When two, virtually identical Beneteau First 40s took first and second overall in the last Rolex Sydney Hobart, it raised more than a few eyebrows.
Two True from South Australia and Wicked, from Victoria, completed the 628 nautical mile classic in 3 days, 23 hours and some change. On corrected time, these two relatively new boats were a full two hours ahead of the next craft.
Two True is owned by Andrew Saies and notably, they also collected a first overall in the new ORCi class, in which some 30 odd boats, of the 100-boat fleet, chose to compete in.
That's a lot of winning in a fleet that everything from 33 to 100 foot vessels racing and so it is little wonder that Andrew was so jubilant at the time. 'Great boat. This Beneteau First 40 is just fantastic! It just jumps out of the water. Actually, it jumped a bit too hard over those big short waves in the last day or so. It's a fast boat, we had belief that this boat was going to rate well and be competitive in this event.'
The First 40 has now proudly taken over from the Beneteau 40.7, which itself had taken the honours in same event, back in 2003. On closer inspection of the results tables, it was a fair old Beneteau effort, right throughout the divisions. I addition to Overall IRC and ORCi, there were numerous new and not-quite-as-new Beneteau's in the Div3 and 4 leaders. It was also a 1-2 for Beneteau in the cruising Division, where an Oceanis 50 named Holy Cow won from Sydney Hobart first-timers, Livewire, which is an Oceanis 37.
Brendan Hunt, founder of Vicsail, unlocks the story a little more. 'It was a big move for Beneteau because to replace the 40.7, which was the most successful 40 footer, ever to call itself a cruiser racer, by a long shot.
'We're so proud of what's happened in the Hobart with Two True and Wicked. They're not grand prix owners.
They're not people who've got imported crew or anything like that. These guys are really good ocean level sailors, in the true sense of the Australian offshore scene.
Even before the Hobart result, we sold four First 40s for December, so it shows that it wasn't just the win at the heart of the success. There are a lot of people now realising that the First 40 is the next, good 40-footer.
It's an easy boat to get into, offers great-retained value and we provide excellent after sales service. The First 40 is a vice less boat; with it, Farr have produced a Farr 40, which you can not only take the family away, but you can also take offshore very easily and do well', Brendan added.
'In usuable space terms, i's nearly two feet longer than the 40.7 and that translates into a lot more deck and cockpit space, which is something you always need with a cruiser racer.
What Beneteau have done is a very good story, because there's also a new First 35 that's just arrived. I've actually got that one and I'm looking forward to it!
The First 35 and 40 are very much in the same vein as both are Farr Yacht Design creations.'
'The exterior styling is totally Beneteau, however.
Brendan details the rest of the package. 'I wouldn't say it's more cruisy than a 40.7s. It certainly has an updated interior, as a result of the involvement with Nautor, who are an Italian design group. They were brought in to do a lot of the styling.
Between them and Beneteau's in-house interior designers and stylists, they were able to incorporate a few more things. Instead of having a vertical fit out as you go down below, it's now much more a lateral fit out.
This gives you a better feeling of space, still with two private cabins, in addition to the Owner's Stateroom. There's a settee, dining table and two hot showers. It ticks all the boxes.
They chose a one-wheel system for a very considered reason, which was to reduce the number of moving parts.
A lot of people liked the Farr 40 wheel and that style of steering, so it was really a follow on from that', explains Brendan.
'When Beneteau released the First 40, they knew they're going to build nearly 1000 of them, so they made sure the first one weighs the same with the same keel and everything as will say, hull number 540.'
Brendan is probably right too, for Second to None only hit the water a couple of weeks ago and she was only metres behind Two True, as they crossed the line in the recent passage race to Geelong, which was part of Audi Victoria Week.
'In relative terms, a Beneteau First 40 is not expensive, if you want to go IRC racing.
'When Andrew Saies chose the Beneteau First 40, we had to first prove that we had the boat that would be equal to what he wanted to do.
'His plan was to win a Hobart race - loud and clear. He was looking at a lot of 40 footers including one-offs, imported boats and various others that everyone is familiar with.
I guess what he's done, is proven to us that he was the person to do the right job, because to win a Hobart takes three elements. Firstly: luck, because everyone has to get the weather that suits his or her size of boat. Secondly: it then takes a good boat. With the First 40, there's no question that in size category, it was the one to beat.
Finally: there is always the team.'
'Andrew had done the race before with his Beneteau 40.7, True North. 'We did a lot of work to make sure we had the right boat for him. He was involved even at an early stage in the design with his input from what he'd done previously and you can see this with where we ended up with the First 40.'
'Andrew Saies is the definitely the lynchpin in the whole thing.
'Brett Young is his number one and the man who puts his boat together. We put Brett's efforts together with our boat and work from France. Brett proved his knowledge of IRC and together the whole thing works very well.
'It's just simply knowing how to package the boat so that it all worked, even down to the code zero and the preparation of the keel and rudder. All of these things were part of a well-considered program.'
Brendan was in Adelaide recently, when there was a Civic Reception for Andrew and the crew. 'It's a great thing. It's obviously great for yachting, because it gets out to more people. I reckon it is a fantastic accolade for the trophy to go to Adelaide.'
South Australian Andrew Saies and some of the crew of Two True collect the booty for being Overall Winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, which included the Tattersalls Cup and a Rolex timepiece. - © Andrea Francolini?nid=66309
Brett has been with Andrew for well over four years now. They did the previous two races on the 40.7, in Division Three and placed a fourth and a third.
'In 2008, we were behind Tow Truck and AFR Midnight Rambler, with whom we've had a constant battle. We were looking forward to that battle in 2009, but the way it's worked out with the splits, AFR and Tow Truck moved up into Second Division, even though we're in a newer, faster boat, still in Fourth Division.'
'The Beneteau owners are all so nice and friendly. Our boat was supposed to arrive early July, but the shipping was a bit late, so we managed to get Philippe Mengual, who owns Paca from the CYCA to agree to swap boats with a sweetener of a dozen bottles of red', Brett was quick to add.
'Two True was commissioned at River Quays and they did a sensational job in the time. 'The hull was very true already and the keel and rudder were pretty good too. Mark, the headman at River Quays, did a sensational job of re-fairing the rudder (Brett's foils have won four 470 and four 420 World Titles along with two Olympic Gold Medals in the last six years). We ripped out all the sea-skin fittings and went to flush, ground-skin fittings.
Even the wheel well is flush ground. The bulb is also a fantastic design.'
'We've got a very Corinthian team and the team is everything for a boat. The team preparation was enormous, but we've got people like, Tyson Lamont, who was mid-bow for the Artemis team and now working for Team New Zealand in the America's Cup, all at just 23 years of age, so we're fortunate to have that sort of calibre sailor onboard.
We have no major sponsors and the guys pay their own way and accommodation. Some of the guys slept on the boat when we arrived and before we left. It's a very real team.'
'I believe that Two True and Wicked sailed the most miles of anyone in the last Rolex Sydney Hobart, because none of the other boats went out as far as we did and none one stayed out as far as we did.
'We did the big double eddy. We went out and hooked onto another eddy and then came right back in and picked them all up, only to go back offshore again, east of the rhumbline and across the Tasman. I also believe we lead Quest past Green Cape.
'We used Tidetech for the first time this year and had our routing done by Brian Northcote. It's an absolute must again, as it gave us great options, which in turn gave us confidence to put ourselves right out there', he said.
Ironically, Wicked, which is owned by Mark and Mike Welsh, had Lex O'Connor of Melbourne do their routing through Expedition, with Tidetech information, as well. Lex and Brett sailed together on Phil Coombs' DK46, Dekadence. 'I couldn't work out why Wicked was always so close to us and then when I came in and Lex says ‘Youngy, I've got that Expedition program running finally'.
'I went oh, no wonder. For a slower boat, the tides were everything in that race', Brett explained.
Incidentally, Phil Coombs has just taken delivery of the first Beneteay First 50 in the country. It's being put together at Sandringham Yacht Club presently and he's already got a marvellous program organised that includes the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria's, 1885nm Melbourne to Vanuatu race, in July of this year. So, private cabins, showers, microwaves and dining tables sound just marvellous for that.
'We've done Docklands and Geelong, now it's back to Adelaide for the Lexus Lincoln Week. Hopefully we'll come back for the Audi Regatta in Sydney, provided we can secure some sponsorship to help get the boat back over there. We'll then look at the rest of the circuit, Southport and Hamilton Island, as we really want to win the Nationals. That's what this is about. The Hobart is actually a bonus, as we were just warming up to try and win the Nationals. The owner wants to do the new Queens Cup and I'm really keen for him to do a Fastnet', an enthusiastic Brett then added.
'We've got a very happy owner and that's just terrific. Andrew comes from a sailing family. His father, David Saies, was a very proud sailor not only involved in racing but a lot of race management and protest committees. He has this real, burning desire.'
Beneteau Vicsail Sydney congratulates each and every one of the Beneteau yachts that took part in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. If you want to find out for yourself why there are so many raised eyebrows, then test sail the First 40 or the even newer First 35, by calling Vicsail on +61 2 9327 2088.