Blast Reaching - Sail Magazine

Blast Reaching

I admit that I was skeptical about racing on a big catamaran for a day at Antigua Sailing Week. My previous cat experience was limited, and I wasn’t expecting much. I’d seen the fleet of exotic-looking Gunboats—three GB48s and three GB62s—dockside on day one of this annual regatta. With their synthetic-fiber halyards strung from Marstrom carbon-fiber rigs and their chisel-like bows practically
Author:
Publish date:

I admit that I was skeptical about racing on a big catamaran for a day at Antigua Sailing Week. My previous cat experience was limited, and I wasn’t expecting much. I’d seen the fleet of exotic-looking Gunboats—three GB48s and three GB62s—dockside on day one of this annual regatta. With their synthetic-fiber halyards strung from Marstrom carbon-fiber rigs and their chisel-like bows practically begging to slice through the warm Caribbean waters, the Gunboats sure looked hot—but how racy could they be? I certainly didn’t expect to become a convert, let alone a believer. Then I stepped aboard the immaculately maintained Gunboat 48 Blast.

GUNBOAT2

My monohull-centric worldview is in jeopardy the moment I see the galley sink. It has the usual sink parts—a drain and a faucet—but it’s the way the tropical sunlight glints off the sink’s elegant carbon-fiber surfaces that catches my eye. Closer examination reveals that while the interior is masterfully finished in African rosewood and mahogany, this is simply a veneer under which resides a composite structure of honeycomb coring set in epoxy. Swing a cabinet door and it feels light, airy, Space Age. The carbon-fiber hulls save weight and create a stiff, powerful platform. But it’s the forward working cockpit (a small pit-like operations center), situated directly abaft the mast with its banks of clutches and carefully positioned winches, that sells me on the fact that Blast is a bona fide raceboat. Step through the forward cockpit doors (also airy veneers over a honeycomb/epoxy core) and you exit a world of comfort and luxury and enter one of utilitarian elegance. Halyards, reefing lines, and furling lines all lead back to this multi-person area, which commands a sweeping view of the bow and the knotless Spectra trampoline, while still affording perfect communication with the helm.

Soon we are en route to the starting line. Gunboat founder and president Peter Johnstone stands behind the carbon-fiber wheel of the semicustom catamaran (Gunboats are built on a semicustom basis, giving owners a lot of options for customizing joinery, interiors, and other features), while a crack crew including Forrest Williams, Torbjorn Linderson, Lia Ditton, Chandler Collins, Warren Oldroyd, Rachel Jaspersen, and Lynn Fitzpatrick prepare various broad-reaching and downwind sails, ensuring that all sheets are cleanly led and that halyard runs are unfettered. I follow the crew around the boat, trying to sort out how the running rigging is set up while staying out of their way.

cockpit

Antigua Sailing Week is unique in many respects and is one of only two regattas to have offered Gunboat-only starts in 2008. Sitting on the windward rail as Blast maneuvers through the pre-start circle under main alone, I study the other Gunboats. All boast graceful lines, appealing hull colors, big sailplans, and very psyched owners and crew. More important, all the Gunboats that are flying headsails seem to have no trouble sailing to weather.

We soon get the course: a quick downwind leg with a port rounding to a blast reach with a series of buoys that must be left to starboard, to some lengthy upwind work that will bring the fleet south to a finishing line off Falmouth Harbour. The onboard fervor kicks up a notch as Blast ’s crew hoists a jib while preparing the huge white asymmetric screecher, which appears on deck as a massive sausage, its furling drum attaching to Blast ’s powerful bowsprit (integrated into the hull’s forward cross beam) while its head accepts a halyard with a halyard lock.

Related

Outremer45

Boat Review: Outremer 45

It’s funny the way things that work right almost inevitably tend to look right as well. Case in point: the Outremer 45, a catamaran that can’t help but turn heads with its large rig, nicely sculpted cabintrunk and narrow, purposeful bows. Better yet, under sail the boat more than ...read more

Sunset-Tyrrel-Bay

Charter: Glorious Grenada

In the wake of the hurricanes that devastated the Virgin Islands last year many charterers ended up going farther south to Grenada and the Grenadines where they found the sailing excellent and the vibe just fine“God must have been a sailor when he created the Caribbean,” a friend ...read more

WaterLinesNov

Waterlines: Tangled Up in Pots

I learned to sail on the Maine coast as a boy, and one of the things my elders taught me was to respect fishing gear. If you got caught up with a lobster pot, you did everything you could to get clear without cutting the pot warp. It represented a family’s livelihood and thus was ...read more

7353

Harken’s Reflex 3 top-down Furler

Furl PowerAre you afraid of flying—spinnakers, that is? Harken’s new Reflex 3 top-down furler will tame A-sails on monohulls from 44-58ft and multis from 39-55ft, and Code 0’s on 39-54ft monos and 36-50ft multis. All you do is heave on the furling line and the sail will roll up ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comDitch the stress Owners of high-freeboard yachts best boarded via the stern sugar-scoop like to back them into a slip, but the process can be fraught on a windy day or when there’s a current running, ...read more

Sun-Odyssey-490-Bertrand_DUQUENNE-aft

Boat Review: Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490

True innovation in monohull sailboat design can be a bit elusive these days. That’s not to say that there are no more new ideas, but it does seem that many new tweaks and introductions are a bit incremental: let’s say evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Just when it seems ...read more