The Atlantic Cup presented by 11th Hour Racing is the only dedicated Class 40 sailing race in the United States.
The Class 40 is a monohull performance sailboat with a maximum length of 40 feet. The Class 40 has a strict box-rule, which basically means there is a maximum overall size for boats in the class. Competitors are free to manipulate their own boat designs, as long as they do not exceed the box-rule. Part of the attraction to the Class 40 is the box-rule because it keeps costs down. However, because that is the only rule it gives boat designers many opportunities to focus on the technical aspects such as type of sail, mast height and weight while not restricting innovation and development. Consequently, boats are very competitive and racing is extremely close over long distances.
The Class 40 was established in 2004 and has experienced the highest growth of the short-handed classes in the last four years. Many short-handed classic races such as the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Route de Rhumb and the Qubec St Malo all have a dedicated Class 40 entry, which has enabled the Class to be tested and become well established. Overall the original goal was to make offshore races accessible to amateur sailors; however with the success of the Class 40 a very strong professional competitor base has formed.
The Class 40 was chosen because it is a fast, versatile, affordable platform. This particular class is designed for short-handed offshore sailing, which means the boat is designed to be sailed safely, by one or two crew, in extreme offshore conditions, which is necessary for the offshore portion of The Atlantic Cup. The Class 40 will also guarantee very competitive, fast racing.
Why have off-shore and in-shore legs? The Atlantic Cup is demanding that competitors be skilled at two different disciplines within sailing: ocean racing and buoy racing. This will result in a competitive event and ensure the winner is a complete sailor. Additionally, the yachts will have to be all-around performers meaning competitors will not be able to tailor their designs to specific racing criteria. For instance, in the world of auto-sports this would mean that a car would need to be able to be a street racer and an off-road racer. Overall this will level the field between the different designs even further, and result in extremely close competition.
Why have shorthanded off-shore races? Shorthanded sailing is a very tough discipline, which requires both sailors to be both in top physical and mental condition to navigate through potentially difficult weather systems. With only two members on board, each will have to balance how hard they can push their bodies with relation to fatigue while trying to beat their opponents. Crew members will get very little sleep as they all want to push their yachts close to 100% for the entire leg. This means fast, competitive racing for The Atlantic Cup.
Also important to having two crew members on board is that the offshore legs will be in waters with commercial and recreational traffic. Having two crew means that they will be able to maintain a proper watch, which is essential for safety.