Most of us started sailing in daysailers. The daysailer of 35 years ago was usually a stout sloop with considerable stability and a moderate rig. If you preferred a more active style of daysailing, you could go for an International 14 or a Thistle. I sailed on a 24-foot Raven dinghy for about three years. Snipes were a nice intermediate daysailer for two people and Lightnings were fine, if sedate, for three. As long as the fleet stayed active and competitive, the true performance of the particular class was secondary. Crossing the starting line with 30 other 8-foot El Toros can be stimulating, serious fun.

The Front Runner 19.

The Front Runner 19.


Today we are intensely focused on the performance of a class as a measure of our fun potential. It makes sense, and I am aware that fast is fun. Designers today work to combine speed potential with a forgiving personality. The end result should be a boat with an appeal as wide as its potential range of performance.

Wood Thornton's new Front Runner 19 is a family daysailer designed around a hull and rig capable of giving it planing performance. I've never been crazy about this size daysailer. It's too heavy at 400 pounds to be sailed off a dinghy dock — "Bend your knees when you lift, dear" — and too small to leave in the water. Maybe I'm just spoiled with my Tasar. However, like the Stars, Solings and the Etchells, the Front Runner can be launched with a hoist and kept on its trailer. It just adds complexity to getting under way. The big benefit to this size is the boat's ability to take four people for a sail. Racing with a crew of two, the Front Runner will be a big, stable performer.

Seven feet of beam, combined with a flared topside and moderate BWL, provides the shape to get the crew weight outboard for stability. The entry is sharp and the turn of the bilge hardens as it goes aft to a wide and open transom. The centerboard is deep and housed in a trunk that is 90 percent below the cockpit sole. If we consider the Front Runner with a crew of two weighing 165 pounds each, we get a weight of 630 pounds. Using 19 feet as the DWL, we get a D/L of 41.

Using the same weight and 202 square feet of sail, we get an SA/D of 43.97. I used the actual sail area and not I, J, E and P for this figure. That's a lot of sail area, but note the squatty proportions of this rig, which manage to keep the heeling moment down low. The bowsprit retracts and allows the Front Runner to carry a 325-square-foot asymmetrical chute. These newer boats, with plenty of beam carried aft, can blast off on a plane with very little effort required by crew or helmsman. "Hey! We're planing!" It makes you feel powerful as you fly by your friend plodding along in his 27-footer. There is barely enough time to exchange greetings as you blow past.

The Front Runner has a huge cockpit. It's 11 feet long, nearly unobstructed, and self-draining, which is certainly an advantage for a dinghy. The centerboard trunk provides a convenient divider on the cockpit sole for bracing your feet.

Small-boat sailing is fun. It's easy, and it's a darn good way to hone your skills. If your teenagers are less than enthusiastic about the big boat, throw them in a dinghy and watch them come alive.

Boat Specifications

Draftboard up 6", board down 4'6";
Weight400 lbs.;
Sail Area202 sq. ft.;


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.