R.I. sailor creates a family-friendly boat

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The inaugural Bongo national championship was held this summer in Newport, R.I.

The inaugural Bongo national championship was held this summer in Newport, R.I.

This summer Bongos made a splash in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.

Designed by Jamestown sailor and boat designer Paul Cronin, the Bongo sailboat was first introduced at the 2003 Annapolis Sail Show. This small, high-performance boat is quickly garnering a following, and now there is an ample fleet to race. (Hull 39 was recently delivered.) The first midwinter championships were held in Sarasota, Fla., in February, and the class’s first national championship took place July 15 to 17 in Newport.

Cronin says the 15-foot boat canbe sailed single-handed or with lightweight crew (the maximum weight is 300). It is the ideal boat for a parent and child to sail together, he says.

“Its family-friendly and fun,” says Cronin. “I wanted to make something to encourage people to sail with their kids.”

It is a high-performance boat, but is forgiving enough that novice sailors can handle it. The boat also is ideal for learning and honing racing skills, says Cronin. With coaching, beginners can advance their skills in a matter of weeks, Cronin says.

“It will tell you when you’re doing something right and when you’re doing something wrong,” he says.

Cronin, who also is a sailing coach, offers free coaching seminars during events.

The boat has only a 3-foot beam at the waterline, but winglike side decks expand the overall width to about 6 feet, 6 inches.

Originally the boat came with only a mainsail and spinnaker, but Cronin has since added a furling jib. Fully equipped, including a trailer, the boat costs about $14,500.

Cronin says he is devising class rules for the Bongo, and has lined up a European dealer to introduce this small boat across the pond.

Cronin says the Bongo is the first boat in a new line he is creating. While he won’t disclose the details, he says he hopes to unveil the second in the line this fall.

Cronin has been a longtime sailor, beginning with family outings on a C&C 35.

“I started sailing before I can remember,” says Cronin. The family favored cruising, but friends lured Cronin to the racing world. “I’ve been passionate about it ever since.”

He has sailed everything from Lasers, Snipes and maxiyachts. He has twice been involved with America’s Cup campaigns — America3 in 1992 and Young America in 2000. His wife, Carol, is also a competitive sailor and planned to sail in the Bongo nationals. www.sailabongo.com