As president of the New York Jets football team, Jay Cross puts in his share of long hours. When it’s time to decompress, chances are he’ll be found out on the water. That’s nothing new. As a young sailor, Cross competed in 470 dinghies at the Olympic level and also designed and raced International 14s; in the early ‘80s his Cross III design was a world standard for the class. But his subsequent career in sports management has also presented him with some interesting and challenging opportunities, such as helping to create the American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami, home of Shaq and the Miami Heat basketball team.
Despite his many shoreside responsibilities, Cross has always managed to keep sailing when time permits. Following his 470 and International 14 campaigns, he raced aboard Melges 24s. But when his wife and two daughters showed interest in joining him on the water on a noncompetitive basis, Cross decided it was time to build a yacht that would both sail well and be pretty to look at.
During summers on Shelter Island, at the eastern end of New York’s Long Island, Cross enjoyed watching vintage Herreshoff designs sailing in and out of the local harbors. He studied them all and was fascinated by their shapes and the way they moved through the water. Some were light skimming dishes with minimal underbodies and modest sail areas; others were heavier with more powerful sailplans. Cross did some research and confirmed what he had seen on the water—that many N.G. Herreshoff designs were light with minimal underbodies and low-aspect rigs, while L. Francis’s designs were heavier with much larger rigs.
Although Cross was intrigued by these designs, he continued his own search for a classic yacht. He wanted something that was beautiful, as well as fun and easy to handle for family sailing. As he went through Uffa Fox’s five volume compendium of significant yacht designs, a Knud Reimers design for a 30-square-Meter caught his eye and became a starting point for his new project. The 30-square-Meter yachts were, in their day, considered to be very light, they were slim, and they carried a very tall rig. They were the grand-prix racers of that era.
Cross appreciated the yacht’s features and its heritage, and saw that modern construction techniques would allow him to modify the original shape to make it faster. He saw he could also improve the rig and the ballasting; the new yacht, for example, would have a bulb keel.
Cross worked up some of his ideas on paper and took them to Shaun Carkeek of Botin Carkeek Yacht Design to work on the engineering and final design details. The firm has had great success with IMS designs, particularly in the Transpac 52 class, and has also developed a number of successful cruiser-racers. Carkeek’s partner, Marcelino Botin, is a member of the design team for the Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup challenge. Even though both men are heavily involved with contemporary designs, they have a passion for classic yacht forms. For them, Cross’s project has been a great opportunity to blend the old with the new. Carkeek saw immediately how the Reimers design could be improved. Among the more visible changes—in addition to modern carbon construction—are increased waterline length (about 18 inches more than the original) and twice as much sail area as the original, but carried on a hull and keel of comparable displacement.
All the weight saved in the carbon-laminate foam-cored hull was put into the ballast bulb, which offset the increased sail area. And, adds Carkeek, the yacht’s final shape has also benefited from some America’s Cup Class thinking. Although the hull does have overhangs, the lines are drawn so the waterline extends quickly when the yacht heels. There’s also an America’s Cup style trim tab on the trailing edge of the keel. Its control is on the central console, just behind the electric mainsheet winch. Carkeek designed the tab so it can unload the rudder completely, and made it powerful enough to tack the boat without using the rudder at all. Cross believes the yacht can be raced in light air with a crew of three— four will be needed in a breeze. That’s a lot fewer than the 10 or so crew needed on the rail of some of today’s competitive 40-footers when the wind comes up.
The boat’s interior space is quite luxurious—certainly when compared with its predecessor. There are four berths, an electric head, a hot-water shower, refrigeration, and, of course, auxiliary power. To maintain the yacht’s aesthetic proportions, interior headroom was kept at just under 5 feet; it’s not ideal, but is more than adequate for a family weekend cruise.
The double-spreader carbon rig, built by Novis Composites, sports up-to-date technology. For example, the rig has a set of reverse jumpers to handle the load of a masthead asymmetric sail tacked to the stemhead. The jib is self-tacking, and the headstay is so far aft that an A-sail tacked to the stem can fly as far in front of the headstay as it would on most spritboats. All halyards, jibsheets, reefing lines, and backstay adjusters run below the deck and exit at the central console; line clutches under the tiller are adjacent to an electric winch. The captive mainsheet winch is controlled by pushbuttons located on the sole in front of the helmsman. And to make the cruising experience more enjoyable, there is a recessed anchor winch forward along with a folding carbon bracket to handle the anchor.
With her 1/4-inch teak decking and mahogany-veneer coachroof, Waterwitch looks like a classic yacht; Cross would like to campaign her in Spirit of Tradition events. But he also intends to carry an IRC rating in his briefcase in case the urge to compete against hard-core racers gets too strong to resist. With her 50 percent ballast ratio and very generous sail area-displacement ratio, Waterwitch’s performance should be breathtaking. Of course, Cross also plans to set aside plenty of time for lazy afternoon sails among the Herreshoff boats spreading their wings as they sail from Shelter Island out into the warm breezes of Gardiners Bay.
Designer: Botin Carkeek Yacht Design
Edif de Capitania del Puerto Deportivo
Malino-Santander, 39600 Cantabria, Spain, Tel. 011-349-423-560-56;
Builder: Gunboat Yachts
Gatesville, 7766 South Africa
LOA – 48’9”
LWL – 32’9”
Beam – 7’
Draft – 6’6”
Displacement – 9,900 pounds
Ballast – 4,400 pounds
Sail area – 818 sq ft (100% foretriangle)
Auxiliary – 20-hp Volvo diesel
Fuel – 20 gal
Water – 30 gal
Sail area-displ. ratio – 23.39
Displ.-length ratio – 122.78