Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Lesson For George, The Sailor

You may not have been aware of it but after Cunningham stopped racing cars in the early sixties he stepped back into his earlier interest. He built a 12 meter yacht called the Columbia which he skippered it in defense of the America's Cup. He won. He was later inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Motor Sports Hall of Fame ten years later. So far as I know he is the only person to be in both.

Formula Vee also has a link to sailing. Bill Duckworth and Col. Smith were both sailboat racers prior to becoming involved with sports cars. It was the idea of single design racing classes, fairly common in sailboat racing, that was behind the concept for formula vee. When they happened on to Enrico Nardi's design for a VW based formula junior (which had been commissioned by a car dealer in Miami) they thought they had it locked. They wanted to take a single design and make it a "drivers" class rather than just buying the "trick on the week" in order to be the fastest. The SCCA wanted it to be a bit more open than that and set the rules so that everyone had to run to the same basic formula and had to use the same stock Volkswagen parts, but could make variations with in the rules. It worked and more than 40 years later, FV is still one of the largest and most competitive racing classes in the world. (The attached picture is the actual restored "Nardi" that was the basis for the "Formcar", the first formula vee ever produced (in Orlando of all places)).

The only real difficulty now is that it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to find the required pre 1964 Volkswagen parts required for the Vee ( A new racing engine for a vee is $6000 (55-60 hp) where a new engine for a First (85-90hp) is $3500). As a result formula first, which uses parts from later versions of the bug which are still available and still being manufactured in various parts of the world, is coming in to being. It is not so much a replacement for formula vee as it is an evolution.


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