>Netcarrier Prototype Mini 650 #348 – March 2004

>Netcarrier Proto ‘348 Update: March 29, 04

La Trinite Sur-Mer France The many winter changes made to the boat have evolved the Formula-1 machine to a new level.

On the sail from Lorient to La Trinite last week, she literaly flew thru the forty miles like a hot butter knife. At the moment her speed is astounding.

Probably the greatest single change was repositioning the keel. Her trim on the water is markedly different (more bow down) -we slid it two inches forward, and the keel plates resolved a problem where she had raked back creating drag…

She planed consistently at 8 to 10 knots speed with 15 to 18 knots of breeze (without spinnaker). Then once there was even a semblance of chop with a few pumps of the tiller we had her surfing off half meter waves!

They are simpily the most incredible boats to sail i have ever been on.. and thats saying allot- i
have crewed on a vast disparity of different designs.

As we approached Quiberon Point Franck Cammas’s 60ft trimaran “Groupama” sped on the order of 30+ knots- If you ever saw the trimaran flying across the water in “Waterworld” -this what they look like!

Passing thru the channel into Quiberon Bay, the current was incoming against the now 30 knot wind as squalls came thru and it created a hellish short chop, we pounded from wave to wave like a plate (minis -especially prototypes! are downwind oriented machines!)

It was like doing the third Sydney to Hobart Race but now on a mini- imagine that! But it was a great test of the machine after her vast facelift.. and she fought into the teeth of the bombs, mortars, field nukes, the lot.. with flying colors! A true ‘nam session on her preliminary season test sail- perfect!

A month away the Select 6.5, a 300 mile solo race, another practice baptism before my 1,000-mile solo qualification and then the 2004 Mini Fastnet.

It’s a brave new world after the introduction to the Class Mini last year. Somthing easier understood ‘in the cut’ than i can describe in writing!

Below is the description of last year’s Mini Fastnet Race, a reminder before we run the gauntlet yet again!

MINI FASTNET RACE 2003
700 miles….

Netcarrier is a downwind missle. Sitting on fifteen knots – passing boats like they re standing still – solid green water erupting down the length of the deck – rhuster tales off the rudders, i know i m alive. A flick of the hand on the tiller and we re off down another wave. To leeward, yet another victim of Netcarrier. On a reach with the gennaker she is unstoppable.

Passing Fastnet Rock was a dream. At the limit of twilight, the twin beams sweeping the sails- the erriest lighthouse i ve seen.

The start of the Mini Fastnet Race from Douarnenez saw 84 boats on the starting line in full attack mode. My crew – Francois Coutant, the former delivery skipper for Bruno Peyron s Explorer and i spent a week working thru a pre race checklist.

It was a light upwind start, boats everywhere and so it began. After a hundred tacks, moving the saftey gear to the windward side each time and canting the keel, we d worked our way into first place by dark.

Still hard on the wind doing six to seven knots – we continued lifting on course in conjunction with the pre-race briefing by our personal weather advisor for the trimaran – Sergio Tachinni. This would prove a single error as the breeze defied an otherwise perfect weather model.
In a game of musical chairs, twenty boats passed us in the dark to leeward. Bearing away the next morning under masthead gennaker – we worked our way back into 9th place that night. The wind died and shifted back on the nose.

Soon it was a hard slog into twenty knots smack bang on the nose. Masthead lights ahead, behind, to leeward and windward. Fight club in every sense of the word as we prod Netcarrier past competitors in the dark.

A tactical tacking duel toward the waypoint – shifting all the kit yet again – everything in the boat to the windward side. Water jugs slung over the weather rail – nothing left to chance. Lighting Camel ciggarettes for Fanch out of the wind while he steers, marking waypoints and boats on the bulkhead, boiling water for pre-made dinners on a wildly gyrating stove – life at sea and at war.

Somthing like three days after the start, Fastnet Rock in the distance. It s ten-thirty at night but there is still some light at 52 degrees north in summer. The lighthouse is scary and awesome looking. You must see it…

Around her, the twin beams illuminating the boat, and we bear away back toward Douarnenez three-hundred miles away. And then a bit of a gale. Two reefs in the main and we are absolutly blasting throught the dark at fifteen knots. In the bunk below, it feels like you are in a fighter plane, not a boat. You have to sleep with your feet forward because if you hit anything at this speed your head could go thru a bulkhead.

The next day, the breeze lightens a notch and we set the fractional gennaker. And now we are on Netcarrier s best point of sail. Planing at a sustained fifteen knots we pass one boat after another like they are standing still. Spray everywhere, sometimes a wave threatens to launch me from the tiller. Careening up, over and down waves like an ocean-going skateboard – Netcarrier is a weapon. There is no other way to describe her.

A 5th place finish. Out of 84 boats we led the first night and might have won but don t ever look back – the first ‘foreign’ non-French entry to finish…

Brian Caldwell Netcarrier Proto 348

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