What are Mini-Maxis?
In 2005, the Mini-Maxi fleet joined the other four divisions in the Maxi class. Mini-Maxis are boats between 65 and 75 feet (20 m to 23 m) and, like the other Maxis, they are intensely future-focused yachts sailed by athletes who continuously chase higher efficiency and test out the newest high-performance technology.
"Most are built to the IRC rule and some to the new STP65 box rule," said Mark Wiss, "but they can be modified to race under IRC. For Harken, we may do a few things a little differently depending on the type of sailing, but it doesn't really matter which rule these boats follow. The hardware and winch layouts are similar and the boats are generally sailed the same way, with most racing around the buoys as well as offshore. Because the class is young, there is still a lot of development in the systems and deck layouts.
"A majority of Mini-Maxis sail with three pedestals linked together to drive the primary and mainsheet winches. Boats closer to 75 feet may use four pedestals because the sail plans are much larger," continued Mark. "The systems are mostly trickledown from the America's Cup and Volvo boats, including the pedestals, foot buttons, disconnect systems, and overdrives. The winches are also from our AC package. Harken has fine-tuned the gear ratios and overdrives on the 65 and 990 winches, with some teams opting to use titanium because it's legal. Everyone goes with as much carbon as possible."
"The question of whether or not to install a utility winch is always a big discussion. Remember, most of the guys racing these boats are from America's Cup programs and the driven utility winchis a direct trickledown from the AC. Rather than having a couple of guys strong-arm the sails up the mast, the utility winch sits in the forward end of the pit directly behind the mast to quickly hoist up jibs and spinnakers.
"Today's Mini-Maxis have evolved from using the traditional spinnaker pole that required an afterguy and winch to using bowsprit configurations that eliminate the need for both. With only the spinnaker sheet to contend with, this frees up the windward primary, leading some crews to forgo the utility winch. These boats are still in the minority, though, with most teams finding the utility winch a necessary piece of equipment, especially for buoy racing where short legs demand fast and efficient crew work.
"Our gear packages include proposals both with and without the utility winch. With grinders set up to do certain things during maneuvers, we say 'OK sailing team, give us your playbook.' If they think their playbook must have a driven utility winch, it's their decision. Obviously, there is an increased cost and a weight penalty. One thing is clear: it's very difficult to remove equipment once the sailors are used to having it. It's easier for us to put less gear on the boat, have them sail awhile, and see how the crew does without it. We can always add a utility winch and other hardware later."
"Another hot topic is whether to mount one mainsheet winch on the boat's centerline or two mainsheet winches, one port and one starboard, like in the TP52s or 50-foot classes," said Mark. "This allows the grinder to hike out instead of going to the middle of the boat to play the winch. Traditionally, however, boats this size with these types of mainsheet loads are better off sailing with a single mainsheet winch and a mainsheet caddy to help trim the winch and to play the hydraulics."
Harken supplies the full range of deck hardware: TTR blocks, high-load snatch blocks, and CRX or PCRX travelers with a choice of fixed or pivoting track.
"With new deck layouts and more sophisticated hardware, there's less and less equipment on the boats," said Mark. "Mini-Maxis use travelers, jib lead cars, spinnaker sheet blocks, mastbase blocks, and runner blocks—that's pretty much it."
"The new Harken TTR block line is a huge advance. TTRs have the greatest strength-to-weight ratio Harken has ever designed into a block and they have an unparalleled 98% efficiency. They reduce loads and recover the trimming speed other blocks lose to friction. The Loop feature lets sailors tie everything together and lash everything on to beckets, spriddles, and spreachers. Every new boat we've done has got it all."
High-Load Snatch Blocks
"The LOUP™ attachments and opening sideplates make these blocks perfect for applications requiring small adjustments: tack-line leads, barberhaulers, mastbase halyard leads, sheet deflectors, etc. They're really versatile, and it's easy for crew to quickly fasten them wherever they need them."
CRX (Captive Roller X-Treme) Traveler
"We developed the CRX roller bearing traveler for the 2003 America's Cup. It gave trimmers the sail control they needed under extreme loads and proved so reliable the trickledown was immediate.CRX systems carry nearly double the load of similarly sized ball bearing cars but weigh only half as much! Maximum working loads for the line range from 10,000 lb (4,535 kg) to 33,076 lb (15,000 kg). We can also configure these systems to suit a variety of mainsheet purchases and traveler control setups."
PCRX Pivoting (Captive Roller X-Treme) Traveler
"The PCRX mainsheet traveler was also developed for the America's Cup and is now standard on Volvo and Grand Prix racers. This award-winning traveler features a unique hinged track that pivots as the mainsheet angle changes so the car remains aligned tothe load. The result is less friction and more load-carrying capacity. The aluminum cars don't require toggles, reducing height and weight. Carbon bobbins are laminated into the deck, eliminating heavy track fasteners."