Maxis and kites

Andrew Short on his acquiring Shockwave 5 and kit powering Brindabella in the Rolex Sydney Hobart

Tuesday December 23rd 2008, Author: Jim Gale, Location: United Kingdom
For a bloke that sells boats to other people for a living Andrew ‘Shorty’ Short seems to have enormous difficulty keeping his own cheque book at bay. He’s a sucker for a big, sexy money-hole in the water provided it goes fast, fast, fast.

Over the years Short has owned a series of 60 plus foot rocket ships, including Amazon, Bobsled and the Volvo 60 djuice dragon. Recently his pride and joy has been one of the icons of modern ocean racing, the maxi ASM Brindabella, but now Short has found a new love. Andrew Short Marine Shockwave 5 is 80 feet of high tech carbon fibre and Reichel Pugh genius, and Short reckons she will give him a real go at the Tattersall’s Cup this year.

“I spent a lot of money getting ASM Brindabella to go faster but then we realised that the next step had to be a new keel, and that was going to cost me 130 grand," he says. "That’s a lot of money. One of the crew said Shockwave 5 was on the market in America so I opened negotiations with the yanks.”

ASM Shockwave 5 was originally built in Sydney in 2000 for Neville Crichton. He raced her for a short time before selling her to German yachtsman Hasso Plattner who campaigned her internationally as Morning Glory.

“We settled on a price and I flew over to Newport to take a look. She was
everything they said and better. By the time we settled it was close to the Newport Bermuda Race, so we decided to do that.”

They took line honours in the St David’s Lighthouse Division but it meant missing the ship to transport ASM Shockwave 5 back to Australia, “so we sailed her to Panama and then she did 8,000 miles non-stop to Mackay. We cleaned her up there for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.”

In Hamo, Short was again delighted with his new toy’s performance: “We beat Black Jack and Wild Oats X a few times, both across the line and on handicap."

Now that ASM Shockwave 5 has settled in Sydney she continues to look a quick boat. In her qualifying race for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the Hempel Gosford-Lord Howe Island Race, Shockwave 5 had 42 nautical miles to spare when she beat Getaway to claim the line honours trophy. “I reckon she is 15% faster than ASM Brindabella,” Short declares.

Short says that he knows that his new boat can win the Rolex Sydney Hobart on handicap, but concedes that to do so the conditions will have to be right to overcome a very strong contingent of smaller, newer boats.

“We want a lighter race, on the wind or reaching. In those conditions our longer waterline length will help us over Loki (Stephen Ainsworth’s brand new Reichel/Pugh 63). Skandia is another big threat. Grant Wharington has shaved Skandia’s handicap and she is very competitive. If it’s heavy the TP 52s will be looking very good.”

Ironically, if he can’t have his favoured light conditions for a handicap win Short wants to see winds above 35 knots to put him in with a chance of taking line honours.

In other words he figures something will have to go wrong on board Wild Oats XI or her crew will be forced to slow the 98 foot maxi down to preserve her, and big winds are more likely to upset the maxi’s applecart than any tactical or boat handling mistakes on board.

“In a race like the Rolex Sydney Hobart Wild Oats XI is like a Formula 1 car racing on a paddock,” Short says.

So what is this thing about fast boats, even in the days when downwind flyers like Bobsled and Amazon were rated out of contention by the old rule? It’s a no-brainer, really. “Fast boats are nicer to sail.”

Short’s fondest Rolex Sydney Hobart memories are from 1996, when Morning Glory at last broke Kialoa III’s 21 year old record. “We were third across the line in Amazon. It was a fantastic ride all the way.”

Short is much happier now that the IRC racing rules have encouraged faster,
more manageable yachts. “We’re going faster now and with less problems.”

His other boat, ASM Brindabella is still going to Hobart. The Jutson 79 has been
chartered by Peter Baker but many of her crew will be regulars.

“It has worked out really well. ASM Brindabella has 30 crew but the new boat only takes 20, so there were 10 very disappointed guys. Now they still get their chance to race. No-one ever wants to miss out.”

Among the remaining crew are old stagers from Sean Langman’s ‘skiff on steroids’ AAPT, and they have bought along the radical kite spinnaker Langman toyed with flying in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Baker says that the kite spinnaker will put ASM Brindabella right up there with the newer high tech maxis.

Developed in the USA as race legal alternative to spinnakers, these big kites are flown high above the boat and three or four boat lengths in front. The designers say that the kite is more aerodynamically efficient than a normal spinnaker because it doesn’t just drag the yacht but flies back and forth at the end of its lines, which increases the apparent wind. And because it is way up above the boat there is more wind than down on the surface.

“You don’t need the mainsail when flying the kite because the boat speed is
faster than the apparent wind,” says Baker. “If the winds are northwest/north/northeast for 20 hours and then swing to the east ASM Brindabella will be up there with the other maxis because we will only need to sail 623 miles. The others will have to sail 15% faster to keep up with us.”

It is a bold claim by Baker. Could ASM Brindabella really be a contender?

And what does the fine print of the charter contract say? If ASM Brindabella ever finds herself in front of ASM Shockwave 5 does she have to perform an immediate 180 degree turn?

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