Shockwave Wins Key West Race Week

After winning IRC 1 of both the 2012 Charleston Race Week and NYYC Annual Regatta, and then overall in the 2012 Bermuda Race professional division under both IRC and ORR Shockwave ended her 2012 racing season with an unfortunate  “bang” – hitting an unmarked rock in Sardinia. She has opened her 2013 racing with a different impact – by defeating one of the latest designs, and current mini-maxi World Champion, Bella Mente, in a head to head battle in the 2013 Key West Race Week.

SW Crossing Bella Mente

Photo Credit: Chris Odom/ (

Turning the 5 year old 72’ Shockwave into one of the winningest programs in the world has been an ongoing process that has challenged all aspects of Doyle Sailmakers and its sister engineering company, Doyle CFD, as well as the entire Shockwave Racing Team.  Doyle Sailmakers combined data and feedback from sailing the boat  with an advanced scientific approach – utilizing the latest CFD and FEA to analyze highly defined driving and heeling forces and the resultant loads – to make decisions on not only sails but also integrating mast and bulb shapes.  It has meant working closely with the design team at Reichel-Pugh, as well as the mast designers and other hardware suppliers to ensure that everything worked cohesively.  The confidence of owner-driver George Sakellaris and his captain Reggie Cole has been a major factor as well.

The challenge was not only to catch up to the top boats of the time, but to improve such that Shockwave was competitive with the newest boats coming out of the design offices, as well as to keep up with the top boats that were always being tweaked for just a bit more performance.  Step one was to completely model the boat using CFD to try various sail shapes and sail configurations to see how various options would affect the driving and heeling forces while at the same time keeping an eye on the rating.  Doyle CFD came up with a main design that had a significantly larger square top than conventional IRC wisdom recommended at the time due to the rating “penalty.”  However, the analysis showed that with the optimum section shapes it would increase speed enough to more than offset the rating increase.  It proved effective enough to help the boat to a second place at 2011 Copa del Rey series in Palma, and a 3rd in the 2011 Maxi-Worlds.  Sail by sail, the entire sail inventory was replaced, carefully analyzing new shapes to determine interaction with other sails as well as the hull and rig. The latest FEA analysis allowed Doyle’s design team to optimize string layouts in the sail, resulting in significant weight savings over the previous inventory.  Not only does the weight that is aloft matter, but the overall weight in the boat matters.  In this league everything counts!SW CFD Run

Doyle’s CFD analysis combined with RM analysis confirmed what was known from sailing – Shockwave was a bit challenged in stability to be a truly all-around boat. Additionally, the mast was more limber than was preferred, preventing simply modifying the keel.  Thus, a new mast and keel were ordered.  Many mast sectional options were considered as one had to weigh the increased windage of the larger section versus the increased weight of a smaller, heavier walled section. Shockwave ended up with the best of both as by starting with the large section and using CFD to re-design it to minimize windage for upwind sailing angles she ended up with the lightest mast that matched the low windage of the smallest proposed section.

While stiff enough to be effective up and downwind the boat was still going to be challenged on a reach.  On the water trials confirmed what CFD had indicated: the boat still didn’t have the Righting Moment to effectively carry an A3 Reaching spinnaker in any significant breeze.  The Bermuda Race was one of the top goals for the 2012 season – and typically features plenty of reaching.  Trial CFD runs were performed with smaller A3s as well as large reaching headsails for which a penalty would be paid, as well the “Reaching Code 0.” Because it carried no penalty and could be tailored to match our Righting Moment, the “Reaching Code 0” was decided upon.  It was a good choice.  Shockwave carried the sail  about 65% of the way to Bermuda and led to her victory.  Using the ultra-lightweight Stratis membrane made this sail extremely light weight and yet tough enough to withstand the typical Gulf Stream squalls.

SWwith Spin 4Following the meeting with the rock in Sardinia there was no choice but to get a new keel and bulb.  John Reichel of Reichel-Pugh and Tyler Doyle of Doyle CFD burned the midnight oil trying many iterations of bulbs before deciding on one that not only added significant stability upwind but has clearly improved Shockwave’s off the wind performance.

When interviewed after winning this past Key West Race Week, Robbie Doyle was asked “What has Shockwave done to get her performance to where it is today?” His response pretty much summed up the story: “Nothing really major, but many, many, many little things. The Team has come together in all aspects of execution, and the boat is in a truly sweet spot in terms of balance. We have used a chisel rather than a hammer.”

In advance of Key West, the design team worked on a new concept A1 for VMG course racing in under 7 knots, which proved very successful.  A new A1.5 was made with lighter materials and a slightly larger range to tie in with the new A1, and a new A4 that reflected refinements over the previous sails.  In addition, a new Spinnaker Staysail was made that was substantially lighter than its predecessor and with a smoother furling system for easy sets and douses during inshore buoy racing.  With regards to upwind sails, the boat was sporting a new, larger mainsail and a new J2 that was designed for a balanced entry and twist profile with tighter sheeting angles.

Next up for Shockwave is the Jamaica Race in February.

Shockwave was lucky enough to have Chris Odom onboard Wednesday, who produced this video of the action during the days racing.

Key West 2013 – Wednesday from Chris Odom Photo on Vimeo.