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  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

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  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran


From, Multihull International, May 1988 By Captain M J Orr RCT

T CEE is probably the only pink multihull in the UK. People who see the boat for the first time look at this 35ft Banshee catamaran inquisitively. In general, once they recover from the shock of her colour, they admire the styling of the white rig and the grey trim. In Britain one or two look and may ask to have a look around. In France, where people are not as reserved, they look and mutter. If our French cannot answer their queries we refer them to the back beam where in ten inch high letters is written Palamos Performance Multihulls. This either answers their query or they come on board and have a look round. So why was T Cee, an eight-berth cruiser racer, 250 miles from Plymouth competing in one of France’s premier multihull events? Richard Laight, the Managing Director of Palamos Boatbuild, Richard Woods the boat's designer and I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to see how a Banshee shaped up against her French counterparts. Consequently we entered in the cruiser class.

La Trinite Sur Mer and its 600-berth marina is on the northern tip of Quiberon Bay. This beautiful cruising area of sheltered waters has such delights as La Morbihan and La Belle Ile on its doorsteps. For the multihulls it has flat water as its principal delight. The racing was divided into four main classes. Class 1 was for the grand prix racers. Though subdivided into two groups, those over 60 feet and those under, the boats started together. Jet Services and Saab. Turbo dominated this class; however there was to be close racing between the three Nigel Irens designs; Fuiicolor, Fleury Michon and Laiterie Mnt St. Michel. Lado Poch, who had been trimmed down to size for the CStar was also there competing against the new trimaran Elf Aquitaine and the futuristic We, recently renamed Sebago. With such an array of talented skippers and beautiful boats it was hardly surprising that these dominated proceedings.

Class 2 was also divided into two groups, Chaffoteaux Et Mourry as the sole Formula 40 in one, and all the performance multihulls except the micro multihulls in the other. This included the Formula 28’s which have proved very popular in France but have not caught on elsewhere. The sole British entrant in this class was Peter Hopps’ Triple Fantasy, which was doing this event as part of her preparation for the CStar.

Class 3 was for the cruisers of whatever size, which ranged from a 50ft catamaran sponsored by a catering equipment manufacturer to a Bobcat. Class 4 was. for the micro multihulls –an ever expanding class of boats under 26 ft in length and with basic accommodation. Having suffered a 48 hour beat to reach La Trinite, we were disappointed to have missed the race briefing. However it being in French we probably would not have learned a great deal. The 22 pages of closely typed French on A4, complete with course diagrams endeared us to our French/English dictionary for the first evening.

From it we deduced that our start was at 10.45 the following morning. Regrettably we found La Trinite to be very quiet and the atmosphere of a great sailing festival sadly lacking. Having sailed in France before, we should have anticipated a delayed start to any racing. We had not realised that this would amount to 40 minutes. However, we stooged around and marveled at the Class 1 boats as they. Effortlessly worked their way around the starting area. Also impressive was the finish of virtually all the boats present, many of which were sponsored. The paint jobs and sails were beautiful. However, in our start, the general knowlege of the rules was most disappointing. The logic of several boats’ approach to the line defeated us, particularly one small trimaran whose aluminium took a liking to pink gelcoat and whose skipper got a very direct English lesson.

Despite crossing the line a little later than intended, we tacked clear of the line into clear air and settled into a windward beat in 15 knots of wind, to watch the majority of our class disappear into our wake. Four miles later we rounded the mark second to a well-sailed Newick trimaran and amidst the Formula 28s who had started 10 minutes before us. The course as set was 45nm, but with high pressure settling into southern France the shorter course was quite welcome some six hours later. The only boats that finished anywhere near us, were the Newick tri with whom we had had a great race and Orco, a micromultihull foiler tri who had started with us.

We won our class by 32 minutes. Triple Fantasy had had equal success winning her class on elapsed time. We found the free bar in the Europe One hospitality tent and quietly celebrated our success with typical British reserve. A little the worse for wear we tried to find the corrected time result some three hours later to be told that there were still boats out on the race course!

Day Two was similar to day one; late start, long course, little breeze and Class I boats churning up water everywhere. That is a little unfair, they silently and almost effortlessly went about their business but their sponsors power boats, helicopters, microlights and inflatables went with them everywhere. How the skippers could concentrate on their sailing was bewildering. Every tack, gybe and, dare one say it, mistake was filmed and some of it for TV that evening. Such is sponsorship! We led our class throughout and had built up a 20-minute lead at the last mark of the inevitably shortened course. The ten-mile run to the finish saw us, with the Formula 28s, sail into a hole. The wind came from astern and the 50ft cat, sponsored by the catering firm, pipped us at the line. Her 3000 sq.ft. spinnaker dwarfed our 1200 sq.ft. masthead spi and her ten seconds victory was translated into a 12 minute win on corrected time. The logic of her handicap defeated us - still this was France. We and this cat shared 1st place on points which left everything to race for on the final day.

The final race was an Olympic course with Class 1 doing a super Olympic course but within close proximity to the rest of the fleet. Sailing seemed more popular than church going in La Trinite and small boats were everywhere despite the thick fog. Undeterred the race committee started the race with the customary delay. How anyone found the small yellow spherical buoy that served as the windward mark, I do not know. Needless to say we made the mistake of sailing away from the fleet hoping we would find it first. We did not and the mist cleared behind us allowing the remainder of our class to find the mark before us.

Despite this setback we completed the course, most of it in the mist, 20 minutes behind the boat we had to beat to win the series. However the racing was livened up by the spectacle of the Class 1 boats charging around the course. It was a fantastic sight. Jet Services appeared several times with the top of her mast stuck in the mist and her enormous spi dominating all we could see. It was majestic.

When we got back to the marina we hurried to the prize giving to find that we were too late. Even though there were still boats out on the race course the prize giving went ahead and eventually we found out that we had come second in our class. How this was calculated remains a mystery as we had only just completed our declaration. Though not explained at the time, the committee had decided to calculate the results on elapsed time and not on corrected time. What chance this gave the Bobcat and the Quest 33 I do not know. It all left a sour taste. We eventually picked up a bottle of champagne, box of biscuits and bag of junk and departed.

Having paid our Euro70 to enter, we felt that little if anything had been done to make us at all welcome. The event was geared up for the Class 1 boats, all of the social functions started when they tied up at their moorings, which gave few of the other competitors a chance to enjoy the atmosphere their presence created.

We were left with the impression that the French are not the multihull experts they might presume they have become. Their beautiful looking racing boats, particularly the Formula 28s and the micromultihulls, have a poor windward performance and are not particularly fast off the wind. Their cruising boats are painfully slow. Very few boats were well sailed and their beautiful, expensive sails were generally poorly trimmed. So fellow British multihull sailors take heart and try to join us in competing against the French in their multihull races, helping to demonstrate the proliferation of good British multihull design and construction we currently enjoy.

I think that because multihulls often race against monohulls in this country our sailing skills are sharpened, particularly to windward. However, T Cee and Triple Fantasy did well as did Nigel Irens, as Fujiicolor one of his designs, won the 60ft class. Richard Laight and I managed to blow out the blues La Trinite had left us with by sailing back the 300nm to Plymouth in just under 36 hours. Apart from a marvelous sail it also enabled us to complete our qualifier for the Yachting Monthly Triangle. Regrettably we might have brought this to under 30 hours had the wind not dropped in mid Channel and we had to use the outboard iron genoa to complete the last 40nm of our trip home at a rather sedate 6 knots such is multihull sailing!