SKIPPER & CREW: Stefan Malin ( Seawind Production Manager )
Richard Ward ( Seawind CEO )
Anh Duy ( Seawind QC Manager )
Alparslan (Alpo) Tekogul ( Seawind Turkey Production Manager )
In the previous week, the recently launched new model Seawind 1170 had completed its preliminary sea trials in the relatively protected waters off the coastal city of Vung Tau, at the mouth of the Saigon River. These had been a huge success with the test crew returning with real enthusiasm for every aspect of the new boat’s performance, upwind, off the wind, downwind, motoring, everything.
Now it was time to seriously test this new Seawind model and the offshore forecast was perfect for this. The predicted gale force nor-east winds and big seas were ideal. We knew it wouldn’t be fun but these were perfect conditions to really test a new model and find its weaknesses, if any. For such a test sail, we’re obviously keen to see how it performs in such conditions, but even more important is to look for any structural weaknesses, boat stiffness, mast & rig movement, leaks, deck hardware movement, panel or floor creaks or anything at all that requires adjustment before the model goes into full production. These conditions give us the chance to experience its ergonomics in tough sailing conditions. Do we have enough hand holds and are they in the best position & accessible for people of all heights and mobility. Is it easy to go forward in these conditions and does the boat give an assurance of safety & comfort.
Fortunately, there were very few things that needed re-thinking. The boat performed brilliantly and felt good on all points of sail. Going up the coast, we were bashing dead into the NE Monsoon winds sometimes up to 30 to 35 knots right on the nose. And big seas, maybe 4 to 5 metres or more at times & very short, sharp & nasty. In these conditions, there was a lot of crashing off waves which is what I wanted to really test out the boat.
At 6am we motored south from Ho Chi Minh City with a strong outgoing tide to speed us along the 3 hour trip down to the mouth of the Saigon River and the huge protected Vung Tau Bay where we could set the sails and start our trip north.
With good fortune, the first few hours were kind to us and we rounded Vung Tau at midday to head north into fresh but steady winds of 16 to 18 knots. Pointing high to windward in these conditions, we were seeing speeds of 8 to 9 knots & the boat felt great.
It wasn’t to last long. Throughout the afternoon the wind & seas continued to build and by late afternoon, we had consistent 23 to 25 knot winds and the seas were getting up.
As night fell, the wind & seas continued to build and we reefed down. Around 10pm, there was a nasty storm, a little bit of rain but mostly wind with gusts over 35 knots & a confused, large lumpy sea. It was a very long night with little sleep but with the comforting assurance that this new model was definitely a great addition to the Seawind fleet. Welcome also during this very black and long night was the absence of the hundreds of fishing boats that generally make a night sail to Nha Trang an even more exciting challenge. The annual Tet holiday time and the dangerous offshore weather conditions had served to keep the fishing fleet safe ashore.
As a welcome dawn broke, the strong winds and big seas continued but now it became fun and a joy to experience this new design in such conditions. Even though we were pushing it hard to test its limits, it felt strong and safe and very dry even as we crashed off the back of the short, sharp waves. By early afternoon, the wind & seas had abated somewhat & in 20 knot head winds & a 2 metre sea and a perfect blue sky we were consistently seeing 9.5 / 10knots knots to windward.
However, the perfect conditions were not to last and north to Nha Trang looked very bad with 45knots of wind & 6 mtr seas off Nha Trang. Testing a new boat is one thing but stupidity is another thing altogether and we decided to stay in the Mui Ne area rather than go further north. We anchored in the lee of Ke Ga lighthouse & the following day used the excellent conditions to get some good sailing shots.
This was great fun. With Stefan and Alpo positioned ashore on Ke Ga Island to do the filming and Anh & myself doing the sailing, we enjoyed seeing how easy it was to sail short handed and how responsive it was to tack, especially as we pushed the boundaries at times in how close we were to this rugged rock island.
We anchored that night but very early the next day, we headed back down south to try to beat the worst of the weather that was moving south. This was a fast run down the coast in following seas that built to 3 to 4 mtrs and winds that got up to 30 knots. We reefed, of course, for these conditions & kept the boat speed around 9 to 10 knots but with some surfing taking us up to around 15 knots at times. The seas were short, confused seas & so the surfing was of short duration before the wave passed through. Because of this we didn’t see higher surfing speeds.
But, again, it was a great test of the boat In these conditions and to see how it performed downwind in these conditions. It was excellent throughout and was very responsive & easy to helm. And even more pleasing was how dry it was with no hint of the bows wanting to bury.
For me, it was mission accomplished. We had the testing conditions we needed to get to know how the boat performed & I was delighted with it.
This is definitely a boat I’ll be proud to add to our Seawind range.