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In a class of their own

P40 Class

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A few years ago the idea was mooted to create a new class for boats about 40ft in hull length (IRC band 1.060 to 1.140), largely cruiser-racers with almost entirely Corinthian crews.

A First 40 is at the bottom of the band and an XP44 is at the top. The class includes but is not limited to J111s, J121s, J122s, Grand Soleil 43s, JND 39s, Mills 39s, Ker 39s, MAT12s, King 40s, and JPK 1180s.

Now all these 40-ish footers can compete fairly together within a new well thought out structure in the P40 Class.

To his great credit this idea was put together by North Sails’ Dave Swete and then developed with a small group of interested owners. The concept was doing quite well and then along came the pandemic which halted further progress.

P40 Class
Main image: The P40 class is open to a broad church of 40-something foot boats, from First 40s at the bottom of the band to XP44s at the top. It also includes J Boats, JPKs, Grand Soleils and many others.

As elsewhere, many other factors have contributed to a serious decline in racing participation in the Solent – an area that used to be the strongest in the UK. Some of this may be because there are just too many events and a dwindling fleet being spread more thinly. Numbers for the Hamble spring and winter series, which used to bring everyone together, have dropped drastically. It is a similar story for Cowes Week and the IRC Nationals.

The P40 class is now planning a relaunch with some significant changes. Hopefully these changes will revitalise the class. Currently the strongest growth on the south coast of the UK is with the Cape 31 class and double-handed offshore. Fully-crewed racing, especially inshore, is struggling.

P40 Class
Some of the boats are purpose-built racers but many are cruiser-racers and the crews are almost entirely Corinthian.

A newly established committee of enthusiastic owners have come up with some refreshing ideas in the hope of attracting more boats back to racing. The key points are:

  • Extended racing programme to incorporate three RORC offshore races as well as five inshore weekend events, of which two and three to count respectively
  • Season prizes to be awarded to top offshore, top inshore and overall winner of combined disciplines
  • New class logo and website, revamped social media management and print media advertisements
  • Class flags, battle flags and mainsail decals, supplied by Grapefruit Graphics to increase the P40s’ presence at sea and on the dock.

For owners:

  • Well established and broad range of qualifying boats already in existence, many of which benefit from meaningful age allowances under IRC, resulting in relatively modest entry cost, sensible running costs and limited depreciation
  • Dual-purpose platforms: close inshore racing on boats that are offshore capable (and can/will race as a class within a class offshore)
  • Boats with fitted interiors that protect residuals as well as being competitive under IRC
  • Competitive but largely Corinthian teams, with no more than one professional sailor per boat encouraged
  • Ideal size (and loads) for offshore campaigning for those that don’t want to either race double-handed or go for a fully pro out-and-out racing machine
  • Informal listing of class-compliant boats available and crew management via class-based social networks

For crew:

  • For competitive sailors wanting to get a taste of close inshore racing in larger boats, or serious offshore experience on the RORC circuit, P40s are the perfect platform
  • Because the boats are not full of professionals, there are more crewing slots available for crew who are motivated but don’t rely on the sport as a career
  • Vibrant social scene off the water
  • Class-based social networks to assist with crewing and social opportunities

For the first time the P40 owners have been asked to pay annual subscription to the class to fund these initiatives. This has been set at a modest level, since the class is targeting a group of owners who have never had to pay class subs before. So far, take-up has been excellent. Some sponsorship from the industry has also been achieved, with North Sails signing up as title partner.

In addition to limited financial support (the P40 Class is not trying to become a business), it is hoped there will be prizes in kind, support for social events and technical briefings. Strong relationships have been developed with the major clubs that organise high-quality racing such as RORC, Royal Yacht Squadron, Royal Thames, Royal Southern and Royal Solent Yacht Clubs. However, by concentrating on a limited number of events it is hoped each event will attract a good number of P40 entrants, not just Solent-based boats but potentially those from further afield including some from overseas, who may be considering basing their Fastnet Race campaign in the Solent this year.

Click here for more information on P40 Class