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Prada Cup: How to follow the Semi-Final (24 Jan 2021, 8:31 am)

Finally, the America's Cup 2021 is in sight as the three challengers continue to race in the Prada Cup to see who will take on the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand

americas-cup-world-series-auckland-ineos-team-uk-training-credit-facebook
Ineos Team UK's foiling monohull Britannia II will be racing competitively for the first time in the America's Cup World Series Auckland. Photo: Facebook/IneosTeamUK

The teams are there, the boats are there, and racing has finally started in the Prada Cup, the official competition to select the challenger to take on Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland.

The Prada Cup, as it is now named, used to be called the Louis Vuitton Cup – or Challenger Selection Series. It will decide which of: Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli; INEOS Team UK; or American Magic will take on Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2021 America’s Cup.

What do we know?

In a normal Cup cycle we would have seen plenty of competitive racing by now and would have some idea what to expect, but with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting plans for America’s Cup World Series events in Sardinia and Portsmouth racing has been extremely limited.

However, with the Round Robin series now concluded, we are starting to get a much better understanding of how each of the challengers compare at this early stage.

Our first real chance to see the AC75s racing one another was the America’s Cup World Series, Auckland which took place in December 2020. This should have been followed by the Prada Christmas Cup but that too was called off – due to a lack of wind after just one lacklustre race between Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Team UK, which saw both teams all but drifting around the race course.

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From the racing we did see in the America’s Cup Word Series, we know that the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand look like they will be tough to beat come the America’s Cup match itself. INEOS Team UK looked to have the most work ahead of them with a very disappointing showing at ACWS Auckland.

Brits win Prada Cup Round Robin

The British team, however, have worked incredibly hard and came out of the blocks fighting and have since won all five of their Round Robin races in the Prada Cup, signalling their intent with an impressive double win on day one.

More wins followed for the British team and, having won the Round Robin series, they go straight through to the Prada Cup final.

Though the Brits have looked very strong, and have made some changes to their boat, it is difficult to discern much difference in boat speed, with all boats seemingly performing pretty similarly across the wind range – though there have been small advantages for each in various wind speeds and directions.

The biggest news of the opening weekend of racing was the dramatic capsize, damage, and near sinking of the American challenger, American Magic.

On Monday 18th January, American Magic announced they would take no further part in the Round Robin racing for the Prada Cup with the damaged sustained by their yacht, Patriot.

Who is in the Prada Cup Semi-Final?

From all the comms coming out of the camp, it seems the American outfit is now confident they will be able to get back on the water for the Prada Cup Semi-Final, which will take place between themselves and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

These two team, as second and third place in the Prada Cup Round Robin will go into a first-to-four-wins Semi-Final which begins on Friday 29th January.

The winner of the Semi-Final will go through to the Final against INEOS Team UK and the loser will be out of the competition.

How does the rest of the Prada Cup work?

Once the Prada Cup Semi-Final has concluded and we see the first team leave the competition, which will leave a Final taking place between INEOS Team UK and the Semi-Final winner.

This Prada Cup Final will see the two teams racing a head-to-head event with the first to seven wins going through to the America’s Cup itself, where they will face America’s Cup Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand.

The Prada Cup Match itself (the final) will be held throughout February.

What is match racing?

As is tradition for America’s Cup racing as a whole, each of these races will see one team racing a single other team, or ‘match racing’ as it is known. Match Racing is a unique discipline in the sport of sailing and is explained well by INEOS Team UK sailing team member Matt ‘Catflap‘ Cornwell in the video below.

How can I watch the Prada Cup?

All of the Prada Cup races will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, NBC Sports, TVNZ, RAI, and Sky Italia, as well as on the America’s Cup YouTube channel and Facebook page.

You can also watch via the Ineos Team UK website, which will also feature daily pre-race shows, hosted by Georgie Ainslie.

There is clearly no shortage of options available, the problem for European viewers is likely to be the timezone difference, with the Prada Cup Round Robin and Semi-Final racing taking place between 0200 and 0400 GMT, while the Prada Cup itself will take place between 0300 and 0500 GMT, so if you want to watch live, you’d better set your alarm clock!

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Prada Cup Round Robin: Best pictures so far from America’s Cup qualifying (23 Jan 2021, 12:50 pm)

As the Prada Cup Round Robin series comes to a close, with victory for INEOS Team UK, we take a look back at the event through the lens of the photographers to revisit our favourite moments

Before the start of the Prada Cup Round Robin, almost no one knew what the relative performance of each team was. We’d been able to watch some of the teams line up against each other and we had witnessed some competitive racing in the form of the America’s Cup World Series, but it was hard to know wether one boat might come out and prove dominant.

It was, then, a happy surprise for the neutral America’s Cup fan to find the three challengers to be incredibly close in terms of pure performance.

All three challengers (and the Defender, who will compete against the winner of the Prada Cup for the America’s Cup itself) have clearly taken significantly different design directions and we have seen four very different hull designs, with different foil, different crew setups, different sails and sail set ups. That they are so closely matched is surprising to say the least.

What this similarity in performance has provided early on is some incredibly close racing. During the Round Robin series of the Prada Cup, the racing has, for the most part, seen teams winning or losing based on their decision making on the water. In the America’s Cup, which is essentially a design and technical innovation race, this is not usually the case.

Ultimately it was INEOS Team UK who won all five of their races in the Prada Cup Round Robin to take their place in the Prada Cup Final. American Magic had a huge capsize where they sustained damage in the opening weekend and should make it back on the water in time to take on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in the Preada Cup Semi-Final starting Friday 29th January.


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Prada Cup day four: Thriller as Brits clinch Finals spot (23 Jan 2021, 7:28 am)

With a compromised boat, Ben Ainslie's British team took yet another win in the Prada Cup day four, but it was a long way from an easy win, with the team pushed from the off by Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

A casual glance at the results of the Prada Cup day four, will show another win for INEOS Team UK, making it five wins from five races. But as is so often the case in sport, the result tells only a fraction of the story, and today could well have ended with a win for either team. 

It was a tense affair from the off with gusty shifty conditions promising a thriller in Auckland as Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS team UK set out to see if the Italian team could prevent the Brits from marching through to the Prada Cup Final, one step close to the America’s Cup itself. 

The teams were due to race each other twice over the course of the weekend, but should Ben Ainslie and his British team take a single win, they would win the Prada Cup Round Robin and earn their spot in the Prada Cup Final. For their part, the Italian team could earn their spot in the Final should they win both races of the weekend. 

Whichever team does not make it through will face American Magic in a Semi-Final, first-to-four-wins shootout (assuming the Americans can rebuild their boat in time for the scheduled racing following their capsize last weekend). 

Those outside of New Zealand who woke early (or stayed up late) to watch the racing were subject to a long delay as the race committee tried to set a course in winds that were shifting significantly to port and starboard. 

For their part, the teams looked torn as to which headsail might be best for the conditions that were gusting from around 11 up to 17 knots. Significantly, INEOS Team UK looked to be attempting to fix an issue with the cunningham of their mainsail. 

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

Finally, with a course set, a new startime approaching, and with little other option, the Brits were forced to lock off their cunningham into a single position, which would significantly hamper their downwind speed, preventing the team from making the sail deeper and so more powerful when they turned away from the wind. 

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“It’s just like sailing any other boat, like in a dinghy, if you’re sailing your Laser upwind with the cunningham wound on, you are okay, but downwind you lose a lot of power. So Bleddyn [Mon, mainsail trimmer] did a good job of finding power downwind today,” Ainslie said of the problem after racing. 

With a compromised boat and reported developments to Luna Rossa in the last week to improve their speed, it looked as though the Brits were in for a tough day of racing as the start of the Prada Cup day four fast approached. 

Prada Cup day four: Thriller start to finish

The pre-start of the Prada Cup day four gave a taste of the action we could look forward to for the rest of the race, with Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni (who share the helming role on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli) coming back to the start a touch early, allowing the Brits to tack in behind them in a strong position. However, an aggressive luff from Spithill forced the Brits off their foils. 

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

INOES Team UK quickly recovered to get foiling again but any advantage was lost and the boats crossed the startline relatively evenly with INEOS fractionally to windward. 

The Brits were forced to tack early while Luna Rossa went all the way to the port boundary and managed to eke out a decent lead. 

As the British team came back on starboard Luna Rossa tacked dead in front of the Brits in an aggressively defensive move, but a poor tack looked to have cost them the lead. 

However, not for nothing is Spithill nicknamed ‘the pitbull’ and he just about managed to swerve Luna Rossa to windward at the right moment forcing the Brits to tack away or likely concede a protest as the windward boat without rights. 

Gloves-off battle

In the America’s Cup of old, to report on the racing was to analyse in great detail any lead change that might occur – these being the pivotal moments that hand one team or the other the advantage that accounts for victory. Today was not a day for the minute details, with action coming thick and fast throughout the short race in a no-holds-barred, gloves-off contest.

Whatever your thoughts on this new style of super-fast foiling match racing (and, cards on the table here, I love it!) you’d struggle to make any reasonable argument that this is other than thrilling. 

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

In total, the lead changed hands nine times over the three lap race of the Prada Cup day four, with neither boat getting any significant lead over the other at any point. The time difference at each gate, rounding probably best tells the story of a race that had viewers with their hearts in their mouth throughout. 

At Gate 1, the Brits squeezed inside the Italian team to round in the lead, but with no significant time advantage; Gate 2 saw the Brits lead by 9 seconds; Gate 3 the Italians by 19 seconds; Gate 4 the Italians by 10 seconds; Gate 5 the Brits by 1 second. 

For all the effort of the teams, all the windshifts read correctly, the imperfect manoeuvres, the tactical mastery, it all came down to the final leg. And what a final leg it was. 

The Brits rounded the final gate with a 1 second lead and took the right hand mark (looking upwind). The Italians, the left mark and immediately gybed. After their gybe at the righthand boundary the Brits crossed ahead of Luna Rossa with starboard right-of-way advantage, but this left Luna Rossa to make the best of the favoured side of the course for a little longer and with the starboard tack advantage.

When the Brits gybed back they would be on port without the right of way… and it was going to be close. Very, very close.   

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

With both boats gybing, it initially looked like the Brits would make it clear across the bow of the Italians, but Spithill saw the situation unfolding in front of him and started to drive his boats as low as possible, trying to force a port/starboard penalty. The Brits responded, driving low too but, with their broken cunningham hampering the amount of power they could generate downwind all day, they slowed more than the Italians. 

It was heart in the mouth stuff as Luna Rossa came at the Brits but, ultimately, they just could not get deep enough to sell the port starboard incident to the jury who, following a protest from the Italian team, called ‘no foul’. 

Having put all their eggs in that one basket, Luna Rossa looked to briefly to get unstable on their foils and that was it, game over for the Italian team. 

Spithill will, no doubt, go to his grave claiming the penalty should have gone their way, in the final leg of the Prada Cup day four, and Ainslie will go to his claiming the opposite. It was tight for certain, but the tell is Luna Rossa’s loss of foiling stability as they desperately tried to get low enough to make a swerve to windward look like a penalty. They did not need to luff to avoid the Brits, they needed to stop constantly driving lower and lower.

“For us, we definitely had a piece of them,” said Spithill of the moment at the end of the race. “When we’re both doing 45 knots and we had to avoid him, I was pretty surprised [the jury] thought that was not close enough.” 

For his part Ainslie acknowledged how close it was: “It looked good out of the gybe and all the way across. We both went for a soak mode, but theirs was better than ours with the cunningham off, but I did think we were just across,” he said.

On these fine margins rests the fate of teams who have been building towards this event for the better part of four years, and who have spent £100s of millions in order to claim what is one of the toughest trophies to win in sport.

These are the moments the sailors live for, the moments the engineers and designers put in the long, late nights for. And these are the moments we get to witness the best in the world fight it out on the water. 

Today, Ainslie and his British team once again proved their prowess. With five wins and no losses they will go straight through to the Prada Cup Final ready to fight whichever of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli or American Magic make it through the Semi Final racing, which starts next week. 

With INEOS now accumulating enough points to go through to the Prada Cup Final, the teams could choose wether to race tomorrow or not. With nothing on the table, and every race a risk of damage to the boats, the teams have elected not to do so.

And from there, the Prada Cup Final will select which team gets to go up against the all-powerful Emirates Team New Zealand to fight for the ultimate prize in sailing. If today’s racing is anything to go by, we’re in for a thrilling few weeks.     


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British America’s Cup team: Ainslie’s comeback explained (22 Jan 2021, 11:10 am)

With the first weekend of Prada Cup racing completed and Ben Ainslie's team storming to four straight wins, Toby Heppell and Helen Fretter consider how the British America's Cup team turned their fortunes around.

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

After the first AC75 racing we saw in the America’s Cup cycle, the British team looked to be in trouble with an uncompetitive boat. But since the start of the Prada Cup there have clearly been some big changes made to INEOS Team UK’s boat which have turned their fortunes around and the Brits have yet to lose any of their opening four Prada Cup races.  

The question is how has Ben Ainslie’s team achieved this incredible turnaround in such a short time? Some even wondered if the Brits had been sandbagging (deliberately sailing their boat slowly) in order to throw off the opposition – a not unheard of concept in the history of the America’s Cup, though something that is usually more rumour than fact. Ainslie himself laughed off the suggestion in a press conference – it would certainly be a high risk strategy whilst trying to reassure your backer that their £110m+ investment is worth continuing with. 

British America's Cup team sailors congratulate each other on a job well done

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

What did the British America’s Cup team need to fix?

INEOS Team UK’s boat, Britannia, was not just slightly slower than all the other teams in the America’s Cup World Series, it looked to be significantly slower around the course, struggled to get on the foils as early as the other teams, and needed more power (a bigger headsail) to do so. 

Foil control was clearly an issue, and Britannia experienced unscheduled crash downs in her early racing. The following battle of words with ETNZ about whether that was the fault of the supplied foil control software was far from edifying. How this was resolved – whether by ETNZ or INEOS or Mercedes F1 (a significant technical partner of the British team) – is unclear, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue at the moment. A good thing too, as the problems did suggest a scary loss of control.

In the early racing we saw from all the teams, it was plain to see the British boat spent longer with both foils down during their tacks and gybes than any other team and lost significant distance due to this. During the live broadcast this point was picked up several times by all the commentators.

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

A hint at the future?  

The Brits left the America’s Cup World Series in December 2020 without a win and with a great deal of work to do on a boat that was slower, by some large margins, around the racecourse than any other team. However, there were some positives. 

The British recorded the top boatspeed and were regularly competitive in a straight line when windspeeds were similar. This indicates they had not gone down a design blind alley, only that their manoeuvres were the main source of their woes. 

Identifying the elements of your boat that need to be refined is a relatively easy task. Working out how to improve things without compromising other areas of performance is the difficult part. 

When Ainslie was asked what work his British America’s Cup team had done to the boat ahead of the first weekend of the Prada Cup, he gave some clues to the extent of the changes, saying: “The team has been working flat out since the World Series and we think we have improved a lot from where we were.

“We have brought a lot of new parts online including a new rudder, new rudder elevator, new mast, new mainsail, and new headsails. Then alongside that we have made modifications to our foils, to the aero package on our hull and we have changed the systems inside the hull. We knew our development from the World Series would have to be significant and we have certainly been busy.”

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This could be viewed in the context of a team who were in trouble making wholesale changes, and it’s clear the Brits worked enormously hard in between the ACWS and Prada Cup start (reportedly 24 hours a day every day – though they were generously allowed Christmas day off). However, this is less an indication that everything was wrong about Britannia, and more an indication of just how interconnected every component of an AC75 is. You cannot make one significant change to anything without changing a lot of other things in response.  

How did the British America’s Cup team improve? 

The exact details about what has been done to develop Brittania into a race winning boat are hard to discern – and Ainslie and co. will certainly be at pains to keep as much a secret as possible because this development race is far from over. But there are a number of observations we can make that hint at some answers.

One of the big giveaways came in Shirley Robertson‘s commentary on day one of Prada Cup racing, when she revealed that British team’s foils had previously been taking on water. To the casual observer the INEOS foils did previously seem to be creating a larger rooster tail than, for example Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s, but now it seems that they were in fact leaking – Robertson described the previous problem as ‘like dragging a bucket around the course’.

The tip shape of the changed foil is different and the bulge in the middle seems much larger. Photo: C. GREGORY/INEOS Team UK

It’s well documented that the UK team had used up their foil allocation (each team can make 6 individual foils – or 3 pairs – from launch of their first AC75 to the final of the America’s Cup) and so could not deploy a new set of foils for the Prada Cup, only a modified set, with modifications limited to 20% total mass.

Clearly the team has worked hard on their foil shape and development. The foils are subtly different in terms of their outright shape with clear changes in both the tip shape, overall size and there is a new (or at least bigger) bulge sitting beneath the main foil arm where they two wings connect. They have also been smoothed out much more, where the surface previously showed sections that were not entirely fared. 

Without access to some serious computing power and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) programmes it’s difficult to make an assessment of exactly what these tweaks aim to rectify. However, we can see the team have absolutely made changes and these will will have been led by the knowledge that they were already fast but not providing enough lift in the manoeuvres. 

Sail Trim 

The mainsail seems to be a key area of development and is a relatively new concept. The 2017 America’s Cup catamarans sported large wingsails, which are very efficient, but impossible to drop without a crane and require a lot of people to handle them ashore. 

The AC75 has a mainsail that actually consists of two sails set on the back of a D-Shaped mast tube. Each sail is connected to one corner of the D-shaped mast to create a ‘soft wing’ sail. Within the sails there is a great deal of scope for the teams to add their own proprietary control systems, particularly at the head and the foot of the sail. As such, they have been a significant area of development for all teams, though much of this development is in the form of controls hidden between the two sail skins. 

The Brits change to a straight boom might allow then to generate power quicker through manoeuvres, but offers less power low down. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

There is a significant change to Brittania in this area. Previously, the Brits had a boom which articulated in the middle section. This was clearly designed to provide depth to the sail very low down, which they presumably felt was needed to create enough power to get the boat onto the foils. 

Once these boats are foiling, the apparent wind moves forwards rapidly so they typically require a relatively flat sail even when heading downwind. However, with no keel beneath the hull, when the boat is not foiling it has very little righting moment to keep the boat upright. A deeper sail means you can generate more power down low, which causes the boat to tip over less than a sail which is flatter and so needs a more even distribution of power from head to foot. 

Teams have gone in two different directions with regards to their boom setup. Both Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have, essentially, gone for a setup which has no boom, controlling the shape of the sail with a series of hydraulic rams and complex control systems hidden between the two skins.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have no boom and can generate some significant depth at the bottom of the sail. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

American Magic and INEOS Team UK have both gone for a more traditional boom between the two sail skins. In theory a boom allows for much more control over the sail, but no boom makes it easier to generate significant depth in the lower part of the sail. 

During the racing in Prada Cup so far, we have seen Brittania sailing without this articulating boom (although it could feasibly be the same boom with the articulation locked). The effect of this – if you watch the team closely through tacks and gybes – is that through the manoeuvres, the mainsail sets on the new tack or gybe much quicker. The articulated boom seemed to take longer to go from camber in one direction to camber in another. With the new boom system, the team are able to start generating power on the new tack quicker and so suffer much less speed loss through the manoeuvre. 

Aerodynamics

The British America’s Cup team are the only team to have sideways facing grinders and there are fewer members of the crew grinding. Britannia has only six grinders, where most of the other teams have eight. Each of these grinders uses their own, dedicated, grinding pedestal too, while on the other boats they typically have two crew members per pedestal.

The British America's Cup team grinder setup

Sideways facing grinders for the Brits. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

To the layman’s eye, the sideways facing grinders look woefully unaerodynamic – no creature in nature turns sideways to make themselves more streamlined (apart from possibly a sunfish) and the crew’s helmets were clearly visible higher up than on other teams. 

This point was raised by many commentators when the team were not performing as they had hoped, but with hindsight, this appears less of an issue. Now the team have sorted their troubles elsewhere it has slowly become clear that their grinder arrangement has built in some potential advantages that can be capitalised upon now the British team is competitive in other aspects of their boat. 

There are possible benefits to having one sailor on each pedestal – both in terms of power transfer and cadence. It is much more effective for a human to grind ‘forwards’ rather than ‘backwards’ so despite having fewer grinders than the other teams INEOS may yet generate more power output than other teams. 

Certainly there have been plenty of rumours that individually the British grinders push out the biggest numbers of any teams, and having sailors like Olympic rower Matt Gotrel and man mountain Chris Brittle make it clear why.

More grinders on the Italian boat but sharing a pedestal between two and fewer people to focus on tactics. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

 The reduced number of grinders has also allowed the British America’s Cup team to free up Giles Scott to operate as a dedicated tactician. Other teams have, so far, split the tactician role with another job – American Magic has Terry Hutchinson on tactics but also grinding at a pedestal, while Luna Rossa has gone for two helms, one on each side, who alternate tactical and helming roles from tack to tack. So far in the tight racing scenarios we have seen, this has been a boon for the British team. 

Ultimately it seems the British team has taken a minor aero hit in order to give themselves other tactical advantages. This was not obvious when they were slow as no tactician will win an event in a slower boat. Being able to out-match-race other teams is not something we expected to be a deciding factor this early on, but it is clearly going to become increasingly important going through the series.

How the British America’s Cup team changed crew movement  

There is one, final obvious change from the ACWS to the Prada Cup, how the crew cross the boat. 

It might seem a small change, the choreography of the helmsman, tactician and mainsail trimmer in each manoeuvre, but it probably points to a fundamental change the team have made – or possibly is the result of the fundamental changes.

During the World Series as the team set up for a tack, Giles Scott, the tactician would cross the boat before the manoeuvre, Ainslie the skipper would then steer the boat through the turn and, once through the turn both he and Belddyn Mon (mainsail trimmer) would cross the boat to the new side, while Scott took the wheel until Ainslie had crossed. 

Just after a tack in the World Series, Ainslie and Mon are crossing the boat. Photo: C. GREGORY/INEOS Team UK

During the Prada Cup, however, both Scott and Mon cross the boat ahead of the tack or gybe, while Ainslie still crosses after. Presumably the team had identified they were too slow getting the mainsail powered up once on the new tack and have taken steps to rectify this with both the new boom / mainsail arrangement and by switching the mainsail timer to the new side early, allowing him better sight of the sail and – crucially – having him at the controls in the key seconds when the tack has been completed and they are trying to develop power quickly as the foil is lifted.  

Just after a tack in the Prada Cup, Mon (furthest aft to windward) is already on the new side, having crossed before the manoeuvre. Ainslie, to leeward is shortly to cross to windward while Giles Scott steersPhoto: C. GREGORY/INEOS Team UK

These are only the changes we have seen so far from the British America’s Cup team, but they have certainly been positive ones. However, all teams will continue development right up until the moment the America’s Cup final is concluded. If the Brits can make such gains, it is reasonable to assume everyone can.

What else might be waiting up the sleeves of Ainslie and co.? We can’t wait to find out!


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Revealed: The European Yacht of the Year 2021 winners (22 Jan 2021, 10:13 am)

Despite the difficulties and Covid restrictions during 2020, the European Yacht of the Year 2021 jury managed to test 15 yachts and award 5 category winners

The European Yacht of the Year 2021 award winners are announced this morning, Friday 22 January.

Yachting World has been a jury member for the European Yacht of the Year awards since its inception in 2004. This involves shortlisting the best annual prospects, typically into five categories before testing them all to elect the winners.

The awards have grown to include 12 judges from sailing magazines across Europe, each leading voices on boat testing in their respective countries. The yachts are all tested during trials which took place in Kiel, Cannes and La Rochelle last Autumn. The result is the largest, most influential and widely respected boatbuilding prize worldwide.

Normally the awards would be presented at a special event during the opening evening of the Dusseldorf Boat Show in January. This year it’s a virtual presentation, with a breakdown of the winners below. The full feature about the nominees and winners is in our March 2021 issue.

Family Cruisers

Nominees: Bavaria C42, Beneteau Oceanis 40.1, Elan GT6, Bali Catspace, Excess 11

Always a category brimming with interesting new production yachts, this year’s family cruiser crop was no exception as it included a couple of very popular new catamarans too. All proved worthy nominees and in the end it was a close run decision between the Elan GT6 and the Bavaria.

Bavaria C42 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Bavaria C42 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Winner: Bavaria C42

Cossutti’s design has a clever shape, the first Bavaria with hard chines and a rounded ‘V-bow’, which make a crucial difference, both below decks and on the water. It provides maximum space where you most want it – in the cabins, saloon and cockpit. And despite some sharp corners and small details, the yard should be commended for its increased attention to finish quality.

Bavaria C42 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Bavaria C42 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

However, when competing in this broadest of markets – 40ft family cruisers – an extra something is still needed to help it stand out from the crowd. And in the case of the Bavaria C42 it’s this powerful but stable hull shape which combines with a generous sailplan for admirable performance, while providing sailors with direct helm feel of the single rudder.

We featured a full test in our January issue.

Price: ex VAT €157,900

Performance Cruisers

Nominees: Corsair (no show), Dragonfly 40, Grand Soleil 44 Performance (no show)

It was obviously a shame to have two late drop outs in what stood to be a very exciting category. The Corsair would have made for an intoxicating battle of the trimarans, while we now know from the first footage of the Grand Soleil that this new Matteo Polli design looks as slippery as it does stylish.

But in what was a remarkably difficult year for many, and a particularly problematic one for travel, the fact that this only left one contender in this category should in no way take away from the deserved glory of the Dragonfly 40.

Dragonfly 40 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Dragonfly 40 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Winner: Dragonfly 40

A Dragonfly is always a thrill to sail, but what about the largest Dragonfly yet, how would that fare and how would the Danish yard manage to combine real performance with cruising comfort at this size?

In performance terms, the main difference at this size (compared to previous Dragonfly models) is that it feels like a proper fast cruising yacht as opposed to a sportsboat. Our Danish judge Morten, who sailed the boat the most and in good breeze, describes it as a solid performance cruiser, which remains very comfortable to sail in control at 15-20 knots with the big gennaker hoisted.

Dragonfly 40 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Dragonfly 40 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

The DF40 has the displacement for distance cruising, yet is light enough to thrill, can dry out easily and has folding outriggers to reduce its berthing beam. What’s not to like… other than the price?!

Price: from €570,000 ex VAT.

“One of the most stunning constructions out there at sea. Low freeboards, inverted bow sections, muscular beams and a nicely integrated bowsprit give the Dragonfly an athletic, racy feel.” Jochen Rieker, YACHT.

Luxury Cruisers

Nominees: Contest 55CS, Hallberg-Rassy 40C, Moody 41DS

This was always going to be a very tough category as it comprises three really interesting and well executed designs. The Hallberg Rassy 40C we tested in our August issue and the Moody 41DS in our November issue.

In the end the award went to the yacht that befits the category perfectly – or as as our Italian judge described the Contest, for its “immersive and uncompromising luxury”

Contest 55CS European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Contest 55CS European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Winner: Contest 55CS

A superb example of a fast, quality and comfortable bluewater cruiser, the Contest 55CS certainly has the wow factor. It offers real luxury, albeit at a price (circa €2m sailaway). But for that you are getting top build quality, comfort and technical solutions in a very appealing looking package.

The clean and crisp deck lines feature a flush foredeck, while the deckhouse is impressively low profile given the amount of light it allows into the accommodation.

Contest 55CS European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Contest 55CS European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Our Finnish judge Pasi remarked on the ‘invisible comfort’ and how the Contest 55CS takes care of you without you even noticing. There are plenty of options for the saloon, which shows the custom nature of the yard, the galley is large and well planned and the owner’s aft cabin, with it’s aft facing secret window, is a proper suite.

Bluewater Cruisers

Nominees: Boreal 47.2, Garcia Explocat 52, Ovni 400, Pegasus 50, Viator Explorer 42 DS (no show)

It was exciting to have a really interesting crop of go-anywhere boats to zero-in on this year. It was a pity the Viator wasn’t available in time, as this looks like a very promising new offering from a German yard. But to have five contenders, four of which are bare aluminium boats, shows the recent spike in interest in expedition style cruising.

We featured a full test of the superb Garcia Explocat 52 in our February 2021 issue, and the Ovni 400 in our October issue. The Pegasus 50 is a particularly appealing new and original concept from a Slovenian brand formed of experienced hands and includes innovative features such as a gimballing saloon seating and a tandem fin keel connected by a bulb.

Boreal 47.2 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Boreal 47.2 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Winner: Boreal 47.2

Boreal, is a Tréguier yard, specialising in ballasted aluminium centreboarders, robust yachts which are born out of its founder’s extensive cruising experience. Its designs have impressed the EYOTY jury before – the Boreal 52 won this category in 2015 – and the 47.2 was again a clear favourite with all returning to shore beaming and unanimously impressed as much by the feel on the helm as the practical features and refinement of the boat.

Boreal 47.2 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Boreal 47.2 European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Combine the excellent handling and performance with the cockpit layout and protection afforded by the doghouse, the abiltiy to move around and through the boat safely and easily and the construction and insulation quality, and you have a centreboard yacht that can take you anywhere.

Price: ex VAT: €541,620.

Special Yachts

Nominees: Mojito 650 (no show), Saffier SE 27, Tofinou 9.7

This category ended up being a head-to-head of two very attractive and refined daysailers which are a joy to sail. The Tofinou 9.7 may get the edge on the looks and the judges liked the tiller steering it offers, but the Saffier offers a more thrilling performance edge in a package that’s easier for one person to manage and with more space for a relaxing crew – and, significantly, it’s over €50k cheaper than the Tofinou.

Saffier Se27 Leisure European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Saffier Se27 Leisure European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Winner: Saffier SE 27 Leisure

Saffier has featured a lot in European Yacht of the Year competitions since it was first nominated and awarded 12 years ago. But this is arguably its finest and most evolved offering yet.

Here is proof that looks, ergonomics and performance can all coexist harmoniously.

The sporty shape and light weight of the SE 27 could be behind its appeal – build slots are already sold out for the next 18 months – but these combine with the boat’s ease of use. The Saffier is configured to be efficiently sailed single-handedly or crewed, yet the cockpit still leaves a large separate lounging space.

Saffier Se27 Leisure European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

Saffier Se27 Leisure European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner

The result on the water is telling. “During our sea trials, this new Saffier not only showed its abilities to speed away even in the lightest of puffs, but also took on the challenges of heavier weather with excellence,” said Swedish judge Joakim.

Price: Starts at €77,500 ex VAT.

The full feature about the nominees and winners is in the MARCH 2021 issue of Yachting World.


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Düsseldorf Boat Show 2021 cancelled due to COVID-19 infection rates (21 Jan 2021, 11:43 am)

The latest boat show to succumb to the COVID-19 pandemic is Europe’s largest, with confirmation today that Boot Düsseldorf 2021 has been cancelled

coronavirus-sailing-dusseldorf-boat-show-credit-C-Tillmann-Messe-Dusseldorf
The 2021 Düsseldorf Boat Show will be delayed by almost 3 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The organisers of the Düsseldorf Boat Show ave today announced that Europe’s biggest indoor boat show will be cancelled for 2021.

In a statement, organisers Messe Düsseldorf GmbH revealed the scheduled dates for the next Düsseldorf Boat Show as 22-30 January 2022.

“The continuing high level of infection and the fact that the end of the lockdown is not foreseeable for the time being make a resumption of trade fair operations at the end of April appear increasingly unrealistic,” explained Wolfram N. Diener, CEO of Messe Düsseldorf.

“We have reassessed the situation with our partners and jointly decided to cancel boot 2021 early. Our priority is the health and planning security of our exhibitors, visitors and service providers. All activities will now be focused on the successful staging of boot 2022.”

The 2021 Miami Boat Show, originally scheduled for February 11-15, was cancelled at the end of October, leaving the 2021 Dubai Boat Show (March 9-13) as the next major event in the international boat show calendar.

However, those looking for a boating fix before then can join to the Ancasta Virtual Boat Show, which starts this weekend (23-31 January).

Potential buyers will be able to compare and contrast different models from Beneteau, Lagoon and McConaghy Yachts.

“Boot Düsseldorf is such a fantastic show and the cancellation, although understandable, is really disappointing,” said Will Blair, Ancasta’s Group Marketing Director.

“Many people use Boot Düsseldorf to compare and contrast different models, and we didn’t want people to miss out on that opportunity, so we’re holding our own virtual version.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming people onboard to assist them in finding their perfect boat ready for the 2021 season.”

For more information and to book an appointment, visit: ancasta.com/dusseldorf

The post Düsseldorf Boat Show 2021 cancelled due to COVID-19 infection rates appeared first on Yachting World.


Selling a yacht: The best ways to sell your boat (21 Jan 2021, 8:35 am)

Terysa Vanderloo and partner Nick Fabbri have spent five years cruising on their Southerly 38, whilst vlogging on their YouTube channel Sailing Ruby Rose.

Sooner or later, most boat owners will find it’s time to change their yacht for a different size or model. No matter how well loved their yacht is, wants and needs shift over time and most owners will inevitably find themselves in the position of selling a yacht – whether to upgrade to something bigger, newer, or simply change to a different style of sailing.

Terysa Vanderloo

My partner and I have spent the past five years living on board our Southerly 38 Ruby Rose, on which we cruised between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, including two Atlantic crossings.

Before setting off on our bluewater adventure, we spent years researching the perfect liveaboard boat for us, and settled on the Southerly 38. Although the waterline length was relatively modest for a full-time cruiser, we loved the interior space and build quality.

Importantly, we couldn’t afford bigger and we didn’t feel comfortable handling a bigger monohull. After eight years of ownership and five years of full-time cruising, we’re now upgrading to a 45ft catamaran. We recently sold Ruby Rose, and are awaiting the launch of our new Seawind 1370.

Selling a yacht privately or with a Broker

Choosing to sell privately or through a broker is one of the first decisions to make when selling your boat.

We opted to list Ruby Rose with Northshore, the dedicated Southerly brokerage, as well as list her privately on our own website. Because we listed her before arriving back in the UK, we also had to provide photographs and manage viewings ourselves. Ultimately we accepted an offer privately while we were still in France.

Rupert Knox-Johnston of Oyster Yachts Brokerage provides some advice for choosing a broker: “Look for brokers with a track record of selling your model of yacht and ask for recommendations. If you are unwilling or unable to conduct viewings yourself, you might wish to choose a broker that is close to your yacht.

Using a broker is a popular option

“Choose one with a good reputation that is affiliated to the appropriate trade bodies. In the UK, for example, brokers that are members of the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA) must have the requisite professional indemnity and liability insurance.”

Alex Grabau from Grabau International Yacht Brokerage agrees that it’s crucial to choose a broker who operates to high professional standards. He says: “Adhering to protocols of sale such as operating with correctly managed separate client accounts, professional indemnity insurance and the use of contracts written by top lawyers in the marine industry ensures a seamless sale process and transaction.”

When Vicky and Stuart Punshon sold their Moody S31 in order to upgrade to a Moody 46 they chose a broker based on their good reputation, proven sales record, as well as the commission price and the broker’s location in respect to the yacht.

They were very happy with this decision and had a smooth sale at a price they were satisfied with.

By contrast, when Robyn Hawkins and Dave Evans chose to sell their Dufour 34 in order to upgrade to a Hallberg-Rassy 42E, they chose to do so privately. “The main reason was the cost,” says Robyn. “I wasn’t happy to give away thousands of pounds for something I knew I could do myself.”

They had originally listed the Dufour with a broker, but their experience was not positive. Things got off to a bad start when the broker missed their first appointment to view and photograph the boat.

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Six months later there has not been a single viewing, so Robyn and Dave instructed the broker to take down the listing and successfully sold the boat themselves in weeks.

Whether you choose to sell privately or through a broker may be influenced by the value of your yacht, says Alan McIlroy of Berthon International. “Once you step over a certain value, purchasers in particular feel a little more comfortable in dealing with an established brokerage house.

“For the seller, the correct management of the sale is key. Having a professional broker doing this makes the process less stressful. The broker works for you.”

Grabau adds that although there is nothing wrong with selling a boat privately, the risks to the vendor and buyer can be considerable.

“It makes sense that a professional and trained hand is at the wheel at all times to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Ensure your boat is in good shape for potential viewings

“The sale of a yacht will ordinarily involve a whole raft of checks and processes including establishing clear and unencumbered title, reviewing VAT, RCD and registration documentations (which may include foreign languages or formats), dealing constructively with survey findings, safe handling of client monies, drawing up contracts to assist with the process of the sale and general ‘good sense’ when dealing with delicate negotiations.”

When selling privately, he cautions: “If mistakes are made, they can be costly to either or both parties.”

Photographs and video for selling a yacht

In order to choose your boat, potential buyers need to be able to firstly find the listing, and also have their interest grabbed enough to book a viewing. This is where marketing comes in.

If selling privately, it’s crucial to understand how important this step is to a successful sale. Good photographs, a detailed description and full specification list are imperative.

Robyn Hawkins says: “Having looked at loads of listings when we were looking for our next boat, the ones we liked the best were the ones that showed everything [so] that’s what we wanted to do for our boat.”

Alex Grabau agrees that the more photographs or video content the broker has at their disposal, the better. “Buyers are often time-poor and the ability to go online and get a really clear idea of the yacht, her layout and her condition before having to enquire further, can make all the difference.

“The most successful listings are the ones where there is a clear photographic or video walkthrough, both internally and externally.”

Photos taken in landscape rather than portrait format are more website-friendly, and ensuring the photographs are clear, taken in good light and portray the boat at its cleanest and tidiest is crucial. Countless times I’ve seen photos of very expensive boats for sale, with items left on galley countertops, bags on the seats, and people standing in the shot; which can be very off-putting.

“Very much as important as high quality photography, walkthrough videos are now

playing an important role in promoting a yacht,” adds Alan McIlroy of Berthon.

“A well put together walkthrough gives a prospective client a good feel for the yacht in terms of the yacht’s condition, the layout both above and below decks and acts as a useful qualifier prior to an actual viewing.”

Most brokers will list the boat on their own websites as well as brokerage websites, and private sellers should also advertise online. It’s also worth using social media, and there are pages and groups dedicated to buying and selling boats. If you have an internet presence already, as we did, that can makes your sale much easier.

Matt and Jessica Johnson are the creators behind the popular YouTube channel MJ Sailing, and when it came time to list their aluminium monohull, they chose to simply advertise it on their own platforms.

“To advertise our boat, we did a walkthrough video on our YouTube channel. Within the video we mentioned she was for sale. If parties were interested, we had a link with all the boat’s information as well as a number of photographs on our website,” says Jessica.

It worked; less than two months later, their boat was sold and they are now in the process of upgrading to a catamaran.

A smooth handover is just as important to the buyer as the vendor. We ensured our buyer was fully aware of any issues the survey may reveal well in advance. We tried to be as transparent as possible about any items that needed upgrading or repairing from the outset and kept lines of communication open at all times.

Matt and Jessica had the same approach when they came to sell their aluminium cutter: “We never shied away from listing every issue the boat had that we were aware of. We wanted there to be no surprises when the new owner took possession, so there were daily discussions about everything good and bad we could think of relating to the boat.”

Berthon is a big name in brokerage, particularly higher end yachts

Even if selling through a broker, Alan McIlroy still advises on adopting a full disclosure policy. “Whether selling privately or through a broker, it’s vital that any known defects or significant repairs are disclosed to the broker/purchaser.

Maintaining confidence

“Letting the purchaser’s surveyor discover a defect which was previously known of is not going to aid the sales process. At worst it may lead the purchaser to pull out, at best it leaves the broker the job of rebuilding the purchaser’s confidence in the yacht.”

Also check you have all your documentation in order. “Review your paperwork, title chain and VAT. Having just received an offer is not the time discover there is a vital link in the paper chain missing that might hamper the sale’s progress,” says McIlroy.

To seal the deal, Rupert Knox-Johnston believes there are three factors to ensure all goes well: price, location and condition.

“Your yacht should be [priced] broadly in line with other comparable yachts on the market. Make sure buyers can view your yacht with minimum effort – if you want her sold, bring your yacht to the market, don’t expect the market to come to her.

A used boat show is a good place to find a captive market

“And make sure she is clean, dry, and tidy. Money invested in her presentation is rarely wasted. If you’re getting viewings and not offers, it’s probably down to her condition.”

Moving on

Planning future sailing when you are uncertain of the date on which you plan to sell a yacht is awkward. If you buy your next boat too soon, before selling your current boat, it puts you under enormous pressure to sell as quickly as possible, which is what happened to Robyn and Dave.

“We had to buy our second boat before selling the first as we were full-time liveaboards and didn’t have anywhere to stay on land,” Robyn recalls. However, when their departure date was looming and they still hadn’t sold their old boat, they decided to drop the price – and soon after that they found a buyer.

We faced the same dilemma but chose a different approach. We are having a Seawind 1370 catamaran built in 2021 and could have kept our Southerly until just before launch to ensure we not only had somewhere to live, but also could continue cruising.

However, we chose to sell early and deal with a 12-month gap where we are both homeless and boatless.

We’re now temporarily living on land in Greece where the cost of living is low, the weather is good, and we’re never far from the sea. For us, knowing we’d released the equity from our first boat and could cover the cost of our catamaran was the least stressful option.

The final piece of advice from Vicky and Stuart Punshon is: be patient.

“Don’t take an early low offer. If you’re selling a yacht that is correctly priced, it will eventually sell for a price you’ll be satisfied with.”


If you enjoyed this….

Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
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The post Selling a yacht: The best ways to sell your boat appeared first on Yachting World.


South Atlantic ocean: A crossing in mid-winter on Pelagic Australis (19 Jan 2021, 1:00 pm)

When Sophie O’Neill and Chris Kobusch ended up taking on a South Atlantic crossing in mid-winter, they knew it would be a lonely, stormy journey.

There was a crunching sound underfoot as we loaded Pelagic Australis with provisions for the South Atlantic Ocean crossing ahead. Snow flurries had covered the deck with a layer of white, reminding us that we were setting out in deep winter.

Monitoring the weather closely over the past week we had tracked a train of deep depressions that were wrapped around Cape Horn and funnelling across the furthest southern boundaries of the South Atlantic ocean. A shiver of adrenaline ran through my body. 

Sophie O’Neill and Chris Kobusch made the voyage from the Falklands to Cape Town double-handed

We were days away from casting off our lines from the Falkland Islands. We’d be taking the expedition yacht Pelagic Australis across a wintry ocean, during a time of year we knew few sailing boats would venture out. Where hours of darkness would preside over light.

What’s more, it would be just the two of us on board, my partner Chris and I. For the first time ever, I had a taste of fear mixed with a rush of excitement for the unknown.

This hadn’t been the intended plan. After 11 months in the high latitudes we were supposed to fly home in April after a busy season. Covid thwarted our plans, and worldwide travel restrictions left both us and Pelagic Australis sitting tight in the Falkland Islands four months after our last Antarctic expedition. But we couldn’t leave Pelagic Australis there: moorings are few and far between, and besides, she had become a part of us. So it was time to take her home, to Cape Town, South Africa via the South Atlantic Ocean.

Three of us and the South Atlantic Ocean

We had been searching for a third crew member who’d be prepared to fly to the Falklands during this challenging time – a big ask. Yet our friend Nikki Henderson, the youngest ever Clipper Race skipper, and runner-up in the last race – offered to help with the passage. Delighted, we set about furiously putting arrangements in place to get Nikki out to join us in Port Stanley.

This was no small feat. The RAF operates the only flights into the Falklands, and our initial request to the government to bring in an additional crew member was rejected. Hurdles had to be leapt and endless forms filled in. Finally Nikki was granted permission, only for her flight to be cancelled. We immediately made arrangements for her to catch the next one a week later.

With much excitement, Nikki boarded the plane and took off. Relief swept over us all, but it was to be short-lived: whilst refuelling in Dakur, they announced that the flight was being cancelled and returning to its UK base.

Chris and I were stunned into silence but realised that we couldn’t wait any longer. We called our boss, Skip Novak, and he said: “Maybe you guys need to consider sailing Pelagic Australis back on your own?”

He followed up with his advice: “Play it safe, keep low sails, head further north, hove-to when fatigued”. So, after a long walk to discuss it with clear heads we made the call. “Skip, we’ll do it.”

South Atlantic Ocean beckons

The day before our departure on 22 July an endless stream of people came to the boat in Port Stanley to wish us farewell and a safe passage. It seems the departure of Pelagic Australis was quite an event; there are so few yachts in these regions, and the Falkland Islands so remote, that slipping out of the harbour would never have gone unnoticed.

Heavy snow at Port Stanley prior to departure

After the last well-wisher had left, Chris and I sat in the saloon looking at the latest weather and ice reports. Normally before a voyage we both spend time carrying out a thorough pre-departure brief with the crew. This time, the brief was to each other. 

It felt strange to carry the weight of knowing that we’d be solely dependent on each other, in the South Atlantic ocean where there would be very few, if any, other vessels around, and in winter conditions that could be relentless for the next four weeks.

At 75ft and 60 tons Pelagic Australis is a large and heavy boat, if all went well then we could have a good, safe crossing, but if things went wrong, with just two people alone on such a big boat, that is operated entirely manually, we knew it could be brutal out there. Tension clenched my stomach, but I didn’t share my worries with Chris. Instead, we reassured each other that Pelagic Australis is built to go places, and has weathered many great storms.

“Chris, there are three of us here, it’s you, me and Pelagic Australis too,” I reminded him. After living on board for 11 months, Pelagic Australis wasn’t just a boat to us, it was our companion. We knew it would work hard to look after us, and we would do the same in return.

Casting off from the Falklands at the break of dawn

Slipping the lines

At the break of dawn we fired up the engine and slipped lines to make our way out through the Narrows. Looking back we quietly bade our own goodbyes to Stanley, which had been our safe haven over those strange past few months. In William Sound we hoisted the mainsail. Pelagic Australis creaked and groaned as if standing tall after a long period of sitting down. I looked aloft and marvelled at its beautiful rig. Very quickly we pulled into a sprint out of William Sound, the island at 52° south disappearing behind us.

That night icy cold Southern Ocean winds built to 35 knots and the sea state grew until we were surfing at 12 knots. We reduced sail area and eased the pressure off us all: after all, it was our first night at sea and we wanted to go easy on Pelagic Australis

But the conditions set the tone for the voyage, and the noise of the wind whistling through the rig was a sound that rarely abated. 

Heavily reefed, Pelagic Australis makes steady but rolly progress in the big South Atlantic seas

For the first eight days we headed roughly north-east, to get out of the ‘Furious Fifties’ and storm through the ‘Roaring Forties’ as fast as we could.

A hidden moon cloaked us in darkness for the first week until electrical streaks of lightning appeared, illuminating every detail inside the pilothouse while our faces flashed an instantaneous white. 

The crack of thunder overhead kept the off watch person wide awake.

Prior to skippering Pelagic Australis my partner, Chris, had raced around the world as a Clipper skipper. His yacht Qingdao had been struck by lightning off Brisbane, Australia, with the damage destroying their windvane, hitting their instruments and generator starter motor, even shooting down into the depth sounder. 

He was understandably anxious that lightning should not strike twice.

Every time the lightning storms set in, he shut down the entire boat’s systems, so in between the flashes we were truly in black out mode. For the first time ever Chris confided to me: “Of all the times I’ve cast off, this is the first time I have a strange feeling in my stomach.”

I confessed I’d felt it too, and was thankful he’d shared his concerns.

Double checking position with chart against GPS

It was during this first week that our main communications system went down. We were unable to download grib files and from then on relied on text messages from the handheld satellite phone to give us an outline of any weather systems coming our way. 

Before we had always spent a great deal of time reading weather files so it was strange to not have detailed information. However, it made us much more aware of the clouds and conditions around us instead, monitoring them more closely than ever before.

One eye was always on the barometer. At one point we watched it drop from 1005mb to 994mb in four hours, going from an eerie silence to the wind whipping up to 46 knots all around us. 

I’d committed myself to bettering my knowledge of celestial navigation and so endeavoured to take sights the whole way across the South Atlantic ocean. Even if I was off watch, Chris woke me up by putting the sextant in my hand, standing by ready to take the time. It felt more real now, and with our communications systems down, should we genuinely ever need to navigate this way I enjoyed being prepared for it.

O’Neill practises taking sun sights for position in case the electronics should fail

We made our way towards the lower latitudes in the 40s, relaxing into the trip more as each day passed, despite an endless gauntlet of squalls, both day and night. The air warmed us for the first time in nearly a year, and it felt great to finally be on deck without the cumbersome gloves that we’d worn for so long. 

At 0600 one morning I awoke to the high pitched ringing of an alarm telling us the propeller shaft was overheating. Pelagic Australis has a fixed propeller and the shaft spins: in the colder water further south it stayed cool enough to not overheat. We switched on the shaft pump but not long after the alarm sounded again; the pump had failed. 

If it continued to over-heat it could damage the seal and start leaking. We put the shaft brake on, but with each great surf over a wave the boat accelerated and the shaft spun, screeching on its clamp. The sound was ear piercing and excruciating.

Wanting to continue making forward progress we brought the canvas down to the fourth reef. The reins were pulled on, and Pelagic Australis drew back to a plod of just 5 knots, rolling heavily in the big swell under this sail setting. 

We set to work to replace the pump. Thankfully Pelagic Australis has spares for everything, all methodically arranged. Ironically, as we repaired the pump conditions eased to the best of the voyage so far, and we sailed in rolling waves with a pleasant interval between them and a steady breeze. Small fluffy clouds even lined themselves before us, looking like they were forming into the north-bound trade winds. We were reluctantly, and rather painfully, slow, but at least heading in the right direction.

But we knew never to get too comfortable, things could change out there so quickly. Just as we were leaving the 40s we received a weather text: ‘Head further north now. Big low behind you. Developing’. 

More checking of chart positions against the GPS

As the sun set that evening we saw behind us that the marching clouds had dispersed and instead there stood a towering cumulus. The sea seemed to loom from astern, waves began tumbling over one another, white horses colliding. 

Without hesitation we scrambled on deck to reef. 

Two big waves knocked Pelagic Australis onto her side, one pummelled into the cockpit and rushed inside the pilothouse. This was big, the reef had to happen now. Chris and I worked silently on deck, no words uttered between us over the screaming winds. We both deeply resent shouting on boats and this manoeuvre felt almost balletic as we were lifted up by each great wave while the sails formed into their new shapes, like a dancer on stage.

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That night the winds built to 50 knots and continued into the following day. A heavy grey covering hung over us and the winds blew wild across this open expanse of water. 

The wind speeds reached 58 knots and the waves roared, with just a few seconds between them as they surged into Pelagic Australis from all sides. We bounced, pitched and rolled as they tossed us around, and I pictured us as a Japanese piece of art with a tiny boat balanced on the top of a mighty curling wave, white spindrift flying from the top. 

Up ahead a 700ft bulk carrier, the Ionic Patris, appeared on the radar, our first sighting of another vessel since we set off. As we were already sailing deep we radioed to ask if they would mind keeping clear. A voice came back: “How are you doing out there?” Those were the roughest conditions yet but knowing other seafarers were out there too brought a degree of comfort.

Pelagic Australis is built and equipped for serious expedition yachting

Reaching for home

In between the periods of stormy weather we raced along, often reaching or running before the wind with a poled out headsail, our favourite sail combination! Pelagic Australis has a stunning rig, and although it has the fuel capacity to motor great distances, the explorer yacht is happiest sailing. If you are under-canvassed, the yacht will most certainly let you know. For a number of days in the 30° latitudes we enjoyed some truly fine sailing with steady winds.

Finally, the end was in sight. Pelagic Australis had carried the two of us across the great ocean, with never a cross word said. We three had got on better than we could ever have imagined. 

But it was as we made our final approach to South Africa that we experienced the strongest blows, with 60-knot winds – thankfully without confused seas – and enjoyed our fastest surfs, hitting 17 knots some 400 miles off Cape Town!

As our last night at sea pummelled us with squalls, Pelagic Australis kept charging on. When Table Mountain rose before us the next morning we both silently stared at this new world ahead we were about to enter. The sight of land would normally appear as a safe haven but we had sheltered so far from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, 22 days after we set off, we were moments away from stepping into the midst of it. The whole journey had been an emotional rollercoaster. 

I thought back to my 12-year-old self, when I went sailing on the sea for the first time. Having only sailed on the Norfolk Broads before, I’d looked to my coach, Paul Whiteman, for reassurance as he held the transom of my Mirror dinghy. I whispered to him: “I haven’t sailed one of these before.” His hands let go and in his steady manner he replied, “It’s just the same.”

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How to improve spinnaker trim: Pro sailor Simon Fry shares his secrets (19 Jan 2021, 8:42 am)

Professional sailor and top trimmer Simon Fry shares some downwind speed tips with Andy Rice

According to ‘Stir Fry’, as he is widely known, a good trimmer is defined by his or her obsession to make sure the boat is going as fast as possible, all the time.

“Dave Curtis, one of the greatest one-design sailors ever, once told me something that has stuck with me ever since: ‘It’s not when you’re fast that counts. It’s when you’re slow that hurts’,” he explained.

Like any great trimmer, Stir Fry feels the boat’s pain when it’s going slow. “You feel the tension in the kite sheet getting too loaded, or too light.

Simon Fry is a professional sailor with a vast wealth of experience. Photo: Martinez Studio

“But it’s more than that; it’s the hairs on the back of your neck, it’s the heel of the boat, it’s the changing pressure in your bum cheeks as the boat moves underneath you. And it’s why I only like to wear shorts.”

Maybe the hairs on his legs have become attuned to the breeze, but Stir Fry is adamant that his knees have to be exposed to the elements to get the best out of his kite-trimming abilities!

But if you’re not prepared to shed your oilskins in the dead of winter, here are five more of Stir Fry’s top tips for trimming your spinnaker.

Be a forward helmsman

Every good helmsman knows that the less you rely on the rudder for changing course, the faster you’ll go. That’s why the relationship between the helmsman and spinnaker trimmer needs to be telepathic. You’re controlling the biggest, most powerful sail on the rig, and how you trim the spinnaker or gennaker has a massive effect on steering the boat.

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So think of yourself as the forward helmsman, working in unison with the person at the back controlling the rudder, the aft helmsman. I’ve been fortunate to sail with a number of top-flight helmsmen and just ‘click’ with them.

With Guillermo Parada on the TP52 Azzurra, we don’t actually talk the same language in real life, but when it comes to knowing what the boat needs, we just seem to understand each other.

Less spinnaker curl is more

Remember when you were first learning to ride a bike? You’d steer one way, but then you’d have to steer hard the other way to compensate. Eventually, you learn to tone down those massive over-adjustments until you can steer in a straight line.

You see that pendulum swing of overcompensation in the way less experienced sailors curl the kite. Very often, less is more. If you’re nervous, I guarantee you’ll move the sheet more. So focus on reducing that overcompensation and achieving greater consistency on the curl.

downwind-sails-X44-OneSails-asymmetric-credit-Francesco-Ferri

An X44 flying a OneSails asymmetric spinnaker. Photo: Francesco Ferri

Change gear

Knowing when to change gear is a critical part of trimming. Say you’ve got the choice of a VMG spinnaker or a runner. The VMG spinnaker is probably a little flatter, made of lighter fabric, and its job is to be the right sail when the pole is not squared all the way back. It’s likely a little smaller because it has a narrower apparent wind angle.

It’s designed for sailing in the lighter breeze and you should do your due diligence before you get on the boat and work out what the crossovers are. But a good general rule of thumb is, when you bear away around the windward mark, the VMG is going to be the right choice provided the pole is not too far off the forestay.

But as soon as you find yourself squaring the pole back, the bigger sail is going to be faster because now the sail is in drag rather than flow, at which point it’s all about maximum projected area.

Remember that your sail is always working in unison with the mainsail and you’re looking to match the two together, to create a unified sail plan. For example, easing or tightening the vang will have an effect not just on the leech profile of the mainsail, it will affect the interaction between the flow exiting the spinnaker leech and the flow on the leeward side of the mainsail.

Free the kite

Downwind in a strong breeze it can be very tempting to over square the pole, to feel like you’ll stabilise the boat if you really strap the foot of the spinnaker into the jib.

Remember your job as the ‘forward helmsman’. Rather than squaring back the pole too far, let the chute fly away from the boat a bit more and free up the sail plan, otherwise the helmsman will be constantly fighting the boat. Having a freer set-up will also provide more lift and make the boat less prone to nosedive.

Variety improves

Downwind in a strong breeze it can be very tempting to over square the pole, to feel like you’ll stabilise the boat if you really strap the foot of the spinnaker into the jib.

Remember your job as the ‘forward helmsman’. Rather than squaring back the pole too far, let the chute fly away from the boat a bit more and free up the sail plan, otherwise the helmsman will be constantly fighting the boat. Having a freer set-up will also provide more lift and make the boat less prone to nosedive.

This article first appeared in the January 2021 issue of Yachting World.


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American Magic capsize and damage: What went wrong? (18 Jan 2021, 10:45 am)

We hear from American Magic Skipper, Terry Hutchinson about what caused the American Magic capsize and near sinking, how long before they can be racing again and round up the rest of the action from the first weekend of the Prada Cup

Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

It is hard to believe that just over four days ago, the conversation for those following the build up to the America’s Cup was all about INEOS Team UK struggling with an uncompetitive boat, American Magic looking the strongest challenger, and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli having a lightwind package. How the tables have turned now that the first weekend of racing in the Prada Cup has concluded in dramatic style with the American Magic capsize

Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

American Magic update 

The biggest news of the weekend was that of the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic, steered by Kiwi, Dean Barker, which dramatically capsized in the final race of the weekend, took damage and began to sink with what appeared to be alarming speed. 

The boat was eventually saved with the help of the three other America’s Cup teams, along with America’s Cup Event Ltd, the race management team, Coastguard New Zealand, the Auckland Harbourmaster, and local fire and police personnel.

It is hard to say that Sunday’s events could be seen to have many winners, but if there was one, it was the sport of sailing showing the world what good sportsmanship looks like in the face of extreme adversity.

The American boat, Patriot, was finally pulled out of the water at around midnight local time after a herculean effort to first secure the hull and then tow her back the 10 or so miles to the team’s base. 

Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Once the boat had been hauled from the water, the extent of the damage was quickly clear with a huge hole sitting between bow and foil arm on her port side.   

In a press conference on Monday 18th January, American Magic Skipper, Terry Hutchinson explained just what the team face in order to get the boat back onto the water: “We have a high level of resolve and I think what we will see over the next 8-10 days is the boat will be rebuilt. She might not come out of the shed as pretty, but she is going to come out of the shed and we are going racing.” 

This is good news indeed as there were times on Sunday it looked as though the boat might never sail again. However, the timeline for the repair will have serious ramifications. 

Hutchinson quotes 8-10 days for the repair, but Round Robin sailing in the Prada Cup is set to continue in just four days time on the 22nd January. Clearly, then, it seems the team will not be able to continue. 

American Magic’s Terry Hutchinson faces the press

All is not lost, however. With only three teams competing in the event, the Round Robins only select the winning team to go straight to the final of the Prada Cup, with the second and third placed boats going into a first-to-four-wins Semi-Final, which is scheduled to begin on the 29th January – or in 11 days time. 

The timeline looks tight for certain and there is a lot to get done. “It will be a big effort to get the boat sailing for the Semis,” Hutchinson explained. “We’ve had great support from the local Auckland community and the other teams. 

“The easiest part is the rebuild [of the broken hull]. The hardest part will be getting the electronics and FCS [foil cant system] up to speed. The yachts are finicky. Yesterday was day 45 for Patriot and she has been very reliable, but if you have worries it will be dealing with the gremlins inside the boat.”

There is sure to be more than we currently know to repair but at the moment the list looks daunting enough as it is. 

American Magic have already done a full ultrasound of the boat to see what levels of structural integrity they have managed to maintain. They will need to cut out any area of the boat that has seen delamination, repair the carbon skin, and repair the internal structure. 

Alongside this, the entire electronics system will need to be stripped out and replaced – itself no mean feat, these boats rely entirely on vast amounts of proprietary electronics –, the FCS is no longer usable, so the team will need to strip that out of their old AC75, Defiant, and fit it to Patriot. And that is just what we know from an initial assessment by the team. 

How did American Magic capsize?

There has been a vast amount of speculation as to what happened to American Magic to cause the capsize and the damage that nearly saw her sink to the sea floor. Hutchinson, in his press conference, walked through exactly what they think went wrong.

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“The foil arm dug in and the boat decelerated,” he explained. “We were doing a tack and bear away [around the windward gate mark] and 40 seconds before we tacked it was blowing 12.5 knots. When we tacked it was blowing 23.5 knots.”

“When you look at the wind graph, the time from 18 knots to 23 knots is about three seconds. 

“You have to race these boats hard, it is very unforgiving and you have to go hard, there is as much or more risk if you take your foot off the gas.”

Initially looking at the replay of the incident, it looks as though the leeward runner is not released, which seems to pin the mainsail in, and looks for all the world the cause of the capsize. But Hutchinson feels this is not the case. 

“We were looking at the [runner] about 15 minutes ago and you can see that it is a bit fetched up in the mid-stripe. But there’s a couple of things that happen when you go step-by-step through the manoeuvre. 

“When we come out of the tack, the traveller is all the way down the bottom of the track [to depower the boat in the high winds] with hindsight that is the first indication that something is going to go wrong. 

“Because the traveller is all the way down, the [runner] is eased, but the next thing that happens is that the mainsheet gets eased and that loads into the leeward runner. 

“Everything is set at a setting on the boat that has a certain amount of length to it. So when everything is eased, the boat doesn’t usually sail like that. I still need to check the data to see if the runner was at max ease, but I don’t think that is the thing that caused the problem,” he explained of the circumstances leading to the capsize.  

How did the damage occur to American Magic?  

On exactly how the boat took its damage, the answer seems to be much clearer. “When you look at the boatspeed through the trajectory of the turn, it’s going 47 knots or something,” says Hutchinson.

“When you look at it in slow-mo the boat gets a long way out of the water and we have a reasonable amount of bow up and then the boat slammed down… There’s transverse structure inside the boat and longitudinal structure, it is fine if it slams flat on its keel but when you land on the side on a flat panel, the structure inside just guillotines the panel.”

Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

There will, no doubt, be a lot more to come from the American team as they continue to attempt to repair their boat in time for the Prada Cup Semi-Final.

However, with the boat scheduled to be relaunched just days before the racing, and a best-to-four series against a challenger who will spend the coming weeks improving, chances of getting further than the Semi-Final now seem slim. But sometimes, a slim chance is all you need…  

INEOS Team UK now favourites 

With American Magic now out of the Prada Cup Round Robin series, INEOS Team UK  must surely be favourite to win and go straight through to the Prada Cup Final. 

The British team had a stunning first day of racing, beating both American Magic and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. They then won a light wind race against American Magic on Sunday (conditions thought to be their achilles heel), before beating Luna Rossa once more in their windy and shifty race on Sunday. 

As such, the team now top the scoreboard with four points from four races. The schedule has the Brits racing American Magic a further two times (both ‘wins’ will go to the Brits without the American team sailing). This will give them a total of six points. They are also due to race Luna Rossa another two times. 

Luna Rossa currently sit on two wins from four races. They too are scheduled to race American Magic twice, so those ‘wins’ will put them on four points.

This means that in the remaining two races, if INEOS win a single race, they go straight through to the final. But, the rules state that should two teams be tied at the end of the series, the team that last beat the other will go to the final. 

Ultimately should Luna Rossa win the first race against INEOS then it will all come down to a final match race to decide the winner. 

Competitive across the board

A fascinating part of this America’s Cup cycle is the variation we have seen in sails, foils and hull shapes. But now we are into the thick of the racing it seems all three challengers are relatively evenly matched. At times one is slightly quicker or slower in a certain wind strength or direction, but it has broadly come down to the sailing. 

Though the Brits look very good with a 4-0 record, this has largely come from smart sailing by the whole team. In particular, the Brits benefit from having given Giles Scott a dedicated tactician role where this role is split between the two helmsmen on Luna Rossa, and is taken by Terry Hutchinson who is also working a grinding pedestal on American Magic. 

With such tight margins and someone who knows how to come from behind in Jimmy Spithill, Luna Rossa will be well up for the fight for the remainder of the round robins. The Brits might well be leading the series, and they might well be favourites for now but this is still very much all to play for. 


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American Magic capsize in the Prada Cup day three (17 Jan 2021, 9:41 am)

High drama in the Prada Cup day three as American Magic capsize and look to have caused some serious damage to their AC75

It was the sort of day where you felt like something might go wrong at any moment on the Waitematā Harbour in Auckland as the three challengers prepared for racing in the Prada Cup day three – the precursor to the America’s Cup.

And go wrong it did for American Magic, skippered by New Zealander, Dean Barker as they capsized and look to have done some serious damage to their AC75, though all crew are confirmed safe. The situation is still very much live as the team fight to save their boat.

UPDATE Monday 18th January 2021: American Magic did manage to return their boat to the dock without it sinking, but with significant damage. See here for Skipper Terry Hutchinson’s analysis of what went wrong, how the damage was caused and how long it will take to repair.  

Throughout the course of the day the wind was up, there were big waves, and dark ominous rain clouds were passing over the course bringing significant shifts and pressure increases along with them.

As commentator Nathan Outteridge, who seems to have a savant-like ability to predict what the Cup teams will do even before they have decided themselves, observed before racing: “They’re out there in the roughest part of the harbour today. I’m a little shocked that we’re out here [on this race course]. I don’t think many of these teams were thinking they’d have to sail in these kind of conditions in these kinds of waves).

“It’s going to be a good test for the structure of these boats isn’t it?”

In the second race of the day, American Magic was leading Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada into the final upwind gate in a significant wind increase on the front of yet another cloud. The Americans were approaching the gate on port and wanted to go to the left hand side of the course (looking upwind) to remain in the increased pressure.

This would require a tack at the mark immediately followed by a big bear away to head downwind. This is a tricky manoeuvre to pull off at the best of times. It was clear as they approached the mark that the team were tense with clipped comms and raised voices onboard. During the approach the mainsail trimmer (Brit, Paul Goodison) can clearly be heard saying this is going to be a ‘a hard manoeuvre, a real hard manoeuvre’.

They made it through the tack but with the wind up, as they tired to bear away, the boat immediately became massively overpowered and began to heel to leeward. It also appears that the leeward runner did not release.

These AC75s are unique monohulls in that they have no keel, just the two large foils on either side of the boat. They are designed to be sailed flat or with very moderate amounts of heel to windward or leeward. Once the AC75s end up with any significant heel, the lift dynamics of the foils change rapidly and they become almost impossible to keep upright. And so we saw today as the American boat heeled over, the foil lift changed and the bow was launched into the sky. From there, there is little to no hope of saving the boat from a capsize.

Photo: Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada

This is something we have seen before from a number of boats and, in fact, American Magic nearly did exactly the same thing on their first day on the water in this, their second, AC75. All crew were quickly confirmed safe.

Initially we were told that the AC75 would be able to self right in the event of a capsize, by dropping the heavy windward foil while the boat is on her side. However, there has been no evidence that this is possible and we have yet to see one of the boats right without the help of a powerboat. To that end it was no surprise that the American Magic support boat was quickly on the scene to help out with the race effectively over and the win going to Luna Rossa.

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However, it took a great deal of time to right the boat and it quickly became clear that something was wrong. As more support vessels, both from the organisers and other teams came over to help, American Magic was eventually righted. But she was sitting incredibly low, having clearly taken on significant amounts of water.

More worrying still, she seemed to be getting lower with the bow soon fully submerged. It briefly looked as though the whole boat may be lost. As help rallied round from the other teams’ support crews, some of the racing marks were also brought alongside in order to try to keep the boat afloat and the fire department turned up with industrial pumps to try to clear the water from within the hull. Divers were sent down too, in order to identify the problem and potentially find some way to staunch the flow of water.

As we write this, the boat is under tow on its way back to the dock dock, but they were still at sea at 11pm Auckland local time, the recovery mission far from over.

Even if the American Boat is able to get back to dock there are a whole host of concerns. What – and how significant – is the structural damage that is allowing the boat to take on water. What condition are the electrics and the hydraulics in, which control almost every aspect of an AC75? These are questions for another day, at the moment the fight to get the boat back home is still very much live.

The only slight sliver of positive news for the Americans is that further Prada Cup racing will not take place until next weekend, so there is at least some time to repair what needs to be repaired, but it is a small chink of light in an otherwise grey day for the team.

American Magic have released the following statement:

The team’s AC75 racing yacht, PATRIOT, was damaged during the incident and began taking on water. American Magic received rapid assistance from the three other America’s Cup teams, along with America’s Cup Event Ltd, the race management team, Coastguard New Zealand, the Auckland Harbormaster, and local fire and police personnel.

Efforts to stabilize PATRIOT and get the yacht back to shore are currently underway. American Magic is sincerely thankful for all of the assistance rendered to the team following today’s incident.

Brits unbeaten

With all the capsize action it is easy to forget that we did see some racing today. The first race of the day was set to be Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada against INEOS Team UK.

The race itself had to be abandoned at the first time of asking as a huge rain cloud descended on the course, shifting the wind 90 degrees and making the course essentially unsailable.

The race committee did a great job to get the race underway again shortly thereafter and the twin helms of Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni on Luna Rossa managed to beat the Brits in the start and lead for the opening portion of the race.

However, the more traditional tactician / helmsman role that the Brits have opted for with Giles Scott the former and Ben Ainslie the later once again came into its own. The Brits did a superb job of picking up the shifts and puffs, to overtake and pull away from the Italian team.

This fourth win in a row leaves INEOS Team UK in the lead of the Prada Cup after the first weekend of racing, and the only team not to have conceded a race so far. But, such is the drama from the American camp, the racing itself will not be the story of the day.

Here’s hoping American Magic can get their boat home and sorted in time for next week. they looked quick today and were romping away from Luna Rossa before their capsize.


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Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
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