Within the 82-boat fleet charging their way south in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race are five yachts challenging for design dominance all of transpac origin.
The founder of New Zealand's Cookson Boats Mick Cookson is one of the major builders of the Transpac 52's and this year will be looking with interest at how his Cookson 50's line up against the Transpac 52s.
“The reports I have had recently say our 50s sail pretty nicely downwind against the 52's, especially the 50's with the bigger rigs,” he says.
The Cookson 50's were developed from reducing the TP52 hull shape to 50 feet, maximising the beam, and increasing freeboard for full headroom to produce an interior suitable for family cruising. In their ‘straight out of the shed’ form they are equipped with a canting keel and trim tab/canard to maintain stability and minimise crew numbers.
The design concept was to make the high-tech Cookson 50 a winner all round for the serious club racer but also with a view to successfully competing in grand prix events.
The Cookson office says the boats have shown remarkable performances reaching and running.
Two of the best offshore and inshore IRC racers on the Australian scene are Ray Roberts’s Quantum Racing and Michael Hiatt’s Living Doll, both Cookson 50's. They are designed by the Farr office and built within a year of each other.
The one key difference between them now, which will impact on how they line up against each other on the race track, is the decision by Hiatt earlier this year to change Living Doll from a canting to fixed keel configuration.
After racing the previous (summer) season with the canting keel fixed, Hiatt then made the change to a permanently fixed keel in time for Hamilton Island. Around the buoys Living Doll finished ninth against Quantum Racing’s fifth place.
Cookson believes with an upwind Hobart race Living Doll with its fixed keel will, on performance versus handicap, probably be better off.
“If there is any two-sail jib-top or heavy-air gennaker reaching I would say Quantum Racing will be hard to beat. Quantum rates quite a lot higher so would have to beat Living Doll by a healthy margin. Our 50s to date seem to have performed the best in offshore events because of the canting keel,” Cookson says.
Quantum Racing has chosen to stay with a canting keel although they now carry a canard.
“We fitted canards to most of the boats now because the trim tab on the keel fin was getting a penalty under IRC and the boats go better upwind with a canard. They rate better and go better,” he says.
Wharing the same piece of ocean with Living Doll and Quantum Racing will be the TP52's.
Cookson has a particular interest in how these boats perform in the Hobart race. His company has been in the business of building the 52s with 11 of them coming out of their shed in the last two years.
In the 90s Cookson Boats built two semi-production boats under the Cookson brand. Then in 2000 Mick Cookson started working on a semi-production 50-footer.
“When we started the 50's the Med Cup hadn’t started. We had a lot of enquiries in the early days and a lot of the guys asked about the boat but went with the TP52 for the Med Cup.
“In some ways the 52s ate into the 50 market, but it didn’t really matter because when the King of Spain placed a three-boat order with us for TP52's for the Med Cup, it was kind of like ‘this is good business anyway’ ,” Cookson says.
The TP52’s in their original form were built to the TP52 box rule with owners hiring their own builders and designers. The yachts are required to comply with the rule in terms of length overall, beam, displacement, draft, construction, sail area, make of engine & saildrive, and so on. They really designed to suit the weather and sea conditions of the Mediterranean.
Three of this new breed of yacht are competing in this year’s Hobart race – Cougar II (Alan Whiteley), Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer) and Wot Yot (Graeme Wood ). The Farr design, Cookson-built Cougar II is the newest of the group having been built in 2005.
The challenge to the Cookson 50s is that all three TP52s have taken themselves out of the class “box rule” making significant configuration modifications to achieve a better IRC rating.
“The TP52 rule has a limit on the VCG, so when you take a 52 out of class you can turbo the boat up quite substantially.
“The TP52s in IRC mode, with bowsprit and a heavier bulb - when you take the internal ballast out and put it on the bulb - their performance should improve significantly and rate less,” he says.
Asked to choose between the Cookson 50s and the TP52s for better performance over the 628 nautical mile race Cookson says “it is really a case amongst those boats who sails the best or puts themselves in the best position on the race track, and really it is going to depend on the weather”.
Website links http://www.cooksonboats.co.nz/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1 http://www.transpac52.org/home.htm