Annapolitan Joe Evans is bullish on professional sailing for the 1990s. He should be. Evans is president of the U.S. Open 30 Class Association, formerly the Ultimate 30 Class Association.
Both Sid Morris' ProSail catamaran tour and Glenn and Toby Darden's Ultimate Yacht Race tour ground to a halt during 1990, leaving questions hanging about the fate of professional sailing events -- so popular in Europe -- here in the United States.
Behind the scenes, the owners of the boats developed for the Ultimate 30 class of the Ultimate Yacht Race series have been working to resurrect and reformat professional sailing of their high-tech go-fasters, working through their class association. The first 1991 professional regatta sailed in what are now called Open 30s is set for Jan. 16-18 during Audi-Yachting Race Week at Key West, Fla.
"Right now we've got enough boats committed," said Evans, adding that besides six of the 10 existing U.S. '30s expected, a British boat also may join the event.
"We're going to sail after the 50-footers (International 50-Foot Class Association), who are finishing up their series on Tuesday the 15th, because a lot of our sailors sail 50-footers, too. We start racing Wednesday afternoon, sailing through Friday, racing after the IMS boats come in (from regular Race Week events), around 2 in the afternoon."
Mount Gay Rum will supply the trophies, Evans said, and the event also is supported by both of Race Week's title sponsors, Audi and Yachting.
Evans said that the regatta will be primarily an exhibition event, rather than part of an annual points-tour series for overall championships.
Evans will give up his racing seat on Bill Ziegler's Chattanooga Chew Chew to serve as chairman of the Race Committee and primary organizer of the event.
The name change of the class from Ultimate 30 to Open 30 is the result of the class association's break from the Dardens' Ultimate Yacht Race structure in August.
"The Dardens trademarked the Ultimate name and have persistently rattled that sabre since last year," said Evans. He said that in addition to the Open 30 Class, a British one-design variation based on the design of Annapolis-based Maryland Flyer (one of the first custom-designed and -built Ultimate 30s) has been developed under the name Ultra One-Design.
Evans recently returned from London, where he and other representatives of the World Open 30 Class Association, chaired by Marcus Hutchinson, met to work on European development of the class. They began planning the first-ever Open 30 World Championships, slated for late March '92 in either Bermuda or Puerto Rico.
Of the European interest in Open 30s, Evans said, "There is a huge tour set up there next year, with up to 16 regattas including four in Denmark, several in France, and as many as 12 in England, although several of those are for the Ultra One-Designs only."
The meeting was "primarily to make sure we're all developing the same boat, and working toward the same goals," Evans said. "For the Worlds we wanted to make sure the boats we developed were going to remain competitive on the race course. Our goals are to keep costs of the boats down, close up the loopholes in the rule that might allow some kind of aberration, regatta and event management, and develop the sponsorship programs."
As originally set out by the Darden brothers before the first Ultimate Yacht Race in 1988, the rule specified only that the boats must be monohulled with maximum length (30 feet) and beam (18 feet), and minimum weight (2,000 pounds). Gradually restrictions on very expensive high-tech materials, such as titanium rigging, have been added to encourage ongoing development of the class by prohibiting extravagant expenditure. Rules also have been modified slightly in favor of safety and speed considerations found in the racers' experience.
The break of the Class Association with the Dardens' Ultimate Yacht Race program began in San Francisco in June, Evans said.
"We arrived and became aware that there were no preparations for videotaping the regatta (for broadcast), which was a real problem since a lot of the sponsorships of the boats hinged on it," Evans said. "The owners met to see what they could do about it, because obviously it was very important to their sponsors, and they agreed to put up $40,000 toward production of the video, which the Dardens were very happy to accept, and the stuff was shot, and everything seemed hunky-dory."