Ráning around

Niklas Zennström's skipper Tim Powell brings us up to speed with their packed 2010 program

Wednesday March 31st 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Niklas Zennström’s Rán team have a new toy to play with. In addition to their no1 yacht, their 72ft long Judel-Vrolijk design they launched a year ago, they have acquired a Farr 45, to compete in what looks set to be one of the most active big boat fleets in the UK this year.

“The reason the 52 got sold was that in the early days it looked like the fleet of 52s was going to grow,” Rán skipper Tim Powell told thedailysail. “In Cork week two years ago we had six or seven 52s, but it seemed to peter out until it was just ourselves and Rio. So it is nice to have a boat in the UK and for Niklas it is easy for him to come down from London. The 45 - they are great boats, they are evenly matched and if you get eight boats out at the weekend, it is good, easy, fun racing. We only sail with 11 people on the boat, so it is not a huge number of crew to deal with.” Compared to the 72 at least…

Niklas and Catherine Zennström

While the first outing for the Farr 45s en masse won’t take place until hopefully slightly warmer April, the Rán 45 will be competing at the RORC’s Easter Challenge this weekend. For this regatta Tim Powell is relinquishing the helm to regular Rán crewman Adrian Stead as he heads off to Valencia for training on John Cook’s TP52 Cristabella, following her conversion to 2010 rules including a new bowsprit.

The Rán 45 is the former Heatwave/Audacious/Fortis Excel (etc) and since her acquisition by Zennström’s team has been in the shed having a general refit, including a complete respray inside and out. “They are a pretty strict one design and they are pretty much all exactly the same,” says Powell. “There is not much you can do to try and gain an advantage – although that’s not the object of the exercise. It is just to go out there and have some racing with a bunch of other people in similar boats.”

More on the latest developments within the Farr 45 class tomorrow.

While the Farr 45s have their own circuit in the UK, the priority for the Rán team of course is their globetrotting 72 and because of this Powell reckons they will only manage to get in around 16-17 days of sailing on the 45 this year, although how much sailing they can pack in during the autumn at the Hamble Winter Series is yet to be determined.

As far as the 72 is concerned, it has been quiet since the Rolex Sydney Hobart in December when they finished fifth across the line and sixth under IRC, but won Class 1 on handicap. The original schedule had been to compete in the RORC Caribbean 600, however there were some technicalities, as Powell explains: “With the shipping, it just became impossible for us to get the boat from Australia to the Caribbean, so we had to knock that one on the head. So we took the opportunity to give the boat a mini refit, which it needed because it had quite a busy year last year. So it is all in good shape. It is on a ship at the moment on the way to Antigua, but even with that it was originally supposed to get there at the end of March and now it is going to be 15 April, which doesn’t leave a huge amount of time before Antigua Race Week starts.”

According Powell, the 72 hasn’t been changed much. During her refit in Sydney – under the watchful eye of new boat captain, Chris Hoskins, formerly the boat captain for another Swede, Artemis’ Torbjorn Tornqvist - the boat’s optimum wind speed has been reduced down a bit for this season.

At her first regatta back in the northern hemisphere, Antigua Sailing Week, the Rán 72 will be up against some interesting competition in Tom Hill’s 75ft Reichel-Pugh designed mini-maxi Titan XV, which was launched last year a few months after the Rán Judel-Vrolijk 72 was. “She did well in St Maarten and is only 3ft longer than us,” says Powell of the competition. “They are quite different concepts. Titan has twin rudders, but she isn’t that wide. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

After Antigua the 72 will head up to Newport, RI ready for the Newport-Bermuda Race and the Onion Patch Series – which includes the Bermuda Race starting on 18 June and the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta the weekend before and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta once they have reached the finish line of the US' classic 600 miler

From there the 72 will be on a ship with Hap Fauth’s mini maxi Bella Mente bound for the Mediterranean where her first regatta will be Copa del Rey in Palma followed by the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and finishing off the European season with the Voiles de St Tropez.

In terms of the competition this year, it looks set to be similar to 2009. Neville Crichton’s Shockwave (ex Alfa Junior), Andres Sorriano’s Alegre, Udo Schutz’ STP65 Container and Sir Peter Ogden’s all-black Jethou are all entered in April's Hublot Palma Vela, but the Mini Maxis won’t gather en masse until August with Copa del Rey.

After St Tropez, the cycle the for Rán team starts again with the boat back on a ship down to Australia for another crack at the Rolex Sydney Hobart...

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