Welcome, AMERICA Version 2.0

High tech comes in many flavors. Some of it is just completely new like the Lever building in New York City or maybe an IPad, but I like high tech when it reaches back and reaches forward. In yacht design occasionally I get to see such instances. I particularly like those designs that use wood in novel ways. I finally got the chance to sail on a 1980’s Dick Newick wooden trimaran that has been taunting me on its mooring on the river near my house for many years (I am digressing a little here, bear with me).

TRANSIENT is a cold molded wooden high performance trimaran that appparently still holds the two-handed record for an Atlantic crossing in its class. The boat has been owned by Tim Ross of Fair Haven, NJ for many years and he continues to make changes to her that keep improving her performance (Trimaran sailors are nuts for lighter and more power). We sailed the boat on a Sunday morning in light air, and the wind really never went over 10 knots, but while Tim’s young daughter and her friend were treating the boat like a jungle gym, we were zipping around the river doing more than 10 knots, at zero emissions. TRANSIENT is now almost a relic since the newer racing trimarans are almost all carbon fiber. But carbon fiber is not the end all, or the total solution, it is simply another arrow in the designer’s quiver.

Real design grace comes from using all material for the best possible benefit, and putting them together in a fashion that works, improves performance and at the same time allows us all to stay connected to where we came from.

Enter, AMERICA 2.0

Here she is at the dock. She sure looks like the low black schooner AMERICA, but with a cabin trunk. She was built by Scarano Boat Building and designed by John Scarano and his staff of exotic material junkies.

The picture is a little dark (I took it at 6:00 in the morning along the berth at their yard in Albany), but take a close look.

Right; no shrouds. The masts are freestanding; carbon fiber spars clad with doug fir.

Unstayed spars are only the beginning. The vessel has an aluminum substructure that bolts to an aluminum/wood composite hull. In other words, the boat’s lower part can be unbolted from the upper part. Why? Well often to John and his build/design crew the answer is “Because it would be fun to see if it can be done.” But if you study it closely and spend some time thinking about it, you’ll start to see why this is pretty neat.

So while we are taking the boat from Albany to New York City where she will be used as a passenger vessel for Classic Harbor Line, somewhere near West Point, I was lying back on one of the soft benches in the salon and looking up at the overhead.

It is quite pretty (and I am sure many of the thousands of passengers who will enjoy AMERICA 2.0 will think the same thing), but only a few will know that what looks like a classic yacht is actually assembled from literally dozens of materials, all of them carefully selected and integrated in one graceful whole.

That overhead is not wood; it is a combination of aluminum subframing, fir and cedar planking, teak and cherry veneers, carbon fiber mast substructure, fiberglass, epoxies, varnishes, and urethanes.

And this vessel is not some rich man’s folly. This boat will be making money for its owners in the passenger trade as an 85-passenger vessel.

So while we were dreamily sailing down the Hudson in the setting sun just north of the George Washington Bridge doing 8 knots in an 8-knot breeze (that is Rick Scarano at the wheel and master mechanic, Chris, is moseying back to the drink cooler), I realized that probably only you, me and the Scarano people will know that what we have here is a modern marvel – a boat that can carry 85 regular people paying a few dollars for the privilege of being powered by the wind at speeds faster than the original designers of AMERICA ever contemplated in perfect US Coast Guard approved safety – and that development is AMERICA Version 2.0. Thanks for the privilege, Scaranos!