I was hoping to run away with the Australian National
PDRacer titles and was a bit relieved to not have
to face the actual test of racing the others because
of quite a bit too much wind. Three of the boats were
to be launched for the first time and the various
owners were not keen on debugging the boats in 20
to 25 knots of breeze and a big chop (as you can see
from the photos).
Despite the big show and large number of boats attending
you can see there were no other boats out at the time
despite a number of planned events - it was just a
bit too windy for most.
But it was important to fly the flag in front of
all those people. So I decided to have a crack at
the PDRacer world speed record. I had to beat 6.5
mph - a record held by Tim Cleary
from the Marina - hey this wind is strong
I attached a GPS belonging to Rob Badenoch near the
top of the centrecase - an area that wouldn't get
wet if I went over.
It was a little tight getting out of the corral formed
by the beach and a wharf each side - particularly
considering that the river was shallow because of
the drought and I kept hitting rocks on the bottom
The good side of the river being so low was that
there was no current in any direction whatsoever -
there hasn't been any flow out of the Murray for a
couple of years - so any speed measurements were not
assisted in any way.
waiting for a gust
So I squeezed out between the two wharves and headed
out into the river. First I sailed a bit upwind. The
big centreboard and rudder giving good control - the
boat felt very handleable and with a bit of a heel
to leeward it climbed up over the chop with little
The extra speed and power in the sail did mean that
I had to sit a lot further back to prevent the nose
from digging in. Because of the curve of the PDR bottom
- if you are a little too far forward the bow digs
in as a gust hits and the boat gets bogged in its
own bow-wave. But if you move just the right amount
back the bow will lift up into the air as the gusts
hit and the boat accelerates.
So to downwind sailing where the speed attempt would
be made. I couldn't actually see what the GPS was
reading through all this - I was more interested in
keeping the boat upright and intact in front of the
crowd of probably 3 or 4 thousand at the wooden boatshow.
Bearing away and easing sails I quickly found what
the more experienced American sailors had told us
about - that you had to move a REALLY LONG WAY BACK
to stop the bow digging in. Even if it did dig in
there was plenty of buoyancy and water never came
over the top of the bow to fill the cockpit - actually
almost no water got aboard in the half hour I was
out there and control was good because of our deep
and large area rudder.
Moving back a lot more, the bow popped up to a crazy
angle as the boat accelerated down the face of the
first wave as a gust hit - this was not half hearted
planing like in the video on the website - this was
the proper thing. It felt much like any other boat
on the plane - looser but still with good directional
The picture above shows both the point of sail and
the trim for the speed runs. I wasn't able to see
the GPS while sailing - but I think the fastest run
was one of the first when I was heading in the opposite
direction from this. A couple of nice waves and a
big gust coinciding.
A funny thing happens when the gust finishes. With
a boat this short with such a wide stern and lots
of rocker it just goes back to normal displacement
sailing - the V8 suddenly turns into a ride-on mower
- most boats have a transition as they decelerate
- but the PDR just jumps suddenly from one mode to
another - it feels like 4 knots or so.
This was fun.
But was it faster than 6.2 knots? I did a couple
more reaches backwards and forwards - tacking the
boat was quick and easy - the large rudder doing its
job - a few more waves and gust and accelerates and
It was certainly a lot faster than I had been on
the Mooloola river in front of Peter's house.
So either it was enough to beat the record or it
So change of plan - the big test for a decent sailing
boat is always whether it will go upwind in a decent
wind and sea.
after the speed sailing
So I headed upwind toward the south into the eye
of the wind. No problems at all - at least for someone
with a background in small boat racing. The only thing
is to sit back far enough so that bow doesn't dig
in. The boat trucks upwind nicely - making good ground
and not much leeway and tacks quickly and reliably.
Once or twice I time the tack badly and hit a wave
which stops the boat mid tack - but there is no feeling
of immanent peril - because the stability is so good.
Just ease the sails a fraction and steer onto the
right tack by sailing backwards - an easy and old
dinghy and catamaran racing trick. In around 12 tacks
I think I missed two of them while covering the best
part of a kilometre dead upwind.
When I went to head downwind again the wind had risen
noticeable and I was a bit worried abour re-entering
the corral at what would have been considerable speed.
So I took the safe approach.
the record attempt with reefed sail - probably
won't work upwind but works downwind fine.
I went ashore where I was - about 2/3 of a mile upwind
from the launch point, took off the boom and reduced
the sail by about 2/3 by simply wrapping it around
the mast - it was a dead run downwind to go back home
and just needed a bit of rag to give me steerage.
Down to the opening at a couple of knots, turn in
and feet back on ground again.
Pulled the GPS off. Remember the target was 6.2mph.
It showed 8.0. Then someone pointed out that it was
measuring in Knots.
reading for the sail
This converts to a tiny shade over 9.2mph. It's now
time to get the record ratified!
the wrong gps
reading because I ran up the beach waving my
Michael Storer Boat Design
Wooden Boat Plans
PDRacer plans - $20 from Duckworks
Michael Storer plans from Duckworks