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illbruck Challenge: Successful Testing Offshore in the North Atlantic

This report is from AmericaOne's Terry Hutchinson (photo right). John Kostecki, the Tactician, and the Sailing Team Manager of AmericaOne, is also the skipper of the illbruck Round the World Challenge (IWRC), the first group to challenge for the Volvo Ocean Race 2001-2. As the AmericaOne sailing team takes a break after sailing in New Zealand and before beginning its training season in Long Beach in June, Kostecki is sail testing and crew training off the coast of Spain with his IWRC team.


We just returned from our successful two and a half day sail/crew/ boat test in the Volvo Ocean 60s off the coast of Sanxenxo, Spain. Our course covered from the West coast of Portugal North to Cape Finisterre.

Day 1 started at 11:00 as the team gathered at the boats to do the final provisioning, organizing of our sail test and safety checks. We got off the docks at about 1:30 pm and by 2:00 pm both boats were heading 236-250 degrees in a brisk 25-35 knot northeast breeze. I must say that this direction was very conducive to extremely exciting Volvo 60 sailing. We had a combination of four different spinnakers that we wanted to test at various angles and look at the sail shapes. It was also the first day that we were going to sail with the sails stacked on deck. For those of you unfamiliar with stacking, it is basically every sail in the boat's inventory tied to the weather rail to add stability. Consider that dry this bundle weighs around 1000 KG. This stack coupled with the water ballast gives the boat some POWER!!

So off we went at Mach 10. We clocked top speed on our boat for the day at 28.0 knots. This all happened in a 34-knot puff with a fractional asymmetrical running spinnaker. About 10 seconds later or what seem like 10 seconds, I STUFFED the bow into the back of the next wave and the boat became completely engulfed by the Atlantic. At the time I did not really comprehend the speed as I was pretty focused on making sure that I steered the bow up and did not broach the boat. As we popped up and went down the next wave Carter Perrin who was trimming the spinnaker sheet, turned around and said, "Dude that was Cool, 28 knots, lets do that again." Through all this excitement, Ed Adams is below collecting the data focusing on our test. His report is that it is like riding a roller coaster. Between John's and my driving styles, Ed is convinced that we are trying to throw him out of the navigator station. Six and a half hours later, we arrived at our waypoint 139 miles away from the coast of Spain. If I am doing my math correctly, that is an average of 21.38 knots. Not bad when considering we did bare headed spinnaker changes!!!!!!! That evening, I was speaking with Steve Morris from Bruce Farr and Associates. Steve as a designer of Volvo Ocean 60's was amazed at the handling and power of the boats. It was funny to see one of the designers with such a huge grin. It was as if he thought the boat could not go that fast! The test for Day 1 were complete. By 10:00 that evening we had a reef in the main and storm jib up. The crews went into a two hour watch system as we ate some delicious chicken perfectly prepared by Arne and Carter.

Day 2 in a lot of ways was a welcome relief. We had a moderate 12-15 knots, ideal conditions to test jib reaching with staysails. While not as exciting as Day 1, the testing was none-the-less very successful. We confirmed the differences in performance between the jib/staysail combination and reacher. We also worked on different combinations of water ballasting in the tanks. This day was also good because of the fact it was the first time that we got up and sailed without sleeping in the warmth of a bed. This does not sound tough, but, it is an adjustment. From what I can tell, the next race will be won by sailors who can race 24 hours a day all the way around the world. It is as equally important to be racing at 3:00 a.m. in the dark as it is at 3:00 p.m. when you can see the sails and trim. The end of Day 2 we were again greeted by a wonderful pasta dinner whipped up by Arne and Carter. The plan this evening was to go with full main and storm jib. The two boats would beat up the coast north to Cape Finisterre. The forecast for Day 3 was a 20-30 knot Northerly. By heading north we could once again test spinnakers and water ballasting on the final Day.

Day 3 started promptly at 8:00 a.m. We had sailed close hauled all night approximately 60 miles north of Sanxenxo. From here we would set A 6 runners and test home. The plan on our boat was to aggressively test draining and filling ballast to achieve the optimum amount of control without carrying too much water. The stack, now completely soaking wet was shifted to the port side of the boat and lashed down. Not an easy job! The A 6 went up, Lisa quickly followed to strop it off at the top of the mast and off we went; 19.6 knots of boatspeed 24.5 knots of windspeed. Jason quickly filled the aft tank and we began testing. Ed counted down the end of the test and reported back that we had a four boatlength gain after 20 minutes. The next test would consist of a genoa staysail and full tanks. As the breeze came in at 26 knots we began working the boat trying to ride every wave, and missing a few! At the end of the test again another gain for us, concluding that the changes made were faster. The information was passed along to the next boat. They set up and tried to match the speed to verifye that the changes were right and that we have concluded the sail combination is correct.

The advantages of the two-boat program are showing quickly. The learning curve is still vertical and the team is thriving on sailing these boats. The Illbruck Around the World Challenge is in full swing and from where I sit looks as if it will be a force to contend with in the next Volvo race.

That's all for now!
Terry Hutchinson

Choose here for more John Kostecki Reports from Sanxenxo. For more about the illbruck Round the World Challenge, visit the IRWC Official Web Site.


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