North Sails LOFT NEWS

LAND ROVER SYDNEY GOLD COAST YACHT RACE

Worldwide coordination and attention to detail matched with on-point crew work gave super yacht Black Jack a chance to raise the bar.

© Andrea Francolini

The refurbished 30-metre racer, originally launched as Alfa Romeo in 2005, finished just three minutes behind its near-identical rival, Wild Oats XI, despite only going back in the water a week before the race, and hoisting her new sails just hours before the starting gun.

Black Jack 100 had recently returned to Australia after being laid up for more than a year in Europe, and been reconfigured for its new owner, Brisbane yachtsman Peter Harburg. Mark Bradford of North Sails Brisbane, the yacht’s sailing master, says a new set of sails was required, designed and manufactured by North in the United States, and shaped and finished by the North Sails Auckland loft.

“The geometry had been changed, with the forestay moved forward. The boat also has a new rig and boom from Southern Spars, so we couldn’t just press ‘plot’ and make the same sails as it had before,” says Mark. “There was a real synergy between North and Southern to get the sails to fit exactly right.”

So exactly right that when the 370 square metre mainsail was first hoisted — just two hours before the race start — it fitted perfectly.

“Usually we would have two or three days to fit such a big sail, but when we went out the day before it was too windy to check it out. We hoisted the mainsail with two hours to go and found no adjustments needed to be made, which is a real credit to everyone involved.”

The next challenge was upwind sails: the brand-new number two was hoisted on the way out to the start, and the new number-one jib went up for the first time about two hours into the race.

“Both Black Jack and Wild Oats changed jibs on the same tack, and once again, that sail which had never been up before fitted first time,” says Mark.

And so what had been intended largely as a delivery trip — to get the boat up to Queensland for Hamilton Island Race Week — turned into a real race, as the two maxis duelled their way up the coast, exchanging a narrow lead several times.

“We were still trying to feel our way through the boat and work out systems, but it turned into a real battle,” says Mark. “Wild Oats were within eyesight the whole way and we were pretty stoked to be in the same patch of water, considering how new the set-up was.”

Black Jack was also carrying a new J5 and J6, and a new A3, which didn’t get out of the bag in the upwind conditions.

The boat’s next big outing — and battle with Wild Oats — will come at Hamilton Island, where America’s Cup and Olympic sailor Tom Slingsby will be part of the crew.

“We’re really going to ramp it up there,” says Mark. “Our expectations have changed a bit now — we’ve gone from getting the boat back on the water and seeing how it goes to being seriously competitive.”