Shockwave owner, Serge (Christiaan Durrant), a former fighter pilot in the Australian Air Force, is no stranger to operating in high-performance environments and getting teams to unite in their goals and performances on air, land and sea. Although Shockwave is still in the early days of a race program, the sensational 63-foot trimaran with her formidable shark graphic on the bow is a truly awesome sight, chewing up the miles and already proving a fierce competitor on the race circuit.
Growing up in Australia, Serge enjoyed sailing and racing from a young age and like many of his countrymen, fell hard for the sport as a 13-year-old in 1983, when the Aussies won the America’s Cup and returned home with their prize as national heroes. “Everything I’ve done since then has been high-performance,” he said. And since then, has followed all levels of competitive sailing, from the America’s Cup to Olympics and all competitive arms of sailing.
Serge a well-respected strategic thinker, entrepreneur and corporate leader, started his career in the Royal Australian Air Force at 17 years of age where he flew for 14 years. He was a TOPGUN instructor at age 27, and notably the youngest F-18 Squadron Leader at 29 years old.
His passion for sailing and teaching brought him back to the water to instruct at the Royal Yacht Association of Australia in 2010, where he taught sailing and racing to high school students in dinghies and keelboats before getting serious about ocean racing in 2013. It was when campaigning for the boat “Blackwater” (Reynolds XS multihull) that the seed was planted for later purchasing Shockwave.
Having spent years getting water blasted in open ocean distance races aboard the Reynolds XS “Blackwater” and during a particularly wet Middle Sea Race in 2017, Serge came to the resounding conclusion, “we need a bigger boat.” Having viewed everything from Gunboats to MOD70’s, the decision to buy SHOCKWAVE (ex-Paradox, 63’ custom trimaran) felt like an organic transition from the Reynolds XS. It struck a nice balance between the creature comforts of cruising and the high-performance aspects & technological potential sought from a multihull racing program.
“Ultimately the decision to go with multihulls came down to the relentless pursuit of performance and technological advances that are possible on a multihull”, says Serge.
Shockwave is still in the early days of the program. After completing an electronics, systems and aesthetic refit in San Diego, CA late last year, the Shockwave team sailed 5500-nm to Antigua to commence a busy 2020 Caribbean race season that was abbreviated by coronavirus.
Race season started with the Caribbean Multihull Challenge in St. Maarten, F.W.I. in February 2020. Shockwave started strong, finishing first place on day one, against two MOD70’s “Argo” and “Maserati”. During the second race, as the Shockwave team charged up the coast to Philipsburg in a 33-knot sustained breeze with Reef 1 and the J3, they were keeping pace with MOD70 “Argo” tack-for-tack. Serge commented that as an owner, seeing the boat and the crew performing at the upper level of their limit while holding performance was a tremendous highlight, and came away from the day thrilled with the boat and crew’s performance even in light of the abrupt end of the race with a broken boom. The boom failure sidelined Shockwave for the rest of the weekend’s races, but the seeing the team and boat perform to the upper limits of their potential was exhilarating enough, “When Shockwave is at the edge the envelope is when I enjoy the boat the most”, says Serge.
Another highlight came during the RORC Caribbean 600 in February 2020, when Shockwave came back from the boom failure of the prior week, and sailed a strong race, overtaking “Wizard”: (who won monohull line honours) as they came around the southern tip of Guadeloupe. Shockwave would finish 2nd in the MOCRA class at the 2020 Caribbean 600.
Technically the Shockwave Race Team is a professional team (with friends and family joining for various regattas) and come from a broad range of backgrounds from sail makers to designers and engineering coordinators to skippers and program managers.
“We’ve been racing a 35-foot catamaran for the last 6 years and now we’ve stepped up to Shockwave, which is a different category, and brought some specialist large multihull sailors onboard. I’m looking forward to bringing the team up to that next level of performance”, mentions Serge.
While it was a big decision, the team felt that the technology that Doyle Sails offered - such as the Structured Luff and Cableless technology – set them apart from competitors. Pursuing the best possible performance was of utmost importance to the program and the team felt confident in their decision that Doyle could deliver on that promise.
Shockwave is unique in that it has the hulls of an ORMA 60, yet is outfitted for cruising (with electric winches, a comfortable interior and air-con) and has top-of-the-line racing technology and a carbon rotating wing mast. The team felt it would be best to seek a supplier that would offer excellent customer service and after-sales support and who could also handle the difficulty of adapting technology to the platform while still optimizing performance.
This is where Doyle Sails San Diego resident expert Mat Bryant comes into the equation. Mat Bryant, who joined Doyle Sails San Diego’s loft in 2019, brings over 20 years of professional sailing experience and offered the Shockwave team professionalism, customer-focused support and a broad range of multihull racing experience, and as a result, has become an integral component to the race team.
Serge has always excelled in getting disparate teams to align and perform and on Shockwave it’s no different with the team comprised of four nationalities (AUS, SWE, USA, UK) and varied backgrounds. Aboard, Serge is working in conjunction with Team Manager (Scott Klodowski, USA) and Skipper (Jeff Mearing, UK) toward a cohesive race team that can execute precise manoeuvres automatically while ensuing safety measures and best practices are adhered to.
“Pulling together a team and determining best practices are key goals of our first season so we can all operate with the same patterns of communications executing standardized practices. This is key to the foundation of our program. An analogy would be a well-oiled pit team that can reliably and precisely perform a 7.2-second tire change on an F1 race car” says Serge about the team dynamics aboard Shockwave. “I am training a team where everyone knows their jobs, communication is standardized, the team is harmonized, and there are backup contingencies for the possibilities of what could go wrong.”
Serge frequently tells the team, “don’t let precedence be an excuse for mediocrity”.
Whenever building a program, factoring in sufficient budget contingencies for unknowns is important. No one could have foreseen or predicted the impacts of the pandemic on our season but having contingencies in place will work to absorb the unexpected … such as freight, crew expenses or significant repairs that may arise. Another lesson from the complexities that have arisen from COVID-19, “don’t let suppliers, authorities, or other regulators keep you from achieving your goals.”
Sailing is one of the few competitive sports where you are pitting yourself against the environment and its elements. Multihull racing brings it to the next level. For Serge, the race is truly against yourselves in the sense that you’re maximising the boat’s performance potential in an environment that is ever-changing and generally not in your favour!
So where to next for Shockwave? As an Australian national who has lived in both Sydney and Hobart, it is Serge’s long-time goal for multihulls to compete in the world-renowned Sydney-Hobart Race. But for right now, watch out for Shockwave in all her racing glory competing in the Middle Sea Race in Malta in October.
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