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The McConaghy 38 — New in Key West

By Bill Wagner

Key West has always been a proving ground for new designs and this year is no different. The Farr 40 and McConaghy 38 are two hot, new, high-performance boats that are making their North American debut at Quantum Key West 2012, and both have received rave reviews.

Harry Dunning, the designer of the McConaghy 38, has been in town all week to observe the boat’s performance and meet with potential customers. Dunning, who has served stints with two of the country’s finest firms in Farr Yacht Design and Reichel-Pugh, took a few moments to discuss the genesis of his latest boat.

Dunning was involved with designing the very popular and successful Mumm 36 while at Farr Yacht Design. This boat was based on a similar concept and was encouraged by longtime client Alexis Michas, who has raced a variety of one-designs such as a Farr 40 and Melges 32.

“Alexis sat down with me one day and said let’s do a one-design, but do it right from start to finish,” Dunning recalled.

So Dunning began some preliminary drawings of a pure grand prix racer that would have no interior, clean lines and a simple deck layout. However, he was then tabbed to serve as principal designer for the Mascalzone Latino America’s Cup challenge and thereafter the global economy went south. So the one-design project was put on hold for a few years.

Dunning did a few projects for McConaghy Boats in Australia and showed owners Jon Morris and Mark Evans the drawings for the proposed 38-footer. Morris and Evans were impressed by the concept and agreed to bankroll the project.

“I give all the credit to the guys at McConaghy because they spent the money to make this happen,” Dunning said.

Dunning is most proud of the fact the boat has been built to an extremely high standard with all carbon fiber hull and rigging, but is very affordable at $250,000.

“This is like a one-off, custom-style boat in terms of all the special details, but is half the price of what something similar would cost,” he said. “We understood the economy we were dealing with so we spent the money very wisely, very carefully.”

Dunning had a big-time team help with the McConaghy 38 as Dirk Kramers, formerly of the Alinghi and Oracle syndicates, was chief engineer while Kirst Feddersen, another America’s Cup veteran, handled the rig.

“We had a lot of good people involved with the project and did it like an America’s Cup design and build,” he said.

Photo of the new McGonaghy 38

Carbonado at Quantum Key West 2012.

Photograph copyright 2012 by Tim Wilkes

So far, nine of the McConaghy 38-footers have been built in China with owners hailing from such countries such as Australia, Hong Kong and Turkey. Rob and Sandy Butler of Ontario, Canada are the first North American owners and are giving their new toy a serious shakedown at Quantum Key West 2012. Marty Kullman of Quantum Sail Design Group is serving as tactician aboard Carbonado, which has shown impressive speed and led the High Performance class going into Friday’s final day of racing.

“The boat is fast and fun to sail. It’s also relatively easy to sail,” Rob Butler said. “We love the boat and are really enjoying racing it here in Key West.”


Previous Notes and News from Bill Wagner:

A Beautiful Catch

Key West Ambassador Trophy

Best Around the Buoys

A Force of Nature: Wiki Jones

Man Overboard!

From Lake Ontario to Key West — A 1,700 Mile Adventure

US Sailing Honors Ken Legler with the Harman Hawkins Trophy