Richard Gladwell of Sail-world.com talks specific of the new Pac52 design with Mitch Cookson and Bill Erkelens...
The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco.
Invisible Hand for San Francisco's Frank Slootman replaces his earlier RP63 of the same name. She will soon be joined by a second Cookson build, Bad Pack (Tom Holthus) from the same moulds.
A third, RIO 52 is for RIO 100 supermaxi owner Manouch Moshayedi.
The three new builds will join three existing 52fters to form the nucleus of a new level rating Pacific 52 fleet racing in the West Coast of the USA.
Around 16 years ago a similar concept, the Transpac 52 had similar aims and origins, but the TP52 soon evolved into a Mediterranean based MedCup inshore racing class, before being re-badged as the SuperSeries52.
Mick Cookson describes the Pac52 as 'an offshore version of a Medcup TP52, which is now known as a Super Series 52'.
That may seem like a 'return to the future' type remark, given that the TP52 had its origins in the San Francisco, started life as the Trans Pacific 52 and was designed for the biennial Trans-Pacific Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii,
Learning from the earlier experience, the Pacific 52 is an attempt to set up a level rating class box rule that will work within existing rules, principally ORR - a US version of ORC.
'We want to put the boats back to what they were meant to be,' explains Bill Erkelens, project manager for two of the Pac52's built in Auckland by Cookson Boats. A third, RIO 52 was built in Dubai, also for a US owner.
All three carry a spar and rigging package from Hall Spars and Rigging (NZ), with Doyle Sails NZ supplying the sail inventory for the first to be exported, Invisible Hand.
Early TP52's like the Auckland owned V5, designed by Alan Andrews, still race. V5 enjoys a highly successful racing life after being converted to a canting keel - a move which dropped her out of class.
The two Auckland built boats are essentially a Volrijk Super Series 52 hull, with some modifications and with a Cookson design deck, based on the yard's extensive experience with the type, but also the highly successful Cookson 50, which is still placing well in premier offshore races.
The Pac52 will feature a fixed keel.
The canting keel was considered as an option, these boats are based on an earlier West Coast 52fter Fox, and what Gavin Brady has done with Beau Geste and they are fine with a fixed keel. Inshore racing with IRC, you are not going to be competitive with a canting keel. '
'We 've increased the freeboard of the hull - so the crew can actually get into the bunk, and there is also access to the are under the cockpit floor to a navigation station,' explains Mick Cookson.
'Most of the sail control systems are either on deck or sealed,' he adds in deference to producing a seaworthy offshore racer.
A one design to tick all boxes
The Pac52 project arose after professional skipper, Gavin Brady, had discussions with a potential owner who was considering buying a second-hand SuperSeries 52 and converting that for IRC racing and some SuperSeries events, but no offshore racing.
The upshot of that conversation was that it was probably easier to build a low-cost new boat with all the features that would have been required in the SuperSeries52 conversion.
'The owner knew of three others in California that were looking to undertake a similar conversions,' says Erkelens.
'We had already had concept plans done for an ORR boat aimed specifically at Trans Pac and the races to Mexico. Then they all got together and said 'why don't we have a one-design that would tick all boxes?'
'You can go to Mexico and Hawaii, I can have a boat that will race around the buoys, and we can have a boat that is more suitable for the type of sailing we do on the West Coast of the USA, rather than the Mediterean.
'They all agreed, and this three-boat Pac52 project was born.'
'Because the boats and deck layouts have been compromised and heightened - we can race offshore, or we can race inshore.'
'This Pac52 concept is conducive to both formats of yacht racing', Mick Cookson chimes in.
'We eliminated as much of the swiss-cheese as we could from the deck,' Erkelens continues.
'The Vrolijk decks are flat, so they help us with lines on deck rather than everything going down below and back to the cockpit.'
'We have steering compasses, galleys, toilets and nav stations that are all removable for inshore racing. We also can remove the wheels and plug in a tiller for inshore racing and then put a wheel back for offshore racing.'
'It was very affordable to do all this down in New Zealand at Cookson Boats. It has been an excellent experience, ' Erklens adds.
The hull is the same Vrolijk design as the well performed SuperSeries52 Provezza. 'I re-drew the deck - just to make the interior work,' explains Cookson.
'We took a couple of sections, played around with a few different freeboard heights, and overlaid the sections with a Super Series boat to make sure you could get into the bunks, and under the cockpit floor. All we did was to start with the middle of the boat - see if that works, and then that basically dictates the freeboard at the bow and stern.
'We did a similar thing with Georgia off the Team New Zealand 52fter.'
'We lifted the freeboard 150mm in the bow and 125mm in the stern.'
'It is all going to help shed water', adds Bill Erkelens. 'All our races are downwind in California. We go downwind to Hawaii, downwind to Mexico - we do delivery or truck back up wind!'
'We only race towards the Equator! That's our rule!'
'We also didn't want to be submarining when the squalls come through in the afternoon - so the bunks go all the way up to amidships.'
'She will be perfect for Sydney Hobart, Fastnet, Middle Sea race - all the Blue Water Classics,' says Cookson.
Mick Cookson says he has had interest from outside the West Coast of USA. 'We have interest from a broader sector, particularly IRC - from England and Australia asking when will there be a Cookson 52?
' Plus there are other people in California who are interested.'