Gunboat 68 CONDOR’s Debut at the Races

NYYC 175th Anniversary Regatta, July 2019

While the NYYC clocked 175 years during their Anniversary Regatta this year, the new Gunboat 68 CONDOR made her racing debut. In a fun collaboration, the core of team Bronco along with ex-Elvis pros Anthony Kotoun and Scotty Bradford joined CONDOR’s owners and crew, along with Spike Abram on behalf of Gunboat. A lot of cooks in the kitchen? On the contrary, they had a blast being the first group to get to put the Gunboat 68 through her paces out on a racecourse. The team set out to learn the boat, execute clean maneuvers, and try out different modes – with an eye on confidently owning line honors by the end of the week.

CONDOR was racing against three Nigel Irens-designed Gunboats in the 57 VaiVai and two 60s Fault Tolerant and Flow, and the Morrelli Melvin-designed HH66 Nala. In her first-ever regatta, they knew she was fast, but focusing on line honors was a motivating goal for the team since it can take some time to learn the boat and refine the VPP rating with real numbers under the Offshore Multihull Rule.

And it took a string of 2nd place line finishes in the first four races before they crossed first convincingly in the last three races, topping off the week with both line honors and a win on OMR corrected time in the final race. All-in-all the week was a crescendo!

The helmsman of Bronco racing program who was the guest skipper for the week commented, “The 1st place finish in the last race was a terrific way to finish the regatta.  It was a real accomplishment to beat tough competitors on corrected time in a long race that involved a wide variety of challenging conditions – a testament to the team and the boat.”

And the owner remarked, “We got to share this wonderful boat with a bunch of people that really appreciated it, and figure out how to make it go! That is really cool and a great joy for me personally. We had a blast and, to me, it was all about fun, family, laughing and digging into multihull racing.”

Reading the team emails with subject line “Broncdor/Condco”, there’s no doubt the team had a huge amount of fun and camaraderie in their quest to get the potential speed out of boat, with valuable takeaways from these “racing sea trials”. Roles were defined and communication was clear and collaborative. They had the overall yacht management and race prep of superyacht-level Captain/Crew Miles and Caitlyn Ashton. They positioned Gunboat experts in the roles of tactics (Anthony), pit (Scotty), and main trim (Spike) to help shorten the learning curve. The Bronco nucleus that has sailed together for years manifested second-nature communications and boat handling. Most importantly though, the program had agreed on a low-risk, learning-focused event, because in the end the performance comes from sailing the boat properly, and as a team.

Amongst all of this fun they were also unwrapping shiny new factory polars. While she was automatically speedy upwind, for the first couple of days CONDOR felt a little sticky downwind. They knew she had another gear and just needed to find it. They tried different sail combinations and adjusted trim, weight, timing of maneuvers, power builds in the light stuff, etc. etc. etc. in varying conditions – all the while building synergy as a team and time on the helm. “On any boat the VPPs are complicated to figure out in real life,” explained Scotty Bradford. “It took the first few days to verify the crossovers then it was business as usual. But we found where we could push and go faster.”

As far as advantages, to Scotty the structural stiffness of the platform really sets her apart. “I am VERY impressed with the design and the structural stiffness of the platform.This translates into a boat one can feel confident in pushing hard when racing and imparts peace of mind when cruising. I love the way the boat goes through a chop, both upwind and down.

And the way that the luff tension is maintained on the flying jibs as the wind increases makes those sails way more effective and is a real performance benefit. I have always felt you should change sails because another will be faster, not because you are afraid of breaking something. This boat gives me that feeling.”

“It really was incredible,” added Tommy Loughborough, a Bronco mainstay and the mastermind of this collaboration. “This thing is solid – straight away it was cool to be able to sheet on and press, to lean on it with total confidence. At the beginning of the week, we thought we might be sailing the entire event in light air and wouldn’t get to light up the boat and experience that visceral high performance,

but it lit up in the light as well and we saw enough for a little hull fly. Then on Friday’s second race, the breeze kicked up over 22kts and we got a taste of it. We had a new team, new boat, new owner to racing, and we came out of that all smiles, with excellent team morale, no breakages, no working nights, and finishing on a high note.”

The former Elvis crew members also assessed that the boat is the perfect mix of racer-cruiser, leaning more towards the performance on CONDOR but still with all the cruising comfort. To strike the desired racey balance for the regatta, CONDOR’s crew had removed the kitchen island and aft cockpit sofa extension, which are designed to be able to do so for race mode. That was about a 400lb diet and really opened up the space allowing race crew to move unobstructed throughout the boat. Further, handholds that run along the ceiling from the aft cockpit through the salon leading up to the forward working cockpit, meant crew and guests of varying comfort levels could easily get around. Meanwhile, fixed galley features along the port side of the salon and seating along the starboard side are always maintained during racing, but with other features in use like the aft beam refrigerator, do they have still have some low hanging fruit for the next “race diet”?

Maybe, but this time Bronco’s Christian “CT” Olander placed weight on the bromance. “We tried something new combining programs like this and on just a few weeks’ notice, for the opportunity to experience this new boat and also as a solution for the owner to get her on the race course for the first time. And the whole experience exceeded expectations. We knew it could be a steep learning curve, so we brought in Gunboat experts for peace of mind – and it all worked!”

But let’s step back and reflect on CONDOR’s adventures so far: they’ve sailed over 8300 miles and their first regatta since March! CONDOR left the factory on March 19thon a transatlantic crossing to St Maarten, cruised the Caribbean, sailed from there to New England, and did some light cruising over the summer prior to switching gears to go racing.

Reflecting on the week and CONDOR’s entrance into the racing arena, Anthony Kotoun certainly knows yachting and we were pleased to hear his thoughts: “This was for me the best example yet of a turn-key grand prix yacht. It was fast, reliable and did what we asked of it. It can take years to get a boat sorted enough to compete at the top level and the Gunboat 68 did it out of the package. It’s a fun boat to sail, well-built, and we had no hesitation to push on her.”

Gunboat 68 CONDOR Photos by Billy Black; On-board photos by the Condor Crew

Read about the fleet and see more photos here.

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