Ask any yachting photographer to name their favourite commission and you’ll likely find that a request to shoot the first sail of a brand new yacht is right up there; better still when that yacht has been commissioned by a recognised leader in custom and production boats and delivered off the drawing board of one of the world’s most sought-after yacht designers.
So it was simply a matter of saying ‘name the day and time’ when Darren Williams of Sydney Yachts asked me to wield the camera gear for the first hit-out of their brand new Jason Ker designed GTS 43 on Sydney Harbour earlier this month.
Unless you’ve been assiduously avoiding any contact with the sailing scene over the last ten to fifteen years you could hardly be unfamiliar with the names Sydney Yachts and Jason Ker, so you’d be aware of why this christening may be of more than passing interest on the Australian and international sailing landscape.
From successes with the Sydney 41 in the mid 1990s to the ever popular Sydney 38 OD (some 50 yachts race in Australia), the Sydney 32 OD, and more recently to the CR range of custom and production cruiser racers, Sydney Yachts has carved out a name as one of the world’s leading producers of yachts that are genuinely as much fun to race as they are to cruise. The lengthy trophy list of offshore and inshore wins both here and overseas and the many thousands of cruising miles under Sydney Yacht’s output over that period attests to how well they’ve struck that balance.
Behind any such company successes usually lie names that have serious credibility in the sailing scene and in the case of Sydney Yachts Darren Williams is one such, having led the business development and production of most of Sydney Yachts’ output since 1998. At the production end of Sydney Yachts, Jason Rowed has a similar reputation, matching top tier international racing experience with an understanding of what it takes to combine speed with good looks and comfort, amply demonstrated through his involvement in the evolution and sales of the stylish Marten yachts.
Australia is also familiar with British yacht designer Jason Ker’s successes; his Ker 55 Aera took out the IRC Division overall win in the Sydney Hobart in 2004 and Anthony Paterson’s well campaigned Ker 11.3 Tow Truck consistently shows much larger yachts a clean pair of heels when racing offshore or around the cans.
And as if to underline why a brand keen to protect its enviable reputation might choose Jason Ker for their next generation of production cruiser/racers (the GTS 37 is in advanced production and a third model is planned) you need only scan the European 2010 season win list of Peter Vroon’s IRC 46 Tonnere de Breskens that led to her naming as the RORC’s Yacht of the Year last year - about as prestigious a yachting prize as exists on that side of the world.
All in all a very promising match up then. So, what of the first impressions?
You could hardly have picked a better day than the one selected for the maiden voyage of the GTS 43 (well perhaps another five knots or so, to be fussy) and as the photos reveal she is something of a head turner, demonstrating the distinctive Ker characteristics of a plumb bow and powerful looking flared aft sections. When combined with an eye catching sportscar-style coachroof the look suggests she intends to give some larger yachts a serious run for their money.
As if to emphasise that it is also possible to combine racing good looks with the creature comforts in a forty-something footer, a quick trip down the companionway reveals that the GTS 43 is no stripped out racing machine, as the photos make clear.
The first boat out of the shed has been planned with and for Warwick Sherman who has enjoyed success with his former Cookson 40 Occasional Coarse Language and, as you can see he’s stuck with the name and the theme for the new boat, with a few entertaining graphic embellishments.
Warwick’s involvement in the build from the word go suggests he’s anticipating that his boat’s performance will be the target rather than the source of occasional coarse language out on the water,
Further interest in the GTS 43 has already been high, with hull numbers 2 and 3 sold and inspections booked for the Sydney Boat Show (Berth M31 on the marina in Cockle Bay).
I too plan to be at the Boat Show, to have a more detailed sticky beak - this time without the camera - and with any luck if Warwick will have me aboard I hope for ‘a proper sail’ I’ll be able to give you a more comprehensive review of what looks to be a very promising new entrant on the cruiser/racer scene.
Watch this space! www.crosbielorimer.com