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carbon fibre. The foredeck hatch is offset to port ready for port top mark roundings and bear away sets. Even though Cannonball is an inshore boat, the hatch has a pneumatic seal around it. “Otherwise the boat fills up with water, even in light weather,” warns Pablo Torrado Gonzalez.

We were not allowed below, but Torrado Gonzalez says Cannonball has the standard spinnaker take-down system: mounted beneath the aft side of the hatch is a giant roller, ultra-smooth to ensure snag-free drops. From the middle of the kite, the drop line runs below over this roller, down the starboard side, across the transom, forward up the port side to a pedestal-driven winch. This allows the 300m2

kite to be sucked away in just five to eight seconds. Decidedly a yacht

One of the major differences between a TP52 and a Maxi 72 is that the former has smaller displacement:length ratio and sports a tiller, giving it more of a ‘big dinghy’ feel, whereas the latter has twin wheels, is relatively heavy and thus decidedly a ‘yacht’. Despite this, sailing downwind in a breeze the crew perches as far aft as possible, with the rear pedestal used to trim the kite.

At present the learning curve remains steep on Cannonball and her development continues apace. Out of the box, she proved ultra-quick downwind, but average upwind and the team spent 2017 trying to rectify this. “Better upwind in Maxi 72s means two boatlengths, so there’s been a lot of remoding to ensure the right trade-off between upwind and downwind performance,” says Carrau.

“Looking back at the history of the class, it takes about one season for a new boat to get competitive, two to start winning,” he continues. “We hope to get there in half the time, but that’s down to the crew and the shore team. This has had the intensity of a mini America’s Cup campaign. In four regattas we’ve remoded the boat completely, and it’s still ongoing.”

but also checkstays, both lines running down the mast to hydraulic rams. Headsails are hoisted up a Gorilla Rigging ‘Gfoil’ headfoil, now standard across the Maxi 72 fleet.

While Bella Mente, Proteus and Momo are Quantum boats, Cannonball remains with North Sails, design work being carried out by Giovanni Cassinari and Marco Capitani. According to co-designer Adolfo Carrau, one of the biggest developments in Maxi 72 sails in recent years has been the ever larger flat mainsail heads. “The sail designers are working on how to make those big heads work and twist efficiently. Once you’ve done that you have to work on the rig – it’s a big loop.”

This being a no expense spared grand-prix racer, even the stanchions are

Over the winter the boat was going to have more substantial work carried out. As her tactician Vasco Vascotto says: “We are learning every day. This season we have improved by 7-8%. At the Worlds, we were very close at the end. But right now the performance is still too downwind-orientated so we need to balance that. The boat is very light and we needed to put our boat more in the middle of the fleet for windward-leewards. We know where we need to go.”

As for IRC, Adolfo Carrau is a fan. “It’s simple: you decide the beam on deck, maximum LH and displacement and then you can design the fastest possible hull shape for those parameters. The Rule is not deforming the hull shape in any way. I think this type of boat is good for yachting – they’re fast and good looking and usually people who sail them return to the dock smiling.”

Far left: backstays are fitted with two sets of deflector lines, the top one for use with fractional headsails, the lower operating like a checkstay. Above: the jib track and cars are mounted below deck. Only visible is a fairing to reduce windage, in which is a slot enabling the line holding the jib sheet fairlead ring to move laterally. The pit area is surprisingly simple, offset to starboard. All the lines from mast and foredeck run aft inside the cabin top, emerging here, passing through Spinlock jammers and on to two counter-rotating pit winches. Left: minimising windage has been of paramount importance

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