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CA 500 race to welcome three MOD 70 trimarans during California Offshore Race Week

by Erik Simonson 27 May 12:01 PDT 30 May 2019
Happy and determined on Giovanni Soldini's Multi 70 Maserati, with 1,000 miles to run - Day 6 - RORC Transatlantic Race © Soldini / Maserati

The addition of a 500 nm race from San Francisco Bay to San Diego as part of the California Offshore Race Week was intended to provide some of the larger boats engaging in the Transpac a chance to stretch their legs a little and skip the shallow water marinas involved with other legs of the Race Week. The concept originated with Manouch Moshayedi, owner of RIO 100, seeking way to get some of Sleds and Maxis and opportunity for a mid range feeder event for the Transpac.

Ironically, when RIO 100s main competitor, Steve Meheen's Botin 80' Cabron was unable to be ready in time for race, and Jim Cooney and Samantha Grants' Comanche still in transit, the maxi participation was quelled before it really got started.

However, in a strange twist of fate, the three MOD 70s that were eyeballing the Transpac for some time quickly took up the offer and will be trailblazing their way down the coast beginning Thursday May 30th. This is the first race on the West Coast with three MOD 70s competing together; sort of a rebirth of the class which showed so much promise when first conceived in 2009. See History.

With Giovanni Soldini's Maserati hooking up with Jason Carroll's Argo and Peter Cunningham's PowerPlay all set to launch a new offshore event and possibly sending a charge back in to the MOD 70 class for more level competition in these mile devouring beasts, the best may be yet to come. We have managed to get Maserati's press release and insights from PowerPlay's Charlie Ogletree and Argo's Chad Corning on their views of the boat, the race and the future:

The CA 500 course, from San Francisco to San Diego, is approximately 500 miles long: after crossing the starting line, off San Francis Yacht Club, the fleet will have to leave Farallon Light to port before heading towards the finish line off San Diego.

This will be the first time Maserati Multi 70's Team will compete against both MOD 70s, which it has already challenged individually: the Italian trimaran has raced against Argo during the RORC Caribbean 600 in February 2019; the Team has competed against PowerPlay during the Rolex Middle Sea Race, in October 2018, and during the RORC Transatlantic Race, in November 2018. Maserati Multi 70's Team conquered Multihull Line Honours in all three regattas.

Maserati Multi 70 will sail in flying mode, unlike her direct rivals, who will sail in classic MOD mode. Through continuous research and tests to improve the trimaran's flying performance, the Italian Team has developed new settings for the flying foils and T-shaped rudders. The two rudders, on starboard and port side, will have different settings so the Team will be able to test the new configurations during the race.


Q&A with Giovanni Soldini

PD: Gio, you have put on quite a few miles on the MOD 70 since acquiring her a couple years ago, what is your overall impression of the boat?

GS: "The boat is great. With Maserati Multi 70 we get to sail in flying mode with foils and t-shaped rudders. Our Team is working non-stop to improve the boat's performance: these technologies are in continuous evolution so for each race we have the chance to test new things to optimize the flying performance."

PD: Initially, It was just records being sought and broken. Which one of those brings the most satisfaction?

GS: "During the last record we conquered, the Tea Route Record from Hong Kong to London, we surely had a lot of fun. The team was great, we had many different wind situations and challenges but at the end we did it and it was very cool."

PD: Most recently, Maserati has been going head to head with other MOD 70's, Power Play and Argo, and now you will have 3 MOD 70's entered for the Transpac and California 500. How are you enjoying the head to head competition?

GS: "PowerPlay and Argo's teams are very experienced and everytime its really fun and challenging to race against them."

PD: Last Transpac, Maserati shifted to turbo mode, is she still in that configuration?

GS"Yes we still sail in flying mode. We are constantly working on optimizing the performance so each time we try to improve it through experiments and tests."

PD: The Mod 70's did not hesitate when invited for the race from SF to SD. What do you anticipate for the ride down the California Coast?

GS:I am definitely looking forward to compete against two great teams and for sure having to race them at the same time will make it even more exciting.

PD: Have you developed plans after the Transpac and will other Mod 70's be participating?

GS:After the Transpac we will make our way to Asia for the Hong Kong to Vietnam race in October.

PD: Good luck and see you on the water in a week or so....


Interview with Chad Corning of Argo

PD: Team Argo has around for quite some time and has been quite successful in the high performance sailing competition. Most recently the GC32, Elvis the Gunboat and Melges 32 circuit. Jason has managed to keep a good team going in whatever he dives into, what do you attribute to the success and longevity?

CC: It's all about chemistry. We are very careful to build our teams not based purely on talent or a particular skill set. We focus equally on sailing with friends and being sure we have fun on the water as well as off. Low ego teams with mutual respect have kept the sailing fun and rewarding, we've had very little turnover the years.

PD: The GC32 is handful to sail, yet your team has done very well in the class, and the learning curve is a steep one, what in particular can you attribute to taming that bucking bronco?

CC: Yes, the learning curve was steep in the beginning! It took us a year to get comfortable in the boat and really start racing. Since then what success we have had can be attributed to rounding out the sailing team with a lot of foiling experience, excellent preparation by our shore team, and some great coaching; Rod Davis, Andrew Palfrey, Phillipe Presti and Anthony Kotoun to name a few.

PD: The Gunboat must have felt like a luxury cruise in comparison, yet the team made some magic with Elvis, your favorite memories on her?

CC: Though her DNA was cruising she had a race boat captain in Scotty Bradford. He slowly transformed the boat into a leaner, more powerful machine that could certainly provide some thrills. I can remember a fresh Heineken regatta where we started being comfortable fully flying the hull and pushing hard. This led to a good result one of the days and we snuck in one bridge opening earlier than the rest of the gunboats. Liberal use of the rum pump meant there was not much left of us when the rest of the fleet got to the dock! The real beauty of the boat was that it could be raced hard and still provide an excellent social platform after sailing. Nothing but beautiful memories from that yacht and we all miss it a lot.

PD: When did the possibility of a MOD 70 program first come into focus?

CC: We raced the 2018 Caribbean 600 in Elvis, which was a windy, rough race. The boat held together well but we needed to slow her down to stay in one piece. We were taking poor Elvis well past what she was designed for and to continue to race offshore we needed a boat built for the job. We could see the efficiency and fun on offer with a MOD and started to seriously give it a think. Once we competed the Bermuda Race that summer on Elvis we had really accomplished all of our goals and then some with that boat and it was time to move on.

PD: Team Argo took possession of the MOD 70 in September of last year, and it's been a whirlwind of activity with the boat since. I see Brian Thompson is aboard, and he was a big part of Phaedo 3's success, what does he bring to your program? Other big players?

CC: Busy times since we purchased the boat in early August. A transatlantic delivery just in time for our 1st race then a busy refit period before delivering down to Florida. We called Brian concurrent with the decision to buy the boat. His demeanor is a perfect fit with the team and his vast experience made him an excellent choice for sailing master. He's been great along with Thierry Fouchier who have been our two additions to the regular squad. Some guest appearances by Francois Gabart and Sidney Gavignet have helped raise our level as well.

PD: The learning curve of the MOD 70 is a steep one as well, how key is the time on the GC32 to lessening the steepness?

CC: From a technical standpoint there are few similarities between the two boats. What the GC gives us is experience is sailing close to the edge and being comfortable staying there. Having guys with experience in the boat has been the biggest help along with doing a lot of miles in her since last fall.

PD: You had a good scare while training with Maserati prior to the Caribbean 600, walk us through that incident and how lucky you guys were to have shallow water in the area and a quick response by Carlo Falcone to get her back on her feet?

CC: Used up most of our 9 lives in that one. We were just getting ready to reef when a big lifting puff took the boat away from us. It was a foregone conclusion very quickly. What happened next was beautiful as our shore team led by Jim Condon swung into action and were on scene very quickly. Shannon Falcone had some experience from righting the cup boats and we all came up with a safe, solid plan to get the mast back pointed in the right direction. In the end she righted quite easily but was a near wreck from a systems standpoint.

PD: The team managed to get the rig and mainsail back in shape in time to race the Caribbean 600 and Giovanni and crew were kind enough to delay their start so you could both start together... Sensing a keen spirit of sportsmanship within the MOD 70's at present. Your thoughts?

CC:Gio and his team are cool cats and were there with offers to help get back on the water and were gracious with their offer for the later start. Though we have not raced against them yet we're getting a similar good vibe from Power Play and have some good friends involved over there. We're excited for the next couple of races!

PD: You later set a record in the Pineapple Cup, the key to that run?

CC:The weather went from sub-optimal to perfect. The MOD's ability to break through to the next weather system was key and it allowed us to sail in great breeze while the fleet behind was swallowed up by high pressure and parked. From there it was pretty easy sailing and the boat did most of the work.

PD: Was the Trans Pac in the crosshairs from the beginning?

CC: It was always and option that swung to a yes once we had done the 1st few races on the boat and realized how much we were enjoying offshore sailing.

PD: With 3 MOD 70's on the West Coast, ARGO, Powerplay and Maserati, was enlisting in the California 500 a no brainer?

CC: Yes, especially after the accident in Antigua and a long refit in San Diego. The boat needs to be pushed to make sure we're reliable and ready for the race to Hawaii.

PD: What do you anticipate for the run from SF to SD?

CC: "We're hoping for the usual conditions and a nice downwinder to San Diego. Seems like plenty of tactical options around the start and finish and some straight line push the boat as hard as you dare type stuff between the Farallon's and the turning mark west of San Diego."

PD: Ironically, the West Coast's longest MOD 70' Orion is on the hard at the moment, but is for sale, any rumors you would like to start on possible buyers?

CC: "It's surprising to us how fun and rewarding these boats are. There is so much speed on offer for pennies on the dollar compared to a maxi-monohull. We're surprised Orion has not been snapped up as well as Race for Water and Spindrift in France. There would be some amazing racing if all 7 of these boats came together again. "

PD: Has there been any communication with Beau Geste team for future events?

CC: None. Believe she is committed to staying in Aisa/NZ/AUS.

PD: Team Argos short term and long term ambitions?

CC: "To keep having fun is our 1st and foremost goal. The MOD campaign will certainly go at least through the end of 2020 and we'll keep sailing the GC 32 as well. Doing well in the Transpac and having a solid season in Europe with the GC cover the short term. Longer term perhaps a Bermuda Race and a Capetown Rio record for the MOD?"


Talking to Power Play's Charlie Ogletree

PD: You have been the boat captain for Tom Seibel's MOD 70 for some time, when did you actually come on board?

CO: I have not sailed on PP yet, but Peter and I agreed to sail together this season this spring.

PD: In that time, you have learned, no doubt, bundles about sailing the beast, that you may not have considered before. Can you give some examples to the MOD 70's unique characteristics? How they handle sea state,gybing in breeze docking etc?-

CO: The hardest part about sailing the boat is docking. Once off the dock the primary word is respect and always alert. The boat is incredibly fun to sail, but requires planning to avoid trouble. Usually when things are getting hairy it is too late and a decision earlier would have been the right move. The alertness required is because you are moving so fast things can change quickly so always knowing the boat speed, heel angle, TWA, foil position, sail combination and sea state is critical. This will allow one to operate the boat safely and at the highest level of performance. Because the boat is so sensitive to adjustments she is very rewarding to sail. Once you go offshore and it gets dark, another level of alertness is required.

PD: Much of Orion's sailing has been against much smaller multi's, and correct us if we are wrong, the closest rival has been Mighty Merloe. This, as far as we can tell is the 1st time Argo, Maserati and Power Play have lined up on the same course under current management. Tell us about your thoughts on finally seeing level competition with the MOD 70's on the West Coast?

CO: It will be awesome. The CA coast is perfect for these machines. SF Bay is too small so to be able to line up 3 MOD 70's and let them stretch their legs in the ocean will be amazing.

PD: Your previous steed, Orion is currently on the hard and shrink wrapped and ready to sell. If 3 Mod 70's competing on the West Coast is cool, How cool would it be for 4 of them?

CO: It would be, however this is not in the plans for Orion as she is for sale.

PD: And if MOD 70 Beau Geste decided to join the party in 2021?

CO: Even better and Mighty Merloe would also be great to race against.

PD: You will be sailing with Damian Foxall, Ned Collier Wakefield, Skip McCormack and Owner Peter Cunningham, for 1st time together as a team, who will be doing what on board? Anticipated shift cycle? Any others to be added?

CO: I have sailed with Damian, Matt Noble, Paul Allen and Skip on Orion many times so we are used to being together. Sailing with Peter and Ned will be a pleasure and looking forward to it. At this stage we have not solidified the positions and rotations, we will do this next week while practicing in the Bay prior to the start.

PD: The transpac crew list has yet to be published, are same crew members anticipated?

CO: Most of the team is the same, however Loick Peyron will fill in for Damian and Simon Fisher for Skip.

PD: This is the 1st time the California 500 will have been run. SF to SD. What is your best guess at a perfect run down the coast?

Flat seas, 18-20 knots NW breeze for a downwind run!

PD: If this all goes well, are their any potential buyers for Orion sitting on the fence that you are aware of?

CO: I hope so as she may be the best MOD out there.

PD: Any pre race, 3 boat practice sessions planned?

CO: Yes, in the Bay the week of the race


This race is part of California Offshore Race Week - see www.offshoreraceweek.com - and includes the CA 500, SoCal 300, Spinnaker Cup and Coastal Cup.

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