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The power of expression: Jason Ker'S latest carbon rocketship, the Ker 46, is one lean, mean, racing machine, as kevin green discovered sailing on a balmy port Phillip Bay.

A development of the original 2009 Ker 46 Tonnerre that has delivered winning results in Europe and America, Patrice, the latest Ker 46 by McConaghy Boats, was delivered early this summer to Sydney owner/skipper Tony Kirby. Continuing his family heritage with the Patrice name, the retro painted hull #2 of the McConaghy Ker 46 series has already brought Kirby early success winning the Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC) in Sydney. Kirby and crew went on to sail a tantalising Sydney Hobart race where they led on handicap for some time until the cracking of two bow ring-frames in big seas forced Kirby's decision to retire short of Hobart.

Remarkably, McConaghy had replacement ring-frames crafted of carbon and flown directly to Hobart in time for the boat to be repaired and ready to compete in Victoria's Festival of Sails raced at Geelong in late January. I caught up with Patrice for a crew training day whilst there and spent some time sailing aboard Patrice with Kirby, who told me all about his decision to buy the Ker 46.

"I chose the 46-footer as it's a manageable size--not much bigger than my previous X-41--and the campaign costs are also more manageable than, say. a TP52 which keeps my accountant happy," laughed Kirby as we walked down the Williamstown quay. Later that week Kirby's team would again make the podium with a second place in the strongly contested IRCi Division at the Festival of Sails.

PLENTY OF FLARE

The Ker 46 hull shape is rounded with generous flat sections aft to enable easy and quick planing and with flared topsides that provide plenty or beam and thus stability at sea. Full bows are perhaps the most noticeable feature on the Ker 46, designed to create buoyancy going downhill while also creating lift while beating. "We found the motion strange at first as she sort of bounces through the waves on a beat, which keeps up our momentum," explained Kirby. The other interesting feature is the relative lack of longitudinals inside the 6.25 tonne hull, which is lighter than the original Tonnere, especially compared with a GRP Ker 401 have previously sailed.

Rods running from the cabin sole to the roof support key load points--such as the jib track--and the starboard ones have carbon rollers for speedy headsail handling.

Carbon's inherent rigidity allows this minimum structure of course but it caused some angst pre-Hobart for Kirby who fell foul of conflicting requirements stipulated by Germanischer Lloyd and the ISO standard that the boat had been built to, which meant that it didn't comply to 1SAF requirements. Large areas of unstructured carbon required more thickness to comply, so McConaghy laid a 5mm layer of carbon with close cell foam through the hull bilge area, much to Kirby's relief. "I couldn't believe the news but they did an amazing job turning it around for us."

Keeping everything upright is a high aspect keel with optimised lead bulb and deep carbon spade rudder, which felt fully in charge of the hull when I took a trick on the helm.

CLEAN DECKS

Patrice's cockpit remains fairly similar to the first Ker 46 Tonnem with one major difference in the aft location of the Harken pedestal. It sits behind the Harken Pro Trim mainsheet track, which allows the mostly aft-seated crew to trim without moving far from the hiking position. "We considered both options and decided that the time you get most benefit from the pedestal is downwind in big breeze, so positioning it aft makes the most sense," commented Jason Ker. At sea I found plenty of space behind the grinding crew to trim the running backstays and Kirby has been happy with the layout. "I wanted to keep all systems as simple as possible so everything is mechanical and the only hydraulics are the mast jack," he explained. Primary winches are Harken 65.3s with H55.5 mainsheet winches just ahead of the binnacles and the sheets run aft to the track via blocks. After a few outings there is little Kirby would alter in the new boat. "It's a great setup but I'd prefer to change the link to connect both Harken mainsheet winches to the pedestal, rather than the single setup we (currently) have."

Moving forward in the wide and relatively deep cockpit, all Spinlock jammers are on the starboard coachroof with halyard lock strings set below and all lines run neatly through the saloon in gutters and tubes. The twin binnacles are unadorned so a compass would be useful, while four B&G mast jumbos plus an 113000 screen guide the helmsman.

Under foot, the grippy, sky blue non-slip does its job well when moving between the helms and also when going forward on the side decks where carbon tubing on the forward guard rails nicely protects the kites. An offset electric pneumatic bow hatch allows the spinnaker retrieval line to drag the doused sail through the starboard side of the saloon, aided by carbon rollers. Other control lines are run through an open trough inside the saloon with more halyards in covered gutters along the top of the bilges; and all worked a treat during our sail on Port Phillip Bay. Yet another smart on Patrice is sail stack organisation, with Velcro bulkhead stickers denoting which sail is being stored.

The carbon rig was supplied by Hall Spars from New Zealand, fitted with stainless rod stays and a carbon forestay, a setup chosen as the optimum for IRC ratings. Kirby continued his relationship with Hood Sails in Sydney for the sail wardrobe for Patrice having D4 laminates mostly, with Dimension sailcloth used in their two furling Code Zeros, which run off a UBI bowsprit furler. So far Patrice's program development has involved fitting a larger (squared topped) mainsail and new headsails for regattas. "This has cost us a higher IRC TCC of 1.285, rather than the 1.280 we had in our standard offshore trim," revealed Kirby.

CREW COMFORT BELOW

The relative liveability below deck reflects the fact that Patrice is both an inshore and offshore race boat, so there's 12 pipe-cots for the off-watch crew, an enclosed head forward and even a sizeable chest fridge. "I had McConaghy specially build it as there's no point in a boat where you can't have a cold beer!" smiled Kirby. Crew welfare is important as well so the fridge stores frozen cryo-vaced meals for the offshore diet of the 12 crew. Twin Jetboil gas burners on top of the moulded sink make for a simple but effective galley in the open plan layout, which also allowed standing room for Kirby, who revealed some of his plans for campaigning the Ker 46. "But if we do a Transpac we'd have to put watertight doors on the fore and aft sections though, as per race requirements." Other comfort features include floorboards with six automatic electric pumps in foot-deep bilges. "Which means we've got a pretty thy boat for the off-watch crew to rest in," added Kirby.

The 40HP Yanmar auxiliary is accessed from both sides of the companionway steps. In a clever change from hull #1--Cape Fling's saildrive--Patrice has a lifting shaft drive. Patrice has a flexible gearbox joint allowing the shaft driven four-bladed propeller to be wound into a housing inside the hull, behind a sliding door to give a smooth underside profile under sail. A perspex inspection window let's you check it easily as well; all very neat.

The GRP nay-station is one of few non-carbon parts of the Ker 46 and is built directly under the cockpit with enough headroom for the navigator to sit comfortably. Electronics are mostly B&G, including a B&G Hercules 3000 processor safely located in the enclosed forward head while the B&G fluxgate is also kept nice and dry on its roof attachment below the cockpit sole. Race software used is Deckman on the B&G T8 plotter and Expedition on a Panasonic Toughbook. but Tony also uses Ventus (linked to Expedition) on a 7-inch iPad for race starts on deck.

Carbon of course hampers radio waves so all antennas have been centralised in an above-deck cockpit dome, including the Wifi and twin HF antennas that are on the running backstays. Also on deck are four MEG H3000 readouts, with load cell information displayed on the key areas including the forestay and running backstays.

CARVING UP PORT PHILLIP BAY

Patrtee's raining day on Port Phillip delivered light to moderate conditions that allowed the crew to go through their paces for the windward/leeward races on the following race days. Professional sailor Darren 'Twirler' Jones had been brought in to fine-tune the development phase of the new boat, so we all benefited from his expertise as we went through a series of tacks to adjust the recently up-sized sails. On the uphill legs the backstay pressure was upped to 5.3-ton loads, as the centre of effort was moved back in the hull. With the number #2 jib up we pointed at 43 degrees clipping along at 7.8 knots in the light 9.4 knots of breeze, and after some more tuning and car repositioning we edged up to 41 degrees. Off the wind things got lively as the A.2 spinnaker was hoisted. On the wheel I watched as the numbers crept up quickly as we accelerated towards Melbourne's CBD. Going into a series of gybes the big sail was pulled round easily as we set off back to St Kilda, with Patrice responding instantly to every twitch of my fingers on the McConaghy carbon wheel. The B8iG jumbos showed 15.5 knots of boat speed as the wind came in behind the beam at 145 degrees, quickly accelerating the sleek hull onto the plane.

Nearing the Williamstown jetty the spinnaker was dropped without drama or getting wet by clicking a mast button to release the pneumatic deck hatch while the retrieval line pulled the sail quickly aft through the saloon. Neatly done, like everything else on the Ker +6. It all brought a big smile to Tony Kirby's tanned face. "Above all, our sailing has got to be fun for me and that's what I'm enjoying with the Ker 46."

4, www.mcconaghyboats.com

MODEL            McConaghy Ker 46

DESIGN           Ker Design, Valencia, Spain

BUILDER          McConaghy Boats (China yard)

LENGTH OVERALL   13.9 m

DISPLACEMENT     6,250 kg

BEAM             4.5m

DRAFT            3.35m

BALLAST          TBC

SAIL PLAN        P 19.30[m.sup.2], E 6.00[m.sup.2], |
                 17,72[m.sup.2], J 5.10[m.sup.2], Spinnaker
                 235 [m.sup.2], Staysail: 7.5[m.sup.2]

ENGINE           40HP Yanmar shaft drive

FUEL CAPACITY    70 litres

WATER CAPACITY   100 litres

CERTIFICATION    ISO Structural Cat. A /ISAF OSR Cat. 1

PRICE            US$585,000 base boat, plus NZ$104,000 for
                 Hall Spars carbon rig.
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Title Annotation:McCONAGHY KER
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Date:Feb 1, 2014
Words:1817
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