OZ PDRacer Speed Record
By Michael Storer - Adelaide, South Austraila - Australia

I was hoping to run away with the Australian National PDRacer titles and was a bit relieved to not have to face the actual test of racing the others because of quite a bit too much wind. Three of the boats were to be launched for the first time and the various owners were not keen on debugging the boats in 20 to 25 knots of breeze and a big chop (as you can see from the photos).

Despite the big show and large number of boats attending you can see there were no other boats out at the time despite a number of planned events - it was just a bit too windy for most.

But it was important to fly the flag in front of all those people. So I decided to have a crack at the PDRacer world speed record. I had to beat 6.5 mph - a record held by Tim Cleary

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Sailing out from the Marina - hey this wind is strong

I attached a GPS belonging to Rob Badenoch near the top of the centrecase - an area that wouldn't get wet if I went over.

It was a little tight getting out of the corral formed by the beach and a wharf each side - particularly considering that the river was shallow because of the drought and I kept hitting rocks on the bottom as well.

The good side of the river being so low was that there was no current in any direction whatsoever - there hasn't been any flow out of the Murray for a couple of years - so any speed measurements were not assisted in any way.

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Sailing along waiting for a gust

So I squeezed out between the two wharves and headed out into the river. First I sailed a bit upwind. The big centreboard and rudder giving good control - the boat felt very handleable and with a bit of a heel to leeward it climbed up over the chop with little trouble.

The extra speed and power in the sail did mean that I had to sit a lot further back to prevent the nose from digging in. Because of the curve of the PDR bottom - if you are a little too far forward the bow digs in as a gust hits and the boat gets bogged in its own bow-wave. But if you move just the right amount back the bow will lift up into the air as the gusts hit and the boat accelerates.

So to downwind sailing where the speed attempt would be made. I couldn't actually see what the GPS was reading through all this - I was more interested in keeping the boat upright and intact in front of the crowd of probably 3 or 4 thousand at the wooden boatshow.

Bearing away and easing sails I quickly found what the more experienced American sailors had told us about - that you had to move a REALLY LONG WAY BACK to stop the bow digging in. Even if it did dig in there was plenty of buoyancy and water never came over the top of the bow to fill the cockpit - actually almost no water got aboard in the half hour I was out there and control was good because of our deep and large area rudder.

Moving back a lot more, the bow popped up to a crazy angle as the boat accelerated down the face of the first wave as a gust hit - this was not half hearted planing like in the video on the website - this was the proper thing. It felt much like any other boat on the plane - looser but still with good directional control.

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Gust hits

The picture above shows both the point of sail and the trim for the speed runs. I wasn't able to see the GPS while sailing - but I think the fastest run was one of the first when I was heading in the opposite direction from this. A couple of nice waves and a big gust coinciding.

A funny thing happens when the gust finishes. With a boat this short with such a wide stern and lots of rocker it just goes back to normal displacement sailing - the V8 suddenly turns into a ride-on mower - most boats have a transition as they decelerate - but the PDR just jumps suddenly from one mode to another - it feels like 4 knots or so.

This was fun.

But was it faster than 6.2 knots? I did a couple more reaches backwards and forwards - tacking the boat was quick and easy - the large rudder doing its job - a few more waves and gust and accelerates and decelerates.

It was certainly a lot faster than I had been on the Mooloola river in front of Peter's house.

So either it was enough to beat the record or it wasn't.

So change of plan - the big test for a decent sailing boat is always whether it will go upwind in a decent wind and sea.

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Working upwind after the speed sailing

So I headed upwind toward the south into the eye of the wind. No problems at all - at least for someone with a background in small boat racing. The only thing is to sit back far enough so that bow doesn't dig in. The boat trucks upwind nicely - making good ground and not much leeway and tacks quickly and reliably. Once or twice I time the tack badly and hit a wave which stops the boat mid tack - but there is no feeling of immanent peril - because the stability is so good. Just ease the sails a fraction and steer onto the right tack by sailing backwards - an easy and old dinghy and catamaran racing trick. In around 12 tacks I think I missed two of them while covering the best part of a kilometre dead upwind.

When I went to head downwind again the wind had risen noticeable and I was a bit worried abour re-entering the corral at what would have been considerable speed. So I took the safe approach.

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Returning after the record attempt with reefed sail - probably won't work upwind but works downwind fine.

I went ashore where I was - about 2/3 of a mile upwind from the launch point, took off the boom and reduced the sail by about 2/3 by simply wrapping it around the mast - it was a dead run downwind to go back home and just needed a bit of rag to give me steerage. Down to the opening at a couple of knots, turn in and feet back on ground again.

Pulled the GPS off. Remember the target was 6.2mph. It showed 8.0. Then someone pointed out that it was measuring in Knots.

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The correct reading for the sail

This converts to a tiny shade over 9.2mph. It's now time to get the record ratified!

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the wrong gps reading because I ran up the beach waving my arms

Michael Storer Boat Design
Wooden Boat Plans

OZ PDRacer plans - $20 from Duckworks

More Michael Storer plans from Duckworks