Sean Langman’s Open 60 Xena is preparing for an attempt on the 24-hour monohull distance record recently bagged by Bernard Stamm’s Armor-Lux Foie Gras Bizac
The antipodean Open 60 Xena is warming up for a crack at the 24-hour monohull distance record from her base in Sydney. Bernard Stamm recently (and spectacularly) raised that particular bar to 467nm, breaking Silk Cut’s previous record, set during the 1997-98 Whitbread.
Owner Sean Langman, a veteran of the 18ft Skiff scene, will be onboard for the attempt, skippered by another Skiff specialist and Whitbread veteran David Witt. Both men are just waiting for the nod from expert weather router Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham. As soon as his models show a decent system nudging up from the Southern Ocean towards the Australian mainland’s east coast, they’ll begin their attempt.
Their aim is not just to beat the record, they’re intent on annihilation. Xena needs to average 19.5kn to break Stamm’s record but their target is the mythical 500nm barrier. To break it, they need to average 21kn over the 24-hour period. “The amazing thing for us is that when we leave Sydney we won’t have any idea where we are heading,” Langman said. “The only thing we do know is that we will be sailing as fast as possible, no matter what the direction. The wind will decide where we finish up. It could be Brisbane, North Queensland, Noumea, Fiji or even New Zealand. We are taking enough food for six days, so hopefully we’ll break the record during that period.”
If their mission seems fanciful, think again. Over Easter, Xena competed in the 310nm Brisbane to Gladstone race and freaked out a sleepy ship’s captain by passing him at 22kn – the ship was making full steam at the time.
“The ship called up on the radio and asked us to identify ourselves and state our destination. When we told them it was a sailing yacht that was passing them the radio operator simply replied with the ‘BS’ word.”
As The Race crews will tell you, averaging these speeds can be bad for your health. “The one thing we don’t want is big waves,” said Langman. “This yacht planes like a skiff, it doesn’t surf. During the Hobart race two years ago we hit 30 knots. The good news is that the faster it goes the easier it is to handle.”
Designer Andy Dovell, of Murray, Burns and Dovell fame, is confident the essentially low-tech Xena has the legs. “This yacht certainly isn’t state-of-the-art when it comes to construction. It was very much built to a budget using fibreglass sandwich and a foam core, not carbon fibre. We’ve refined it as much as we can, even down to changing the position of the keel bulb to minimise the risk of nose diving.”
If successful, Langman intends to inaugurate a Blue Riband-style challenge for sprinters from all over the world’s oceans.