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Libby Greenhalgh reviews the Rolex Middle Sea race on Maverick

Libby Greenhalgh reviews the Rolex Middle Sea race on Maverick

Just over a month ago I joined Team Maverick on their Infiniti 46 with DSS Foils for the Middle Sea Race. This 600 mile race typically provides all weather conditions and as always an absolutely stunning backdrop to the race.

This year was no exception the forecast was for a strong NNW winds, in the region of 35+KT from a little over 24hours into the race, it was enough or  some to consider not starting and overall resulted in a war of attrition during the race with roughly only half the fleet finishing.

We had a couple of days of light to moderate wind training before the start. Allowing me to get up to speed with the boat and understand how and where the performance of the boat changes with the deployment of the foils.

We started amongst all the big boats in the small and beautiful Valletta harbour looking like a fly buzzing around the bigger animals. A short sprint downwind and we are all heading off to Sicily just cracked off the wind. As the breeze pushes above 8-10 KT and the boat reaches maximum power the foils can be deployed on both sides, to act as righting moment to windward and to provide lift and stability this is particularly beneficial as the sea state worsens.

With the bright orange aeroplane wing foils deployed the boat sits at an optimal heel angle of about 10 degrees and sounds like a rocket trying to take off.
— Libby Greenhalgh

The boat is responsive and light on the helm and with the foils deployed we powered upwind in the building breeze once past Stromoboli. The effect of the foils on the stability and reducing the pitching of the boat in a big sea state makes going upwind almost a pleasure.  As you gradually bear off as always you eventually hit the power zone and from a True Wind Angle of 070 or wider you feel the boat accelerate and you need to level her off to keep her quick, it can be fairly easy to over trim in this situation.

The real fun with the boat started when we turned the corner and headed downwind and the boat lit up. With the bright orange aeroplane wing foils deployed the boat sits at an optimal heel angle of about 10 degrees and sounds like a rocket trying to take off. The aeroplane like foils self adjust the lift, as the boat lifts and the foil comes to the surface then the lift reduces which means despite it being howling winds the  foils can still be used. The water piles over the deck like fireman’s hose blasting at you which does at times make it pretty hard to stay on the side of the boat, but with boat speeds in excess of 20 KT an peaking a 27+KT is pretty impressive for a 46 footer.

Under three days to complete and we drying out back ashore as the 4th boat to cross the line behind largely 100 FT boats. All in all a boat that is a lot of fun, a team that is a lot fun and I am looking forward to sailing this boat again in 2018.

Libby Greenhalgh

#BeaMaverick #FollowTheStory

Rolex Middle Sea - A Maverick race review

Rolex Middle Sea - A Maverick race review

Author: Piers Hugh Smith
Course: Valetta-Messina Straits (Italy/Sicily) - Stromboli - Pantaleria - Lampadusa - Valetta.

The odometer on the past 12-months of racing clicks over to around 6,500 nm after a busy season with Maverick! Out of the previous five major offshore races, Maverick has been the boat for four of them, a total of 5,900 nm - I certainly had never seen this coming and am forever counting my lucky stars for being part of such a great and continuous program. Always learning and always finding new areas to improve.

This Rolex Middle Sea Race, my second, shaped up to be a lot more interesting than the first! The first, 2016, characterised by a steady drift round the scenic Mediterranean islands with little more than 12-14 knts boat speed at best, could not be further from what was in store for us this time. ‘Finally!’, a few of us thought, there has previously been an uncanny lack of conventional weather for the Maverick program,  it would be nice to see some weather. Being careful what you wish for might just be the motto here!

I can never get over the start of this race, amongst the striking sandstone scenery of the Grand Harbour in Valetta, the narrow beat through the harbour walls and then and ultra short kite leg at the start gets the blood pumping and tests our quick fire/inshore manoeuvres. A pretty gradual beat followed up the Messina straits, a mix of light wind park ups with changes from the J1 (our biggest headsail), to the MHO (our biggest masthead reaching sail), and the occasional spinnaker thrown in for good measure. Although placid, these are often pretty testing conditions for a bowman, loads of quick-fire changes, often in the dark, and it’s a real test to make sure you can consistently deliver these without locking out your halyards or, at worst, tangling them up making a change impossible. I’ve been away from the boat for a while and I think this showed here, a couple of the changes going a little awry with some halyard issues, certainly time to be gained there. However it was great to have an understanding team backing me up and focusing their energies on solving issues, rather than dwelling on errors. This has been a hallmark feature of the program and something I believe is a key ingredient of our successes. Every day is a school day, after all.

Apart from the numerous sail changes the first part of this race was somewhat uneventful, however near Palermo our test began, building breeze into a 135 nm beat, this was a good chance for some drysuit action with testing upwind sailing which is pretty tough on a skinny, 46 ft boat. It’s hard to find the groove in waves that stacked up pretty quick to a hefty swell the height of a transit van. This is where my be careful what you wish for comment earlier comes in. We soon cracked off onto a jib reach, followed by a punchy FR0 (smaller than the MHO, but a power reaching weapon of a sail) passage and a technical peel to an A3, our smallest reaching spinnaker. Change complete and trucking along at a steady 17-22 knts of boat speed I headed down for some rest, thinking how our speedy averages would see me with a pint and a burger in Valetta in no time. However from inside the boat it sounded like the world was beginning to end! A constant rush of water and huge crashes and the boat charges through waves, arcing spray over the decks with a deluge of water threatening to wash anything not lashed down into the sea behind. Our speed crept up towards 27-28 knts here as we pushed the boundaries of what the sail was capable of. Earlier in this day myself and Jorge, the mid-bowman, had been thrown back 15 ft along the foredeck, along with the 60 kg sail we were carrying, with the sheer force of water travelling along the deck- thankfully we always clip on the safety harnesses in these conditions.

But back to the A3, downstairs I hear an almighty crash followed by my body being thrown forward down the bunk, knees in my chest as I press against the keel bulkhead in front. There is a reason we always say sleep feet first in this boat, it is better to break your legs rather than your neck when this thing flies off a wave! The boat pivoted around its axis and lay flat on its side with the sound of an ‘All Hands!’ cry and all hell breaking loose on deck. This was when our much loved and little used A3 decided to part company with itself, having been torn into many, many pieces after a 40 knt gust knocked us over after pitching into a wave at 25+ knts. Halyards were cut and what little remained of the sail recovered on board before the FR0 was speedily hoisted again, this was a pretty harrowing moment with a lot of stress on the rig, the decision to cut the halyard was made to preserve the mast and stop the A3 now Sea Anchor ripping the top of our carbon mast off.

It was almost fortuitous however the breeze had continued to build and our forced change to the FR0 was the right call. The A3 would have done the same three times over as we launched off waves, our DSS foils provided immense amounts of grip that launched the boat forward at speeds more akin to an 80 ft yacht, rather than our 46 ft surfboard! Some of the wave impacts were similar to being in a car crash as the boat tore through walls of water, it was all you could do to hold on at times, your visions reduced to nothing in a ball of spray with the boat seemingly airborne beneath you. The speedo only read 6 knts as it was out the water! The highest I saw was 27, but we reportedly logged speeds in the early 30 knts if the GPS is to be believed. We dropped into preservation mode, dropping the watches from four hours on to one hour on as it’s key to keep everyone fresh and alert as mistakes at this speed could potential be seriously damaging to more than just the boat and race. It was certainly one of my most intense nights offshore. The Infinit 46R can certainly take one hell of a beating! I don’t know many other boats that could shake off such an aggressive punishment so easily.

Windspeed hung around the 20-30 knt range for the rest of the race, the occasional 40 knts in the squalls as we concluded the reaching round Lampadusa island, but in a slightly more gentle fashion on a tighter angle with lighter breeze. Dawn broke as we approached the Malta/Gozo channel, still maintaining our reduced watch and keeping the boat pushed all the way in.

We were certainly pleased to finish this one in (almost) one piece! The whole team worked really hard, pressure was kept on us and it is always great to sail with such a pedigree bunch, it really encourages you to up your game, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing them onboard again in the future.

At the time of writing we have won IRC class 1, 4th overall on IRC, 1st overall on ORC and 6th on line honours, a results I’m pretty happy with given such a tough heavy air session. Not bad for a little 46 ft boat, taking on some big teams!

So another awesome race with Team Maverick, and I’m left excited for the next adventure that comes round…

Piers

#BeaMaverick #FollowTheStory

 

Rolex Middle Sea Race report: As ready as we've ever been

Rolex Middle Sea Race report: As ready as we've ever been

By Piers Hugh-Smith

As ready as we’ve ever been was a phrase that was thrown around a lot before we left the dock in Malta, and it’s meaning is more than skin deep. With a boat like Maverick, we are incredibly fortunate to be developing all the time, using new technology, from Voltsport’s innovative and cutting edge battery system to our real ‘showstopper’ (Hopefully that rings with you GBBO fans), our DSS foils- However, with development comes trial and error, hard work and an expectation for nothing to work ‘out of the box’. Olly, the skipper, and all the guys working on-shore have put in reams of hard work to make sure we are as developed as possible for each race, and to put it simply, the Maverick that started the Middle Sea was a few steps along from the Maverick before that started in Palermo. The atmosphere was palpably optimistic, and everyone, including myself, was itching to unleash the best Maverick we’ve had yet on the racecourse in Malta.

But before I get into the race, I’ll introduce myself if you didn’t catch my Palermo interview or my ill-fated backflip off the DSS foil! (Proud holder of highest number of Facebook hits). My name is Piers, I’m 21, sailing Maverick and campaigning a Diam24 Trimaran and in my spare time I’m an Economics undergraduate at the University of Portsmouth. On Maverick, I’m the bowman- dealing with the pointy end, the sail changes and if there’s every any reason to go up the rig, it’s me that goes! However offshore, I switch into a bit of an all-rounder mode, and can often be found behind the wheel or with a sheet in my hand in addition to my duties on the bow.

If I was going to go through the race turn by turn, not only would this blog seem more like a novel, but by the end of it the only person left reading would be my mum! So in the interests of your interests, I’m going to pick a few highs, lows and lessons and see how that goes for length.

The High's

The big one, having Volvo Ocean Race legend Stu Bannatyne on board. Stu was a real example on how to do things, and the attitude to performance was one of my key take-outs. The pace was relentless, always making adjustments, always thinking about that nth percent. I get the impression that ‘that’ll be good enough’ is not a phrase that features heavily in Stu’s vocab. This had big implications for me too with lots, and lots of sail changes, at one point we would have 3 sails up, 2 ready to go on the foredeck, and in the space of an hour would of changed to the 2 on the deck, and back again! The light transitional zones off the Mediterranean islands (Think Stromboli and Pantaleria etc you tracker watchers), really reward pushing through and always having the correct sail up, even if it’s only up for 20 minutes before a change to something else. I’m always learning on the bow, and the multiple sail changes, day and night, have really accelerated my confidence in manoeuvres. Other highs; foils! We got to use the foils a little more this race, a few hours. They are incredible, make a huge difference to speed and stability, and are worth all the hype. It was a real tease for what I hope the transatlantic will be like next month. Lastly, there was some other cool little sights on the way, having never seen an active Volcano, Stromboli was a peak (pun intended) and we were fortunate enough to see 2 sea turtles amongst the usual hordes of dolphins,

The Low's

At risk of sounding like a cliché, there weren’t really any. Not apart from the usual offshore gripes - being woken up in the off-watch, being covered by a film of salt for 3 days and whilst Expedition’s freeze dried is actually quite tasty, the 1000 kcal Extreme’ chicken korma was not quite like a Friday night curry and pint at my local, Dil Raj. (Tariq if you’re reading this I hope you’re happy for the shout-out). Maybe there was one jib-peel, involving some obscenities, a detonated lifejacket, a self-unfurling staysail and being very, very wet, (however my stellar Ocean Rodeo drysuit kept me bone dry underneath) where some team-mates may recall I found potentially less than ideal, but it’s all part of the fun.

To finish off

To come away from this event, the boat’s 3rd ever race, with a 3rd overall is just simply an honour. I don’t think any of us were expecting it, and coupled with a Class win in IRC 1, I’m immensely proud to be part of the team, and it’s a real testament to all the hard work that’s gone into the project so far. There’s a huge amount to learn still, but the boat is yet to unleash it’s full potential, and I cannot wait to see it!

Next stop Lanzarote for the RORC Transatlantic Race! 

#beamaverick #FollowTheStory

Blog update from the Rolex Middle Sea Race

Blog update from the Rolex Middle Sea Race

Skipper Olly blog update from the race...

Hello Team Maverick fans!

Well as I write this it is 0600 on the morning of the 24th. We have made much better progress than anticipated in our pre departure routing and briefings.

The race so far has been great for us. We have been working tirelessly to keep the yacht moving with her optimal sail plan. We have only seven crew on-board which means everyone gets up for every maneuver.

There have been a couple of interesting transition zones so far (and we are currently hopefully on the way out of one) but our new spinnaker staysail has been fantastic as a drifter/ SS combo.

The routing initially suggested that we would not have any foiling action. I am pleased to announce this has not been the case with our top speed being around 18kts yesterday while running under the A1.5.

As with any new yacht we have had to work really hard on improving the reliability of some of the systems. The team has done a great job and so far everything has been working as it should. The water maker, hydraulics, sat Comms, GSM comms, engine etc have all been behaving at the same time. A first a race! This means we have really been able to concentrate on performance and experiment with ideas. 

Anyway I hope this blog finds you all well....

Goodbye from the good ship Maverick

"A wise man learns from his mistakes, a genius learns from others mistakes" Anon

Skipper Olly