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Volvo Ocean Race: 1st – 2nd – 3rd – 4th – 5th – 6th
Clean Sweep for KZ RaceFurlers

Think for a moment about all those pictures of Volvo Ocean racers with tonnes of water bursting over the bow and sweeping down the deck. Then consider that in fast reaching conditions the first item of gear to experience that destructive force for hour after hour, day after day is the A-sail furling drum.

In the most recent race, all the boats used KZ Marine’s RaceFurlers and came through the marathon ordeal with flying colours. The small New Zealand-based company has carved an impressive niche in one of the most demanding areas of formula one type grand prix racing.

On yachts as powerful and as understaffed as a Volvo 70 at full cry in the Southern Ocean, the premium is on reliability. A jammed gennaker or jib top with a 50-knot squall bearing down in the middle of the night does not bear thinking about. Crews came to rely on the ability to carry these powerful sails in extreme conditions in the knowledge that hauling on the furling line would tame the beast in no time – every time.

Company managing director Rick Hackett confesses to some sleepless nights during the race, but is proud of the way the RaceFurlers stood up to their hammering. “In reality, those furling drums out on the end of the bowsprit are being subjected to extreme pressures.

“We build a line of defence to protect the working parts, but when you think about it, it is like constantly attacking the unit with a powerful waterblaster and asking a small seal to keep the water out.

When the fleet came into Auckland, New Zealand at the halfway point of the race, KZ RaceFurlers stood by to service all their units. Because the stopover was so short, this was like a Formula One pitstop, with the company working at full speed to strip, check and maintain the furlers. “We basically had two days before the boats wanted to be out sailing again,” says Hackett.

Development work also continued during the race. With an attention to detail that eventually took them to the front of the fleet, the French Groupama team put in a request for custom furlers fabricated in titanium.

“They were looking for an ultimate furler. These will now be added to our product list as Xtreme Series RaceFurlers,” says marketing manager Keryn McMaster. “They are significantly lighter, stronger and therefore smaller than equivalent stainless steel units.”

KZ RaceFurlers customize products for teams and pay close attention to the bowmen who ply their trade at the pointy end and have particular ways of organizing their narrow domains. “Because all our components are modular, we can interchange connection systems to suit the individual preferences of different bowmen,” notes McMaster.

Switching to the America’s Cup, KZ RaceFurlers are already on all the AC45 catamarans and the company is dealing with a number of syndicates on their inventories for the big AC72s. Check it.