There’s only one place in the world where you’d see an 60-foot racing yacht hoisted up on a nation’s most recognizable landmark, and it’s no surprise that place is France. Go here to find out what’s going on with Initiatives Coeur and the Eiffel Tower this coming May. Head to the finally-winding-down Vendee Globe thread for more info… For the rest of the story from Sailing Anarchy CLICK HERE!
Posts in category IMOCA
We’re not sure what it is about Conrad “The Crazy Kiwi/Friwi” Colman, but every race he enters becomes an Odyssian epic. His Global Ocean Race, Barcelona World Race, and now Vendee Globe have been long, grinding, obstacle-strewn voyages, and through conquering them, he’s proved to be one of the toughest son of a bitches in all of ocean racing. Conrad arrived in Les Sables D’Olonne yesterday after a two-week slog under jury rig to finish his first Vendee Globe, the first by a kiwi skipper, and the first-ever round-the-world finish without using a single drop of diesel or gasoline, and if we could get the busy man on the phone, we might be able to bring you a full debrief. Until then, we’ll give you the full finish report from his media team. Photo thanks to BRESCHI/Foresight Natural Energy with a full finish gallery over here... For the rest of the story from Sailing Anarchy CLICK HERE!
DISMASTED! – Unless Conrad Colman can figure out a jury rig and slog it out to the finish, the elusive ‘first non-fossil fuel Vendee Globe finisher’ may have to wait four more years, as today the Friwi dismasted just 300 nm from the Portuguese coast. According to VG media, Conrad ditched the rig and saved the boom, and is sorting out the mess as he and his team figure out the next step. Latest on the final few finishers in the thread, and note that Conrad’s likely to have a truly epic write-up of his saga on Facebook when the time comes… For the rest of the story from Sailing Anarchy CLICK HERE!
While leading the Vendée Globe on Day 14, Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss hit a submerged object in the South Atlantic, obliterating the foil on his starboard side that helped to reduce displacement while on port tack.
After slipping over 800 nautical miles off the lead while crossing the Indian Ocean, a stretch where he was primarily on port tack, Thomson ascent up the Atlantic now has him threatening for the lead on Day 65.
In this report for Yachting World, James Boyd looks under the hood at what may be Thomson’s better boat.
The 2016/7 Vendée Globe race will go down as one dominated by two very different sailors, Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h and Briton Alex Thomson in two critically different yachts.
There is no doubt that Thomson’s foil-borne Hugo Boss is very fast in perhaps a wider range of downwind conditions, and development of this foiling technology will be at the forefront of designers’ minds as they work towards designs for the next monohull round the world races.
But what exactly are the key features of Thomson’s black boat, and how does it work?
For the design of Hugo Boss, Thomson and his team chose the race-winning partnership of VPLP and Guillaume Verdier, who have all but cornered the market in new IMOCA 60 designs.
Like the five other new VPLP-Verdier designs, Hugo Boss is a semi-foiler, with giant and – frankly in her case – quite sinister-looking appendages protruding from either side that have been compared to ‘Dali’s moustache’ in the French press.
Watch this video of Alex Thomson Racing CEO showing and explaining Hugo Boss’s foils.
The complex shape of these boards is because, just like on modern foiling catamarans, they must perform a dual role: their vertical surface creates lateral resistance to prevent leeway, while their horizontal surface provides upward lift beneath the hull, reducing wetted surface area and lift to leeward thereby increasing righting moment and stability.
The result is a boat that does frequently ‘show keel’ and daylight beneath her hull an impressively long way aft and, in Hugo Boss’s case, in impressively little wind (ie with full main still hoisted). However, weighing around 7.5 tonnes and with no lifting surfaces on her rudders, she is no 60ft Moth.
Nonetheless, just as is the case currently with the foiling multihulls, this development does represent one of the most significant performance boosts ever seen in monohull design.
While other IMOCA foil-equipped yachts that started the same race, Safran, Banque Populaire and No Way Back, are the MkI of the new VPLP-Verdier designs and Edmond de Rothschild and St Michel-Virbac are MkII, Thomson refers to Hugo Boss as MkIII. She certainly has many differences from the others, most noticeably her giant foredeck chamfer.
To watch dramatic aerial footage of Edmond de Rothschild semi-foiling IMOCA 60…click here.
According to Thomson, Hugo Boss is also the narrowest of the new boats. “We made a call quite early on that the foils would work. If the foils are working and creating stability and lift then why do you need to have such a wide boat?” A narrower boat is also lighter, with less wetted area and lower drag, he argues. – Full report
Defying the odds – and the rapidly disintegrating Open 60 Le Souffle Du Nord, Thomas Ruyant has thankfully made it to port at the Southern tip of Kiwiland. Stuart MacLachlan posted the first shot of his first sleep in a long time; there has rarely been a more hard-earned rest after the front fell off…
In other news, it looks like fourth place Paul Meilhat may have run his race as well, but unlike Ruyant, Meilhat is as far from rescue as is possible on Earth. the winning 2012 boat – now called SMA – seems to have a cracked keel ram cylinder. As of an hour ago, his team posted (as translated by Gtrans): “This afternoon at 3:15 pm French time, Paul Meilhat contacted his team to report a problem of keel ram. The cylinder was cracked for 40 centimeters and resulted in the rocking of the keel downwind of the boat…It was after a suspicious noise at the beginning of the afternoon that the skipper of SMA went to inspect his well of keel. He immediately realized that the oil in the hydraulic circuit had flooded the cylinder compartment. He first suspected the rupture of a pipe of the hydraulic circuit, before finding a crack of 40 centimeters on the cylinder itself.”
Meilhat is roughly 2000 miles East of New Zealand, and if he can’t lock down the keel, the situation could quickly become dire. Monitor in the thread.
Thomas Ruyant’s Souffle Du Nord (“Breath of the North”) is out of the Vendee Globe, and might not even stay afloat for another day. Words from Thomas as translated in the thread.
I lowered the mainsail. I turned on the engine. I remained a few hours hove to.
The damage at the front of the boat is deteriorating, the hull is opening up, the frames are coming unglued from everywhere.
I am heading to the South of New Zealand. I should be there in 2 days. I am not sure it is going to hold until then.
The good thing is that I am within helicopter range. It is comforting. I just need to push one button for someone to get me. The living quarters are not damaged. With the watertight doors, I can stay protected.
The hit was ultra-violent. I still shivers, just thinking about it… and talking about it.
I was sailing at 17-18 knots. And everything stopped. I think I hit a container. That’s what torn apart the bottom of the hull. The front of the hull exploded. The hull buckled. Luckily I did not lose the mast. It was very, very violent.
I was sleeping in my bean bag. Thank god, I had my head deep into the bean bag. I ended up against the mast bulkhead. I found items against the mast bulkhead that were packed up at the rear of the boat; it flew forward over 10 meters…
A bit stressful. The good thing is that I am not too far from shore. But actually, that is also what could have caused it. I saw several cargos. I think I am on a maritime route between New Zealand and Australia. Knowing the sea conditions, there must be a few containers in the water. I think that’s what I hit, considering the violence of the shock…
Here we are…End of my Vendee Globe…Finished…Half around the world…
I am so sad it ends up this way…I had my lot of hardship… For sure I had a truck load of them…
But this one… this one… Fuck! I really wish this one to nobody…
Thread has the latest news and discussion – go there now.
Bill at Passageweather points out an incredibly rare front page error (ha!):
Hey guys, you state that Conrad’s boat has “The first all-electric propulsion in the Vendee Globe”. That is not true, as Javier “Bubi” Sanso raced his IMOCA 60 “Acciona” in the last Vendee Globe with a 100% Eco-Powered system, including an electric motor and batteries charged by a system of solar, wind and hydro-generators. I’m not trying to take anything away from Conrad, but credit where credit is due, and the first was Bubi Sanso back in 2012.
Bill is 100% correct, and we remember calling the boat “100% Tug-Powered” after his dismasting, rescue and salvage in the last race. Conrad only has 16,000 miles or so to go to become the first ever to finish a Vendee Globe without fossil fuels.
Here’s Conrad’s latest missive from the Southern Ocean, and please be sure to like Conrad to get his best-in-race updates.
The world has changed back to grey although conditions are still pleasant. Notice that I’m talking in general terms here because my instruments are still uncooperative so I have no notion of wind angle or speed other than my experience of years at sea. However it’s not the air that bothers me at the moment, it’s water. The hard stuff. The sea is really cold (again, no data sorry) and even short exposure to it during a sail change leaves my hands so cold and weak that I can’t even rip open a soup packet!
Also, falling off the train that Stephane and Nandor are still on has forced me to dive south, close to the Kerguelen Islands and close to an iceberg detected by satellites four days ago. As I write this I have just crossed over the waypoint for the observed 30 meter iceberg as I figured the best way to avoid a moving target is to sail exactly over the point where it was last seen!
In addition to my work on the boat, planning the navigation, trimming etc I now turn my binoculars to the horizon at regular intervals looking for hard water. I saw an iceberg in my first race around the world in 2012 near Cape Horn and it was impressive and scary for all that it represented… a near invisible, undetectable by radar, solid dangerous lump! I have good visibility and only one target to miss so I’m not too concerned about this Vendee cocktail being served on ice, although an encounter would leave me both shaken and stirred!
My first long trip since becoming a father was an eye-opening one for me in many ways. I learned that it takes about 15 days before family Facetime chats fall off and the missing really begins. I learned that Sailing Anarchy can be a force for positive change. I learned that driving non-stop from Barcelona to Amsterdam alone costs a fortune in tolls, fuel, and misery. But mostly, I enjoyed being back in the thick of it for three extremely important events for the sport I love. I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make the trip possible, and I encourage you to check out informative pieces I did with each of the four sponsors during the trip:
Musto’s head of marketing and the Figaro sailor who reps them in France chatted with me about their new offerings and just how much of the Vendee fleet wears HPX in this video from METS.
Torqeedo Marketing Director Georg Roben gave some candid answers about the company and products that have netted two of the prestigious “Most Innovative Product” awards in the past five years at the METS show in this video.
As usual, Doyle Sails NZ owner Mike Sanderson was funny and interesting in this live chat about the Hugo Boss sails, superyacht sail technology, and the future of the Volvo Ocean Race, while Bruce Schwab explained what Ocean Planet Energy’s slick battery, regulator, and charging solutions do for ocean racers in this interview.
Enjoy them, and stay tuned for the next big thing. Got something your company thinks needs some coverage? Let me know.
A Hazy, Crazy Vendee
A special invitation to be aboard one of just a handful of support RIBs permitted inside the 2016 Vendee Globe starting area gave me a great view to one of the most special single days in all of sailing; a day where our humble sport sees crowds that make the World Cup look small. As it turned out, the start itself wasn’t even in the top ten most interesting things about V-Day, and my view inside the commentary box four years ago was quite a bit better than being aboard a photo RIB shooting the 2016 start. It’s a start that barely matters at all for the race itself.
What I didn’t experience four years ago was the single most intense crowd moment our sport has; when each skipper comes ’round the corner, entering the famous LSD Canal to the roar of an estimated 200,000 fans lining the shores. Fortunately, my spot with the Boss photographer allowed me to be just a few meters away from this action, and the 18-minute video above is my attempt to get you as close as I could to the unique emotional surge unlocked by that final trip through the fairway.
I’ve been asked by many people whether the Vendee and IMOCA will ever really grip the attention of anyone outside of France and the niche yachting community, and I remind people that there’s plenty of precedent for it. When Mike Plant dominated solo racing (and indeed in the early days of the Open 60) the Vendee was international. When Ellen was one of the UK’s best-known athletes, the Vendee was international. And now that Alex Thomson has a real chance to win and with the help of Open Sports Management and the IMOCA Class, the Vendee is pulling in decent international numbers. But it’s all probably not enough to transform the event into a truly world-wide phenomenon, and that’s entirely because of the shortsightedness of the French organizers of the race itself.
You see, the non-French world just doesn’t matter much to the region of Vendee, or to the paymasters behind the communications strategy of the race, and where they do make an effort, it is specifically pointed at a UK audience….
And don’t forget the Sailing Anarchy Podcast.
Conrad Colman continues to prove that he is an ‘innovate or die’ kind of dude. The first all-electric propulsion in the Vendee Globe. The first drone shots from a solo racer in the Southern Ocean. And now – the first podcast from an Open 60, via Soundcloud. The tech to pull this off has been around for the better part of a decade, and it’s amazing no one has done it before now, but that’s why Colman is one of our favorites – because he is always in search of new ways to share the sport with the world.
This one is only 3 minute long, but we really do suggest you find a good set of headphones and turn them way up before you click ‘play’ if you want a taste of what a Southern Ocean cold front feels like.
Shout out to one of the best kids’ movies ever; a reminder that not all cartoons need to be corporatized drudge from Disney and friends.
Our own Mr. Clean and RailMeat get bylines in an excellent short vid that gives you a real taste of the Vendee Globe from the perspective of New York Times sailing editor Chris Museler. Watch it in the original spot here.
With jagged bits falling off his now-wrecked starboard side foil, Alex Thomson has tapped into his inner Brit, keeping the proverbial ‘stiff-upper lip’ despite watching his huge 120NM+ lead erode sched by sched. How long can he hold the charging Armel and Seb off? It all depends on the wind direction, and the closer they charge toward the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, the less choices Alex will have to make.
Western France is collectively breathing a huge sigh of relief to see the rosbif’s game-changing race begin to falter, but they shouldn’t count their Maitre Coq before it hatches; this edition of the Vendee has been noteable not only for the dominance of Old England, but for the incredibly lack of attrition up to this point. It won’t last, and if one foiling 60 can wreck a foil, they all can…
Meanwhile, we’re not sure who made it, but props to the Anarchist who brought the beautiful Windyty streamlines to the Vendee Globe tracking data to produce this ‘world’s best’ tracker for the VG. Check that link here, go over here for a full-fleet performance graphing option, and of course wade into the thread if you love the Vendee.
Having designed 12 of the 29 IMOCA 60s competing in the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe, Vincent Lauriot-Prévost of VPLP Design looks back over an exceptional period in yacht design.
How does a firm specializing in multihulls start making monohulls for the Vendée Globe?
It’s a process that derived from a pragmatic observation. By the mid-2000s, after Groupama 2 and the decline of the ORMAs, we realized we had come to the end of a cycle and so we decided to focus our efforts on the IMOCAs.
We were already in touch with French yacht designer Guillaume Verdier who, at the time, was working on Yves Parlier’s Hydraplaneur. He had done an internship with us, as well as a stint with Finot-Conq, the reference in monohull design back then. We thought about designing an IMOCA but neither of us felt we had the credibility to do it on our own.
And yet together, in 2006, you secured the Safran contract, didn’t you?
Yes, we kicked around an idea for an Ultimate for Florence Arthaud, which we offered to Safran. And when Safran chose the IMOCA we worked on Marc Guillemot’s project, who was a candidate for the position of skipper. When Safran selected him, we signed on too. And the sponsor wasn’t unhappy about initiating a revolution in yacht design.
What was this revolution in yacht design exactly?
Up until then the boats were heavy and powerful. We thought we could design monohulls that, like multihulls, were still powerful but light. So we undertook a zero-tolerance approach to saving weight.
As for the power, we got that from designing squarer lines, with sharper bilges running the length of the hull. At the same time, we moved the rigging further aft, shortened the boom and steepened the stays to lift the bow out of the water. We did a lot of work on the tilt of the keel, by increasing its angle of attack considerably, and we developed curved daggerboards to promote lift, and we simplified the forces.
All that produced, even in the first-generation IMOCAs, boats that were more responsive, faster and easier to handle. Our first IMOCAs weighed up to 1.5 tonnes lighter than those of our competitors!
Are the foils a revolution too?
Previously, when we lightened a boat it had an impact on the righting moment, and that was something we just accepted. Today, thanks to the foils, we can lighten a boat without losing any righting torque – yes, it is the innovation of the decade, no doubt about it! And keel tilt has gone from 2° to 7°, and that produces more lift. At 22 to 25 knots a foiling IMOCA reduces its displacement by almost half without losing power…
But foils are more of a hindrance than a help in light airs and sailing close-hauled, aren’t they?
For the early versions of the foils, that was true. But most of the imperfections have been ironed out of the Version 2s. We had designed asymmetric shafts to generate vertical lift but, when heeling, we noticed that they had the opposite effect. We discovered it’s the curve between the tip and the shaft which delivers the vertical lift. So we drew up some symmetrical shafts, as neutral as possible, and the V2 gained enormously in stability.
What can we expect for the next generation of IMOCAs?
Unless a disaster happens, the class won’t be changing much. We suggested that there needs to be greater equality between the generations.
The early boats gain a huge advantage from the current rules because they can keep their original mast, and reinforce it, whereas the latest IMOCAs are, without a shadow of a doubt, hindered by their standardized mast.
On the design side, we are going to look at improving the hulls which, for example, could be made less beamy. Don’t forget, all the teams asked us to draw up hulls that could revert to daggerboards if the foils didn’t work! But, for the moment, nobody had asked us…
Explain the Verdier and VPLP partnership.
With Guillaume Verdier, we share the same view and convictions even though we have very different ways of solving problems. In the beginning, each side had their specific field: Guillaume did the hull and the structures, and we did the rest. But over time our teams started to work on the projects as a whole; although Verdier has a predilection for the structures, their specialty.
It’s a partnership that works well, I believe, and produces results! And it doesn’t stop us from doing solo projects, such as the Figaro 3 for us and the Class40 for him.
Quentin Lucet, Daniele Capua and Xavier Guisnel are responsible for IMOCA design at VPLP. In collaboration with Guillaume Verdier and his team, they produced twelve of the boats sailing in this year’s Vendée Globe. Here is what they have to say about them:
FIRST GENERATION/VENDÉE GLOBE 2008–2009
#1 QUEGUINER-LEUCÉMIE ESPOIR (2007): “She was the first in the series, launched as Safran with Marc Guillemot at the helm. She remains a reference in terms of performance and the impact her design had on the IMOCAs.”
#2 LE SOUFFLE DU NORD (2007): “Safran’s little sister, built at the same time for Kito and Groupe Bel, with identical hull and structure. Two Vendée Globes, two withdrawals: this time it’s going to be the one!”
#3 PRB (2009): “With the same hull as Safran, Vincent Riou’s machine has been optimized in every detail to become the most dangerous non-foiler in the fleet… and the only VPLP/Verdier design to keep the same skipper and the same sponsor!”
SECOND GENERATION/VENDÉE GLOBE 2012–2013
#4 BASTIDE OTIO (2010): “Formerly Virbac-Paprec III, then Hugo Boss, she’s the first of our second generation IMOCAs with a new, more powerful hull. She knows the route because she won the Barcelona World Race in 2011 and made fourth place – minus her keel – in the following Vendée Globe.”
#5 MAITRE COQ (2010): “Ah, that’s the old Foncia, we can still see Michel Desjoyeaux’s influence in her deck layout, his famous “gull wing”, and a slightly different structure. Jérémie Beyou added a pair of foils to her this year.”
#6 SMA (2011): “Formerly Macif, she had a brilliant career under the command of François Gabart, notching up victories in the Vendée Globe and the Route du Rhum. Back then she was Foncia’s sister-ship, optimized in terms of weight.”
THIRD GENERATION/VENDÉE GLOBE 2016–2017
#7 SAFRAN (2015): “Just like 2007, this Safran leads the way in the new generation of foiling IMOCAs. She’s not a continuation of Macif because we started out from scratch, as we did for the first Safran, which had a great influence on us.”
#8 BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII (2015): “Her hull is identical to Safran’s, but the appendages and the shape of the deck are different. Banque Populaire’s technical team were very involved throughout the process to optimize the boat, one of the most accomplished in this Vendée Globe.”
#9 EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (2015): “Unlike Safran/Banque Populaire, which are made for reaching, the design brief from the Gitana team focused on flexibility. We did a lot of work on the layout of the deck, the centre of gravity and trimming the gear.”
#10 STMICHEL-VIRBAC (2015): “Jean-Pierre is the only skipper to order two boats from us. His third IMOCA is a sister-ship to Edmond de Rothschild, but there are numerous differences, in particular the foils.”
#11 HUGO BOSS (2015): “Alex Thomson wanted a boat that sails ‘fucking fast’, and he got one! In design, she is the most radical of the foilers with less beam and greater tumblehome in the bow.”
#12 NO WAY BACK (2015): “Ex Vento di Sardegna, she used to be skippered by Andrea Mura before Pieter Heerema bought her. She is Banque Populaire’s little sister, gentler and extremely well built.”
TWO FROM THE FAR(R) WEST!
Originally designed by Bruce Farr, a couple of boats taking part in this edition of the Vendée Globe were thoroughly reworked by VPLP Design and Guillaume Verdier: Initiatives Coeur and Finistère Mer Vent. “We redid 40% of the hull under the waterline by grafting on a new bow, a piece about eight metres long which has more volume and is sharper. This should improve the longitudinal stability of the boat.”
The eighth Vendée Globe, which began November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.
For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils: six new boats (Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss, No Way Back, Safran, and StMichel-Virbac) and one older generation boat (Maitre Coq). The foils allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.
Source: VPLP, Vendee Globe
If there’s two things I spend most of my pre-regatta time on, it’s dock walks and form guides. So with one day to go until the Vendee Globe begins, I decided to create some efficiencies and combine these two indispensible tools for following the world’s best race. The result is this video tour of every one of the 29 entries for the VG.
We grabbed the most knowledgeable English speaker we could for this one; Ryan Breymaier is the rigger for overall contender SAFRAN, and he never pulls punches – listen to Ryan’s analysis of each boats’ strength and weakness and each skipper’s history and chances. Wanna know the best foils, the dark horses, the hopeless dreamers, and the real podium contenders? This is the place to go.
Thanks also to Bruce Schwab and Ocean Planet Energy for his support of our coverage.
The eighth Vendée Globe, which begins November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. For the 29 skippers and their IMOCA 60s, their medical emergencies will be cared for by the official race doctor.
As a former emergency doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve has been dealing with the injuries of sailors for thirty years, with this to be his eighth Vendée Globe. Here he offers some insight into the role…
What has changed since your first Vendée Globe in 1989?
“Satellite links have changed things. We can be more efficient. We can send pictures to the skipper, or chat using a video conference. But the big change is the speed of the boats. Weight reductions have meant that there is no room for personal comfort The body needs to be respected. As boats go faster, the risk of injury is higher, and these injuries are likely to be more serious.”
What risks do the Vendée Globe skippers face?
“Boats are extremely noisy and violent. There is the problem of getting rest. It’s hard to sleep in these conditions. There is the risk of internal injury, remembering that the brain is floating in the skull. When the brain is thrown forward it hits the skull, which can lead to bruising, bleeding or even a coma. Helmets aren’t much help in this area. They need air-bags!”
Are the skippers well prepared to look after themselves?
“Medical training is vital. They have to think about how to give themselves a drip. We talk things through with the sailors. We know how on these boats, one thing can lead to another. The medical kit is very complete, going from morphine to skin glue. At sea, the skippers can call up the doctor of their choice, but he must inform me what is happening and what treatment he has prescribed. It’s up to me to check to see if that is OK.”
Is there extra stress for you with the new foiling boats?
“I’ll be on stand-by, waiting anxiously for any calls. Of course, I’m more stressed this year, as the boats are so fast. Four years ago, nothing serious happened, but now the bar has been raised. This is a round the world race and should be treated as a sensible sporting event. The boats must not get the better of the men aboard.”
The eighth Vendée Globe, which begins November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Alex Thomson, one of the 29 skippers who will be racing their IMOCA, seen here headed towards Lands End to get some vital training in prior to the start. Video published on Oct 31, 2016.
The eighth Vendée Globe, which begins November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations will set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.
For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils, which allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.
The odds-on favorite for the 2016/17 Vendee Globe checks out an entirely novel use for his foiling j-board aboard Banque Populaire. Photo dug up by whoever the hell Nolimit Team 972 is…and there’s already a pile of great Race Village photos on the VG site…T minus 18 days!
The eighth Vendée Globe, which begin November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Racing IMOCA 60s, first time entrant Conrad Colman is among the 29 skippers that plan to be on the start line…
It has been the relentless pressure and workload which has pushed Conrad Colman harder than he remembers being pressed in his life before. The battle to find enough funding to get to the start has latterly run in tandem long, hard hours spent getting his IMOCA 60 100% Natural Energy – formerly Maisoneuve – refitted and ready to take on the world.
“It has been full on. I have not had a day off really since I started. It has been so much hard work eighteen hours a day, day after day,” smiles Colman, “The boat is pretty much ready. We tried out the last of the new sails the other day. That said it is fair to say that pretty much every minute of every day until the start is allocated.”
To date Colman has been unable to find a major sponsor. He will start nonetheless and make it all work, he says, but he says he is very much staking his foreseeable financial future.
“I have had some close calls with sponsors and we are still trying. But I have pretty much ‘bet the farm’ to get here. I am still hanging out for a saviour. On the one hand it all adds to the pressure and stress, but on the other it is frustrating because I have such a strong story to tell, myself and the boat and the natural energy programme.
“It is a big risk for me but there is so much for a title sponsor to gain being associated with this great adventure. There is at least €100,000 of value there and it’s a shame there is no one able to take that benefit. My programme is unique even compared with the other skippers.” – Read on
There’s never been anything quite like the latest generation of Open 60s, and in just a couple of months, we’ll learn how they perform in anger when the Vendee Globe kicks off. We haven’t been this excited by a monohull class in years, and we recommend you take some time to catch up with the latest; here’s the Ocean Racing Anarchy forum thread, full of info. Here’s the most reliable Facebook Page under the Vendee umbrella. Here’s the latest promo/trailer video for the race, and here’s a pretty good Conrad Colman documentary from the NY-Vendee Race. Brian Carlin photo, with more from this past weekend’s Azimut Race here.
Videographer Stan Thuret gives us this 2 minute tease of a longer NY-Vendee Race movie to come in a couple of weeks. Pretty stuff from a pretty old boat and an Anarchist skipper we really dig.
Jérémie Beyou and his 60-foot IMOCA Maître CoQ off the coast of Brittany, France as he trains for the 2016 Vendee Globe which starts November 6. The record for the singlehanded, non-stop race of of 78:02:16:40 was set by François Gabart (Macif) during the last edition (2012-13).
The Sailing Anarchy Podcast is back, and this week Mr. Clean gets into the business behind the single biggest event in the entire sport: The Vendee Globe. This 100-minute episode # 6 is a mix of insider chat from Clean and four interviews he grabbed last month in New York with interesting Vendee figures: IMOCA Ocean Masters Commercial Director Alex Mills, Canadian Ocean Racing grom Morgan Watson, Irish skipper and storyteller Enda O’Coineen, and Team SMA media man Brian Carlin.
In this piece, Brian Hancock analyzes the coming NY-Vendee Race for Open 60s after Mr. Clean went over to the Big Apple for a few hours to do some interviews and finally get that ride on Hugo Boss. They did not win the exhibition/charity race (Mich Dej/Paul Meilhat on SMA caned it), but at least the 14 stallions were able to run a little bit in a rare 8-12 knots of reliable breeze in NY Harbor, and it was a site no one has ever seen before (though as with the ACWS, New York doesn’t really give a crap). Clean’s race video is in here and SA Podcast # 6 next week will include some excellent interviews and a detailed discussion about the good, the bad, the conflict, and the controversy of the Vendee Globe – fans of solo ocean racing won’t want to miss this one. Big thanks to former “The Beat” host Katy Nastro for the production help, with photo credit to George Bekris for the shots above and below.
This coming Sunday New York City will be the backdrop to one of the newest ocean races on the calendar. The New York-Vendée race is essentially a feeder race for the Vendée Globe which starts in five months from France. It will provide an opportunity for the skippers to complete their qualifying voyage in order to take part in the Vendée Globe. The turnout for this inaugural event is very good with 14 IMOCA 60s lining up for the start. Among them are the who’s who of solo sailing including previous Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou on PRB and Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire. Le Cléac’h finished second in the last Vendée Globe and is the odds-on favorite for the next one. Also competing will be Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss. Thomson finished third in the last Vendée and is back with a brand new boat.
The race starts at 14:00 EST on the Hudson River and exits the mouth of New York harbor at Sandy Hook before crossing the Atlantic to finish off Les Sable d’ Olonne on the west coast of France some 3,100 nautical miles away. It’s going to be a very interesting test for both skippers and their boats. Until now most of the head-to-head racing that they have done has been upwind. This race will be a downwind sail and designers and pundits alike will be keeping a close eye on whether those boats equipped with foils will do better than those that do not have them. The conditions of the New York-Vendée race will be more similar to those of the Vendée Globe.
Of the 14 entries, 9 are French with the rest from New Zealand, Finland [Finn Air entry has withdrawn and manned the HB pedestal with Clean all Friday -ed], the Netherlands, UK and my old friend Kojiro Shiraishi from Japan. Only Thompson from the UK stands a chance of a podium finish otherwise it’s going to be a French dominated race. The first boats are expected to arrive in Les Sable d’ Olonne in a little over a week.
Seventeen solo skippers have entered the NY-Vendee Race, a 3100 mile course from New York (USA) to Les Sables d’Olonne (FRA) in the IMOCA 60 monohull class. Starting on May 29, the fleet will gather before the start beginning May 22 at North Cove Marina in Manhattan. Full report.
Work is now underway on the Barcelona World Race 2018-19, the fourth edition of the non-stop two-handed round-the-world race that starts and ends in Barcelona. Now approved by the RFEV (the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation) and the IMOCA class, the FNOB has published the Pre-Notice of Race, which is the first step towards the holding of the only round-the-world, two handed, nonstop race organised by a Spanish organisation. Full report.
Keep your eyes peeled if you’re enjoying the balmy winter with a December crossing of the Atlantic, because you might just run into the world’s biggest Christmas present: The defending champion Vendee Globe and Route Du Rhum-winning Open 60 SMA, adrift about 700 NM off Cape Finisterre!
With solo skipper Paul Meilhat’s fractured ribs and pelvis forcing him into a helicopter, SMA crew launched two rescue attempts to retrieve the multi-million-dollar pedigreed purebred; an especially nasty December in Biscay laughed at them and sent them crying for home. A third team of four insane Frenchmen (and quite possibly Marcus Hutchinson) has now set off from Brittany to try to succeed where a 66-meter oceangoing tug failed.
If that sounds like impossible odds to you, it just means you don’t know any Bretons. Seb Josse won the carnage-filled St. Barth-Port La Foret (which most skippers have told us they hate), scoring the first real offshore success for a Dali foiler. Head over here for Seb’s video (with translation from SA’er ‘surlepont’).
American Ryan Breymaier announced a marketing and sponsorship opportunity that is in search of a company seeking international reach. The program would begin in early 2016 and include exposure at three key singlehanded IMOCA (Open 60) events.
The plan begins in May with the ‘Transat’, a race from England to New York; the ‘New York- Les Sables’ race which takes the fleet back to France; and the around the world ‘Vendee Globe Race’ which starts from Les Sables-d’Olonne in November and returns by February.
Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checked in with Ryan for an update…
Do you currently have an IMOCA (Open 60)?
Not currently. 2016 is a Vendee Globe year so all the boats are going through the final fine-tuning to get ready for the race in a few months. That being said, there are still one or two slim options out there, hence my remaining optimism. The options open to me are not going to win the race, but they’re still proven solid boats and worth racing.
How are you working together with the event organizers?
IMOCA is the body that governs the Open 60 class, and is essentially run by skippers. It makes all the technical decisions regarding the boats. Open Sports Management (OSM) was created two years ago to take over the promotion of the class. OSM put together the schedule and chose the races that will make up the circuit. Their main mission is to bring the class to an international audience. As I am an American, both IMOCA and OSM are very keen I participate and bring the racing to a US audience.
Are you looking for an American sponsor?
I’m looking for a sponsor of any nationality really! However, I’d say the French market is pretty saturated with all the French skippers, and being American, I feel it only natural that I represent and promote an American brand. The project would really make sense to an American brand with strong ties in Europe, and France in particular.
The Vendee Globe in 2012 accumulated more media than the Tour de France bike race, so it’s an attractive product. Imagine every evening, after the national news at 8pm, the presenter finishes with a line on the Vendee Globe progress throughout the three months of racing. It’s incredible but true! – Read on
Sporting a beard, sunglasses and a handkerchief in the breast pocket of his suit, Alex Thomson cuts a pretty cool figure. He could be James Bond’s brother. Despite that, his legs seem a little shaky – the wind is gusting strongly. And Thomson is ten meters (33 ft) above the sea, up the mast of his yacht, which is canted at an angle of 50 degrees. The mast-runner bends his knees, jumps and dives into the water.
The “mast walk” video has been viewed over 1.8 million times. This and other such antics, which include a penchant for highly publicized race failures, have turned the 41-year-old Briton into one of the world’s best-known sailors.
The Brit will be on the start line for the 2016-17 Vendée Globe, skippering his new 4 million euro Hugo Boss in the singlehanded nonstop race around the world. Here he talks about the fear of death, mental strength and the huge awareness of feeling infinitely small.
For the Vendée Globe you will spend almost three months alone on the high seas. Can you describe what that’s like?
When everything goes well, if you’re moving as fast as you hoped, then it’s the best feeling in the world. When things go wrong, it’s hell on earth for me.
How do you cope with the loneliness?
For me it’s a question of attitude. I just think to myself: “Three months? What are three months? It’s not really long at all.” How did you spend the last three months? They passed quickly enough, didn’t they?
But in three months I would have met and spoken with lots of people…
We’re all used to filling our lives with stuff from morning to night. We spend our time worrying about our families, our friends, our work or our mortgage. We always find something to fill our lives with. But I get the opportunity to spend three months on a boat and concentrate on one thing only. Mentally that’s very refreshing. And I’m not really alone: on the boat I can pick up the telephone and talk with my family, my team or my wife.
What is the hardest aspect of the race?
The Southern Ocean. It starts getting difficult below the 40th parallel south. We spend four or five weeks there during the regatta. It’s a dangerous place, on account of the giant waves and very strong winds. You’re completely on your own, there’s no one to help you. And that’s exactly how you feel.
Are you afraid of these seas?
When I took part in my first Vendée Globe in 2004, I actually thought I could win the race in the Southern Ocean. I was young. When you’re young, you’re pretty fearless but you have zero experience. The older you get, the more you lose your nerve – but you have much more experience. So it all balances itself out [laughs]. Nowadays, I think the Southern Ocean is the place where you can lose the race. Down there it’s all about survival. – Read on
Vento Di Sardegna only had a few months with an Italian name before being taken over by Mich Desj’s Mer Agitee management company, and while we continue to operate under rumors that a Dutch sailor will make a run at the Vendee in this beast (and we think it’s this guy), no one seems to be able to confirm whats coming for this new VPLP/Verdier just yet. Similarly, the 5 new builds in the 2015 TJV are staying mum about their issues and findings, so for now, we have only Alex Thomson’s frank account. Fortunately, our Senior Editor is headed to Europe to the METS show next week on a factfinding expedition, and no one can hide from Mr. Clean…
Think you can spot what’s wrong with the Persico build of Vento? We can’t, but we do love time lapse.
A fascinating story from a great storyteller; Alex Thomson tells us the why, the how, and way, way more about the Hugo Boss damage, dismasting, rescue, and recovery. You won’t wanna miss this classic SA Skype ‘Innerview’, and you can see the written index of the chat here and add your thoughts or arguments here.
This shot of the outside of Hugo Boss’s hull shows the impact that broke the ribs of Alex Thomson’s brand-new Open 60; the first in a series of cascading failures that led to their near-sinking in the Bay of Biscay a few days ago. Alex is 99.9% sure this presumed collision was the root cause of the rest of the issues, but that’s not the most surprising thing we learned in our Skype interview with him this afternoon. You’ll have to tune back in to this page for the rest of the story early tomorrow, exclusively on Sailing Anarchy. It’s a good one! TJV thread here. Boss Sinking thread here.
With two of the newest VPLP/Verdier foiling 60s already out of the TJV, it comes as no surprise that a third is now on the ropes. With just a few days of sailing under her keel before the start of the race, Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss is the newest of all of ‘em all, according to Facebook, Alex and Guillermo Altadill will spend the next few hours hove to in the North Atlantic as they dig into unspecified technical issues and try to save their race. On one hand, the attrition rate of the new boats is a big failure for the teams; on the other hand, reliability is never great at the extreme edges of any development box…especially on the first real outing as they build up to the big dance next year.
Our Senior Editor sat down with Thomson just before the Boss left for France earlier this month to chat about everything Open 60, with questions mostly provided by you Anarchists. It’s another great chat between Clean and AT, and there’s plenty to listen to as you wait to see if they get back in the race. You can download the full video from Vimeo here to play later. Track the TJV fleet here.
The monohull IMOCA Safran, skippered by Morgan Lagravière and Nicolas Lunven, arrived to Le Havre. With few days until the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the festivities have officially begun in Le Havre around the Paul Vatine harbour, where the 42 competitors entered in this famous double-handed transat are moored.
The always-positive Andrea Mura has been tooling around Europe for the past few years in various singlehanded boats called Vento Di Sardegna (Sardinian Wind), and we were extremely enthused to see some Italian blood finally returning to the Class that called Gio Soldini one of its founding members. Unfortunately, the lack of Frenchness continues to be a huge handicap, and Mura seems to have bitten off way more than he could chew with his 2016 attempt at the Vendee Globe in a latest-gen IMOCA boat.
His Italian sponsors paid for a gorgeous, brand new VPLP-Verdier Open 60, but according to Velablog, he’s broke, can’t get to the starting line for the TJV, and the boat is up for sale. Bad news for anyone who wants to see IMOCA as more than a Francais-only men’s club, but great news for anyone looking to get a last-minute entry with a latest-generation foiling 60 to next year’s Vendee starting line. MichDej, perhaps, just in time to defend his record against either of his two protegées?
Latest goss in the thread.
Alone in the sea of brand-new foiling(ish) Open 60s is the UK’s Alex Thomson and his new Mercedes-Benz sponsored Hugo Boss, the sort-of sistership to the new VPLP/Verdier monsters that are dropping in the water seemingly every week as the TJV gets close. Speaking of the French doublehanded classic, there are a jaw-dropping 21 IMOCAs registered for the start in Le Havre. Will you be there? Sailing Anarchy will.
We’re a bit shocked to see the Hugo Boss change color from the silver that we assumed was such a perfect fit for Merc (and its silver arrows racing brand) but we forgot to check in on the team that HB seems to get all its design inspiration from. Sure enough, they just turned black this year as well.
More pics on the ATR Facebook page, and the world’s best source of breaking information about the IMOCA fleet is, of course, right here in the Ocean Racing Anarchy forums. Title shout to a great song for a blind date…or a stalker.
The Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts from Cowes, Isle of Wight Sunday (August 16), is an iconic test that occurs only once every two years. For the IMOCA 60 competitors, this year’s 603nm test may change the direction of design in this elite offshore racing class.
Among the record 350+ boats will be nine IMOCA 60s, but focus will be especially on the two new boats: Safran, sailed by Morgan Lagravière and Nicolas Lunven, and Banque Populaire with Armel le Cleac’h and Erwan Tabarly on board.
Safran and Banque Populaire feature L-shaped side foils designed to help partially ‘lift’ the boats out of the water and similar foils will be fitted to the other new VPLP-Verdier designs launching imminently. But massive questions remain over how they perform in different wind and sea conditions and whether their potential can be found before the Vendée Globe, now just over a year away.
In Thursday’s Artemis Challenge (August 13), 50 miles around the Isle of Wight, it was ‘conventional’ IMOCA 60s that won with honours going to Vincent Riou and Sebastien Col on PRB with Banque Populaire finishing fifth and Safran sixth.
“It was interesting for us to see for the first time the speed of our boat against the other boats,” said Banque Populaire’s Armel le Cleac’h. “We were fourth at the Needles [the western end of the Isle of Wight], not far behind PRB and Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir. Then we had 20-22 knots from 70-80deg and we used the foil and had a good speed. But then [up the southeast side of the island] we were upwind – couldn’t point well and there was a lot of current, so we lost two places to Safran and SMA.”
So are foils the future? “It has potential,” maintains le Cleac’h. “In the Artemis Challenge there was lots of manoeuvring which wasn’t easy for us, but our boat is for the Vendée Globe and we can’t make any conclusions yet. After the Transat Jacques Vabre we’ll see if it is good and can be optimised or if we have to go back to a classic solution.”
Vital between now and the Vendée Globe will be the time spent optimising the foils and the best way to do this is racing, so le Cleac’h welcomes the added competition provided by the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship in the Transat B2B this December and the New York – Vendée in 2016.
Safran’s Morgan Lagraviere has a similar opinion regarding the foils. “Right now we can say that our boat is not good upwind, but it is pretty good when we are off the wind.” The foils, he says, are best when the wind angle is 90-135deg degrees in 15+ knots, or “the stronger the better, but we don’t know yet. We want to gain more experience racing the other boats. After the Transat Jacques Vabre we will meet and decide if it is better to go in this direction or another way to have the best boat for the Vendée Globe.”
The Rolex Fastnet Race represents Yann Elies’ first race in charge of his own IMOCA 60 since he was forced to abandon Generali during the 2008 Vendée Globe. Appropriately his Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir is the former Safran, which stood by him on that occasion. “I am happy to come back and to come back on this boat,” said Elies, who is racing with Charlie Dalin, who finished second to him in this year’s La Solitaire du Figaro.
Since Elies acquired the boat, she has been fitted with new daggerboards in a similar configuration to SMA and will have a new keel in September, as Elies half jokes: “I don’t want to be the guy who loses the third keel of this boat!” He continues: “Our target is to be as fast as PRB. We have the same hull shape, the same daggerboards. I think we have to improve upwind now.”
Elies is not yet convinced by the side foils. “They can go fast, but only over 20 degrees, but we have to see in different conditions to make a final judgement.”
Traditionally Elies’ boat is thought to be the lightest IMOCA 60 and should perform the best in the conditions expected for this Rolex Fastnet Race. “I think it is going to be very complicated, with light winds and lots of transitions,” forecasts Elies.
New IMOCA Ocean Masters skipper Paul Meilhat is fortunate firstly that his boat, SMA is the 2012 Vendée Globe winner and also won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2013. Secondly his co-skipper and coach is two time Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux.
Meilhat also believes it is still too early to judge the side foils on the new boats which at present are slower upwind, the same downwind and faster reaching in strong conditions. “Upwind they are not close to the wind like the old boats, but sometimes reaching they have good speed. There are dips in their performance but it will improve.”
Similar foils could be retrofitted to SMA, but as Meilhat observes this would take time, be expensive and is perhaps already too late for the Vendee Globe.
Background: The 603nm Rolex Fastnet Race is organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), with the 46th edition of the biennial race to start off the Royal Yacht Squadron line, Cowes, Isle of Wight on Sunday 16th August 2015. It is the largest offshore race in the world and attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts.
by Brian Hancock, All About Sails
When my children were small one of their favorite books was The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg. The story was about a boy and his obsession to become the world’s greatest sailor. He so badly wanted to be the best that by sheer willpower he was able to coax his boat out of the water to fly above the waves. It was a fanciful story but my kids would always finish the book and say, “boats will never fly.”
Fast forward a few years and what do we have; flying boats and boats that almost fly. Since the last America’s Cup we now all know that boats can fly but what is it about boats that almost fly. If flying is possible then why not just fly? This is a story of an idea in the making, a simple solution to a complex problem. This is a story about DSS – Dynamic Stability Systems – and how it’s revolutionizing modern, fast sailboats.
DSS was created (and patented) by America’s Cup designer Hugh Welbourne almost a decade ago. It was a simple idea that would add righting moment and generate lift to almost any boat that is fitted with the system. Let me explain…
All boats need righting moment to counter heel which occurs as a result of the wind blowing in the sails. Most boats have a keel with a blob of lead at the bottom; crude but effective. As things have developed over the years racing sailors have refined canting keels, keels that can be swung to windward. By doing so you are able to increase the leverage arm of the keel meaning that you need less lead which in turn means a lighter boat which results in more speed.
The problem is that once the keel is no longer on centerline there is nothing to stop the boat from slipping sideways so daggerboards were added to do that job. Offshore race boats like the VOR 65’s and the IMOCA 60’s that participate in major events like the Volvo Ocean Race and Vendee Globe have refined the canting keel but over time have hit a plateau in development largely as a result of rules that restrict the amount of the cant in the keel.
SpeedDream, unrestrained by rules, is an attempt to take the canting keel to the extreme and fly the keel out of the water. SpeedDream’s unique design also included Hugh Welbourne’s DSS although in a more futuristic form.
So let me explain DSS and the simple genius of the system. DSS is a leeward lifting foil, a short fin that projects out of the side of the boat to leeward. The fin does two things; it increases righting moment by stopping the boat from heeling. It also produces lift.
The foil, like all appendages on boats, has an aerofoil shape that produces lift. Once the boat is going a certain speed it starts to lift the boat out of the water, in other words reduces displacement. It also reduces wetted surface which in turn reduces drag which in turn increases performance. Indeed the boats are half flying which is what you want when you are sailing alone around the world. The last thing you want is for your boat to lift completely out of the water before crashing down again.
The original DSS systems were fairly simple; a basic fin that stuck out of the side of the boat. These days they are much more elegant pieces of engineering pioneered largely by the new IMOCA 60’s. Witness the foil on the newly launched Safran.
Let me explain how we got from a simple fin projecting out the side of the boat to a curved platform perfect for generating publicity stunts. Under the IMOCA rule you are limited to five movable appendages; the keel, twin rudders and twin daggerboards. So what do you do if you want to add the DSS which would count as another appendage? You would do what Vlad Murnikov did when he drew the first renderings of SpeedDream. You combine the DSS fin with the daggerboard.
Take a look at the photo (above) of Safran. The flat section where he is standing is the DSS part of the equation and the curved part is the daggerboard; genius. You are able to add the DSS and remove the daggerboards while still addressing the issue of stopping the boat from slipping sideways.
There seem to be two kinds these new DSS-L foils. Tip up and tip down. With the tip facing up the main shaft is vertical in the water when the boat is heeled acting like a daggerboard while the tip is close to horizontal in the water acting as the DSS foil. With the tip down, as in this early rendering of SpeedDream, the main shaft acts as the DSS foil while the curved tip is there to prevent the boat from sliding sideways.
Time will tell if these futuristic foils work as well as everyone hopes. I like the fact that it was an ingenious way to get around the IMOCA rule, but I wonder if things would have been better had they just changed the rule to allow a daggerboard and a DSS.
Source: All About Boats
Safran is one of two newly launched IMOCA Open 60 designs – Banque Populaire is the other – that are equipped with side foil appendages intended to lift the hull while reaching and running.
When the 603nm Rolex Fastnet Race gets underway on August 16, it will host the largest and most diverse fleet of yachts in the world. Amid the record-sized fleet of 335 entrants will be an important test for the design direction of the most elite class of offshore boats – the IMOCA Open 60.
Two newly launched designs – Banque Populaire and Safran – are equipped with side foil appendages intended to lift the hull while reaching and running. But what reduces hull displacement off the wind increases drag while upwind.
For the biennial race, over ten IMOCA Class boats are entered, with the 3- to 4-day race providing a good first glimpse into each type of boat’s potential. Against Banque Populaire and Safran, three of the four highest ranked IMOCAs – PRB, Groupe Quéguiner and SMA – will attempt to counter the domination predicted by the new boat designers.
Once at sea, engineering theories can sometimes be demolished by stark facts. How will the foils perform in unfavorable conditions such as close-hauled in light air? Will the effective speed gained while reaching compensate for potential losses using different points of sail? These are some of the questions that clever designers the world over are eager to learn.
One of the well-proven adages in business is to spend, spend, spend during a recession. Marketing hard and growing fast when the markets are down is a great way to build market share, and it seems that the big names in the United Kingdom sailboat racing business are doing just that, despite all kinds of fears about austerity measures and deficit problems. Here are three quick bits to illustrate.
The Great Contender
Russell Coutts chased off the most serious challenger for the next America’s Cup. Then he pulled the rug out from both his own hometown and the team that came a couple of minutes away from ending his run at AC34. Just one of those is fully funded by a billionaire, but it’s the less well-funded one – Ben Ainslie Racing – who currently has the best chance of ending Larry Ellison’s reign of bullshit and the constantly waffling hypocrisy from the Russell Coutts Flying Circus.
Why, you ask?
Because Ben and his team are genuinely not in it for cash, but for nation, for country, for all those things that the rest of the world finds quaint and anachronistic. Their hashtag is #BringTheCupHome, and that resonates like a motherf&%*ker.
That’s how he got longtime Mclaren Formula 1 team boss Martin Whitmarsh involved, and that’s where Red Bull Formula 1 designer and aerodynamic wunderkind Adrian Newey came in.
And perhaps most importantly, Ben will have home field advantage, as we’ll see during next month’s ACWS event in Portsmouth. Bermuda is unfailingly British, and there are we cannot find anyone from the United States who wants to see the betrayal of Ellison and Coutts go unpunished.
Don’t underestimate the power of the crowd; unlike the almost entirely mercenary teams (and Oracle Team NOT-USA just added yet another non-american to the mix), Ben can get talent like Whitmarsh and Newey to help him despite being unable to pay them what they made when they worked for the F1 juggernaut. And the more one-design the boat, the more cerebral the game becomes – and the more morale and confidence come into the mix. If you don’t know what we mean, head over to Portsmouth and listen to what an estimated half a million people sound like when they are cheering. The biggest questions remain about Ben himself; is he a fast enough driver in foiling boats?
Longtime pommie sailing boffin Matt Sheahan wrote a solid profile of the team and its obstacles over at howtospendit. Check it out here.
The Extreme 40 has been long in the tooth for the better part of 5 years, but much of that time was devoted to ensuring the Extreme Sailing Series survival and OC Events future cash flow. As the rest of the world’s catamarans innovated, the Extreme Sailing Series looked more every season like a race for lorries in a downtown parking lot. But Mark Turner’s stature as one of the sport’s best organizers doesn’t come from his generosity; he is a master of spending only when necessary. Thanks to a few years of downturn and the ineptitude of his ostensible competitors, the X40 got a bit of breathing room – but not anymore.
And while Turner has been saying for years that ‘foiling is not for them,’ on Wednesday the ESS announced just the opposite; 2016 and beyond will likely see the new Extreme boat flying. Turner says they have ‘four options’ that they haven’t distilled down yet, but the clock is a-ticking. The X40 hulls are a mess, with dozens of repairs adding weight and reducing stiffness throughout the fleet, and one-design something of a joke. The design itself is as dated as you’ll see in a modern event, as you’d expect from a boat created more than a decade ago for the 2005 Volvo Ocean Race; the event that re-launched stadium sailing (though not a new concept; cf. the Formula 40 series in the 90s, the wildly successful 150,000-person Match Cup Sweden in the late 90s and early 2000s, the One-Design Grand Prix circuit, the…well, you get the point).
So there are a lot of reasons for a new boat and it’s almost imperative for it to happen quickly, but it is already pretty late for one of the brand new designs being evaluated by OC to impact the 2016 season. Enter the GC32, currently the front-runner for the Extreme series next year. It’s a bit small for much of the corporate PR and VIP work that’s the bread and butter for Turner, but Martin Fischer’s flying boat is furious and exciting in anything over 8 knots of breeze. Perhaps more importantly, two years of now-solved foil issues has taken much of the value out of the GC32, and having spent millions on the creation of his dream boat and a relatively low-budget series, GC32 creator Laurent Lenne is ready to get back to racing instead of running a sailboat marketing company. That could mean ‘bargain’ to the famously cost-conscious Turner, solving all his problems for 2016. The only other option for next year is to modify the truck-like X40 for foils, but that’s crazy talk.
And for 2017, look for an all-new X36/X37/X38 – a straight or foiling daggered monster that looks as modern as possible. Whether you are talking about markets, boat types, or formats, the world is a-changing, and Mark Turner and his group will continue to be one of the most important drivers of those changes.
Watch the final day of ESS racing from Cardiff today.
He’s Got The Look
Since we couldn’t get a new rendering from the Alex Thomson Racing team, we’ll keep this one short, but a monster piece of sailing sponsorship news hit the wire this week providing further evidence that a good look, a strong marketing team, and a few successful PR stunts are far more important than performance when it comes to finding big money for sailing. Thomson’s team announced on Thursday that Mercedes-Benz had joined the Hugo Boss/ATR racing program as a ‘Core Sponsor’ in advance of this summer’s launch of Thomson’s brand new VPLP/Verdier Open 60 HUGO BOSS. The move comes on the heels of last years defection of Hugo Boss from the McLaren F1 team to the all-conquering Mercedes Silver Arrows, marking the end of F-1′s longest team sponsorship deal. The best part about it? Thomson doesn’t even need to change his color scheme.
With Alex scoring a 3rd in the last Vendee in a last gen boat, and telling us numerous times that he’s getting a bit old for all this noise, and with golden boy Francois Gabart sitting this one out in favor of a much faster singlehander, 2016 will mark Thomson’s best chance ever at the biggest win ever for an Englishman since Sir Robin beat Moitessier in 1969, nearly 50 years ago. That is, if he can finish, unlike the last BWR, or the one before that, or…