Sydney Hobart: Trends in sail selection

Published on December 25th, 2019

Crosbie Lorimer shares this report prior to the December 26 start of the 628-nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart:

While each of the five supermaxis that are now set to start in the 75th Sydney Hobart yacht race has undergone varying hull or foil modifications in the last year, the one consistent area of refinement for all five has been in their sail inventories.

Of course, much depends on whether your supermaxi is ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ as to what works best for you, but there’s evidently still plenty of room for debate and differing approaches between the sailmakers.

Cable-less sails are a very current topic of discussion and while most supermaxis are moving to shallower flying sails as apparent wind angles downwind get ever narrower, others are returning to deeper running spinnakers.

What most of the experts do agree upon, however is the value of extending sail crossovers, especially downwind; the longer you can hold onto one sail and it still be effective, the less time you spend changing sails and – in theory at least – the fewer sails you have to carry to Hobart. But it’s a tricky balance.

In this series of interviews (after they’d had a bite of the 75th Hobart cake at the Christmas Eve race briefing) Mark Richards (skipper Wild Oats XI), Chris Nicholson (tactician aboard InfoTrack), Jim Cooney (owner of Comanche) and Mark Bradford (skipper of Black Jack) provide insights into how they are managing sails on their respective boats and their perspectives on how sail design is evolving.

Oh, and we would have interviewed David Witt (skipper of Scallywag) too, but he proved so popular with the press after a trademark comment in the media conference, that we missed a slot!

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Background: The 2019 fleet will be chasing line honours and the overall Tattersall Cup win in the 628nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which starts December 26, 2019. 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.

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