Aug 18, 2017

Ullman Sails (ex Mad Max) wins Airlie Beach Race Week 2017

All photos by Shirley Dodson Photography. Report sent by one of our favorites cat Multihull designers, Tony Grainger , check his web at
Two very different boats, a 24’ trimaran and a 33’ cat, both well sailed and well prepared find themselves hotly contesting Airlie Beach Race Week 2017 thanks in large part to an effective rating rule.

It’s sometime said of exceptional surfers or kite boarders “they could have won the contest riding the dunny door” and there have been some pretty humorous film clips playing on exactly that premise.

Sure it’s an exaggeration but it’s there to make a point. For a talented sports person it’s primarily about preparation, focus, and a coordinated team effort. As long as the equipment is good enough and you have the mind set to win on the day you can get the job done.

Airlie Race Week 2017 was a case of two very focused skippers with good preparation and presumably well coordinated crew work (I wasn’t there and I don't know the crews on a personal
basis) making the most of the equipment they had to work with.

That’s not to understate the quality of the equipment in question. Good enough still has to be good and in the real world the dunny door will fare no better in competitive sailing than it does in competitive surfing.

George Owen, no newcomer to the front ranks of the multihull fleet was driving Fury Road, a freshly commissioned Diam 24 from the world renown VPLP design office. Fury Road was sailing in its first race series and no doubt the crew was in a bit off a learning curve.

Paul Mitchell, highly accomplished in competitive sailing, was at the helm of Ullman Sails, a 33’ Grainger designed cat built by Apex Boats, with a long string of race wins on the Australian inshore racing circuit. Ullman Sails was previously known as Mad Max and until last year was helmed by the above mentioned George Owen.

The notable thing about this series was that the hottest competition was not between the three one designs in the series, the Diam 24’s, as one might expect, but between Ullman Sails and the leading Diam 24 Fury Road.
I used to say the results depend about one third on the boat design, one third on the preparation, and one third on what happens on the day, like whether you get your preferred conditions, and whether you pick the right side of the course.

Of course that’s an oversimplification of reality. If anything this Airlie Beach Race week underlines the fact that as long as the boat is good enough across a range of conditions the work put in by the skipper and crew in preparation for the race and on the course is probably the single biggest factor that determines the outcome.

Ullman Sails was the fastest boat around the course in all 6 races but the OMR rule did an excellent job of levelling the field to the extent that we had some very close corrected finishing times between Fury Road and Ullman Sails. Just one second in race 1, 28 seconds in race 3 and 97 seconds in race 4. By contrast the margins between the Diam 24’s were often in the five to ten minute range. Fury Road and Ullman Sails were on equal points going into the last race after dropping points for one race.

The last two races of the series were sailed in light airs and that’s what sealed Fury Road’s fate,
She just couldn’t match Ullman’s power in the drifting conditions. Fury would have liked a bigger gennaker to pull her through the light air, but then that would have increased her rating and that would have set her back in the early races.

The three Diams had slightly different ratings, and so were not strictly one designs. That aside, it’s the first time, to my knowledge at least, that three boats from the one set of moulds have contested a major race series in Australian waters under OMR (with the possible exception of some B division events).
If the expected outcome from this series was that one design would help to invigorate racing under OMR then those expectation have been dashed unless or until we get a different outcome in future events.

On the other hand, if the preferred outcome of handicapping under OMR is to fairly compensate boat speed across a diversity of designs so that sailing skill (including preparation) becomes the determining factor in the results, then you would have to say the OMR has done a pretty good job in this particular case.

Final results on OMR had Ullman Sails first on 6 points, Fury Road second on 9 and MCJAK (Daim 24) Third on 18 points.

Tony Grainger