Back in 1999, St. Thomas sailor, Chris Rosenberg, and boat builder, Morgan Avery, pondered how to jump-start racing and instruction following the decimation of the local sailing fleet after successive hurricanes. “We desperately needed a boat for club racing that was economical, fast, dependable and comfortable,” explained Rosenberg.
As an avid Melges 24 sailor, Rosenberg naturally envisioned key aspects of this design, yet in less of a high performance form. “Basically, we’ve taken a Melges 24-style cockpit and put it in a J/24 body,” he describes. “There are around 3,000 J/24s in on the U.S. mainland, of which only about four or five hundred are actually racing,” Rosenberg explains. “We don’t want to kill off the J/24, but with only one in six actually racing, we wanted to take some of the other hulls and actually do something with them.” He added: “If you can pick up an old J/24 hull for say $6,000, the conversion with re-decking and all brand new deck gear and rigging costs around $15,000. You have a really competitive exciting boat for just $16,000.”
In the new design, a used J/24 hull is fitted with a new Melges 24-style deck mold that is wider, has no traveler, and is capable of carrying five sailors. There is an inside track for a genoa, but no spinnaker or bow pulpit and the transom is closed. “The stanchions are lower and we put a cover on them to be more comfortable. The whole idea was to create a more comfortable cockpit,” Avery says.
Currently, IC24s are “converted” by Avery on St. Thomas and by the Racing In Paradise Team at Island Yacht Management in Tortola.
Christian Kavanagh, who works with RIP manager Richard Wooldridge, owner Chris Haycraft and fellow boatwright, Mike Junkere, explains how a conversion takes place:
“The first thing we do is check the hull for rot. J Boats did a fabulous job in building these boats originally because nearly all have been dry to the core,” Kavanagh says.
“Next, the deck and bunkhouse are chopped down to bare hull from within a foot and a half of the mast all the way back to the stern. The sink and extras down below are discarded, as is any vermiculite in order to make the boat lighter. Then, the hull floor is re-laminated for strength, deck glued on with epoxy and coated with a non-skid finish, hull fared, rigging and fittings affixed and boat hoisted in the travelift to launch. The process takes about 500 man-hours,” Kavanagh explains.
The seven, eventually to be 10, IC24s in the RIP program are owned privately, yet available for charter. The charters are part of a unique package where a group of sailors charter bareboat motherships for a week and IC24s for a 4-day one-design series where races are held at a leapfrog of different destinations such as Norman Island, Cooper Island, and North Sound.
“The beauty of Racing in Paradise,” Wooldridge says, “is that you can do as much or as little racing as you want. At the same time, those who aren’t racing can enjoy cruising, swimming or beach combing. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Presently, there are just over 20 IC24s sailing in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. There are also two in Annapolis, Maryland, where America’s Cup veteran, Gavin Brady, uses them to hone matching racing skills. And, there are a few at the Rush Creek Yacht Club in Dallas, Texas, where the barefoot sailor, Doyle Sherman, learned the conversion technique after racing in an IC24 regatta in St. Thomas.
Rosenberg foresees the IC-24 sparking a revolution in the Caribbean race scene. “Our goal is to get other clubs to buy or build a fleet and start a series of regattas, with the possibility of match and team racing.”