Yachts that are very inspiringly named Quest. Feature regattas like Hamilton Island Race Week, as well as iconic sailors such as Bob Steel and James MacPhail. Indeed there is a lot in name and all four of these aligned at the recent iteration of Hammo, just as if they were the proverbial planets. Now the results, which for sure had been somewhat closely waited on by many, were ultimately as significant as the names, too!
So is it that Jamie’s middle name, which is Hamilton, that caused this particular vortex? Could well be… There is certainly some history with his namesake island there, with six wins and four second-places on the scoreboard. This latest win joins the J35, Locomotion, from back in 1992. 1994 went to the Mumm36, Mad Men, then there was the Nelson Marek 43, Quest, in 1995, and the late Reichel-Pugh 43, Sword of Orion, followed this in 1998. The Farr 42, Evolution Racing was the previous one from the vicinity of 2010.
Ask and ye shall receive.
MacPhail detailed the road to the win, “Well we got the sort of weather we wanted for that first passage race. Something like 20knots and we won by better than eight minutes on corrected time. We didn’t see a lot of breeze for the rest of the races, with most of it done in 10-15 and maximums of 17 or 18knots. Not quite as blowy as we would have liked, but we still managed to do well enough to win the regatta with a day to spare.”
“So essentially the boat is very, very quick in anything over 15TWS, particularly for passage races. We were faster than the Farr400, especially reaching and certainly to windward when it came up a bit. That was definitely a great bonus and it put us boat for boat with the DK46. We did struggle with the windward/leewards in 8-14knots, primarily because we’re light and have a prodder, but the minute we get the boat up on the step and planing, we’re gone!”
“It’s been quite an interesting regatta. I think so far that the boat’s very close to being competitive with all those other boats in the light airs and significantly superior when there’s more breeze. Quest has proven to be a pretty nice little boat”, said MacPhail underscoring the M.A.T.1180’s performance
Overall, everyone is very happy with her and they didn’t break a thing on the boat, or have any issues with anything, which is a testament to build quality and preparation in and of itself. Having only had a couple of weeks sailing her, it is fair to say that they are still learning how to sail the new Quest. Rig configurations in various conditions are one area they will have to master. MacPhail explains, I think at times we got it right, and other times we probably were a long way away from being correct. There is a long way to go before we’re going to get the maximum potential out of it.”
The plan comes off.
“Yeah, I’m really thrilled. It’s been a 12-month program with this boat, and M.A.T, who have done a beautiful job, for the boat is superbly finished. Mike Green sailed with us for Hamilton Island Race Week and he was very impressed, based on all his experience with building and sailing high-end boats. I do think it is the result of using SP Systems/Gurit to do all the engineering, which wasn’t cheap, but the results are speaking for themselves.”
“The boat’s surprisingly big down below, especially when you consider she is just under 40 feet. The cockpit works incredibly well, it’s an easy boat to sail and it’s rock solid, which is a direct function of its copious form stability. We’ve got the pedestal down back aft to the trim the ‘chutes, which gives us line speed for the gybes, which makes a huge difference with the 170m2 bags we’re using.”
Show me the money
“The boat handles that spinnaker pretty nicely in 22 knots of breeze at 140˚TWA. Our top speed was 20.7 knots and there was about 15 to 20 minutes where we did those kinds of speeds continuously during that first race. It’s definitely going to be a very exciting boat for passage racing off the coast. Things like Coffs Harbour and also Southport; the M.AT.1180 is bound to turn some heads. There was a lot of the interest up here, with people staring at it.”
“There’s no reason why the M.A.T.1180 cannot go to Hobart and I do think other owners people will take them there. She has quite a high freeboard and it is a deceptively big 40-footer. I mean, there is actually standing headroom down below, and it’s effectively got to flush deck. So it’s got a lot of volume, it’s safe, and it’s super stable”, said MacPhail of her blue water credentials.
Talking with MacPhail, you also find there was one item that came up which could well have been a surprise to them all. “The other really noticeable item was how comfortable Quest is. She’s actually more comfortable to sit on the side than the TP52 was. So that’s a big plus. Bob’s not getting any younger, and he found it easier to sit on this boat than he did the last one.”
“Overall, the M.A.T.1180 is hard to fault it. You could spend more money on it if you chose, like having a super high modulus mast, but as this one stands it shows that a turnkey, cost-effective option works. At under $600k, out racing on the water with full wardrobe, instruments and safety, it represents solid value. You also get the very latest in design theory from Mark Mills and discerning manufacturing techniques, which will keep you happy long after the wrapper has come off.”
“The M.A.T.1180 is very responsive. There is a bit of Larry on it when she’s loaded and doing 20knots and after being behind the wheel for a while, you certainly remember what tugging on the tiller is all about. Still, she’s not going to pull your arms off or anything like that. It is quite easy to drive and I do think anybody could drive it. She’s responsive in light air, when the tiller is light and it is very much as you’d expect. It is a nice experience, and she holds her speed through a seaway remarkably well for a 40-footer”, which given MacPhail’s vast experience is a noteworthy item on its own.
With all the interest and her capabilities duly demonstrated, one could rightly expect to see a couple more M.A.T1180’s out on the track pretty quickly. If you need to check that out, you could always talk with Mike Green, Michael Fountain or Jamie himself. The three of them formed the afterguard in Fantasyland at the back of the boat during the regatta.
Jordi Calafat from Quantum Sails in Spain designed the wardrobe and the team reports that engine room works beautifully and nothing has had to have a recut or tweak.
There can be no bigger arbiter on matters like this than looking to the guy who pays the bills. It is true that Bob Steel is very much happy to be off the couch and out racing again. Catching up with the hilarious Steel as he prepares for Magnetic Island Race Week, he said, “I could probably do with a bit of time back on the couch, as the old body is certainly wearing out a bit. It was an extraordinary six weeks from the boat’s arrival to getting ready, and then actually sailing.”
“Still, we made our goal and I am delighted that we won the Australian IRC Championship Div2. Also delighted that the boat is as good as was expected. There’ll be plenty of learning in the months to come. Everyone did their best and we learned a lot. If she gets a breeze, this Quest is a rocket ship”, which certainly is a big statement from a guy who had a TP52!
“You know the regatta might not have been raced overall in our conditions, but definitely happy to get her winning in stuff that was mostly not our favoured strengths. I am a happy bloke and my wife is also happy, so it is good times all around. We have unpacked the boat and repacked her ready for racing after her delivery from Hammo.” Only four of the previous crew are remaining, but with souls like Terry Wetten and Andrew Pearson arriving to sail, there is more than enough experience to go around. Steel added, “One thing is for sure, we won’t be lacking in fun!”
The man who always says, ‘Never say never’ is certainly enjoying every day as life’s calendar runs out, as Steel puts it. There will be plenty of fun to come at Magnetic Island and then Pittwater to Coffs Harbour looms. “Port Stephens was mentioned and then some very serious destinations came up. I guess we’ll see what transpires after they have corralled me in the bar some night”, said Steel with his typical dry sense of humour.
Of course, there is one other name that holds a very, very important part in this whole equation, as well. It is the designer, Mark Mills. The M.A.T.1180 definitely shows that he has worked out something that provides for all the fun and still manages to offer you podium potential in the great IRC sub-45 debate.
So there it is. For it absolutely seems like there are plenty of names to remember if you’re after a 40 foot racer, but only two that will get you and your blood racing. First it is M.A.T. Yachts and then next is Jamie MacPhail. The latter is whom you need to call on +61 408 114 477 to get bang for your buck and smile on the dial etched back into your sailing programme. You never know, your own quest for results could see your name on the winner’s roster as you take out some of the regions most prestigious regattas…
by John Curnow