I was lucky enough to get invited to spend a day on a Swan 60 which is being prepared for the Nordstream Baltic race
which starts next week.
This boat is not an actual race
boat, but a very expensive and flash performance cruiser. A fleet of them, identical and in semi-racing trim (stripped out interior), was bought by one Russian hydrocarbon company to use for this annual race, which is intended to “spread good will” among Baltic
littoral states, but actually as propaganda in favor of a certain pipeline project
. But never mind – there’s good ocean racing
is a really cool Finnish guy, who currently holds the record
for best time in the ARC
, which he won using an English
I had a wonderful day out with them in sunny, calm weather
, and especially enjoyed watching the superb crew interaction and coordination.
I had mixed feelings about the boat. On the one hand, the performance was thrilling – we saw boat speed in excess of true wind
speed at one point.
The rig was very beautiful – tall thin carbon mast
, carbon rod rigging
, very spare and elegant controls. According to the race rules, the boat carries three non-furling, non-overlapping headsails, an assy, and one roachy mainsail
. The sails
are identical to my sails
– the same carbon laminate, tri-radial cut, with taffeta on both sides (so not truly racing
sails, but the crew love them, they said).
This was my first experience with double wheels on a yacht – I spent some time at the helm
. I liked it. You see much better standing off to one side, and it’s much easier to move around the deck
(I won’t say cockpit
, because the boat didn’t actually have one) without a big wheel
right in the way.
But I absolutely hated the deck
arrangement. There’s not really any cockpit
– just a shallow depression with low benches. Flush deck. So you basically stand on top of the boat. This would be absolutely dreadful in strong weather
. Nothing to hold on to whatsoever, nothing to sit on, nothing to even hide behind. I can’t even imagine beating into a F8 on that boat. What’s worse, the crew said it was a very wet boat, taking tons of water
over the bow in any kind of chop.
And not only was there nothing to hold onto on deck – there’s was nothing to hold on to below, either. The crew had improvised a netting of Dyneema rope
which was attached to the headliner
. This reminds me of the Swan 90 I spent some time on – also impossible to move around below in a seaway.
The sail controls were interesting. The boat has an elaborate hydraulic system which controls almost everything. The vang is one huge hydraulic ram, the jib
tracks are controlled by a hydraulic ram, backstay and outhaul
with still more hydraulic rams, and the main sheet is controlled by a system called “Magic Trim”, which is a big hydraulic ram below decks operating on the single
mainsheet via a reverse-purchase system. No traveler! In order to get the boom above the centerline, the crew had to improvise a tackle (which they grumbled about). No unpowered winches on board and a relatively small number of them – less than the 10 winches on my boat. Halyards led to the cockpit under the deck.
Such a system would cost a huge fortune, and you would be totally screwed if something broke on it. But for this boat’s purpose – sporty sailing or racing, in controlled conditions with a full crew – I guess it’s a pretty nice system. It was beautiful to watch the crew working it, gybing and tacking and doing all kinds of things with perfect coordination, and effortlessly. Incredible control over sail shape despite the lack of a traveler (basically, leech tension is entirely controlled by the massive hydraulic vang, leaving the mainsheet to control only boom angle – which seems to work fine except when you need the boom above the centerline). In controlled conditions, and with an army of skilled mechanics to support it, this boat would be an absolute blast to sail.
In any case, it was a lovely, lovely day out.