Ràn VII is a latest generation Fast 40+ designed by Shaun Carkeek for renowned owner-driver Niklas Zennström
Some boats are the sum of their parts, but Rán VII is really the sum of the parts that aren’t there. It is characterised by a focus on reduction – less weight, less volume, less windage – which has given it a distinctive cut-out profile. The result is an intimidating design that has been ruthlessly successful on the racecourse.
The Fast 40+ fleet is still in its infancy. It was launched in 2016 to fill a gap for really high quality racing in the Solent, UK, where there hadn’t been a serious fleet of matched big boats racing regularly since the Farr 45 revival a decade ago.
But the launch of several new 40-footers – including the GP42 class, Keith Mills’ Ker 40 Invictus and the Carkeek-designed Rebellion – made it clear there was an appetite for racing that was closer than owners could get from mixed IRC Class Zero fleets.
An owner-driver box rule was created and the fleet was initially made up of GP42s, Ker 40s and Carkeek 40s. Most are still racing three seasons on, after varying degrees of optimisation. Last year founding Fast 40+ owner Peter Morton custom-built Girls on Film, a fourth generation Carkeek 40 which seemed radical at the time.
Then in spring 2018 Rán VII was launched, a boat so angular it calls to mind Darth Vader or a Stealth bomber. Unlike the previous Carkeek 40s, Rán was designed from a clean slate.
“We had the opportunity to start afresh with a blank sheet of paper and relook at the whole rule,” explains designer Shaun Carkeek. “To go: OK, this is the wishlist in terms of the R&D, now that we have the time, opportunity and budget, let’s have a look at absolutely everything.”
The newest Rán marks a step down in size for Swedish tech billionaire Niklas Zennström, who founded Skype and now runs technology investment firm Atomico. Zennström has made a habit of moving into supremely competitive classes like the TP52 and Maxi 72, building new boats, and doing well in them.
It is partly a mark of how competitive the Fast 40+ fleet is becoming that Zennström has chosen to spend his time and considerable sums of money to race in the murky waters off Southampton rather than Palma, Porto Cervo, and Key West.
The all-carbon Rán VII was the first boat to be launched out of Jason Carrington’s new yard. Carrington is a hugely experienced raceboat builder and professional sailor who builds custom projects out of the former Green Marine premises in Lymington, where Alex Thomson’s latest Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 was also built.
Benefitting from Carrington’s technical expertise, Rán VII is a precision build. Using carbon moulds shipped over from Persico in Italy reduced the amount of fairing required. Although the Fast 40+ rule bans the use of Nomex, neither the class rules nor IRC rating system measure the quality of carbon used in construction, so Rán VII is made from higher modulus unidirectional carbon for increased stiffness and reduced weight.
While Rán VII’s keel bulb weight is similar to the rest of the fleet, part of that weight saved allows Rán to carry a solid steel keel fin (instead of a steel strut with foam fairings). Keel bulb weight is measured under IRC, but steel fin weight is not, so this is an optimal way of distributing weight.
The most eye-catching element is her angular reverse sheer, which Carkeek says achieves several things. “It improves the stiffness of the boat, it reduces the area of the overall volume, so we are removing some weight from key areas – like in the bow. And there is an aero component, a drag reduction, and improved flow onto the sails as well.
“It’s been done before, you’ve seen it on IMOCA 60s and some other boats out there. So it’s not a new concept. But the challenge was to take a concept that you thought might work and turn it into a working solution.”
In practical terms it also makes the foredeck area a little smaller (and getting on board a little less dignified), and means that the jib foot can perfectly align with the camber of the foredeck to bring the foresail foot flush with the deck.
The systems and deck layout were the result of collaboration between Carkeek and Tim Powell, Zennström’s long-time project manager and skipper, using the Rán team’s experience from the TP52 and maxi fleets as well as Carkeek’s knowledge of the Fast 40+ class.
Systems and structures were closely integrated. For example, rather than having jib tracks and cars, Rán VII has jib car slots, which connect to an anchor point on the floor of the boat. The car slots offer a narrow band of less than 2ft lateral adjustment, and have a slight curve to reduce the amount of vertical adjustment needed. It all adds up to a significant weight saving, although Powell admits: “it took a bit of working out”.
Spinnaker sheets are on ratchet-driven spinners that suck the sheet tails under deck. “Otherwise you end up with metres and metres of rope lying on the deck,” explains Powell. “So if you have to do two quick gybes it’s easy to suck it all away, the deck’s clean and ready to gybe straight away.”
One of the repercussions for all the string-line systems is water ingress. The Fast 40s are notoriously wet anyway, both above and below decks, and keeping the weight of water out of the boats is a challenge. Rán VII is not the only yacht to have added inflatable seals to the cockpit and foredeck hatches.
Operated by a small electric pump, the seals look like bicycle inner tubes and prevent the hatches from being opened whilst inflated, whilst locking out water from waves over the deck.
Weight distribution is also key – Powell says when the boat is fully powered up downwind only the mainsheet trimmer and bowman will be in front of the helmsman. The pedestal is far aft, and can drive the spinnaker takedown system, pit winch, mainsheet, primaries or a rotary hydraulic pump.
To get the most out of her demands skill. Powell says that he was surprised by how finely balanced she is. “That’s been quite an adjustment for most people who sail on this boat as to how on the ball you’ve got to be about your mainsail twist, jib twist and sail trim, because it’s very easy to trip out. It’s the same on any boat but on this boat it’s more extreme.”
Rán VII is indisputably very quick. She won every event in the 2018 season, although not with complete dominance – at Lendy Cowes Week Girls on Film led until the final day of the series.
Is there more to come? Powell points out that none of the Fast 40s are really worked up to the same degree as the TP52 fleet. “A lot of the TPs are doing 20 days of sailing before they even sail up to the first race,” he says. “Here we have pretty much the same sails as everybody else in the fleet and it’s just about trying to learn as much as you can from the short times you go sailing.”
Carkeek also feels it would be hard to make another performance leap. “Rán is a very well researched boat across every area of the design. So, as the Mark V boat, it would be very difficult to improve upon.”
Conscious of avoiding an arms race, or turning the class, as one owner put it, “from a millionaires’ club into a billionaires’ club”, Carkeek and Zennström have made the moulds of Rán VII available to use free of charge for anyone wanting to build a new Fast 40+. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone takes up the offer.
LOA: 12.60m (41ft 4in)
Beam: 4.20m (13ft 9in)
Draught: 3.00m (9ft 10in)
Weight: 3,950kg (8,708lb)
Upwind sail area: 112m2 (1,205ft2)
Downwind sail area: 375m2 (4,036ft2)
IRC rating: 1.270
Construction: Carbon prepreg
Electric propulsion system: eelpropulsion.com