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2010 Two Man Round Britain Race

Mike Wigmore and Grant Kelly did very well in the 2010 Two Man Around Britain Race and finished second multihull over the line. Grant writes:

Hi Ian

Thanks for the congratulations but thanks also for designing such a boat - it really looked after us and the interesting thing was how physically shattered the Class 40 crews were in port whereas we were off walking and doing the local sights.

Mike (skipper) has had a F-24 and an F-28R and I have had a F-27 and a F-28R.  We wanted to do this two-handed race and couldn't find a bigger multihull so hit upon using Randy Smyth's old 31-1D warhorse Rocketeer 3, which was in the UK under the name Freebird.

During the first qualifying cruise the rudder fell off.  Poor prior maintenance and we hadn't checked it, so red faces all round.  At least we proved you can sail a 31 in up to 28kts wind without a rudder in any direction you like.  I enclose a photo of Mike with the rudder horizontal in the cockpit coming back in through the Needles Channel last October.  I balanced the sails and he used the outboard drive leg as a fine tune.  Worked well, got us right back into the dock from 25 miles out, no panic, no thoughts of external assistance.  How many boats could achieve that with ease?

The second go at qualifying was slightly interrupted by a bang when the starboard side of the daggerboard case let go.  It was the internal foam that broke and the skins were fine although flexing.  We continued to qualify.

We realized that although the basic hull etc was fine, the 1-D was over-rigged for our purpose in handicap in what is a heavy weather race, so we cut 18 inches off the boom and roach of the main and it balanced fine.

We had to put in an escape hatch to comply which was duly done according to your specification for distance from the rear beam mounts and which was perfect in some awful conditions.  Never leaked a drop, never even thought about it.

We installed a sea toilet, miniature cooker and one or two other very light bits, but the real killer for a small boat is the approx 300kg of safety equipment you have to carry for this race including a lot of electronics (and so charging capacity), a 4 man ISO liferaft, 2 heavy anchors & chain, a full size inflatable dinghy, storm & heavy weather jibs, etc.

Whatever, we set off, won the start and were leading multihull after the first 260 mile stage to southern Ireland.  After that we lead the whole fleet for the next 70 miles at a steady 14 kts reach until we ran into a classic Atlantic south-westerly swell with tide under it running into a 3 day established Force 6-7 North-easterly.  It was an amazingly wet, sharp, stopping sea and sadly we just weren't heavy enough to power through that to windward and after 450 miles we had lost some 6 hours.

The next stage was 460 miles out from the Hebrides towards Iceland for about 80 miles and then running north-east for roughly 400 miles.  This was F-31 territory.  Up with the code 0, and I had the pleasure of helming for about 4 hours steady between 14 and 17 knots during which we neutralized almost all of the loss of the last leg.

The next leg was from 60.5 degrees North down to about 52 North and we were blessed with a northerly with a fetch of a couple of thousand miles which had been blowing at 30 knots for three days.  That and a bit of adverse tide made it really tall and steep.  I enclose a photo of me eating at 40 knots of wind.... 

Before we left Lerwick, Darren Newton (Designer of Dazcats, also in the race)  suggested to the leading multihulls that it would be bad for all if anyone flipped, so we agreed to carry a couple of tires on warps attached to the inboard end of the rear beams.  All the others deployed their tires at some point to cure over-speed but we didn't feel the need.

As conditions worsened, we reduced the main to zero, then a breaking sea from the rear tore the small jib away (solving the problem of what to do with it), and so we then dropped the boom onto the cabin-top.  We were still pushing the bowsprit into the back of the wave in front as she surfed down, so we trailed a bight of warp of 150 metres which cut through the following wave crest and surfaced in the trough, and thus kept us at an even 4-5 knots.  This went on for 2-3 days but at least we were going in the right direction, were safe, and could eat and sleep.  We had the tires as a last resort but left them unused.  As so often happens, the wind then dropped to zero and we were becalmed for a day.

Our only problem during the race was the daggerboard downhaul.  It broke free at one point and we have a piece of stray boathook plastic wedged in front of a half-down daggerboard which we cannot get out! 

As usual at the end of all this we will put it on the trailer and back into the garden.....

Many thanks for a great boat.  When the bow is out of the water and so is the rudder, you are left in the hands of the designer.  The only thing that worried us at any stage was the sheer size of the breaking crests and the potential they had for damage if dropping directly on top of us.  The boat was just fine.  If you know of an F-36 for next time...?

Thanks for your advice and support over the years. 

Best wishes

Grant Kelly

Mike Wigmore wrote:

Many thanks for your congratulations on our Round Britain performance.
On a race like that there are many factors which affect performance, many are more to do with the sailors than the boat. I am a huge supporter of your designs but when we were the lightest by far and almost the smallest boat in the race it is inevitable that the sea state will affect us much more than others. On the 60 hour beat up the Irish coast in about 20- 25 knots of breeze we soon had to give up sailing the boat at anything like her theoretical speed or both us and the boat would soon have been shaken to bits. Thanks again for a great series of boats.

With Best Regards.
Mike Wigmore.

Freebird finished 9th over the line from over 50 entries, even though the third smallest competitor. The only boats faster were a 33' dedicated racing trimaran Paradox, and the Class 40 monohulls, which were designed specifically for short handed ocean racing, and first appeared in 2006.

Freebird lost most ground on the 2 - 3 day heavy weather downwind leg on the east coast, but in some conditions, larger monohulls are just going to be faster. However, it is rare to see monos being faster downwind, as in this case, but the multihull skippers were being very prudent in what were risky conditions for small multihulls to be pushed hard offshore. A more detailed report on the race by Grant Kelly is at:

Round Britain Log

The F-31 is a much older cruising design, being launched back in 1991 as a roomy trailer sailer, and it is pleasing to see it still being very competitive with more recent designs in 2010. See also 2004 comparison.

The modern (2004) F-32 design is a faster boat, but remains easily trailerable and with even more room, while the latest race orientated F-32SR will be much faster.

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