High Noon Rides Again
High Noon Rides Again
Boat Upgrade from our Jan/Feb 2011 issue: Long Island Sound sailmaker Steve Benjamin rescued a mid-range IMS racer and turned it into an IRC weapon.
The Tripp 41 High Noon never fulfilled expectations as a mid-range IMS racer. And the complex, VPP-based handicap rule for which it was designed faded into obscurity during the past decade and was replaced, to a large extent, by IRC.
But where most everyone saw a tired, underachieving relic from a bygone era sitting on the hard and up for auction, Heidi and Steve Benjamin saw a blank slate and a hint of the potential that could be realized with the right amount of effort.
“We really like this size range,” says Steve Benjamin, an Olympic silver medalist in the 470 and longtime Long Island Sound sailmaker. “It’s big enough where we can do distance races and get done reasonably quickly.” But he added, not so big as to be in a different league from the local weeknight racing fleet around Stamford, Conn., nor incur too many of the logistical headaches of the larger grand-prix raceboats on which Benjamin has so often served as helmsman, tactician, or project leader.
The five-year-old project reached a zenith last summer with a win in IRC 3 at the US-IRC National Championships in Newport, R.I. Robotic Oncology—the boat has been rebranded courtesy of a sponsorship agreement—won all five of the buoy races, showing only a hint of vulnerability with a fifth in the windy distance race. The Benjamins and their team also came within the slimmest of margins (5 seconds in any one of the races) of taking the overall IRC crown. They finished second to the 52-foot Vela Veloce and just ahead of the 66-foot Numbers, both custom rockets designed specifically to compete under IRC and built within the last five years.
“We were reasonably confident [of squeezing some good results out of it],” Steve Benjamin says. “But I don’t think anyone expected it to work out as well as it did. We took a bit of a risk.”
The first step for such a project, according to Tripp Design’s Stephane Leveel, who advised the Benjamins on the project and regularly sails on the boat, is to get past the idea that an IMS design can’t be competitive under IRC. This is especially true of older IMS boats, which didn’t feature the flush decks and vertical topsides prevalent toward the end of the rule’s run.
“Most IMS boats you’ll find in the United States are probably 2002 or older, and their hull shapes are more reasonable [than newer IMS designs],” says Leveel. “If you take that, put a proper keel on the boat, and adjust the sail plan, you’ll probably do very well.”
Plus, IRC provides an age allowance for older boats, provided the hull isn’t altered too significantly. According to Leveel, an identical copy of High Noon, built today, would owe the older version about 25 seconds per hour of racing.
The second step is to target the wind range and conditions in which the boat will be doing most of its—or most of its most important—racing. “IRC is a single number system, so you can have horses for courses,” says Leveel, referencing the catch phrase for boats targeted to win in specific wind conditions or on specific points of sail. “Long Island Sound is predominantly light air, with very little tide. For that there is an optimum boat. For the Solent, where the average wind speed is 12-plus, and you can get 3 knots of tide, you’d never do High Noon the way she is now.
A third part, says Steve Benjamin, is to commit to doing the upgrade in stages. In total, a project of this scope would be daunting, even to a veteran do-it-yourself owner. Spread over a few years, it’s more manageable.