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Former Team Vestas Volvo Ocean Race navigator Wouter Verbraak has now joined his countrymen at market leaders Sevenstar Yacht Transport to focus on race yacht logistics with this fast-growing Dutch company

I f there’s anyone who understands the sharp end of racing yacht logistics, it’s Wouter Verbraak. The Dutch pro-sailor was navigating Team Vestas Wind during the last Volvo Ocean Race two years ago when the Danish entry struck a reef in the Indian Ocean. Rescuing the stranded crew and moving the stricken yacht off that remote reef was a major logistical challenge that led to Verbraak taking a greater interest in the process of moving racing yachts safely around the world.

At the beginning of 2016 Verbraak joined Dutch industry leader Sevenstar Yacht Transport to head a new division, Sevenstar Racing Yacht Logistics. Sevenstar’s Sander Schuurman says: ‘Wouter’s knowledge of the industry makes him a great appointment. When he talks to our racing clients they know they are dealing with someone who understands both the challenges and potential problems.’

Main picture: not the world’s largest glass bottom boat, rather one of Sevenstar’s extraordinary float-on, float-off yacht transporters. Considerable geometric accuracy during loading is required, with all of the boats’ cradles having to be precisely positioned (below) prior to ‘the sink’ if the complex exercise is not to need repeating. Compared to conventional shipping, however, the system is very efficient, with the big advantage that yachts can be delivered over long distances with their rigs left stepped

Sevenstar has already made a name in other marine industries with its specialist craft capable of lifting and delivering objects of all shapes and sizes. The company uses the Spliethoff Group’s fleet of over 100 ocean-going vessels. ‘They transport all kinds of dry cargo,’ says Schuurman, ‘but they also undertake heavy lifting of bridge piles, oil rigs, fishing vessels… plus superyachts and racing yachts.’

Three years ago Sevenstar bought two very large specialist semi-submersible vessels from Dockwise, for over 30 years the acknowledged market leader in heavy marine transportation. Now known as DYT Yacht Transport, these two vessels offer a floaton/ float-off service capable of accommodating everything from canal cruisers to sailing and motor yachts up to 100m in length.

Other vessels in the Sevenstar fleet also offer lift-on/lift-off and in 2016 one of these craft conducted the company’s largest superyacht movement to date, a 57m Bennetti that was hoisted aboard using a giant crane with a maximum working load of 750 tonnes…

Size isn’t everything
So size is not a problem for Sevenstar, but what is also vital for racing yacht owners is careful handling of relatively fragile craft – often with their masts in situ.

In practice we see exceptional co-operation between all parties involved, from the crew of the yacht to the Sevenstar loadmasters and the yacht’s shore crew. As in ocean racing it is all about working together to meet tight deadlines, and making the impossible possible so the teams can enjoy more exciting racing in the best racing venues around the world.

Verbraak says Sevenstar is well positioned for the growth in superyacht racing. ‘The boats are being raced harder and more often, so deliveries become more critical. Also, the crews don’t want to sail the boats from event to event all the time, as this puts unnecessary hours on the sails and engine, and switching from racing to delivery sails is not easy. Just changing a mainsail can be two days’ work.’

Rake’s progress
Verbraak’s experience helps him to better understand the peculiarities of racing yachts. For example, the Maxi72s now put 5°-6° of rake into their rigs, which creates new challenges. ‘It’s been difficult finding a good solution for a singlehoist lift with these rake numbers, because the yacht’s centre of gravity is so close to the masthead. So Sevenstar developed special gear to tilt the yacht forward at the correct angle, which moves the lifting hook away from the mast.’

Sevenstar now supports a number of top teams and events, says Schuurman. ‘In 2016 we became logistics partner of Land Rover BAR in the America’s Cup, we are supporting the AAR Atlantic Anniversary Regatta and the Oyster World Rally. We have also of course been long-time supporters of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. We aim to make the lives of the racing community easier by transporting not only their yachts but also spare masts, sails, materials, tenders and containers.’

As well as supporting the club’s Round Britain and Ireland Race, Sevenstar is logistical partner for the RORC Caribbean 600. Verbraak explains: ‘A potential hurdle for this event for owners is getting the boat there. A lot of the boats are too fragile to expose to a transatlantic delivery or the crew don’t have the time. Plus a recent court case following a delivery incident further complicated the legal position when using a delivery crew. Why put yourself through the hassle and stress when you can hand it all over to us?’

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