REVIEW: CLIPPER 70
Creating a fleet of sailing yachts that can race around the world once, then do it all again the following year, requires seriously good design, writes Kevin Green after a day aboard the Clipper 70.
Clipper Ventures brought the idea of running away to sea on a tall ship to the masses back in 1996, with its modern fleet of yachts following the old tea clipper route around the world. Since then, this nine-month event has grown steadily in popularity attracting fee-paying amateurs globally – 66 Australians are involved in the current edition that raced into Sydney last December.
CLIPPER AROUND THE WORLD
While on paper a more sprightly design than the previous Ed Dubois 68-footers, the new boats shared the wider beam, twin rudders and hard chines of the Open 60, but as I found out during a day sailing one, they remain fairly conservative and more importantly for the amateur crew, safe. When I write amateur I mean people who may have no prior sailing experience, apart from four weeks basic training from Clipper Ventures.
Having been on the older 68-footers, stepping aboard the Clipper 70 Mission Performance wasn’t a totally unfamiliar experience because a similar utilitarian deck plan lay before me – flat decks with plenty of non-slip everywhere including the tall main hatch. Also familiar was the helm cage but now with twin binnacles on the C70 and a much wider cockpit accommodating eight crew on watch. A major change is the pair of three-speed Harken pedestal winches along with three sets of other Harkens, including a set I used aft when controlling the running backstays (another radical item in the hands of the inexperienced).
Clipper continue with a layout where the main track divides the cockpit and the centralised Harken 80 mainsheet winch is near the helms (and can also be controlled by the pedestal winches) and of course, all are manually operated. The wide gunwales created by the generous beam allow plenty of room for winch operation, as we found during our day at sea and good points include open-sided blocks for quick line releases. The design is functional and intended to be over engineered to cope with the rotating crew that may come aboard for each leg.
DESIGN AND LAYOUT
The modest 95-foot aluminium mast is strongly supported by triple outboard shrouds, twin backstays and runners. So, along with an industrial-sized gooseneck and accompanying telescopic vang, it is intended to survive a newbie helmsman doing a crash gybe. As the Clipper race is primarily a downwind event, in the tradition of the tea clippers that followed the trade winds, there’s a long bowsprit for flying large asymmetrical spinnakers. For the first time the 11-sail wardrobe of Hyde Dacron sails now include three asymmetric spinnakers, which are a safer option than the long poles used on previous boats with symmetricals.
An important strategy for the professional skippers in charge of each yacht is conserving the sails as penalties apply for any breakages, so everything has to be nursed along for the duration of race. The Hyde mainsail is conventionally slab reefed and being heavyweight Dacron is a monster of thing to handle. Headsails include a suite of Yankees (the high-cut clews avoid the waves and errant crew) but reduce performance especially in light upwind legs. Like most items on these all-rounder boats, they are a compromise.
Climbing down the main hatch takes you into the large central galley with saloon seating on both sides. Ahead of this is a large sail locker with topside hatch and separated by watertight doors as is the aft accommodation section, which again emphasises the commitment to safety that Clipper Ventures prides itself on.
The large U-shaped galley has stainless steel bench space, double sinks and five-burner stove-oven against the forward bulkhead, plus lockers overhead and below. Chilled space is limited but each boat is allowed one extra item for the galley; a large rice cooker was aboard Mission Performance, while on the Clipper 70 Team Garmin the crew had chosen a portable fridge-freezer.
Crew accommodation comprises 24 bunks, primarily in the stern and wisely well clear of the wet companionway access. Moving farther aft along the tall corridor brings me to the navigation station, centred below the cockpit and with a useful aft-facing hatch so that the steerer and navigator can have visual contact if need be. Race rules limit electronics to only the necessities: Garmin plotter along with British SeaPro charting, so sophisticated tactical software is not used, only weather GRIB file downloads.
Another good feature of this Tony Castro design is the voluminous engineroom with walk-in door. The 110hp Perkins shaftdrive engine uses a Gori folding propeller. Above it sits the Cummins Onan 7.5kVa generator surrounded by ample space for maintenance work.
OFF SHORE HANDLING
With Sydney Heads dipping behind me in the swell and the hanked-on jib and staysail trimmed in, the heavy 70-footer slid along remarkably well in the 14-knot breeze and making 7kts, according to the Garmin helm readouts as the telltales flattened out at 40 degrees. The twin rudders mean the load is lightly shared on the wheels as you stand or sit out on the flat fibreglass coamings.
Clipper training stipulates that there is a certain way of doing most things aboard, including tacking, so I’m precise with my words as we ready, ensuring the runners are on and both headsail trimmers are ready before turning the boat round.
As the wind rises the Clipper responds well and her wide stern slides down the following seas.
Later I call to ease the sails and as expected on a broad reach the stubby keel is more at home. Our speed now passes double digits, giving me a glimpse of her agility that would probably feel very comfortable in the Southern Ocean, a place where the sturdily built Clipper 70 should feel right at home.
CLIPPER 70 SPECIFICATIONS
MATERIAL GRP with foam core
WEIGHT 31,700kg hull; 12,000kg keel
WATER 700lt (plus watermaker)
MAKE/TYPE Perkins shaftdrive diesel
RATED HP 110
ASYMMETRIC SPINNAKER 330.34m²
FOR MORE INFORMATION
See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #449, February / March 2014. Why not subscribe today.
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