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Racing a Performance Cruiser through Bass Strait

The annual Boxing Day departure of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race is approaching fast. We caught up with the North Sails team in Sydney, AUS, who are now in full-swing getting sails serviced and ready to go. The Sydney to Hobart course is 628 nautical miles, out of Sydney Harbor and past the Heads, down the Australian coast and through the Bass Strait to Tasmania. The race is known to be extremely challenging, due to its ever-changing conditions and legendary squalls in the strait.

A new kid on the block this year is the CNB76 luxury cruiser, Charlotte. This will be her first Hobart race and she is in good hands, with an experienced crew including owner Ervin Vidor, who has entered the race six times. Preparing a premium cruising boat for an offshore race of this caliber can be tricky. North Sails Expert Jason Antill has supported the program along with his father, Rob; building a trusted crew, outfitting the deck and cockpit, and ramping up the inventory with three new downwind sails.

“While Charlotte is a high performance cruiser, once the day’s sailing is complete the design spec calls for the boat to be at anchor and the crew to get a fine night’s sleep… That’s a bit hard when you’re 120nm off the Australian coast in a 40 to 50 knot headwind,” said Jason, who explained that safety will be a top priority.

“We took care of safety concerns by placing additional hand holds and safety lines on Charlotte’s vastly spacious foredeck and cockpit. Managing halyards at the mast was another challenge, especially the 2:1 halyard for the new Code 0. This is where having the North Sails collective experience was helpful. We asked a member of our team, Michael Coxon, to join us for a crew training day. In the end he helped us create a custom halyard bag to avoid tangling.”

Charlotte launched with a North Sails 3DiTM ENDURANCE hydraulic furling jib and staysail. Now with over 10,000 bluewater miles logged, these core working sails are up to the Sydney-Hobart challenge. Jason and Rob have added a VMG gennaker, a North 3Di Raw Code Zero, and a North Panel Laminate (NPL) light-medium asymmetric runner.

Regarding the durability of Charlotte’s first 3Di sails, owner Ervin Vidor commented, “The 3Di working sails have covered 6000nm in Europe and 4000nm in Australia, one service and they are good as new.”

In gathering the ideal crew, Jason used his contacts to find sailors with extensive experience on big boats.

“I’ve called every friend I have to put the program together, there’s no one left now!” he laughed.  “We basically pulled from our previous campaigns, which provided a nucleus of people who have done the Hobart before. They’re all experienced in big boats, not just racing, and short handed deliveries.”

Among the crew is Jason’s father Rob Antill, who was instrumental in the opening of North Sails in Sri Lanka and Sydney, and certainly has his fair share of Hobart bragging rights. Rob will be “Sailing Master” for this year’s race.

“Dad has forgotten more than I will ever know about the Hobart,” said Jason. “Not surprisingly, when I suggested the boat was longer plus a few feet than his age he was more interested in coming along this year. From where I stand, being able to trust my father, knowing he has the experience to understand the limits of a boat this size, means I’ll sleep a lot better off watch.”

Images © Andrea Francolini