Ker 11.3 - review

Such is the demand for this Jason Ker-design IRM racer that seven orders were placed on the strength of the drawings

Tuesday June 5th 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Following the success of his designs such as Roaring Meg and Quokka V in last year's Commodore's Cup, much is expected of designer Jason Ker's new 11.3 IRM one design.

The first two 11.3s, Cracker and Michael White's On A High had their inaugural outing at the IR2000 Championship last weekend and still very fresh out of the box gave occasional glimpses of their potential. Cracker was under charter and only sailed two days, while On A High damaged her boom during an accidental gybe when a 27 knot squall passed by as they were on the way to the start of Saturday's racing. White's boat did not fully show her form until the final race yesterday when she finished five minutes ahead of the larger Farr 40s and two minutes behind the IC45s.

Race 1, Jonny Falkner and Phil Crebbin's race boat management company, commissioned the 11.3 from Ker last year on the strength of the performance of his boats during the Commodore's Cup. "We realised that Jason was the new young talent who was going to set the world on fire," says Crebbin.

The concept of the 11.3 is for a full-on race boat that is designed to compete as a One Design class under IRM and still be on the pace under IRC should the occasion arise. Ker and Race 1 confirm that with the 11.3 they are gunning for the 40ft One Design classes such as the Farr 40. They rate much the same under IRM: the 11.3 is 1049 to the Farr 40's 1050/1.

"They (Race 1) initially wanted a 35 footer," says Ker. "I suggested a little bit bigger was the right way to go, to be on the pace with the 40 footers. With Roaring Meg we found we could mix it with them, but they would pull through by the end of the race. With this we will be about the same speed or slightly quicker."

Ker says that one of the delights of IRM, unlike previous rules, is that you are not penalised for designing fast boats. When you see the 11.3, aside from the fixed backstay it looks like a state of the art one-off race boat. She comes complete with carbon fibre mast, boom and spinnaker pole, titanium chainplates and an interior with the bare minimum of furniture necessary to just scrape inside the rule, all of it crammed in between the mast step and keel in the middle of the boat.

The hull form seems beamy in the mid sections to me, but apparently conforms with the IRM's typeforming rule and has a similar beam:length ratio to the Farr 40, although she is narrower at the waterline. She has the characteristic Ker tiny sugar scoop stern.

The cockpit is wide and there is a choice of wheel and tiller steering ( On a High has a giant 2m diameter wheel, while Cracker has the standard carbon fibre tiller). Trimming the mainsail can be done from up to weather with the traveller adjustable from both sides of the cockpit and the sheet going forward to the mast, disappearing below decks before emerging next to a winch in the cockpit.

Otherwise all lines from the mast come back to two large banks of Spinlock organisers and clutches. The boat is designed to be sailed with a crew of nine or ten with an all-up weight of 770kg.

Although he describes the 11.3 as an uncompromising racing machine, Ker says that he wanted it also to appeal to the mass market and for this reason he made the rig simple. "The mast section's chunky. Quite a lot of people are scared of runners and rigs which have to be tuned to a high degree. This is forgiving - we hope!"

He adds that in fact the simplicity of the rig is deceptive as with a fixed backstay you have to set up the rig in advance anticipating the likely conditions whereas with runners and checkstays you can adjust the rig to suit the conditions while you're out on the water. "There's a small credit under IRM for having no runners. In changeable conditions runners are better. In steadier conditions you're better with no runners. It's horses for courses."

The carbon fibre mast has twin, swept-back spreaders with a forestay that is 15/16th fractionally rigged and there is a large mast crane and whip to help the mainsail clear the backstay during manoeuvres. Rigging is Nitronic 50 discontinuous rod. The 11.3 flies masthead kites and has non-overlapping headsails allowing a wider shroud base and a lighter section spar.

By raising the forestay attachment point on the mast and moving the forestay chainplate forward the genoa area is much the same as Roaring Meg which has overlapping headsails. The standard sail wardrobe includes a mainsail, two genoas, two no1s and a no4, plus two masthead kites.

One of the clever things on the 11.3 is the wheel mechanism used to tension the backstay. This system Ker admits was developed from the one on the IMX-40, although it was used long ago in the Flying Dutchman class. The backstay is encapsulated Kevlar, but has a yellow Vectran bottom section that leads below decks where it is wound on to a two-part drum made out of carbon fibre. The backstay winds on to a small diameter drum connected to a larger diameter drum onto which the control line is spooled: Simplicity itself. This arrangement provides a 72:1 purchase and fortunately the cockpit is wide enough to take the 80ft or so of rope necessary to achieve the gearing. "The guys from UK Sails said it was effective," says Ker of the system. "And it's lighter and faster than hydraulics."

Down below there is a small chart table on the starboard side by the main bulkhead and a small sink to port. The skeletal stove is impressive with the burners attaching directly to the gas bottle. Although they were not fitted when we were on board there are to be pipecots in the tunnels leading aft either side of the cockpit.

The 11.3 is built in Cowes by Vision Yachts and made out of female moulds (thereby saving the weight of filler). As the 11.3 is a One Design Ker has maintained a tight control on weight and the laminate of E-glass/foam/epoxy is all vacuum bagged and post-cured. Structurally the boat is based around a T-shaped beam arrangement (see right). This handles the loads from the maststep and the keel (as well as housing the water tanks) and gives a slightly unusual look to the interior.

Below the waterline the rudder is made from carbon fibre. The teardrop-shape lead keel bulb is connected to the beam by a strut made from Super-duplex stainless steel. This is around twice as strong as conventional 1316 stainless steel, although Ker says they have used this as a safety bonus - the strut is engineered as if it were made of 1316. A fairing surrounds the strut and is made in a female mould to give it a near-perfect shape. All-up weight is 4.3 tonnes of which 2.5 is on the bulb.

The One Design aspect of the 11.3 was not just to increase racing opportunities, but also to maintain the boat's resale value. Obviously the hull and structure are identical, but there will be some flexibility in deck gear and sail shapes such as the diagonal measurement of the mainsail and headsails versus roach. Although the mast has a specified minimum inertia, weight and there is a minimum size for the rod, different spar manufacturers can be used.

While C-Spars have built the masts for the first boats, some others are having their masts made by Formula Spars in Lymington. Both Ker and Race 1 are keen that the boat should keep up with the times. "We don't want it to freeze with 2001 technology," says Ker. At present Race 1 and Ker don't want to introduce an owner/driver rule or limit the numbers of professional sailors who can race them.

Last weekend's regatta was perhaps too early for the boats - due to a cock-up they did not get information about their sail wardrobe to the RORC Rating Office in time to get a certificate (and therefore didn't appear in the results) - it will be interesting to see how well they perform at regattas this summer.

Meanwhile Vision is churning them out. In addition to the two existing 11.3s, there are to date orders for five more - an indication of the expectations owners have for this boat. Ker says there are also active enquiries from Australia and Sweden. "We're getting a lot of interest from people who want to know how competitive it is under IMS. I haven't checked, but I suspect it is too fast."

Race One's Phil Crebbin says that several of the new owners are graduating up from Prima 38s. "That is more of a cruiser racer. This is a flat-out, IRM race boat." Although undoubtedly harbouring a good deal of bias, Crebbin - who sailed on On A High at the Amicus IR2000 Championship - is overjoyed with the boat. "It's a beautiful boat to sail. It handles like a dream. It seems to be quick all round."

At £150,000 excluding VAT, but including sail, electronics and a reasonable sail package, the boat is almost £100,000 less than a Farr 40. One of the advantages of buying the boat through Race 1's programme is that it is possible to claim the VAT back.

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