The sexy Ker 43 Ptarmigan got new life this winter as anyone who’s seen the well-documented refit thread can attest. Here’s Bill Coates, owner of the new (to him) Otra Vez and his debrief after his first regatta on the boat; Quantum Key West. Onne Van Der Wal photo.
Overall impression of the boat: Wow!
This was my first time to Key West, and my major impression of the town, even during the regatta is that it wasn’t very busy.
We had set some goals for the week, improve every day, win at least one race, and beat Tonnerre boat for boat at least once. Given that we had not sailed together as a team since March 2011 and that a week ago Friday (the 17th) was the first time we sailed Otra Vez these were reasonably ambitious goals. By the end of the week we had achieved them all, although losing the last race by 2 seconds, spoiled a near perfect Friday. We all finished the week excited, happy and wowed by the boat, but also realizing we have to make great strides in our boat handling and crew work to reach our full potential. The one thing we wont do is make any significant changes to the boat. We need to sail her more, understand her modes, and then we will see.
The conditions for the week went from very light on Monday, to rain squall central, to perfect, to breezy, with a bit of chill added in. The first race on Monday was in very light (3-5 knot) conditions and we finished dead last by a LOT. Given the light air pedigree of the boat this was a bit surprising, but in reality these are the most trying conditions when you don’t know the boat. We needed a lighter light #1, the rig was too tight, we had too much backstay (meaning we had the runners on at all), and according to the diver, may have been dragging a crab pot for some of the race as there were rope marks on the keel the next morning. The only upside, it may the “improve” objective much easier.
If you have been following the thread, we went bigger on headsails and kites, changed the mast rake significantly at the suggestion of the the designers and as the breeze picked up we started to see the real benefits of the changes. From 7 knots and up Otra Vez is powered up and she will her targets easily up and down, and the larger kites had us over target most of the time downwind. As the breeze continued to build downwind speed at 140 TWA matched windspeed up to 18 knots. The highest speed we saw was 18.5 knots in 22 knots of TWS. On friday in 19-24 knots, the average speed on the runs was 17 knots. Upwind speeds were at or slightly above target. It is something to be going upwind at 8.9 knots at 35 degrees TWA in 20 knots of wind. We had a heavy crew and with the righting moment provided by the dramatic hull flair she sailed flatter than i expected.
1) She eats line like no boat i have seen. Maybe this is the big boat versus small boat, but going through runner tails, spin sheets, vang strops, etc like candy was a surprise. We changed some cover materials during the week and it seemed to help, but there are a few 600′ reels of line in our future.
2) The understanding of the rig tune is probably the greatest area of potential improvement (and i include the running backstay trim in this).
3) The helm is so balanced that even in breeze that there is almost no “feel” in the steering. It took a little while to get used to. I will say the amount of rudder bite is shocking, there was not a single roundup or near round up for the entire week.
4) Halyard locks are easy to get “on” lock and nearly impossible to get “off” lock. We had to send Huey to the top of the rig to release the mainsail every day after racing. Not a major drama, but a hassle that shouldn’t be necessary. We are pulling the lock from the rig and will see why it works perfectly with no load, but as soon as there is any tension in the halyard it “binds”
5) String drop spinnaker takedowns are about the “little details” and big grinders. I lost count of how many takedown patches we pulled out of the spinnakers. By the end of the week we were better but far from good or confident. The sequence of tack, halyard, sheet, etc is still a bit of a mystery. We took some video belowdecks that we are analysing to make changes to the run to the aft bulkhead.
6) The paint job was worth it. The boat is stunning to see in person and on the water.
7) We started really well, especially the last 3 days. All credit to Jay Lutz for this.
8) Although the band was wide, IRC worked well. The racing was tight on the water and corrected. In the lighter air, the swans did well, and as the breeze picked up the better downwind ability of the ker designs started to work. At the end of the week, 4 of the top 5 in the class were Ker designs, Arethusa, the IRC optimized Swan 42, was the best sailed boat all week and deserved to win.
9) Fast is fun!!!!