Key to the ultra-competitive racing in the RC44 class is the boat being one design. But ensuring all the boats are identical and that none of the boats ‘accidentally’ gets out of class, is responsibility of the RC44 Class Measurer, amiable young Spaniard, Carlos de Beltran Gutierrez.
While International Measurers are typically wizened grey haired folks, de Beltran is, in a shocking breach of protocol, a fresh-faced 31 year old. However his relatively tender years hide vast experience.
In 2007, during his third year studying to be a naval architect in Madrid, he worked a volunteer at the 32nd America’s Cup in his native Valencia. There he was fortunate to be taken under the wing of eminent Principle Race Officer, Peter ‘Luigi’ Reggio, now PRO for the RC44 Class. Thanks to Luigi, de Beltran not only assisted the Race Management but also the Measurerment team in Valencia.
“I’ve been measuring boats ever since,” de Beltran says. “I was asked to help the Measurement Committee in Alicante for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2008-9 and in 2010 when the Deed of Gift [America’s Cup] match took place in Valencia.” For the next Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-12 de Beltran had proved his worth and became an official measurer for that event. Since then he has been an official measurer for every America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race, and travelled from port to port with the last round the world race. He also measures the M32 catamarans and since the 2013 World Championship in Porto Calero, the RC44 class.
So why does a class, with a ‘one design’ boat on which you’re not supposed to change anything, need a measurer? “It is not a problem, but the sailors tend to push and push to make the boat faster,” de Beltran explains. “So at certain points you have to say ‘you’ve got to stop here’. That’s why you put a measurer in.”
The RC44’s hulls and foils are controlled from the outset by their Hungarian builder, Pauger Composites. However even with an exacting build, inevitably there are small variations in the weights of the boats. To compensate for this, each team must add weight correctors to bring both the hull and the all-up weight of the boat up to the minimum. These corrector weights are fitted into the side or bottom of the bulb, but according to de Beltran they amount to no more than 20kg boat to boat - an impressively tiny figure considering an RC44 weighs 3560kg.
Strict rules are in place that prohibit the fairing of hulls and appendages by teams – this takes place at regular intervals across the entire fleet - so there are no ‘grey areas’ there. And unlike some one design classes, the RC44 fleet is typically in transit or in storage between regattas so there is little opportunity for imaginative shore crew to tweak their boats.
In fact the biggest variation between RC44s is in the sails. While some classes today have identical one design sails, all from the same manufacturer, RC44s sails must conform to a ‘box rule’, enabling small variations in shapes and for different sail makers to work with teams in the class. This, de Beltran believes, is a ‘good thing’: “The sailors like developing sails - that is part of the fun in this class and also part of the skill of being a sailor.”
So de Beltran’s focus during his ‘surprise visit’ to the fleet in Malta, was each team’s sail inventory. But even there, variations are small. He explains: “To be honest there is not that much they can do there, because there is a J measurement [the jib foot length] that they have and it is hard to make the sails any bigger, because they still have to be sheeted to the blocks that they have.”
Among the other items being subject to de Beltran’s scrutiny in Malta were bowsprit lengths. Here there might have been some tiny variations, which might have resulted in a crew being able to project the tack of their gennaker further forward. In fact all the bowsprits measured proved to within the legal maximum extended length of 1.980m.
Other areas of ‘development’ have already been quashed. This has included the maximum hydraulic pressure, used to crank up the runners. De Beltran explains: “On this boat there is a lot to gain by increasing forestay tension by applying more runner load. That bends the mast a little bit and the main eases off, especially with the G2. So we sealed every pump at a maximum permitted pressure.”
Even finer points have included the running rigging where particularly attentive crews been stripped off the covers of ropes, allowing minute weight and aerodynamic improvements to be made aloft.
“I am pretty happy,” concludes de Beltran. “If it’s got to the stage where rope covers is what we are worrying about, then that proved that all the basics are right.”