OPEN 60 REFIT: Great American IV Ready to Sail

Brian Harris on GA4

While dropping in occasionally at Maine Yacht Center over the winter to keep tabs on my own boat, I always had half an eyeball on Rich Wilson’s new IMOCA Open 60, Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud), which was undergoing a refit for Wilson’s 2016 Vendee Globe bid. Recently, MYC general manager Brian Harris (see photo up top) gave me a nickel tour and told me about all the work they’d done.

I gather, as big race-boat refits go, this was a relatively modest one. Here’s the run-down:

Complete electrical refit, including all power storage and generating systems and all new wiring throughout the boat. Two new 200AH Genasun lithium-ion batteries were installed. These are nourished by two newly refurbished Watt & Sea hydro-generators with brand new controllers, by four new 50-watt Solbian flexible solar panels, and by a new 300-amp water-cooled direct-drive (no belt or bracket) Nanni engine alternator with a new water-cooled regulator. Wiring for a wind-generator to be mounted later was also installed.

Nav panel wiring

All new spaghetti everywhere. This is the back of the nav station, showing only some of the new wiring that was installed

New Genasun batteries

The heart of the new electrical system. These two lithium-ion batteries weigh almost nothing, take up little space, and together form a 400AH house bank

Direct-drive alternator

That blue thing stuck between the saildrive transmission and the main body of the engine is the direct-drive alternator. This was a new one on me. You can see the plumbing for the water-cooling, which helps keep this puppy super-efficient, as alternators really hate heat. Rated at 300 amps, it actually puts out almost that much in real life, so Brian tells me, which means you can crank up the batteries from almost nothing in a little over an hour!

Iskra alternator regulator

The alternator’s brain, a new Iskra regulator, is also water-cooled

New navigation station and galley module. To make the boat more comfortable and habitable for Wilson, an older sailor who will often be communicating with shore and creating educational content to send to his Sites Alive Foundation, a new larger nav desk was designed and built from Corecell foam, E-glass, and epoxy resin. A more substantial galley with a fixed sink, a dedicated stove mount, and dedicated storage areas was also built and installed, and the cabin layout was altered to create an area with standing headroom by the companionway.

New nav station

The new nav station with a gimballed combination bench-seat/berth. The molded seat back is removable

New galley

The new galley module. It may not look like much, but on an Open 60 this is considered super deluxe

All major sailing foils serviced. The moveable canting keel and daggerboards were all removed so the keel bearing and daggerboard cassette bearings could be serviced. The bearings on the twin rudders were also serviced.

Canting keel removed

The canting keel, minus the hull

Running rigging modifications. One set of mast deflectors was removed from the existing running backstays and an additional set of backstays was installed to make the backstays overall easier to handle and more secure. Sheet leads were relocated and a symmetrical continuous-line in-hauler was installed on the jib trim rings (allowing adjustments to lead angles to be made on both sides of the boat simultaneously). Various rope clutches were also relocated.

Running backstays

On most Open 60s there’s just one running back on each side, with “deflectors” that pull it in against the mast at different locations so that it can back up different headsails on different forward stays. Rich wanted an extra backstay on each side, with fewer deflectors. This is heavier and creates more windage, but is more secure and easier to handle

Jib ring in-hauler

The new continuous-line in-hauler (left of the trim ring in this photo) resets lead angles on both sides of the boat, so you don’t have to worry about what happens after you tack

Deck modifications. To improve security on deck the lifeline height was increased and the number of lifelines was increased from two to three. This necessitated the installation of all new stanchion posts and the fabrication and installation of new bow and aft pulpits. New cabintop handrails were also installed. The boat’s tiller was modified from a cumbersome yoke configuration to a simpler single inline tiller. All Harken winches and the winch pedestal were also serviced.

Lifelines and stanchions

Higher lifelines and more of them. Again, its heavier this way, but safer

New handrails

New handrails along the house make it much easier to move safely between the cockpit and deck

Modified tiller

A one-stick tiller. It’s simpler and takes up less space

Electronics upgrades. New navigation electronics, new computers, and a new data network were installed. A new remote video system was designed and installed, with two exterior and one interior remote cameras. New processors were installed for the B&G autopilots, and a new Iridium satellite phone system was also installed.

New watermakers. A new reverse-osmosis watermaking system was installed.

GA4 afloat at MYC

Next I’m hoping to get to actually go for a sail on this thing. Brian keeps mentioning it; I just hope it happens for real!

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5 Responses

    Looks fantastic! Improvements that will help insure a race completion. Any chance I can see it if I am in Portland?

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