Diesel-Hybrid Racing - Final Gear
Afew months back, I received an email reminding us that this is in fact not Travel and Whine magazine, but rather Diesel Power. So, in keeping with the diesel theme, let’s talk hybrids.
Hybrids seem to be all the rage these days. And I can understand why. They promise incredible fuel economy and claim to be good for the environment. I’m not here to voice my opinions or pass judgment on hybrids and the harm they are potentially doing to our environment—I’ll leave that up to you for the time being. What I’m interested in is the growing (sort of) genre of diesel-hybrid racing.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking, This is awesome. We’re going to learn something new about the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Rather, I have a different sort of diesel- hybrid in mind. The hybrid I want to talk about is truly the most environmentally friendly of the bunch, running on a combination of diesel fuel and wind power.
Driven by the power of the wind when the sails are up—and by a 20hp, three-cylinder, Yanmar diesel engine while not competing—the J/105-class sailboat fits the classification of a hybrid vessel perfectly. Thanks to a connection through a long time friend, I have been hanging around these boats off and on for about a year now. I started by helping on ferry trips, repositioning the J/105 “Kestrel” along the Southern California coast in preparation for different racing events. Using a combination of the main sail and diesel engine, we were able to make the trek from Long Beach to San Diego in about 18 hours. This was at a cruising speed of about 6 to 8 knots in the open ocean. And while this type of trip is a grind, it really gives a great introduction to all different aspects of sailing, the boat’s handling, and it gives plenty of practice time.
The J/105 class boat is built purely for performance; they are race machines, not pleasure craft. While the interior is fitted with a small galley area and a head, those are all the comforts you’ll find. These vessels are 35 feet long and have an 11-foot beam and 6.5-foot draft, giving them a sleek and slender look. Weighing in at less than 8,000 pounds dry, they are relatively light and carry almost half that weight in their keel, which acts as a ballast, keeping the boat upright in heavy winds and aggressive maneuvers.
Thanks to my prior experience and the same friend, I recently had the opportunity to compete with a winning team. The J/105 “Off the Porch” sails out of Seal Beach, California, and was halfway through a local summer racing series when I was invited on board. I hit the dock with all the same thoughts and skepticism you’re probably experiencing right now. But after our first race—and seeing firsthand the thought and precision that is put into every move and just how competitive this form of racing actually is—I was convinced. It was probably the most fun I could have racing at less than 10 mph. Ultimately, we finished in Second Place, and I got an invitation to continue racing with the team for this series.
Don’t worry. My passion is still motorsports and diesel performance. But the racer inside couldn’t let me turn down the opportunity to compete on a six-figure, purpose-built vessel. It is a bucket list item, just like racing the Baja 1000, that I can happily check off now. And honestly, I’ll probably continue racing with the crew of “Off the Porch” for at least a few more weeks—or until they throw me overboard.
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