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2008 November 10

Spirited yet stable self-righting one-design in an innovative and affordable package

From the parking lot of the spanking-new US Sailing Center in Jenson Beach, along central Florida's Treasure Coast, we spotted the distinctive new 16-foot Raider daysailer. It was hard to miss. Perched on a trailer at the water's edge, the Raider Sport model looked something like a miniature Stealth Bomber.

The details
Just beyond the snub bow, at a point near the maststep, the Raider's hull flares dramatically and carries its beam aft like wings on a paper airplane. While the overall beam is 7 feet, 4 inches, creating a length-to-beam ratio of 45 percent, the waterline beam is much less. The flared sections are filled with flotation that not only makes the Raider extremely light and stable but also unique in its ability to self-right after a full knockdown.

Steve Maseda and I joined designer John Drawe as he finished setting up the rig and prepping the Raider Sport for sailing. Although the Raider Sport offers terrific performance, it does not require an engineering degree to rig. After a bit of practice it takes less than 10 minutes to go from trailer to full sail, and you won't need to get wet past your ankles, the board up draft is just 6 inches and rudder kicks up. Once sailing, the board down draft is 3 feet, 5 inches. The Raider Sport displaces a whopping 200 pounds, needless to say it can be towed behind any vehicle with four wheels.

On deck
"The self-righting feature is only part of the package," Drawe said. "My objective was to create a fast boat that does not require an expert to sail. The Raider planes easily. Also, the wide hull shape makes it very stable." Drawe, a retired auto engineer, is also the designer of the Raider line of snowmobiles.

Steve Maseda, a former president of the Melges 24 one-design class and an experienced small-boat sailor, climbed in first. The Raider's remarkable stability was immediately obvious. Maseda is no lightweight, but he was able to step directly on the gunwale and position himself comfortably in the cockpit without any fears of upsetting the boat.

The Sailing Center was sheltered from the light southerly breeze and Steve had to coax the boat off the beach. The Intracoastal Waterway is wide at Jenson Beach and eventually he picked up a few puffs. From the perspective of the photo boat the acceleration was impressive. The breeze finally filled in, and turning off the wind, Maseda popped the small asymmetrical chute. Heading north on a reach with a true wind around 8 knots the boat began to plane and we had to push the throttle on the photo boat just to keep up with him.

The Sport model includes a tapered carbon spar and carries slightly more sail area than the standard Raider 16, which is fitted with a two-piece aluminum mast. The dual sail controls are also slightly souped up on the Sport and the mainsail is a DIAX/Dacron laminate. The fractionally rigged asymmetrical chute includes a sleeve and a clever halyard and downhaul arrangement. Hardware is by Harken and Ronstan.

Raiders are built by Johannsen Boat Works in Vero Beach, Florida. Mark Johannsen also produces the well-known Trinka tenders. Sailors everywhere admire these handsome rowing and sailing dinghies. Johannsen is passionate about small boats and not surprisingly the construction quality of the Raider 16 is excellent. The laminate schedule calls for biaxial E-glass and vinylester resin. The curved hull sections require sophisticated tooling but the result is a boat that is both visually appealing and structurally sound.

Under sail
Although the Raider performs best as a solo boat, I was impatient. I jumped from the photo boat and joined Steve in less than graceful fashion. The Raider has a rated capacity of 400 pounds and we were certainly pushing that limit. Taking the helm, I continued heading north. The boat was very responsive and, despite our bulk, continued to plane. The 48-inch tiller extension is almost too long, unless you're hiking. Jibing the spinnaker was a snap and we quickly brought the boat back up to a plane and sped south.

The boat hummed as we accelerated after each maneuver. Steve remarked politely how the extra hands were helpful but I could tell he resented my extra 200 pounds! Eventually we scooped up the chute and tacked toward shore. The Raider does not fly a headsail but is nonetheless easily driven and very close-winded. The boat tracks well with the board down.

A fast reach carried us back to the beach. We were having so much fun that we forgot to test the self-righting feature. John Drawe volunteered to demonstrate and, I confess, I decided to let him get wet instead of me. He sailed into deep water and did his best to try to capsize. Each time the flared topsides would dig into the water and refuse to submerge. At an angle less than 90 degrees the Raider would pop back onto its feet.

I was impressed. Not only will the Raider right itself quickly from a knockdown, it will be something of a challenge to knock the boat down to begin with. A simple hook arrangement on the clew and outhaul allows the loose-fitted main to release so that the boat does not sail away without you.

The innovative Raider 16 and Raider Sport offer terrific sailing performance in a safe, affordable package.