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Don't count out monohulls just yet

Russian-born designer and an American skipper have a speedy prototype planned; need an investor

SpeedDream is a monohull designed to challenge the speeds of multis.

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With the America's Cup choosing catamarans and every significant sailing speed record in the book held by a trimaran, multihulls are on a winning streak. But there is an odd combination of a Russian-born designer, an American skipper and a host of marine businesses who want to change that with SpeedDream (http://, an extreme monohull designed to beat multis at their game by reaching top speeds of 50 knots and setting passage records.

Lined up are several companies and individuals, including Hall Spars, builder Eric Goetz who's trying to restart after filing for bankruptcy, the Stevens Institute, Doyle Sailmakers, SDK Structures and the design offices of Dave Pedrick and Rodger Martin. Still missing: A sugar daddy who bankrolls the adventure.

A 70-degree canting angle is key to the boat's theoretical speed.

At first blush, a monohull doing 50 under sail sounds a bit like "Aliens ate my Buick." But not to Vlad Murnikov, a Russian-born yacht designer who now is based in Groton, Mass. "Designing to class rules, I had a very traditional view of monohulls," Murnikov says. "I had to put all that aside, because I wanted no limits."

In his mind, design rules have held monohull development back, while big, fast multihulls faced no such restrictions. Throwing convention to the wind is how Murnikov entered the stage with his design of Fazisi, the Soviet entry into the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race. It was a light-displacement boat, underfunded, roughly hewn and campaigned by amateurs, which starkly contrasted the large and heavy ketches of the time. Despite endless problems, Fazisi clocked the best 24-hour run of the race with 386 miles and finished respectably. After moving to the U.S., Murnikov worked with Ted Hood for a while and struck out on his own with the MX-20, a light and trailerable performance cruiser and the MX-Ray, a 13-foot open-transom dinghy with asymmetrical spinnaker that was the precursor to today's single-handed performance skiffs.

Sailing is a game of power vs. stability. To go fast, you need lots of both and multihulls are winning because they have huge sail areas while they remain light and because they use beam rather than heavy ballast to stay upright. "I guess you could call SpeedDream a 'monomaran'," Murnikov says. Seen this way, it's not much different from cats and tris. "To go fast, a multihull must sail on one hull, so it becomes a monohull," he explains. When it does that, one or two hulls are high up in the air, which creates a lot of drag, another mortal enemy of speed. And that's where SpeedDream could have an edge with canting ballast that's similar to, but also different from, what we've seen on Volvo Ocean Race 70s and many other fast monohulls.

Murnikov thinks he can come up with a system that uses a strut of up to 30 feet and has a 70-degree canting angle (vs. 40-50 in current systems), which would need much less weight to produce good righting moment. Next he wants to make the boat sail at 20-25 degrees of heel on a "planing surface," which would put the ballast bulb near or above the surface.

The questions time has to answer are: Can Murnikov and company combine all of them in one boat? And will they get a chance to show they can? "We need a lucky break," he says, hoping an oligarch can spare some change, so SpeedDream can become more than just that.

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue.