Hard campaigner preparing for Sydney Hobart handicap challenge

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Matt Allen’s ICHI BAN heads south on Boxing Day - 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Yachting Australia Vice President Matt Allen probably sails at more keelboat regattas in more boats than any other skipper in the Asia Pacific.

He has been campaigning a Beneteau 44.7 and an IRC modified Adams 10 in Asia, a Farr 400 on the Australian regatta circuit and the IRC modified Volvo 70 offshore, all called Ichi Ban (number one in Japanese).

We sat down with the former CYCA Commodore aboard his Farr 400 which before racing on the second last day of the 2013 Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Regatta was leading the Performance Racing class.

Matt Allen´s Farr 400 Ichi Ban leads Kiwi Howard Spencer´s MC38 Menace - Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week 2013


‘Sailing wise the Farr 400 obviously enjoys fast downhill but these boats are quite good in the light stuff. They power up quite nicely against especially some of the older boats. We power up at seven or eight knots. We are almost on our last rig setting at 11. We are enjoying the battle here at Airlie especially against Menace. While we have similar overall speed the two designs have completely different hull shapes so in varying conditions one will be faster than the other.

‘It was interesting last year at Hamilton Island. Depending on how the construction of the race was but if we went upwind for a passage race, things like Volvo 60s were a long way in front of us but we would then beat them home and so the downwind speed more than offsets the lack of speed upwind. A Volvo 60 is 64 foot, this is 38 feet. People think it is 40 feet but it is not. It is 38 feet and four inches.

‘But looking to the future, the new Carkeek designed boat is in progress. The deck is on. It’s probably going to leave the factory probably about October 7th. We are calling it a 60 but it is really 61 feet.

‘Lisa, my wife, and I figured we were spending so much money on the boat that we had better save money on the crew gear so I think we are going to call it Ichi Ban.

‘It is a boat with high riding moment and lots of sail area. A very powerful hull. It is really orientated towards Australian conditions so you do have the very powerful hull for when you need that in races like the Hobart and the normal Gold Coast race, but maybe not this years, but also a lot of sail area for the lighter airs and also the hull is shaped to reduce wetted surface a long way for lighter airs and utilize it when it is heavy airs.

‘It’s a fixed keel boat. I think if you go much larger than 60 you probably should be building a canting keel boat rather than a fixed keel boat the way the riding works.

‘That’s why I think the mini maxi’s, once again in you go bigger than 60 you end up pretty much with a mini maxi, but a mini maxi hasn’t got a canting keel and probably should have a canting keel in the way that I view the world so I figured that at about 60 is about the cut off for a fixed keel boat.

‘I was quite keen to have a boat that is considerably more powerful that say a TP52 for ocean racing, utilizing modern sail shapes but also for the Hobart race a boat that would on the average race arrive in the afternoon rather than the evening or very early morning hours. On average that arrival time helps you and you have got to play the averages.

‘So that is the plan with the boat. It is orientated towards ocean racing but is built high tech enough and light enough. We have really found a lot of weight savings through the construction by using different cores and also going to some titanium fastenings and things like that.

‘It’s being built by Premier in Dubai. Neil Cox is the project manager. Neil built ABN1, ABN2, Camper, and Puma so he has built almost half a dozen Volvo 70s and obviously this boat is a little smaller and a little less complex. He has had a t of experience on building boats that have gone around the world at least once.

‘We expect to be sailing in late November. Everyone says that is late but Limit and Loki only got in the water about the first week of December when they did their first Hobart. I think the way you build boats these days with so much more computer orientation and the engineering is a lot more precise, rigs are coming out of Southern and North are making the sails. Cox has built a lot of boats with Carkeek, with Southern, so the communication and all that is pretty straight forward.

‘But of course, things can go wrong with the best laid plans so we shall see,' Allen closed.

And so they do.

The second last day of the Airlie Beach regatta certainly started like a day you´d wished you'd stayed in bed for Allen.

In very soft morning conditions Howard Spencer´s MC38 Menace and Allen´s Ichi Ban, were first around the top mark on the course to Gumbrell Island, but rounded it to port instead of starboard and had to go back. The breeze was already dying and Ichi Ban touched the mark and had to go round once again. Caught in the gas of more rounding boats, she struggled and was at the tail of the fleet, having lost probably ten minutes against her rivals.

With glass between them and the leaders, Ichi Ban headed eastern side of Pioneer Bay and found a new breeze line which allowed them to sail back into second place in the 27 nautical mile race.

But time was not her friend and Farr 400 was eighth on handicap, while Phil Grove´s Sydney 39 CR Huntress took yet another handicap win ahead of Charles Wallis Reignition and Damian Suckling´s Another Fiasco. Howard Spencer´s Menace finished fourth. Overall Huntress leads on 15 points, with Ichi Ban on 19 and Menace on 20.

We will watch the last day of this Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week with interest, as we will watch the progress of the new Ichi Ban in the coming months.

Phuket King’s Cup 2012. Ichi Ban.
Guy Nowell


Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta 2012 - Ichi Ban leading the pack
© Guy Nowell / RMSIR


Ichi Ban (foreground) and El Coyote battling it out in IRC Two. Photo by SamuiPics.com. - Samui Regatta 2013
Samuipics.com


03, ICHI BAN, Sail No: AUS 03, Owner: Matt Allen, Design: Jones 70 Custom, LOA (m): 21.5, State: NSW - 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race