THIS CALLS FOR SURGERY
by Lisa Ratcliff (December 8, 2003)
Sean Langman, who surprised the world by almost catching Neville Crichton's state of the art Alfa Romeo in last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, is again slicing, lightening and rearranging his eight year-old boat Grundig for maximum speed downwind this year. He has made a host of recent changes to his 66-footer and following this Friday's Canon Big Boat Challenge, Langman is planning "more surgery" by replacing his twin rudders with new retractable rudders that have been designed to reduce drag.
See something on the bow? Scroll down for a close-up.
"We have looked at the competition and decided the only way we stand a chance is to put maximum effort in to our strongest area - downwind sailing," he said. "A 66-footer against a 98-footer upwind doesn't stand a chance but in running conditions and with the changes we've made, I'd rate us a 20 percent chance of line honours in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart."
Sean Langman is lucky in that he can continually 'tweak' the skiff-like Grundig at his boatyards in Berry's Bay, Sydney, and Wickam, Newcastle, but it has still cost him upwards of $250,000 for this latest overhaul. The most significant change Langman has made is to lighten his mast and with 160 kilos removed at a cost of $1,000 per kilo, some might call it an expensive gamble but removing this weight has also allowed him to chainsaw 10% off the bulb, which has in turn reduced the 'drag' on the boat.
Stripping the boat completely of antifoul and "long boarding" it with sandpaper to create a completely smooth hull surface has also assisted to reduce drag but it means every time the 7.5 tonne boat is used, it must be craned out of the water and cleaned off. A new paint job on the hull, including a mermaid now adorning the bow where the famous shark's mouth was, has been undertaken and there have been other "ergonomic" changes made inside the boat to allow it to compete in the 627 nautical mile passage with a crew of just eight.
Langman pushed the minimum crew requirement to the extreme in this year's Sydney Gold Coast Race when he convincingly took line honours with only five others on board. While he considered racing to Hobart with a crew of six, it was a decision by everyone on the boat to sail with eight and so he will be joined by his regulars David Sudarno and Joseph De Kock, as well as the former world champion 49er and 18-foot skiff champion Chris Nicholson.
Close-up of the bow hydrofoil to prevent nose-diving.
Given the speeds this lightweight flier regularly reaches under spinnaker, Sean has decided to address the issue of the boat nose-diving by installing a hydrofoil on the bow. "No one else has explored the concept of limiting speed to avoid a nose-dive and while we trialed it successfully in the heavy conditions of the Flinders Island Race, we aren't sure yet whether it will stay on for the Rolex Sydney Hobart," said Langman.
- Lisa Ratcliff (December 8, 2003)