Sailing's Biggest Names Gather in Cowes to Launch the New Fast40+ Fleet

Some of the biggest names in sailing gathered in Cowes for the first Fast40+ class regatta, supported by Quantum Sails’ new loft in Hamble. Bill Coates’s Otra Vez, the only Quantum boat in the class, closed out the series in first place by six points.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club hosted the first regatta of the brand new Fast40+ class over Easter weekend in Cowes. Bill Coates’s Quantum-powered Ker 43 Custom Otra Vez finished the series on top, the only Quantum boat in the regatta.

The Fast40+ class was conceived two years ago by Rob Greenhalgh. His idea was to create a box rule for 40-foot grand prix racing boats with an IRC rating between 1.210 and 1.270. A number of boats already fell into the bracket naturally, and several more have been built especially to fit into the class. The RORC Easter Challenge served as the first test for what is expected to be an extremely exciting class.

Coates, an American based in Europe, bought the Ker 43 Ptarmigan, re-christening it Otra Vez. After racing the boat for a year in big events like Key West, the Caribbean 600, and the Middle Sea Race, the boat ended up in Europe. Coates was intrigued by the opportunity of the new Fast40+ class and brought the boat to the U.K.

The boat had to be modified to fit the box rule—it was too fast. The simplest way to do that was to reduce the spinnaker sail area by 20 square meters; no other changes to the working sails or displacement were needed. 

“The boat has performed very well. Bill thought he might loose some of his downwind performance with the new spinnaker but found that they were very quick downwind and were able to sail to their rating, which was exciting for them and opened up a few new doors,” says Quantum VP Farley Fontenot.

Otra Vez can now simply reconfigure and re-measure to amend thier rating to switch between Fast40+ class racing and IRC racing. 

The Fast40+ class races with an owner/driver rule and a limit of five category three sailors. The Otra Vez crew was made up of several veterans of the Volvo Ocean Race including Steve Hayles, Luke Molloy, and Phil Harmer of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. For the vast majority of the crew, it was their first regatta on the boat and the first time they’d sailed together. 

“We’d not done a days training; it was straight into it,” says Quantum’s Tom Gall. “We had a very strong crew, but all of the boats were very competitive. There were a few boats that had some really big names.”

Those names include Sir Keith Mills, the main man behind Ben Ainslie Racing, sailing his Ker 40+ Invictus, and former TP52 owner Johnny Vincent now sailing the Ker 40+ Pace. Other owners have come from a variety of classes including the J/109 and Corby 36.

While racing took place off the Isle of Wright, many of the boats were based on the mainland. Quantum’s newest affiliate loft in Hamble provided service for Otra Vez as well as a number of other boats in the class during the regatta.

Pre-race preparation played a key role in Otra Vez’s success. Leading up to the regatta, Gall and Hamble loft General Manager John Reivers did a full sail survey. They measured all the sails, made any needed recuts, battened the sails, and put them back on board. Racing in Cowes can be a very wet experience and throughout the regatta Otra Vez’s sails were brought to the loft each night to dry out for the next day and make any needed repairs.

“What was clear from the weekend was that Bill, Otra Vez, had a very high level of service from the Quantum team here in the U.K. He was well looked after,” says Gall.

“We’re very excited about being a Quantum affiliate. Not only are they great sails, but we can back them up with a world-class level of service that you really can’t get anywhere else in this area.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the service I’ve been getting from Quantum in both the States and in England,” says Coates.

There were 10 boats representing the U.S., U.K., Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, and Ireland in this first test. The excitement surrounding the new class has left very few boats, if any, on the market that fit the box rule. There are several more boats still in build, which are expected to join the class as the season goes on.

The racing format was changed up each day during the three-day regatta, with windward-leeward racing on Friday, round the cans orienteering on Saturday, and reverse leeward-windward racing on Sunday.

“With 35 knots of breeze behind us, we had probably the ride of the year heading down to the bottom mark in that first race on Sunday,” says Gall.

There are 10 regattas on the 2016 calendar so far, made up of Fast40+ regattas, and others in which there will be a Fast40+ class start. The next tests will be at the Warsash Spring Champs hosted by the Warsash Sailing Club mid-April, and the Vice Admiral’s Cup, round 1 of the Fast40+ Points Series championship, starting May 20 in Cowes.


We apologize for any confusion that was caused by a previous version of this article stating that "Otra Vez now carries two ratings and can easily switch between the two for Fast 40+ class racing or IRC racing." This was worded incorrectly and we understand that Otra Vez must re-measure and amend their rating in order to switch between the two types of racing.

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