Flash Glove, Judel/Vrolijk 52

After several optimizing changes to a tried and tested platform, this boat sets the pace for IRC 50-footers. "Grand Prix Launches" from our May 2008 issue

Flash Glove 368
Sharon Green

After impressive performances at Acura Key West Race Week and Acura Grand Prix in Miami several weeks later, Colm Barrington's Judel/Vrolijk 52 Flash Glove seems to have set the pace for 50-footers racing under IRC. Finishing as runner-up in Key West to Dan Meyer's much larger J/V 66 Numbers could easily be attributed to scaling issues within the rule (as well as Numbers being the newest boat on the course), and had Numbers not withdrawn from a day of racing in Miami there may have been the same outcome on the scoreboard. But among the TP52s and others in its size range, Flash has been the boat to beat this winter.So what has made this Irish-based team so competitive? According to project manager Rob Greenhalgh, an ABN AMRO alumni, much has to do with starting with the right platform and then setting it up to be optimized under IRC."Our view was that TP52s have always been competitive under IRC, and rather than take the time to commission a new design, why not take advantage of three generations of development in that class," says Greenhalgh. "So Colm bought Pinta last year because she was built by Cookson and had very little use. We felt she hadn't found her maximum potential in the [Breitling TP52] Med Cup circuit."The first change was to fit a fixed carbon sprit to the bow rather than an oversized pole. "We don't have a full-pro team, so this was going to be easier for boathandling," says Greenhalgh. And wedges were put in the kites to bump them up to 2,723. Then, all but 551 pounds of the 1,323 pounds of internal ballast was removed and relocated to a Judel/Vrolijk-redesigned bulb, but with no change in fin length. This increased righting moment, unrated in IRC, meant the boat and spar would take higher loads, but its designers approved the changes.On upwind sails, they increased the roach on the jibs to the maximum allowed under IRC, but decreased in the main compared to the TP52 rule. Along with the 8-point rating increase in hull factor seen by all TP52s in '08, these changes also increased Flash's rating, but the commensurate increase in speed has been worth it reckons Greenhalgh, though he admits, "this is not a very scientific process." Nonetheless, after feeling as if John Kilroy's Samba Pa Ti had an edge on them downwind in Key West, Flash lengthened its pole further, and added even more area to its kites for Miami, increasing the A2 sail's acreage to 2,906 square feet, earning even more rating points.Was this change worth it? "Hard to say just yet," says Greenhalgh. "We're still evaluating this, because in the breezy conditions we don't seem to go that much faster."Barrington agrees, saying, "We think the B&C [Botin & Carkeek] boats with their hull chines seem to get up and plane better than we do in the breeze, but in the moderate to lighter stuff we feel we're slightly faster. And the longer sprit should make the kites more efficient as well." But regardless of rating, Barrington says he's having a blast. "These boats are great fun to sail."-Dobbs DavisLOA 52'Beam 14'6"DSPL 16,424 lbs.SA (u/d) 1,593 sq. ft./2,852 sq. ft.Sails North SailsHardware Harken, SpinlockElectronics B&GMast Southern SparsBuilder Cookson Boats