BOAT TEST: KER 40
Built by McConaghy Boats yard in China, the keenly priced Ker 40 racer has wet-track form. KEVIN GREEN hitches a ride before her maiden Hobart race…
A development of the Ker 11.5, the Ker 40 is an IRC optimised offshore racer built by McConaghy Boats to production volumes aimed at keeping the price sensible, with designer Jason Ker estimating a saving of 50 per cent compared to a similar one-off custom boat. So far, nine of these IRC/ORCi optimised boats have been built but AFR Midnight Rambler is the first one in Australia, with other boats going to Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and the company reports strong interest in the United States and South Africa.
"The orders keep coming in", a smiling managing director, Jono Morris told Trade-a-Boat. He along with joint MD, Mark Evans, see the 38- to 40-foot raceboat arena as a key future market for the Sydney headquartered company.
ONBOARD KER 40
Owner of the test boat, Ed Psaltis, along with partners Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik - who've done 75 Sydney Hobarts between them - wanted to keep a similar deck layout to their seven times Sydney Hobart campaigner, the modified Farr 40. So, key features in the cockpit include mainsheet winches located just ahead of the helm, with primary Harken 46s nearby as well and twin H46s on the coachroof for halyards. Rope bags on each corner of the wide cockpit neatly capture all halyard and sheet tails.
Behind the twin customised carbon McConaghy helms, another set of Harkens control the twin backstays and the mainsheet track runs across the cockpit sole here as well, with the sheet itself running forward on either side. A recessed hole gives quick access to the rudder shaft for emergency steering, and the quadrant is located higher on the actual shaft to avoid it damaging the hull in case of catastrophic steering failure. Lift-up footplates and smooth coamings take care of the steerer's needs, while ahead are foot bars for the trimmers.
Instrumentation on the test boat is care of B&G Zeus, with repeater screens on the coachroof bulkhead and jumbos at the mast. A deck-level bulkhead elevates the main hatch entry well above the cockpit sole (to prevent a wet cabin in case of being pooped from the open transom). The only slight niggle is perhaps the main jammers feel like a wee bit of a stretch for the pit crew when "playing the keyboards".
Plenty of beam allows wide sidedecks on the Ker 40 with grippy non-slip underfoot for moving forward across the uncluttered coachroof. On the rail, a series of stainless steel eyes give options for attaching blocks, and the moulded toerail should keep the foredeckie safely onboard when hoisting the asymmetric. The foredeck hatch looked slightly small for sail handling but as a crewman pointed out, its reduced surface area minimised any water-ingress possibilities. Ahead of it, a custom-made McConaghy carbon bowsprit finished the Ker's pulpit off nicely.
A Hall Spars carbon mast with rod rigging was chosen (for budget reasons) over PBO with adjustable twin backstays - controlled by two Harken 35 winches behind the helms - that act like runners, even though they are centralised on the transom. So far, major rig tunning on <I>AFR</I> has been limited to moving the mast forward to create some weather helm. Longstanding sail provider MacDiarmid Sails was used to kit-out the new boat with the relatively lighter inshore carbon laminate mainsail used during our outing, while a heavier three-slab reefed one will be hoisted for the Sydney Hobart.
Arguably the most impressive thing about this new boat is its power-to-weight ratio, with the Ker 40 tipping the scales at a relatively lightweight 4800kg. Combine this with fact that 2.4 tons is in the lead T-bulb keel, so it's not surprising that stability is good, with a ratio of 144 degrees. The epoxy hull looks exceptionally strong with closely located bulkheads, smoothly finished; enhanced by two- and three-inch longitudinal stringers along the sides and keel line. Further strengthening around the keel and mast is through an alloy frame. Construction of hull and deck is done through vacuum infusion, using e-glass and epoxy covered foam sandwich. In terms of ratings, the AFR, hull number three, has an IRC figure of 1.196.
Builder McConaghy Boats has chosen to construct the Ker 40 along with most of their smaller yachts in its Chinese yard, ensuring a competitive price on the international market. Several of their management team, led by joint managing director Mark Evans have been based at the 10,000m² yard in Zhuhai, China , since it was set-up more than 10 years ago. Employing 220 people, the yard also currently produces a new catamaran and a new inshore racer, the MC38, along with a range of carbon components.
The spartan saloon is dominated by smoothly finished bulkheads, heavily laid-up and with plenty of volume for the eight berths, including four pipe cots. The four bench berths are nicely angled upwards to aid sleeping crew nestled against their lee cloths.
AFR differs from the standard Ker 40 layout in one key area - the navigation station - which has been relocated directly below the cockpit sole and centred, a position the crew found ideal on the old Farr 40. The cosy navigation station featured the latest B&G Zeus 12in plotter, running through the B&G H3000 system box located farther back in the stern bulkhead. Deckman tactical software is used for race strategies and data analysis is done through the software running on a standard laptop. The latest version, Deckman v9.1 includes enhanced support for GRIB weather files and routing features which includes rainfall displays along with wave heights.
Crewman Tom Barker said he particularly liked Deckman's latest lay-line feature (it gives guidance on the most-favoured tack), and the intuitive nature of the software in general. To date, data inputs have included Polars, inputted via text file, but performance figures will gradually be added to track the Ker's overall performance. Instrumentation is still being calibrated in preparation for the pre-Sydney Hobart offshore race series.
Nearby the nav station, engine access to the 30hp Yanmar saildrive is pretty limited, via small hatches either side but most of the service points were available, albeit at a squeeze.
Farther back, wide open bulkheads allow easy access to the quadrant and lines controlling the steering gear, with HF radio, B&G 3000 and fluxgate compass sensibly located in dry zones high on bulkhead. Moving forward of the saloon, the bulkhead adjoining the keel stepped mast has the simple galley to port. It probably won't feature on MasterChef, though, with a basic two-burner stove and adjoining sink unit.
Ahead through the forward bulkhead is the dunny, tucked away in the aft corner and acres of space for sail storage. The bow bulkhead is also open, which is perhaps questionable from a collision point of view, so would benefit from a simple hatch and perhaps some more internal crash protection. But overall, the standard of build looks excellent with no rough edges.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Comfortably perched on the gunwale, with lightweight carbon wheel in hand and the Ker hard on the wind proved a very pleasant experience on a breezy Sydney Harbour. It didn't take a lot of effort to push the Ker 40 towards double-digit speeds in the breeze. With nimble handling, it made the Ker feel like a big dinghy, tacking also proved speedy and the pathway between helms easily navigated, while a quick tug of the footplate allowed an even stance at the helm as well.
Off the wind, on a beam reach in 18kts, the B&Gs showed 12kts boat speed. But things heated up dramatically. In fact, rather too dramatically, nearly running out of runway at Bradley's Head after a gust caught us with fractional asymmetric kite up in 20-plus-knots of wind. Boat speed reached 15.5kts in the 21-knot breeze, the Ker surfing along like it was in the middle of Bass Strait, before boring away and dousing the kite to hoist the number one jib - easily done with all lines running aft.
The AFR sponsorship, perhaps a lucky omen as the brand came aboard for the deadly 1998 Sydney Hobart - the one the boat won - will continue for the next big trip south, said Psaltis. As builders know, their best advertisement is a well-campaigned boat and this yacht has already proven itself with a win in the Lion Island Race and sister ship Keronimo in the Fastnet blitzed a field of 65 boats to secure first in IRC1 A - plus 16th overall. "Our main game is the Hobart and this is the best 40-footer for it," said Psaltis over a beer in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia after our sail.
Overall, the Ker 40 impresses with inshore and offshore potential, and as the game show hosts say, "The price is right."
AT THE HELM
The Ker 40 is nimble on all points of sail, with a light and balanced feel to the helm, while also having a functional race cockpit.
PRICE AS TESTED
$US298,000 (base boat)
Relocated navigation station, Ian MacDiarmid Sails, and B&G Zeus Electronics
MATERIAL: E-glass, core cell foam cored, resin-infused epoxy construction
NAVAL ARCHITECT: Ker Yacht Design
CONSTRUCTION: McConaghy Boats
LENGTH OVERALL: 12.2m
WEIGHT: 4800kg (10,582lb)
TOTAL AREA: 170m2
77-79 Bassett Street,
Mona Vale, NSW, 2103
Phone: (02) 9997 7722
Built to contest the highly competitive mid-range Sydney Hobart Race fleet, the Ker 40 also has a power-to-weight ratio that makes it a potent weapon for inshore work. This yacht should appeal to a wide range of racing skippers.
1). The navigation station on AFR differs from the standard Ker 40 layout and is located directly below the cockpit sole.
2 & 3). The new B&G Zeus plotter linked to a B&G H3000 system (photo 3), combined with the latest Deckman tactical software gives the Ker 40 big-boat navigation capabilities.
4). The quadrant is easily accessible and high up the sturdy carbon rudder shaft.
5). Gel batteries are nicely low down on the keel line, but rather limited engine access.
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 421, Nov-Dec, 2011. Photos: Kevin Green.
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