No more carbon coffins for me
Published on December 19th, 2018
Your modern ocean racer is a pretty wild beast. It accommodates humans grudgingly, but mostly they are big hollow carbon shells with a huge sail locker in the front and a basic head (toilet) with a curtain around it (if the skipper isn’t too weight conscious).
These boats favor a very basic galley to heat up the coffee and the freeze dried spaghetti bolognese, cramped pipe berth and a hobbit like navigation station beneath the companionway. As a special treat, the crews can look forward to a mars bar, or chewy snakes are always popular.
On deck, it is mostly a wet ride perched on the rail, and down below it is invariably damp, and always incredible noisy. Adrian Lewis has raced his fair share of these beasts. He calls them ‘carbon coffins’. And he says, “There is another way.”
Lewis’ way is a drop-dead gorgeous Warwick 67 called Allegro. When the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race gets underway on December 26, it will be his fifth on her. She has a carbon fibre hull and rig, just like the grand prix racers, but inside the deep blue hull is a kind of heaven.
Luxuriously crafted timberwork encases two vast settees and a dining table that has entertained 23 at a time. She has a galley that stretches the width of the boat, replete with freezers and an ice maker – essential for a quiet little gin and tonic at sundown along the 628nm course.
Aft is a stateroom with a double berth you could get lost in, yet another roomy ensuite and a laundry that would not look out of place in a ‘McMansion’. The washing machine is deftly tucked away so that the room doubles as the perfect drying space for wet weather gear.
On deck, a separate steering cockpit keeps the sheets and halyards away from a spacious mid-ships lounge.
“With our old racing boats, we’d take them up to, say, the Whitsundays for a race, but you couldn’t really use them afterwards. It would take four people to raise the mainsail. It was one dimensional; not a very pleasant cruising experience at all.”
Seven years ago, Lewis traded in his racer for a cruising boat “that was never going to race – but of course, after a few months, we started going around the cans, then short races, and my wife got into sailing, doing the deliveries. We decided that if we were going to keep doing this, we would have to ditch the cruiser and find a true cruiser racer.”
“My wife and I deliver this boat two-handed. She can keep watch at night under sail with no worries because the boat is set up to do that. A lot of the time we just sail under a headsail, no main to worry about, and still do 8 or 9 knots upwind.
“We go very well to windward, though downwind we’re terrible. We want 25 to 30 knots uphill ideally.” These are about the same conditions when most racing sailors start thinking about trying different, more sedate sports, like maybe downhill skiing or surfing the pipeline.
On Allegro, “It’s nice to be racing yet not going down to sleep on wet sails in wet weather gear,” Lewis says. “We sleep and eat well, we have two cooks on board – we drink well. We have water makers, hot showers and have even raced with the air conditioning on.”
Allegro has greatly expanded the Lewis family’s sailing possibilities. “A cruising boat opens up options and gets the wives and kids into sailing as well. Before, I was giving every long weekend away to race with the guys rather than spending time with my family. Now, a lot of the wives of the crew do deliveries and races as well. It has become a very inclusive boat.”
Lewis has raced Allegro in regattas up and down the coast and in the near Pacific, but in 2017 he raced her in the double-handed Melbourne Osaka race with Glenn Scheen, an old mate and regular Sydney Hobart crew member. They finished second over the line and seventh overall in PHS – a great result.
To be honest, the rating rules do not like a boat like Allegro. There will be no upset win, but I’m not sure Adrian Lewis is too fussed. He will have had a great sail, been part of a great event, have his family around him – and he’s still racing.
Most of his old crewmates have joined Lewis on the dark side, but what does he say to the die-hards in their carbon coffins?
“It doesn’t have to be like that.”
Background: Eight-nine yachts will be chasing line honours and the overall Tattersall Cup win in the 628nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which starts December 26, 2018. From Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.
Source: Jim Gale, RSHYR media