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Handicap Racing: Fitting In With IRC

San Francisco's IRC fleet has a newcomer in Tai Kuai, and an owner looking for some 40-foot company.

June 19, 2013
Rolex Big Boat Series

Rolex Big Boat Series

Dan Thielman helms Tai Kuai at the Rolex Big Boat Series. Outsized by IRC A’s 50-footers, he hopes to have more IRC 40-footers for the 2013 event. Daniel Forster/rolex

While IRC’s management in England comes to grips with dwindling certificates worldwide, established fleets on the U.S. east and west coasts continue to provide good racing for its dedicated core. In San Francisco, especially, it remains the rule for serious programs. New to the fleet in 2012 was Dan Thielman’s Reichel/Pugh 44 Tai Kuai (translated as “Too Fast”), which competed in IRC A at the 2012 Rolex Big Boat Series. Thielman says his boat, which has untapped potential, was severely undersized among the big boats, so he’s enticing other 40-footers to come and race this year’s regatta. In the meantime, he’s implementing a series of sail-plan upgrades on Tai Kuai to ensure he’s not missing a fraction of a knot.

“I’m committed to IRC,” says Thielman, “but when it comes to Big Boat Series we don’t have a choice about where they place us, so we need to recruit some boats from Southern California, and up north. We need more boats in the 40- to 44-foot range. We’ve got a new McConaghy 38 on the Bay and a Farr 400 that regularly comes up from Los Angeles, so that’s helping us grow the division, but we need more.”

Thielman shipped Tai Kuai from Trinidad last year, after a long search for “a real hot racer,” and he admits his team’s transition from a Sabre 386 was an eye-opener. “When I bought the boat I was just starting to get into racing my Melges 20,” he says, “which has given me a feel for driving sportboats, but it was still a major leap to move to this boat. The big thing is keeping it on a plane. It’s the same with the Melges 20—keeping the right angle of heel, driving to the angles, and keeping it trucking downwind.”

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To ease the transition from his Sabre, he mixed some of the amateur crew with seasoned professionals—primarily to get around the racecourse safely and efficiently. His tactician, Seadon Wijsen, and others have helped him improve the boat’s sail plan dramatically.

“We bought the boat regardless of any [handicap] rules, and we’re not necessarily optimizing it for IRC,” says Thielman. “We’re optimizing it to be fast and easy to sail. On the list for this year is a new mainsail that will keep the boat in the same speed range, but also give us a better handicap on the course.”

They’ll also continue to look for refinements to the boat’s layout. “We’ve made adjustments to the backstay, to the line placements and leads; a lot of it is to keep people on the rail, rather than in the cockpit. It also came with a smaller sail plan, so we’ve gone bigger with the kites [adding 20 square meters], which really upped the horsepower on this boat. In flat water we’re planing consistently in 15 knots.”

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Also on the work list is getting the boat re-weighed and submitting a few trial certificates to see the effect on the rating of the sail plan changes.

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