Racing aboard the newest and flashiest Grand Prix boat at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the $1.8 million speed machine Secret Mens Business3, is an amazing experience, writes Kevin Green.
The custom built Reichel Pugh 47’s sleek grey hull and immaculately fitted out deck with state of the art Harken electric winches and carbon rig hit the water recently and well known South Australian owner Geoff Boettcher is naturally expecting big things from his new rocketship. “After our old SMB was destroyed at last year’s Race Week, I looked around for another boat but couldn’t find anything I really liked, so decided to build my own at Mal Hart’s Yard in Melbourne.” The wide bodied hull and flat bottomed profile combined with a strong yet light build (around seven tons) should make her a fast Hobart boat, said Geoff. Unlike several owners who opted for the off-the-shelf and popular American TP52 boats, Boettcher is very much sailing his own course, as it were, to develop and tune the new boat. “We’ve had very little time and just threw the boat in the water to make the Gold Coast Race so we’ve got plenty of issues to sort out,” he said with a wry grin. Race boats, especially custom ones, usually require a lot of tuning and sometimes even customisation and with the new boat spending too much time at the back of the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Boettcher has got that message loud and clear. “In terms of performance I feel like we’re starting from scratch with this new boat.” With only two months until the Sydney Hobart Race and a couple of events done with the new boat Boettcher and his experienced afterguard that includes Steve Kemp have got plenty to do. “We’re wanting more lift from the foil/keelbulb and rudder because upwind we’re struggling upwind against boats of similar sizes like XLR8,” he said.
Joining Geoff and his 14 crew of mostly Crow Eaters for a couple of windward/leewards proved exciting in the 15 knot southerly conditions. With Cameron Miles calling tactics we won both our starts, really good going in a top class field, especially as SMB was the smallest boat in the fleet that included two 66 footers (Wild Oats X and the outstanding Black Jack). But up the two mile beat to a mark near Surprise Rock we struggled at times to make our numbers, with our Expedition tactical software showing us reaching only 95% of optimum boat speed at times. Running backstay tension was constantly adjusted to get more power out of the squared topped Doyle mainsail but Steve Kemp still wasn’t happy with our averages. “We’ll log all the data and send it to Reichel Pugh for analysis,” said Steve. Down wind, clean hoists and mostly slick gybing by the young crew, many top SA dinghy sailors, kept us in the hunt with our main opposition the R/P46, XLR8. But ending the day at the back of the fleet, even if it was one of the classiest around, was not where the quietly determined Boettcher plans to stay. “We’re going to have few drinks and scratch our heads a bit!”