A Quantum leap for Sails

Ray Roberts’ Cookson 50 "Quantum Racing" with Geff Ross’ Reichel Pugh 55 "Yendys" in the background aproaching the heads after the start of the 2007 Audi Sydney to Gold Coast - Mackay Yacht Race.
Quantum Racing has the honour of being the only boat to win both the IRC divisions at Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach Race Week. In little over a week’s time, Quantum Racing’s owner and skipper Ray Roberts will return to Hamilton Island to defend his crown. And this time his yacht will be sporting two new weapons: a forward canard and a set of the most high tech headsails that money can buy.

Roberts is expecting competition to be fierce and he says his boat needs every advantage it can get.

‘I think the competition is going to step up a notch or two at Hamilton Island this year’ he commented.

‘We were fortunate enough to win it last year, but we’re going to have to sail it a whole lot better this year to retain the title. We’re throwing everything at it: as soon as we’ve finished the Sydney Southport race we’re going up to do the Airlie Beach Regatta as a practice regatta prior to Hamilton Island Race Week.’

‘I’m hoping that my crew are fully tuned up and in form and ready to sail at their peak. The new sails and the canard are part of that strategy.’
The Quantum Racing crew is on the stern quarter - 2007 Audi Sydney Southport race

And the competition at Hamilton will indeed be tough.

Robert’s canting keeled Cookson 50 will compete against a fleet containing the fastest yachts and best crews in Australia. The fleet includes Beau Geste, the new Reichel Pugh design skippered by Karl Kwok; Limit, a Corby 49 previously named Flirt, with skipper Alan Brierty; Rob Bassett will be racing the Bakewell-white designed Wired and then there is Quest, a Farr Transpac 52 owned by Bob Steel.

Wot Yacht and Yendys will also provide stiff competition.

Roberts has previously described Beau Geste as ‘tough competition’ and Quest as a ‘top contender’; he also considers that Limit is likely to be extremely competitive. He said that he hopes that the new headsails will ‘give us a bit of an edge which I think we’ll need.’

His headsails were only recently finished at Robert’s Quantum Sail’s Sydney loft, with one of the sail makers joking that ‘the boss always gets the last sails: the customers come first!’

Roberts purchased Quantum Sails about two years ago: the business is part of the global Quantum Group which has sail designers in the USA, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Roberts says that it is the international focus of the group which makes it so successful in terms of building and designing high performance sails.

‘All the input that we get from those guys helps us develop world class sails. I think we’re up there with the best in the world.’
Steven David's Reichel Pugh 66 "Wild Joe" with Ray Roberts' Cookson 50 "Quantum Racing" in the background aproaching the heads after the start of the 2007 Audi Sydney to Gold Coast - Mackay Yacht Race.

The new code two and code three headsails are constructed from an almost clear membrane called Fusion M, which is made exclusively for Quantum and which was flown in from Malaysia.

‘What we’ve got is a manufacturing plant in Malaysia and Africa that makes the sails and that’s where the virtual one piece sails are made, with an outer clear laminate and exotic fibres like carbon and Kevlar down the high load lines of the sail. That’s laminated together which gives you a lighter and stronger sail.’

‘Our loft at Mona Vale does all the finishing work and also is involved with the design group, with the input of the world wide design team as well.’

Jeff Couell, a sail designer for the Sydney loft, explained why Roberts had chosen Fusion M for Quantum Racing.

‘There’s a number of points that make it some of the best sail membrane in the business. Firstly, there’s the fibre layout. It’s a much more complex fibre layout than most other sail makers use.’

The second advantage was the lamination process used to make the membrane, with the type of pressure being applied and the quality laminating process yielding positive results. And the third advantage was that the sails were designed using Quantum software which was developed for the exclusive use of the Quantum group.

Couell has over 40 years of sail making experience and has designed sails for some famous racers including Australia II, III and IV; Kookaburras I, II and III; South Australia; One Australia; Boomerang, Ragamuffin and Apollo. He explained that the search for the best sail design and construction techniques is an ongoing one, with technology evolving to meet the demands of top end racing.

‘Fusion M is in constant development. We’ve been developing this for about four years and there have been some big steps taken forwardly recently in the manufacturing, laminating of the product and the laying down of the fibres.’
RAY ROBERTS - 2006 Whitehaven Beach Race

The cloth, with its high tech composite structure and multi-axial stability, allows the sails to retain their performance racing shape nearly twice as long as any competing sail construction process. Good shape retention makes them easy to trim and delivers results in terms of boat speed and handling.

A recent change to the lamination process means that the Fusion M sail membrane is no longer tinted; a protective film guards against UV, but tinting is no longer necessary to achieve this. ‘This is one of the first clear fabrics that we are using’ said Couell.

The other significant modification to the boat is the addition of a forward canard which Roberts hopes will improve Quantum Racing’s windward performance.

‘Previously our boat had a trim tab connected to the canting keel. We’ve removed that trim tab…which will hopefully give us a bit of an edge.’

The trim tab is a device on the back of the keel which looks like the flap on the back of an aircraft wing.

‘It’s just a section of the keel, approximately 250mm wide, that rotates through about 15 degrees and helps generate more lift from the keel’ explained Roberts.

‘We’ve actually lowered our rating slightly by adding the canard and shutting off the trim tab, as well as increasing our windward performance.’

In the past Roberts has sometimes raced with the canting keel of his boat set to a fixed central position but the addition of the canard will change this.

‘The reason I used to fix the keel in some light regattas in the past was to stop the boat slipping sideways when you canted the keel. This canard should keep the boat driving firmly to windward, the combination of the canard and the canting keel will be pretty much our standard configuration for racing.’
Ray Roberts' Quantum Racing

World class sails, a top crew and changes to the underwater profile of the boat mean that Quantum Racing is going to be hard to beat at Hamilton. We asked Roberts what the secret to his success was and whether there was any one factor that gave his team the winning edge.

‘It’s a combination of great sails, a good boat and world class sailors: that’s the key to yacht racing’ he replied.

And with his Cookson 50 sporting great sails and carrying a world class crew, that’s exactly what Ray Robert has achieved. Quantum Racing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week? Game On.


Contact details

Address: Unit 5 #2 By The Sea Road
Mona Vale Sydney, New South Wales 2103
Australia
Phone: +61(0)2 9997 3779
Fax: +61(0)2 9997 3774
Email: sydneyloft@quantumsails.com

Website: http:// www.quantumsails.com.au