The Archambault 35 – new to Hong Kong’s racing scene – has been making its mark in Europe, and looks set to do the same in Asia
It is OK to admit that you have never heard of Archambault. Until a couple of years ago not many people had heard of this French boatbuilder; that is until they launched their 35-foot race boat. With the launch of the imaginatively titled Archambault 35 (A35), this boatyard in Chatellerault hit the maritime jackpot.
Although they are over two-hours’ drive from the nearest coast, Archambault have been building boats for over 50 years and export 60 percent of their production. Much of the range is made up of smaller boats that are very reminiscent of the J-Boat range, particularly the J24 and the J80. The A35 is the second largest in the fleet with an older sister in the form of the A40 and a younger sibling in the A31. From there the range goes steadily shorter with the Grand Surprise, the Surprise and at 6.6 metres, the Sprinto.
Although the A40 has had some success on the international scene, she didn't end up being the out-and-out IRC killer she was meant to be. The A35, however, is somewhat of a wolf in sheep’s foulies as her list of victories grows with every race she enters, regardless of conditions. The A35 has been awarded the 2009 Boat of the Year Award from Sailing World, an honour which hasn’t necessarily benefitted previous winners! The A40 was voted Boat of the Year by French sailing magazine Voile in 2004, an honour that was bestowed on the A35 in 2007 when it was launched.
Since then, Archambault have built over 140 A35s, three of which are sailing in Hong Kong with serious potential of more on the way. There is a distinct possibility that the A35s could establish a class locally, a first for boats of this size. For any buyer looking for an easily maintained and campaigned boat with a proven IRC track record and the ability to crossover into cruising, they really need not look much further.
Test time in the Lamma patch
The test team were spoiled on test day with a breeze gusting up to 20 knots and building as we sailed into the Lamma Channel to the west of Hong Kong Island. This area is a favourite of the high wind sailors, as with the high wind comes some big, long waves and a lot of downwind fun! As the Archambault is somewhat of a downwind flyer we all worked hard going as far upwind as possible.
It was as we powered up the rig and trimmed the sails that the first epiphany was had. This boat really moves upwind! The phrase “goes uphill like she’s on rails” is totally apt for this boat. The waterline length perfectly suited the troughs of the waves, with the hull powering down the waves and hardly slowing as she went up the other side of them.
There is an option to have a wheel on the A35, but the boat we sailed came with the tiller option and I can’t imagine the wheel having any benefit over it on a boat this size. The tiller is set up quite far forward and in front of the mainsheet trimmer, which gives the helm a lot of feel for the boat while keeping a very comfortable helming position with the tiller extension at right angles to the body.
The disadvantage of the forward position, combined with a fairly low profile rudder foil, is that you have to be very quick in gusts to stop the boat from trying to lift into the wind too much and let the rudder cavitate. Fortunately, your main trimmer is right next to you and constant banter is essential between the two of you to avoid this. The traveller is very effective in spilling wind so it is very manageable and speed comes on very quickly once the traveller is up again.