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Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and The Lyric or Master Gee

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 27 Aug 2023 23:00 BST
Marc Depret - such a happy sailor, and proud owner of the first Figaro Beneteau 3 in Australia. Who's going to join him? © John Curnow

Must have been an old-school hip hop theme running through on the playlist of late... After Grandmaster Flash last time, today we have the Sugarhill Gang with Rapper's Delight. Only our story is about the Tweaker's Delight. And in turn that can only mean the totally delightful and Quintessentially French Figaro Beneteau 3.

Marc Depret, the owner of the sole Figaro Beneteau 3 in Australia is about to embark in the inaugural 1250nm Sydney to Auckland race two-handed with co-Skipper George Martin. It starts on October 7, 2023. They are in the smallest (by a fair old whack) of the eight-boat fleet, and the only ones going two-up. There are TPs from earlier times, a Rogers 46, Bavaria 51, Cookson 47, DK46, and at the top end a Santa Cruz 72.

At 35.5 feet you are handing off 11 feet LOA to your closest opposite number, and it just goes up from there. Some of them are planning boats, the others are displacement, so depending on wind angle, sea state and time (duration), every dog will have its day. For the Figaro Beneteau 3 that's usually in 80-110 degree zone, and in a blow it comes back to say 140 True.

You might do it in five days if Huey loves you, for 20-25 knots is more than doable if you are brave and awake. It is one hell of a hoot, but absolutely you will not be dry, so good gear is essential. You'll also be disposing of some of your bigger rivals, and scaring the bejesus out of others. Seven days might be more like the money. This is all about place on the track, for IRC does not love the Figaro Beneteau 3, and PHS is to be the name of the game.

As a boat, it is not overtly taxing, for the helm especially is a delight, but as any shorthander will tell you, doing all the jobs on board, plus driving for long periods is totally needing a healthy dose of mind over matter. To win, you'll need the right conditions, and play the mental game oh-so-beautifully. Glory days. Alternatively, it could take 10, and they are going to have food and water on board for 12. Cue the sad face emoji...

All of that said, sounds like a really good time to see what has been transpiring since my last sail aboard Intiy, which is now two whole years ago. "Mostly it's been about doing offshore stuff. Here at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club there is the Short Offshore Pointscore, and then we've been taking bigger steps with the Blue Water Pointscore. It's been really great. What a journey; the more the more you sail this boat, the more you discover how it behaves and what its performance points are."

"There are all the manoeuvres to accomplish and different conditions to consider. The brilliant Cecile Laguette was mentoring and coaching me in the beginning, and this was marvellous", said Depret.

"She helped me prepare by going over all the systems of the boat, life on board, manoeuvres, and just getting feedback from her experience was really great. We met briefly in France last July I think, and she also introduced me to some coaches and other Figaro Beneteau 3 people, so that might be part of some plan for the future."

"George was my Instructor when I did my Yachtmaster course. He's also a rigger at Pacific Rigging, and we met again on the dock one day, we chatted about the boat, and then we started sailing a bit together. This included racing, like the last Pittwater to Coffs. He's obviously very experienced, with numerous Hobarts under his belt, and he's always taking students up and down the coast. When the Auckland race came to be, we threw our hearts into it, and so here we are."

"Apart from being my first big race, it will also be George's first time across The Ditch (Tasman Sea). We're going to push like crazy and fight it out with the bigger boats, which is why we've been in the gym, so as to make sure we're up to it. We've got a fighting chance if the wind is in the right direction!"

"The boat planes pretty well too, and with the foils, that little bit of forward rake does really make a huge difference to lift as well as the inherent stability. If we get wind and wave with us, it can really be exciting. In a race to Newcastle about 18 months ago we had these very conditions, and we finished ahead of everyone, and that included 13 and 15m vessels. Very wet, but it was a load of fun."

Given the FB3's pedigree, being able to hammer it is part of the core mission, and you can certainly do this hard on the breeze too, it's just that LWL is always going to play its part at that stage.

A new set of North Sails arrives as this gets published, and apart from a few final shakedowns during September to determine the nuances of this latest generation of rags, the team are all set. New fathead main, reefable jib, Code Zero (for up to 15 knots True), and A2 to the current FB3 rules. There's a chicken chute (A5) that has not seen much action to date, so it is on board as well. Step up. Strap in. Away you go... Depret added at this point, "Good stuff. Make sure you've got energy bars in your pockets before you start, because you won't be cooking much."

Learning and adventure were always big parts of the equation for Depret. Clearly the learning has been undertaken, so now the adventure begins. It is clearly a happy sailor who knows all the permutations of all the strings in all the conditions they are likely to encounter.

"It's all about the feeling of the boat. The FB3 is so light and so responsive that you can pretty quickly feel very subtle information that's coming from the boat. Even just a little bit more angle of attack can have a huge difference. The boat stands up and takes off. It also shows up in COG where you actually gain a few degrees, which is pretty helpful. Off the breeze you notice it when you get that little extra bit of lift, and the bow is out that little bit more. Obvious now, but quite the journey to learn..."

The FB3 is a boat that likes to heel, so it is a case of going up to the elbow of the foil and let it do its work, and depending on the conditions you won't have too much of her expansive tail in the drink. It is here that the light tiller is so joyous, as it is sensitive, accurate, and crucially, not taxing.

"It it's so light at any point of sail. Except when you go off road, and then there's no going back. The boat tells you straight away", added Depret.

"We're thinking of taking the old main as a spare, in case bad things happen. The weight is an issue, but is allowed under the race rules. I haven't quite made my mind on this yet. Either we go full on and commit, or take a bit of an insurance policy. The other ones will go over for the return trip."

Thing is, even if it only goes half to plan, it is unlikely that Intiy will be the tail gunner. Mistakes could be costly however, and Depret is aware of this, for they made one in a race not so long ago whilst doing well. It shot them astern somewhat, but they did claw a lot of it back thereafter, so this shows that Intiy is capable of big deeds. It will be up to the crew as to just what that looks like by the time they arrive in Auckland.

In closing, Depret said, "All in all it's really, really exciting, and I really hope that it's going to be the first of many, actually. Next year there's Noumea that just popped up, and it would be interesting to have a look at it."

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's sites 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 Sail-World.com

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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