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Circumnavigation interview with owners
Tim and Clare Hagon purchased Xc 45#58 "Ghost" from X-Yachts (GB) Ltd. back in 2012. After a period in the UK getting to know their new "toy", they set sail from the UK for the ARC in 2013 leading directly into the World ARC thereafter.
We recently caught up with Tim & Clare for a debrief, and interview of their experiences, hopefully assisting other X-Yacht owners plan their future adventures.
CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT BOTH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS AND SAILING EXPERIENCES PRIOR TO YOUR Xc 45 OWNERSHIP?
"Prior to being Xc owners both of us had sailed extensively. Aside from many regattas and offshore races, Clare had previously circumnavigated twice with a total of over 70,000 blue water miles. I had raced for many years and skippered numerous yachts across various oceans, but never circumnavigated, accruing over 50,000 blue water miles. We also sailed double-handed together through the Caribbean for over 6 years."
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE ON THE Xc RANGE, AND SPECIFICALLY THE Xc 45?
"When we decided to buy another yacht we knew what size we wanted. She had to be very manageable for just the two of us, as well as big enough to cross all oceans as our plan was to circumnavigate. We had seen that the Xc 45 had won European Cruising Yacht of the Year so we had a meeting with X-Yachts GB to organise a test sail. We raced in the Solent Cup and it was immediately evident that along with the comfort aboard, the pedigree that is the X-Yacht design was there in bucket loads. To be honest we really didn’t consider any other manufacturer and with most of our sailing being just the two of us, the Xc 45 was the best size to go for."
ATLANTIC ARC, FOLLOWED BY THE WORLD ARC. HOW DID YOU SET THE YACHT UP FOR THIS TYPE OF SAILING?
"The boat took very little setting up, apart from the enormous amount of spares for all the systems, engine, generator, water maker, head pumps, spare halyards etc., she was nearly ready. We had to do a few things to make stowage better. For example the fiddles in the heads cabinets were pointless for us, so I put perspex extensions on them all to stop things leaping out at you when the lockers were opened!"
FROM ORIGINAL DELIVERY, HOW LONG DID YOU ALLOW TO PREPARE "GHOST" FOR THIS EXTENDED TRIP?
"We had the boat in Lymington for one and a half summer seasons. During this time we had all our communications, hydrogenerator and other essentials fitted. We wanted to get some miles under our belts with her at the same time, so we spent quite a decent amount of time doing that. We left the UK with just over 2,000 miles of sailing done."
WHAT WAS YOUR SAIL WARDROBE, AND HOW DID YOU OPTIMISE?
"We sail with just the two of us quite a lot of the time. With this in mind we opted for a slab reefing set-up where one of us goes to mast to pull a clip down onto the loops on the mast. It’s a very simple solution and also avoids the chafe that a single line reefing system may lead to when you have a reef in for days at a time.
We reef at 15 knots TRUE when beating into the wind. Generally the wind speed by then is up around 22 apparent when this happens, and then at 5 knot intervals after that. When going down wind we find that the first reef should go in around 17-20 knots TRUE as it's quite difficult to balance the boat with a poled out headsail (or spinnaker) and a full main, putting too much strain on the autopilot.
Our Xc 45 ‘Ghost’ is not what I would call tender, but she is very fussy about trimming. The beauty of the design is that the helm will instantly tell you that something is not quite right, but once in the groove she is so well balanced.
When we bought Ghost, we ordered a 108% genoa from Doyles. The sail has a low clew which when fully sheeted in is only about 35-40 cms from the car. It's a great sail for upwind and slightly off the wind work but not good for poling out because there is too much pressure on the pole track and in order to flatten the sail there has to be a huge load on the downhaul, in ocean sailing eventually leading to either the track coming off the mast or the pad-eye on the deck being damaged. After crossing the Atlantic we thought that we could do better with a different genoa, I had a 120% high clew relatively light sail built which proved fabulous, although we are not able to sail so close to the wind with it as we can with the 108%. It is a wonderful sail for downwind though and we have had it up in all sorts of weather. What I would do if I was doing it again is to have a 108% higher clew genoa that would suit both purposes, up and downwind.
We have a large asymmetric spinnaker on a Facnor furler. It is a fabulous piece of kit and we flew it for many hundreds of hours. We also have 1.5oz and 2.2oz symmetric spinnakers, both used extensively but the 2.2oz is the most useful and in light airs we just fly that without any main. It’s a very stable way of making miles and most importantly, when the wind gets very light the fully battened main will ‘slat’ back and forth to the point of driving you mad, so we drop it completely. Something that would have been fun to take on our trip would have been a chicken chute - that being a small, very strong asymmetric that we could keep up in 20 knots plus, although I think Clare would have something to say about it!
We have one carbon pole, and a spare. The difference in weight justified the expense, as it is just so much easier to handle than an aluminium one. We pole out when the wind gets to more than a steady 15 knots. Also unless the wind is very stable and there are no squalls around, the poled out genoa is always used at night. Every one sleeps a little better and we can reduce sail very quickly with that set up if needed.
We have an inner forestay that is put in ‘keeps’ on the spreaders when not in use and kept beside the port side shroud. It has a Wichard ratchet system for attaching it to the chain plate.
We do have a storm jib. It attaches to the inner forestay with soft shackles and we had it on deck for the trip down past Madagascar. Fortunately, we never used it in danger (but it would work very well there). We also have a hank-on staysail for the inner forestay.
We have Doyle Stratis cruising sails, which are technical sails with standard cloth weight. They have lasted extremely well and will give us a few more years of use. We use a boom preventer, coming from the very end of the boom. It is a permanent rope the length of the boom, stored at the gooseneck when not in use. When needed it is unclipped and then attached to lines run to the forward cleats where we have blocks on soft shackles. We then control the preventer from the cockpit.
We only broke one batten when an accidental gybe occurred. I would go for non tapered fibreglass battens rather than having the tapered carbon battens that sailmakers seem to prefer. They tend to eventually splinter at the luff."
WHAT WAS THE MOST ESSENTIAL ITEM OF EQUIPMENT ABOARD?
"The Dessalator 100 Duo watermaker, which didn’t miss a beat after 20,000 litres of production. A good watermaker is an absolute must. Julien in X-Yachts GB was fabulous with the little things that we need sending out to us, nothing out of the ordinary and very easily organised when you have email facilities on board.
And the Watt and Sea hydro-generator which was fabulous and at over 7 knots of boat speed we could run everything without an issue, in fact we had no need for the engine for days on end…"
WHAT WAS THE LEAST USEFUL ITEM OF KIT THAT WAS ABOARD?
"The least useful item onboard was the generator. It was never reliable, and proved difficult to fix. Our plans are to put some wind generators on the back for our future cruising in Scotland and then some solar panels for when we go back into the sun."
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR OTHERS ON THIS TYPE OF ADVENTURE?
"Amongst other things; take plenty of dyneema for soft shackles - they are invaluable and very easy to make.
Learn to splice exotic ropes - I replaced the splices on all our halyards after every crossing. It is very easy with the right kit.
Also have a dyneema rubbing sleeve put on the main and the spinnaker halyards to protect them as they go through the sheaves. Again, this is easy to do if you watch the youtube video."
FAVOURITE STOP OVER?
"Our most favourite stopover was The Marquesas. The Marquesas are the most wild, lush, wonderful Pacific islands that launch themselves out of the ocean. They are a sight for sore eyes after the crossing from the Galapagos. The Tuamotas are the next stop towards Tahiti and are incredible in a completely different way. Fiji and all her surrounding islands should also not be missed."
WHAT WERE THE WORST CONDITONS EXPERIENCED, AND HOW DID THE Xc 45 COPE IN THESE SITUATIONS?
"Our worst winds were off the south of Madagascar, topping 50 knots. We had three reefs in the main and a very small amount of genoa showing. Most of the time we were on autopilot as the cockpit was incredibly wet, and being tucked up under the spray hood was the most comfortable place to be. Ghost was totally steady and very comfortable with the amount of sail set; in fact we never missed a hot meal due to bad weather throughout the whole trip. She is a wonderful sea boat."
HOW DID YOU FIND ANCHORING IN REMOTE LOCATIONS?
"We kept the standard 25kg Delta that came with the boat and it has worked very well in all conditions. We also have a collapsible Fortress anchor as a stern or spare with 15 meters of chain and a serious rope attached. Again, this is a great anchor with enormous holding power. We had the standard 50 meters of chain and anchored in over 12 metres a lot of the time, but never more than 15. I should have taken 80 metres of chain as this would have given us a bit more scope with anchorages, but it certainly didn’t stop us doing what we wanted."
WHAT PERFORMANCE DOES THE Xc 45 OFFER ON THESE EXTENDED VOYAGES?
"I used to reckon on around 7 knots planning, although more often than not it ended up above that. Average day was 175-180nm but we were around 200nm a lot of the time. Our best days were (without too much current) around 215-230nm miles, but with the Agulhas current underneath us coming from Richards Bay to Port Elizabeth we managed 260nm!!!"
HOW DID YOU FIND THE AFTERSALE SUPPORT BY X-YACHTS GLOBALLY?
"The support that we had around the world from X-Yachts GB was second to none. With having email on board they were able to make sure that any spares we needed were in port by the time we arrived. They were also there at the end of the phone for any queries that we had. Great service indeed."
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THE WORLD ARC TO OTHER X-YACHT OWNERS?
"We loved the Arc, World and Atlantic. We have met some wonderful people through them both that we’ll know forever. The wealth of knowledge on the W-ARC is extraordinary and the only complaint I would have is that it is a very quick trip around. We had other plans so it suited us, but we saw others becoming fed up with the pace. Do go to a seminar or two to get the feel of it. World Cruising run at least one a year in Guilford which I would highly recommend."
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE SAILING PLANS WITH YOUR Xc 45?
"Next year we are taking Ghost up to Ardfern, on the west coast of Scotland for a couple of seasons. A bit of a shock to the system after such a long time in the tropics, but our plans are to take her into the Baltic via Norway after that. So it will be an easy hop over from the Caledonian Canal for that adventure."
World ARC Route 2014/15
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