What to do you get when you combine the world-renowned Ker Yacht Design, with Australia’s Sydney Yachts, a team that have been building quality offshore boats for a long time.
Phuket King’s Cup Regatta 2011 - Walawala 2
Well, the result is the Sydney Yachts GTS 43 and recently, it’s been raising some eyebrows, as it competes against some of the other hot new things out there in the marketplace.
The latest of these results came just in the knick of time, before a huge tropical downpour took over the course on the last day of the 2012 Singapore Straits Regatta. Two wins for their day’s work was enough to have Steve Manning’s Walawala II take out the overall IRC A crown for the regatta, which finished just ten days ago.
Importantly, it comes on the back of the great time they had at the 2011 Phuket Kings Cup Regatta in Thailand a little over a month earlier. There, the then very brand new boat had been available for just the one day before the regatta, having only been handed over in Singapore just a couple of weeks earlier.
None the less, they still managed to take a very handy second place in IRC 1, with seven podium finishes during the running of the 10-race regatta.
Walawala is an Aboriginal sun goddess and the GTS 43 has certainly been bathed in golden light of late. Steve Manning, the skipper of Walawala II, put a lot of thought and some computational analysis behind his decision to go for the Sydney Yachts GTS 43 over some of her other competitors.
He was delighted by the efforts of the boat and her crew, which is clearly evidenced by his huge smile as he held the Singapore Straights Regatta trophy aloft.
‘We had five of the local team and a couple of guys who came down from Hong Kong, as well as Jason Rowed from Sydney Yachts, which meant the boat had three quarters of the team from Thailand back again, so it was not an uphill battle to get it all going. Had we not had the mistake at Phuket, we could well have had two regatta wins from two entries, but that’s sailing and we learn from it all’, said Steve.
Of the boat’s performance at the weeklong regatta, Steve simply said, ‘We were tremendously impressed with the way the boat went, once again. We started conservatively but the GTS 43 has such power and jumps out of the box all around the course, so tactically we could have been a little bit more aggressive earlier on.’
‘I think everyone recognises the boat is a hot boat right now. Everything we thought of or mentioned at the beginning of the whole process seems to be applying, but the one thing that is really staggering is the upwind performance.
‘It’s just a machine going upwind and I think that is a combination of not only the boat, but also North Sails 3Di’s. They are so stable and keep tremendous power in them. There’s no power lost in the gust when the fabric stretches. All the gust gets converted to forward energy.’
Steve Manning and his Walawala 2 - Sydney GTS43 crew - winners of the 2012 Singapore Straits regatta
All of that is certainly true and Steve used to have a Beneteau 44.7, so you may be thinking that moving from a displacement hull to a planning hull may be part of the heightened sense of achievement.
However, it is not just relative to the standpoint of from whence they cometh, but more importantly to those they are accounting for out on the track.
‘We have got both boat speed and we’re pointing high. To be honest, we’re still finding the right combinations, because you can point extremely high and still keep great speed - upwind Walawala II is just incredibly impressive.
The other item that had us intrigued, and we saw it really on the long island races, was that we expected the Ker 40 to slowly disappear into the distance, given its much lighter displacement and big kites, but we kept track of KukuKERchu all the way during the passage races.
Walawala 2 Singapore Straits Regatta 2012
‘That was extremely encouraging as well. We are not sure how to explain that one yet, but downwind the GTS 43 kept up with the Ker 40 very well and they have to hand us about 20 points under IRC, too.’
Steve went on further to say, ‘I think everyone’s got their eyes glued on everything that goes on with this segment now and are watching with interest our wins over the Ker 40. We have beaten them in six out of ten races so far.’
At the Singapore Straights Regatta, Walawala II recorded four wins, two seconds and their worst result was a fifth from the seven race series.
Despite that impressive tally, Steve said, ‘We had a difficult first few days, as it was a bit of a lottery. After that, we had a day race over to Batam for the two final days of racing, which turned out to be excellent. Two powerful windward/leeward races were on offer for both days, which were good fun in the breeze, which ranged through 13-18 knots - nothing wrong with those whatsoever. I think we got three firsts and a second.’ (Indeed they did…)
‘We’re a little bit staggered at the moment. Once we got over to Batam and started getting onto the solid upwind stuff again, it was all a little reminiscent of Phuket, you know. We were thinking it’s a great boat and we’re going to see a lot of podium finishes. The longish waterline helps with handling the chop and the sails just keep powered up, driving the whole equation forward.
'Naturally, we got a few things wrong, of course. We weren’t as sharp with some of the spinnaker hoists and also one or two of the starting tactics. We still had both Men at Work and Windsikher around to keep us fighting hard. It was down to the last day in the end, so to get the win is very, very encouraging.’
So after all that, the question, ‘Where to from here?’, gets proffered. ‘We have some local things here, then we’re going to get the boat to the top of the Gulf of Thailand and do Koh Samui. I am probably going to pass on the Eastern China Sea stuff this year - May and June at the top of the Gulf, then probably the Singapore event in the summer with Raja Muda and Kings Cup on the radar for the end of the year. There is a huge amount of thought process going into what else can we do and crews we can find to do battle against. ’
To cap it all off, Steve said, ‘You know there is one other thing that does complete justice to Sydney Yachts. Not only did they get it ready to deliver on time and we went racing straight away, but also the whole boat has been incredibly reliable so far. The only thing we have had to replace is a block for the barber hauler, so the GTS 43 is solid and well built. Overall the Walawala II result can be attributed to three things. The crew, the sails and the wonderful design and build techniques of the GTS 43 itself. It’s tremendous and nicely in-tune!’
Sydney Yachts Jason Rowed M +61 (0) 414 332255