With four boats at the top of the overall leaderboard in the Fast40+ and Black Pearl starting the 50th Middle Sea Race, Carkeek Design Partners are very much off to the races from Friday.
Rán VII is on the verge of completing a perfect debut season this weekend, after five out of five since the 2018 Fast40+ Circuit started in April. If Niklas Zennstrom’s Swedish new generation Carkeek-designed yacht can win Round 6, hosted by the Royal Southampton Yacht Club (Friday, October 19- Sunday, 21), they will confirm their dominance.
Carkeek’s boats have ruled the waves on the Solent this season in this high-performance planing monohull class. Rán VII, Girls on Film, Rebellion and Hitchhiker occupy the top four spots overall, with Tokoloshe II in seventh.
Rán VII is not mathematically uncatchable (particularly with race points being weighted by a factor of 1.5) and Rán will not be easing off, if that is even possible on a boat that lights up downwind whilst sacrificing nothing upwind.
“We’ll treat this regatta as any of the previous five rounds,” says Tim Powell, the experienced British sailor and long-time core part of Rán Racing. “Although we’re in a strong position we’d still like to end the season on a high.”
“We’re always looking at things to improve upon and with this weekend being the last of the season we’ll be looking at ways to improve the boat, primarily in the crew handling and systems, so we can work on them during the winter.”
Rán’s nearest rivals, Peter Morton’s second generation Carkeek-designed, Girls on Film, which has finished second twice and has been on the podium three times, is 10 points behind.
The scenario seems unlikely, but if Girls on Film finished the regatta seven places ahead of Rán VII, Morton and his teams will be champions.
Likewise, they are nine points ahead of Rebellion, who would need to finish six places ahead to take silver. But the battle for bronze is where the greatest tension starts. As in 2017, Rebellion and Hitchhiker, will be fighting all the way to the line. Hitchhiker was just two points behind last year and this time it is even closer. Both are level on 25 points each, separated only by Rebellion’s slightly higher placing in previous regattas.
“We’re hoping for some wind to finish off the year,” says Stewart Whitehead, the owner/driver of Rebellion. “Rebellion is out practising today (Thursday) and we should be able to tune up. This year we’ve had our good moments when the breeze is up and we hope to give the other leading boats a test to try and seal a podium position.
“GOF (Girls on Film) have been consistently able to make podium positions with their upwind speed. Hitchhiker had a troubled start to the year, but some key positional changes, bringing in Hamish Pepper, have meant they have been finishing way up the fleet over the past three regattas and Bas’s team are sailing really well.
“With similar boat speeds and close racing across the fleet, the year’s ranking positions will all come down to getting away cleanly from the line, straight line speed and turning corners smoothly. We’re tied on equal points for third with the Dutch boat and it’s great the season rankings have come down to this last event. We are hoping for some breeze as we have struggled a little all year in the light airs. Here’s to a full foam up over the long weekend.”
Meanwhile, over a thousand miles south-east in the Mediterranean, Black Pearl, a Carkeek 47, will be on the start line on Saturday for the Middle Sea Race’s 50th anniversary.
“This is the kind of weekend you dream about as a designer,” says Shaun Carkeek. “Black Pearl is something special and it’s always exciting when they’re on the start line for such a prestigious race.
“We’ve won the race a few times with our IRC 52s so hopefully the weather plays along and we’re able to sail a clean, fast race. It’s always very tricky to win offshore on a boat of this size, but Black Pearl has proven time and again she can win on the major stages. Her Cape to Rio and Annapolis Newport Race are two of her recent highlights and we expect a strong performance. The boat has been in for a service and we’ve fitted a new bulb to mode the boat for the race and their preferred style of sailing. We look forward to seeing her in front.
“The Fast40 have all been amazing, I won’t say they’ve outperformed my expectations because this is literally how we all planned it (laughs). But you still need everything to come together for an extraordinary season like this.
“Obviously Rán VII is the latest generation, so we hoped that such a great racing team would get the most out of her, but we’re so proud of the really strong, consistent performances from all the boats that we’ve conceived and carried on optimising.
“The results are confirmation of all we’re striving for. Amongst the Carkeek boats we’ve managed to win 27 out of the 35 races – a strike rate of 85%, which is fantastic for our owners.”