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High tech Ker 56 Varuna VI ready for Hobart, Fastnet and more
Ker 56 Varuna VI by Knierim© Meike Brunßen / Knierim

High tech Ker 56 Varuna VI ready for Hobart

Cutting-edge technologies were employed in the construction of this no-compromise 17-metre long and 4.95-metre wide Ker 56 built for proud owner, Jens Kellinghusen from Hamburg, Germany. The Knierim boatyard in Kiel celebrated a further milestone in exquisite state-of-the-art boat building. With the naming and launch of the high-tech racing yacht “Varuna VI” the showcase business introduced a “thoroughbred racer” with canting keel and daggerboards to its new element for the first time.

The black carbon fibre racing yacht was suspended majestically in the lifting slings of the crane. With her propeller fully retracted as in racing mode, the twin rudders and canting keel – reaching a depth of almost four metres – glowed bright orange. In virtually restless anticipation, the boat’s hull rose and fell in the stormy gusts of the harbingers of autumn. These would have been the ideal conditions for the forthcoming challenges that will face the new “Varuna”.

“If you intend to win a top-level international regatta at some point in your nautical career, you need to decide whether you want a boat that is built for inshore races or one that is optimised for long distances offshore on the high seas”, is how Kellinghusen explained his intentions for the new-build yacht. The team was in fact highly satisfied with the yacht’s predecessor, the five-foot shorter “Super-TP52” concept, and has in the meantime sailed it “to its upper limit”. However, with a view to competing in the offshore classics – from the Rolex Fastnet Race to the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and right up to transatlantic competitions – it was necessary to improve the yacht’s reaching speed potential in particular.

High tech Ker 56 Varuna VI ready for Hobart, Fastnet and more

Ker 56 Varuna VI by Knierim© Meike Brunßen / Knierim

Although the sixth “Varuna” finally emerged only ten percent longer and just seven percent heavier than the Ker 50, she carries – incredibly – 35 percent more sail area. “While we are talking about tenths of knots when sailing upwind and running downwind, the boat’s actual speed when reaching is measured in knots”, is how designer Jason Ker explained the major difference. With the canting keel, which can be swung out to 40 degrees at either side – whose ballast comprises a significant part of the yacht’s overall weight of 7.6 tonnes. The daggerboards, whose position was further optimised during the design process and shifted further aft near the mast, top speeds of above 30 knots (approx. 60 km/h or 35 mph) should be achievable. Thanks to the twin rudders the vessel remains perfectly steerable and controllable at such speeds.

“Ker and Knierim were once again part of the project from the very beginning”, comments the owner; he has the highest possible level of trust in these two key pillars of the second new-build project. And they demonstrated their appreciation by delivering a racing yacht that is in a class of its own. “In order to complete this masterpiece, the boat builders spent more time in the shipyard over the past few weeks than at home”, is how yard boss and crew member Gunnar Knierim described the exceptional dedication of his staff. The second “Varuna made by Knierim” was a major challenge, yet none of the experts among the guests ever doubted that the yacht would live up to its high expectations.

Before Kellinghusen’s daughters Lotta and Kim wished the “Varuna VI” a ‘safe journey at all times’ at the traditional naming ceremony by spraying a bottle of champagne over her bow, the owner made special mention of his right hand man, Günter Alajmo, and boat captain Tim Daase. “These two make up half the crew.

High tech Ker 56 Varuna VI ready for Hobart, Fastnet and more

Ker 56 Varuna VI by Knierim© Meike Brunßen / Knierim

Without them our team would never have come this far.” The crane then lowered the object of beauty into the cool waters of the Kiel Canal. As the equally coal-black cockpit came into view, where the white ceramic winches stood out prominently, it was no longer possible to contain the excitement. Recreational skippers and racing freaks subjected the spartan – but technically sophisticated – below-deck “cave” to close examination with an air of astonishment. The yacht will already undertake its shakedown voyage in late summer, closely followed by her first races.

by Andreas Kling

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