Latest entry in the performance trailersailing market is a sure Generation Y pleaser
It's no small feat launching a new two-person, friendly performance dinghy into a well-established small-boat market. But one company has survived the long process of working prototypes to final production to bring an exciting new boat, the Fusion 15.
A small but talented group of friends and boat fanatics are behind Ontario-based Fusion Sailboats, and its first and only product to date is the Fusion 15, an attractive and fun two-person dinghy. The Fusion 15 is a well-considered and welcome addition to the small boat market. One could call the Fusion "The Little Canadian Boat that Could."
I sailed the Fusion 15 on a puffy and gray October day on the Chesapeake Bay off Annapolis, Maryland. I entered the session a bit nervous about the prospect of sailing a powerful-looking asymmetric dinghy in puffy breeze through autumn-chilled waters. I arrived on the scene with a wet suit, a drysuit, a PFD, a fleece après sail outfit and straps for my sunglasses. It turns out that despite a couple of planing spinnaker reaches and a few sets of well-choreographed roll tacks and jibes, I didn't need any of this gear. The Fusion 15 is a solid addition to the new generation of comfortable, stable and fast performance dinghies.
The Fusion 15 was designed by Steve Killing, a talented and successful Canadian naval architect whose designs range from race boats to canoes to historic vessels to classic mahogany runabouts. Killing had already been working on Fusion-like ideas when he was approached in late 1999 by Canadian sailor Tim Sherin who was looking for a "fast, fun and easy to sail" two-person dinghy.
"I had a file folder full of sketches to prove it," Killing said.
Together, Killing and Sherin envisioned, as Killing says, "a boat that filled the gap between the current flock of high-performance athletic tip-over-at-the-dock dinghies and the daysailers we grew up with." Sherin's son Scotty, a member of the Canadian Sailing Youth Team, was also involved in the design and testing process and brought a youthful desire for performance to the project.
The Fusion 15 has a bold hull form and can easily carry talented thrill-seekers on fast planing reaches. But the boat is easy and smooth to sail in a variety of conditions. The ease of handling is augmented by a self-tacking jib on a roller furler. An asymmetric spinnaker that launches and douses with great ease via a clever and effective system is an available option, as is a trapeze package.
The Fusion 15 is a very well-built and ergonomically friendly small production boat. The construction technique, E-glass over CoreCell core, while not especially high-tech, produces relatively rugged, strong and light boats. But the beauty of the Fusion is in the details.
The boat is extremely comfortable to sit in and on. The centerboard trunk is a nice foot stop for both skipper and crew, but it is not difficult to get across. The deck edge is rolled, and hiking is comfortable and natural. Moving under the boom does not put one's head at immediate risk. The transom is open, and water flows out naturally. The whole package feels solid and well thought out.
Sailors with big boat backgrounds will find the Fusion's ride to be a comfortable and smooth alternative to the bashing and pain often associated with small performance dinghies. Scotty Sherin helped ensure that performance-oriented junior racers will love the boat's speed and excitement. Newcomers to the world of performance dinghies will find it to be a simple and relatively stable platform for chugging up the learning curve.
Sailing schools are a real part of the Fusion mission. And with the sailing world tripping over itself in an effort to capture the attention of the active and demanding "Generation Y," it is not surprising that sailing programs are looking for boats such as the Fusion 15. Over the summer of 2002 the Fusion builders loaned two early hulls to the Ontario Sailing Association for use in its instructor program. Since then the Midland Bay Sailing Club in Ontario has taken delivery of three Fusion 15s for use in its training program on Georgian Bay. Other training programs will certainly follow. The Fusion is a real alternative to the 420 trainer, and the fact that the boat carries an asymmetric spinnaker sets it apart from Club 420s, Vanguard 15s, Flying Juniors and other popular trainers.
In September 2002, 10 Fusion 15s contested the class's first national championship regatta at the Mississauga Sailing Club in southern Ontario. One-design racing will continue to grow. With a designed crew weight of 290 pounds, the boat can handle two modestly-sized adults, and parent-child combinations will also be possible.
After a relatively short period of production (the boat was officially introduced to the market in January 2002) more than 50 Fusion 15s have come off the production line. The vast majority of the boats are in Ontario, but a steady push stateside is serving the company well.
The Fusion 15 succeeds in keeping the cost barrier to entry-level sailing fairly low as well. The ready-to-sail base boat, including a mylar mainsail and jib, Harken equipment, and furling equipment, checks in at around $7,500. The trapeze and spinnaker packages are highly recommended; even if a purchaser is inexperienced in this genre, the ease of handling and potential for endless fun make the addition of these packages very sensible. The spinnaker package is an additional $740, and the trapeze hardware is an additional $325.
"If you build it, they will come," is the applicable Hollywood cliche. Killing, the Sherins, and the Fusion team have built a winner, and the market is welcoming the addition.