Murray Jones is referred to as 'The Captain' in Oracle Racing circles. A recent convert from Team Alinghi, Jones is one of New Zealand's most accomplished sailors going right back into the 470 class where he and Andy Knowles were the NZ nomination for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Sail-World caught up with him, just after he stepped onto the dock, after just the second day of sailing aboard the prototype AC45 where they were clocked at over 25 knots and probably broke the 30kt barrier.
SW: What speeds did you hit out there today?
Jones: I am not sure with all the spray it was a bit hard to see, but I think we were doing 25kts comfortably a lot of the time. We had plenty on, so we weren't really looking. But the very high 20's I would say. It was great. Good fun. And the boat performed really well - we're very, very happy.
SW: Did you have any incidents out there?
Jones: No, none at all. There was just some fine tuning of a few lashings, once things settled in. But it was great. We could do bearaways in plenty of breeze.
SW: How does it compare to that last catamaran you sailed on?
Jones: It is so hard to compare, they are different animals. Just because of the size. The load are different. The loads are so small in the AC45 that it is just a different game. I haven't sailed with a wing before - aside from the last two days. But it makes it a lot easier that's for sure. Especially when you bear away, you just feel that things don't load up, and the de-power is immediate.
SW: How do you trim the wing?
Jones: We are just trimming it straight off the boom, with a mainsheet or whatever you like to call it - just straight off the boom to a winch, and that is just trimming it in an out. Then you control the camber and twist. So there are three controls, it is very simple actually.
We were playing around a bit. I wouldn't say we were in race mode, because we were discussing what we would try every now and then and playing with the depth in the wing.
SW: How does she perform downwind, is it a matter of sheeting in and hanging on?
Jones: It was actually easier with the gennaker up than with the wing alone, because we had more lift in the bow. We are pushing the bow down a little when we are wingsail alone. Not that it is dangerously at all. But when the gennaker was up, it was really comfortable. It feels very good in that respect.
If you have a look at the boat, there is a lot of bow in front of the mainbeam, and she carries her fullness quite well forward. That was the concept of the boat - to be able to sail it in winds like we had today (20-25kts) and more. This is our first day out in any breeze, so you can imagine how we will be pushing it once we have sailed her a lot more in the next 3-4 months.
SW: How does she feel in the tacks. From our perspective she looked remarkably fast.
Jones: She just feels very light and unloaded. I think that is one of the great things about the wing, that as you come up through the breeze, there is very little drag, so the boat just continues through and doesn't slow down. With a lot of multihulls, when you see them tack, they struggle to get through once they get slow, but with the wingsail, it just cruises through, and there is no real drag on it once you go through head to wind, and so you don't lose the speed.
SW: How about gybing?
Jones: She was very docile! The first gybe we did was in 25kts!
Sadly, at that point 'The Captain' had to return to his 'ship' as she was hooked up for the lift ashore.