15 Feb 2012
Farr reaching goals for Azzam
Inside the humble surrounds of a shipping container, the mastermind behind the design of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam has been plotting modifications aimed at improving the team’s offshore performance.
Farr Yacht Design president Patrick Shaughnessy is working closely with skipper Ian Walker and his crew, who are yet to post a finish better than fifth place in the three ocean legs to date.
“It’s not as gloomy as it would appear,” Shaughnessy said, explaining that a broken mast in Leg 1, atypical weather patterns in Leg 2 and a large amount of beating conditions in Leg 3 accounted for the absence of a podium finish.
Shaughnessy is hopeful that Leg 4 race to Auckland will see his team shine, as the race course is expected to have a larger portion of downwind and reaching conditions than the legs so far — conditions that should better suit Azzam.
“The strengths of the platform are targeting light air conditions and high speed reaching and running conditions,’’ he said. “Unfortunately the race hasn’t played out well for us so far.
“Nonetheless, we still believe in where we have positioned the boat for the whole race and its strengths and weaknesses.
“I think we’ve got some things in store for Leg 4 which will address some of the upwind sailing weaknesses and still allow us to keep some of the strengths in that leg.”
Since the team docked at Sanya, China on February 4 Shaughnessy has spent an extensive amount of time working with them, building on the 30,000 hours that the design company has invested since the process began in 2010.
A member of Farr’s design team meets with the Abu Dhabi crew at every stopover to review the leg and plan for the next one.
Shaughnessy said everything from adjustments made before the leg start and observations relative to the other boats are discussed, along with plans for the next leg including anticipated conditions, optimal boat set up and strategy.
“It’s really to facilitate a good communication between the design team, the sailors and the shore team so that we make sure they’re getting out of the platform what we think they should, and we can help to improve that,’’ he said.
At the top of the list of improvements during the Sanya Stopover is upwind racing, Shaughnessy said. And he reckons they’ve got the most to gain.
“We’re specifically addressing (upwind performance) and I think we’re doing that in a way that will close the performance gap on other boats, because they have less ability to improve their platform so drastically and we can probably do that without trading away so much.”
Shaughnessy urged people to reserve judgment until the boat has had a true opportunity to show what it is capable of.
“We just haven’t had the ability to showcase our boat so far. I would urge anybody who is watching or forming opinions to be patient until we have an ability to show off some of these strengths.”
Farr, one of yacht racing’s most revered design teams, has a distinguished history with the Volvo Ocean Race. Farr yachts have competed in every edition of the race since 1981 and in 2001-02 the Farr-designed Volvo Ocean 60 Illbruck Challenge won the race. Before taking on the Abu Dhabi project, Farr’s last involvement was with Team Telefónica in 2008-09.