Tuesday, December 22, 2009
North Sails Australia CEO Michael Coxon (Cocko) has been campaigning with Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo's for some years but his Sydney team have built the sails for both Alfa and its strong rival, Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, the four times Hobart winner.
Just a few days before the 2009 Rolex Sydney to Hobart, 'Cocko' provides this insight into the Supermaxi scene.
'The sail optimisation that Wild Oats XI and Alfa Romeo have done totally ignores IRC ratings - they are all about speed. The sails that both boats are putting in their inventory but may not use is driving their IRC rating through the roof, however for them it’s about line honours and chasing line honours, as both boats are hammered on IRC handicap.
‘Both boats have got an R1, which is going to drive their rating. The R1 is a spinnaker that’s going to measure as a headsail. It’s a furling, reaching sail from the end of the prod to the masthead so its a spinnaker area but like what you would call a Code 0 on the IRC boats.
‘We haven’t built it to IRC rules so instead of being measured as a spinnaker it’s going to be measured as a headsail. It's a more efficient sail from a shape point of view but it’s going to blow ratings out of the water because the headsail ratings are now driven by that, rather than the short footed, non overlapping headsails we have previously used.
‘The R1’s are made of 3DL so basically they are replacing the 3DL IRC Code 0s.
'Technology drives progress; as well as Alfa Romeo, Wild Oats and Mike Slade's Leopard have all got Cuben spinnakers. The North Sails Cuben development has gone forward a lot in the last couple of years. The Cuben bias has added incredibly to the tear strength.
'On Alfa Romeo we used a Cuben spinnaker right across the Pacific in the Transpac, for four days not stop. We put it up again today and we’re going to use it for the Hobart.
‘This is going to be a fascinating battle. Alfa Romeo last lined up against Wild Oats XI at the Maxi Worlds two years ago and we beat Wild Oats XI in the first race and we were ahead of her in the second race when she dropped her rig. Both boats have undergone modifications: both have gone to 100 feet long and they’ve both got different rigs.
‘Wild Oats XI received a new rig when she broke her mast and we got a new rig because Neville decided that he wanted to upgrade the boat. We could save windage and weight by going a stiffer rig and we have gone for a four spreader rig (from a five spreader rig) so it’s quite different. Because the rigs are stiffer it has allowed us to put more furling sails on it, which are pretty fast.
The new four spreader rig - Alfa Romeo - Richard Gladwell
‘Both boats have undergone modifications and both boats worked on what their 'perceived weaknesses' were. From day one when the boats were launched, my gut feeling has been that Alfa has had an edge upwind and that Oats has had an edge downwind. I think that Oats has made modifications that she thinks will help her upwind performance and Alfa has made some modifications that will help her downwind performance.
'However while the competition for Line Honours will likely between those to boats, there is a BUT. I think Leopard will be the boat to beat if the weather is on the nose.
'If we have heavy weather sailing I would say she’s the boat; I would put my money on. With anything greater than 20 knots upwind, I would say that Leopard would be the quickest boat on the water.
'I would suggest with power crack sheet reaching; not necessarily spinnaker reaching, but power reaching I think she’ll be the boat to beat too. Leopard is by comparison a heavy boat, so when it goes light she could probably lose a lot of ground quickly too.
'Still, if these boats finish as the top three we won’t mind, they all have the latest North Sails!!
While the big boats clash at the head of the fleet, the battle for overall victory promises to be even more intense.
Looking through the North Sails fleet, Sales and Marketing Manager, Julian Plante, sees a number of potential winners. 'In the Mini Maxi size, Ran and Loki are both strong contenders. They are both using North's Cuben spinnakers. Its only a few years ago it was the STP65 Rosebud that was the overall winner in a boat of similar size category.'
As a regular tactician on Quest, Julian of course has a special interest in Bob Steel’s defending overall winner, but he says 'Quest will have to beat off the hungry pack including the mid size 50’s Yendy’s which has added a new square top main, and Living Doll, plus the TP52 gang of Cougar II, Ragamuffin, Shogun and Calm all part of the super-competitive 50 foot fleet.'
We will know soon enough... and we wish all the boats fair winds.
by Media Services
Posted by Editor at 7:18 PM