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How to avoid grounding: Top tips from pro sailor Pip Hare (20 Sep 2019, 7:58 am)

Nobody expects to encounter shallow water, but if you plan well ahead, set alarms and empower your crew you can avoid the nasty surprise of grounding your yacht

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Here the depth shading has been set to show any areas with a chart datum lower than 10m as ‘shallow’. This is suitable for an alert on longer offshore passages when you may not expect to encounter these depths of water

The 2017 investigation into the grounding of a Clipper Round the World yacht in South Africa delivered some interesting lessons for us all.

The most notable points were that: the skipper was the sole person in charge of navigation and became distracted by other tasks and lost situational awareness; the chartplotter was below decks and there was no route marked on it; the displays at the helm did not show depth, nor were there shallow water alarms set; and a course that started out clearing any dangers became unsafe through gradual changes to the wind direction.

Although these are just the headline mistakes in a complex case, they’ll elicit an uncomfortable feeling of recognition among many sailors. When we don’t expect to encounter shallow water, either due to planning an offshore route or sailing in familiar waters, it can be easy to miss the warning signs. Here are lessons for safeguarding against avoidable groundings.

Plan ahead

Good passage planning will not only highlight areas of concern but also enable prompt and effective corrective actions to be taken should the depth unexpectedly decrease.

Study your entire route at all levels of zoom, identify areas of concern, study the weather forecast and consider how changes to wind direction may affect your plan. If beating or gybing along a shore line, study depth contours to assess how quickly the bottom will shelve.

Using this information, set realistic depth limits ahead of time, which allow enough time to tack or gybe out to deeper water, taking into account the boat speed and how quickly you can make the manoeuvre with the current crew.

For coastal sailing the sonar charts from Navionics, which use verified crowd sourced bathymetry, can give a greatly enhanced and more up to date view of well navigated areas.

Set alarms

Alarms are a useful tool although, to be effective, like everything else on your boat they need to be trimmed. Alarms should be adjusted to reflect conditions and set to a level that will ensure they are not constantly sounding and therefore get ignored.

An audible alarm will allow less experienced crew members to comfortably stand watch and be sure of exactly when to call the skipper; they’ll also alert a skipper whose attention has been drawn elsewhere.

Shallow water

Your definition of shallow water will change depending on the type of passage you are making. If you are not expecting to encounter shallow water, study the chart and assess how steeply the bottom shelves.

Set the alarm to a level that will give enough warning to make corrective actions. Even if depth is not constantly displayed on your on-deck instruments, alarms can still be set in the background.

XTE alarm

Cross-track error alarms will sound once your track has strayed too far from the rhumb line. Ensure there are sufficient waypoints in your route to make these effective.

Wind shift

Particularly if using the auto-pilot in ‘wind’ mode, changes in wind direction can lead to gentle and sometimes (especially at night) imperceptible changes to the course sailed, which may drive a boat into danger.

If your pilot features a wind shift alarm, this is worth using. If not the XTE alarm should perform a similar function.

Radar Guard Zone

In reduced visibility the radar guard zone will help maintain a specific distance from coastlines. Once again, this distance should be set to allow enough time to make corrective manoeuvres.

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Empower your crew

Whether the skipper/navigator are on deck or off watch, your entire crew should always have a good understanding of current navigational parameters. Making sure they all know you do not expect to see depths below 20m will remove any ambiguity about what is ‘shallow’, stop unnecessary worry and empower them to speak up about something you may not have seen.

It can be difficult to remember numbers so if not using alarms, use a white board in the cockpit to record crucial information – this could be a laminated sheet of A4 paper stuck to the coach roof. Write down minimum depth, course no greater than/no less than, distance from shore etc. Review the information at the change of each watch.

Set up chart plotters to be as visual as possible. Depth contours can be shaded and no-go zones can be drawn onto charts and shaded. Marking charts up in this way removes any need for chart interpretation by inexperienced crew and can be backed up with an order to: “Wake me if we enter the red zone”.

Mark a route on the chartplotter against which crew can easily compare the ground tack. Discuss how far you are prepared to deviate from this route and how to use XTE to judge this. Update the route regularly to reflect any deviations from course.

If there is any risk of straying into shallow water make sure the helmsman and all crew know which way to turn into the deeper water – instructions should be unambiguous. When sailing under spinnaker, always be ready for a quick drop or gybe.

Halyards should be flaked and ready to run, furling lines ready on winches and snuffer lines separated ready to pull down. If the depth decreases rapidly, give clear instructions about corrective action, try to remain calm and allocate jobs.

If you want to be told the depth, allocate the job to someone who will remain calm and make sure they are close enough to you so shouting is not necessary.

The post How to avoid grounding: Top tips from pro sailor Pip Hare appeared first on Yachting World.


Sailing South Georgia: The inside story of Skip Novak’s 2018 expedition (18 Sep 2019, 7:44 am)

Emboldened by success in 2016, Skip Novak sails back to South Georgia to attempt a traverse via the island’s virgin summits

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Pelagic Australis on the jetty at King Edward Point. Photo: James Novak

We were eight days out from the south coast of South Georgia and once again we had skied smack into a full-blown white-out. There was nothing for it but to stop and make camp. The five of us set to work building a snow wall to provide wind shelter before the risky job of erecting the two tents.

The first thing was to organise your sleds, skis and gear so as not to be buried in the spindrift accumulating at an alarming rate. Two of us started cutting large snow blocks and handing them on to the three builders but all too soon our goggles were fogged and faces snowed up. We continued by feel, bumping into each other while passing the blocks and then falling over – a right circus.

In spite of -10°C temperatures and what must have been a 50-knot wind, it was hot work as long as you kept moving, which surely discouraged any slackers. After an hour of toil, we had the semblance of a barrier wall and carefully erected one of the tents; stories of tents blown away, smashed by katabatic winds and shredded, are legion on South Georgia. I speak from experience.

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Skip has a conversation with a young bull elephant seal before the start of the ski traverse. Photo: James Novak

Darkness was coming on and it was clear the wall was not long enough for two tents in the lee. So all five of us had to dive into one – nice and cozy, overlapping in our damp sleeping bags like sardines in a tin. And guess who was the cook. I managed a cup of soup each, the stove’s flame going perilously close to the tent fabric in the cramped porch.

Stephen Reid, a highly experienced mountaineer with many ascents in the Greater Ranges, including four Greenland expeditions behind him, later admitted to me one evening further on as we were brewing up that he was ‘now cured’. He was pining to get back to Cumbria to his partner, his cottage and his horses. I empathised at the time which, looking back, might mean something.

The British mountaineer Stephen Venables and I have been leading teams to South Georgia (and the Antarctic Peninsula) for the last ten years using my 74ft yacht Pelagic Australis as a mobile base camp.

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Skipper Edd Hewett and and mate Charly Bainbridge on board Pelagic Australis. Photo: James Novak

We try to have a group of five or six invitation-only experienced mountaineers being supported by three voyage crew who spend the time while we are in the hills doing the coastal tour with the professional crew. In climbing terms, though, I would venture to say these expeditions often have less likelihood of success than buying a premium ticket to climb Mt Everest.

In 2016 we did complete this same 65km ski traverse from Trollhul Bay ending at St Andrews Bay on the north-west coast’s central section, which is home to the largest king penguin rookery in the world.

That year we cherrypicked and climbed Mt Starbuck and Mt Baume, two technically difficult virgin summits along the sled route, in a rare prolonged spell of high pressure. We were out for 16 days, six of those stormbound in glacier camps.

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Pelagic veteran Crag Jones on the traverse pitch of Mt Starbuck in 2016. Photo: James Novak

The optimism that successful expedition engendered (and we quickly file the struggles and painful moments somewhere in the back of the memory bank) led us to believe we could do the same again in 2018. There are many more unclimbed summits still in what must be one of the world’s most remote mountaineering environments.

There is no one to call for a search and rescue on South Georgia and no airstrip. In spite of what could be considered unattractive caveats, we had to return and have another go. What unfolded this season though was a proper thrashing dished out by the island’s volatile weather.

We had five weeks in hand to leave from and return to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands and we got off to a good start arriving on the island after a four-day downwind passage with some fine sailing. In 2016 we sailed directly into Trollhul Bay in settled weather but with a swell still running on this very lee shore.

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In spite of difficult landing conditions we were off the next day for the traverse. No chance this year as it was blowing hard onshore, so we defaulted to go northabout the island, making landfall on the Willis Islands, through Bird Sound and down the coast to King Edward Cove where the South Georgia Government has its administrative base.

This includes the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) fish biology lab, which studies the catch and advises government on licensing for Patagonian toothfish, mackerel ice fish, Antarctic cod and krill in its maritime zone.

The over-wintering contingent of BAS numbers 12. Across the bay, the industrial archaeological remains of the whaling station Grytviken, now a museum, has a jetty for yacht use where we watered up and assessed our situation.

With an inauspicious forecast, we waited on the north coast for five days making day ski trips from various anchorages – enjoyable enough but, as always, we felt the pressure of the main objective. The clock was ticking.

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And then the forecast changed from bad into a humdinger coming out of the east. This is a winter pattern and the wind was predicted to be so strong and prolonged that the concerned harbourmaster offered us the jetty at King Edward Point, which would be in the lee. Most, if not all of the north-east coast anchorages would be dodgy if not dangerous to shelter in and the coast would be basically unnavigable.

That storm lasted a full four days. Metres of snow fell and, to top it off, King Edward Cove, facing south-east, was big enough to accommodate all the brash ice in East Cumberland Bay discharging off the Nordenskjold Glacier. We couldn’t move if we wanted to. We were trapped by the ice under pressure from the wind.

Escape from the ice

When the storm force winds abated down to variable and the pressure on the ice lessened we escaped incarceration and made a beeline for the south-west coast, south about, as Trollhul, usually prone to heavy swell, would be as flat as it gets in the lee of that easterly storm.

Five of us were put ashore with ten days of supplies, camping and climbing gear, all carried in sleds. We waived goodbye to our support crew and did two relays of our gear up a steep slope to gain the Graae Glacier at 250m.

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Skip on the inside of an igloo ‘loo’ on the Harmer Glacier – they eventually cut a door to let him out! Photo: James Novak

It was a good start… but that didn’t last long. Our first camp on the Harmer Glacier was a repeat of 2016. It snowed heavily and, over 48 hours, we had 60cm of snow and more banked up around the tents. In 2016 we were stuck for four days in that same place.

In these circumstances there is an urgency to accommodate ablutions in some modicum of comfort. A simple snow latrine with a snow wall works in fine weather but what was needed was a proper igloo – so we built one. My job was to be on the inside and when Venables lowered the keystone into place but then refused to make a door so I could get out, I did question my popularity.

In 2016 we did the same, but the construction was more of a teepee than an igloo, and subsequent Googling of igloo-making before the expedition stood us well. I liked the guy in Chicago making an igloo in his back yard in double-quick time with only a foot of snow. Ours took 12 hours.

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Camp Three on the Novosilski Glacier. Photo: James Novak

Finally, the weather cleared on day three so we could move – just. The nightly weather reports via sat phone from Pelagic Australis were not great, but not dramatic either, so we still held out some hope of climbing something.

We struggled, making heavy work of pulling the sleds through deep powder snow up and over the second col. Usually new snowfall on the island consolidates quickly with wind or a temperature change, but this time it didn’t. We were ploughing a furrow rather than sliding on top of the surface.

This persisted for the next four days and we made little progress and, with snow continuing to fall and high winds rendering visibility nil to poor, it was quite obvious climbing would be out for all those reasons plus a high risk of avalanche on the upper slopes.

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Roped up for glacier travel with sleds – crevasses are always a risk. Photo: James Novak

So by day five the journey became a hard fight to get to the other end, as we were now past an obvious bail-out point into Iris Bay on the north-east coast; this was not a popular option in the first place.

Like exquisite torture, every now and then it cleared briefly to reveal all those target summits along the spine of the Salvesen: Mt Dow, Smoky Wall, Peak 2,089m – the latter needs a name! And Mt Fraser, an attractive standalone peak hard by the south coast. For the time being they will remain inviolate.

Shortly after our sardine tin night on the Spenceley Glacier, well past any point of return, on day ten skipper Edd expressed obvious concern on the radio sched about making the flight out at the end of the charter – the one flight per week, due that coming Saturday.

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A rare spell of good visibility after a big blow at Camp Four on the Spenceley Glacier. Photo: James Novak

We were then at Camp Five, sheltering under a rock buttress that is home to nesting snow petrels that seemed oblivious, flitting about in the spindrift of the gale conditions. We were above the Ross Pass, which is the crux of the journey.

Glacier crossing

A low-slung, broad col of 500m separating the Allardyce Range to the north-west and the Salvesen Range to the south-east, the Ross Pass is a natural venturi that cuts the island’s mountainous spine in half, square on to the prevailing westerlies.

While the entire island can at times be in the clear, this often persists cloud-bound and threatening, clearly giving us ‘the finger.’ Because this stretch of glacier is infamous for putting people on their hands and knees, it must only be attempted in settled weather. And even then you can get caught out.

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From the summit of Mt Baume, Mt Pelagic is in the foreground, Mt Fraser on the left and Mt Paget on the right. Photo: James Novak

After descending on to the pass and then descending the Ross Glacier in a white-out, navigating by compass and the feel of the terrain, we spent the last two nights at Camp Six in a jumbled maze of ice at the junction of the Ross and Webb Glaciers (in nil visibility we were not sure exactly where we were).

In 2005 when I did part of this route for the first time we ended at the snout of the Ross Glacier at Little Moltke Harbour in Royal Bay. Even in 2016 this was no longer tenable or safe due to crevassing, seracs and un-skiable moraine – all due to glacial recession.

The entire landscape had changed dramatically in little more than a decade. In that year we opted for an ascent of the Webb Glacier, striking north off the Ross, which connects to the Cook Glacier and leads into St Andrews Bay; to our knowledge, this elegant ski and sled route had never been attempted before.

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St Andrews Bay and home to around 300,000 king penguins. Photo: James Novak

We were now getting a bit stretched with lack of sustenance. The last meal was raisins mixed with oats mixed with dregs of pesto, and that was that.

By this time you have read your book. Possibly you have exhausted conversation with your tent mate. You start to read the labels on packaging to pass the time – did you know that Marmite contains barely, wheat, oats and rye?

On day 12 we had to move, or else. It was a bitterly cold start at 0400 but was mitigated by strenuous rope hauling of our sleds up and over pressure ridges, and happily rewarded by a soft landing on the Webb in fine weather by mid morning.

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On the way back to Stanley Pelagic Australis sails close to a grand tabular iceberg. Photo: James Novak

The snow had firmed up and, for the first time, we had a solid running surface up slope. Joyfully we skinned up in the sunshine to the col at the head of the Cook Glacier where we could see the shoreline at St Andrews Bay.

What followed was a free-for-all ski down on to the outwash plain and along and through the margins of the king penguin rookery.

We stayed on our skis all the way to the dinghy landing, arriving at dusk under those well known South Georgian lenticular clouds: red, pink and orange. Our support crew was there waiting for us with champagne, traditionally opened with an ice axe. With little time for reflection we up anchored early the next morning and sailed for Stanley.

The post Sailing South Georgia: The inside story of Skip Novak’s 2018 expedition appeared first on Yachting World.


Ràn VII: On board the Stealth Bomber of the Fast 40+ class (17 Sep 2019, 10:50 am)

Ràn VII is a latest generation Fast 40+ designed by Shaun Carkeek for renowned owner-driver Niklas Zennström

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Hold on to your hats: Rán VII competing at Lendy Cowes Week 2018. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Some boats are the sum of their parts, but Rán VII is really the sum of the parts that aren’t there. It is characterised by a focus on reduction – less weight, less volume, less windage – which has given it a distinctive cut-out profile. The result is an intimidating design that has been ruthlessly successful on the racecourse.

The Fast 40+ fleet is still in its infancy. It was launched in 2016 to fill a gap for really high quality racing in the Solent, UK, where there hadn’t been a serious fleet of matched big boats racing regularly since the Farr 45 revival a decade ago.

But the launch of several new 40-footers – including the GP42 class, Keith Mills’ Ker 40 Invictus and the Carkeek-designed Rebellion – made it clear there was an appetite for racing that was closer than owners could get from mixed IRC Class Zero fleets.

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Rán VII was pushed hard by Girls on Film during Lendy Cowes Week. Photo: Paul Wyeth

An owner-driver box rule was created and the fleet was initially made up of GP42s, Ker 40s and Carkeek 40s. Most are still racing three seasons on, after varying degrees of optimisation. Last year founding Fast 40+ owner Peter Morton custom-built Girls on Film, a fourth generation Carkeek 40 which seemed radical at the time.

Then in spring 2018 Rán VII was launched, a boat so angular it calls to mind Darth Vader or a Stealth bomber. Unlike the previous Carkeek 40s, Rán was designed from a clean slate.

“We had the opportunity to start afresh with a blank sheet of paper and relook at the whole rule,” explains designer Shaun Carkeek. “To go: OK, this is the wishlist in terms of the R&D, now that we have the time, opportunity and budget, let’s have a look at absolutely everything.”

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Rán VII’s radical hull shape is certainly distinctive. Photo: Ian Roman

The newest Rán marks a step down in size for Swedish tech billionaire Niklas Zennström, who founded Skype and now runs technology investment firm Atomico. Zennström has made a habit of moving into supremely competitive classes like the TP52 and Maxi 72, building new boats, and doing well in them.

Competitive fleet

It is partly a mark of how competitive the Fast 40+ fleet is becoming that Zennström has chosen to spend his time and considerable sums of money to race in the murky waters off Southampton rather than Palma, Porto Cervo, and Key West.

The all-carbon Rán VII was the first boat to be launched out of Jason Carrington’s new yard. Carrington is a hugely experienced raceboat builder and professional sailor who builds custom projects out of the former Green Marine premises in Lymington, where Alex Thomson’s latest Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 was also built.

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The angled topsides provide a hiking platform for crew when under way. Photo: James Tomlinson

Benefitting from Carrington’s technical expertise, Rán VII is a precision build. Using carbon moulds shipped over from Persico in Italy reduced the amount of fairing required. Although the Fast 40+ rule bans the use of Nomex, neither the class rules nor IRC rating system measure the quality of carbon used in construction, so Rán VII is made from higher modulus unidirectional carbon for increased stiffness and reduced weight.

While Rán VII’s keel bulb weight is similar to the rest of the fleet, part of that weight saved allows Rán to carry a solid steel keel fin (instead of a steel strut with foam fairings). Keel bulb weight is measured under IRC, but steel fin weight is not, so this is an optimal way of distributing weight.

The most eye-catching element is her angular reverse sheer, which Carkeek says achieves several things. “It improves the stiffness of the boat, it reduces the area of the overall volume, so we are removing some weight from key areas – like in the bow. And there is an aero component, a drag reduction, and improved flow onto the sails as well.

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The moulded bowsprit and pulpit stanchions. These are aerodynamically shaped to minimalise windage. Photo: James Tomlinson

“It’s been done before, you’ve seen it on IMOCA 60s and some other boats out there. So it’s not a new concept. But the challenge was to take a concept that you thought might work and turn it into a working solution.”

In practical terms it also makes the foredeck area a little smaller (and getting on board a little less dignified), and means that the jib foot can perfectly align with the camber of the foredeck to bring the foresail foot flush with the deck.

The systems and deck layout were the result of collaboration between Carkeek and Tim Powell, Zennström’s long-time project manager and skipper, using the Rán team’s experience from the TP52 and maxi fleets as well as Carkeek’s knowledge of the Fast 40+ class.

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The lightweight jib car system replaces the need for tracks. Photo: James Tomlinson

Systems and structures were closely integrated. For example, rather than having jib tracks and cars, Rán VII has jib car slots, which connect to an anchor point on the floor of the boat. The car slots offer a narrow band of less than 2ft lateral adjustment, and have a slight curve to reduce the amount of vertical adjustment needed. It all adds up to a significant weight saving, although Powell admits: “it took a bit of working out”.

Spinnaker sheets are on ratchet-driven spinners that suck the sheet tails under deck. “Otherwise you end up with metres and metres of rope lying on the deck,” explains Powell. “So if you have to do two quick gybes it’s easy to suck it all away, the deck’s clean and ready to gybe straight away.”

One of the repercussions for all the string-line systems is water ingress. The Fast 40s are notoriously wet anyway, both above and below decks, and keeping the weight of water out of the boats is a challenge. Rán VII is not the only yacht to have added inflatable seals to the cockpit and foredeck hatches.

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Pneumatic seals lock the hatches closed and prevent water ingress through the foredeck and main hatches. Photo: James Tomlinson

Operated by a small electric pump, the seals look like bicycle inner tubes and prevent the hatches from being opened whilst inflated, whilst locking out water from waves over the deck.

Finely balanced

Weight distribution is also key – Powell says when the boat is fully powered up downwind only the mainsheet trimmer and bowman will be in front of the helmsman. The pedestal is far aft, and can drive the spinnaker takedown system, pit winch, mainsheet, primaries or a rotary hydraulic pump.

To get the most out of her demands skill. Powell says that he was surprised by how finely balanced she is. “That’s been quite an adjustment for most people who sail on this boat as to how on the ball you’ve got to be about your mainsail twist, jib twist and sail trim, because it’s very easy to trip out. It’s the same on any boat but on this boat it’s more extreme.”

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Many systems have bare through-deck fittings. The boat has to be pumped dry each day. Photo: James Tomlinson

Rán VII is indisputably very quick. She won every event in the 2018 season, although not with complete dominance – at Lendy Cowes Week Girls on Film led until the final day of the series.

Is there more to come? Powell points out that none of the Fast 40s are really worked up to the same degree as the TP52 fleet. “A lot of the TPs are doing 20 days of sailing before they even sail up to the first race,” he says. “Here we have pretty much the same sails as everybody else in the fleet and it’s just about trying to learn as much as you can from the short times you go sailing.”

Carkeek also feels it would be hard to make another performance leap. “Rán is a very well researched boat across every area of the design. So, as the Mark V boat, it would be very difficult to improve upon.”

Conscious of avoiding an arms race, or turning the class, as one owner put it, “from a millionaires’ club into a billionaires’ club”, Carkeek and Zennström have made the moulds of Rán VII available to use free of charge for anyone wanting to build a new Fast 40+. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone takes up the offer.

Specification

LOA: 12.60m (41ft 4in)
Beam: 4.20m (13ft 9in)
Draught: 3.00m (9ft 10in)
Weight: 3,950kg (8,708lb)
Upwind sail area: 112m2 (1,205ft2)
Downwind sail area: 375m2 (4,036ft2)
IRC rating: 1.270
Construction: Carbon prepreg
Electric propulsion system: eelpropulsion.com

The post Ràn VII: On board the Stealth Bomber of the Fast 40+ class appeared first on Yachting World.


Sailing across the Atlantic: Bluewater veterans share top tips for your first crossing (16 Sep 2019, 7:55 am)

Elaine Bunting asks a delivery skipper, charter pros and some first-time transatlantic skippers for their best advice on planning and preparing for the big adventure

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Photo: Trystan Grace

On the afternoon before we left the Canary Islands for the Caribbean for a transatlantic with the ARC, I struck a line through the final item on our jobs list. It had been taped to our saloon bulkhead for weeks. As one task got ticked off, another one or two had been added. Now it was complete, and we were ready to go.

For most people planning to sail across the Atlantic, complete an Atlantic circuit, take a year out or longer, the planning begins on average two to three years in advance. The to-do lists get longer as you plan and prepare. But so do the concerns. Have you thought of everything? What might you have missed?

For this feature we’ve gone back to first-time Atlantic skippers and asked them the same questions. What did they learn from the experience they’d planned for so long? What were the most valuable preparations? We also asked an experienced charter skipper and a delivery skipper for their best advice.

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The Oyster 575 Angel’s Share wing and wing in the 2016 ARC. Photo: TimBisMedia

In this article, we cut through the textbook advice and find out where other skippers believe you should focus, from gear and spares to crew choice. Their answers will, we hope, help you create your own top priority list if you’re preparing for, or dreaming about, a long-distance or long term adventure.

The perfect boat

We all know there’s no such thing as the perfect boat. What you choose is determined by your budget, your preferences, expectations and availability. Take a look at any rally entry list and you’ll see a real miscellany, all fit for purpose in one way or another.

“Generally if you know your yacht and she can sail comfortably to windward in offshore sailing conditions, you don’t need to change boat for an Atlantic crossing,” observes delivery skipper Mark Matthews.

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Mark Matthews from Professional Yacht Deliveries. PYD delivers 200 yachts annually over 350,000 miles

His excellent advice is first to consider the timing and route of your Atlantic crossing. “If you are to just complete a one-way crossing or an Atlantic circuit your requirements could be considerably less than for an extended bluewater cruise.”

One thing I see myself (and agree with Mark) is that often yachts intended primarily for a transatlantic crossing or circuit are perhaps overly complex and over-equipped, with all the maintenance demands that come with that. It’s possible to scale back for this, and simplify things by going without a watermaker, generator etc.

That’s not the case if you’re planning to cruise for longer, or further afield. “Extended bluewater cruising may be a different decision as generally people require more independence from shoreside support and more home comforts,” observes Matthews, though adding: “Having said that, many people sail around the world on relatively small, lightly equipped yachts and they benefit from the simplicity of the adventure without becoming slaves to their mechanical and electrical systems.”

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Bones Black is an engineer and mechanic and on intimate terms with his machinery! Photo: James Mitchell

And he adds: “Whatever yacht you have, you need to be able to manage it without legions of crew to assist you. Everyone loves the idea of a bluewater adventure but most temporary crew have other fixed commitments that can make fitting in with your changeable schedule problematic. Aim to avoid planning your cruising around fixed deadlines of temporary crew.”

Safely across

One of the most important decisions you’ll face is how to spend the budget you have on equipment you’ll need. First and foremost is safety. As skipper, you are responsible not only for the safety of family and friends, but being seen to be taking every precaution.

Keeping water out topped the list of Bones Black, a marine engineer, round the world sailor and skipper of charter yacht Emily Morgan. “On Emily Morgan we have a red light in the cockpit between the instruments that is connected to the automatic bilge pump so when it is on the crew know about it and can check the bilge immediately.

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Bones and Anna Black with their Bowman 57, Emily Morgan. Photo: James Mitchell

“If you have a deep bilge you can also fit a float switch a few inches above the bilge pump wired to another light and an alarm – this will give you an indication the bilge pump is either not working or not coping with the water ingress and gives you valuable early warning to save your ship.”

Black is among those who think that compiling a safety manual specifically for your boat is a good idea. “You will learn a huge amount about your equipment and boat while you write it and it is available for the crew.”

AIS is nowadays a must (thought it shouldn’t be used to allow crews’ watchkeeping and horizon scanning skills to erode), and radar is more useful than many people anticipate. “We use ours a huge amount at night and when the visibility is poor,” says Black. “The main use is spotting squalls.”

Safety checklist

  • Buy first-class safety equipment for all crew on board
  • Ensure it is in service for the likely duration of the passage
  • Fit excellent fire detection and suppression equipment
  • Have the gas supply serviced
  • Fit gas and smoke alarms
  • Ensure you have adequate communications for the passage. Handheld satellite phone are relatively inexpensive
  • Take adequate paper charts for the passage and ensure your navigation is not solely reliant on electronics.
  • Have a spare, inexpensive handheld GPS device in case you lose power supply

Equipped and ready

Obvious though it may be, the point everyone emphasised was starting with the basics. Mark Matthews cautions that a complex equipment list can sometimes be a distraction away from the top priorities.

“For an Atlantic circuit you don’t have to fit a watermaker, generator, air-conditioning or an expensive new sailplan. The offshore passages involved are relatively short and you will be able to manage perfectly well without loading up your yacht with equipment that you may only use for a matter of weeks.

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Making sail repairs on the fly is an important skill. Photo: Bill Aylward

“Most people crossing the Atlantic for the first time have enough to think about and can manage the crossing perfectly well with equipment they have and understand,” he says, “So start with the basics and if you then still have the time, space on board, budget and desire to fit additional equipment, then do it after you have checked and invested in the following:

“Conduct a full up mast rig check, preferably by an experience rigger. If the standing rigging is getting towards the end of its recommended life replace it before you leave your home port.

“Have all sails serviced by a sail loft and consider double stitching all panels. With slab reefing mainsails, ensure you have a deep third reef. Check all running rigging and ensure you have adequate spare halyards set up before you depart. Think about chafe prevention for sheets and halyards. Consider how you could get someone up the mast safely when offshore.

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Always maintain a good lookout – don’t just rely on AIS or radar. Photo: Tor Johnson

“Service all winches and check all rope clutches for damage and wear. Set up and test a good boom preventer for downwind sailing on both tacks. Expensive equipment is not required, just lines and blocks set up for both tacks and you should be able to gybe your yacht and switch preventers without leaving the cockpit.

“Service your windlass and know how to maintain and fix it. Ensure safe anchor stowage for ocean sailing conditions and consider upgrading ground tackle. You can expect to be anchoring much of the time when you’re cruising in the West Indies. Invest in a good supply of sailing spares.

“Have your yacht lifted, antifouled, stern gear serviced, anodes replaced (and take spares), check and service the bow thruster and service or consider fitting a rope cutter. Also check your steering systems and, if in any doubt, replace rudder bearings (and, again, take spares).”

Another point you need to think about is the chance of contaminated fuel. Before you go, drain and clean your tanks, he advises. “Any accumulated debris will be shaken up in the ocean swell and may block the fuel supply. Use a biocide in your diesel such as Biobore.”

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Making easy miles offshore under traditional twin headsail set-up. Photo: Trystan Grace

You also need to have plenty of filter spares and have a good set of tools to service and maintain your engine. Matthews says he often finds that production yachts have underspecified autopilots that are not up to the task of ocean sailing.

We can second this, as it is something we have seen on numerous ARC rallies and in our annual Atlantic surveys going back 15 years. It is much better to over-spec autopilot drives, and many skippers recommend investing in a complete set of spares for it, or even two interchangeable drives.

“Chafe-proof as much as possible,” recommends transatlantic and charter skipper Charles Chambers, owner of Grand Soleil 50 Betelgeuse. “Garden hose is a cheap and effective protector for your guard rails. I used bright yellow hose as it was easier to see in the dark. Pipe insulation on the spreaders is cheap and very effective as long downwind days can destroy sails.”

Go looking for problems ripe to happen in an organised way – things, according to Bones Black, “like a worn shackle, chafing lines, a dirty fuel tank, an oil leak from the engine or a small tear in a sail. All these can be fixed easily before you leave but could be the start of a catalogue of problems that could cause a dangerous situation very quickly if it all happens in the middle of the night or in freshening winds. Don’t think ‘it will be fine’ and forget about it.”

Mark Matthewss stuff that will happen

Once you leave Europe it is best to plan that you will:

  • Encounter contaminated fuel on passage
  • Have equipment failures
  • Be charged for all repairs based on the size and quality of your yacht and how quickly you need the work doing
  • Be frustrated by the hours wasted obtaining spare parts, dealing with customs and local taxes
  • Be frustrated with crewing arrangements that go wrong

Plan for these setbacks and you will have a much better experience!

Choosing your sails

What sails do you need for an Atlantic crossing? First, whatever you may have read, I’d say from my own experience and observation that you don’t absolutely need anything special. The number one thing you require are a good suit of sails in decent repair that are not going to break on the crossing.

“Have your sails professionally serviced or if you are buying new, talk to the sailmaker and tell him/her what you plan to do and get a cloth and cut as appropriate,” says Charles Chambers. “Avoid deck sweepers and go for high cut clew instead, which is better for rough conditions. Have a deep third reef if you have slab reefing and, if you have in-mast furling, make sure it is professionally serviced.”

Whether or not you choose a spinnaker, gennaker or Parasailor to improve your boatspeed is really just personal preference, and dependent on how many crew you will have.

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Symmetric spinnaker is a popular set-up for sailing downwind

Bones Black hits the nail on the head when he advises (for most boat types) to discount the idea of gybing the angles downwind. “The deeper you sail downwind the quicker you will arrive. Reaching back and forth across the Atlantic can put a huge number of miles onto your trip and not get you there any sooner,” he says.

“On Emily Morgan our usual downwind set up is a poled out genoa, or spinnaker with a prevented main and mizzen at about 160° to 170° from the wind. The maximum angle downwind you sail will depend on your boat, the rig, if the main is fully battened or how much your boat rolls.

“A little trick if you have a cutter rig is to roll out the staysail on the leeward side and sheet it hard while you have the genoa poled out. It will direct some wind into the genoa and will also stop some roll.

“We used to have several spinnakers but have changed our view as the more spinnakers you have the more the feeling is that you always have the wrong one up! We now just have one asymmetric for the main mast and the only decision is do we reach with it tacked down to the bow or go downwind with the tack on the pole.”

But don’t succumb to the notion that you have to use a spinnaker at all. Many crews start out intending to use it and change their plan. John Hardy was one, on his first ARC last year. “We tried the cruising chute, but in the end we kept it simple and sailed for over 90% of the time with two reefs in the main and a polled out jib letting the boat go at its own comfortable pace and still averaged just over 7 knots for the 3,000 miles.”

If you do choose to run with a spinnaker across the Atlantic, Mike Reece counsels that you should “make sure that you have a heavy duty bluewater downwind spinnaker. The Atlantic is renowned for squalls and the wind often varies by 20 knots over a relatively short time period. If you don’t want to be panicking when a squall of 35 knots comes from nowhere, get a sail that has the wind range.”

Mark Harrisons sail checklist

Whatever downwind configuration you go for, make sure:

  • It is tried and test in similar conditions before you set off
  • It allows for 30 knots through the night
  • The crew is well brief so everyone knows when sail changes are required
  • You have a specially set up preventer and use it for the whole crossing
  • You carry plenty of sail repair tape!

Spare halyards are also extremely useful.

Charles Chambers top tip

“I found doing a rig check with binoculars difficult in a rough sea. My preferred method was to use my digital SLR camera and a telephoto zoom lens. Take several pictures every day and download to your laptop, enlarge and review at the chart table. Keep the pictures for comparison to see if a problem is developing.”

Enough power?

Charging and power management is a huge topic, and one of the first things that skippers planning for a long period on board rightly think about. It’s something we have previously covered in much more detail in our annual Atlantic gear surveys.

The skippers we asked recommended checking power systems and replacing or upgrading batteries. But also to “discuss with your crew power conservation on board for the crossing,” says Charles Chambers. “A good power management routine for a few weeks may save you from upgrading batteries.”

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The Watt & Sea hydrogenerator on Emily Morgan

Bones Black says: “Each day going east to west it gets warmer so your fridge and freezer will be working harder, your crew will want showers and all the normal washing up and cleaning chores will still need to be done so if you have a watermaker it will be on more often. The chartplotter, radar, instruments and nav gear will be on. You will need to make sure you have good batteries, so change sooner rather than later for good quality heavy duty ones.

“If you have a generator then make sure it is well serviced and you have spare service parts. The main engine can be used to charge and produce hot water but we much prefer to use wind, solar and hydro to charge our batteries.

“Don’t forget the wind generator is pretty much useless downwind and the solar is useless at night, so it’s all down to the hydro! We have never looked back after fitting a Watt & Sea hydrogenerator. In fact, if we are sailing at six knots and above it gives us all we need and more 24/7.”

John Hardys comms tips

My Garmin inReach was brilliant, reliable and perfectly adequate, but I also purchased an Iridium Go! which just about does emails, small attachments and good weather maps, plus voice. I cancelled the subscription once arriving in the Caribbean as it is expensive and not needed for coastal passages, plus the cheaper Inreach works brilliantly when we don’t have mobile phone coverage. Whatever you decide on, test it for a few months before you set off.

Crew for the crossing

Sailing across the Atlantic is an experience you’ll probably want to share. But how do you choose the crew to make it all safe and fun, and how will you as skipper keep them happy for the duration?

Let’s take some advice from the pros here. Bones and Anna Black run charters in their yacht, and have done this all the way round the world. “A happy crew is most important to us, so we like good food and lots of fun, music in the cockpit (only during the day) and good conversation,” says Bones.

“To achieve this a good sleep pattern is needed. We run a three hours on, six hours off watch system with two people on watch at a time, staggered by one hour. We found in our early transatlantics, if there was a problem it was usually within 20 minutes of a watch change, so by staggering the crew changes there is always crew who knows what’s going on while the new crewmember wakes up and finds their feet. The crew then spends one hour with one person and two with the next.”

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Food and cooking on passage can be a real morale booster for crew

‘The three-on six-off runs 24/7 so the crew get at least five to five-and-a-half hours sleep at a time and the watches move back each day so everyone gets their fair share of sunsets, sunrises and starry skies. The afternoon watch cooks the evening meal for the whole crew and we sit together in the cockpit for this.”

John Hardy did his first Atlantic crossing last year and agrees that “the secret to long distance sailing is regular watches and moving the ship’s clock to local time. We used standard sea watches, that is four on, eight off, ate at normal times and went to bed properly and slept well. Live as normally as possible in a routine and the days fly past.”

He adds: “We had five on board, and I think with any less than three it would be hard work if something went wrong, yet any with more than six you may end up feeling you are running a cruise ship and there wouldn’t be enough for everyone to do.”

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Relaxing and having a bit of fun boosts morale on a crossing

If you are selecting extra crew though a website or acquaintances you know less well, take care, says Charles Chambers, who also runs skippered charters on his yacht.

“Make sure you set expectations upfront as not many crew have done long offshore passages. Discuss financial expectations as well to avoid nasty surprises and disagreements later. Beware of high mileage crew from websites, and check if all the miles were done on a race yacht as their approach won’t match the cruiser passage.

“Try and sail with people you already know and also try and have a longish test sail to see how they manage the watch routines and lack of sleep. Don’t be afraid to deselect someone if they don’t fit as you will have a long time to regret it. Once you have selected and agreed your crew check if they have any pre-existing medical conditions that require managing.

“Plan treats and celebrate the halfway point. Get the crew together at least once a day over a meal; we used to do this at dinner just before starting night watches.”

Anna Blacks provisioning tips

  • Have a good mix of provisions: fresh, frozen, tins and dried food with some sauces and spices to liven things up
  • Think about what you would eat if the freezer broke down or you had a problem with the gas supply to the cooker
  • Fresh fruit and veggies are best from the local markets. If you can, buy things with different ripening times.
  • Washing everything with a dilute solution of Milton then drying it well will remove surface bacteria and help prolong its life.
  • Use storage nets to keep things in the shade and dry, without bruising
  • Check every day to see what needs eating next

The post Sailing across the Atlantic: Bluewater veterans share top tips for your first crossing appeared first on Yachting World.


Road to the America’s Cup podcast episode 1: Imagining the AC75 (12 Sep 2019, 8:53 am)

In the first episode of our new podcast series, Sir Ben Ainslie and Mark Chisnell discuss Team INEOS UK’s journey to the America’s Cup

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Ben training on INEOS Team UK's test boat T5

There is no doubt that the AC75 is a remarkable boat; a monohull designed to fly, engineered to reach speeds that were inconceivable to sailors less than half a generation ago.

And not just in a straight line, but around a tight match racing course off the beaches of Auckland Harbour. It’s an revolutionary idea that’s about to move from the virtual world to become very real.

In this new series of America’s Cup podcasts, Sir Ben Ainslie, the skipper and team principal of British challenger INEOS Team UK, will be talking to Mark Chisnell exclusively about the technology and engineering that goes into the new Cup class yacht, and how one extraordinary idea – a T-foiling monohull – became a new class of extraordinary boats.

It all started after the 35th America’s Cup, when the winner and the new Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, began to work on the new class in conjunction with their chosen Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa.

The Italians wanted to return to a traditional monohull design and had extracted an earlier commitment from Team New Zealand that the next Cup would be in single-hulled boats.

The Kiwis understandably wanted to stick with the foiling technologies in which they had just proved to be the masters. The result was a convergence of foiling with a 75ft monohull to bring us the AC75.

“The Italian team wanted to have a link to traditional America’s Cup monohulls and the Kiwis married that with this new foiling generation of yacht design,” commented Ben Ainslie.” I think it’s a really neat concept. Certainly, sailing around in our T5 test boat has been a lot of fun. The boat handles really well, it’s very smooth. Upscaling to 75ft it’ll be fascinating to see how the boat performs.”

‘T5’ is INEOS Team UK’s 28ft test boat, based on the Quant 28 and launched in June last year, not long after the rule was published at the end of March. The rule, Ainslie says, “has been a work in progress ever since then with revisions and interpretations as it develops, people [realise they] missed things, or come up with different ideas and concepts on how it can get implemented.

“We’ve ended up with the rule as it currently stands, which is a monohull, it’s 20.7m long, with the bowsprit you get 22.76m or 75ft. It’s 5m in beam and weighs just over 7.5 tonnes with 11 crew.”

Apart from the obvious change to a monohull, there are other significant differences between the old and new Cup boats. One of the most important in performance terms is the change from L-foils to T-foils. The L-foil was a single solid piece, so the whole foil had to be moved to change the angle of attack of the foiling section, to change the amount of lift generated and keep the boat flying flat and fast.

In contrast, the T-foil has controllable flaps on the trailing edge to change its shape and the amount of lift generated. The whole of the T-foil will also move as it is rotated in and out of the water from one tack to another.

All about control

“You’ll change the cant of the foil arm and that will influence your side force and your vertical lift,” said Ainslie. “But the actual T-foils will be what are giving you the stability in flight… that will come down to the design of the foil and also to the control systems we use to be able to create that stable flight.”

Other significant changes (which we’ll explore later in this podcast series) include allowing stored electrical energy to control the hydrofoils. The solid wing of the AC50 is also gone, with a new one-design D-section mast and a double-skinned mainsail (the sails must be adjusted by the crew using a traditional grinding pedestal).

“This is an interesting, innovative design solution whereby you get more power created from the double-skin mainsail. With that comes extra weight from the extra cloth, battens etc. The idea is that it’s more user friendly compared with a solid wing mainsail. How you create the right sail shapes from a double wing mainsail and how that fits in around the mast section will be key for the performance of all of the teams,” said Ainslie.

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Design challenges

The other big thing is a philosophical change in the openness of the rule. The AC50 was tightly constrained in many areas, leaving the design battle to be fought over foil shapes and control systems. The AC75 is much more open.

The exceptions are the mast, which is a one design section, and the rigging, which is supplied by the organiser. The foil-arm systems that lift the T-foil in and out of the water are also ‘supplied equipment’. After that, the rest of it is up to the teams.

“For the America’s Cup purists, I think that’s a fascinating challenge,” says Ainslie.“With my Team Principal hat on I’m looking at the costs and the budgets for the campaigns and it does make it incredibly expensive.

“There’s a lot of scope there with this class, as always with a new class of boat. I think there’ll be quite big differences between the boats – certainly in the early days as the first generation gets launched, sailed and ultimately raced,” concluded Ainslie.

Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, and Team Principal of the British Americas Cup challenger. INEOS Team UK will be challenging for the 36th Americas Cup in New Zealand in 2021. Each month hell be talking to Mark Chisenell about the innovations and technology behind the new AC75 foiling monohulls.

The post Road to the America’s Cup podcast episode 1: Imagining the AC75 appeared first on Yachting World.


Fastnet Race 1979: Restored survivor Assent heads back to the Rock (12 Sep 2019, 7:58 am)

Meet the little yacht with a huge heart and history, a famous survivor of the 1979 Fastnet Race. Nic Compton sails on Assent

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"There’s something special about her, you feel she can handle it" - Kit Rogers

It’s a gloomy, grey afternoon on the Solent and I’m in a camera boat taking pictures of a yacht sailing off Lymington. There’s a light breeze blowing and a moody, late afternoon glow in the sky but, to be honest, it’s not exactly blowing my socks off.

Then, the skipper starts gesticulating, making big belly signs. I don’t understand what he means – is he hungry or feeling pregnant? A few minutes later all is revealed as the crew break out a spinnaker that inflates into blue and white stripes. At the same time, the breeze picks up, and the yacht starts shooting across the jade green sea.

Suddenly, this looks like the yacht she is: one that could confound all expectations and win a major race; a little boat that could survive a serious pasting and give the big boys something to think about.

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With spinnaker up and a decent breeze, Assent looks like a winner again. Photo: Nic Compton

For this is Assent, the Contessa 32 built by Jeremy Rogers in 1972 and the only boat in her class to finish the 1979 Fastnet Race, in the face of a storm which wiped out most of the fleet and killed 15 competitors.

No discussion of that tragedy is complete without reference to the small but hugely significant part this boat played.

On board for the photoshoot are the children and grandchildren of Jeremy Rogers: brothers Kit and Simon and their respective eldest children, Jonah and Hattie.

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Happy families: Simon (left) and Kit Rogers (right) with eldest children Hattie and Jonah. Photo: Nic Compton

They know these waters like the back of their hands and are intuitive sailors. There’s no shouting, no panic. Their approach is cheerful and understated but there’s no doubt they know absolutely what they are doing.

Despite the banter, there’s a serious agenda here. Kit has decided to mark the 40th anniversary of that deadly Fastnet by entering Assent in this year’s race.

“The 1979 Fastnet is not something you want to celebrate,” says Kit. “It was a terrible disaster. The fact that Assent did so well and made a name for herself had nothing to do with us.

“I was 11 at the time, staying in a hotel in Plymouth with my mother and brother, waiting for my father to come back. But entering Assent in the race this year seems like a good way of commemorating that tragedy and honouring the people who died in the race.”

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As part of their qualifiers for the 2019 Fastnet Race, two weeks earlier Kit and Simon had taken part in the De Guingand Bowl Race, racing 120 miles up to Portsmouth, around the Isle of Wight to Weymouth and back.

The last leg was particularly gruelling: a 50-mile upwind beat against winds gusting up to 40 knots, with seas to match. But Assent took it all in her stride, at one point taking overall lead against some much bigger IRC boats – though her crew fared less well.

“It’s a funny thing about boats,” says Kit. “Assent is just a Contessa 32. There are 650 of them out there which all came out of the same mould and are pretty much identical. Yet there’s something special about her.

“It’s probably me projecting a bit, but somehow she feels different, because I’ve got this narrative running, because I know where she’s been and you feel she can handle it, which gives you that bit more confidence. I was sick as dog, but she was great!”

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On the Solent, with the same spinnaker colours as in ’79. Photo: Nic Compton

An accidental sailor

Assent was launched in 1972 as hull No 25, and was originally named Tessa of Worth. She was bought by the late Willy Ker in 1976 and renamed Assent because, so the story goes, he needed his wife’s assent to buy the boat.

Ker was an accidental sailor with a love of adventure. An engineer in the army, he was posted in Kiel after World War II and learned to sail on a fleet of yachts requisitioned by Britain as part of its war reparations. While he was in the army, he attended a university course on mapping and joined a group of volunteers charting the west coast of Canada by horse.

He then organised an expedition with a team of dogs to the Northwest Territories, mapping Great Slave Lake, on the edge of the Arctic Circle. These sailing voyages gave him a taste for remote areas that was to stay with him for the rest of his life.

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The programme cover of the 1979 Fastnet Race, which Assent won in class

But Ker also had a competitive streak, and a year after buying Assent entered the 1977 Fastnet Race with his son, Alan, as crew. Two years later, Assent was back, this time with Alan at the helm and a bunch of his friends, all in their early twenties, as crew. Assent was entered in Class V, the smallest class, which included 14 other Contessa 32s.

Her race started badly enough with a collision with the French half-tonner Tikocco, and Assent was forced to turn back and restart five minutes later. By that evening, the boat was becalmed off Lulworth while the crew enjoyed a hearty meal of beef stew. It took them another 36 hours to reach the Lizard, where they anchored for four hours in fog waiting for the tide to turn.

It wasn’t until the evening of the third day that the 1755 shipping forecast gave the first warning of a possible gale, by which time Assent was well into the Irish Sea, having passed Land’s End earlier that afternoon.

In his account written straight after the race, crew Gordon Williams wrote: ‘Fiona prepared a fighting supper of spaggeti [sic] bolognaise to which the majority of us did full justice’.  It proved a well-timed intervention.

No time for fear

By 2330, the barometer was ‘falling wildly’, the wind was up to Force 9 and Assent was down to triple-reefed main and staysail, according to the ship’s log. Williams was still stitching a rip in the spinnaker when the 0015 forecast warned of Force 10 storm. Two hours later, they had their first knockdown, but even this was dismissed with a joke.

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‘It occurred so suddenly that we had no time to fear the consequences,’ Williams wrote, ‘and as the boat quickly righted, with Fiona and I still tied in our places and only a modest amount of water in the cockpit, we shouted to Alan that all appeared to be well and remarked that we could now reckon a knockdown among our sailing experiences.’

Even more remarkable, however, was what followed. After removing the damaged storm jib, Assent’s crew carried on regardless, not just coping with the conditions but, if the log book and Williams’s account are to be believed, positively revelling in them.

‘The sail that followed through the rest of the night after the knockdown was as fantastic and exhilarating as one could expect to encounter in a lifetime of sailing,’ wrote Williams. ‘A half moon had appeared in the clearing sky to light the wild seascape of foaming breakers.

Phosphorescence in the spray was streaming over the sail and cabin top, and the wind was screaming through the rigging and life lines like a pack of coyotes, while all the time the little ship continued steadily on her course to windward with a much easier motion following the loss of the jib.

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After climbing up and up each successive sea (reported afterwards to have been 40ft high), we could not help whooping with excitement, and not a little relief, as she crested each summit and slithered down into the next trough.’

The only indication that Assent’s crew were sailing on the edge that night is a significant gap in the log, with no entries at all from 2330 until 1020, apart from a brief reference to the knockdown, which looks as if it was added later. With no anemometer, they didn’t know how strong the wind, and were ‘probably happier as a result’, according to Williams.

Assent wasn’t fitted with VHF radio either, so her crew had no idea of the carnage that was taking place around them. In was only the next morning, when they saw rescue helicopters ‘all about us’ and came across the dismasted yacht Sandettie II, that they began to get an inkling that all was not well.

Assent rounded the Fastnet Rock at 0945 the next morning, with her crew ‘rested and in high spirits’ and, as they headed back to Land’s End that afternoon, they enjoyed a large curry ‘and thought ourselves very well off indeed’.

The next morning, they were back down to triple reefed main and a staysail and that afternoon had their second knockdown, which, as the log book records wryly, ‘shifted the beer’.

Extracts from Assent‘s 1979 Fastnet Race log

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First to finish

Assent blasted up the Channel back to Plymouth under spinnaker, averaging 8 knots, only to blow the spinnaker out 6 miles from the finish (‘Wot a way to go!’ says the log).

They crossed the finish line at 0142, and were astonished to discover they were not only first in Class V but were the only boat out of a fleet of 75 in the class to finish the race.

Assent’s outstanding performance – along with the rest of the Contessa 32 fleet, which all retired safely with no major damage – was one of the few positive stories to emerge from the 1979 Fastnet Race.

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Assent‘s 1979 Fastnet crew were aged from 18 to 25

In the soul-searching that followed, her seaworthy design was used as the benchmark against which the modern IOR boats were compared and found wanting. Assent soon acquired cult status, and barely a report on the race failed to mention the plucky little racer/cruiser, which succeeded where much grander designs failed.

But the 1979 Fastnet Race was only the start of the Assent legend. After the race, Ker carried on racing, usually with Alan as crew, competing again in the double-handed Round Britain Race (1978 and 1985), three times in the Three Peaks Race, and once in the Transatlantic Race to Newport race (1986).

It was while taking part in the 1978 Round Britain that Willy got switched on to sailing in northern latitudes. After a major refit in 1981, he went back to cruise the Shetland Islands and thereafter followed a haphazard course that would lead ever further northwards.

He ended up circumnavigating Iceland in 1982, and over the next 30 years covered over 100,000 miles, sailing to Norway and Greenland (1986) and then south to the Falklands and Antarctica (1992), back north across the Pacific via Easter Island and Hawaii (1993) to Alaska, Siberia and back to Vancouver.

He then had Assent shipped across Canada on a low-loader, before sailing through the Great Lakes back into the Atlantic and continuing his pilgrimage to Greenland and Iceland. Most of his trips were made single-handed, occasionally accompanied by his wife Veronica or some crew he picked up along the way.

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A rare crew joins Ker, who sailed mostly single-handed

Contrary to popular belief, Assent was not strengthened in any way for such extreme sailing and had just the standard Contessa lay up. Her fit-out was entirely functional and almost entirely bereft of creature comforts.

Ker fitted forward facing sonar, to detect icebergs, and an SSB radio fitted with a printer to print out Weatherfaxes. He fitted a 10hp single-cylinder Bukh diesel engine, which was easy to fix and could be hand-cranked, and a paraffin cooker and stove, on the basis that paraffin was available everywhere.

He also shipped three anchors and fitted an enormous windlass on her foredeck, with vast lengths of anchor chain stored in the fo’c’sle, to allow him to anchor the boat in deep water.

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Willy Ker sailing Assent off Anvers Island on the Antarctic Peninsula

Ker refused to carry a liferaft, on the principle that if he got into trouble he would rather rescue himself than drift around waiting for help to come. Instead, he had an inflatable dinghy with a rig specially made, complete with a double skin to guard against possible attacks by leopard seals – the only thing he seems to have been afraid of.

He also refused to fill the boat’s tank with tap water, which he thought was “absolutely disgusting”, preferring to collect water straight from glacier streams.

His only concession to human frailty was a small doghouse over the main hatchway – apparently made from an aircraft canopy from an old fighter plane – under which he spent most of his time while at sea.

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Ker’s nav station on Assent

Ker’s exploits didn’t pass without notice, and in 1983 he was invited to join the Royal Cruising Club (RCC), an extremely select organisation whose alumni include the likes of Bill Tilman, Miles and Beryl Smeeton and Francis Chichester.

His voyage to Greenland in 1987 – when Assent became the first yacht to sail into Grise Fjord, 850 miles from the North Pole – earned him the RCC’s Tilman Medal, and he was awarded the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water medal.

Finally, in 2011, Ker made his last voyage on Assent on a trip to Greenland, still sailing single-handed, despite his 85 years. After suffering a heart attack during the trip, however, he was finally persuaded to hang up his sailing boots and return to the UK by plane.

His son Alan sailed the boat home, and put her on the market. Although Ker consented to the sale and was delighted when Kit and Jessie asked to buy her, it must have been like losing a limb for him.

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Kit and Jessie Rogers, current custodians of Assent

Functional and unfussy

Back in Lymington, Kit is lighting the paraffin cooker to boil some water for tea. He has a love/hate relationship with the cooker, which is considerably older than the boat, and has been known to use a gas flamethrower to get it going. But wife Jessie was adamant it had to stay.

“It’s part of the story of the boat,” she says. “Willy had it for 40 years and lived on the boat in extreme conditions with only basic equipment. Now we’ve pimped her up with new gear, it felt a bit pathetic if we couldn’t even manage a paraffin stove!”

Since Kit and Jessie bought Assent, the yacht has indeed been extensively updated. She now has new sails (two sets: a Vectron suit for cruising and a carbon suit for racing), a new boom, self-tailing winches, and the running rigging now leads back to the cockpit.

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Kit lights the original 1920s paraffin stove fitted by Willy Ker. Photo: Nic Compton

The hull has been resprayed and, below decks, the fo’c’sle has been reinstated and the cushions reupholstered – though Ker’s sturdy, non-standard lee cloths remain. She now has VHF radio and a chartplotter instead of SSB and radar.

Yet, stepping on board Assent, she still feels supremely functional and unfussy, with her bare wood trim, her original mast complete with sturdy mast steps, and her unsprayed deck still bearing the battle wounds of her many voyages.

Far from being pimped up, it feels as if the spirit of her past had been respected. I suspect Ker would have approved of everything the Rogers have done.

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Reupholstered, but the sturdy leecloths are the same as ’79. Photo: Nic Compton

“I still feel it’s not really our boat,” says Kit. “It’s still Willy’s boat, and we’re just interlopers. There was clearly a relationship between Willy and Assent that can never be replicated or repeated.

“But we are starting to have our own adventures on her – not on a level with Willy’s, but exciting enough for us. We came first out of 28 Contessa 32s in the Round the Island Race last year. And it’s cool that she’s going to do the Fastnet again.”

It’s tricky taking on a boat with such a massive history, but if anyone can give her a new future that respects her past, it’s the Rogers. As for the Fastnet Race, they’ll be just happy to get around the course and have some fun along the way, just as their predecessors did in 1979.

And if the going gets tough, they’ll have the comfort of knowing that Assent has been through it all before – and much, much more besides.

Assent finished the 2019 Fastnet Race in a time of 5 days, 14 hours, 51 minutes, 25 seconds – placing 30th out of 37 finishers in IRC 4B.

The post Fastnet Race 1979: Restored survivor Assent heads back to the Rock appeared first on Yachting World.


Sardinia charter: Living the high life on a crewed Lagoon 620 (11 Sep 2019, 7:37 am)

A skippered catamaran in Sardinia offers a very special charter experience, as Helen Fretter and family found out

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From bed to Med in half a dozen steps: a pre-breakfast swim has to be the most idyllic start to any day

Beam. Or beam and volume. Those are the dominant characteristics that spring to mind about cruising catamarans. You expect huge full-width saloons and cabins spread out across metres of multihull.

But standing on the flybridge of the Lagoon 620 Lady Fiona, gazing down at a teal and turquoise Sardinian inlet, it was the height that really struck me.

I hadn’t seen my children for what felt like hours, as they scampered up and down the multi-level cat. They had bounced on the trampoline, climbed to the top deck to survey their domain, launched themselves from the transom steps into the sea, played raucous card games on the aft sundeck and then tiptoed down to their own cabin to cosy up with a book as the waves lapped by.

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Far above the water, you glide over – not through – the waves

Lady Fiona was their castle for a few days and she offered as many secretive stairwells and comfortable nooks and interesting viewpoints as the traditional towering variety.

I will admit that the first sail was slightly disconcerting. Unlike a monohull, which has a direct line of sight forward to everyone on deck, there was no one place on the Lagoon 620 where you could see where everyone was. How could I keep up my silent parental head-count?

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But we quickly adapted our ground rules – no walking around the side decks underway without a grown up, holding onto handrails on stairs and so on – and sailed through the week without a slip.

The trade off is a spectacular 360° perspective that could not feel more different to slipping along next to the sea in a traditional cockpit. All sail controls are led to the flybridge, where there are port and starboard wheels for manoeuvring, and both sunny and shaded spots thanks to a wide bimini.

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The crew were fantastic with children, and worked hard to make the trip enjoyable for everyone

Far above the water and the engines, you glide over – rather than through – the waves. Even down on the trampoline, barely a splash reaches your toes.

The stability is quite incredible. On our first morning motorsail out of Olbia, we were given a send off by a pod of dolphins before heading out into the swell. The Costa Smerelda is a millionaire’s playground and superyachts roar past with impressive regularity.

Just as our hostess, Michelle, climbed the stairs to the flybridge with a couple of mugs of freshly brewed coffee, a vast motoryacht suddenly altered course straight in front of us, sending a rolling wave towards our bow.

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Breakfast is served on the aft deck

It may have been the ultimate First World problem, but clearly those coffees weren’t going to survive. Yet Lady Fiona barely flinched, the wave disappeared under our hulls with almost no perceptible pitching. Not a drop was spilt.

It can make you a bit lazy; knowing you can put your camera down anywhere and it won’t crash to the floor. But that’s nothing compared to the Olympic-level indulgence of a crewed charter. We genuinely never had to lift a finger.

DiYachting offer luxurious skippered and crewed charters on sailing yachts over 60ft (and a couple of hand-picked motoryachts). The company is founded and run by Matt and Lizzie Abbiss, a former skipper and hostess team themselves, and they know what truly works – for crew, guests and owners.

Utter indulgence

Lady Fiona was run by highly experienced South African couple Greg Evans, the yacht’s skipper, and Michelle Collins, a talented chef. Like all diYachting crew, they live on board for the whole season and get to know the boat and local area inside out.

Three times a day the table was beautifully laid, a spectacular meal served, then magicked away, while all we had to do was decide if we’d prefer to wakeboard or snorkel or sail on next.

The paddleboards found their way to the stern before we’d decided to use them, a basket of towels would appear on deck even before we’d climbed out of the sea, while iced water and fruit plates would be waiting to refresh us. The cabins were stealthily made perfect; boat maintenance carried out so unobtrusively it was barely noticeable.

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You can expect five-star service three times a day on a crewed catamaran

We have been lucky enough to experience a skippered charter before, on a monohull. Every skipper and host/hostess team work differently, and how they interact with each group of guests very much depends on individual personalities (diYachting offer a very informative guide to everything from crew tips to onboard etiquette on their website) but the space of a multihull changes things too.

Lady Fiona is the Essense model of the popular VPLP-designed Lagoon 620, and the galley was in the stern of the port hull, freeing up the vast saloon as a guest lounge. In charter mode, the galley therefore becomes part of the working area of the yacht, and being served a meal on the aft deck is much closer to a private dining experience than any kind of crew table.

While Greg and Michelle would happily join us for lunch and a chat if we suggested it, for anyone who really values their privacy, a cat charter offers full service comfort without any sense that you are sharing each other’s personal space.

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Lady Fiona is a Lagoon 620 operated by diYachting

Our accommodation was impossibly luxurious. The master cabin had a huge athwartships double, a study/dressing area, and then a glorious ensuite heads complete with twin sinks, separate WC and enormous shower, plus private access to the aft deck. From bed to Med in half a dozen steps: a pre-breakfast swim has to be the most idyllic start to any day (especially when breakfast is eggs cooked to order or freshly baked banana muffins).

There were two double guest cabins forward, each with bunk-level windows. The saloon was modern, subtly finished and incredibly spacious, but we spent most of our time pottering between the various outside spaces – the covered aft deck, complete with metres of seating, outside dining space and wet bar; the flybridge, covered by a bimini and with swathes of cushions including a popular sunken lounging spot tucked just abaft the mast, and the foredeck, with yet more recliners.

Archipelago days

After leaving Olbia we first popped into Porto Rotundo, a much-smartened former fishing village that now welcomes an eclectic selection of yachts and well-heeled visitors. We made a beeline for Bar del Molo, a traditional gelateria that’s been serving home-made ice cream from a tiled kitchen since the ’50s, before reaching up to Caprera.

Caprera, a small island in the Bonifacio Straits, is a nature reserve and popular cruising spot.

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Water toys include a windsurfer, SUPs and towables

The butterfly-shaped inlet of Cala Coticcio offered a sheltered spot for the night, while the morning revealed a sandy cove hidden deep between rocky outcrops for idyllic swimming and paddleboarding expeditions.

But Coticco’s beauty is well known and by lunchtime dozens of small motorboats had poured into the bay, so we set off for a gentle sail to La Maddalena.

La Maddalena is the larger of the seven islands that make up the Maddalena archipelago off the north-east tip of Sardinia, and connected to Caprera by road bridge. This forces yachts on a pleasant circular route around – rather than between – the island group. We dropped anchor in Monte D’Arena, where the shore was dotted with small hotels and campervans, but the water much quieter.

With a wider bay allowing him to pick up some crosswinds, my husband took the yacht’s windsurfer out for a spin, while my daughter and I explored some of the miniature rock islands and tiny sand pockets scattered around the bay that were accessible only by paddleboard.

The characteristic boulders that decorate the shoreline also litter the seabed of Sardinia’s coast and care would be needed exploring on a self-skippered yacht. It seems obvious, but some of the best professional navigators in the world have been caught out whilst racing in these waters and approaching some anchorages after dark would require a good deal of confidence.

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Lady Fiona’s layout, with the galley in the aft hull, leaves the saloon completely open for the guests to relax in

Fortunately, while some spots were very busy during the afternoons, the majority of visitors were dayboats that returned to port by early evening, leaving our anchorages relatively uncrowded overnight. We came across no flotilla fleets, and usually found ourselves sharing with larger private yachts, and one or two glossy superyachts.

As the wind swung more to the south, there was little incentive to leave Monte D’Arena and we stayed on to enjoy the water for longer before motoring back down the eastern coast of Sardinia.

Besides swim steps on each hull, one of Lady Fiona’s most impressive features was a hydraulic semi-submergible platform which lifted to house the 4.3m tender when under way and provided an aft swim deck and handy water toy launching point that was in constant use from the moment we dropped the hook every day.

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Perfect lookout from a seat on the guardrails

When a couple of inflatables blew off the boat, Greg also proved just how quickly the tender could be launched from the platform as he went to retrieve them, making it a great safety feature.

Later we passed Porto Cervo, enjoying our top-deck view of some of the Wally crews that were out training ahead of the Maxi Worlds later in September. For a brief glimpse of how the high-rolling set experience the Costa Smeralda, we spent an afternoon off Cala Petra Ruja, listening to the Balearic beats drifting from the famous Nikki Beach resort, before continuing south.

A tiny kingdom

The reach towards Capo Figari proved to be the best sail of the trip, Lady Fiona eating up some 16 miles easily, nudging double figure boatspeeds as we cruised under towering cliffs. Just rounding the headland we were slightly too headed for the big cat, but were later able to ease sheets and continue our sail toward the imposing island of Tavolara, its summit hidden by a frosting of candyfloss white clouds.

We found a spot in the shade of Tavolara on its south-western edge, the bay rapidly emptying of day-trippers to reveal what must be one of the most spectacular anchorages in the Med. There is a single restaurant on the island, but its other draws are the walking and climbing trails up its 1,800ft limestone rock faces.

Tavolara, at 5km by just 1km wide, is known as the smallest inhabited kingdom in the world, and is technically ruled by the Tonino family, who lord over just 11 subjects and a herd of wild goats. However, at anchor that night it was us who lived like kings, as Michelle produced a show-stopping lobster pasta dish.

We rescheduled our final day to spend a memorable morning watching bottlenose dolphins play as the sun rose over Tavolara’s dramatic silhouette, before paddling over to a sandy isthmus that offered good snorkelling grounds – the island is part of a marine protected area and rich with sea life.

Tavolara might be the smallest realm in all the land, but it’s a powerful little place and we struggled to tear ourselves away. The last remaining compensation was a brisk broad reach back to Olbia, enjoyed from Lady Fiona’s flybridge with its master-of-all-you-survey viewpoint. Coming back down to earth would be a wrench.

Crewed catamaran charter guide

Multi-level living

Jumping from the cat’s impressive freeboard was a favourite activity

A couple of things surprised us about our big cat experience. One in particular was how the split levels change the dynamics – Lady Fiona offers both large sociable spaces and private quiet areas, which can be hard to achieve on even a substantial monohull sailing yacht.

It was also remarkable how quiet the Lagoon 620 was – no engine noise or generator hum and zero slapping at anchor. We all slept like babies.

Realistically, on most modern cruising monohulls, only one or two charter crew would be actively involved in sailing at any one time.

On a catamaran the big transformation was how the experience changed for anyone who was not helming. Life underway instantly became much more relaxed.

Five star service

Clearly a skippered and crewed charter is a luxury option, but we were blown away but just how impressive the whole experience was. Meals were restaurant quality, the living accommodation as comfortable as a very high-end hotel, the crew warm and professional.

The water toys were also superyacht spec – a 14ft fast tender, windsurfer, two SUPs, waterskis, wakeboard, and towable banana boat (which I suspect was the highlight of my children’s entire summer, the grins were plastered on their faces for so long afterwards).

The cost

This is trip-of-a-lifetime territory, but with the sheer space available the cost could easily be split between families. For anyone considering buying a new cat, it may also give a much closer comparison than a bareboat charter yacht, so could be money well spent as a way to experience life aboard a full-spec multihull before making a major investment.

A week on Lady Fiona costs from €19,000 in low season, rising to €26,000 in July and August.

The post Sardinia charter: Living the high life on a crewed Lagoon 620 appeared first on Yachting World.


Information about The Irregular Corp and Sailaway (10 Sep 2019, 2:43 pm)

Hello Sailaway Pioneers,

The Irregular Corporation has been honoured to work alongside Richard over the last few years to help bring his passion of sailing to more people but that journey for us has now come to an end as our existing publishing agreement expires.

This might be the end of our journey with Sailaway but Richard has lots of exciting plans to continue to improve Sailaway moving forward so we hope you continue to enjoy your time with Sailaway, Richard and most importantly, sailing.

The whole Irregular Corporation team wishes Richard and Sailaway the best for the future and we look forward to what is coming next!

Happy sails,

The Irregular Corporation

Veedol: On board Yoann Richomme’s record-breaking Lift 40 (10 Sep 2019, 7:51 am)

Yoann Richomme’s Class 40 Veedol is a latest generation Marc Lombard design that was the dominant class winner in the 2018 Route du Rhum

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A curious pattern repeated in the 2018 Route du Rhum, as the newest designs – like the foiling Ultimes, and foil-assisted IMOCAs Charal and Hugo Boss – were defeated on the line by older boats. But there was one class which bucked this trend: the Class 40s, where Yoann Richomme sailed a near-faultless race in his customised Lombard design Veedol to lead from day two, also setting a new class course record.

This is an interesting time for the Class 40s. Thanks to the success of previous production models, including Lombard’s Akilarias, the fleet has developed strength in numbers, with 53 taking to the start in the Rhum. But many skippers at the front of the fleet are now ordering semi-custom designs, and the performance level in the fleet has made a real jump.

“I did two Transat Jacques Vabres in 2011 and 2013 [in a Class 40], and it doesn’t feel like it was the same class at all,” says Richomme, who has also competed in the IMOCAs. “Back then they were painted inside, they weren’t as stiff, the sails weren’t as good – nothing was up to the level it is now. They didn’t cost as much either! Because this does cost a lot of money. But the boats have improved, they’re a lot harder to sail. This is almost where the IMOCAs were ten years ago.”

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The Lift 40 is particularly strong in reaching and upwind conditions, but has won in light airs also. Photo: Christophe Launay

Richomme has a hugely covetable sailing CV. Having been part of the Macif stable for several years, he won the 2019 Solitaire du Figaro, having already won it in 2016. He came 2nd in the 2013 TJV, has worked as a preparateur for Roland Jourdain’s IMOCA 60 campaign, studied naval architecture in Southampton, and was heavily involved in the development of the new Figaro 3. He is technical, fluently bilingual and a superb communicator. From a sponsor’s perspective, he is a complete package.

However, when his Macif sponsorship came to an end he had to decide what to do – try and raise the funds to pursue a Vendée Globe dream in an older IMOCA, or prove his potential by bidding to win in the Class 40s? For 2018 he chose the latter, and when that ambition aligned with his new sponsors’ aims, he placed an order for a new Lift 40 (hull No.1 had been designed for Louis Duc) and set out to optimise it further (this year, after his Figaro win, he is back in the IMOCA class and will be competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre in October 2019).

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Volume and power

The most striking feature of the Lift 40 is its fat forward sections and almost scow-like bow. Internally this creates a positively cavernous space, which Richomme has worked hard to maximise the stacking potential of, getting all available weight as far outboard as possible.

“This is definitely the boat with the most volume forward,” he explains, “It’s not structured the same way [as other 40s], which makes the stacking a lot easier. It’s very, very stiff, it’s got a lot of longitudinals, whereas [other designs] have transverse structures and are a lot more bendy, a lot softer.”

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Control lines are led to the cockpit outside of the coachroof where possible. Photo: James Tomlinson

“This boat has got 12% more righting moment than the Mach 3, because it is wider, and because I can stack better. Basically when I am fully powered up – which is quite late compared to the others, at more than 18 knots – I’ve got full stack at max beam. I’ve got six bags, the gennaker, then all the water ballast. They’re stacking about a metre inside the hull when I’m stacking right on the outside.”

The forward sections also provide the lift which the Lift 40 is named for – Richomme says one of the things that makes the class hard to sail currently is the propensity for many boats to bury their bows in waves.

“What you have to imagine is that the boat is never running flat, so what you see in the harbour doesn’t make a lot of sense. But when you heel the chine is in the water, so it’s providing a lot of righting moment all the way forward, and that nose is out. So while we have a very round nose lying flat, it’s actually a ‘V’ when it’s heeling at 20° or 25°.

“That volume helps with lifting the bow out. You’ve got 2m of bow completely out of the water the whole time, and the water is just running underneath a flat surface. So it actually isn’t creating that much drag.”

“I think the designers have really done an amazing job, it’s got so much power.” Richomme says that in less than 18 knots the Lift is very comparable to other designs. Even in light conditions the extra volume hasn’t proved a handicap – Richomme won the Drheam Cup in very light winds soon after the boat launched.

Once true windspeed reaches 18-20 knots he will often be half a knot quicker. “I carry more sail for longer and a lot faster; the boat goes about 9.5 knots upwind. It’s absolutely crazy.”

Living arrangements

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Fold down footrests give Richomme a dry seated position under the cuddy, with access to main and jib sheets as well as a view of the nav screen. Photo: James Tomlinson

One area Richomme has particularly personalised on Veedol is the cuddy, pit and nav area. Rather than having any lines running through the side of the cuddy to split winches, Richomme has led as many sheets as possible outside to the cockpit.

The rest are channelled through a central beam, which runs diagonally through the companionway to a central winch on the cockpit floor. This hugely reduces the amount of water that enters the sheltered cuddy area.

Richomme has two seats on each side of the cockpit – two fold-down footrests turn the side decks under the fixed roof into dry seating positions, while fold-down backrests a couple of feet abaft provide seated helming positions out in the open.

A screen on a pivoting bracket can be pulled into the companionway on either tack, so Richomme can trim the main and jib sheets, traveller and tackline, and navigate, all from under cover. The computer can be spun to face inside the boat also, and he can reach the central winch from inside too.

“So I can play the mainsheet from my resting position. Even if I’m in my pyjamas, I can do it without getting wet! I can even do the first sheet. Either jib sheet, spinnaker sheet or main track – I can do all that while watching the computer. To me that’s a big gain.”

Whilst the companionway entrance is slightly awkward when the boat is flat, Richomme says that when heeled the beam provides a useful bracing point. The other result is that the rest of the cockpit is very uncluttered.

The Lift 40 has a single spreader rig, created by Lombard together with spar makers Axxon. Richomme has also made efforts to reduce clutter aloft. “I worked the aerodynamics a lot on this boat, I’ve probably got the mast with the least gear on it – I took a lot of things out. So that’s saving a lot of windage and a lot of weight obviously.

“A lot of people tell me that the boat looks empty, it looks like there is nothing on deck, but it’s like Desjoyeaux’s rule: everything must be used twice, if not more. So every time there’s a rope, a fitting or anything, it must be used more than once to justify itself.”

Specification

LOA: 12.18m (41ft 1in)
Beam: 4.50m (14ft 9in)
Draught: 3.00m (9ft 10in)
Displacement (light): 4,500kg (9,920lb)
Water ballast: 2x750lt (2x165gal)
Upwind sail area: 115m2 (1,238ft2)
Downwind sail area: 265m2 (2,852ft2)

The post Veedol: On board Yoann Richomme’s record-breaking Lift 40 appeared first on Yachting World.


How to balance speed and comfort when sailing – top tips from Pip Hare (9 Sep 2019, 8:22 am)

Route planning isn’t purely about finding the quickest route from A to B. Pip Hare shares her top tips on how to sail quickly and comfortably

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Local geography has a big impact on conditions close to the coast. Photo: Trystan Grace / Kraken Yachts

Most of us now rely on some form of routeing software when sailing offshore. These packages calculate the fastest theoretical route between two points based on polars and predicted wind, using an isochronal method. The software assumes we’ll sail the boat to its maximum potential, taking every wave on the chin. This can result in a route that may be fast but is also brutally unsympathetic.

To plan a more comfortable route we need to set out our own parameters for acceptable conditions. These parameters will change with crew numbers and how heavily loaded your boat is. By manipulating the data with which our routeing is calculated, then comparing results, we should be able to plan a much smoother ride.

Polars

A realistic set of polars is key to good routeing, especially when trying to avoid weather systems. There is an impressive variety of polars for cruising boats included with most routeing packages, but these should be only a starting point – seldom will you be sailing the boat at 100% of its theoretical performance.

Use the percentage polar feature to adjust your performance, being as realistic as possible. If trying to stay ahead of a weather front, run a couple of routeings with lower percentage polars to double check the implications of sailing slower than predicted.

If your routeing software allows the input of different polars for different conditions, then it is well worth taking the time to build these up.

Max wind strength

Almost all software will allow the input of a maximum wind speed along the route. The speed you select should take into consideration wind angle, loaded weight, crew experience and your sail wardrobe.

If your software allows the input of different wind strengths for different points of sail, then give it as much to work with as possible. If not, set for the maximum wind strength upwind, run a trial routeing and check the table of legs: if the whole route is downwind, you could increase your maximum wind strength then run another route.

When setting your limits remember that in the average frontal system you may expect gradient winds of 10% more and gusts of 25% more than the forecast 10m wind. Some software will allow you to increase the gradient wind to 110%. If not then, decrease your max wind strength by 10%.

Once your route has been calculated, check the table of legs for any areas of concern – you may end up with several legs in one knot less than your maximum wind strength. Overlay a gust map on your route. If this is not available, a precipitation layer should help identify frontal systems where the gusts will occur.

Minimum wind strength

When making a long passage fully laden, adjust your polars to reflect the extra weight on board – which will be especially detrimental in lower wind strengths.

Beware the optimism of routeing software around high-pressure centres; once the route is calculated overlay a MSLP (mean sea level pressure) chart and check you’re not being sent through the centre of a high.

Check the table of legs for boat speed against wind speed. If you think the route optimistic, it probably is. Increase your minimum wind strength by five knots and see if the route changes.

Significant wave height

Expect to encounter many waves that are smaller than predicted and some significantly larger. Breaking waves can be considered to be dangerous when the wave height is over one third of the length of a boat, for example, 4m waves breaking on a 12m boat.

When setting your limits for significant wave heights don’t just think about what is dangerous but consider what is appropriate. Take into account the wave period: the most uncomfortable seas will arise from shorter wave periods combined with larger wave heights.

If your routeing package doesn’t allow you to specify maximum wave height, check a specialist chart against your route – then try setting waypoints to route away from areas of concern. Particularly take note of conditions following periods of sustained high winds, when the wind strength is less but the waves could still be large.

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Wind direction

When coastal sailing, the wind direction in relation to current and the geography of the coast will have a huge impact on comfort. Do not expect your computer to interpret these conditions; these are often situations when the fastest route is the most miserable.

Consider the sea state that will be caused by wind over tide conditions, overfalls or onshore waves against large cliffs. Set up waypoints or no-go zones to keep away from shallow water or tidal races.

When offshore check the wind direction against the direction of the swell. The most uncomfortable seas can occur when these are at odds. In particular beware of the wind shift after the passing of a front, when sudden and dramatic changes to wind direction can cause dangerous breaking seas.

Your strategy

Short-term strategy (1-3 days) is often about picking the right departure times and taking into account the coastal effects. Don’t be tied to a departure date.

Long-term strategy will be negotiating larger systems and it’s good idea to use surface analysis charts to make decisions about this, as well as relying on a computer. Always compare several versions of your route, changing the parameters, especially polars. If you don’t like the resultant routes, use waypoints to force a change.

Medium-term strategies (3-5 days) can be the most challenging: too far from land to seek a port of refuge and often determined by the passage of frontal systems. If it really appears necessary to take some short-term pain for the long-term gain then set the isochrones to short intervals (1 hour) and thoroughly check the table of legs for areas of concern.

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How to moor double-handed: Top tips from pro sailor Pip Hare (6 Sep 2019, 8:13 am)

Mooring double-handed can be a stressful situation, so sharpen your skills with Pip Hare’s top tips

double-handed-berthing-tips-credi-tor-johnson
Stress-free double-handed mooring is about communication, prepping early and being generous with your fenders. Photo: Tor Johnson

Mooring can be a stressful situation and mooring double-handed takes thought, preparation and calm heads. As the average couple’s cruising boat gets bigger the challenge of coming alongside safely at the end of the day is getting harder.

High topsides result in reduced visibility, increased windage and freeboard heights that make jumping off with a rope neither practical nor safe. Beamy boats with engine controls offset to one side can make judging distance difficult and voices cannot easily be heard from bow to stern. Here are my tips for keeping berthing relaxed.

Do your research

Don’t rush in. It always pays to recce a situation, hang back in open water and make a decent plan that you both understand before heading for a new berth. The use of satellite images is invaluable for understanding the layout of a new port or marina – use the satellite layer on your charting software or look at pictures from Google Earth.

Once you have identified where you will be berthing, discuss the effects of the wind/current on your berthing plans, discuss how things could go wrong and agree an ‘escape plan’. No matter how well you know each other, telepathy rarely works in stressful situations but a well thought-out plan keeps you both in control.

One line strategy

On most occasions when either coming to or leaving a mooring your boat will sit comfortably and safely against a single line with gentle pressure from engine – you just need to figure out in which position this line should be. Consider how the elements will act on your hull and how the boat will pivot around a single mooring point, remembering the bow blows downwind faster than the stern.

Keeping the line short is often key to keeping your boat in place, so rig up your first line with the inboard end leading to a winch. If you have electric winches, which can be controlled from the helm’s position, this will free up the crew to go for the second line.

When mooring alongside, a midships breast line is often the best solution; once this line is on, and pulled tight, the helmsman can drive against it, using either the bow thruster or prop wash to bring the stern and then the bow into the pontoon in turn.

For downwind or down-current alongside berths, and fore and aft box berths, a single, short stern line will do the job. For leeward alongside berths, reverse against a stern spring to stop the bow blowing onto the pontoon.

When windward berthing in strong conditions a short midships line is preferable, though if space is limited it may be better to fender up and rest gently in the opposite leeward berth – even if alongside another boat – then wind across afterwards.

For boats with high topsides, lassoing cleats or bollards from the deck is often easier than having your crew get off and guards against the risk of leaving your crew on the dock if it all goes wrong.

When using this method, the helmsman should steer the boat into the pontoon as close as if your crew were going to get off. The natural tendency to ‘hang off’ otherwise creates an inevitable delay as the crew has to pull in larger amounts of slack – in windy conditions this will allow the boat to travel, and pivot around this single point.

Hand signals

Agree a method of communication that does not include shouting. Words can be lost in the wind, misunderstood and the force with which they are delivered can be misinterpreted.

The bigger the boat the clearer your communication should be, so set out what information the helm will need and how and when it should be delivered. If relaying distance, hand signals using fingers on one hand held clear out to the side work well. Agree units (boat lengths/metres/feet) and from where they are being measured.

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My experience suggests that advice on direction and speed is only useful when picking up a mooring buoy or in situations where there is no other point of reference by which the helm can judge their speed or angle of approach.

In these situations, the crew can be a long way off on the bow and facing forward so ensure your hand signals are delivered with an outstretched arm and make them exaggerated. A clenched fist is usual for hold, a wagging finger for slowly forward and flat palm pushing downwards for slow down.

If your helm has not asked for information on speed and direction then try not to dish it out. In all cases, don’t forget you are a team, so working together and good communication is as important as boat handling skills.

Whos on the helm?

It’s still unusual to see women taking the helm and there are many reasons why changing this status quo could only be a good thing for the average cruising couple. If both partners in a double-handed crew understand how to manoeuvre the boat, berthing becomes intuitive and a lot smoother. If one member of a crew is stronger or more physically confident than the other, then it makes sense for them to handle ropes when mooring rather than being stuck behind the wheel.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut so try to find opportunities to swap when berthing. If one of you lacks confidence, then try a day or weekend with an instructor to kick-start the change. Having the flexibility to decide who will drive in different scenarios will be liberating, leaving you able to bounce ideas off each other when faced with a challenge.

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