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Building beasts: Jason Carrington on AC75s and IMOCA 60s

by 22 Apr 2020 03:42 PDT
AC75 Britannia - INEOS Team UK - training at their winter base camp in Cagliari, Italy - February 2020 © Lloyd Images

French website and sailing newsletter Tip & Shaft talks with world renowned boat builder Jason Carrington, who has had something of a dream order book since setting up Carrington Boats in November 2017.

They kicked off with the Carkeek designed Fast40 Rán, the new IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss for Alex Thomson Racing, INEOS' UK's Britannia as well as their nearing completion AC75 boat 2. Also currently in the works are part-completed Ocean Race IMOCA 60 which is currently on hold but which may become available. But with over 60 on the payroll at its recent peak, a big challenge is ahead of Carrington. Tip & Shaft spoke with Jason.

The INEOS boat is the only one you are working on right now?

Yes, it is. We have got an IMOCA boat here which is sort of half built but we're not really working on that at the moment. We're chatting to those guys today actually but at the moment we are full steam ahead.

What's the status of that Ocean Race boat? The hull is complete, about a third of the structure is in it, and all of the structure is built. We haven't started the deck yet. The deck mould is here.

But this Ocean Race IMOCA is on hold is it?

Yes, it's on hold I guess is the best way to describe it.

As it stands it is not available to any other team or owner supposing they wanted it? No, not yet but that is sort of where we are trying to get to really. And this boat would still be very tempting, for someone to do The Ocean Race, cause it's a long way into its build. So, if you wanted a new Imoca boat for The Ocean Race it's probably your only chance I would say. You could probably scramble a boat together out of an existing mould, but time is ticking.

Tell us about the new AC75 Cup boats in general. What is the complexity that challenges you as a builder, compared with the 50s for example? They're just a lot more technical to build. This time teams are basically on their own to do whatever they want, and it's ended up with some very racy, intricate and very light laminates and structural solutions so they're very complicated boats to build. Very refined laminates, lots of patching, lots of core chain, a myriad of different cores in the hulls decks and even bulkheads so they're very difficult to build.

Are they the most difficult thing you have built?

I would say so, yes, I think they are. Definitely, and of course with a Cup boat it's very much hand to mouth. They're very much designed as you go. We get drawings every day, we have new drawings today. We probably got some last night and we will be doing that stuff tomorrow. You don't get a lot of time to digest it. We are very much a part of the team in terms of how you build stuff, we have regular chats with those guys in terms of how to make stuff and what materials we could use. That works well but it is still challenging because we're up against it and things change quite rapidly.

Talk to us a little about the Hugo Boss repair, what did you learn from that in terms of future reliability for the Vendée?

It was interesting. I think the Imoca boats are very light boats when you compare them to a Volvo 65. Probably a good Imoca boat, the structural weight of the composite box is around two tonnes, that's sort of where you are aiming to be. If you looked at a Volvo 65, I don't know but probably I would suspect that it's well over three and a half tonnes. It's a big difference. The rules around them, you can be a lot racier. Particularly around the keel structure, it's not as defined as the Volvo used to be. Again it's open to interpretation, different engineers and designers can push that as hard as they want to push it really. So, they are quite fragile in that area but looking at Hugo Boss when she came back, it was pretty sad to see how she looked. It was also pretty unusual to look at a boat like that. Its not often you get to see a boat like that, that has had a lot of impact. You could understand how it had broken, why it had broken. It was good to see it had responded to the impact like it should have. Certainly with the rebuild they have gone quite a bit stronger than it was before. That's a choice by the team. I would guess that certainly in the keel structure area now it would be a lot stronger than any other Imoca boat.

What are the step changes in the Imoca construction from your perspective as a builder?

Well I think that Finot boat that we built for Alex at the time and this one have always been quite a cutting edge boats. It's what is so cool about the Imoca boats, they were always quite cutting edge have become more and more cutting edge. Certainly now, I just said that the Cup boat is challenging to build and it is. The Imoca boat is not as refined in terms of really light laminates but it is still very tricky in terms of around the foil area the structure is huge. It's not particularly complicated but of course there are lots of processes, there are huge loads going through those foils. Big slamming loads on the boats, you still have the water ballast tank loads to deal with. They're very fiddly boats to build and probably the biggest challenge is that foil area. You start working on that when you start fitting primary structure and I think we were working on it right up until two weeks before the boats went out. It just goes on and on and on. There is a lot of structure in the hull and structure in the deck, structure in between, the box, all the bearing attachments. It's a monty really. Very interesting and very cool but certainly a challenge. Probably that Finot boat we built in nine months including tooling, nine or ten months. These boats now we were given a year from hull lines and it was more like thirteen and a half months. I think that's the same with all the other builders too, the French and Persico are finding the same thing. They're just very complicated. I think if anyone said they could build one in a year I would say 'I'm not sure you can'. At least not to be sailing it reliably.

For the rest of this interview click here

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