T-Minus One Year
T-Minus One Year
Twelve months can seem like an eternity, but when the long-range goal is an overall victory in the Volvo Ocean Race, there’s little time to waste. "Gaining Bearing" in our October 2010 issue
Developing and designing a boat for a race like this is a challenge, but also a ton of fun for a campaign that is still a year away from starting the race. I enjoy working closely with the designer on concepts and layouts and certain points of sail where we want the boat to excel. Having guys like Brad Jackson and Tony Mutter on our team has been invaluable; they were both part of the last two winning teams and are in charge of the technical side of our program—hulls, mast, and sails, and integrating all the pieces. Juan K appears to be doing a good job of keeping our ideas to our new boat and the other team’s ideas to theirs. We will see shortly. All three of his designs should be sailing next spring.
We are staying close to home with the build, and have tapped New England Boat Works in Portsmouth, R.I., to do the job. We will sprinkle in our own team of boat builders, led by Brandon Linton, who ran the build for il mostro. NEB has a great reputation for building fast offshore boats and also has a great track record of working with outside teams who want to come and help manage the build themselves. We are confident that the end result will be spectacular.
That brings me back to where I started: sailing day after day, testing and training on il mostro, and trying to figure out new ways to make high performance, canting-keel, 70-foot monsters go faster. It’s really fun. Especially when you get on to something cool and can prove its worth. It’s equally as frustrating, however, when something doesn’t work as planned.
Instead of doing race after race, day after day—like in the good old days—we test sails, masts, and trim at all angles and wind speeds, all day. With two guys on deck and the rest trying to sleep, we then sail all night to where we want to start testing the next day, and start the process over again. If we need to test reaching sails in 15 knots, we sail to where we can find that breeze direction and wind strength. If we want to test downwind sails, then we go upwind all night, turn around at sunrise, and eat up miles at a high rate of speed. On one hand, it’s repetitive. But every day is different.
Our long-term goal is for our new boat to come out with all guns blazing, having done most of our testing with il mostro this summer. Next summer, we’ll hopefully be fine-tuning our new boat. Our ammunition is limited, so we have to be sure our aim is true. For example, the VOR rule limits not only the sails you can build during the race, but also the sails that we can build pre-race. So, we better be on to something concrete for it to pay off in the end. Plus, last-minute projects or modifications are costly to a campaign that is doing its best to get by on a very strict budget.
My career has taken a complete 180 from my rookie year—I should probably do a race or two one of these days.
April 2010-September 2010 Testing program using il mostro
September 2010-May 2011 Construction of new boat
May 2011 Launch of new boat
May 2011 through September 2011 Testing and training on the new boat
October 1 2011 Arrive at the starting city: Alicante, Spain
October 2011 Measurement and safety training
October 29, 2011 First in-port race day in Alicante
November 5, 2011 First leg starts from Alicante to Cape Town