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What boat do you sail on?

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 21 May 2023 23:00 BST
The new M.A.T.1220, Bushranger, is still easy to spot in the diminishing twilight © John Curnow

It's a fairly common question. Place a couple of yachties together at a bar, regatta, or the waterfront, and soon enough it will get asked as they try to determine what kind of sailor they are spending time with. It is a bit like people meeting for the first time at parties and asking, "So. What do you do?" A person is defined by much more than their vocation, but it is a nice way to start and gives you some idea as to their nature, goals and a whole bunch of other things if you actually listen and don't merely allow your ears to be just 'painted' on.

As I stood around in the rapidly diminishing twilight awaiting the arrival of the new M.A.T. 1220, and then subsequently inspecting it once tied to the quay, the whole aspect of this was first and foremost in my mind. Coupled with the understanding that IRC, in particular, now finally 'allows' 40-somethings to plane instead of just going around grading the ocean, and it was a heart-warming experience.

A lot of it comes down to numbers, and we'll get to that in a second, but first a word from her designer, Mark Mills: "They are meant to be very versatile boats; able to rate under both ORC and IRC, be good inshore and offshore, with the options of bulb keel, twin rudders, and water ballast available to mode the boat towards the buyer's target conditions. Hull #1 is for a Turkish team, hull #2 is a bulb version in Japan, hull #3 is with you, and hull #4 is an ORC targeted version for a Swedish buyer."

Now this adaptability to differing geographic regions, and then also racing style, is key in the brave new world. Add in that you can modify some of them 'on-the-fly' as it were, means you can use one certificate for one thing, and another for something all together different. The hull is the hull, but thereafter, as Mills indicates, it is a case of where do you want to go? Different appendages are there for the choosing, as too is type of stick, and deck layout. It is not shown, but the space would also seem to allow for a tiller version, should you be so inclined.

Yet nearly the easiest aspect of all this is that you can go from pin head main to square top, almost about as swiftly as you can pull the new certificate out of the filing cabinet. If you're doing a passage race and it is beam on, it will very much become game on, as well!

Back to that numbers thing

Boats are measured statically. Today, it is why we see the return of overhang. OK. Not so much like a 12m from Fremantle, but the knuckle and transom are out of the drink: smaller LWL results. However, once heeled and under way, the knuckle is in and the running surface expands almost parabolically to that really high chine point often sitting something like 700mm above the water that you see when you approach the boat. Tiny freeboard results, but it is fast. Polars almost fade into insignificance as you watch the heel angle on the Jumbos at the mast.

Use a fin keel, and make the displacement 'moderate' rather than ultra-light, and you've ticked many of the IRC boxes immediately. As for the result, well you'll likely land in the 1.155 to 1.2 rating bracket, depending on your configuration, naturally. We're not necessarily talking about swapping keels or sticks out (but this certainly can be done pretty easily if you elect to do so), just sail plan and crew numbers. The hull remains the hull, and that's a good thing, for apart from being attractive, it is strong, and superbly crafted by Alp Somer and the team at M.A.T. Yachts.

40-somethings are attractive the world over as there are a lot more pens (slips) for them, they do not require a football team to run them, and there are a lot more craft to compete against. The 'moderate' displacement means that it can be built from E-glass not carbon, which means it is more cost effective to build, easier to repair, and I dare say, cheaper to insure.

What we are talking about here is say 4800kg through to 5200kg depending on your configuration, with the bulb boats being lighter, of course. By contrast, a Fast 40 will be more like 4100kg, and due to their nature, you'll also need the AAA+ Team on board to extract results anything like her rating. And that's a cost, too...

So in the case of the M.A.T 1220, you'll get something like 90% of the performance, but maybe just 70% of the rating. Now they're numbers you can work with.

The comments

Arguably the owner is the one really in charge of the numbers. Gerry Hutton is a super sprightly 86 years of age, and appeared at said twilight welcoming party with personalised Hutton Champagne to mark the occasion. "This is the only reason we bought a new boat: there's a better seat for the owner", said Hutton, referring to the very well laid out inboard-facing arrangement in the quarter, right up against the life lines, with an anatomically placed footrest to keep his legs straight on the heel. He also gets an individual MFD in the coaming on each side to keep crew and navigator honest at all times.

So what does it feel like now that it is actually here? "It's a bit hard to believe almost; like it's not real. It's been a year in the making and there's been so much detail to and fro with the builder in Turkey, and then the long journey out. But here it is, and it's wonderful. I did see it when it cam off the ship, but it's actually quite different to see it on the water. Yes. It sort of feels different. Looks different too, with the mast, keel, all of its instruments and so forth."

Clearly, this makes the M.A.T. 1220 the new Bushranger, which means the 'old' one is the famous M.A.T 1245 from like half a dozen years ago, and hasn't she done well. That boat and crew are the newly installed NSW IRC and ORCi Champions having raced brilliantly at Sail Port Stephens.

This particular M.A.T. 1220 has all electric winches. So apart from learning not to burn through sheet casings, or blast a halyard right up and through its lock, there are some cool aspects to this. Chiefly, that you can use cabin top, primary and runner winches to control all three headsails. You can elect to leave them on the leeward drums or take them up, but best of all, either way no crewmember has to leave the windward rail to trim. Just sit there and push a button. As long as you can hang on to the string without the fingers cramping up, you have the job. Nice.

"Certainly there'll be a lot of time learning new tricks," said Michael Fountain, best known as the Tactician on board. "We have no misunderstanding that we build a boat like this and it's going to take us some time to learn it. It took us years before we were competitive with the M.A.T. 1245, but we've got some great people around us, and great advisors, so we're trying to shorten that up. It's going to take us like a year to learn this boat for sure. After all, it took us two years to learn the last boat."

"We've got to sail the boat to the heel angle that's appropriate for the wind strength we've got, and we'll be concentrating on that. We hope that the big advantage that the buttons give us will be that we can trim continuously without fatigue and without people off the rail.

"The construction of this boat is pretty special. It should be a good strong boat. The reason we went down the line of building a boat off the plan with M.A.T. Yachts is because we have incredible belief in them. Our Principal Helmsman is the great John McConaghy, and he told us independently that he thought the 1245 was built really well."

"There's always risk in building a boat that you've never seen, and hasn't competed, but it is with a great builder and a great designer. It is new, and it's also going to be a much more exciting boat for us to sail. Mark Mills has told us that on its day, the old boat will beat this boat," said Fountain reflecting on the challenges ahead.

"It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the old one. It was just that we've had that one for four or five years, and it's time for a change. Also, it's exciting, you know, that we're all pushing the boundaries - us, Mills Design and M.A.T."

Jamie MacPhail from Boating-Club placed the boat and commented, "It is designed so you can burst out of the bubble and achieve the kind of speed that's going to allow it to be competitive against a displacement 40-footer. This boat weighs 2200 kilos less than the current Bushranger.

"So it all means that in 15 knots of breeze this boat's doing 12, 13 or 14 knots of boat speed, whereas the others are doing nine. Then in 20 knots the M.A.T. 1220 is off doing 15 to 18 knots of boat speed depending on the conditions, and the old Bushranger or Soozal, for example, will only be achieving nine and a half. This is the point, right there."

"The fit and finish are exemplary, and the attention to detail in the build just adds to the confidence. It will look as good in five years as it does now, just like the M.A.T 1245 further down the quay oes. This is the very latest in the new French style of thinking under IRC, and Mark has really worked through the parameters and variables to get to this point."

"You know it is interesting for it looks like there is a lot of rocker, but this is because of the overhangs. It is quite flat. Similarly, you might not think the rig is that far aft, but it is maybe six or seven percent further aft than other comparable designs. Naturally, the proof is going to be out on the track, and with Brisbane to Gladstone, Hamilton Island, Sydney to Southport all on the cards it won't be long before it becomes apparent."

As for me?

I love the stripped out all white nature down below. Ringframes and runners, pipe cots and the bare bones head and galley, along with those two massive, super visible keel bolts going right down into their threads in the keel itself does a lot for me.

There is a furniture option, but I really cannot imagine why you'd go there, as it is counter-intuitive to the original ethos that works so well. Still, it does serve to highlight the adaptability and versatility we started with.

So what boat do you sail on? Given half a chance, I'd be delighted to say a M.A.T. 1220 to anybody who asked me. Make it 100 degrees true and 25 knots all day, every day please. Giddy up!

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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