It will be a special occasion for Team Aqua when the next round of the 2011 RC44 Championship Tour gets underway in Austria in May as they race their new boat for the first time.
The Chris Bake-owned Team Aqua has been one of the leading forces on the RC44 Championship Tour circuit since its launch in 2007, but with the oldest boat in the fleet up until now Aqua decided that to maintain the momentum behind their championship challenge, a new boat would be invested in for the 2011 season.
Since the turn of the year outgoing Team Aqua boat captain Nigel King has been working closely with RC44 boat builders Pauger to make sure that the new boat is ready and raring to go by the time racing commences at the RC44 Austria Cup on Lake Traunsee on May 11. The original Aqua boat enjoyed a fantastic swansong as the team clinched third place at the Tour’s opening event in San Diego last month.
King, a veteran of some of the world’s most classic yachting events including the Volvo Ocean Race, Jules Verne Trophy and La Solitaire du Figaro, says overseeing a new boat delivery is always a fascinating process.
He explained: “Chris Bake is a massive supporter of the class and committed for the long-term so the team felt it was the right time to invest in a new boat to see Aqua through the next few years.
“We have had four years’ sailing in the class so there are a few personal touches outside of the one-design aspect, like a bit of paint here or there, where we want the elastics and how we want our deck grip done, that contribute to how we like to sail the boat. Pauger are always really keen to do a good job, their enthusiasm makes the process very enjoyable.”
Based in Hungary, Pauger have built the RC44s since the class’ inception, masterly turning out 24 of these 100 per cent carbon racing machines, with the new Aqua taking the total to 25. Prior to Aqua, the newest boat was David Murphy’s Ironbound, which joined the Tour in Miami in December 2010.
On average a new boat takes from ten to twelve weeks to complete and deliver with Pauger representatives on hand at every RC44 event to assist with maintenance and repairs.
Peter Lovas is Pauger representative at all the Tour events for 2011. He reveals some of the processes that go into making the RC44 one of the most exciting light displacement, high performance racing yachts around.
“Almost every part of the boat is produced by Pauger to ensure everything is one-design. When you look you can see a lot of custom systems and pieces made for the RC44.
“The boats are produced with a resin infusion technology and post-cured in a huge oven at up to 100'C to achieve high heat resistance. Lamination is carried out precisely, using diffrent numbers of layers and diffrent core materials in the specific zones of the boat, according to the local loads. There is a huge list of measurements each RC44 must meet.”
King is scheduled to return to Pauger HQ on 11 April to oversee Aqua’s completion with sign-off due on April 18. Team Aqua has also had a new container built in Southampton, which is being shipped to Hungary so that the boat and container can be set up exactly as they need to be for Austria before she leaves the factory on 23 April.
The majority of the Aqua team are set to arrive in Austria to commence testing at the start of May with Chris Bake also due to join the team in putting the new boat through her paces for a couple of days ahead of racing.
King, who is staying on with Aqua in a coaching capacity having handed over the boat captain reins to Karl Funk for 2011, explains what the team will be looking at during testing.
“We will be loading everything up gradually to make sure everything’s ok; getting the sails up and down, ensuring that when we sheet on everything works as it should, making sure ropes and splices are the right length etc. There are always a few tweaks needed here and there but hopefully nothing too major.
“We will slowly go through the process of getting the rig set-up right, it is a new mast, built by Riba Composites in Italy, so there will be things we need to do on the dock and whilst sailing to make sure she is racing ready. We will also be making sure the boat works in the way we want it to when completing manoeuvres plus a bit of waterproofing where needed.”
Lovas added: “The RC44s are nice to build because they are one-design. All the boats have the same basic boat speed, even though there is a five-year difference between the oldest and newest. On the water you know the boats are identical in build, but the speed can be so different because of the crew handling and the sails each team opts to have on the boat.
After Aqua we hope there will be more boats coming up as more owners join the class.”