Small boats, big lessons

A-Cat aficionado Ben Moon takes us on a technical tour of the last world championship fleet… where he was joined by more than a few observers from the America’s Cup family

With an America’s Cup held in 72ft multihulls looming we have seen a dramatic increase in the attention being paid to multihull development in general – and one class in particular is thriving in the spotlight: the International A Class catamaran.

The ‘A’, as it is more affectionately known, has seen a big rise in both active participation and manufacturer interest, with increased production numbers and a parallel escalation in media attention. In contrast with some of the dramatically differing design approaches pursued by the current Cup teams, the last decade in the A has not seen any silver bullets in terms of design, rather a steady stream of small, affordable incremental improvements to platforms, masts, appendages, sails and technique that have all played a vital role in keeping the class at the forefront of performance multihull development. With two major international events annually, along with well-attended national regattas on nearly every continent, the access to consistent high-calibre racing has been a powerful catalyst for refinement and improvement.

While design tools such as CFD, hydrodynamic simulation and even wind tunnel testing have become accepted elements for high-performance yacht design, there are sailing characteristics of high-performance catamarans well beyond simple handling and manoeuvrability that as yet cannot be recreated inside any design program. Pitchpoles, ‘wheelies’ and leeward hull flight are three examples of what A Class designers are now faced with.

As with the scaled testbeds of the Cup teams’ modified AC45 and SL33 foiling cats, the consistent real-time testing that A Class racing has produced has been invaluable to catamaran design philosophy in general. While the A Class has seen its share of more radical design attempts such as wings, bow deflectors and full lifting foils the true cream has risen and there is now a small selection of platforms, masts, sails and foils that are consistently to be found at the front of the fleet.

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The entertainment business

Ask former successful raceboat designer Ed Dubois to describe the world in which he now operates as a prodigious creator of superyachts and that is his response…

Seahorse: It’s a long way from Quarter Tonners to a 66m sloop like Aglaia...

Ed Dubois: For us the whole big boat scene really began in 1985, only nine years into our existence as yacht designers. That was when we were first asked by a broker, Stuart Larsen of Fraser Yachts (a good broker, which puts him in a minority… and you can print that), to look at a design for one of his clients.

Stuart’s a Kiwi who trained as a lawyer, practised there to begin with, then went off sailing and ended up in Florida where he became the agent for Bowman Yachts. We were about to do a boat for Bowman which never happened because sadly Bowman himself became ill; but we’d done a lot of preliminary detail work and he recommended us to Stuart as decent designers – who did the detail well but also did pretty pictures to help sell the boats!

Stuart Larsen had been approached by American Bob Millhouse about a big boat of about 110ft to be built in New Zealand under the owner’s control. New Zealand’s big boat industry as we know it now didn’t really exist in those days and Stuart thought we may be able to help. So he gave us a chance to put in a proposal along with Ron Holland, Martin Francis, German Frers and Bruce Farr.

The upshot was that I got the job – mainly because the owner liked the ‘cut of my jib’, as he put it! I’d literally had one 15-minute meeting in Ft Lauderdale, where the owner had a 90ft motorsailer, which had gone so well I thought that I may as well give up and fly straight home… Anyway, I got the job and instead flew straight to LA on Bob’s plane – Bob wouldn’t let me go home first – and then on to Auckland.

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Nice start


At Key West Alberto Roemmers’ Marcelo Botín design Azzurra picked up where she left off in Europe in the autumn to take the 52 Super Series class – but even with Guillermo Parada on the handlebars she was made to fight very hard indeed by a tough fleet of owner-driver rivals

There’s little doubt the US 52 Super Series teams enjoyed Quantum Key West Race Week immensely! Good breeze, sun and temperatures up around 20°C… in January. What’s not to like? Key West is unusual in that the racing is top-notch and proper, yet the regatta maintains a unique laidback feel. Looking into the eyes of the TP52 owners I sense we will be back.

With Interlodge (Botín IRC52) and Rio (ex-Synergy, TP52) joining the four teams that brought TP52s over from the Med (Azzurra, Gladiator, Rán and Quantum), for both crews it was a case of wait and see to find out how they would fare in this experienced Med-based company.

Manouch Moshayedi had bought Rio only weeks before the event and his team has some catching up to do, for sure. But both team and boat have the potential and the 52 Super Series is a good classroom. Meanwhile, Interlodge put up a solid performance to finish an impressive second overall. The final two days of the event Interlodge sailed solid as a rock. Behind them Rán in third and Quantum in fourth both dropped the ball in race 9. Rán parked herself with a kite in the water, Quantum blew out her medium jib in race 9 and under event rules was not able to replace the sail for race 10.

The only pro-driver boat this week, Azzurra with Guillermo Parada at the helm, last year’s 52 Super Series winner, was the most consistent over the 10 races. But it took Azzurra until the final day to clear themselves in points from the owner-driver teams. Her longtime rival Quantum Racing, with owner Doug DeVos at the helm for both Key West and the upcoming Gaastra 52 World Championship in Miami, was always close… till disaster struck with that blown headsail.

At the world championship we expect Jim Swartz’s Vesper and Marc Blees with Icefire (renamed Gaastra Pro) to join the fun, two more owner-driver teams. In fact, in Miami all boats will be owner-driven as Alberto Roemmers Jr will take the helm of Azzurra.

It will be very different racing from 2012, as now we have several more strong upwind performers on the startline – clear lanes will be harder to find, good starts more important than ever. With eight boats the Gaastra 52 Worlds are not that far from the average number of competitors that this event traditionally draws, a positive sign for the future. Last time the TP52s raced in Miami, in 2006 there were nine of them. Ten teams competed in the 2007 worlds, fourteen in 2008, 10 in 2009, nine in 2010 and seven in 2011. So we’re not doing so badly.

In Miami we will also be joined by four or five HPR forties, for the HPR Midwinter Championship and once back in the Med we will again have the Soto 40s for their Europeans. We like to share our racetrack and 52 Super Series resources with these classes – all in the cause of high-level fast but fun racing.

The 52 Super Series ‘Media and Virtual Team’, small but beautiful, brought the Quantum Key West action live or nearly live to the various platforms we have nowadays. With Andi Robertson reporting live on the water and Dobbs Davis covering the action from the media centre we have the right mix of passion and knowledge to keep keen sailors glued to the screen.

We will bring all six Super Series events live this year, a good step on from the two we did in 2012. The short videos that we post on Facebook, even during the racing, are also proving popular. The future will, I hope, bring an even better mix of virtual and (near) live images. But what we produce right now cannot be that bad – Eurosport have recently asked to broadcast our material… which is both a compliment and also much better than us going to ask them!

But there is no complacency among owners and teams nor with those working behind the scenes to make the Super Series happen. One of the new roads for us to explore is HPR. The concept of HPR, to typeform toward a clear, achievable goal, a fast uncomplicated modern racer, shows more sense of direction from a racing perspective than other concepts claiming to rate everything that floats, or that aim to satisfy the majority in order to maximise the number of certificates.

HPR will not attract the masses, but it has potential to create boats that everybody likes to watch and dreams of owning: the Ferraris of the sea. Thus the potential to become the backbone of high-quality international racing. Meanwhile, the boats that HPR creates also appear to have the potential to be contenders in IRC and ORCi, so dual purpose and not useless after three or four years at the top level.

As such, with so many parallels to the TP52 Box Rule concept, HPR is interesting to explore in terms of possible synergy with TP52 and 52 Super Series interests. Whether this study, which will be started shortly, will lead to an HP52 Class and HP52 Super Series, as usual, only time will tell.

Right now we are very much looking forward to racing the worlds in Miami and then the four 2013 Super Series events in the Med: the 40th anniversary Trofeo Conde de Godó in Barcelona and then the Royal Cup Marina Ibiza, run out of the no1 spot in which to park your boat in the Ibiza high season! Come the end of July and we head to Spain’s premier international regatta, the Copa del Rey, and in September to the Week of the Straits in the emerald waters of Porto Cervo.

At some of these events we expect to see 10 TP52s racing. You are all invited… or get a 52 and do what you most like to do.
Rob Weiland, TP52 class manager

Click here for more information on the 52 Super Series »

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No small undertaking

Atlant Ocean Racing managing director Richard Brisius explains the philosophy and the plan for his new Team SCA Volvo Ocean Race entry

Atlant was first linked to an all-female programme in the 1997/98 Volvo Ocean Race with EF Education, the all-female team that was part of the successful Team EF syndicate.

The company was founded in 1988 by Richard Brisius and Johan Salen, who have been involved in five previous roundthe- world races as well as the Archipelago Raid, Oops Cup and the Scandinavian Formula 60 circuit. Their philosophy is quite simple: to partner companies in their projects and deliver a high return on investment both commercial and sporting.

When approached by Swedish-based group SCA, among the largest companies in the world in personal care products and one of Europe’s most profitable producers of forest products, about putting together an all-female programme, managing director Richard Brisius and team were fully aware of the challenges as well as the oppor tunities. ‘But the main consideration was the performance gap,’ he explains.

‘It has been 10 years since the last allfemale entry raced against the men, so we have a big game of catch-up if we are to bridge that gap. Therefore our main objective was to put together a programme that looked at every aspect in terms of making the learning curve as gentle as possible and thereby ensure that an allfemale programme is ultimately as competitive as their all-male equivalent.

‘It was absolutely key to establish at an early stage that neither SCA nor ourselves are doing this as a publicity stunt. The heartbeat of the programme is the drive to provide the structure to create a competitive all-female team in ocean racing.


‘I suppose our longterm goal is to see a female skipper win the Volvo Ocean Race. But the reality is that to complete this race, finish every leg and do so within the rules is an achievement in itself.’

But Brisius is also aware that the race remains essentially a male-orientated event: ‘We have been involved with six different round-the-world projects [including Intrum Justitia, Team EF, Ericsson Racing Team (05/06 and 08/09) and Assa Abloy].

‘For the Volvo Ocean Race to continue and to thrive it needs to appeal to an audience outside the traditional yachting arena. To attract more consumer brands we need to make our sport more attractive at a consumer level. This is a big ask, and one that I would hope that Volvo will embrace going forward if the race is to maximise its longevity.’

The reality is that Team SCA will probably be the only female team in the next race, and the reasons why raise questions that Brisius and his team are open to acknowledging. ‘The boats will still be extremely physical, so there is not a huge difference there compared with the old VO70s. The three additional crew members allowed to the girls evens things out a little in terms of sheer crew mass, but the guys will still weigh more.

‘We have started earlier than other teams because we have that 10-year gap to bridge. Our trainee candidates come from every area of the sport, from solo sailors to Olympic sailors, from accomplished match racers to adventurers. We have had hundreds of applications since we first launched the programme last August.

‘We have now whittled this down to a group of about 14 women, from which we hope we can select the basis of our crew. ‘We are not looking at any discipline in particular; we are looking at assembling a group of women with complementary skill-sets who can work together and create a professional competitive team. We hope that the result will be to eliminate the skill deficit that women have traditionally suffered from.

‘Interestingly, the international spread of the present squad seems to be concentrated in countries with strong Olympic sailing programmes. But this does not mean that in a team, offshore environment that will work. It is already a fascinating exercise.’

Brisius has recruited a team of five coaches to help with this selection process and with the management of the sailing programme: Magnus Olsson, Brad Jackson, Joca Signorini, Casey Smith and Martin Stromberg, who between them have the experience of some 20 round-theworld races to draw on.

‘We want the best people to do the job and we have no gender discrimination (other than the crew, of course). Around half of our management group members are women. We are also all very aware that to succeed we have to leave a legacy for women in offshore sailing; I would like to think that we could make this a tworace programme, but at the moment we are just looking to 2014-15.

‘The Volvo Ocean Race and everyone in sailing should be grateful that SCA have taken up this gauntlet. They have put their head above the parapet and are prepared to be counted, if you like.

‘Our programme is fairly flexible, but our aim is to have the basis of the team in place for mid-April, looking to have the complete team by the end of the summer. We also have a few other competitive races planned (though we have yet to officially confirm our involvement). However, they will be a useful benchmark as to how far we have come in our squad development.’

Brisius’s team have divided the initial potential candidates into two groups. The first group joined the boat in Southampton and sailed it to the team’s training base at Puerto Calero in Lanzarote. The second group is due to join the boat in mid-February, and will go through the same training and testing processes that will encompass sailing, fitness and medical evaluations.

The objective is that the nucleus of the crew will be able to be drawn from these first two groups. Initial comments from both coaches and management are positive. ‘We have been really impressed with the calibre of potential candidates,’ adds Brisius. ‘There are a lot of very good, natural female sailors out there and it is great that SCA have been able to give them an opportunity to be part of this project.’ Over the winter Team SCA acquired the VO70 that was previously Puma’s Mar Mostro as their training boat. Rebranded with new and striking graphics, this boat is obviously the core component of the group’s training programme.

‘If the girls can get used to sailing a VO70, then when we get our raceboat [VO65] in the summer we are hoping it will be an easier transition. The new boats are still going to be really hard physically, which is clearly one of the biggest challenges the girls will have to deal with throughout the race itself.

‘Aside from our crew selection, we are also looking at how we set up the shoreside element of the project. In particular, we are trying to resolve some issues on the matter of having shared services; while this makes absolute sense for specialist areas such as engine maintenance and specific rig maintenance, it makes less sense to us in a more general maintenance context.

‘While we encourage a reduction in costs, the concept of shared services also has to be balanced with a potential increase in commercial and sporting risk, which could possibly result in wider implications both for teams and for the race itself. However the race organisation is being very open about this and we are currently having a constructive dialogue with them in search of a solution that will be satisfactory to everyone.’

While these discussions continue the coaches and shore team will carry on putting the crew through their paces from the team’s base in Lanzarote. It is no surprise that Team SCA are following a tradition started by Ericsson Racing to use the island as their training base. The facilities and especially the sailing opportunities of the immediate area are excellent. ‘We can be sailing in offshore conditions very quickly. Plus the weather and sea conditions are consistent, so we minimise wasted time and are able to make the most of every minute out on the water.

‘We are all remaining very aware of the scale of the task ahead. In 15 months we have to create an elite offshore sailing team from scratch. But we are also lucky in that we have a huge amount of support to make that work. There will of course be the cynics, who say it won’t, but as we have said before, it has to work.

‘It has to work because this race, and our sport, need to appeal to an audience outside the yacht club. And by that I don’t just mean from a corporate and commercial perspective, but to a far wider consumer base. We need to convince the big product brands that our sport can talk to their consumers.

‘SCA are prepared to start this process and for that, as a sport, we should be very grateful.’

We invite you to read on and find out for yourself why Seahorse is the most highly-rated source in the world for anyone who is serious about their racing.

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April 2013


Nice start
Super Series manager ROB WEILAND had cause to feel satisfied having taken his fleet to Florida

No small undertaking
RICHARD BRISIUS is again immersed in the Volvo Race and with his second all-women team

The entertainment business
ED DUBOIS explains his choice of description for his field of operation within the growing superyacht arena

Small boats, big lessons
BEN MOON looks at development in the A-Cats and contrasts it with their larger America’s Cup cousins

Under the covers
ROBERT HOPKINS makes a strong case for improving the onboard measurement of leeway

This dog is going to hunt – Part 2
PAUL LARSEN tells BLUE ROBINSON why he is keen to see his speed record come under threat


Commodore’s letter


TERRY HUTCHINSON returns to Key West, IVOR WILKINS watches as DALTON’s new baby goes afloat, PETER HOLMBERG explains the changes (for the better) on the Caribbean circuit, a satisfactory HPR debut, plus PATRICE CARPENTIER has been tracking some significant changes in the ranks of the G-Class multihulls

World news
Those Vendée Globe lessons in full, the keel sagas continue, Imoca 60 budgets, young blood on a charge in New Zealand, a new-look Barcelona World Race, TP52s thriving down under and a good night’s fundraising! BLUE ROBINSON, PATRICE CARPENTIER, DOBBS DAVIS, CARLOS PICH, IVOR WILKINS

Rod Davis
And a fly-on-the-wall America’s Cup insight

ORC column
It all comes down to the fleet splits

Design – Outside assistance
Even North 3Di chief BILL PEARSON can be surprised by today’s sailboat technology

Seahorse build table – Off to a remarkable start
STUART JOHNSTONE looks behind the seeming instant success of J/Boats’ new little flyer

Seahorse regatta calendar

RORC news

Sailor of the Month
Tenacity, seamanship and a very big contribution