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By Heather Mahady, UK Sailmakers International’s New General Manager
If you figure your visible horizon is about ten miles away, then the Marsaudon ORC 50 catamaran MALOLO did a 50x horizon job when she was first to finish in the 2022 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. After 3108 miles across the Atlantic from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to St. Lucia in the Caribbean, she was (568 nm) ahead of the second-place boat in the 138-boat fleet – a 55-foot catamaran.
Aptly named after the Hawaiian flying fish, MALOLO claimed a clean sweep of firsts; her winning time of 11 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes, and 26 seconds earned her line honors, first place in Multihull A, first place in Multihull overall, and first place overall in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. MALOLO’s crew was Tom Kassberg (USA) owner, skipper Duncan Gladman (Canada) and four additional crew members: Gavin Bracket, Brandon Davis, Sid Gorman and Nigel Oswald.
ATLANTIC RALLY FOR CRUISERS WINNERS
MALOLO was picked up brand new from the Marsaudon Composites factory in Lorient, France this spring and had been spending time cruising in the Mediterranean prior to the ARC. MALOLO’s entire racing inventory of sails are Titanium upwind sails and Matrix spinnakers that were built at UK Sailmakers loft in Sidney, British Columbia.
The inventory, used during the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, includes a full-batten, square top mainsail, a J0, J1, J2, and J3, plus a structured luff A0 and two spinnakers — an A2 and A5. The team at UK Northwest loft watched the ARC tracker during the race every day with excitement as updates of the MALOLO team’s commanding lead were called out across the loft floor.
Racing got real immediately for the crew who had never sailed together. Days 1 and 2 saw wind speeds of around 25-32 knots with rough seas. However, within 24 hours of the start, MALOLO had already left the entire fleet behind. The last boat passed was FATJAX, a Shipman 63, which can be seen powering through the aforementioned swell in a video clip provided by Duncan (below).
By the end of Day 2 during the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the crew found their rhythm and were performing well as a team. Duncan said, “We sort of said ‘Okay let’s go’ and then we started pushing hard.” This push launched MALOLO into an ideal position in the trade winds, and that was when the catamaran really began to pull away. By the time Tom and the team crossed the finish line, the next boat in the fleet, CATARSIS, an Outremer 55-2, trailed MALOLO by a staggering 563 nm.
The incredible racing result is a product of many factors including a hardworking crew and a sleek inventory of UK racing sails. Duncan also gave credit for the success to having spent the last three months studying and making detailed notes regarding tactics, strategy, and routing while working with a well-known French weather router and also with Will Harris, co-skipper for the IMOCA 60, MALIZIA.
“Will was instrumental in helping me to understand the routing using Adrena navigation software. The pressure is always on when you’re responsible for routing, and I had not sailed in this region before, so this was all new information. I spent so much time studying.” Duncan joked, “I probably spent more time studying tactics, strategy and routing for this race than I spent studying in all of my highschool classes combined.”
It’s clear that his efforts paid off, and the background knowledge helped the team make good decisions, even when the trades were unsettled and variable. Duncan said, “We often found ourselves playing 30-degree shifts. Timing and coordinating big sail changes with only 2-3 crew members on deck is difficult because you can’t do a sail change every hour.”
Aside from the weather, wind, and sea state, the greatest challenge during the race was navigating through large clumps of sargasso weed during the final 4 days of the approach. The tangled seaweed was difficult to see at night, and visibility aside, some patches of sargasso were so large that they couldn’t be avoided. The seaweed got knotted up under the rudders, making steering difficult and causing the boat to round up. At times, MALOLO had to stop and backdown to clear it. During one incident, Gavin had to jump in the water and clear one of the rudders.
There were plenty of memorable moments during the race. This crossing itself was particularly meaningful for Tom, who had long shared the dream of sailing across the Atlantic with his father who had passed away a couple of years ago. At the half-way point, Tom and the MALOLO crew took a moment to honor the memory of Tom’s father.
A highlight for everyone onboard was reaching some incredible boat speeds, as evidenced by their pace — an average of 220 nm per day. On day 4 and 5 there was a strong breeze and the crew was pushing the boat hard, maintaining speeds in the mid-20s. Tom hit a high speed of 28.2 knots and Gavin and Duncan hit speeds of 25 and 27. They noted they were walking the exciting line between fun and scary.
Regarding the performance of MALOLO’s UK Sailmakers sail inventory during the race, Duncan said, “All the sails that we had were awesome! We didn’t do much upwind work, so we didn’t spend much time with the jibs. But the A2 and A5 were great. Everyone loved it when we could fly the A5; it hits a sweet spot because the flatter shape meant they could do more to steer the boat down waves.” Stuart Dahlgren, owner of the UK Sailmakers Northwest loft put a great deal of effort into selecting the optimal sail plan that ensured MALOLO was equipped with sails designed to withstand the load created by multihulls. When asked whether there were any more sails on the UK wish list, Duncan said, “Maybe a staysail or an A2.5.”
Duncan remarked that the crew had their share of celebrations following the big win, including a dinner with the crew of the second-place finisher CATARSIS, and a few nights of “partaking in local beverages”, namely, the iconic rum punch. With the ARC complete, Tom and the team look forward to some Caribbean cruising and racing this winter and into next spring. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish next, with their talented team, and their inventory of UK Sailmakers sails.
You can find more information about the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers here.