Sailing on Class 40

Thanks to Mick Liddy, Mark Pollock and the owner of the boat Mark Lepesqueux for inviting me for a sail on

Mark knows his stuff and has an impressive track record in the Figaro Class as well as participations in the Transat Jacques Vabre and other famous offshore races. He currently prepares his boat and finalises his campaign for the Route du Rhum 2010 next November (more info on his website here

As I had been staring at the boat for a week on the pontoon, I was pretty excited when the brain new sail was hoisted for sea trials…well, that is no mainsail like any I’ve seen before.
It’s a near perfect rectangle and has no tell tales on the leech but all along the upper part sail, so it took a little adaptation to set it upwind.
Now, with 18knts true wind and no headsail, could that speedo indicating 8 – 8.5knts upwind be true? That would mean probably 11-12knts upwind in a 40 footer!!!

Also, I was convinced I was stuffing it into the wind all the time judging by the windex, but everytime I bore away a little, the boat just heeled more and slowed…so I asked Mark Lepesqueux what kind of angles he usually  achieves upwind…the answer came to my great disbelief: 22 to 23 degrees to the true wind. No wonder I thought I was stuffing it!!!

What else? Oh yeah, how about downwind you say? Well, Mick goes forward, shouts a few orders to Mark Pollock on the pit, up goes the sock, bang goes the kite, and eh presto a solid 16knts downwind…sweet :-)

So we know it’s fast, I can tell you also it’s bear and spartan down below but you would have guessed, great exciting boat then!!!!

Not so I’m afraid.

Now, admittedly, I am used to fling my 1200kg Brenta 24 from tack to tack turning in half it’s own length and it’s been a long time I haven’t helmed a 40 footer, but surely there was more feel on the helm of the last generation Oceanis 45 than this!!!  The beast felt like helming an old gaffer or a Galway Hooker (well I assume it feels like that since I’ve never helmed any of these).

It was heavy, unresponsive, slow to tack (we took it slow anyway since we had Mark L. up at the top of the mast where he seems to be very happy spending most of his spare time checking stuff and tensions) and had little feel in the helm, maybe due to all that remotely controlled self-pointing-self-tacking-self-bearing-away-self-selfing-self-steering  mechanical stuff.

On the positive side, once it gets going, it’s like a train on tracks, so all in all, it does exactly what it says on the tin: fast deep water passage making in safety.

Would I buy one if I won the lotto? Maybe…if I had €140K (that’s second hand tuned first generation class 40 we are talking here – like  this Jumbo 40 well optimised by Mark with a new keel design and deck layout) but more importantly, if I was living in France where there’s a circuit for Class 40s…

…because, in the IRC sailing world that we live in, I believe rates – wait for it…………………………….. 1.260!!!!! Ouach that hurts :-(

FYI the Andrews 56 pictured here rate 1.260

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