Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cape to Rio 2014 - "Black Cat" Preparations

Start day for Cape to Rio 2014 draws near, now only 4 days away. Preparation of our radius chine plywood Didi 38 "Black Cat" continues. Most of the big jobs have been completed but somehow the list of smaller ones never ends.

Earlier this week we were able to go sailing for a few hours to try some of the new sails, all made by the North Sails Cape Town loft. The mainsail and jib are both carbon and are a real treat to use. They set beautifully to the designed shape and are very stable. There was a bit of swell running and I found the sails to be easier to helm to than the previous laminated Dacron sails, with the sail shape not changing from surging in the swell as happens with a softer sail.
North carbon jib. Sexy see-through clothing.
Photographic conditions were not great, so these are not the best of photos. They show the new carbon mainsail and jib. For purposes of optimising our IRC rating for the race, sail area has been reduced in the headsails, with our big (and very old) Genoas with large overlap gone for good, replaced by a jib that hardly overlaps the mast, does not foul the spreaders or shrouds and is very quick to tack. It also sheets very close and allows "Black Cat" to now sail very close to the wind. This will be a great sail any time that we have to go to windward.
North carbon mainsail
The reduction in headsail area is somewhat compensated by the larger roach of the new mainsail. The larger roach and stiffer fabric means that there is a lot more conflict between backstay and mainsail, so she now has a flicker on the backstay, which you can see on the photos, to lift the top of the backstay away from the sail to allow it to pass through.

The new Code zero has massive area and showed itself to be surprisingly close-winded also, able to sheet to a very close reach, almost a beat. With large shoulders, it is also very stable and much easier to steer to than a conventional spinnaker. This sail rates as an asymmetrical spinnaker rather than a Genoa, allowing us to sail to windward with a spinnaker in light to moderate breezes.

I have written previously about some of our crew for this race. Without bio info from the other two, here is as much info as I can give for them from my own knowledge.

Dave Immelman is the normal skipper of "Black Cat" and has graciously moved into the navigator slot to allow me to come in as skipper. Dave is very experienced in competitive sailing, having crewed in the South African "Shosholoza" America's Cup Team, a Volvo Ocean Race campaign and extensive racing in South Africa, UK and the Med. Dave is very tough as well, having rowed 3000 miles single-handed across the North Atlantic Ocean. It was intended to be a double-handed voyage but his partner took ill and was taken off the boat very soon after the start and Dave decided to continue by himself.  We will have many interesting stories to swap on this next voyage. Dave is married to Susan, an award-winning seafood chef. They have a daughter of 5 and another arriving while we are mid-Atlantic.
Dave Immelman at the time of his rowing voyage.
Adrian Pearson is the owner of "Black Cat". He was my partner in her from during construction through to 2000, when he took over full ownership. Adrian loves to sail on her but does not often skipper her, preferring to hand over that job to someone with more experience. Not that Adrian lacks ocean experience, he was in my crew for the 1996 and 2000 Cape to Rio Races, crewed on her for the return from Rio in 2000 and did many coastal regattas and races with me around the Cape of Good Hope. Adrian is a retailer in Johannesburg, co-owner of a large grocery store.  He is currently unattached and has two sons and a daughter.

Don't forget that you will be able to track our progress across the Atlantic. Go to the official race website Cape to Rio 2014 and click on the tracking link at upper right of the screen.

I should be able to make one more post before we sail away. I hope to make an occasional post while on the water but can't guarantee that it will happen. Our Internet connection will be via costly satellite phones so has to be used sparingly. We will have a separate boat blog for the race and I will post the address of that blog in my next post here.

Read about our designs at http://dixdesign.com/.