offshore racers. Jeanneau has also been successful most recently with its SunFast 3200 and 3600 models, with the new 3300 starting to make an impression as well. Other builders like JPK, J/Boats and Pogo have also been successful in developing interesting boats in this area. And now one of the latest to step into the ring is Dehler.
Well known for its innovative approach to design along with a racing heritage that stretches back to the 1980s when boats like the DB1 put it on the map, the German production builder has launched a 30ft offshore pocket rocket that appears to be aimed straight at the short-handed world. It is a boat that ignores handicap rules like IRC and focuses instead on creating a strict, high performance, offshore one-design.
But let’s get one thing out into the open from the start: this is a boat with an identity crisis.
Look at the pictures and study the detailed deck layout and spec and it is easy to see that this is a well thought out, comprehensively equipped racer. Yet study the interior layout and overall style and the message is that while it’s a modern, quick 30-footer, it’s also designed to be a sprightly family cruiser. So can it really be both?
When viewed from the outside, the Judel/Vrolijkdesigned Dehler looks every bit the racer. The reverse profile bow and the heavily chamfered topsides/gunwale that extend forward from her chainplates give the look of a smaller version of a number of well-known racing machines – the Fast 40+ Ran, countless Class 40s, or even the previous Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 spring to mind.
When viewed from dead ahead the rounded, full sectioned bow and a hard turn of the bilge from slab-sided topsides to flat underwater sections are further indications of the modern offshore style. And then there’s the fixed bowsprit off which the Code 0 and A2 and A5 kites are flown. It is removable for cruising, but when it’s in place (as it was for us), it shouts racing.
So too does the carbon mast, the square-topped mainsail and the twin backstays, with tails led forward through rope clutches to the primary winches mounted conveniently for the helmsman and crew.
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