Sixteen Years on One Shark

In 1965, I was half owner of a Pacific Catamaran when I first saw Sharks racing. I couldn’t stand just watching, I had to have one. In fact, I bought a 2-year-old Shark, even though I had never sailed on one.

The learning process consisted of the usual mistakes, many of which were challanges to the structural integrity of the boat. The boat would “leap” into action so fast that I hit a few docks, pilings, etc. The strength of the wood structure held the rest of my boat together during this initial learning period.

After the racing “illness” hit me, I attended about five regattas per year. I raced in Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, here in New York, and Miami, Florida. I met many nice people, and saw a lot of Sharks in front of me before I saw very many behind me.

Of all the regattas I raced, I loved the Miami Multihull Midwinters the most, as evidenced by the fact that I traveled to 12 of them. I saw many new types of “cats” at these races. I saw Hobie Alter bring his 14-foot “Hobie Cats” in the late 60’s. I was impressed by his sailing, but didn’t understand the boardless catamarans. Well, he certainly made it “go” and sell. I prefer centerboards but have been known to admire non-board boats such as Prindles and G-Cats. In fact I found many admirable qualities in just about every new catamaran to appear.

I found boats that were faster, boats that were lighter, boats that were very cleverly designed, but I never saw a catamaran that offered me as much as my Shark did. I had a * 600 lb., ten foot wide cat that folded down to five feet for easy trailering. I had four ample storage compartments in the “wing”, plus hatches to allow access to each hull. Most important, I had a boat I enjoyed, and never wished a design change to improve performance.

The boat is fast and not weight conscious. About 300 lbs. crew weight is ideal; however, I have seen Sharks win races with four people on board. The boat can handle the extra weight. In fact it has such incredible buoyancy it can float 15 to 20 drunks at a party (not my boat, thank you). The Shark is a lot of boat, carries 275 square feet of sail, and is comfortable enough to take an entire non-sailing family for a “ride” and not get them soaked.

I believe I reneewed my Shark love affair at my last Miami Midwinters. We had three races per day back-to-back (oh my back!). Between race starts we had time to rest and float around with all the new, interesting cats. While lying on the “solid” trampoline enjoying food and drink from the storage compartments, I realized I would never trade the extra features of my boat for the very spartan “perch” I saw for accomodations on the sleek field of catamarans. Sailing a Shark is the best of both worlds – speed and stability plus a reasonable amount of comfort.

I believe the Shark is the best boat design Roderick Macalpine-Downy ever created. Sixteen years in a one-design class is a lot. I spent that much time racing one boat. Many times I have gotten tired on my Shark, but never tired of my Shark.

by Al Perrin
Canandaigua, NY

*New Sharks weight in under 450 lbs. (class minimum)

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What is a Shark

The Shark is the classic catamaran designed in 1962 by JR Macalpine-Downie. This boat dominated the attention of the racing world at its introduction with its performance in all kinds of conditions, from heavy airs to zephyrs. It was a design far ahead of its time, with ability to go to weather and tack with ease. The best way to describe a Shark today in the world of high performance catamarans, is to steal a quote that was once heard from an Inter 20 sailor.

In the present day of auto racing a Shark is a “57 Chevy with a blower”. Exciting to race and you can take the whole family out afterwards. A true classic. Over 100 square feet of usable deck and trampoline space. The wood trampoline is lower than the decks for seating comfort. There is plenty of room and buoyancy for six people to go sailing. The mainbeam-bridgedeck structure eliminates twisting betwen the hulls, making the boat rigid. Four large storage compartments in the bridgedeck, plus hatches aft of the rearbeam provide additional storage and ventilation.

Shark hulls present minimum wetted surface for high performance. Their high buoyancy provides a drier ride and prevents pitchpoling. Pivoting centerboards and rudders allow easy beaching without sacrificing performance to weather. The Shark folds in minutes to a trailerable package which is no wider than your vehicle.

The American Shark Association formed in 1964 sanctions three annual National events: the National Championships, Midwinters, and the Canandaigua Multihull Open (formerly the Schenley Cup). Individual fleet racing throughout the sailing season complement these events. Membership includes the Shark’s Tale newsletter bi-annual publication.

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