The International 8-Metre Class started in 1907, 94 years down the road the class of these approximately 50ft long yachts continues to flourish with fleets of up to 30 on the line at World Championships.
For the upcoming Worlds hosted by the NJK in Helsinki 3 new Eights are commissioned. 8-Metres are not 8 Metre long, they typically sport around 45-50ft overall. They are also not one-designs, the rating and scantling rules however are such that the expected active racing life of the boats is more in line with decades than years.
The 3 boats under construction are designed by Jacques Fauroux from France, Sébastien Schmidt from Switzerland and Jim Taylor form the USA. The construction will be cold moulded or GRP. There are no restrictions on the hardware used and like all modern racing Eights, the new boats will have state of the art equipment and sails as one finds on for instance the America´s Cup Class. To give an idea how the crew is kept busy; During the race the position and rake of the 18 meter long mast is adjusted hydraulically and usually hydraulics are also used for the outhaul, forestay and vang. Load cells with digital readout inform the trimmers on the respective loads which helps them to find and reproduce the optimum tensions on for instance the running backstays. A full range of instruments makes life even more fun for the real gadgeteers. There are also no limits on the wardrobe and at any one time the modern Eights will carry a minimum of 4 spinnakers, and 5 genoas, which are obviously changed during the race as conditions and courses vary. Again the latest technology such as Carbon 3DL and Cuben Fibre is employed. To make it all more exiting, the maximum crew of 6 means you´re grossly understaffed and getting the boat round the cans provides ample work for all crew with no time to relax on the rail. These characteristics made the 8-Metre Class the boat of choice for crew and matchrace training of the Swiss America´s Cup challenge. The modern Eights are in many ways a small 12-Metre with modern wing keels and trimtabs. Despite their 50ft length and 8½ ton displacement they turn a 360 at hullspeed well within 2 boatlengths. Just make sure the front end man hangs on to the forestay !
With close to 180 yachts registered world wide, the Eights are alive and the class certainly offers more than "just" pretty classic yachts! It also provides those within the class the opportunity to race with some of world´s best sailors including Russel Couts and Jochum Schuman