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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
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
- 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.
“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.
“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.”
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 Matthews’s ‘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.
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 Harrison’s 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.”
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.”
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 Hardy’s 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.”
‘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.”
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 Black’s 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
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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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 America’s Cup challenger. INEOS Team UK will be challenging for the 36th America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021. Each month he’ll 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
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
‘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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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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!
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
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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)
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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
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.
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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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.
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.
The post How to balance speed and comfort when sailing – top tips from Pip Hare appeared first on Yachting World.
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
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.
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.
Who’s 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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Electric winch, 4-speed winches or electric winch handle? [promotional post] (5 Sep 2019, 3:03 pm)
Electric winches are often considered the standard solution for any sailor needing help on deck. Yet, they are far from perfect, starting with the prohibitive cost
In the last few years, new solutions have been found: 4-speed winches and electric winch handles. Here is an overview of their comparative advantages:
Electric winches: powerful but not always suitable
Recognised for their efficiency, electric winches are powerful but require a considerable investment. Motorisation of just one winch means not only buying the equipment, but also installing it. The total price range varies from €2,500 to €6,000, depending on the size of the winch and its functions (e.g. motorisation of one or two winch gears, on/off button or variable speed).
Aside from their cost, electric winches have other limitations
- Without a speed regulator, electric winches require extreme caution during use to prevent any damage to the boat. They also cannot be used for precise settings, for example for trimming the final centimetres of a genoa.
- Electric winches can cause accelerated aging of the service batteries: each time they are used, they solicit between 60 and 100A.
- Finally, the installation of an electric winch is not always possible. Cockpits and deck layouts do not always provide sufficient space for this.
Speed winches: more power for easier but slower winching
Four-speed winches have been designed to offer winches answering specific needs. The additional speeds feature either an overdrive to go faster, or more power to require less effort while winching.
Racers will love the overdrive version. Sailors needing help on deck will prefer the version with more power. This version allows you to better manage your effort while winching, making it easier.
However, it doesn’t reduce the amount of energy required to hoist a main sail, which means that it also makes winching slower. It doesn’t bring the electric energy provided by electric winches or electric winch handles.
Electric winch handles: the smart solution
One big advantage of electric winch handles is that you can get electric help on all your winches with just one winch handle, and without having to do any installation at all. Options vary according to models but they are always cheaper than powering a single electric winch.
Unlike electric winches there is no risk of damaging the boat: as you have to hold it with your hand, you are always in control of what’s happening on your lines.
Ewincher is the electric winch handle that gives the best user experience as it features the most advanced and innovative functions (Brushless motor, Li-ion battery). Plus, it’s the lightest (2.2kg), and is the only one featuring a winch locking system and three modes of operation to be used for any manoeuver, at any time (manual, electric or combined).
Above all, Ewincher is the only winch handle that will allow you to apply torque effortlessly thanks to its unique ergonomics.
Discover why in this video:
To find out more about the benefits of electric winch handles, visit ewincher.com
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Atlantic sailing routes: 2018 ARC Rally finishers share their experiences (4 Sep 2019, 7:35 am)
Three ARC fleets sailed across the Atlantic on very different routes. Elaine Bunting reports from each
Steven Ismail never really meant to join a rally, but he ended up doing one almost by accident and sailing to a destination he’d never originally intended. Ismail’s crew, a mixture of friends from Scotland and Norway from the oil business, thought a rally would be worth doing, but by then the ARC+ to Cape Verde and St Lucia was full so he signed up for the new ARC+ finishing in St Vincent.
This new, small spin-off of the ARC stops at the Cape Verde Islands and finishes at Blue Lagoon Harbour Marina at the south end of St Vincent. It was created, really, as an overflow to the ARC+ from Las Palmas to Cape Verde and St Lucia, an event proving so popular that entries this year had to be capped at 72 boats because it had reached maximum capacity at Mindelo in São Vicente.
Why the stampede? Several reasons: the route breaks an Atlantic crossing nicely into two parts: an 850-mile starter passage southwards to Mindelo, then a two-week, 2,150-mile crossing to the Caribbean, setting out at a latitude where tradewinds are generally reliable.
But the intriguing thing is that the new ARC+ St Vincent that Ismail and his crew ended up joining seems to have filled a need perhaps no-one acknowledged was there. With only 15 yachts in this first of the new rally (though from 12 different countries), it formed its own distinct identity as a close-knit, boutique event that treated crews to a route of off-the-beaten-track destinations. It became the ARC for adventurers.
Now, with three separate transatlantic rallies all starting from Gran Canaria and finishing in the Caribbean, World Cruising offer several different flavours of experience – if I had to sum them up with epithets, I’d choose ‘classic’ for the ARC, (a world class event with 165 entries this year) ‘family’ for the ARC+ and ‘adventure community’ for the ARC+ St Vincent.
No easy undertaking
Steven Ismail may have ended up at the island of St Vincent by happenstance, but he says he loved it all. Last year Ismail was made redundant and he spent £51,000 on a 25-year-old Feeling 486, RoseMarie (“We like to say it’s more than a feeling,” jokes one of his crew), and around £15-20,000 on hull treatments, new equipment, sails and safety gear.
After a long and eventful voyage from Norway, there was a crew discussion about joining the ARC+. “We got there a day before the deadline for registration,” says crewmember Terry Thorpe. “We had thought it was middle-aged people doing 18-30 type things, but in Las Palmas we were attracted by the social aspects and realised that we were taking an older boat 1,000 miles offshore and it was no easy undertaking.
“We could see that there was a quite a big gap in [the safety equipment] needed to join, but we realised that it wasn’t being asked for as a joke. The weather information was good, the seminar information was good and the safety stuff was good.”
“I had a discussion with all the crew,” says the skipper, “and all the guys were of the opinion it was worth doing and worth spending the money on. It was well-run and professional.” Now, he adds: “I can recommend it quite readily and I can see why it’s grown. It is well run and fun. It’s a nice way to arrive. We feel like a sailing family; we’ve all been on a similar adventure and everyone can relate to what they’ve done.”
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On the face of it, St Vincent might seem like a less attractive destination than St Lucia. It has a chequered reputation; there has been occasional trouble in some of the bays at the north end of the island where crews making inter-island passages often overnight. There are known problems with drugs, with crime; I was warned not to walk around the capital, Kingstown, alone at night.
If you were only to read the above, you might never go there, but you would be so wrong not to. I visited the ARC+ St Vincent fleet in December and, wow, did I get a surprise. Blue Lagoon Harbour Marina is set in a bay of the kind that you might dream of; an idyllic Caribbean destination.
It has a small marina attached to a hotel and restaurant, set in a bay fringed with tall palm trees and protected by a reef. A slight scend comes over the reef at high tide, nudging the boats stern to, but you can sit aboard your boat and look out to sea and feel the breeze, something impossible in big marinas.
Kingstown is a working port and fascinating if you enjoy being in the midst of life unvarnished. It is dingy in parts but vital, filled with market stalls piled high with everything from St Vincent-grown fruit and vegetables (agriculture is a staple industry) to Chinese-made fancy lingerie.
Ferries leave bustling with building materials, schoolchildren, shoppers. You can buy rotis, eat traditional meals with breadfruit, dasheen and ‘ground provision’ (creamed and mashed root vegetables), all manner of fish from flying fish to fried ballyhoo and mahi mahi, local juices such as sorrel or golden apple and (of course) rum and local Hairoun beer.
I joined a group from the rally to visit the town’s British colonial era botanical gardens, and when we arrived children in the playground next door ran around shouting excitedly: “White people! White people!”
The rally organisers arranged a tour of a local organic farm and a hike through the rainforest to the Soufrière volcano. Some crews took day trips across to Bequia, just ten miles away, or to the Tobago Cays, which they were going to be sailing to later over Christmas. Everyone I met in St Vincent was friendly and polite. The island has an authentic Caribbean feel that can feel diluted, sometimes extinguished, elsewhere.
And with its stop at the Cape Verde islands, which is a fascinating archipelago scenically and culturally, and very different to Europe, I can see why this rally will grow, and deserves to. It has something of the atmosphere of a round the world rally: a small fleet visiting distinct places that are distinctly not like home.
Freedom for a year
Roberta and Jason Bowman also ended up on the ARC+ St Vincent unintentionally. They had a plan they called ‘Freedom 50 for a year’ but when Jason was made redundant last year aged 46 they decided to sell their house, buy a boat in Europe and go sailing.
They picked up the 2006 Elan 434, Dobra Dani, in Croatia last February and spent the year cruising slowly through the Med and down to the Canary Islands. The Bowmans were on the waiting list for ARC+ when the organisers contacted them to say they had launched this new rally, and they signed up.
“It was fantastic,” Roberta says of the experience. “Honestly, I’m in disbelief! We’ve done this crossing and it was a really great experience. We had great weather, 25-28 knots at first and really bumpy, but then it settled to 15-21 knots and 80% of the crossing from Mindelo (Cape Verde) to here was on the jib alone. We did the crossing from there in 14 days.
“It was a great experience. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Would I recommend it to people? Absolutely. The camaraderie is great – we are a community.”
Reflecting on the benefits of the event, she adds: “The rally was able to get you ready mentally. There’s such a wealth of information in the rally binder, from medication to safety equipment, that it really got us looking at what we needed to prepare.”
North in St Lucia, the main ARC fleet and the ARC+ crews who had come via Cape Verde stormed in this year borne by perfect tradewinds. “Some of the best conditions I have ever had – 18 knots of wind plus or minus three knots,” remarked German skipper Christoph von Reibnitz, as he stepped ashore after finishing his tenth ARC this year in his 59ft yawl Peter von Seestermühe, built in 1936 and the oldest yacht in the rally by a long shot.
“It was a Goldilocks year,” jokes Jeremy Wyatt, director of World Cruising, making an allusion to the bears’ porridge that was neither too hot nor too cold.
First across finish line of the ARC rally in December, A-sail bar-taut and cresting on twin bow waves, was one of France’s most famous sailors, Jean-Pierre Dick, sailing his 54ft canting keel cruising concept design The Kid with a crew of five. They sprinted across from Las Palmas in 11 days. “Perfect tradewinds, 17-26 knots all the way,” he remarked.
Dick wanted to race across with a group of associates and sponsors, and “pass on my knowledge of how to sail offshore”. He hadn’t realised when he entered the ARC that this was not the only tradewinds option.
“At some stage later, I learned there was the RORC Transatlantic Race,” he confesses, “and a rally was not my intention as I am more race-minded, but it is very well managed with a global ambience and I was amazed at the number of boats and the commitment. I hope to come back next year.”
Richard Dobbs, sailing his Swan 68, Titania of Cowes, called the crossing, his first transatlantic, “ideal. We have one spinnaker and we pulled that out and sailed with it, or main and jib all the way. It was incredibly stable, though challenging in many ways.”
Dobbs was particularly struck by what he calls “the eco-system of the ARC. The partners such as insurance and medical training [Yachting World is also a partner…] all share the same values, about the spirit of sailing and not just making the most amount of money out of it. There is something careful about the way that the ARC has chosen this that’s great; they’ve done it to make a long-term, sustainable event.”
Titania’s crew played their part by carrying out a mercy mission on the way across. One of the eight crew spotted a fishing net floating nearby with a turtle trapped in it.
The crew went through their MOB drill, furled the headsail and started the engine, then motored back to the tangle of plastic netting, fishing floats and jugs. Lifting the turtle on board, they cut the animal fee and dropped it back into the water.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, more than 250,000 turtles die annually as a result of accidental bycatch in US waters alone. It’s a sad but not uncommon sight. (The Conservancy is lobbying for the use of Turtle Excluder Devices in trawl nets, two-dimensional inserts with large escape openings.)
Transatlantic for kids
At Rodney Bay Marina, in the thick of the ARC+ fleet, were groups of children playing and speeding up and down on scooters. Across the three rallies, there were 58 kids taking part this year, 23 of them in the ARC+ “So proportionally there were more family boats in that rally, as it is only 30% of the total numbers,” says ARC manager Nick Martin.
“Sometimes I don’t know where my boys are, but all I have to do is look along the dock and see where their shoes are!” laughs Belgian sailor Kristel Moring. She sailed across with husband Dave and their two sons Arthur (11) and Vince (9).
The Morings, both civil engineers – Kristel is in charge of bridges, canals and cables for the Flanders government, while Dave is in charge of the department doing the maintenance she’s specified – share the same boss, and when they asked for a year off they say her response was: “At first, ’What a great idea!’ and then: “But now we will have to find someone to replace both of you.’”
After working for 18 years since graduating, the Morings felt they should take a break. “Since we will have to work until we are 67, we thought let’s do it now.”
They bought their boat, a 2006 Hanse 370, Gertha 4, in the UK. Her owner, Simon Ridley, had done two previous ARCs in the boat, plus ARC Baltic, the Azores and Back Race and the Malts Cruise, and the boat was equipped with lots of bluewater equipment. Ridley later bought another yacht, a Swan 46, Gertha 5, and also took part in the ARC+ – she was berthed next door to the Morings in St Lucia.
Kristel says that the biggest challenge of the crossing was “finding the balance between keeping watch and keeping the kids happy”. The boys both have e-readers and read books, did some schoolwork every day (mainly maths, as writing was difficult with the boat rolling so much). “They helped us a lot,” says Kristel. “We made bread together, they kneaded the dough and cut vegetables and they were happy doing those things with us.”
“Time is the luxury here,” she says. “Schoolwork is always tested in a certain amount of time. At home we are always hurrying the kids. ‘Come on, come on, get up, get dressed’, and the same in the evenings; when everything is done we only have half an hour before they go to bed.
“At the weekends, you might have things planned, fun things, but you are still living by the appointments you have made. This trip is a chance to [experience] life without deadlines.”
Steady progress westwards
With steady, good winds and few reports of big squalls, there were no really major incidents this year. Two yachts were dismasted (one with a cracked swage on a cap shroud at the spreader; the rigging, the skipper admitted, had done 25,000 miles) but both made landfall safely.
There did not appear to be an exceptional amount of sail damage, perhaps because many crews reported that they’d been able to make very good progress sailing wing and wing with main and genoa.
The route helped too: this was a year to trend south from the rhumb line, away from a ridge of high pressure. With a runway of steady downwind breeze from the Canary Islands, the temperatures rose and the seas were getting warmer. By a week out, as World Cruising’s Nick Martin observed: “Anxiety about the crossing has gone away and people have gained confidence. Soon people feel and think to themselves: I’m an ocean sailor.”
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Marilee: The inside story of the 1926 Herreshoff NY40’s remarkable restoration (3 Sep 2019, 8:16 am)
Marilee is one of just four remaining ‘Fighting Forties’. The 1926 Nat Herreshoff design has just undergone an incredible restoration. Alison Langley reports
When the New York Yacht Club commissioned the new NY40 one-design class in 1916 Nathanael Herreshoff’s objective was to design a competitive racer that was seaworthy enough for ocean racing, yet also provided elegant accommodation for coastal cruising.
The rules required that owners helm the yacht – except when the boat was on a run or a reach. Professional crew was limited to four, with an additional two allowed when racing. The rest of the crew would be ‘Corinthian’ sailors.
The design initially came under criticism for its wide beam and high freeboard – a major shift from Herreshoff’s earlier class racers. It was given the moniker ‘the flying saucer’, but it wasn’t long before the boat’s performance was proven and the flying saucers soon became known as the ‘Fighting Forties’.
The 12 original NY40s only saw two racing seasons before World War I put a halt to sailing. Competition resumed in 1920. In 1926, two new NY40s were launched: Marilee (hull 955) for Edward I Cudahy, and her sistership, Rugosa II (hull 983). The two boats were identical in their lines, but Marilee featured a newly designed coach house, accommodation plan, and a larger cockpit.
The NY40s were known to race hard in their heyday, producing some infamous battles. The boats were also renowned for their hearty seaworthiness, and despite their vast sail areas were famously rarely reefed. Just four NY40s survive and race today: the well-known Rowdy, Chinook, Rugosa, and Marilee.
Although the war had ended, the United States had not fully recovered economically in the ’20s. The trend was for smaller boats and by 1927 most of the NY40 fleet had been sold, continuing to cruise and race only periodically.
In 1933, Marilee was given an engine, and was one of several Forties who traded her gaff and massive sail areas for a more manageable Marconi rig.
She received her first major refit some six decades later, in preparation for the 2001 America’s Cup Jubilee Regatta at Cowes. Seventy-five years after the last true season of NY40 class racing, Marilee and Rugosa tied for first overall at the regatta. Marilee went on to race with success on the Med classic circuit.
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A bottom-up restoration for Marilee wasn’t on the radar in 2014. Then just some aesthetic improvements, racing enhancements, and ‘light structural’ projects were on the docket.
French & Webb was chosen to undertake the work, while Kurt Hasselbalch, curator of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Hart Nautical Collections, which houses Herreshoff’s original plans and drawings, was to prove a valuable member of the restoration team.
In early winter 2014 they began with a 3D scan of the existing hull. This, combined with a CAD drawing created from the original Herreshoff plans, enabled the team to accurately examine Marilee’s current shape and compare it with the design from 1926. They discovered that the deck line and sheer were grossly misshapen – by over four inches – from years of unsupported rigging loads.
That first winter a portion of the keel was replaced, along with the horn timber, and approximately 80 per cent of the floor frames. Bronze plates were incorporated for added strength and resilience in the floor frame connections and the mast base itself. Additionally, two of the hull frames were cut to double thickness for exponentially more hull stiffness.
Around half the planking was replaced, both single and double planks, using custom- designed fasteners. The wheel was replaced with a tiller and an accompanying rudder, all built according to original Herreshoff plans. Lastly, the engine was moved from far aft, where it was unsupported, to the centre of the boat – better for racing and also for the structure of the boat.
After being rapidly relaunched for a summer of racing in 2014, the following autumn Marilee entered her second phase of restoration, and there was quite a bit more to do. The yard had to completely rip the boat apart, breaking it all the way back down to just framing and planking.
When the chainplates were removed, it was found that the boltholes were oblong, and that the sheer plank had lifted vertically from the strain on planks below. To avoid any similar problems in the future, and strengthen the mast-step foundation, the chainplates were attached to a large bronze load plate that would be fastened to the hull framing. A team of metalsmiths custom-fabricated all the hardware, in place, to ensure a perfect fit.
The high-stress area of the running backstay terminals were treated the same way, but in practice this was much more complex, because it meant hand-rolling a load plate to fit a curved area of the hull. Additionally a bronze knee was welded to the framework. The largest loads are now distributed along this custom-fabricated bronze framework.
When Marilee was originally launched, her coach house and larger cockpit gave her a distinctive silhouette. But by 2015 Marilee’s deck furniture had grown tired, heavy and Victorian in style. It was not up to the usual Herreshoff standard.
Todd French and team planned to return Marilee to her original proportions on deck. The coach houses, skylight, hatches, coamings, and cockpit were all rebuilt to correct scale and accuracy, while restoring them to clean, utilitarian, fine shapes.
Additional design elements, such as the 90-year-old antique glass layered under safety glass, brought character back to the coachhouse. Marilee’s signature pugilist ‘Fighting Forties’ racing logo was etched in the glass mirror.
Marilee’s owner had the bold vision to create an interior that reflected the yacht’s century-long provenance while creating an open space below. Having seen hundreds of classic yachts around the world, he realised that many interiors were dominated by darkness in all things from varnish to seat cushions. These ‘cigar room’ interiors often simply don’t translate in a modern era, where people value a more relaxed style of comfort.
It became clear from comparing plans that ever since the inception of the class, the interior space has been personal to each owner. In fact, Herreshoff designed many different layouts to accommodate the widely varied preferences of each NY40 owner. With this in mind, Marilee’s restoration team set out to create a fresh, innovative space.
The team worked with Paul Waring of Stephens Waring Yacht Design, to create a traditional and properly constructed interior with an updated layout for modern day use. They chose to emphasise one of Herreshoff’s guiding principles: of uncluttered sightlines.
Panelled bulkheads, seating areas, and functional areas were crafted out of cypress, as specified in Herreshoff’s NY40 plans. To create the desired patina, materials were sought that were authentic to Marilee’s original design. So old growth cypress logs that were sunken for 150 years in a North Carolina riverbed were resurrected and sawn for her interior bulkheads.
The team used distressing techniques and custom finishes that were available at the time of her original build, to create a sense of depth and age to the newly made panels.
Metalwork of bronze and copper was forged, cast, and fabricated with metallurgy techniques used over a century ago in Bristol on the USA’s eastern seaboard, integrating structural and aesthetic elements.
With the help of interior designer Angela Thompson, antique linens, leathers, wood and pewter accents brought additional texture and warmth to the space. An American flag, used for the privacy café curtain, is an authentic 45-star flag. Leather drawer handles and locker pulls were sewn by hand, using old weaving techniques.
A modern addition came in the form of hidden LED lights, which were installed to highlight the design details and emphasise the interior sight line. The updated lights also extend the usefulness of the cabins and saloon well beyond sundown.
Ultimately, the owner felt strongly that stepping into a classic yacht’s interior should be comforting, like wearing a well-loved T-shirt or pair of jeans.
Marconi and gaff rigs
When looking through all of the original drawings at MIT’s Hart Nautical Collections, Kurt Hasselbalch discovered more #955 plans for Marilee than he had previously known existed.
In particular, he uncovered a drawing of a Marconi rig, originally designed for Marilee’s 1933 refit. To find a Herreshoff-penned design of a modern rig was an incredible discovery.
It was decided that it would be possible to sail Marilee with two different rigs. Armed with the original Herreshoff drawings, the team set out to design a Bermudan rig that would be as fast and competitive as her current setup, maybe even faster. It also gives the owner options, with a larger sail inventory and the advantages of flexible race ratings.
A unique custom fabrication was designed to support the loads at the bow that were expected with a Bermudan rig. Blindly notched into the underside of her bowsprit is a split bronze tang, ready to accept the new headstay and tack fitting.
This tang is directly attached to a giant bronze framework that was carved into the stemhead, with multiple bolts connecting the deck structure to this new stem fitting. In less than an hour, the bowsprit can be removed and the rigging adjusted to accept the headstay loads of a Bermudan rig.
At the transom, a similarly hidden provision was installed to accept a fixed backstay attachment. The new mast was also designed to plug directly into the existing chainplate locations. The mast step and partners were elongated with specific moulds designed to fit either gaff or Marconi mast.
The construction proved to be a challenge, explains Todd French of French & Webb: “Because of the fore and aft forces on this type of rig, the 84ft [Marconi] mast had a more elliptical section. Taller and lighter than the gaff round mast, she was supported by double sets of spreaders.”
Internal halyards were used, and all mast wall penetrations were reinforced with Epoxy G-10 Tube. A square boom section accommodates a loose-footed mainsail.
“Marilee’s mast, hollow in section, was constructed of eight staves – three pieces on the front, three on the back, and two expanded side pieces provide a stiffer fore and aft section shape,” explains French. “Skilfully sculpted, these hollow spars appear like one piece of evenly toned wood where even the glue joints look like a grain line.”
Year launched: 1926
LOA: 18.0m (59ft)
LWL: 12.2m (40ft)
Beam: 4.4m (14ft 6in)
Draught: 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Rig: Gaff sloop, second Marconi rig
Sail Area: 195m2 (2,100ft2)
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