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Karl Kwok, Preparation, Seamanship, and Tactics

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 21 Oct 2018 21:40 PDT
MOD70 Beau Geste at RHKYC. © Guy Nowell

Beau Geste, a MOD70 trimaran, skippered by Gavin Brady and with owner Karl Kwok on board, has set a Multihull reference time (or record, call it what you will) for the Hong Kong to Hainan Race: 24h 01m 59s. Sail-World Asia went for a spin round the harbour before the race started.

A MOD70 is a big beast, and it moves very fast. “I think you have to be twice as aware with one of these things as you do with a monohull – practically any monohull. Everything happens is accelerated time,” says skipper Gavin Brady. “60 seconds to tack,” calls out Matt Humphries, concentrating on his tablet. It’s not going to be a ‘maybe’ call either, as we are heading towards the legs of the Island Eastern Corridor at 25kts. It’s a long way off at the moment, but it’s getting bigger – much bigger – and very quickly indeed. We tack.

Owner Karl Kwok is perched nonchalantly on a cross beam being interviewed by some young lady journalists who have been asked to leave the high heels behind. “From the point of view of sailing skills there’s not much difference between this and a racing monuhull – say, a TP52. Preparation, seamanship, tactics. But the speed… that changes everything. Absolutely everything,” says Kwok.

The MOD70 is in essence a ‘less extreme’ development of the ORMA 60. “The ORMA 60s were starting to turn into an arms race,” points out Brady, “and they were becoming so fast and powerful they were proving to be more than a bit of a handful. Rumours have it that even some of the French offshore single-handers were starting to think twice.” Sacré bleu! So the MOD70 was born: longer, heavier, smaller mast, less sail area. Costs substantially controlled by being one-design, but actually not a lot slower across the water than their all-carbon-and-nomex sisters in the shed. “But they have shown a tendency to stick the nose in, which is pretty terminal when racing.”

Five out of seven MOD70s have ended up either on their side or upside down. Beau Geste is not one of them, but Brady is very realistic. “If it starts to get too much, you back off a little. A reef will cost you maybe 1.5kts, but makes the boat a lot more manageable. It all becomes a lot more dangerous when you’re racing, and there’s another big multi out there, and now you don’t want to back off!”

On Thursday morning MOD Beau Geste led the Hainan Race fleet out through the Lei Yue Mun Gap, eased sheets for Waglan, and then cracked off past Dangan Liedao at the north tip of the Lemas Islands and laid course for the straight run to Sanya.

On the dock in Serenity Marina, after a race that lasted just 90 seconds beyond 24hrs, Kwok said, "It was an interesting race! The start was so severe, so rough, but by the time we reached Hainan everything had calmed down, and we were fighting for wind. Our top speed was consistently above 30kts, so we should have been here six hours earlier, but unfortunately, that didn't work. By the time the wind ran out there was another system from the island, so basically, we just ran out of wind altogether. The first 12 hours were remarkable because we got rewarded with flatter, calmer seas after the initial rush out of Hong Kong and the wind was strong. We had been anticipating close-quartered combat with SHK Scallywag Fuku, and though we would have had a really close race, we are very sad that they had to pull out." [SHK Scallywag Fuku, the ORMA 60 in the race, broke a foil some 90nm out of Hong Kong and was obliged to retire. Ed].

Next up: MOD Beau Geste will be returning to New Zealand for another Southern Hemisphere tour.

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