The 2nd season of the PAC52 Class will commence on Friday May 4th off the coast of San Diego, with 3 days of racing to begin the 5 event championship series. Joining with the “Core Four”, 2017 Season Champion Tom Holthus’s BADPAK, Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO, Victor Wild’s FOX and Frank Slootman’s Invisible Hand for this regatta will be Austin & Gwen Frogmen’s Newport R.I. based Interlodge.
The 5 regatta PAC52 Season will work its way north through the spring with stops in Marina Del Rey for Cal Race Week, June 1-3, and Long Beach Race Week June 22-24. After a short mid-summer break the action will shift north to San Francisco for the Big Boat Series Sept 13-16 and the finale PAC52 Cup Sept 28-30.
Changes are well part of any growing fleet and the PAC 52 Class is no exception. To wit, Tony Langley’s Gladiator, which had recently joined forces with Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR, is now back to just Gladiator Sailing Team after the bombshell announcement last week that Ben had dropped Land Rover for INEOS and a generous cash investment. As it sits now, the Gladiator team which had been practicing in San Diego, will join the fun in San Francisco after engaging in some Super Series events prior.
A new edition, David Team’s Vesper, which had proven themselves to be stiff competition during the SD Noods back in February will rejoin the fleet at Cal Race Week. Another, another unnamed 52’ with America’s Cup ambitions, is expected for the final 2 events in SF. Gone, for now is Karl Kwock’s Beau Geste, which is headed to Cascais For the TP 52 World Championship, yet many of her crew will remain. After dominating the 2017 PAC52 Cup in San Francisco last year, Gavin Brady and company will rejoin Frank Slootman’s Invisible Hand for the entirety of the 2018 season.
Playing Q&A with some of the fleets owners or boat captains, we gain some perspective on recent activity and what to expect in 2018.
Q: 2017 had a variety of successes and not so much results for Invisible Hand, what do you feel were your strengths and weaknesses, crew wise and what have you changed to address them?
FS: “We have a bunch of people who sailed with us last year, but also some new faces. Last year was the first year of course, we had our challenges with crew work, but we hope to do better in 2018 on that score. We do have Gavin on the boat for all class regattas this year so that’s a welcome difference from last year.”
Q: You and some of the core team sailed a bit in the C&C30’ Midwinters in Miami, your take away from those regattas?
FS: “We sailed one C&C30 one design regatta and one Etchells regatta in South Florida earlier this year. The C&C30 is a very good training platform we feel for the Pac52, and that is why have that boat, the Etchells of course not as much. But we did it for he experience, something different having 55 boats on the line instead of 5! We missed out on the San Diego Midwinters because of our snafu at the top of the mast but we feel we are well past that now.”
Q: Invisible Hand has remained in SoCal over the winter where David Brookes (Brookie) has worked some of his magic to get boat up to snuff, can you elate on some of his projects?
FS: “The boat will only sail in inshore mode this year so that makes things easier for Brookie, not having to keep the boat bimodal this year. He obviously was very busy putting the boat back together after our mast head kit failure in February. We sailed a long training weekend in April to try and make up for lost time.”
Q: Plenty of Offshore in 2017, but we are told 2018 will not include much in that regard, can you advise as to season plans and focus for 2018?
FS: “We are sailing the full schedule of class regattas this year in the Pac52, no handicap racing.”
Q: You got to do a bit of 1 on 1 training against Ben Ainslie (Land Rover BAR) earlier in San Diego. Anything stand out in that regards to that experience?
FS: “That was helpful practice, we were holding our own with them but we were not fully up to speed yet in terms of crew and sail development. Nothing is ever standing still, I am sure they are more together now than they were back in February as well. It is exciting that the class gets to sail against world class competition.”
Welcome to the PAC 52 Class and the West Coast! For those of us not quite caught up with the Interlodge program, can you please give us some background on:
KM: “The team for the PAC Season includes some regulars of the Interlodge. Rod Dawson (Main), Kris Matthews (Pit), Geoff Ewenson (Runners), Bill Lynn (Strategy), Dave Armitage (Trim). New this season to the team is Morgan Larson on tactics for events 2-5. Rod Dawson will do tactics for event 1, with Richard Bouzaid doing the main. We have some amateurs who have sailed in the past with Interlodge joining us this season as well.”
Time spent doing Super Series?
KM: “We have competed in the Super Series on/off since 2013. Spending some season staying on the east coast while others doing the med circuit.”
Other events on East Coast?
KM: This is Interlodge 6, the previous boats have all be campaigned in East coast, Caribbean, Europe, Ireland, and the UK. Interlodge 1 was a Swan 42, 2/3 were TP52’s. Interlodge 4 is custom Botin 44 we built in 2015 and race in addition to Interlodge 6.
The boat? The former Bronosec?
KM:” 2015 Botin partners and built by King Marine? Yes. This is our 4th Botin Partners boat.”
What enticed you to come join the PAC 52 class?
KM: “Looking to race in a new venue, schedule aligned well with other racing we have planned for 2018. Excited to try the west coast.”
Other events outside the PAC 52 Class on schedule?
KM: "Nothing with Interlodge 6, the Botin 44 will race on the east coast this season as well."
Q: Anticipation of a new season is always s great sensation, How are things in Camp FOX for the 2018 Season?
KS: “Things in team FOX are progressing well, it has been a long off-season and we are all excited for Yachting Cup. Our mantra of keeping it simple and working hard stands true. FOX has taken a different path for 2018. The role of Boat Captain to Andrew Coates, Sailing Team Manager and Sail program overview by Keiran Searle, ORR Optimization and Sail design by Quantum Sails/ Chris Williams, Victor and Andrea Wild’s passion oversees all.”
“Splitting the roles was crucial to achieve a lot over a short period, too many people to mention here. It takes a village! After last season, we picked apart the program from top to bottom. Assessing current Sail inventory, boat setup, performance, crew members and responsibilities.”
Q: Some modifications to the boat have been made over the winter, can you please elaborate?
KS “The team collaborated with Botin, Southern Spars and Quantum Sails to identify where we could improve. Fox is essentially a 2015 hull, technology has come quite a way since! The box rule was the starting point for the optimization of the boat, we listed the areas we were shy of maximum and began the process of Identifying items which would improve the performance.”
“We worked with Botin to make sure our underwater appendages were the best available, A new keel fin ordered specifically for Windward/ Leeward racing. The yacht was gutted of any excess hardware not needed. Mast stiffened and Backstay Deflector raised. Most of these upgrades are evolutions of the lessons learnt by Quantum Racing in the 52 Super Series.”
“Our goal was to get Fox on the starting line in 2018 at minimum displacement in the easiest to sail configuration.”
“We worked hard on making sure we did not spend time looking for that “Magic Bullet” but rather the ability to sheet on and go repeatedly fast. A easily raced yacht not optimized to any specific conditions or point of sail.”
"We will always be refining the details but in the end, we are setup to make sure it is a race!"
Q: Additionally, some personnel changes have occurred, can you fill us in on the new talent on board?
KS “Early into the rebuilding process we identified it would be beneficial to partner with another team for the season. Interlodge was an obvious choice as their experience in the 52 accompanied with professionalism and will to win was a match. The role of coach is filled by Steve Erickson, he brings a wealth of 52 experience, attention to detail and a great holistic view. We will be sharing all data, sail information, tuning, coaching and drone footage between the two boats.”
“When filling the sailing positions onboard Fox we didn't look for “who” we needed but rather “what” the role needed. Owner driver experience, good communication, hunger to perform and attitude were the key criteria. FOX is now a good balance of young and hungry to mature and experienced. Having a good group of young guys onboard is exciting, It shows that the next generation is just around the corner!”
Q: Any additional training during the offseason?
KS “From the on the water perspective we started this project quite late in the Winter. FOX used some local events during December to trial new crew. The boat was then decommissioned for refit from December to March. Due to the timeline of the refit we could not make any of the offseason events. Instead we planned 2 practice sessions in San Diego and used these as a chance to start from the basics again. Interlodge joined us for the second session and it was a great start to open book learning.”
“Everyone out there wants to win, now it is up to us! The PAC52 racing will be tighter than ever.”
Q: It's been just over 6 months since your team on BadPak claimed the inaugural season championship, what has BadPak been up to in the months since?
TH: “BadPak has been pretty busy for the off season, if you want to call it that. We did Hot Rum races in November and December and then got the boat in offshore mode for the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta race in March. Once we arrived in Puerto Vallarta we stayed and raced in the Mexorc race in Banderas Bay. It was good short-sleeve, warm water racing for five days. The boat is back in San Diego and getting ready for the first Pac52 Series race, Yachting Cup at SDYC”.
Q:Any changes in personnel or rigging configurations?
TH: “We are staying with much of the same crew with just a couple minor tweaks. For example, we are bringing in Andrew Campbell to trim the main. Andrew has a bit of a break since the Americas Cup is over so we feel very fortunate to have him sailing with us.”
Q: If memory serves, your son Kelly has taken a liking to this program, how is he progressing?
TH: “Kelly has learned a lot and the guys keep giving him more jobs as he progresses on the boat. There is nothing better than sending an 80 lb. person to the lee side of the boat to do an adjustment than a 200 lb. guy! Unfortunately, Kelly cannot join us for Yachting Cup as he has a school and then a junior regatta this weekend. We hope to have him in June for Cal Cup and Long Beach Race Week.”
Q: Last year between PAC52 Class events, you managed to squeeze in an epic run to Hawaii, a neck and neck battle with Invisible Hand in the Transpac, any additional offshore events on schedule for 2018?
TH: “We did the Puerto Vallarta race in March but that is it for major offshore events in 2018. We will do the Cabo race in early 2019 and Transpac next summer. We would love to get Invisible Hand back for those races. Hopefully Frank will do it.”
This year, in addition to the CORE Four, (BP, FOX, IH & RIO) the class welcomes in Gladiator, Interlodge and Vesper for the season, how are you sussing up the competition?
TH: “We are keeping pretty much the same crew but the other boats have had major personnel changes. Gavin Brady and his gang on Beau Geste have jumped ship to the Invisible Hand; Fox has a whole new afterguard and crew; and, Manouch continues to make major changes in his crew. We saw Vesper at Midwinters and the boat is fast. I just do not know how Interlodge will stack up until we see her on the water. It is hard to say who will put it all together this year. I know each boat can be very fast so it will be up to the team who can get around the race course with the fewest mistakes who will come out on top.”