Great ARTICLE and many thanks to Tom MEADE and the Providence Journal.
Sailors may go bonkers for a Bongo A new high-performance sailboat designed by Jamestown's Paul Cronin is safe and comfortable, not to mention a "blast." 01:00 AM EST on Tuesday, March 8, 2005 By TOM MEADE Journal Sports Writer
Adrift in its designer's mind for several years, the Bongo Sport Boat is sailing into international prominence with another new design right behind it.
Paul Cronin, a naval architect living in Jamestown, was torn between two ideas: one for an unusual kayak and the other for a small, high-performance sailboat.
At the time, the kayak market was beginning its boom, so the sailboat would have to wait. Several years
later, however, the Bongo was born, and now there are enough of them to be a fully-fledged class with its first mid-winter championship scheduled to start next week in Sarasota, Fla. And as the first container of Bongos headed for Europe late last month, officials of Sail Newport began planning the first Bongo National Championship, July 15-17 on Narragansett Bay.
"The boat's a blast," said Sail Newport executive director Brad Reed, who has already chartered a Bongo to race in the worlds with his seven-year-old son.
For Cronin, a sentence containing "Bongo" plus "blast" equals success. The 46-year-old boat designer, owner of PC Sailing, has worked on America's Cup, Olympic, and high-performance sailboat campaigns. Several years ago, he designed a kayak that had the paddler sitting on top, rather than inside, the boat. A dozen kayak designs later, Cronin sold the Bristol company -- today it's called Heritage -- and returned to sailing to create the Bongo.
"This boat has been in my mind for a long time," he said. "I've done a lot of high-performance sailing in double-handed boats, and I wanted something that would introduce the masses to that style of sailingwhere you go so fast that you start creating your own wind. I wanted to do that in a safe, comfortable manner."
Comfort was a critical criterion. After many years of big-boat sailing, Cronin, then in his mid-40s, had been through four knee surgeries. He was sailing a Laser for the high-caliber competition the class offers, but it was painful. "When you go downwind, you put your heel in your butt, and you kneel, and my knees don't like that," he said. "I can hike [stretching out off the side of a boat to flatten it] all day long, but my legs don't like that bending downwind."
A Bongo is just over 15 feet long with only a 3-foot beam at the waterline, but it has a 6-foot, 6-inch spread from the edges of its wings.
The cockpit is roomy enough for two, but the boat is intended to be sailed single-handed by someone Cronin's size. He weighs about 165 pounds. His wife, Carol Cronin, a member of the U.S. Olympic sailing team, plans to race the boat with a crew in next week's mid-winters. "It'll take two 125-pound women, easy," he said.
Below the waterline is a 4-foot lifting carbon-reinforced keel with a 100-pound lead bulb.
Cronin introduced the Bongo at the Annapolis Boat Show in Maryland late in 2003, and it was an immediate hit.
"We took a near-final prototype for a spin on a 5- to 8-knot day in November in Newport, and had a blast, hiking off the wings as the boat sailed effortlessly upwind and down," Dave Reed wrote in Sailing World magazine last year. "That was the easy part. The hard part was kicking our displacement-sailing habits and remembering to keep the bow down upwind and to sail higher angles downwind. With so little hull in the water, the boat moved lightly as the leeward chine grabbed hold and kept the boat tracking. Even though you're sailing what feels like a 15-foot dinghy, you're still dragging around a lump of lead, so the Bongo's keelboat attributes are obvious. Upwind, the acceleration is gradual, and to keep pace you really have to pay attention to sail trim. But the stability from the keel is definitely there, and once you get things balanced, the boat practically sails itself -- you could drop the tiller, lean in to tie your shoe, and never stray off course. Downwind, the Bongo's performance is what you'd expect from a mini sport boat -- cleat the main, trim the chute, slide aft, tuck your foot under the foot strap, lean back, and enjoy the ride. It's that simple."
When Reed sailed the boat, it came with only a mainsail and a spinnaker. Since then, Cronin and his sailmakers have designed a jib. Now, the Bongo is equipped with a 112-square foot main, a 147-square foot spinnaker, and a 19-square-foot jib.
"The jib has helped dramatically," Cronin said. "It makes the backside of the mainsail more efficientso you point higher, but you do that by going faster through the water."
At some point during a test sail, the Bongo achieved 17 knots, according to Cronin's handheld GPS, but the designer was unaware that the boat was going that fast at the time.
The beauty of the boat, he said, is that a beginner can hop aboard, and with a couple of weeks of coaching, can become an upper-intermediate level sailor. And an already experienced sailor, said Cronin, will appreciate the boat immediately. "It rewards all the little tricks that good sailors know how to perform," he said. "An expert sailor realizes that it rewards everything that you do, but it also brings out all of your mistakesIt makes the racing and training very sailor-dependent."
Cronin's manufacturer in Canada was scheduled to complete Bongo hull No. 39 this week, and he is working on a new design that the designer plans to introduce next autumn, either in Newport or Annapolis. "It's a boat that will compliment the Bongo," he said, and it will be the second in a series, the designer has planned.
Fully rigged on a custom trailer, a Bongo costs $14,495, according to the boat's Web site, sailabongo.com.
THE 2009 NORTH AMERICAN BONGO CHAMPIONSHIP August 15/16, 2009 The 52nd annual National Capital Regatta hosted the 4th annual BONGO NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP.
The venue and meals were unequalled and if possible exceeded last year's event. The "on the water lunch" was great and the steak dinner with corn on the cob, baked potato and Caesar salad was mouthwatering.
Over 230 boats with in excess of 300 participants and coaches joined in the regatta.
The Saturday start was delayed due to the huge high pressure over most of Eastern Ontario. Temperatures were 29 degreees Celcius. Alpha course, with the BONGO start was the only course to get off any races, and that was limited to two for the Y Flyers, Fireballs, 29ers and Bongo. The first race was run with approximately 3 knots of wind from the North. The course set was a triangle- windward - leaward. The Bongo struggled with the light winds, but actually caught up to half the Y-Flyer fleet that started 5 minutes earlier. The second race was less than 3 knots from the East. Same course. The winds backed by the time the boats reached the windward and it was a beat to the wing mark. It backed further once reaching it to the downwind mark with another beat. The race was shortened and no further races were run as the wind went calm. No races were run on Bravo or Chalie courses. Sunday no races were run due to no wind. The Y-Flyer and BONGO were the only fleets to have awards in the 2009 National Capital Regatta!
The Bongo Class wishes to thank the organizing committee of the National Capital Regatta for including the BONGO in the event.
See you for the 53rd next year in August 2010! THE 2008 NORTH AMERICAN BONGO CHAMPIONSHIP
by K. Lewinski and E. Pattey Ph.D.
The Bongo North American Regatta, hosted by Britannia Yacht Club as part of the 51st Annual National Capital Regatta, in Ottawa, Canada, took place On August 9th 2008 on Lake Deschenes (Ottawa, ON).
What a great venue: 2 ramps for trailer launching and 2 cranes for hoisting boats. The regatta volunteers provided on water lunches as well as entertainment on Friday, and a BBQ-your-own strip loin steak dinner with all the trimmings- potato salad, corn on the cob and ceasar salad!
The BYC herf club entertained on Saturday evening, where Cuban cigars and Crement d'Alsace were sampled around the Smoky Stone Sanctuary.
Bongo 41 was racing in the miscellaneous fleet on Alpha course, second start after the I-14 North American Championship start. The course was set with one mile Triangle courses to allow the planing boats to have a ride before dowsing A-sails.
Saturday was a warm sunny 27 oC with W winds which started at 8 kt with gusts to 10 kt before the winds dropped by the end of the regatta, and the RC got off 3 races in the Misc. fleet.
The Bongo 41 won the Misc. fleet showing manouverability in the gusty and variable wind conditions, and unlike the other planing boats avoided capsizing when launching the asymetrical spinnaker. Prize giving took place at BYC at approximately 4PM on Sunday, in front of the Canadian Coast Guard booth.
Thanks to Britannia Yacht Club, Regatta organizers, RC and volunteers and staff for hosting the event.
See you next year for the 52nd National Capital Regatta!
Bongo North American Regatta 2012
Great sailing on the Bravo Course with a new twist for course set up:
This course set up provided both a short version (as above) and an extended course doing the Windward-Leawards using the Start pin and Windward marks.
As it turned out both Saturday and Sunday we used the shorter course to race on. Our couse had a start for Laser full rig and a start for Laser Radial before the PN Handicap fleet start. Bongo 41 was on the line with a 29er and a C2 and enjoyed some good racing in the four starts as this old body coudn't take doing the full 5 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. Saturday's winds were 10->15 Kts from the ENE and Sunday's winds were 15->10 Kts. I had the full main going on Saturday and really had to hike to keep the boat flat. Sunday, with the forecast for stronger winds, I started with a single reef, and in the second race on the first upwind leg, I shook the reef with about a 10 second penalty, but the increased boat speed got me a bullet crossing the finish line. All in all not a bad regatta considering it was the first time out this year after suffering a leg injury in early June. Saturday and Sunday lunch was make-it-yourself sandwich with a variety of meats and cheeses and veggie options, granola bars and juice box. Regatta dinner was again AAA Strip loin steak, salads, and fresh corn on the cob.
The participation was down substantially from previous years due to the forecasts calling for strong winds, rain and thunderstorms right up until Friday before the regatta. CORK in Kingston started on Monday morning so a lot of the usual competitors skipped the National Capital in favor of holding their powder dry for that main event.
Too bad Bongo participation is not improving at this great venue.
See you at next year's Bongo North American Regatta next August at Britannia Yacht Club's 66th Annual National Capital Regatta!