No plain sailing
GO BY SEA: Joining the crew of one of the fastest sailing boats in the world is a truly different way to travel. SIMON TIERNEYjumped on board the ‘Spindrift’ in Brest for a hair-raising taster
"SIGN HERE,” she says. I scan the document. It is a disclaimer. Now I am worried. I tighten the belt on my life jacket. I am about to board a sailing boat. Not just any sailing boat.
This is one of the fastest sailing boats in the world. The MOD 70 is a new multihull class that has quickly become one of the most exciting racing machines in sailing. I am in Brest, France, to experience the MOD 70 first hand, in advance of their arrival in Dublin as part of the European Tour of the Multi One Championship. The speed and majesty of these elegant racing machines will be a unique event when they come to Dun Laoghaire.
I am spending a few hours on Spindrift, the winner of the Krys Ocean Race, a 2,950 mile dash across the North Atlantic, from New York to Brest. It completed the task in just over four days and 21 hours, arriving in Brest just a few days before I hop on for a taster. As I board the 70ft long boat I am handed a helmet. This is my second indication that I am not on an ordinary sailing boat. We will be going fast. Very fast.
There are six crew members, all with their own roles, from trimming the sails to helmsman. Our French skipper, Yann Guichard, is a former Olympian and America’s Cup World Series sailor. He is calm and collected which bodes well for the next few hours. The MOD 70 is designed to be big and light. Everything is economised with minimum clutter. There are only two bunks. During the Atlantic crossing, four crew members would sail while two got some rest, on a four-hour rotation.
I ask Léo Lucet, one of Spindrift’s French crew members, what makes the MOD 70 so special. They are “built in exactly the same design, in the same place and by the same people,” he says. Because they are monotypes, it is the quality of the sailing that counts, not outspending each other on equipment.
As soon as we are out in the Celtic Sea, off Brest, the sails are hoisted to the top of the 95ft mast. I relax. Things seem calmer than I expected. The sails are luffing and we’re stationary, pleasant. I take some photos of the other MOD 70’s next to us in the bay. The skipper shifts the boat to port and the sails fill. I am jolted backwards. The acceleration on the MOD 70 is quite extraordinary. As we rapidly increase our speed, the starboard side is lifted out of the water, leaving only one of the three hulls in contact with the sea. We are soaring eight feet above the ocean.