Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mr. Clean Goes to Chicago - An Anarchist's View of the Rocket


Mr. Clean, a diehard Sailing Anarchist, hard core sailor and his better half, Meredith, dropped by for a visit in Chicago. They spent a lot of time going over the boat, asking questions and didn't leave until Meredith squeezed herself into the cockpit cooler. This is their report. Thanks guys and look forward to catching up on the circuit.

Both Meredith and I loved the Rocket 22, and the biggest part of that may have simply been Anthony Dutton and his excellent crew showing off the boat. While the Melges 24 is the definitive sportboat in the US and Europe, there’s no denying that it’s a bit long in the tooth and appeals to a very specific audience. The Rocket takes a lot of what’s great about the Melges and makes it much more comfortable and intuitive, catering less to the hardcore alpha-male crowd and more toward those who have mellowed with age or never were that psychotic to begin with. I really believe that Dutton doesn’t care all that much how the Rocket compares to the Melges, and I like that confidence. He has obviously thought the compromises out well. The ability to put the conventional kite on when conditions are right gives the boat more versatility and caters more to the tinkering sailor than the Melges can. The utter simplicity of M-24s means that your heads stay out of the boat, and this is one of the reasons that M-24 sailors get so good at fleet races. The Rocket is much more adjustable and much more tweakable, with not a whole lot less speed. The ability to play with lines and optimize sail shape with easy adjustments is important to a large portion of the sailing world, and is important for distance and reachy races. I never sailed the Rocket’s predecessor, the Pocket Rocket, but I think this boat will scorch PHRF fleets until the rating catches up. Some of my M-24 friends will give me crap for it, but I think a well-sailed Rocket can beat an M-24 boat for boat in the right conditions. All the sail controls on a big boat are on the Rocket, and the cabin was a surprise: it’s actually usable and downright luxurious compared to the Melges. I think mast jacks and backstayless rigs will always make me a little nervous though. Of everything new at the show, I think the Rocket was the most impressive.

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