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How to Optimize a One Design Boat for ORC Racing

May 27, 2016

One Design boats often take a big hit when sailed, according to performance handicap rules due to oversized or undersized sails. Quantum recently helped German Fuchs optimize his J/111 for ORC racing in South America, and the changes made could be applied to any boat in the category.

A J/111 races with a handicap in Newport, RI.

When the J/111 was first introduced by J/Boats, German Fuchs says he was immediately impressed with its speed and ease of handling. He bought a J/111, named Challwa, which he sails regularly with his family in the summer and races year-round. But Challwa is currently the only J/111 in South America, and in order to be competitive against much larger, higher-powered boats like the Soto 48 and Sydney 46, he had to optimize the one-design boat for ORC racing.

Fuchs worked with Kerry Klingler, head of Quantum’s J/Boat division to develop new sails and refit some of the boat’s hardware to take advantage of the ORC rating. The full quiver of sails includes three jibs—a #1, #2, and a heavy-weather #4—the jib top, A2 and A3 spinnakers, the Code 0, and spinnaker staysail.

“Overall, we created a great sail inventory with no holes in wind direction or strength. All these things added up to make the boat far more competitive under the ORC racing rule,” said Klingler.

A similar sail inventory would improve performance in point-to-point distance racing for any boat in the same size range as the J/111. Here’s how they did it:

Mainsail

Class mainsails can be oversized for optimal handicap racing, and this can significantly affect your handicap rating. Small features in class sails can add to the penalties in handicap racing, but it is easy to work with your sailmaker to make a custom sail that will optimize your speed and rating.

For the J/111, the class mainsail is cut with oversized girths, which incur a substantial penalty in handicap racing. “We designed a main for the J/111 specifically for ORC racing with the maximum girth that would not add to the penalty,” said Klingler.

Hardware

A lot of the hardware that comes standard on many One Design boats add unnecessary weight, or in the case of the J/111, the heavy Facnor furling headstay lifted the tack high off the deck and made headstay adjustments difficult. Look into different hardware options and think about the conditions you’ll need to optimize for; offshore handicap racing has different needs than an inshore course.

We replaced the standard J/111 Facnor furling headstay with a Harken Carbo Racing Foil with an adjustable turnbuckle to make it easy to adjust the headstay for different conditions and reduce the weight on the bow to add to the performance of the boat.

Headsails

In class racing, a boat is set up to sail windward-leeward courses, while in distance racing, all points of sail need to be addressed. This may require a larger headsail inventory to be competitive and ensure you can optimize for the offshore conditions.

The jibs for the J/111 were redesigned with glass battens, since they would be used without a furler. The Challwa now has the class 1, 2, heavy weather 4 with glass battens and added a jib top for heavy air reaching conditions. The #1 can be carried in up to 14 knots depending on the sea state; the range of the #2 is from 12 – 24 knots and the #4 is good for 22 – 30 knots.

Spinnakers

The biggest changes that you will likely want to make are in your downwind sail inventory.  Spinnakers are not always sized optimally for the boat and a simple change in this area can make a big difference in your rating and make you significantly more competitive. Much like the headsails, you will need to account for angles that you might not run into in windward-leeward courses.

Make sure you have a good spinnaker for reaching and consider a Code 0 for light air reaching, it can make a big difference in who crosses the finish first. In addition to a robust downwind inventory, consider a spinnaker staysail on a top-down furler. The spinnaker staysail can make it possible to keep the Code 0 up even if the wind backs 15 degrees.  Also with other Asymmetricals, the spinnaker staysail can be used effectively all the way down to 145 degrees apparent and still adds a fair amount of speed to the boat.

“For Challwa, the staysail made a huge difference reaching, adding as much as three quarters of a knot to the boat speed,” said Klingler. “And the top-down furler made it super easy to set and handle.”

The J/111 class asymmetrical spinnakers are undersized for the boat and its rating. “By increasing the size of the A2 by more than 20 square meters, the boat was much more competitive running downwind than with the class spinnaker,” Klingler said.

With a class A2, a J/111 can plane in around 25 knots of breeze depending on the sea state. With the bigger sail, the Challwa crew has found they can plane in as little as 21 knots. “When you get the boat on the plane you can go four knots faster than in displacement mode, so it’s really adventageous to have the bigger sail,” said Klingler.

They also refined the sizing of the A3 for downwind reaching, and added a Code 0 designed to be used on the fully extended bowsprit for light air reaching. “The addition of the code 0 made the boat a weapon in the right conditions,” said Klingler.

To optimize the Code 0, they added bobstay on a shock-cord uptake to the sprit, which helped support the pole and add tension to the luff.

Conclusion

Just because you don’t have a fleet in your area doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive with your One Design boat. Working with your sailmaker to optimize the above components for offshore handicap racing can make a huge difference and help get you to the podium.

“We have developed a very nice set of sails to perform well in the ORR class,” says Fuchs. Indeed, Fuchs and his crew took home the gold medal for best overall performance in the 2015 Peruvian Offshore Series.

Challwa now carries two rating rules—Fuchs kept the class sails and hardware and could convert the boat back and be re-measured for class racing if he ever wanted to sail in a J/111 one-design fleet.

The Discussion