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Scuttlebutt Photos: Stark Raving Mad

click to enlarge
Photo by Westerly Marine
(January 13, 2006) Scuttlebutt joined Jim Madden on his first sail of his new 66-foot canting keel Reichel/Pugh design named "Stark Raving Mad," built by Westerly Marine. The boat is in the midst of sea trials in San Diego, and will be trucked to Florida for the 2006 Acura Miami Race Week in March.

Wandering around the boat, it is easy to be impressed with the new reality of high-tech racing boats in general, and canting boats in particular. The large box on the cabin floor - housing the canting ram is hard to miss. Sitting by it, and watching it shift the keel from side to side, the complexity of the canting concept is evident. Surrounded by hydraulic plumbing and computer boards to control it, you get the feeling that this new technology has spawned a cottage industry of specialists to support it.

The deck winches have the option of either being manual or motorized to abide by the varying handicap rule systems. The forward board (more of a trim tab than a rudder) can be raised and lowered, and is hydraulically steered rather than on cables. The rig was designed without running backs for simplicity, and the curve in the swept-back spreaders would appear to provide for maximum sized jibs. Push button controls are placed by the helm to adjust the keel and board, and an adjacent electronics panel displays the angles of the keel, heel, rudder, and board.

While the winds were light, the usefulness of the canting ballast was quickly evident as it was moved to windward during a puff. Something akin to the crew of a dinghy moving from the leeward side to out on the trapeze wire, and quickly flattening the boat to accelerate in the puff. Additionally, the use of the canting system during a light air tack is much like the use of crew weight when roll-tacking a dinghy. Move the ballast too fast and you come out of the tack heeled to windward. But used effectively, you can come of a tack with a slight heel, and then roll the boat flat to gain dinghy-like acceleration.

After Acura Miami Race Week, look for Stark Raving Mad to be campaigned in the northeast this season, with events including the Newport-Bermuda Race and Block Island Race Week, and possibly finish the season at the Big Boat Series in San Francisco in September. Click on Page 2 and 3 below for boat photos.

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