fine line

thin blue lineFive days of racing in perfect Key West conditions made it clear that in 2017 we are in for a tough battle for all three spots on the podium. After 10 races it was Quantum Racing who in light conditions sailed near-faultlessly through the final two days (2,1,1) to come back from being well off the podium and take their first win from a pack of six boats that were all still in contention for second on the final run of the final race. The less consistent teams made up positions 8 to 11 but all showed potential. Sled with a 2nd and 3rd, Gladiator with a 1st, Alegre with a 3rd and 4th and we all applauded Paprec for their first and certainly well-deserved race win since joining the 52 Super Series.
With a bit of breeze, say from 9kt, this year as yet there is no visible performance spread between the boats. Where last year one could still see differences upwind now these are gone. If anything you sometimes see boats show good downwind speed. One of these is Rán, over the years always strong downwind, so I tend to credit helm and crew for that.
Boats going faster or slower downwind than previously can often be related to changes made to the keel fin. These changes are nearly always primarily made to achieve better characteristics upwind and then unavoidably show up downwind. Of course sail design plays a role too but this is hard to quantify for the outside observer. Read on.