We grabbed Doyle NZ principal and Volvo Ocean Race winner Moose Sanderson for another in a long line of Sailing Anarchy Innerviews with the offshore superstar; this time, just after his Line Honors and CSA overall win at last week’s Caribbean 600 aboard Hap Fauth’s Mini-Maxi Bella Mente. As usual, he’s the real deal and always straight up with the Anarchists, and he’s got plenty to share. This is a good one.
SA: The Caribbean 600 has become one of the best-regarded races in the world in a short time. Is this your first one? What did you think of the unique course?
MS: This is my second Carib 600, I did it last year with Hap and the Team on Bella, last year we also had a great race except we got hosed on the back side of Guadeloupe and flopped around for two hours, and ended up losing the race by 5 minutes on corrected time. This year we really wanted to leave no stone unturned, so we (Ian Moore in particular) did a huge amount of work looking into how we could lower the risk of getting stuck and this time we had a dream run after executing our plan. The race is fantastic, it is for sure one of the most challenging races you can do if you choose to sail it at high intensity; 600 miles is a tough length on a very quick boat, because it’s a full-on sprint with a vague hope of a cat-nap hear or there. Throw in solid trade winds and ten or so turning marks that double as islands, and it is a VERY busy race track. I have to say for me it is up there as one of my favorites!
SA: Tell us what it was like to sail with one of our favourite all-time sailors, Terry Hutchinson? He’s not known as an offshore guy – how’d he adjust to the Bella Mente?
MS: Terry did the Maxi Worlds with us last year and fit in well from the get-go. We’ve always run the afterguard on Bella as a very strong team, we are all big boys and have great conversations as to who’s strengths are best utilised in the different regattas. Our little team is made up of Terry, John Cutler, and me and then Ian Moore who always navigates. The rest of us do quite a bit of juggling around with Terry getting the nod when it comes to the inshore tactical role, John doing great work at filling those shoes when Terry isn’t with us (and also the guy who helps Hap get off the start line before slipping into a Strategist’s role), while I take a more leading role when we are offshore and then slip into a “crew boss” role for the day races as well as relief helming for Hap. It all works very well.
Terry was great to sail with offshore, as offshore racing has become more and more intense especially in a race like this one, the difference between inshore and offshore styles has closed right down. We try and maintain a very high intensity when racing offshore on Bella and that suits Terry well. Great tactician, gets a lot out of his guys and a super fast driver! Whats there not to love?
SA: You and the Rambler traded places and battled the whole time for line honors, with Shockwave just behind but close enough to take the IRC trophy. Can you take us through your race? Was it as exciting in person as it seemed from the tracker and occasional updates from the course?
MS: The big surprise for us was that we where in fact able to race with Rambler boat for boat! To be honest, I am not sure what was going on there, upwind and downwind she was quicker and then reaching we had an edge. To be fair though, it was Guadeloupe and all the work there that got us past them, and from there they where slowly chipping back into us, especially upwind.
Until Guadeloupe we had not only been trading the overall lead with Rambler, but had also been trading IRC overall with Shockwave and the much smaller Privateer. After Guadeloupe we had a really good beat and then just hauled ass down the reach (well most of it, anyway) to the laid mark under Barbuda, at one stage stretching out to a twenty mile lead over Shockwave and a very healthy IRC overall lead. Unfortunately, in a very black night we sailed into a very black cloud and went to leading Shockwave by 20 to leading by just 5 with just two legs to go! They did well to put themselves in a position to pounce, but our toast landed butter-side down in that cloud, that’s for sure.
SA: Doyle is really making a name for itself up at the very top level of big boat racing as proven by this race itself; the start photo we posted last week from the 600 had three Doyle-equipped boat out of four maxis, which is a big change from a few years ago. What’s been the secret to building this kind of strength so quickly?
MS: It was a nice photo from Tim Wright that you’re referring to, that’s for sure – with Doyle sails on Bella and IDEA and then Shockwave and Caro with full Doyle inventories. It’s been a VERY long time since we have seen any other sail maker break into the North world in big racing boats, but the fact of the matter is that Doyle is making great sails and that benefits everyone. Look back at that photo and you’ll see two very happy owners with full Doyle packages, and then a very happy owner on Bella who loves to see North and Doyle pushing each other around to get faster. I have no doubt that the North designs have gotten better because we’ve been there as a pain their ass, and when we can get a chance to shine on a new boat, we give it everything we’ve got. AT the end of the day, our product is good and that makes it a lot easier! In Superyachts we continue to kick plenty of ass, and now that we’ve gotten more traction in big racing yachts, we’re becoming more fashionable amongst the superyachts as racing sails. All in all, I’m very happy with Doyle’s progress, and with ICE starting to pop and allowing us to increase the modulus of our grand prix sails by 20-30 per cent without giving up durability, it’s only going to get better.
SA: With some of these maxi and mini-maxi boats getting almost multihull fast, what kind of major developments are proving to be game changers in those fleets? What’s not fast?
MS: One of the big things which we are seeing in big, quick IRC boats is the decision to go with conventional gennakers or the decision to go “non-spinnaker”, which enables you to sail un-restricted mid-girth wise on your code sails. The most obvious display of this lately was between the two Volvo 70’s in the Hobart Race, even though Black Jack beat Giacomo over the line she placed well behind her on IRC as Giacomo was classified as “non-spinnaker”. For offshore races like the Caribbean 600, Bella Mente, for example, has a higher probability of winning by sailing with a non-spinnaker rating because there is so much reaching. Under the rule, you pay a big penalty for the massive code zeros, but you get a big credit for not having any running gennakers. The secret to this working (or not) is how quick the boat is. Obviously big multihulls don’t have flying sails, while big IOR boats had spinnaker poles – somewhere in the middle you can get away with losing the kites and it will improve IRC results. Where that line is? We don’t know yet. Somewhere around mini-maxi, apparently!
SA: You had a pretty high-profile customer with the Team Australia trimaran. How did you like sailing a big multihull? Is there any chance the major down under races like the Hobart will open up to multihulls anytime soon?
MS: The Team Aus Tri was some of the most fun yachting I have done for ages! Coastal Classic upwind is normally a real pain, but sitting on 19.4 knots at 42 TWA has pretty big appeal! Owner Sean Langman is a very good yachtie and so he is safe in this style of boat, I guess the issue is how do you stop guys who shouldn’t do a Hobart in a racing trimaran if you open it up to all comers? There is no doubt that they are more dangerous then a monohull in the wrong hands. Curved foils make them quite a bit safer, and with more of these displacement-carrying foils entering the game, maybe they will continue to get safer and safer. I do think the Hobart should allow multihulls to be part of the race, but I also think entering crews and boats should be well proven before being allowed into the fleet on Boxing Day.
SA: With every New Zealander glued to their TVs for the America’s Cup and now an Australian AC challenge with a pretty good chance of doing well, has there been much of an infusion of multihull interest down under? You have any cool multihull projects on the horizon? Will we see Doyles on any AC teams like you had going with the Team Korea folks?
MS: We enjoyed our association with Team Korea, and of course we offered our loft and services to ETNZ for the last cup. If the Cup had come back to NZ it would have obviously been huge for us with the superyacht side of the business, but I am not sure we will focus too much attention on getting amongst the Cup teams. It takes a huge amount of resources and doesn’t really have any trickle-down benefits to the vast majority of our customers. Doyle NZ has a share in one of the Team New Zealand’s SL 33 catamarans, so we have some fun coming up learning to master proper foiling around the harbor. We’re also building Doyle Stratis blanks for Glen Ashby’s A-Class sails, so we’ll be ramping that up more after he and his boys dominated the A-Class Worlds here last month.
SA: You had a fantastic relationship with Alex Thomson when he brought a previous generation Hugo Boss to an unlikely and hard-fought podium finish in the Vendee Globe using a full set of Doyle sails. Now we hear you’ve got two Open 60s running Doyle ICE for the next Vendee. Can you tell us what challenges and opportunities this presents for you, and how the competition is shaping up? Will we ever see you back in the Open 60?
MS: It’s not for me to talk too much about Alex’s program, but it would be fair to say that we are VERY happy how it has all worked out. There could be as many as four or five Doyle Stratis boats on the start line for the next Vendee, which would of course be huge for us. In an older, heavier boat in the last Vendee, Alex just couldn’t afford to run conservative, heavy sails full of spectra like some did. He was adamant that the gear we did for him played a very big part in his result. The future is exciting for us in this arena and of course the racing is spectacular.
SA: The Volvo Ocean Race caught plenty of flack for the move to one-design boats, but both we and you were big supporters of that move and it seems to have paid off. The one-design sail requirements with all boats required to run North sails, not so much. As a previous winner of the race and now a sailmaker locked out of the race, what do you think this requirement does to the performance of the boats? Does the Volvo 65 suffer from a lack of sail development, or is North up to the task?
MS: Yes I did believe that the Volvo Race needed to go one-design for this and the next cycle at least, and I agree it does look like this has paid off. If it’s true as you guys reported last week that ETNZ and Nico are going to be in the race that gives it a MASSIVE boost.
When the skippers and team CEOs of the last Volvo race met in Lisbon after Knut’s presentation, the group unanimously agreed to go one-design on boats and unanimously voted to NOT go for one-design sails, instead opting to choose tightly restricted sails and open sailmakers – so it would be fair to say that a lot of people where pretty disappointed with the news that the race was going one-design sails. Lots of people have missed out, not only just other brands of sail lofts, but other lofts inside the designated one-design sailmaker – for example, North Sails New Zealand has made sails for every Whitbread and Volvo since 1985, so I’m sure they were pretty disappointed not to be involved at all with the whole project going to North Sails France, who only recently got back into the race with Groupama. So to answer your question, yes the Volvo 65 will suffer from there not being any sail development, of course Norths are up to it if they had to be, but they don’t. “It’s all the same, so who cares, right?” Well, it’s not the right deal for the Volvo Race, if you ask me.
SA: Back to the VOR, you’ve had a chance to see who the teams are now – can you give us your podium picks? What’s going to be the biggest difference the teams will face going from racing VO70s compared to VOD65s?
MS: Nice try, Clean! It’s way too early to pick the podium – remember that the Volvo is a race about people, and until we see the crews and the time they get to spend on the water, no one knows who will do well. The move to OD boats is going to be tough, and if everyone has to push as hard as, for instance, the Telefonica guys pushed their boat on the leg to Lisbon in the last race, it is going to be just brutal. Let’s hope the boats are all-in-all faster without being pushed that hard.