the ultimate racing cruisers • Live Sail Die
The Ultimes, the world’s fastest offshore racing yachts, could pioneer next month’s Rolex Fastnet Race with the potential to bypass even the new stretched course in less than a day – but not far from them The MOCRA class will be found, most of the time racing in much more comfort.
Since the creation of the MOCRA (Multihull Offshore Cruising and Racing Association) in 1969, multihulls, catamarans and trimarans have evolved enormously. Back in the day, many of these ships were often either performance-matched houseboats or featherweight racing machines of questionable construction and engineering. In the decades that followed, massive advancements in design, composite construction and structural engineering and lighter weight, from the tip of the mast to the bottom of the foil, transformed these boats. Today, once the aesthetic differences between monohulls and multihulls are overcome, and aware that they can ultimately capsize, modern multihulls can quite simply offer more of everything – significantly more performance or more space and often both – compared to an equivalent monohull.
One of MOCRA’s greatest achievements is its rule which, for decades, has allowed deeply dissimilar multihulls to compete fairly. In this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, that will be put to the test with boats ranging from Tim Whittle’s 30ft Trifoiler T3 L’Albatros to the 84ft Allegra cruising catamaran designed by Adrian Keller’s Nigel Irens.
Leading the MOCRA class on the water will certainly be the two MOD70s, Jason Carroll’s Argo from America and Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati from Italy. Neither of these grand prix trimarans is a ‘class’ MOD70, both having upgraded foil packages to encourage them, if not to fly fully, at least to reduce displacement. Of the two, Maserati has the more extreme foil package, including a “manta” foil on the center fin of its central hull, which allows it to “fly” at three points (this, plus its leeward foil and rudder).
While agile sorts, such as the older MOD70s, up to Andrew Fennell’s fast-paced Shuttle 39 Morpheus trimaran, represent the grand prix element of the MOCRA class, the biggest area of ââgrowth is in the fast racing cats. The concept of performance catamarans with enormous interior volume is nothing new – Olympic gold medalist Tornado Reg White’s Sailcraft company built examples such as the Iroquois and Apache in the 1970s, followed by the designs by Derek Kelsall and composite creations by John Shuttleworth such as the Spectrum 42 of the 1980s and on, among many others (the latest version of the Spectrum 42, the Pulsar 50, competes in the Green Ray of Oren Nataf with a crew including Sidney Gavignet. 40-50 years later and with a much better understanding of their design, significant improvements overall, today’s catamarans of this type break less, slam less, upwind, can perform at all speeds and capsize about as often as monohulls sink.
Gunboats are the most well-known of their genre internationally, but in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, the fast cats are largely represented by the four TS42 and TS5 from Lorient-based Marsaudon Composites. In 2019, a great supporter of French yachting, Christian Guyader, won the MOCRA class aboard his TS42 Guyader Gastronomie. This year, he returns with the new 50-foot TS5 Guyader Mext and a crew again including former boat captain B&Q Castorama Loick Gallon and professional sailor Gwen Chapalain, who entered the same boat on the Route du Rhum the year next. Regarding this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, Chapalain noted: âWe won the last edition in corrected time, but also in real time. This year it will be harder because there are MOD70s that go much faster than us. It’s great to finish in Cherbourg. It lengthens the course a bit, but it adds to the game because you can play across the width of the Channel. It will be a big celebration in Cherbourgâ¦ â
In this Rolex Fastnet Race, the ultimate expression of a modern fast cruising catamaran is the sumptuous 84-foot Allegra designed by Irens by Adrian Keller. The boat was designed to be faster at all gaits and more spacious than equivalent larger monohulls and it demonstrated this on its first delivery to the Mediterranean when it reached 29 knots. Since then, as her Swiss owner enjoys riding her more and more, Allegra has followed a constant development program, including adding 6 feet to her transom, bringing her to her current length (and thus reducing the drag of the transom) and installing a J0 with tarpaulin inboard.
The racing skipper aboard this 32-foot-wide, 32-ton all-carbon monster is the world’s fastest sailor, Paul Larsen. “These boats do an incredible job of moving a luxury apartment to the rhythm of a difficult course,” says Larsen, who nearly 10 years ago set the current world record for sailing speed of 68.33 knots. aboard his Sailrocket 2. “I compare them to rallying. driving Bentleys Continental – these are extremely capable cars with amazing brakes and engines and handling packages, but in the end it’s a Bentley Continental and, when things go wrong, it weighs a lot and you’re not in the rally car you could have been in, it could have gotten out of that situation.
As a result, Larsen says they are more stressful to push hard than fully purpose built racing trimarans. âThese are very complex boats with hydraulic systems and power packs etc. and a lot of it is wire driven. You free the travelers and the mainsail sheet by the coxswain. Nevertheless, after several years of campaigning, they are now able to launch Allegra on the course and can sail it to its design limits even in races such as the latest windy RORC Caribbean 600.
Another example is the Outremer 5X Racing No Limit, the all-carbon version of the 60-foot flagship catamaran model from the La Grande Motte-based manufacturer. This is what is defended by Yann Marilley, former Team Manager of Yann Bourgnon, Alain Gautier and Gitana, who developed the boat with the former skipper of the multihull Elf Aquitaine, the late Jean Maurel.
The No Limit crew for the Rolex Fastnet Race will include French offshore legend LoÃ¯ck Peyron. The two-time OSTAR winner, Jules Verne Trophy holder, America’s Cup coxswain and VendÃ©e Globe competitor has a solid history with the Rolex Fastnet Race. In 2011, he would skipper the 40m Maxi Banque Populaire trimaran, setting a new absolute racing record, breaking the previous record he set in 1999 aboard his ORMA 60 Fujicolor. Peyron’s record was not broken by the latest generation Ultime trimarans until 2019.
Not all of the Rolex Fastnet Race fast cruising cats are Swiss or French. One company producing the most successful examples in the UK is Dazcat just across the Tamar in Cornwall. For Isle of Wight-based James Holder, this will be his fourth season and second Rolex Fastnet Race aboard his 42-foot Dazcat 1295 Slinky Malinki (named after the cat in Lynley Dodd’s children’s stories). Similar to Allegra, Holder says that only now have they been able to reap the benefits of all of their development and time to âknow the boatâ of seasons past.
Holder has been piloting multihulls for 20 years but spent a lot of time campaigning on the Dragonfly and Farrier F24 trimarans before embarking on the catamaran. âWe wanted a combination of things,â he explains. âWhat’s amazing about this boat is that it’s 13m, but if the conditions are right you can average 18-20 knots over an extended period. On the other end of the spectrum, we probably have the equivalent of a 50-55ft cruising monohull, so we can enjoy some family time too – we can go to Salcombe and grab some sea bass and have a barbecue at edge. It’s a very flexible machineâ¦ âWhen there is enough wind (so 13-14 + knots), Slinky Malinki can stand up to the elite of pro sailing in the upper echelons of the monohull fleet.
Holder says a secret to being competitive on fast cruising cats is to make sure they are on a strict diet. âWe restrict ourselves a lot, we don’t take too much water, so we don’t take a shower during the race and we don’t have a watermaker. We put six beers in the fridge we have when we’re done, and we eat well – that’s part of it, keeping a good team, being happy and motivated, and enjoying the good stuff. People don’t have to sit on the rail all night in the rain and cold, which is one of the perks of running with a cat like this.
It is perhaps not surprising that this represents one of the most important areas of growth within our sport.