THE MERIT 25 ON SAN FRANCISCO BAY In 1980, when the popularity of the J-24 was beginning to crest, rumors began circulating around the Bay Area of a better boat built in southern California by a small independent builder. This boat was faster, cost less, rated lower, was nicer looking and was much better built. It was called the Merit 25, and the prototype had just won the MORC internationals, one of the most competitve events for custom racing boats of that size range. In many respects the Merit 25 is a close copy of the J-24, but with some very significant improvements. The hull is six inches longer, extenting the effective waterline length and ending in a more attractive reverse transom. The inboard rudder is more effecient and stronger. Maximum beam on deck is held to eight feet for easy trailering, but waterline beam and form stability are the same as the J's. The cockpit is a more comfortable, conventional arrangement with back-rests and coamings, and the interior is straightforward and functional. The mast compression strut, for example, lands at the aft end of the oversize V-berths, leaving them completely unobstructed. The 15/16 rig design probably represents the biggest improvement over brand J. The mainsail is identical, but the foretriangle is more than two feet taller, bringing the top of the forestay much closer to the masthead. This allows full control of forestay tension without any need for running backstays. Upper shrouds and spreaders are kept in line with the mast instead of swept back, and there are double lower shrouds. This eliminates the problem of losing transverse tension in the rig as the mast bends. The result is that the rig is slightly more powerful, trims as easily as a masthead rig, but has the mast bend and sail shape control of a fractional. Rick Lowrey of Sausalito Yacht Club brought the first Merit 25 to San Francisco Bay. Named DOS EQUIS, the boat raced very successfully in the YRA handicap division for two seasons. Dennis Fritz of Berkeley Yacht CLub was the second owner with PEPPERMINT PATTY. By the Fall of 1982 there were approximately 15 boats in the area, and although most were purchased primarily for cruising, daysailing, or charter work, enough of them were interested in racing to be given a one-design start in the Metropolitan Mid-winters. The local one-design fleet association was formed that Spring with about ten active racers represented. The fleet raced in SYRA (Small Yacht Racing Association) for the first season, where it was the largest and fastest class. Four Merit 25's also participated in the MORA Long Distance race from San Francisco to San Diego, for an unnofficial one-design class. It was the firt long heavy-air offshore test for the boat. All four finished the race with fantastic stories to tell of high-speed planing and surfing, pegged knotmeters, and wild midnight spin- outs. But no damage. 1984 was the class' second season in SYRA, and again several boats sailed to San Diego. A few of the boats were also racing regularly in the local ocean series, while others were doing well in various Friday night races and other special events. For the 1985 season, with about 30 boats on the Bay, the class moved to YRA one-design status. Participation averaged about ten boats on the starting line for each race. And for the '85-'86 Metropolitan mid-winters, there were as many as sixteen boats on the line for the one-design start, with up to ten also racing in the handicap division. After five years in the Bay Area, the Merit 25 has established a reputation as a very good all-purpose boat with a strong one-design organization behind it. The boats have an exceptionally good record for safety in the ocean. They can surf and plane like ultralights, but have the all- around performance of the middle-weight. Although Merit Marine has been able to build the newer boats a little bit lighter than the older ones, the early hulls have remained extremely competitive on the Bay. TWILIGHT ZONE, the 1985 season champion, was built in 1979. CHESSEPEAKE, runner-up by half a point, was new in 1985. It is significant that both boats are wet-sailed, both boats have raced to San Diego, and both boats are also used for recreational daysailing. HALF-FAST, which finished third, is dry-sailed. The fleet will continue in YRA for the 1986 season, but without TWILIGHT ZONE and CHESSEPEAKE. Both boats willbe sailing in the single-handed race from San Francisco to Kauai, in the Hawaiian Islands. TWILIGHT ZONE is even planning to sail the return leg single-handed as well! 1986 could also see a major change in the nature of the class association. The San Francisco Bay Merit Association has recently taken over as the local dealer for the Merit 25. This means that the Class Association, not commercial dealerships, will be promoting the boat and representing the manufacturer. It could also mean significantly lower new boat prices and better information about used boats for prospective owners. This unique arrangement will work to promote the interests of the class and the owners more effectively.