Most production boats are conceived with a design brief from a builder who has a targeted market in mind. Not so the Landing School 30 (LS-30). It’s built by students at a non-profit boatbuilding and design college. The Landing School and its resident designer, Steve Dalzell, design and build boats as part of the curriculum: selling them is an afterthought. As a result, only two or three LS30s will be built each year, which means the school may have a new problem: this cold-molded wooden rocketship just might create more demand than the students can supply.
I first saw the LS-30 at last summer’s Eggemoggin Reach Regatta, where its Seldn high-performance carbon-fiber mast, square-topped mainsail, complement of high-tech sails and powerful asymmetric spinnaker contrasted sharply with the other more traditional wooden yachts. My eye was instantly drawn to the boat’s narrow beam, open transom, plumb bow and race-ready deck layout.
Later I joined Dalzell for a test sail in 12-14 knots of wind and a lumpy, unpleasant seaway off Marblehead, Massachusetts. I found the boat responsive, but demanding to helm. While the big mainsail (341.75 ft2) dwarfed the 105-percent headsail (44.78 ft2), I found that driving by the jib was the way to go. Concentration was needed to keep the boat in its groove in these conditions. Later, in flat water, it was much easier to drive the boat while keeping the main fully powered up.
The boat tacks easily through 80 to 85 degrees and has an ultra-responsive helm. It’s a legs-in sportboat, so there’s no need to fuss about with lifeline calisthenics, although you do spend a lot of time on the rail. My only quibble with the helm was a poorly situated tiller extension. The spacious cockpit can easily seat four or five adults.
Hoisting the big kite, which sets on a short sprit, was easy. All of the running rigging is led to clutches and winches on the cabintop, and the absence of running backstays (or even a backstay) makes it easy to concentrate all effort on the kite. The boat’s off-the-wind groove is wide and easy. The helm was light and the boat felt well balanced under main and kite. Soon we were surfing effortlessly under nearly 1,100 square feet of sail. Get going fast enough and the high-aspect foils (a forged-steel strut with a lead torpedo bulb and a spade rudder) emit a pleasant buzzing sound. It starts at about 11 knots and only sounds sweeter as speed increases.
Belowdecks, the interior is Spartan. Two long settee berths can accommodate a brace of reasonably tall sailors. There’s a compartment for an optional head, but no running water. The structural box around the keel is immediately below the companionway, where it gets in the way. Stowage is limited, but there are two generous cockpit lockers.
The LS-30’s restricted production run means it’s unlikely to achieve full one-design class status. No matter. This is a challenging, grin-inducing boat to sail under any conditions. Give it flat water and 8-12 knots of breeze and it will be hard to catch on a racecourse.