PAUL GROOM’S PSYCHE DOES IT ALL
One Design & Doublehanded Distance Club Racing is on in New Zealand
One Design Weeknight Racing
Local NZL sailor Paul Groom got into Stewart 34 racing 10 years ago and has been racing his second boat Psyche since 2016, making a name for himself as a regular at the top end of the fleet for class one-design racing. New Zealand’s Stewart 34 fleet provides highly competitive racing at the grassroots level, and members are known not just for their desire to win, but also their utmost camaraderie on and off the water.
What does Paul do to obtain the best possible boat speed? He explained; “It’s all about sail trim and backstay. On Stewarts which have a lot of sail area and loose rigs, the top of the mast falls off, de-powers, and while sail technology has drastically changed over the years, the simple and affordable products [Dacron] remain in the class. There’s no reason to change that.”
“Winning in this class isn’t easy, and every race is a new challenge,” Paul says. “They get up on a plane and can be an absolute handful. It’s a lot of fun. Race results are almost always determined by a matter of a few seconds,” Paul says. “It’s that close every time. After trying for quite a few seasons to get a win, it was a great feeling, and since then we’ve had a few more but it’s not easy! Apart from the crew, you need a really good #1 above all –otherwise you don’t have a chance.”
Psyche competes annually at least twice during the week on Thursday and Friday with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and in the Stewart 34 Championship Series which spans over eight race nights the summer, beginning in November. Optimum crew count is eight total, but you can get away with five. That’s not ideal Paul says when there is breeze on. Paul commented; “It’s ‘casual’ weeknight sailing, but each race is like sailing a world championship against the other Stewart’s. The trimming is fine-tuned. The crew work is exceptional. That’s what makes this class competitive, and a lot of fun to be part of.”
“Paul sails almost every race on the calendar year round and has seen amazing mileage out of his racing sails. I don’t think there is any Stewart 34 who would do more races than Paul. It is great to see his NPC Radian and Crosscut Dacron sails lasting strong over this test of time -and he’s still winning races!”
– Matt Steven, North Sails Auckland
Lewmar Triple Series & Shorthanded Sailing Assoc. Of New Zealand
Paul teamed up with young rockstar Olivia Christie for some doublehanded club racing fun in the SSANZ (Shorthanded Sailing Association New Zealand). They’ve been competing in the doublehanded mixed division of the Lewmar Triple Series, which is a three-race series, with races ranging 50-100 miles long. So far the duo has completed two of three races, and have outperformed all expectations.
“Finding Olivia was key,” Paul says. “She’s an unbelievable sailor and really has a feel for the boat. This sport requires you to change your gears, plan ahead–and there’s an element of luck of course. We focus on minimizing our risks and keeping our minds open to learning. Having Olivia onboard has been a fantastic team-building experience. Her energy and interpretations make her a great teammate.”
The Lewmar 60 (60 miles) on July 4th was Groom and Christie’s debut, taking line honors and fourth on corrected time. The Lewmar 100, held just last weekend on August 1st, the duo took second place line honors, fourth on corrected time.
Paul worked closely with Andrew Wills [Willzy] and Matt Steven based at North Sails Auckland when it came to optimizing his sail inventory. The Stewart 34 class rules are made to keep the racing affordable, only permitting teams to compete with Dacron sails. For local club-style racing a few teams have custom sails made (code sails, asymmetrics), and have even gone as far as adding a bowsprit. Strictly one-design racing– it’s all Dacron and symmetricals.
Psyche uses North Sails NPC Radian mainsail, NPC Crosscut Dacron #1 [from 2018], and an NPC Radian #2. Competing in roughly 100 races per year, Paul is able to get the most from his sails and his boat, thanks to his trusted sailmaker. Paul commented; “My older #1 genoa has about 400 races on it and is still in great shape after servicing, but the serious race sails only come out in the class championship. I have been really impressed with my sails, they are unbelievably stable.”
Paul’s Ongoing Relationship with North Sails
Paul can’t thank his local North Sails team enough. “My experience with Matt and Willzy [Andrew] has been a great one, and they offer nothing but the best advice and support, which has helped me be successful out on the water.”
What keeps Paul coming back to North Sails? “My experience with sail service has been a great one. Willzy and Matt are unbelievably talented sailors. Also, the price for sails is competitive and affordable. My sails still have great shape, even with many miles on them. North’s products are made well and can be trusted.”
“The Lewmar 100 last weekend served up pretty fresh conditions with a 30 mile beat in 25-35 kts and some big wind against tide seas around the headlands. We opted for a conservative approach, which paid off in the end. The boat that beat us is the top S34 and is well sailed, but they also had a prod with a code zero, which suited the closer angles. Thing about doublehanded sailing is that if you lose someone to an injury or MOB then you’re singlehanding, and that’s a dangerous with a 1,500 sq ft of kite in breeze. I didn’t want to put Olivia in that position so we did a risk assessment before the downhill legs. For the club sailors with older boats: here’s a 60 year old class (psyche is 40!) using Dacron sails, and we finished ahead of far more modern boats in the division with laminate sails.”
Thanks for the footage 📽️ Paul Groom & Olivia Christie. Best of luck to you in the final event!