Brett Jones started sailing when he was really young, and never left the sport ever since. He is not only the amazing sailor but also skilled sail designer and sailmaker. He participated in America’s Cup during several years, sailed all classic yacht races. Now he is working in Quantum Sails, mostly with such boats as RC 44, TP 52, IRC and Soto 40. We had a word with him about his experience, current projects and his secretive strategy that makes the boat faster.
Brett Jones, we are very glad to welcome you on our interview. We will start with background and experience in sailing. When and where did you start it and what is your experience in the big boats?
I started sailing as a child, at the age of five. And had boats all the way through to the end of school and to my first year as the sailmaker, it was probably around 1980.
In Australia? In which city?
Sydney, Australia, Middle Harbour Yacht Club. That was my home club and then I spent a lot of time, after getting out of dinghies, into yacht sailing and doing a lot of big boats.
How did you get into the South Africa Team?
I was about to join Oracle again, with whom I also did the 2003 campaign. I was going to go with those guys, and I had an offer through Dee Smith to come and help, join up with the South African team. It was a bit more of a challenge. I had more responsibility with the South African team, so I thought, “Well, why not give it a change”. With Oracle, you can just be a gear in the cogs, or you can go to South Africa and have a little bit more say in all, a bit more responsibility, maybe more interesting for a while, so I decided to do that.
Only as a sailor or as the sail maker as well?
As a sailor and sail coordinator. Not sail designer, Chris Williams is the sail designer there. But I work closely with Chris.
Now you are working more as the coach than as the sailor. What are the changes for you? What do you like more?
I prefer sailing. You know, this is a good challenge, and it is probably inevitable what is going to happen, given the age. However, I would still like to do some more sailing. It is a good challenge to do this as well, it is interesting, you get to see the different perspective when you on a yacht.
As the designer and sail coordinator, in different classes can you give some advice on how to speed up the boat?
It all comes down to working with the right people all the time. I think it is crutial to have good relationships with the boat builders, designers, and the crew. It is important to move the whole project forward, you know. Having the right people in the right places is the most important part.
Okay, so what is the first step? You get the boat and absolutely new sails, what’s next?
Then you need to analyze what is going on on the boat. You need to be able to feel if there is the balance there, through the rattling keel and rick turn and the sail shapes. All that has to connect together through the balance of the boat. To get that you need to have a good sense, a good feeling, but I don’t know how to get it. That is the challenge of making the boat go fast: to try to get that balance right. Balance through sail shape and mast, and then obviously the feeling of the boat, all those things should be taken into consideration.
The Melges 40: new class, what is the challenge here now? Is it something new for you?
Yes, it is new and quite exciting! The challenge is to get the boat going fast and understand the balance of the boat. These last few days we went through the massive changes in rig and rig tune, and we were just trying to find what is working for us. The conditions did not help much but I think we found a little bit of balance on the boat, rig wise and then shape settings with diagonals. We changed it a little from what an original doctrine was, and seems to be finding a bit more median happy balance in the boat, luff curve of the mainsail and just the way the boat wants to sail. Finding that feeling!