Last Saturday, I was part of the crew of board members from Sail America that lucked into a good seat for the Boston In-Port Race for the Volvo Ocean Race, a Fjord 40, built by Hanse Yachts in Germany. Bump Wilcox, of New Wave Yachts, in Marblehead, Massachusetts, was our host, along with Fjord importer, Alex Harrison and Josh Adams, publisher of Sail magazine. The weather was on the edge of crappy, light and overcast as we followed the VOR 70-footers out of the harbor, but we got some glimpses of the sun and the wind held off just long enough for us to get some good photo ops with Puma, the hometown boat skippered by Kenny Read.
There were about a dozen of us onboard for the day and we never felt crowded. There's a lounge area forward, bucket seats under an extended T-top, and seating for six around an outdoor saloon table at the back of the boat. Step below through an opening by the helm station and you'll find a good-sized cabin with double-berth and private head. The Vee-hulled boat, designed by Allseas Design, has high freeboard, very straight lines, and is slab sided with a pronounced chine. The stern is open and includes a wide swim/boarding platform. Because it has inboard IPS drive engines instead of outboards, it presents a completely different profile compared to, say, the Boston Whaler 370 Outrage I wrote about a while back. Alex says the boat can go 40 knots, but we never pushed it, especially with our load of industry "heavies" aboard.
What was fun as we waited around for the wind was sidling by the Volvo boats and seeing their jaded crews doing double takes while we were doing the same with them. It's good to keep the pros from being totally bored, I always say.
The two races we watched with a hundred or two hundred other boats were sailed on windward-leeward courses, and they've been well-described on the Volvo Ocean Race site and elsewhere. For those less familiar with the Volvo Ocean Race, this is a race that started in Europe last fall and has sailed to South Africa, India, China, Brazil and now Boston. By the time it ends in St. Petersburg, Russia, this may be the longest event ever. For race fans, the website is the only way to consistently follow the racing, but if you can get to an In-Port race day, you get to see the boats up close and see how very different they look from most sailboats.
From a distance, with their squared-off mainsails, they look a bit like the America's Cup class boats, but they also have bowsprits and masts set pretty far aft, so when dressed in light-air headsails as they were for this race, their sailplan profiles are strange even to a racing sailor. The In-Port races are around a butterfly-shaped racecourse, two laps, with a gate halfway to the first mark, which squeezes the fleet together. It forces these long-distance race boats with their swinging keels to take more tacks than they might otherwise, and makes it easier for the spectator fleet to get close without getting in the way.
In the light air, Telefonica Blue, the overall second-placed boat in the fleet, showed some remarkable speed on the other boats. Driven by Olympic goal medal 49er sailor, Iker Martinez, they sailed almost flawlessly, keeping very good speed at all times. Delta Lloyd, an also-ran in previous races, surprised everyone by finishing second in the first race and holding the same position for half of the second. Unfortunately the wheels came off on a wind shift and they ended up near the back in the second race.
The Ericsson boats, 3 and 4, had a pretty good day, pushing the only American boat, Puma, around at the starts and sandwiching it on the upwind legs a couple of times. All three boats were over early in the second race and Ericsson 4, the overall race leader, came all the way back to finish 2nd. Puma finished with a 4th and a 5th out of the 7 boats racing.
Next to Telefonica Blue, and being perfectly unbiased, I'd give second-best performance on the day to our Fjord 40, which at $600,000 or a bit less in Euros is much cheaper than Telefonica. Not only were we the most-viewed powerboat in the racing area, but our IPS drives allowed us to maintain whatever vantage point we wanted, sliding forward, back, and sideways at will.