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by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 23 May 15: 00 PDT
The Jeanneau Sun Fast is impressive, even when static. © John Curnow
We looked a lot at the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 during the course of 2020. Back in July with the world's airline fleet effectively grounded, we used the aviation parlance to reflect on how well the Sun Fast 3300 was doing, as short-handed came to fore like never before.
Getting to see, touch and experience one has required a lot of patience from me, which is not generally regarded as one of my strong suits. So then actually sitting on one with my friend Rohan Veal at the recent Sanctuary Cove boat show was kind of cool. In person, the Sun Fast 3300 is way more appealing than any of the photos of her double concave hull form would suggest. The lines work, and the overall impression I had was one of purpose. Form follows function, after all...
Then there's desire. Now I am not sure which one of us wanted to go for a sail more, but I think the two-time Moth World Champion may have been even keener than I. Had it not been for the floating marina fully encompassing us, there's a fair chance we may have slipped the lines and taken off, for there was enough breeze to make it worthwhile.
Having come to terms with the inability to do the one thing we both wanted, I turned to Rohan to see how going along at cruising altitude has been for the Sun Fast 3300, and those sailors lucky enough to have had the chance to take it on.
There are now ten Sun Fast 3300s in Australia, and even Sydney has got into the game. "Yes, so one in Perth, one in Hobart, and four in Melbourne. There's one here in Brisbane already, one coming in two weeks, one in Sydney already, and then one more coming to Sydney soon, so that's ten," said Veal.
So clearly they're wanted, which means when are the next ones coming? "I've got two available at the end of the year, and I think Lee Condell from Performance Boating (Sydney) has also got two on order for the end of the year as well. So there's potential to still get in and play by year's end, no problem at all. There are four available."
Obviously you were the trailblazer really down in Victoria with getting a small fleet going, and clearly it looks like Lee's going to get a small fleet going in NSW, as well. "It's starting to happen now, and if the IOC approve the mixed double-handed event, then we know there are others waiting to order as well."
Just on that point, and hating to waste such a good segue; they've given it every chance they can. Hopefully, the defibrillator paddles have worked and we'll see. "Yes, we'll just have to wait and see. We can't predict anything there, but if it doesn't go ahead it doesn't really matter, because there's momentum now. There's enough critical mass in these boats too. Basically, we could have a National Championships by the end of the year, or early next year. It is something that we're thinking about, maybe as part of Geelong Week. I wouldn't be surprised if there are six Sun Fast 3300s racing in the Sydney to Hobart this year," said Veal.
It would be really nice to have maybe six or eight in the national championship as well. "It's quite possible. I know Ian, from Mooloolaba Yacht Brokers, sold a 3600 as well recently. There are quite a few 3600s in Australia too, so we could just make it a Sun Fast Championship. They rate fairly similar, they're fairly similar in speed, and there are probably six in Australia now, as well as six 3200s, so there's a good fleet of 20 or so Sun Fasts that we've got here in Australia now. There could be 25 by the end of the year."
Any chance you're going to get the tiller yourself again soon? "So I've got one landing in Brisbane in two weeks and that was for me to use personally, but if someone wants to buy it then I can't say no."
Actually, as it comes to pass, handling the tiller is really for leaving the quay. The autopilot is your best friend, and it lets you get on with the speed department. For instance you don't use the fine tune on the runners, just the course, and it is predominantly set and forget. Concentrating on your trim is the secret here.
"Basically what we've been doing with these boats is to simply trust the autopilot and just continually trim the sails, you know, look for optimal shape, especially with the main, because it's quite a big main, quite roachy. It's more about playing the traveller than the runner, and small adjustments on the mainsheet, but if you're going downwind it's all in the kite. You know you shouldn't really have to touch the main or the tiller at all going downwind."
"It's all about apparent uphill and true downhill, and the autopilot will switch over. Just let it do its thing, and I do find you're making small adjustments in the autopilot, you know by one degree here and there, just for optimisation depending on the weather and the wave conditions; stuff like that. So if you've got the autopilot remote control on your wrist, then you can just adjust it as necessary, but just trying to fine-tune the package to get the best out of it."
The vessel we were on had the new upgraded Harken winch package, and you drag the sheet to weather as part of the whole trim/speed/VMG matrix. Now there was a 41-boat fleet that set off for Apollo Bay over the weekend, with the sweeping majority on a turn-around-and-come-back policy given the draft of the harbour. Warm enough with a 10-20 knot Nor'wester was the prediction, with Jade Cole and Barney Walker coming in 16th for Line Honours, just 1.5 hours behind the winner, after 10 hours at sea.
They were one place ahead of Rod Smallman on his Sun Fast 3600, and in the two-handed category the two vessels were second and third. Under IRC the 3300 was fourth, and in ORC they made the podium with a third. That's good sailing, and certainly underscores just how well Guillaume Verdier's hull works, and how important it is to have someone like Daniel Andrieu applying his deft IRC wand to the complete package.
Veal added, "We're just looking for small gains here and there with these boats. One of the main things a lot of the boats are doing now is adding a staysail. It wasn't fitted in the factory for a tack point to carry a staysail, but we're retro fitting them now. It's one big improvement because it doesn't cost anything on rating, but you're gaining about a knot!"
"One knot of downwind speed is a lot. Even when using it as a spinnaker staysail as well, we're finding there are advantages there under certain wind conditions, but having it on a furler means it's nice and easy to get rid of. The J length is so big on the Sun Fast 3300, so there's plenty of space in there to fit a staysail and it's not exactly a small staysail, it's something like 15m2. Once you've got the code zero up, you're away. When you're on a A1.5 or something like that it's still good, whereas you don't really need it with the A4."
"I notice a lot of the Europeans using symmetrical kites, even shorthanded, like single-handed and double-handed, they're running symmetrical chutes. They cut the short IRC bowsprit down to the boat's overall length and just run symmetrical chutes. They are very, very difficult to catch downwind, but obviously you don't want to be doing short legs."
"They're very hard to catch, deep (155-170), and their rating drops substantially as well. The 3300 comes in at 1020 to 1030 with the asymmetric sails under IRC, but you could easily take off 5-10 points doing this, and you're faster (VMG) and deeper. They're hitting low 20s (remember it's only 33 feet), and this boat we're on now hit 16.5 knots downwind with just two sails and a reef the other week," Veal finished by saying.
I suppose that's Verdier coming to the fore there. Overall, there would seem to be great balance as well, of which the aft stepped mast and keel placement would be major contributors.
Now our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine, was not on board with us, for it will be a while before that can happen, but in talking with him afterwards I could not determine which of the three of us might have been more geed up. "The global resurgence in sailing is continuing apace! So many of the reports we receive from around the world are telling us of record numbers, entry limits being filled in minutes, and second-hand boats being sought; it's a bright picture for the sport we all love."
"The picture is far from even though, with some clubs struggling to attract members while others boom. We're living in a rapidly-changing world and intransigence in club and class leadership will lead to failure. I am all for maintaining the traditions of sailing, but implementing them in a way which is attractive to the younger generation and helps non-sailors transition to the water and become sailors for life. Yes, this is a drum I've beaten before and will continue to now more than ever, for sailing has a huge opportunity to grow like never before." (Indeed...)
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