Anthon Kotoun: Switching From Monohull To Multihull
Among the 11 teams competing on the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour is Argo Racing, led by American skipper Jason Carroll. Carroll’s tight knit squad previously had a brief sortie into multihull racing in his Gunboat 62 Elvis, but they are perhaps better known for their monohull successes in the International Melges 32 Class where they have twice been crowned world champions.
We caught up with one of Carroll’s longstanding friend and crewmember – US Virgin Islander, Anthony Kotoun – to find out how the Argo crew had found the transition from fast monohull to hyper-speed multihull.
Kotoun is no stranger to high performance foiling boats – he’s a past International Moth US National Champion and a regular top ten performer at the Moth Worlds over recent years. He says the move to the GC32 felt like a natural progression for the Argo crew.
“It is definitely different to what we had been doing previously, but I think it suits our team. We have generally a pretty young crew spearheaded by our owner. The Melges 32 is obviously very fun and exciting, but now there's stuff out there that's just more fun and exciting.
“The GC32 seemed to be a good match for the team as we're checking out different sections of the sport. The catamaran thing was good for us and we have Gunboat 62 as well that we spend some time on. We looked at it and tested it, it seemed fun, so we said: "Let's go for it."
Sensibly, Carroll imported some foiling catamaran expertise bringing in the likes of Peter Greenhalgh from Oman Air’s Extreme Sailing Series GC32 crew to help fast track the Argo crew up the learning curve.
“We have been able to find some foiling catamaran expertise, - that talent pool is a pretty small group,” Kotoun explains. “Generally, those sailors that have that technique and skillset are usually employed with the America's Cup, but we were lucky to find just some ex-America's Cup/Extreme Sailing Series kind of guys. We've gone through a few of them now, just learning what each one has to offer, and they've gotten us up to speed quite well.”
The team’s test sail on a GC32 on a windy day in northern France was a memorable one, as Kotoun recalled.
“We flew to the Brittany Coast and we went out for the test sail in breeze in the high twenties and waves that were in probably in the five to twelve feet range. I remember thinking it was like the posters you see of the French coast with the lighthouse disappearing in a huge wave.
“For some reason we thought it would be a good idea to go out. We hoisted the sails and we bore off. Yeah, that's quite the feeling that you get on a GC32 in that much breeze! I don't think I'd do that again now, but for some reason it set the hook with us all on the feeling of exhilaration that these boats can provide.
“We got the boat, brought it to Newport, did some little on our own sailing there. We have a cool record that we like to go for in Newport which is around Jamestown record. To be honest, you win your weight in rum, so it was easily the best choice of a record to go after.”
After two failed attempts their third go saw them become the first crew to complete the course in under an hour after ripping around the island in 20 – 30 knot winds, finishing in 58 minutes and 31 seconds with a top speed of over 37 knots.
The only boat to better the time so far has been the much bigger MOD 70 Phaedo who shaved just two minutes of Argo’s time.
After some training in Miami the Argo crew travelled to the UK for their first GC32 regatta in Cowes. Their first experience of short course racing on their GC32 turned out to be an ego sapping slap in the face for the American crew.
“We realized how much we had to learn to be competitive around the racecourse. We are never ones to shy down from a good challenge. We did some more practicing and got some people on that that can really help us out and came back fighting this season.”
The improvement since that slap in the face event has been marked. Three events into the 2016 season Argo Racing sits in fifth place from 11 teams and tied on points with the mainly America’s Cup sailor filled team on Gunvor.
Kotoun puts the improvement down principally to time on the water.
“At first you don't know what you don't know,” he says. “Then the next phase of that is you do can everything but you’re making it so hard for yourself. The biggest bump is learning how to do the same job but make it easier.
“For instance, previously we would deploy the gennaker as we rounded the weather mark and then have to grind in 40 feet of sheet to get the kite filling. But, by the time that was done it was time to gybe and then we'd grind in another 40 feet of sheet. By the time that was done it was time to furl and go up wind.
“Now we've learned the downwind angles so we're working smarter not harder and our overall efficiency has increased by quite a bit. That's lead to a huge jump in performance.
“If you can't boat handle, good luck. Before we were really on the back foot with rubber arms, now as they say, we're in the game.”
“This season we’ve also got a great shore team who have played their part. We've had some minor break downs that could have been major, but because we have the skill, talent and resources, they've enabled us to keep on racing.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Argo racing campaign is Carroll’s transition from monohull helmsman to flying on two hulls. According to Kotoun, there was no surprise in his skipper’s ability to quickly adapt to high performance foiling.
“Smart people do smart things and get it done,” he says. “That sort of adaptability is usually a general trait amongst smart people. It's a team of five, but Jason has put a good team of five together and we'll keep charging it.”
[Main image: Loris von Siebenthal]