North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Patrick Murray


Boat prep, Sail Selection, and Keeping an Eye on the Prize

📸Mark Albertazzi / PV 2020

Talented tactician and helmsman, Bill Hardesty has been part of sailing’s winning history in the J/70, Etchells, Melges 20, Melges 24, Farr 40, and has won a total of 12 World Championship titles, which include three in match racing. He awarded Yachtsman of the Year in 2011. Bill hails from San Diego Yacht Club, California, and recently competed in the 1020nm race from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on his club racer, Hobie 33, Sizzle. This race was different from Bill’s normal regatta weekend. It was his first time on a boat this size, sailing distance offshore. North Sails Expert Patrick Murray, based in San Diego, California, spoke with Bill about the race and got the full scoop on what made team Sizzle’s experience a memorable one.

The crew

Hardesty’s crew consisted of Bad Pak [Pac 52] former owner Tom Holthus, Chuck Eaton, and Parker Mitchell. “A few months before the PV race, I got a call from Tom, and he said, “What’s up! I haven’t heard from you yet, are you doing the PV race?”. “Tom wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I knew it would be a great experience for the team, so I agreed.”

“It really was quite simple to join the Sizzle team,” said Tom. “Bill and I had a great time sailing BadPak so the history was there. I sold BadPak after we won the Transpac and I had the time to help out. We both saw that the little Hobie 33 had potential. The boat can really move in lighter breeze conditions–just as well as any big boat– and we saw a lot of light breeze during the race. Billy is an awesome sailor. He sails offshore just like he does inshore – with high intensity where everyone had to and wanted to do their watch like it was a short dinghy race. We kept saying that we can sleep when we die.”

“We tested our systems with Patrick, practiced with our inventory to fine-tune, and figure out what we needed. Patrick checked our sail repair kit and made sure we had the right batten tools. That was next level support”, said Bill. Patrick commented, “I wasn’t the only one checking out the boat before the race. People were coming by to see how preparations were going on the ‘race winner’, so it was no doubt in everyone’s minds that they could win it.” “We took the rig down and cleaned it up–we made sure we had Sizzle set up for success,” said Bill. “We cleaned the boat well and polished the bottom; we did everything we could do to gain speed. Tom made a good teammate, which was no surprise, and the entire crew kept the fun -factor high.”

Keeping an eye on the prize

Sizzle started the race on Thursday, in ORR-6. Conditions at the start were north-westerly offshore, and once the fleet cleared the bay, it was DDW from there. “We set the kite and sailed into the darkness, sailing as deep and as fast as we could,” Bill said. “We had originally planned to go between the islands, and we ended up not laying it, so we had to jibe. We lost a bit of distance, and the One Design 35 crossed us once, but once we jibed onto port, we got the boat going again and never saw them again.”

Sizzle was ahead on the tracker almost all the time,” said Patrick, who was following the race remotely from the Caribbean. “Everytime I downloaded their latest positioning, they were holding down the lead. I was amazed how long they were able to hold off the bigger boats. It’s really amazing for a Hobie 33! Everyone had high expectations for this team, and it was great to see them leading.”

Bill commented, “We were pretty new to the systems on board, and I think that may have been to our advantage. Not having our tracker on kept us on our toes and not looking at the screen–it kept us working hard the whole time. We always assumed someone was outside, going faster, in better breeze–whether we could see them or not. We would jibe and catch a puff and ride that for a few hours; the crew worked hard the entire race.”

Once they got down to the Baja Peninsula, it got lighter and warmer. Bill sailed the shortest distance possible. “We pretty much stuck to the rhumb line from there until we got to Cabo. We did some sail changes to our light air sails–it was nice to have the options. Sea state was dead-flat, but that turned out to be in our favor. Once we built up our apparent wind, we were able to generate enough power to get her going fast and maintain speed with the waves.”

Hobie 33 Sizzle sailing downwind with A2.5 + genoa staysail and 3Di RAW 360 mainsail.  📸Mark Albertazzi / PV 2020

Once Sizzle made it to Cabo, they downloaded the tracker information and could see their positioning for the first time since the start of the race. “We could see the bigger boats offshore coming up quickly,” said Bill. “Pyewacket was one of them, but surprisingly there wasn’t anyone else in our division that was that close. It all worked out. Not knowing about other boats allowed us to focus on what we could do to sail faster.”

“Our mix of sail options, paired with the conditions we had was what we needed to perform our best.”

“We saw there was more wind coming down the Sea of Cortez,” said Bill, “and we just kept focusing on sailing as deep as we could. The wind appeared to be shifting left, so we got back on the rhumb line. The crew was on the rail for the tighter reaches in the morning, sailing 100 to 110 TWA (true wind angle). I can’t say the boat liked that, but once the waves kicked up and the breeze shifted aft, we were back DDW and could bring the pole back 165 degrees. We hit nine knots at one point. The boat sailed exceptionally well in those conditions.”

📸Mark Albertazzi / PV 2020

Sail selection & crew management

North Sails 3Di 360 is made for smaller boats, like Bill’s under 30’. Sizzle’s new 3Di RAW 360 mainsail made a positive impact on their performance. It was twelve lbs lighter than Sizzle’s standard dacron main and had perfect flying shape. Bill commented, “We had a flat, smaller A1 which was good for the tight reaching and lighter stuff”. “The A2.5 was a rocketship for the middle ranges. Patrick adds, “We built Sizzle a new A2.5 that would be great for the bow-up offshore points of sail. The 2.5 is optimized for planing conditions when the boat is ‘on the step’. Our genoa staysail was a Star headsail, which gave us a half-knot increase. “Our mix of sail options, paired with the conditions we had was what we needed to perform our best,” said Bill.

Crew weight placement was important on this boat, especially in the lumpy conditions. “The boat is very narrow, so we had to be gentle when we would move about the ship. If you had to wash your hands or use the head, you’d go forward instead of back to the stern,” said Bill. Small boat sailing offshore was a bit different than what Bill regularly experienced on a 52-footer. The boat was super sensitive to any weight changes. “We were tip-toeing just like we would’ve done on a dinghy.”

Hardesty and crew took first in ORR-6, and Overall. Sizzle started the race on March 5th and crossed the finish line in Mexico on March 12th, with a corrected time to win it all of 6 days, 3 hours, 37 mins and 25 seconds. Congrats team!

Have questions on how we can help you optimize your sail selection, including spinnakers and staysails for offshore sailing? Contact Patrick Murray for more information.

Story Contributors

Sizzle Wins Puerto Vallarta headshot
Patrick Murray

Sail Expert —

San Diego, California Patrick Murray started his sailing career in the Great Lakes, a native of Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Physics. He relocated to San Diego and joined the North Sails team...

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