Sailability UK: seaworthy Trimaran Challenger (single handed / one design)

ChallengerChallenger Trimaran

The Challenger Class is a single-handed trimaran with one-design features, which is sailed and raced throughout the UK.

The Class was designed in 1979 by noted multihull designer Rod McAlpine Downie, specifically to allow those with disabilities to sail and race independently and on equal terms with able-bodied sailors.
he concept of the Challenger was originally concieved by wheelchair user Diana Campbell. Diana was disabled since her teens because of arthritis, but became a keen sailor, voyaging around the world on yachts. Sadly she did suicide at the age of 60 (in April 1993) drowning herself in an electric wheel chair driving into tidal waters suffering from terminal cancer.

While it may look like a trimaran the performance of Challenger has been compared to a Laser and therefore it has been dubbed ‘A Laser with stabilisers‘. It has an unstayed rig which is tweakable in every which direction. This provides a responsive, fast, stable dinghy that is sailable by a wide variety of disabilities.

With a Portsmouth Handicap of 1185 the Challenger is competitive in most club racing fleets and, because it has the sailing characteristics of a monohull fitted with outriggers it fits easily into the slow handicap, rather than the catamaran, fleet.

Whilst slower to tack than a monohull, the Challenger is suitable for lakes as small as 50 acres and is a very safe, seaworthy boat. The fact that it does not heel over or capsize makes it particularly suitable for those with low upper body strength and balance.

An electric servo winch is available for those needing assistance to pull the main sail in.

John Fisk with Rod McAlpine Downie ( Source: International Yachtsman (The Canvey Community Archive) Ⓒ 09/05/2015: Jane Parkin  )

John Fisk (l.) with boat designer Rod McAlpine Downie ( Source: International Yachtsman – The Canvey Community Archive Ⓒ 09/05/2015: Jane Parkin )

(Source: 2015 – White Formula – Brightlingsea (Essex))

Probably the most prominent handicaped sailor (quadriplegic disabled) is Geoff Holt who successfully managed it to sail on a Trimaran Challenger around the coast of Britain in 2007 (~ 1,400-1,450 nm) over a period of two months, covering up to sixty sea miles in a single day. The project started dramatically when Geoff was washed off his tiny boat shortly after the start line and his life jacket didn’t open as you can see in the video (see bottom link). Instead he didn’t gave up and made it. 🙂


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