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the walking dead

Andrew Scrivan explains why he races one of the most extreme one-design monohulls ever created. 

So who buys an Ultra 30? I did, and have loved every minute of it. The feeling of sailing 8-up, hiking hard off the racks just 10 ft. from the center of the boat, and flying over the water is just the start. With the kite up and fully planing along quietly, you realize it is only blowing 7-8kts; this is Ultra 30 sailing! Seemingly skimming over the water on a seriously powered-up 30ft monohull, with friends and grins all around, is what ultimately defines the culture of our program.

We love the concept of the Ultra 30, and what it has evolved into today in what we know as “Team Zombie”. Our TZ Ultra 30 is a pretty far departure from what it once was, racing on TV during the 1990’s UK “Ultra 30 Series” Grand Prix circuit. Now with a carbon mast, boom, sprit, aluminum rod rigging, and a lead bulb 6’9” below us, we have much less heeling force and far greater stability – but no trapezes.

With contemporary naval architects relentlessly pushing the design envelope to go faster through the water and air at every turn, keeping TZ up-to-date has been a never ending task. Luckily I am a fanatic about boat optimization. At 30ft LOA (45ft with pole extended), a 48 ft mast, and monster square top main, we have a lot of horsepower- a serious necessity for weeknight racing in Western Long Island Sound. 2-3 times a week, throughout the summer, we line up against boats like the MC 38, GST 43, Farr 40, Melges 32, and many other quick boats with talented sailors.

We all remember parts of the weeknight races we win and lose, but the season highlights are unforgettable. When the conditions allow, our RC sets a 6 mile around-the-islands course in Greenwich, CT. On one such occasion, we had a fairly breezy port reaching start out to the first right hand turning mark and then down and around the islands. Once the RC posted the course we were all grins, as we knew TZ would be in her element. Consistent with competitive club racing, and all 3 divisions starting together, the start was tight, with just the right mixture of multi division chaos. We started as high boat to the fleet, took off planing, and immediately pushed ahead. After a bit it was clear that we would be converging with Carbonado, the MC 38 at mark 1. Clearly Carbo, with her massive planing surface and crew all aft, was no slouch on a 15kt blast reach. And sure enough, we were still even with them 2 minutes from the mark. But with some serious crew “motivation” we worked hard, trimmed accordingly and were able to plane over them in the final 100 meters before the mark.

Now on the downwind, and 5 minutes after mark 1, we looked back and saw the massive gap we had put on the fleet. 20 or more boats were minutes and minutes behind us. We rounded the last turning mark 2 minutes ahead of Carbo and settled in for the slog upwind to the finish. Carbonado took line honors and we were corrected over by a few by night’s end. Such is life in the world of handicap racing!

PHRF LIS does not allow us to use our traps and rates us at -6 without the kite and -27 with. We have always talked about doing the Stratford Shoal Race, a 40 some odd mile course from Greenwich and back. Clearly we were not going to hike that one out, so we planned to do the race on our own, shadowing the fleet, keeping our own time and use the kite with all 8 trapezes.

The TZ gang is equally into helping with boat prep and set up, so sorting and splicing new trap systems did not take all that long. On one of our practice days for the race we set out in a very lumpy 15-18kt southerly. The boat was not happy upwind as we were depowering with 8 guys trapping and getting severely bucked around. Everything changed when we turned down and launched the kite. With weight back and now 7 guys on the wire, half the boat was consistently out of the water and driving could not have been easier. With the pole 15ft in front of the bow and mast head kite up, every time we got a puff the bow lifted, and without resistance, drove down and built speed. This was one of the greatest feelings of acceleration, power and balance I have experienced on any boat. To think of all the elements at play: speed, wave conditions, righting moment, healing force, crew coordination, everything just became more balanced and fluid as we went faster and faster with each puff. With close to 20kts of boat speed, 7 guys on the wire, and all on a 30ft platform, it was a good day at the office.

The night before the Stratford Shoal Race the forecast called for light and variable winds, and delivered as promised. We pulled the plug ahead of time; if it’s not going to be fun, there’s no reason to be there in a boat like this!

TZ has not had an easy life. She was raced hard as a one-design before the circuit died, sailed in the UK under handicap, was almost totaled and lost in the RTI (Isle of Wight) race, fixed and raced under the sport boat rule (before that too was eliminated), brought to the US to race in PHRF, was again almost destroyed 2 separate times on her trailer by 60kt microbursts, squeaked through Hurricane Irene and Sandy unscathed, and now waits patiently under winter covers in better-than-ever condition for the 2015 season. Ironically, the massive amount of punishment and challenges that TZ has overcome has only made her stronger, proving again that it is very difficult to kill a Zombie.

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