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Windjammer: 2 Lanes, No Fainting

Theme parks: Knott's latest roller coaster, a racecourse that's not too scary or too wimpy, is just right to give most a fun run for the money.


BUENA PARK — When you first look at Windjammer, the newest roller coaster at Knott's Berry Farm, your impression is likely to be "Wow. This could be pretty good!" Its twin tracks of sleek, tubular red and yellow steel are flashy and sporty; the side-by-side racing trains look inviting, speedy and fun.

Unfortunately, all this promises more than the ride delivers.

That isn't to say it doesn't have its moments. A 60-foot plunge and a peppy vertical loop do raise a holler. G-forces reach 3.4 during the 90-second ride as the four-passenger cars careen through a series of squeaky turns, sudden dips and a jaunty spiral, high above a picturesque lagoon and sandy beach.

Still, Windjammer is relatively lightweight, and if your need for Gs is matched by an appetite for fright, you may find yourself making a beeline for Montezuma's Revenge, an older ride but nevertheless a real cold slap in the face.

Indeed, it may be that Knott's has introduced Windjammer as a balance to its rather polarized offering of roller coasters. Montezuma's Revenge and Boomerang are rides for hard cores. They're fast and pitiless, while Jaguar! offers just a quick and harmless tour of the park.

Windjammer is the middle ground--a quick burst of terror, a few minor thrills and then smooth sailing. It's kid friendly, and even Grandma could ride without losing her false teeth.

(There is supposed to be an element of competition to Windjammer: Cars depart on separate tracks simultaneously, and apparently the idea is that riders will feel the excitement of a breakneck race as their cars battle for dominance through the maze of twists and turns. But only one track was in use when this reviewer took a test run. It's hard to say if competition would have heated things up by any noticeable degree.)

In any case, take heart in knowing that, according to park officials, you won't have to wait too long in line for Windjammer. Its design allows up to 10 trains to run simultaneously on each track: Officials say hundreds of guests will be able to ride in the space of an hour.

Designed by Robin Hall, Knott's vice president of design and architecture, Windjammer has side-by-side tracks totaling 3,687 feet. The ride, which traverses three acres, was built by the Togo company, with the steel rails constructed in Cincinnati and the trains manufactured in Japan. Windjammer completes the Boardwalk, Knott's newest themed area, which opened in summer 1996.

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