That’s a wrap!

They say the second happiest day for boat owners is when they buy a boat. The happiest, conversely, is when they sell it. While this saying points to the work, time, and expense that go into owing and campaigning a boat, for most it is a bittersweet moment when, for the final time, you step off a boat you’ve loved and cared for over many years. Such a bittersweet moment occurred recently for Geoff Bishop, owner of the UK Sailmakers Fremantle loft in Australia.

Those of you who have followed UK Sailmakers through our newsletter, social media, instructional videos, and website, have had ample opportunity to see Geoff and his crew at work on CHECKMATE, a King 40. As Geoff will admit, his crew and fellow UK Sailmakers mates worked continuously to fine-tune CHECKMATE into the winning racing machine she is today. One of their first moves was to convert from symmetrical to asymmetrical spinnakers. With that change came evolving deck layout and running rigging configurations. Then there were the sails.

Checkmate sails on a windy day, beating upwind near shore.
Photography by Lindsay Preece, Ironbark Photos.

As you would imagine, Geoff has designed and built fast and durable sails for CHECKMATE. His upwind sails are UK’s Titanium® loadpath sails and UK’s Matrix® spinnakers complimented by a Code 0 and a spinnaker staysail that doubles as a wind seeker. Just because he’s in the sailmaking business, however, doesn’t mean he has a container of sails in his back yard from which he can select what to use that day. He’s an independent business owner who has to manage the cost of his sail inventory just like the rest of us. He did do a considerable amount of product and design development before actually building his latest racing sails.

In terms of that sail development and testing, Geoff shared, “When we purchased Checkmate, the first thing we did was to get a trial IRC certificate to see what would happen if we: 1) removed the spinnaker pole, 2) extend the bowsprit fully out (1.60m in front of the forestay), and 3) placed the largest workable asymmentrical onboard (adding an extra 28 sqm) over what the yacht currently had. The new rating came down by 0.001 of a point. Before our first race we added a new A2, A4, A1, A5, plus we had to replace the J3 and J4 as the current sails where not fit for racing. The first season we used what we had, got to learn the boat, and work out what areas needed improvement. The UK group had done some sail testing on inhauling sail designs with the J/109, and for the second sailing season we used this knowledge to build a new J1, J2 to allow us to inhaul further than we could before. A new mainsail was optimized for IRC and our rating further improved. During the second season we needed to improve the two sail reaching performance. This is the only area where we were being beaten by yachts of similar size. A new X-Drive jib top was added and a structured luff Code 0. Both of these sails achieved our goal of keeping us in front of our competition. The jib top worked when the winds were above 14 knots tight reaching. The Code 0 was our real weapon in light winds up to 12 knots allowing it to be deployed earlier than our rivals and could be carried at very tight wind angles. For the next three seasons, these sails allowed us to be competitive .

CHECKMATE’s race inventory is limited to a Titanium main, J1, J2, J3, J4 and jib top, spinnakers limited to an A1, A2, A4, A5 plus a Code 0 plus storm sails The proper sails but not the extensive inventory of back-up sails that some of his competition sails with.

Checkmate and two other boats sailing downwind in close proximity with their spinnakers, blue, red and white.
Photography by Lindsay Preece, Ironbark Photos.

That said, beyond being an exceptional sail designer and sailmaker, Geoff is a world class sailor in his own right. Were you to talk with him about sailing downwind in big offshore seas, for example, you’d surely pick up some subtle tricks on both driving and sail trim. And, when it comes to flawless boat handling by a crew intimate with how THIS SPECIFIC boat sails best, the CHECKMATE crew is at the top of that game, too.

That brings us to the new life for CHECKMATE. A sailor in Sydney has recently bought Bishop’s King 40 and plans to race her on Australia’s east coast. The new owner recognized that it will take time for his crew and him to get up-to-speed on racing CHECKMATE. He could have hired a coach to help, but instead, he’s having Geoff and some of his regular crew to come race with them in Sydney. Only after seeing the choreography of how Bishop’s crew has sailed the boat will they truly be able to meet their new-boat performance expectations.

Geoff’s final season with CHECKMATE was another successful one. One of Western Australia’s offshore champions is headed to her new home. Offshore WA’s media coverage noted, “This Saturday’s Roland Smith Race marks the final outing in WA for the Bishop Family’s CHECKMATE. A stalwart of Offshore Sailing for the past five years, CHECKMATE seldom missed a race and was usually on the podium. Second in the 2020/21 Coveted Siska Trophy and third in 2021/2022. She will be missed!”

Geoff, in that final, bittersweet moment added, “Thank you everyone who has sailed onboard and those that we raced against. It has been fun. Today we hand over the keys to the new team. Hope they have the same fun and success as we have had.”

Close up photo of Checkmate sailing on a reach, crew are adjusting something on the mast.
Photography by Lindsay Preece, Ironbark Photos.
Buttons Padin
Buttons Padin

Edward “Buttons” Padin is a lifelong sailor and a member of the Larchmont Yacht Club and the Storm Trysail Club in New York. He has over 40 years of marketing communications experience, with a focus on the sailing community.

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