Class 40s reach the southern hemisphere

Rod Skellet's Pogo 40, Krakatoa II to compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race

Saturday December 22nd 2007, Author: Jim Gale, Location: Australasia


While Class 40 may be going supernova in Europe, the French-born class is now penetrating the southern hemisphere. A Pogo 40, in Sydney yachtsman Rod Skellet's Krakatoa II is to take the start line of Boxing Day's Rolex Sydney Hobart race. The boat is the one Gildas Morvan raced to second place behind Phil Sharp in the 2006 Route du Rhum.

“She’s just the most enjoyable boat to sail,” Skellet says. “In anything more than
45 degrees apparent wind (reaching) there is so much horsepower. She can
sit on 12, 13 knots all day, no deceleration, and she has no bad habits. You can
literally sail at 18 or 19 knots with one hand on the tiller and the other holding a
coffee.”

Sounds great for the sort of thrills and spills racing a Frenchman might adore
but a Rolex Sydney Hobart is a different beast altogether. Sure, everyone
dreams of a 628 nautical mile downwind sleigh ride, but no-one holds their
breath.

“In the right conditions we could get to Hobart in among the 47 footers in three
days. I would be wrapped but realistically we have to expect at least some
upwind work,” Skellet concedes.

This time of year those southerlies just roll through and woe betide anyone
caught in the current off NSW or clawing their way across Bass Strait. Forget
the glamour of La Rochelle and the Cote d’Azur, this is down and dirty Aussie
sailing to test both boat and crew. It is, after all, what makes the Rolex Sydney
Hobart one of the toughest ocean races in the world.

Skellet has beefed up the boat, made her stronger, and put four reef points in
the mainsail so that he can get it down to the size of a storm sail.

“These boats are wickedly fast downwind but there is a lot to learn to get them
fast upwind. Because of the water ballast and the twin rudders she should be
nice to steer up-wind. We really only need three guys on deck to trim her. But
we haven’t had those sort of conditions yet so we will have to see how it
goes,” he says.

Class 40 boats simply do not rate under the IRC rule. “There is nothing you can
do to rate well,” Skellet says, so his race will be all about getting across the line
faster than the bigger boats. “In an 82 boat fleet a top 50 finish would be
satisfactory, but we could finish as high as 30 if the gods smile on us.”

Presumably Rod Skellet is thankful he will be finding all this out in 2007. Last
year the gods were in a decidedly unsmiley mood. The 2006 Rolex Sydney
Hobart was a 628 nautical mile bash to windward for almost everyone.
Spinnakers stayed bagged the whole way for all but the smallest in the fleet. It
was won by Love & War, a quintessentially 1970’s IOR boat from an era when
racing yachts, with their sculptured tumblehome and discreet transoms, were
the exact opposite of the wedge shaped, utilitarian Class 40 philosophy.
Beautiful to look at, great upwind, but cumbersome and slow downwind.

The modern IRC grand prix racer is a lot more fun, and a lot better behaved than
its IOR forebears, and Krakatoa II is, after all, the first Class 40 yacht to reach
Australia. Still, Rod Skellet is sure that in the future more Australian sailors will
develop a European taste for exhilarating speed at a price they can afford.

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