Of all the small 20ft sport boats currently built the U20 still is the most seaworthy of any of them.
Although I do respect your opinion, I have seen personally where the Open5.70 was/is the most seaworthy of the 20 footers. I'm trying to take the high road on this one, but lets just say that there were U20's and Vipers out in the same regatta...... I can tell you that over 25kn, I'd go 5.70, then U20, and I donno if I'd leave the dock on a Vipe. I like wild rides, but I prefer to keep the bulb in the water most of the time.
For those who say...the Vipers have hijacked a J70 thread - Be reasonable! The Viper owners were contributing in constructive ways about what they knew of the J70. Then some Non- Viper owners raised some comparisons to the Viper (jrpytalk doesnt own a Viper and raised the subject). Surely its useful to respond.
I think y'all know I try to be supportive of sportsboat as a whole and pretty objective. But I acknowledge I am biased towards the Viper which, for me, is the sport boat I revel in. Having said that I have sailed in all these sportboats in over 25 knots and here is my opinion:-
The Viper is a beauty in big breeze and remarkably easy to sail in 25+. I think this is primarily because it has such a flexible rig for its size and depowers more than a traditional keel boat. The loads stay incredibly light as well. In a 2010 regatta in Marblehead when a front was sat on the race course, the Etchells, Sonars, J24s Rhodes 19s all decided it was too much and went in. The breeze was 23 with gusts to 28 all recorded at CYC. The Vipers , with a pretty amateur fleet were racing not just surviving. The only other fleet which chose to complete the day was a hard core fleet of very expereinced 5-0-5 sailors.
Frankly I think the 5-0-5 is also able to depower very effectively as well. A couple of 5-0-5 sailors went swimming, but it was no sweat for them, thats waht they do. There were a couple of Viper broaches downwind but no swimmers and certainly nothing close to a turtle.
Upwind the Viper works really well in the big stuff. We crank on vang to depower and then the rig absorbs the puffs accompanied by relatively small eases on the main. Downiwnd, its an incredibly wide stable platform roaring down. I think its akin to an aircraft carrier at full throttle.....all the loads are light and its small steering adjsutments largely done by the helm using his weight. Most noticeably - it does not go bow down and submarine.
I was in the MEGA puff at Miami. That was an amazing ride. I will point out that I wouldn't choose to be out in 45 knots and an Etchell lost its rig in that puff. I stopped thinking about racing and was in "preserve " mode but I felt suprisingly safe in my Viper.
A Viper will not swamp. Even if you go right over with spreaders in the drink. When the boat comes up, and it comes up, it will be dry because of the double floor and the water just drains out the back.
This is true of a lot of the modern sport boats.
BY way of comparison with others that I have sailed in the really big stuff:-
Open 5.70. Pros : Tough little beast. Plenty of ballast recovers from broach. Rotating rig seems very sturdy downwind..
Cons:- Its gets very loaded up and heavy. Especially the forward sails are a lot more brute strength to handle than some of the other SBs. Downwind, its gets more nose down than the Viper and is a little less forgiving in puffs. It liked the breeze, but Vipers certainly can handle any breeze that the Open 5.7 is out in- no sweat.
SB3 :- Well behaved in big breeze. Lightens up nicely downwind. Pretty good groove downwind. Obviously not as fast as a Viper, but its all relative. Upwind, the backstay is a powerful way to depower and makes it more effective than you would expect with a tin rig in breeze. Combination of being a bit heavy and slow to accelerate + tendency to go bow down, means going downwind thru waves needs a good hand.
M20 :- In my experince this is really hard work upwind in big breeze especially if its puffy. Downwind she gets up and goes. Crew has to move weight back aggresively. Class has an upper wind limit for racing. I understand that they have gotten better at tuning for upwind in breeze, so I will go again.
K6 :- Very effective at depowering in puffs upwind and down. Flexible rig and lots of control. More than any of the other US sportsboats, this one is sorted to sail in 25+ as a matter of course. Easily the quickest at rebounding from a broach with no sweat. But, for me, it is dinghy hiking upwind and if you are not fit you will get very tired in a big breeze day. The Viper is significantly less athletic. But again, provided you are fit, this is really well designed for big breeze. You will feel totally in control in this boat long after you have abandoned ship in some of the other sub 23' sportboats. Wet ? yes . Out of control? No
Ultimate 20: I have sailed the U20 but never in big breeze. Looking fwd to an opportunity. The deck mounted tin rig used to fall down but that has been sorted.
J70? I agree we just dont know. But its going to be interesting with carbon rig and a backstay. That has potential on paper for being able to handle a wide wind range.
Just one persons experience.