Field testing the Ultra anchor

Sunset in Corsica

One of our winter projects was to upgrade our 35kg Spade anchor to a 45kg Ultra. After 3 weeks of cruising and anchoring with the Ultra, I feel like I can give some feedback on how it’s going. Although we haven’t had any really strong winds at anchor so far this trip (the top was around 20-25 knots) we have had no trouble setting and holding in many different bottom types, including weed, rock and sand. The Ultra has worked perfectly for us in all the conditions we have encountered. It definitely sets better on a short scope than the Spade. We can reliably set on 3:1 scope on the Ultra, where we needed 4:1 scope or more on the Spade. This may be due to the extra weight, but in any case, the Ultra is definitely better.

I nearly always dive on the anchor after we drop to check we are set well, and I really like the shiny stainless steel finish of the Ultra, which makes it easier to spot when we are setting in weed bottoms.

Here’s a video of our Ultra in a sand bottom in Sargone Bay, Corsica. The anchor reset overnight after a 90 degree wind shift. You can also see our anchor roll in the video, which is a really handy little buoy that makes it easier to drive towards the anchor when raising it.

6 thoughts on “Field testing the Ultra anchor

  1. Hi – we have been following your blog with great interest as we are considering to order a new boat. Among many things, we noticed in Marine Traffic that many Outremer models have been around La Grand Motte, near the shipyard, for an abnormal period. As these are blue water cats, and some of them are beyond the shakedown period, one wonders if many owners are having issues with the boat that have been requiring a too many visits to the shipyard? Perhaps you could comment on this? Would you discard Incidence and order North Sails when you order the boat if you could go back on time? About extended reversed bows? And do you feel the 5x remains a bit slower while under engine than what to be expected? I did try some boats, including Outremer and I was somewhat disappointed with performance under engine? Also found the boat much heavier than specifications? Perhaps 3 tonnes or so. Did you ever lift and weighted Wildling? Kindest regards, AJFS

    • Dear AJFS,

      I’m happy to answer any questions that I can!

      Regarding the length of time that owners are keeping their boats in La Grande Motte, I’m not aware of any reliability issues with the Outremer boats, (aside from the typical minor fixes and adjustments needed on any new boat), and I don’t know all the owners personally so I can’t speak to all cases, but for the people I do know, they are keeping their boats in La Grande Motte as it’s a place they can leave their boat during the winter knowing that the Outremer team will see that it is being looked after properly. Some owners leave to cross the Atlantic right away, but many of us are taking the opportunity to cruise in the Med for a few seasons before crossing to the Caribbean.

      I made a mistake when ordering the sails for Wildling and have now replaced the Incidences self tacking jib with a North 3Di genoa and added a 3Di staysail and ORC. I should have done this from the beginning. We have also had multiple problems with our Incidences Hydra-Net mainsail which is too heavy to maintain it’s shape in under 12 knots of wind and our top batten fitting snapped in half when the sail was less than 1 year old. The batten fitting was eventually repaired under warranty, but it took nearly 9 months for Incidences to get us a replacement fitting.

      I know Incidences can and do make good sails, but for now at least, they do not have equivalent technology to North 3Di, and after sailing the past month with 3Di sails, I am very happy with them. For this reason, and because of the terrible after sales service from Incidences, I would not buy another Incidences sail. In fact, I have ordered a new North 3Di mainsail to replace our malfunctioning Incidences mainsail. So to answer your question, had I known all this when I ordered our boat I would have definitely ordered North 3Di sails.

      We do also have a Delta-Voiles Code D gennaker which is excellent, and an Incidences Kevlar Code 0 gennaker which is also excellent, although now we have the North 3Di genoa, there’s no longer any real performance benefit or need to use the Code-0.

      Do the reversed bows increase the waterline length? I don’t believe so, in which case they are a cosmetic change that serve no practical purpose that I am aware of. And given that they would require moving the spinnaker guy attachment points slightly aft I would choose the straight bows if there is still an option to get them.

      Our 5X is VERY SLOW under engines! It’s the big disappointment for me with this boat. Be prepared to motor at between 5 and 6 knots (I’m talking when running a single engine at 2,000 rpm. Both engines at 2000 rpm will give you about 1-1.5 knots more speed, so hardly worth the extra fuel and wear for long distance motoring). Since sailing is so much faster, we try to run the engines only when we absolutely have to, which means we sail about 90% of the time, but it would be nice to have a few extra knots under engines when there’s no way to sail. We routinely get passed by monohulls when motoring, but of course that changes pretty fast as soon as we have more than 6 or 7 knots of wind!

      Our boat is heavier than I expected (which may explain why we are slow when motoring). We weighed the boat at the last haulout, and in fully loaded cruising configuration the weight was 17,500 kg. This included almost full diesel and water tanks and the dinghy, so call it more like 16,500 kg as opposed to the 14,500kg we calculated from the options lists. About 12% more than we estimated. Based on this I have a few thoughts:

      1. We worked hard to keep the weight down during construction – carbon bulkheads and bimini roof, carbon mast, lithium batteries, no generator, no clothes washer, no dishwasher – this turned out to be a good decision and more important than I had expected.

      2. Our boat still weighs lot less than most other 60 foot fully configured catamarans on the market today, but it’s a lot more than a true lightweight performance cat, like the Schionning G-Force 1800 for example.

      3. The 5X is not a race boat. It is however, an exceptionally comfortable, stable and safe world cruising boat that has no trouble sailing within 1 knot of true wind speed in anything over 6 knots of breeze. It’s still the best tradeoff between safety, comfort and performance that I am aware of on the market today.

      I wish you the best of luck with your new boat project, and please let me know if I can help answer any questions as you go along.

      Best regards,

  2. Hi – Would be great if we could like to give you a word by email? There is lots of common ground between us and some questions about the 5x we do have that do not belong in comments? Do you think you could share it, AJFS

  3. hi Doug
    thanks for your updates. i thought i would drop you a line to see how the Ultra is going after you have had a little more time to try it out. we have a 30kg Spade on our 51. It seems to hold well though i have dragged twice in three sessions. My key problem is setting it in weed and of course scope is problem in the Med.

    • Hi James,

      The Ultra is a better anchor than the Spade in my opinion (at least it works better for us). We found the Spade unreliable in anything less than 4:1 scope, even in good holding bottoms, and dragged frequently. Admittedly we did increase the size of the anchor when we moved to the Ultra, so it’s not a strictly apples to apples comparison.

      The Med is challenging for all anchors. There’s a lot of weed, and the anchorages get crowded and are often deep, so putting out recommended scope can make you swing into other boats. With the Ultra, we hold well at 3:1 scope which reduces the swing radius in crowded anchorages.

      Here are a few tips that I have found to work for us when anchoring in the Med:

      1. If it’s crowded, go as deep as you can. Most boats congregate in the shallows, so moving out into deeper water usually gives you more swing room. The Ultra holds well at 3:1 scope in 10-15m depths, so we don’t bother trying to squeeze into the crowded shallows any more.

      2. In weed bottoms, drag onto a holding patch when you set. Try and find a sand gap in the weed and drop there first. The water in the Med is so clear it’s often possible to visually locate a patch of sand to drop. If this isn’t possible then drop further upwind of where you want to end up, then lay out 2.5-3:1 scope, and idle backwards until the anchor pulls into a place where it will set. The Ultra will set very firmly, so don’t go backwards too fast because you will pull up hard which puts a lot of load on the windlass. The weed technique works for both anchors, but I find it works better with the Ultra than it did with the Spade. The Spade tends to collect a big ball of weed which covers the tip and reduces it’s ability to dig in. The Ultra slides through the weed better without collecting as much of a ball.

      3. Always dive on the anchor to check your set and if you’re not happy with it pull up and re-anchor. Don’t ever feel uncomfortable re-anchoring as many times as you need to get a set that you have confidence in. This also applies when that pesky boat that for whatever reason feels the need to anchor too close! Better to pull up and move further away than risk a collision during the night.

      • Great thanks for the advice Doug. I was also interested in your comments about the new sails you bought. We experience the same issues as you have with the top batten inverting so I may also look at an upgrade. Probably next season.
        We have Akaroa 11 in Sicily at the moment. We had a great couple of months in Greece and will sail around Sicily in September.
        Happy sailing
        James and Tracey

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