Manta Hits the Big Four-O

By Kimball Livingston Posted July 17, 2014

There are huge differences between the formula classes and the one-design classes of landsailing.

Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who play both games.

It’s one thing to be a tinkerer and build a very-cool formula flyer, but hauling along a one-design yacht, when you head to the playa, means extra time sailing. And with something like the two-seat Manta—the Manta being the most popular class at the Landsailing World Championship this week at Smith Creek, Nevada—you can have your “cruise” time with a friend. Having been a passenger aboard a two-seat Manta with Bob Dill, past president of the North American Landsailing Association and one-time holder of the outright landsailing speed record, I can attest that there are plenty of thrills built into this visually-modest little ship. As the moment, pics of the single seater are easier to come by. This is racing at the Smith Creek Playa, and I note that unless there is a lot of dust blowing off the wheels, the camera just doesn’t show the speed . . .

Corels Photography

Corels Photography

And remember all that chatter about The Bear Away in the early days of America’s Cup 34? There was even one TV reporter who wanted to know why they didn’t just not do bear-away maneuvers. We won’t go there. But in a Manta as in an America’s Cup catamaran, there is that moment of truth when you want to get it right . . .

Carel Photography

Carel Photography

The price points are right. A new Manta single goes out the door of WindPower Sports for $1,825, the twin for $2,775. There’s a $190 ratchet block upgrade available for each, or choose beach tires at no extra cost. That’s it. That’s one-design sailing. WindPower Sports builds a range of items from kites to kite buggies to cross country mountainboards that can be used with or without a kite. Kids today, I tell ya.

But the landsailer had its peculiar origins four decades ago. I’ll let Russ Foster take it from here—

Adversity created popular 40 year-old one-design land yacht class

By Russ Foster, NALSA

This is how you park'em

And this is how you park’em

The infamous 1973/74 Oil Embargo caused a big problem for Oakland, California-based hang glider manufacturers Alan Dimen and Russ Thompson. In late 1973, the shortages and rising prices of gasoline and the resulting uncertainty caused many customers to suddenly stop buying their popular Manta hang gliders.

Faced with rapidly-declining sales and a big stock of the aircraft tubing and parts used in the gliders, they needed a new product, and quickly!

Thus was born the Manta Winjammer land yacht, now commonly called the Manta Single. First produced in early 1974, it is arguably the oldest continuously-manufactured one-design land yacht in the world.

The aircraft-like quality of the Manta, with its light weight, portability, ruggedness, ease of use and reasonable cost made it popular from the outset. In the early days, hundreds were produced, and many were shipped to international customers.

The design celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and as featured as a one-design class at the FISLY-NALSA 14TH Landsailing World Championship (the Worlds) continuing through Saturday at Smith Creek Playa near the town of Austin in Northern Nevada. NALSA, the North American Land Sailing Association, is hosting the event and is the U.S. Affiliate of FISLY, the International Federation of Sand and Land Yachts, the world governing body for competitive land sailing. One design classes must adhere to strict “as-built-by-the-factory” specifications and emphasize sailor (pilot) ability, not experimental design. They are popular because the designs are constant, offer a pure test of sailing ability and do not create an expensive “arms race.”

While the Manta Single has enjoyed steady but moderate sales, its popular two-seater sibling, the Twinjammer (Manta Twin) introduced in 1976 and also a one-design, has outsold the Single by a 10-to-1 ratio for many years and regularly fields the largest fleets at U.S. landsailing regattas.

At the Worlds, Manta Singles and Twins both play important roles as charter yachts for international competitors who are unable to bring their own land yachts but want to sail in the regatta. The competition is fierce.

This Wednesday video from the Worlds shows a mix of formulas and one designs, plus a bit of Germany’s Frog Team that shipped its bus to Baltimore and then made a road trip of the 2014 Worlds adventure.

Suns New Jerseys