Friday, 15 October 2010

HSBC Premier Coastal Classic: Micro Racers Can Pack Punch Against Big Rivals

Karma Police, the Shaw 9 owned by the designer, Rob Shaw. Image copyright Zoe Hawkins/WildeMedia.

by Zoe Hawkins

In 2009, three small boats astounded the sailing world when they finished the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic in astonishing times.

Overload - a hard chined 9.1m Elliott design owned by Scott Randall – finished in 10 hours and 53 minutes, wiping more than an hour of the under 9.14m (thirty foot) record, also beating the best time ever set for forty footers, and the Shaw 9ms, Karma Police and Deep Throttle, were just ten minutes behind.

The emerging fleet of ‘micros’ are circa-thirty footers that give exceptional performance in downwind and reaching conditions, thanks to clever utilization of the absolute latest design and construction developments, including canting keels, and composite materials.

Three of these boats are from the drawing board of Auckland designer, Rob Shaw.

Deep Throttle, and Rob Shaw’s own boat, Karma Police, share identical hull, rig and sails. Deep Throttle has a single centre canard, and Karma Police twin asymmetric dagger boards, providing a theoretical advantage to Karma Police in upwind conditions.

Both can get up to boatspeeds in the mid twenty knot range, and can equal or better boats ten to twenty feet bigger than them.

Rob Shaw’s crew are all experienced sportsboat sailors, which places them in excellent stead for racing a light keeler that responds well to apparent wind style sailing, and Deep Throttle’s Justin Ferris is a Volvo Ocean Race trimmer and driver, and races with a highly esteemed crew including former World Champion dinghy sailor, Blair Tuke.

This year they are joined by a brand new rival who is bigger, but may well not turn out to be better.

Overload racing in the Bay of Islands earlier this year. Image copyright Cathy Vercoe/Luvmyboat.

Volvo Ocean Race winner and former Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mike Sanderson has teamed up to launch another Rob Shaw design, the flush decked 10m Orbit. The handicapper has rated the boat as being slower than its little sisters – and with its planned launch date just six days before the race start, the boat will be an unknown quantity right to the very end.

All four boats will compete in Division 1, against mighty entrants including the Evolution Sails Limit, which is nearly twice their size, and the fifty footers Wired and Ran Tan II.

A yet smaller boat, designed with the same goal in mind, but competing in Division 2, is a 6.5m carbon fibre canting keeler, based on a Gary Lambert 12ft dinghy which its builder, Mark Beauchamp, blew up on a large photocopier.

While the original version had wide wings and wires that he didn’t enjoy, he decided it could be improved by cutting the boat in half along the guts with a chainsaw, and extending the waterline length to 28 foot.

“The result is a narrow water line with slightly flared sides a bit like a canoe under the water,” explains Mark Beauchamp.

The lifting canting keel makes the boat trailerable, and is easily adjusted by an electric winch controlled with two buttons at foot level.

“Tongue Twister was built with the idea of going fast for cheap and also I enjoy being the small boat in the fleet trying to beat the bigger more expensive machines,” says Beauchamp, who has a very experienced Northland crew aboard with him for this year’s Coastal Classic.

Tongue Twister’s shakedown race saw her get up to a maximum speed of 16.7 knots before turning around to battle into a 20 knot headwind.

“Our current handicap puts us in Division 2 with the big boys which will be a challenge to say the least but again I will enjoy being the little guy, though should the wind be forecast 20 knots on the nose she will go straight back on the trailer!” says Mark.

Rob Shaw is confident his boat can perform again in downwind conditions: “If we get conditions again similar to last year we can hang in there against the fastest 50's as long as we don't have to much of an upwind from the Brett into Russell. So anything from the south west round to the south east is good for us and with a good breeze it's likely the record times from last year will be repeated or improved on.”

“The new 10 metre Orbit will be a bit of an unknown quantity going into the race with none of us having had a chance to line up against them prior to the start.”

Justin Ferris says, “this will all depend on the conditions, same as last year and we are in for a good ride, anything from the north and we quickly become small boat with a high Rating so the chances of a good result is not so likely. Where these boats are extremely fast is with the wind aft of 100 TWA, this seems to be the point at which they break free and really fly.”

Joining HSBC Premier, which is also sponsor of Division 1, are eight divisional sponsors, each contributing prizes to its line honours winners and handicap placegetters: Musto (Division 2), Safety at Sea (Division 3), Mt Gay Rum (Division 4), Steinlager (Division 5), Duke of Marlborough Hotel (Division 6), RAILBLAZA Ltd (Division 7), Jucy Rentals (Division 8), (IRC), and SailNZ (Classic Division).

Snitch GPS will provide real-time GPS tracking of ten members of the race fleet, and Sunday Star Times and Trade-A-Boat Magazine are official media partners to the race. will issue an official, detailed race forecast on the eve of the race.

The supermaxi Alfa Romeo broke a thirteen-year record drought when it set a new overall record last year, completing the race in 6 hours and 43 minutes, but Split Enz remains the fastest multihull to ever finish the race with a record set in 1996 of 7 hours and 20 minutes.

The HSBC Premier Coastal Classic starts from 10am on Friday 22 October off Devonport Wharf in Auckland, and finishes off Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands.

HSBC Premier Coastal Classic