Bill Henson and son Alexander have just completed their 15,000 nm trip from France to Fremantle to cap off the building and delivery of their new boat, the JPK 45 named SIRENE.
When Henson ordered his boat from JPK in Lorient, France, his plan was always to sail it back to Australia. The delivery date had been fluid – going backwards – due to Covid, however it suddenly jumped forward necessitating making sails in a hurry.
Henson immediately contacted Geoff Bishop at UK Sailmakers Australia in Freemantle to see if Geoff could help. Short answer: a resounding yes! The boat had a largely stock rig which was fortunate as no one could travel to France to measure the boat due to Covid. But building a full inventory of sails from scratch when nobody, including the owner, has set foot on the boat was a challenge. The mast was from Romania and the furlers were from Italy which added to the challenge.
Geoff looped into the conversation UK Sailmaker’s head designer Pat Considine in Chicago. Together, Pat, Geoff and Bill developed a plan for the extent of the inventory needed. Then Pat brought in his “special sauce.” Pat has become keenly adept at optimizing sail design using BSG Development’s FSI 3-D sail flying shape simulator. More than a digital wind tunnel, FSI allowed Pat to set-up the specs for the boat and rig, input the range of sailing conditions Henson would likely encounter, and a budget range he was willing to spend. From there, it was an enlightening blend of art and science. Bill commented that Geoff wasn’t so much as selling sails but providing a service, including advice on fullers and deck layout, to enable him to achieve his sailing objectives.
Mid-summer 2021, Bill arrived in France finding his boat and sails ready to go. The sails fit the boat like a glove and were ready to race and cruise immediately. And the sail tuning guide proved invaluable from the very first test sail. Bill sailed the boat from Lorient, France to the Italian island of Sardinia with his son Alexander.
SIRENE was designed as a cruiser-racer, so the first big step was to race the stormy Rolex Middle Sea Race that is sailed in late October. The 600-mile race, starts and finishes in Malta. The first time they put up a spinnaker was two days before the race. About the race, Bill wrote, “The 2021 Middle Sea Race was, as they say, ‘full on’ with winds up to 30 knots, gusting into the high 30’s – but there were three separate points in the race where the winds totally shut-down! We didn’t push the boat or ourselves excessively hard finishing mid-fleet, roughly at the back of the pure racer boats but at the front of the racer/cruiser boats. Fortunately, nothing on the boat was broken and there was no sail damage. That was particularly gratifying considering how a couple of rigs were lost plus a lot of sail damage through the rest of the fleet.”
After the race, they sailed to Tunisia, Greece, Egypt and then through the Suez Canal followed by cruising and diving the northern part of the Red Sea. After that they sped south to Djibouti and then the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. From there it was on to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, through the Strait of Malacca to Indonesia and then to Darwin. From there, the headed west across the top of Australia and then made a turn to head south along the west coast of Australia down to Fremantle. Father and son have finished an epic journey and lived their dream.
Now SIRENE will be the newest boat in the Fremantle fleet.