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Learning points from Palermo-Montecarlo by Kees Postma

Learning points from Palermo-Montecarlo by Kees Postma

Learning points from the Palermo Monte-Carlo race

With a 4th place on the water, behind bigger boats and teams with more practice and experience on their boats, the Palermo Monte-Carlo race was a big success for Team Maverick. But there was also a lot of stuff that went wrong during the race. Continuous improvement is a big part of the team culture, so it’s important that we learn from the things that go wrong. And we want to share that learning with all of you.

Problem #1: Lost the staysail halyard out of the mast

The swivel for the staysail halyard is held on to that halyard by a stopper knot. Unlike the swivels for the other furling sails there is no slot inside this swivel for a dogbone, which would be a more reliable stopper.

When we went to change from the J2 to the staysail in strong winds on the approach to Sardinia, this stopper knot came undone which meant the staysail went for a swim and the halyard plummeted into the mast. Mousing a halyard through the mast in these conditions is not possible, so flying our staysail was no longer an option. Sadly we have had this problem before and thought we had resolved it by using a different stopper knot.

Learning point: Improve the reliability of the stopper knot. Solution pending at time of writing.

Problem #2: Jib tack line snapped

Approaching the mandatory course gate off Porto Cervo in the dark and 30 knots of wind, the jib tack line snapped. Maverick’s jib tack line runs forward from the cockpit inside the boat and comes out of a small cavity in the deck all the way forward on the bow. The cavity is tiny, which makes it incredibly difficult to re-mouse a new tack line around the stainless rod that directs the line up to the sail. With all this happening at night and on the bounciest and wettest end of the boat, it took over 20 minutes of fiddling before a new tack line was ready to go.

Learning point: Have ready-to-go backups for all systems and controls that are hard or impossible to access, especially in the conditions in which those systems and controls are likely to fail.

Problem #3: Failure of hydraulic controls

The keel evidently had such a good time on full cant to starboard that, after foiling past Bonifacio at 20kts+ and straight into a massive wind hole in the lee of Corsica, it decided it wanted to stay there. As the hydraulic vang and traveller were still working, the fault seemed to lie in the connection between the control buttons and the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller: the brain that receives all hydraulic commands and sends them on to the hydraulic system). The frustrating thing here was that the hydraulic system itself was still working, we just had no way of telling it what to do.

An attempt to resolve the keel control issue accidentally resulted in a very mysterious but very complete disablement of the entire PLC, which meant that there was now no way of telling any of the hydraulics what to do. The rest of the race was sailed without the use of our hydraulic vang and traveller.

Learning point: There should be a ready-to-go backup method of commanding the hydraulics that bypasses the PLC.

Problem #4: Lack of testing and knowledge of manual keel controls

With no electronic control of the keel, we resorted to the often-discussed-but-never-really-tested manual keel controls. A set of manual hydraulic controls for the keel is obviously a great plan, but its usefulness is vastly reduced when most of the crew has never used it before. It didn’t take very long to educate people, but in an emergency situation it could have been a more serious problem.

Learning point: Everyone on board must have sufficient knowledge of the hydraulic valves and switches to be able to work at least the manual keel hydraulics.

Problem #5: Alternator no longer charging batteries

Around the same time that the hydraulic controls failed, we discovered that the alternator on the engine wouldn’t charge our batteries anymore. Perhaps it decided that with all our hydraulics down we didn’t need power either.

Learning point: Have another way of charging the batteries.

In this case we were one step ahead of the game! We carry a hydrogenerator that deploys off the back of the boat, makes us power-neutral at around 7 knots of boat speed, and charges our batteries at anything above that.

Problem #6: Damage to hydrogenerator

We felt very smug about our hydrogenerator until the sea state built enough that the entire device bounced out of its bracket on the transom and was dragged behind the boat on its safety line. The good news was that it was quickly noticed and recovered back on board. The bad news was that one of the blades had snapped off and we didn’t have any spares on board. We tried using it with only two blades, but it wasn’t generating a lot of power and the imbalance was causing so much vibration and drag we had to pull it up.

Learning point: Make sure the hydrogenerator can be locked into its bracket. And don’t leave the spare blades on a shelf in the container.

Although we always race to win, this program and especially its early stages are all about learning as much as possible. All of these problems are frustrating but they do translate into the quickest way to learn your yacht. At some stage the gloves need to come off and you need to stress test not only the systems, but also the people using them. The Mediterranean provides a great safe arena for this. Preparation is about preventing problems but also being ready for the inevitable one you did not anticipate.

We are looking forward to one more race in this arena in October, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, before we set off on the RORC Transatlantic Race in November.

Stay tuned as we keep sharing our progress with you.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”

Kees Postma, Team Maverick

"Can we foil yet?" asks Sean McCarter

"Can we foil yet?" asks Sean McCarter

"Can we foil yet" asks Sean McCarter...

Round the world yacht race skipper Sean McCarter joins Team Maverick for the first time to compete in the Palermo-Montecarlo race. Here he documents his experience as he foils with us for the first time and gets a taste for DSS speed!

Sean...

This was the question I pestered Team Maverick with for the two days of training in Palermo before race start to Monte Carlo. The incessant questioning continued for a further 240 nm of light, upwind racing to Porto Cervo, the first mark of the race, then something special happened...

Sean McCarter: crew

Sean McCarter: crew

Becoming a 'Maverick' was a no-brainer; my good friend and old competitor on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race called me up and asked if I was keen to sail the new, light weight, state of the art, Infiniti 46R with DSS, newly commissioned and launching in San Tropez. Olly explained the goal of building a team eager to push leading edge technology in many of the world’s classic offshore races. Sign me up! 

Arriving in Palermo and meeting a post-delivery exhausted crew, it was refreshing to see a wide variety of experience, enthusiasm, good humor and positivity. Olly is an intelligent skipper with an eye for detail and a knack for delegating second-to-none. 

At first sight, Maverick is a mean-looking machine with numerous standout features, a huge bowsprit, massive rig, hard chines and the orange tips of the Dynamic Stability System (DSS) foils peaking out menacingly from each side. It is a relatively small boat utilising technology common to boats twice its size. A canting keel and dagger board help turbo charge the boat when conditions don't allow for foiling. A huge amount of effort went into weight saving; 5.5 tonnes most of which is in the keel bulb says job well done. My favourite example is the throttle; unlike most race boats who use an 'off-the-shelf' brand, Team Maverick have made a 1 mm dyneema line and pulley system to engage gears and another into a cam cleat to select RPMs depending on how hard you hard you pull! 

After rounding our mark off Porto Cervo, we bore away into the Maddalena channel and finally we got the elusive call, 'Deploy the foil!' We hoisted a jib-top and started shaking reefs. For the following two hours, we blasted through one of the most spectacular racecourses in the world, affectionately known as 'Bomb Alley', with the sun rising in a perfect background. We topped out at 21.8 kts and the boat felt stable and capable of more. We later heard that Rambler 88's max speed was 22 kts...say no more.

Sean McCarter

#beamaverick #followthestory

The technical and human angle behind Maverick

The technical and human angle behind Maverick

In conceiving the yacht Maverick we set ourselves a very clear brief.  She was to be an offshore race boat designed to tackle the "600 mile classics".  As with most things in life thats where the clarity ended and the compromising started.

Our budget wouldn't stretch very far against a new 100ft maxi so that focused our attention on the handicap rather than the line honours.  The plethora of existing designs, TP's VOR's all offered something but by being excellent at what they were designed for they were not necessarily best suited to what we wanted.  We planned to run a global campaign, the boat had to be easy to ship and we wanted to keep operating costs to a minimum.  Length and people became the critical issues for us to optimise as we look to maximise the returns for our resources.

To achieve our goals it was clear we had to do something a little different, we had to embrace some newer ideas to see if we could make a smaller boat perform like a bigger boat.  In our view an effective offshore racer has to be a strong reaching boat, but given we weren't focused on ocean racing we had to be as good as possible "uphill" and very effective across a range of conditions but particularly in light air.

We sat down with Hugh Welbourn and Gordon Kay to discuss using DSS.  With Hugh's help we combined a number of ideas to help us punch above the physics of length as often as possible.  Hugh's narrow hull form design allows us to reduce drag in all modes.  DSS helps us to achieve reaching power, lift for planing and further reduces drag.  A canting keel helps to provide maximum righting moment to optimise uphill sailing.  These features combine to allow us to be both very light and powerful making the boat as quick as possible in displacement mode, early to transition and simply fast in planning mode.  The sail locker is reflective of an offshore boat.  By working with Doyle NZ from the start we have been careful to engineer the boat and spars to manage the high loads demanded by the sail makers to optimise the sail shapes and ranges on all sails but particularly fractional and mast head code sails.

Whilst there are some crossovers in appearance (foils and canting keel) the hull form design and sail locker means that Maverick is not just a short version of the new IMOCA 60.

Having decided on the concept, the team then worked hard on the minutiae to keep the weight off and to reduce the complexity.  The spotlight on detail was unrelenting with an ongoing dialogue to make sure that the best possible components were picked to achieve the right balance, for us, between performance and cost.

We race with 6 to 8 crew so "sail-ability" was a priority.  Being fast is one thing, maintaining speed consistently another.  The boat systems had to be refined to allow long periods of short handed sailing, constantly balancing the need to finish with the need for speed and the need to minimise the wear and tear on both vessel and people.  Many hours were spent on "string" layout and functionality, optimum sail plans and shapes, furling and reefing systems.

Accurate information is essential to optimising performance.  Following the adage "bad data in equals bad decisions out", we dedicated our efforts to making sure we can collect accurate information, particularly boat speed.  No mean challenge on a boat that spends a lot of time planing.  With the weight/performance trade off front of mind the need for power to drive hydraulic pressure, water, data and instruments required a series of fine judgements.  In the end we have opted for a hydro generator, batteries and water maker.  Light and environmentally friendly.

After taking a novel approach on the boat, we then took a slightly different tack to building the team.  We wanted a core group of experienced sailors but more importantly people who would come with an open mind, commit to the potential of the program and who were proven team players.  We needed good all rounders, there is no room for specialisation, and we would make no distinction between gender, or the oft misunderstood designation "professional or amateur".  In short we wanted a team that could collectively act as Maverick not a collection of Mavericks.

To round things out we have ongoing advice from Hugh, Gordon, and Justin Ferris at Doyle Sails NZ.  With the odd ringer thrown in to push the team to a higher level, be that a well known navigator or a member of the emerging talent program that we plan to run.

The genesis of Maverick, the ambition and ethos for the team, occurred on a grey day running up the Derwent to Hobart; a venue we hope to revisit in the next 2 years.  In the interim the plan is to race Maverick at regattas around the world showcasing the power of DSS, the technology from our carefully chosen suppliers and the talents of Team Maverick. 

Join us as we follow our path, which we have designed to be a little less ordinary.