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Winning With North Sails Onboard a Melges 32 at Chile's Regata Chiloe

6th March 2018
The biennial Regata Chiloe is one of Chile's most important regattas The biennial Regata Chiloe is one of Chile's most important regattas

Shane Hughes of North Sails Ireland left the cold Irish weather and the Northern hemisphere behind and headed south to Chile to compete in the biennial Regata Chiloe, one of Chile’s biggest and most prestigious regattas based around the beautiful southern island of Chiloe and the protected waters between it and the Chilean mainland. He had been invited by Pablo Anfruns and Rudolf Mijac to race with their team on the Melges 32 Red and here he describes the regatta and how North Sails Ireland developed a sail that led to a well earned win

Remarkably I was not the only Irish crew member. David Kennedy, an Irish expat now living and working in Santiago also hails from Dublin and had sailed with his father in Howth for years before heading south. Aside from being a great addition to the sailing team, David’s fluent Spanish also got me out of a few confused looks as I was giving direction in Spanglish to the Chilean lads, who in fairness to them were being very kind by pretending they knew what I was saying...

For those who have not experienced it, Melges 32 racing is fantastic fun. The boat is very powered up and can easily sail in as little as 4 knots of wind but really comes into her own in 15 knots plus downwind! Having had a break away from sailing the 32 for a few years, it reminded me what a truly special boat it is.

Yacht race startA fleet start from Castro in Leg one of Regata Chiloe, one of Chile’s biggest and most prestigious regattas

With only one other Melges 32 based in Chile right now (the newly acquired ‘Pepe Pato’ owned by Jose Tirado and Patricio Lopez) both boats were entered into the IRC division, not historically the Melges 32’s strong point with its big sail area and light displacement. So expectations were set firmly in pessimistic mode.

However, I underestimated how the format of the regatta along with the traditional winds for this event (light!) would play into the Melges’ strengths rather than its weaknesses. Thankfully Pablo, the helmsman, and co-owner had not overlooked these factors and this had formed his reasoning for purchasing the Melges 32. The regatta format is a mix of coastal races, with some inshore windward-leeward races. While the 32 would struggle a little on some of the inshore races, the longer coastal races actually suited the boat, especially with downwind or light upwind legs. 

Melges light windsShane Hughes onboard the Melges 32 ‘Red’ finishing the final coastal leg from Calbuco into Puerto Montt

One area of concern in the lead up to the regatta was the absence of a Code Sail on the Melges 32. The boat had been almost exclusively raced in One Design configuration, with no need for any code sails, but this regatta format demanded a sail that would work on the reaching and super light wind legs. With the help of Dave Lenz in the North Sails UK design office, we set about designing an A Zero for the race.

With such a long bowsprit the Melges 32 does not offer the option to set a true Code Zero sail, as you can not generate the cable/luff tension required to furl the sail properly thus the choice of an A-Zero which is hoisted, deployed and retrieved the same as any other spinnaker onboard. This in itself presents a challenge because if you build the sail from too stiff a material (laminate or 3Di) the sail will be very difficult to hoist and recover through the fore-hatch but use a softer nylon material and the sail will not have the stability to retain its flying shape, especially as an IRC zero which requires a big mid girth (>75% of foot length).

A Zero sailThe new A Zero made from MaxiKote 200P

The compromise we struck was with Contender’s MaxiKote 200P. A great choice that produced a really stable sail shape that was easy for the crew to handle and work with. We also added North’s Velcro stop tabs which allowed us to roll the head and tack sections to make strong wind hoists easier and safer.

The sail performed superbly and actually won us a coastal race. When trailing our opposition Melges 32, we both sailed into a parking lot under a headland. In the light and tricky conditions they hoisted their biggest A2 Asymmetric and we hoisted our A Zero. From 100 meters behind we ghosted right by them, hit the new breeze first and won the race by some distance. The lesson learned, bigger is not always better especially in very light conditions.

We used a full North Sails inventory, which bar the new A Zero, was from 2011 when the boat competed in its last World Championships in Palma. The Main and J1/Light jib were 3DL, while the J2 and J3 were 3Di Endurance. The 2 Asymmetric we used were both made of AirX nylon. It really was a testament to the durability of both 3DL but especially 3Di that the sails had retained their flying shapes incredibly well. Granted they had not been used extensively in the interim but as you will see in the below pics, you would not guess they were 7-year-old sails.

north sails mainsailOur 7–year–old 3DL mainsail

North sails jibJ1 jib in 8 knots. Flying shape still near its original marks

The 3DL sails were just beginning to show the first signs of de-lamination in high-density fibre areas and while this did not affect the performance of the sail at all, it does highlight what a huge advantage 3Di has over all of the ‘string’ sails from this perspective. The 3Di sails still looked brand new! No ill effects of being sat in the bag for that extended period. Unfortunately, the predominantly light winds meant they mostly remained in their bags, but the J1 held up superbly and ended up being the workhorse headsail for the regatta.

Melges Big BreezeA 30NM downwind race in 25-30 knots saw Red finish ahead of most of the Soto 40’s on the water

At the end of a thoroughly enjoyable weeks racing, both Melges 32’s ended up at the top of the leaderboard with our team taking the win. This surpassed expectations on all fronts for the owners, especially in their first year in the boat and helps promote the future growth of the Melges 32 in Chile. There was quite a lot of interest in the boat, with many observers very surprised with how fast the boat was, especially in the light conditions.

Light air spinnkersLight airs performance on the Melges 32 is pretty impressive. Above, finishing a 35NM coastal race in front of the Swan 68 ‘Sanhattan’ and most of the Soto 40’s.

Shane Hughes Melges prizegivingThe Prizegiving. Red team left to right (Antonio Olavarria, JP Anfruns, Tomas Olavarria, Pablo Anfruns, Sébastien Briceno, Rudolf Mijac, David Kennedy, Shane Hughes)

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Published in North Sails Ireland

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Cois Chuain
O'Regan's Field
Myrtleville, Cork P43 V997
 353 0212061769


Bend on / Bend off, Canvas, Certified Service, Sail Hardware Upgrades, Sail Inspection / Evaluation, Sail Measurement, Sail Repair, Sail Storage, Sail Washing



09:00 – 17:30


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Sea Road, Newcastle Wicklow
Leinster A63DT26 Ireland


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Nigel Young

Loft Manager, One Design Expert
[email protected]

Shane Hughes

One Design Expert, Sales Person
[email protected]

Maurice O’Connell

One Design Expert, Sales Person
[email protected] Team

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North Sails Ireland is operated by Loft Manager and One Design Expert Nigel Young at his Cork Harbour base at Myrtleville. The company specialities include Bend on / Bend off, Canvas, Certified Service, Sail Hardware Upgrades, Sail Inspection / Evaluation, Sail Measurement, Sail Repair, Sail Storage and Sail Washing. Working with Nigel are Maurice O'Connell, Shane Hughes and Richard Marshall.

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