The Barcelona World Race and the competing skippers are playing an important role in one aspect of the monitoring of climate change.
|As a consequence it is vital for the absolute safety of the crews that the positions and movement of ice is tracked and the racing area restricted to avoid danger to the crews.
In fact this comprehensive, accurate level of tracking is done almost exclusively for the Barcelona World Race – and other round the world races – but over time this level of tracking will deliver a direct benefit to scientific research.
“We are enjoying our summer holiday in the Southern Ocean” quipped Spirit of Hungary’s Conrad Colman a couple of days ago, basking in sunshine and temperatures akin to summer in northern Europe.
Such intermissions become part of anecdotal evidence but it is the round the world race’s safety requirement for in-depth study of iceberg detection and the circulation and drift patterns that will help scientists understand the evolution of climate change.
Ice Day in BCN
Van Triest explained: “Now we know there are large pieces of ice floating in the ocean as it warms up and Antarctic ice is melting and breaking”.
“We had a warning last night from race management about this situation, that there may be a possible growlers in our route and so we changed our course a little bit just in case. There is no need to put ourselves at any additional risk. We are in contact with race management and are very confident about this. There is no problem.”
This race has opted for an exclusion zone rather than ice gates. Speaking today he highlighted how difficult it can be to avoid ice van Triest said:
” If you sail at 10 m/s speed and see an iceberg 200 m away from you, you have only 20 seconds to maneuver, that’s nothing. That’s why we have an exclusion zone, a prohibited zone. It’s better than ice gates. In my first round the world race there were no ice limits, we went down to latitudes 60ºS and 61ºS. Today the technology to detect the ice exists, so we control it, we just can’t send people down there knowing what we know. ”
It may seem remarkable that ocean races like the Barcelona World Race are almost alone in pushing forwards the study of floating ice detection and its tracking.
Franck Mercier of CLS: ” Because of this, round-the-world races like BWR help to work on understanding the climatic change. It’s very expensive to study the ice detection, nobody does it except round-the-world races because it’s very expensive, although it’s very interesting for the understanding of climate change. ”
Also as part of the Barcelona World Race’s drive to propagate scientific understanding, the Argo beacons which were launched recently are already providing interesting information. The one which Neutrogena launched is at 44 deg S and shows a surface sea temperature of 12 Deg. Cheminées Poujoulat’s is at 43 Deg South showing a sea temp of 17 Deg.
Meantime, asked if this is a year of moderate conditions in the Big South for the fleet, both Van Triest and Mercier chorused:
In the Dock, In The Race
Jean Le Cam, FRA, Cheminées Poujoulat:“The atmosphere on board has changed a bit. After a week when it was hard to do anything less than 19kts average it is quieter again and we are under spinnaker. It is not really that nice but at least the boat is going forwards and it is not slamming. You can drink a coffee quietly and rest. We will make the big general check of the boat tomorrow. It is good.
Stop for Neutrogena
Friday the 13th superstition?
- Kerguelens tomorrow for Cheminees Poujoulat
- We Are Water break Cape of Good Hope
- GAES Centros Auditivos stem their losses
Another landmark will be ticked off tomorrow for Barcelona World Race leaders Cheminées Poujoulat when they sail north of the lonely Kerguelen Islands.
Coralled north by the race’s Antarctic Exclusion Zone, Bernard Stamm and Jean La Cam will pass 300 miles north of the island archipelago which are in every sense one of the most isolated, lonely spots on planet earth, over 2000 miles from the nearest significantly populated area.
The Kerguelen or Desolation Islands were discoveed 240 years ago by the Breton navigator Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen Trémerec and claimed as French. There are hundreds of small islands but the only inhabitants are between 45 and 100 French scientists, researchers and engineers stationed there.
As such they are important point on the race course, almost exactly half way from the Cape Good Hope to Australia’s Cape Leeuwin, 2300 miles from the South African cape, 2100 to Leeuwin. They are in effect equidistant from somewhere but quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
They are also the only possible haven for the race fleets when they are crossing this inhospitable stretch of the Indian Ocean. Indeed, just as Jean LeCam was pleased to have passed the Cape Verde islands where his Barcelona World Race ended prematurely, so co-skipper Stamm will subconsciously be pleased to check off the Kerguelens, passing at good speeds with their IMOCA 60 in good shape and with a lead of more than 270 miles. Stamm lost a previous Cheminées Poujoulat when it was grounded in December 2008 during the solo Vendèe Globe. Ironically fellow Swiss skipper Dominique Wavre was also stopped there with a keel problem.
Stamm was not making his memories obv ious indeed he was on good form today when he summed up the Barcelona World Race so far for himself and co-skipper Jean Le Cam.
” A lot has gone on. But all in all the boat performs well , it goes well. Now we had some small technical problems that don’y exactly make our lives easier even now, but nothing is insurmountable. Apart from a passage a little close to the Azores high where we got light winds we have sailed the course we wanted.”
Cheminées Poujoulat is now lined up 275 miles directly in front of second placed Neutrogena, benefiting from more wind which is more consistent than that of the pursuing duo Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz.
The biggest problem on the horizon for the two leading IMOCA 60s is the former tropical cyclone Diamondra which was more of a threat but which looks to be dissipating now after winds peaking at around 55kts. These storms lose their energy quickly when they pass over the colder water. Nonetheless it remains a concern for Cheminées Poujoulat and for Neutrogena and will certainly alter their relatively straightforwards regime in about three days time.
Their passage of the Cape of Good Hope this morning at 1106hrs UTC is the first Great Cape for the Garcia brothers Bruno and Willy on We Are Water. Considering how little preparation time they had prior to the start, and how both were carrying on their day jobs, Bruno as a heart doctor and Willy as a jewellery retailer until days before the start, their success to date is commendable. Indeed of the fleet they are the first genuine ‘amateurs’ in this race, sailors who make their li ving from outside of the sport.
Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin have meantime stemmed some of their worst losses on GAES Centros Auditivos and have been making double digit boat speeds for much of the day after being badly stuck in a high pressure system, although the light winds are moving east with them. In fact their nearest pursuers, fourth placed Renault Captur are now 416 miles behind when two days ago they were 602 miles astern, but the Spanish duo are now quicker again than Renault Captur’sJorg Riechers and Seb Audigane.
Anna Corbella (ESP) GAES Centros Auditivos:” In fact at the moment we are looking backwards because the meteo we have just now is dangerous for us because the boats in front are gone and the boats in the back are catching us, so at the moment we are looking back. It is our concern. I think after this high pressure we will look forwards again and try to catch some miles again on Neutrogena.
Right now we are going out and have 14kts of wind, downwind sailing now and sailing faster – at 12 kts – in the coming hours we will probably stop again and the wind will got to the front and we are going to have another problem with the high pressure. For the moment the night was not so bad we were sailing slowly but we it was not so bad.
From my side, I don’t know what Gerard thinks, it’s a different race from last time. I don’t know if it is harder. Maybe harder is not the word… but it is a little bit more intense because since the first days we’ve been sailing with the head of the fleet and we’ve had more pressure and we’ve had to sail as fast as possible. And this makes the race more demanding but not harder. For the moment the weather is the same (as the last edition) and we are doing pretty much the same.
To us, particularly in our case, it is hurting us (the exclusion zone) because it really gives us absolutely no choice. With the ice gates we could have gone up and down a bit, and now all we do is go straight along the line of the exclusion zone. I think for other boats it will be different, I guess in every way it is better or worst. That’s it. I guess it depends on the case.
Bernard Stamm (SUI) Cheminées Poujopulat: “From the beginning we have been O K, we passed a little close to the high and had light winds but since then we have been able to do what we want with no problems, and we were doing everything we can to go as fast as we can, safely as possible. It has been a good first month.”
A month of racing , what conclusions do you draw ?
A lot has gone on. But all in all the boat performs well , it goes well. Now we had some small technical problems that did not make our lives easier even now, but nothing is surmountable . Apart from a passage a little close to the Azores high we have sailed the course we wanted.
The gaps widen
It is more obvious now that GAES are caught by the anticyclone. With Neutrogena , maybe it will be a bit of concertina effect, I do not know. We make our way according to the the wind not really compared to other competitors.
Things are different from solo?
This is much more serene, sleeping much better. It is good proper slee. Frequently you sleep for three or four hours. Very rarely , much more. Evenother things it is much better . The maneuvers are two , the stacking is with two , it is much simpler.
Life with Jean
Normally , there is no problem. It’s always easier said before , we are not sphinxes , but for many reasons it has to work. The bottom line is it work for many reasons . Jean said before said that the biggest concern was the ego. If it was one of us that had this ego problem , but this is not the case, we are tools to make the boat go, so it ‘s going pretty well.
Course to Cape Leeuwin
In front of us on the east coast of Australia , there are two small tropical lows that will come down to us. And our course and strategy will be dicated by how we deal with them. We will have some bad weather, you just have to not push too hard and try and sail in the best, most normal conditions.
The gaps widen
It is more obvious now that GAES are caught by the anticyclone. With Neutrogena , maybe it will be a bit of concertina effect, I do not know. We make our way according to the the wind not really compared to other competitors .
Things are different from solo?
This is much more serene, sleeping much better. It is good proper slee. Frequently you sleep for three or four hours. Very rarely , much more. Evenother things it is much better . The maneuvers are two , the stacking is with two , it is much simpler.
Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Friday 30th January 2015
1. Cheminées Poujoulat (B. Stamm – J. Le Cam) at 15.736,5 miles to the finish
2. Neutrogena (G. Altadill – J. Muñoz) + 272,9 miles to the leader
3. GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella – G. Marín) + 889,8 miles to the leader
4. Renault Captur (J. Riechers – S. Audigane) + 1.305,2 miles to the leader
5. We Are Water (B. Garcia – W. Garcia) + 1.889,4 miles to the leader
6. One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert – D. Costa) + 2.444,7 miles to the leader
7. Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa – C. Colman) + 2.955,8 miles to the leader
ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)
Hugo Boss (Photo courtesy Barcelona World Race)
|After leading the Barcelona World Race since the first full day of racing, for most of 14 days and having recently extended their lead on the water to what the skippers estimated to be around 60 miles, pre-race favourites Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes on their IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, were dismasted on last night (Wednesday) in the South Atlantic ocean in relatively moderate wind conditions.|
|The English-Spanish duo are heading to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, under engine. Making around 6 knots with enough to fuel to get most of the 370 miles west to the Brazilian port should which should take around three days. The duo had already set a new record in the Mediterranean for the passage from Barcelona to Gibraltar and a course record to the Equator.Thomson, 40, and Ribes, 43, were making a sail change when it is believed that the central pin in the headsail furling drum sheared while the British skipper was right beside it, leaving the mast unsupported from the front of the boat. He had to watch helplessly as the mast and sails fell backwards, the mast itself breaking after it landed resting half on the boat and half out.
Stewart Hosford, Director of Alex Thomson Racing, explained what happened:
“ The guys were both on deck. They were putting the jib top up and taking the J1 (headsail) off. Alex was up on the foredeck, Pepe was at the mast helping him out. The furling drum, which holds the J2 to the deck and is a fixed stay sheared, the main steel pin in the drum sheared, and so because they were in the middle of changing from the J1 to the J2 there was only one forestay up at that time, for that brief period. That meant the furling drum was unsupported. Alex said that it was like slow motion from there, the mast fell backwards into the water and rested on the stanchions and the daggerboard. At that point the mast broke. And it was gone pretty much immediately. It did not break on the way down. It ended up sitting half in the boat and half out and at that point it broke. There is none of the mast left.”
By 1600hrs UTC Thursday Hugo Bos s was at 280 miles west of Salvador de Bahia, making 6.3kts.
Both of the closest rivals to Hugo Boss paid warm tributes to the British-Spanish duo. Guillermo Altadill (ESP) of Neutrogena, with whom Thomson took second in a two handed Transat Jacques Vabre race in 2011, said:
And from new race leaders Cheminées Poujoulat, Swiss co-skipper Bernard Stamm – himself no stranger to bad luck and adversity and a long long time rival of Thomson’s said:
“First and foremost we are sorry for him. And for the race too, I am sorry, because it loses the favourite. We have lost a strong rival and that is sad. From our point of view we try to sail safely so this kind of thing does not happen. But it confirms again not to take risks.”
The race goes on
For their part, We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton continue their progression about fifty miles from each other. Two hundred miles from the equator, the crew of Spirit of Hungary will soon also be in the South Atlantic waters ready to take their turn in the battle with St. Helena.
Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat):“I have just found out about Hugo Boss. Jean (Le Cam) does not know because he is sleeping now. First and foremost we are sorry for him. And for the race too, I am sorry, because it loses the favourite. We have lost a strong rival and that is sad. From our point of view we try to sail safely so this kind of thing does not happen. But it confirms again not to take risks,
Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Thursday 15th January 2015
further updates and quotes on www.barcelonaworldrace.com
As if to underline their billing as pre-race favourites to win, Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes on Hugo Boss led the eight-strong fleet of IMOCA 60s off the start line of the third edition of the Barcelona World Race, two handed race around the world. The British-Spanish duo made the best of the very light winds, setting up with speed at the gun, to eke out a small lead to the turning mark, 1.5 miles away from the line.
With 23,450 miles to sail, of course the early advantage to the British-Spanish duo might only appear to be psychological and within the first hour of racing they found themselves snared by the combination of very calm winds and wash from the sizeable spectator fleet, and were passed by the Swiss-French pairing Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat, but the main objective for all was to ensure they stay in the lead group on what will be a tricky, challenging descent of the Mediterranean to the exit doors at the Straits of Gibraltar.
As per forecast breezes were only very light for the start, 2-6 knots. But the sun shone brightly and brought out huge crowds to the beaches of the Catalan capital. To all intents it felt less like the last day of 2014 in the depths of winter, and more like a day stolen from summer.
The warmth of the sunshine leant an almost surreal air to the emotional scenes as the 16 skippers left the Barcelona World Race dock this morning. They may be heading for some of the most feared stretches of the world’s oceans, but there was a welcome serenity as the crowds bid farewell to each of the duos. To those observers and skippers more used to the oppressive atmosphere of other winter race starts, usually contemplating Atlantic storms, it was a pleasant change.
But for all that, emotions bubbled to the surface, tugging hard at the heartstrings. Who could fail to be moved when Alex Thomson and his four-year-old son Oscar shouted ‘Good bye’ to each other across the widening gap between the pontoon and the departing 60-foot monohull? In their private world it was a beautiful toddler waving his dad off to a day at the office – even if Thomson blinked back a tear behind the Hugo Boss designer shades – but to everyone else it was a harsh reminder of the imminent three months of separation from the son whose illness precluded his participation in the last edition.
Hugo Boss team-mate Pepe Ribes’ farewell to Pepe Ribes Jr was no less touching, considering the last time he left on this race his son was only three weeks old. This time GAES Centros Auditivos’Gérard Marin’s son is only a few months old.
The biggest cheer of the morning was for Anna Corbella, the only female skipper in the race who became the first Spanish woman to sail around the world when she finished the second edition of the race in April 2011 with Briton Dee Caffari. Corbella and Gérard Marin, both local to Barcelona, have been training for two years with their GAES Centros Auditivos and harbour high hopes of a podium finish.
Their partisan fan club were, predictably, the loudest. Corbella’s smile wavered as if to crack but as the docklines came aboard, her game face was fixed and she was immediately in ‘race mode’.
When the gun sounded at 1300hrs local time (1200hrs UTC) GAES Centros Auditivos looked to have made the best start along with Hugo Boss and Renault Captur (Jorge Riechers and Sébastien Audigane), but both GAES Centros Auditivos and One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton (Aleix Gelabeirtand Didac Costa) jumped the gun and had to restart.
As well as media, family, friends and team-mates, the dock was dotted with key figures of the race including twice winner Jean-Pierre Dick, who saw off the eight boats, and Race Director Jacques Caraës, who helped many teams slip their lines. FNOB president Maite Fandos, the depute mayor of Barcelona; IMOCA President Jean Kehroas; Peter Bayer, General Manager of Open Sports Management, and the President of the Spanish Sailing Federation José Ángel Rodríguez, all joined the farewell.
Meanwhile the city of Barcelona delivered a ‘tapas menu’ of live performance featuring wind instruments, spraying water, seashells, and performance artists by the Fura dels Baus as a fitting show as the Mayor of Barcelona Xavier Trias lowered a flag on the La Dona of Mil·leni sculpture to signify the start of the race.
Winds might only have been light at the start but the skippers know the pressure is absolutely on from the start. The race start sat between two wind zones. To the east the brisk NE’ly Tramontana is a strong lure, to sail more miles to reach this corridor of breeze does represent the high risk option but with potentially the biggest reward. A fast passage to the Balearics would allow the leader(s) to hold on to this wind longest. Conversely, this breeze will fade first, potentially leaving any gamblers on this flank downwind in very gentle winds. The alternative is to sail the direct, rhumb line – or to the west of it – and wait until the NE’ly has strengthened all the way to the Spanish coast.
The overall balance between the options remained unclear. For sure there is a ‘rich get richer’ scenario for anyone who breaks through the Strait of Gibraltar first, breaching the brisk, favourable trade winds first for quick train ride south. But the greater likelihood is of a period of very light winds in the busy gateway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
Follow the race:
See the Barcelona World Race Leaderboard, Tracking, Weather Guide, TV schedule and much more athttp://www.barcelonaworldrace.org/en/race-live. Tracker positions are updated at 0500, 0900, 1400 and 1900hrs (UTC). http://barcelonaworldrace.geovoile.org/2015/
Ranking at 14:00 UTC December 31, 2014:
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) 23 448.3 miles from the finish
2 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marino) 0.3 miles to leader
3 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) 0.6 miles to leader
4 Hugo Boss (A Thomson – Ribes P) 0.7 miles to leader
5 Neutrogena (G Altadill – Muñoz J) 1.2 miles to leader
6 We Are Water (B Garcia – Garcia W) 1.2 miles to leader
7 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – Costa D) 1.2 miles to leader
8 Spirit of Hungary (N F – C Colman) 1.3 miles to leader
Guillermo Altadill (ESP), Neutrogena:
“The last GRIB files are showing a little bit variable conditions that are quite tricky. It’s going to be quite open to the Straits – you could go inshore, offshore, so I think it’s going to be quite tricky and very open for all the fleet. We hope to be at Gibraltar ahead, but it’s not very relevant in one race that’s 25000 miles to be ahead 10 miles at Gibraltar, it makes you feel better but it’s not very important.
“You make your own pressure, but it’s going to be pressure for everybody because everybody is going to push the boat and be the first one out to Gibraltar, but for us it’s about holding onto the fleet and to be with the fleet the first part of the race.”
“I’ve probably [raced to Gibraltar] 20 or 25 times. The Med is very unpredictable, so the more you know and the more you race here… you get more confused!”
Nandor Far (HUN), Spirit of Hungary:
“I’m quite relaxed. We did our best to be finished, to be 100 per cent prepared, but you never know. The boat is a very complicated piece so there is always something which is going wrong. Right now I feel the boat is well prepared.
“We are concentrating on the wind and the proper sail choice, and going out in a safe good way, that’s all. It will be nice to have time to think about everything. If we want to be in a good place we have to make good progress, but I’m not worried really.”
Anna Corbella (ESP), GAES Centros Auditivos:
“I’m feeling excited and happy. I want to get going! The weather is OK, it’s nice. It’s easy – in terms of physically, so it’s not going to be a lot of sail changes, I think it’s nice downwind to Gibraltar. Probably at some point it’s not [going to be] easy, but I think what is important is to be at Gibraltar in a good position, and to go out in a good position.”
Alex Thomson (GBR), Hugo Boss:
“I think the first 5-6 hours there probably won’t be very much wind, and then after that we should see some breeze, some fairly good breeze hopefully. Then the breeze will run out, but whether we get to Gibraltar or not I don’t know.
“I think for all of us the routing shows that the people at the front will gain and the people at the back will lose – so all the pressure is to be at the front of the pack and not to not lose too much is important. We feel fortunate that we’ve got a boat that can probably catch everybody up if we need to catch everybody up, but we don’t really want to be in that position really!
“As a team we feel very confident. We’ve put in a lot of work and a lot of prep. These last moments are always a bit heartfelt because of the family and leaving them behind for three months. I think it’s not something you would want to get used to, because if you got used to it then it would maybe mean you don’t care as much as you do.”
The 16 skippers, eight duos, who are set to take on the 2014-2015 Barcelona World Race gathered to face the media at today’s busy official press conference, the last official gathering of all the teams before the race start on 31st December, now less than 48 hours away.
The conference was opened by Jean Kerhoas, IMOCA Class President, who introduced the UNESCO marine research and education programmes which are essential to this edition of the race, innovating by integrating the round the world competition with an ambitious scientific research programme and a global, openly available further education programme.
He was followed by Race Director Jacques Caräes who explained the starting procedure, which will see the eight IMOCA 60s start at 1300hrs, heading north-easterly along the Barcelona beachfront, before rounding the North Buoy turning mark and heading for Gibraltar and the Atlantic.
But all attention was focused on the 16 sailors gathered on stage. As ever body language and attitude spoke louder and more comprehensively than the words they uttered. Some, like veteran Jean Le Cam (Cheminees Poujoulat), appearing like it was just another work day at the office, relaxed and enjoying the build-up to his second Barcelona World Race. When asked about his final preparations, Le Cam joked that he was going to be mostly eating for the next two days. Guillermo Altadill (Neutrogena), approaching his seventh global circumnavigation, also played to the gallery:
“I live in a small village 90 kilometers from Barcelona. And I realised that I had left the lights on.. So my plan for the next two days, will be to go back tomorrow and put them out!” But for all his humour, fiery Catalan Altadill knows he has been given a gilt edged chance of winning the race which starts and finishes on the waters where he first learned to sail, an opportunity of a victory which would rank him as the first Spaniard to win a major IMOCA race, the same as it would be for Pepe Ribes who grew up in Benissa beside Calpe, 75 kilometres down the race track.
Without doubt Nandor Fa is an enigma when it comes to sheer fight and determination, but the 61 years old Hungarian skipper is totally unique in the world of IMOCA 60 racing in having designed his boat himself, and built a lot of it. He is a self taught designer, although he spent time in the 1980’s in the design office in Australia of Ben Lexcen not long after his successful wing keeled 12 Metre Australia II had won the America’s Cup. Yacht design, he asserts, is his hobby, his way of relaxing from the pressures of his business (designing and installing marinas). As well as the three 60 footers he has designed he has a number of smaller yacht designs in his native Hungary.
Spirit of Hungary is fully compliant with the latest iteration of the IMOCA rule, but as yet remains completely untested. Her birth was slightly traumatic in that first the original design had to be adapted to the new rule. And when the boat was built the wrong core material was specified in the forward slamming areas. Thus his ambition to do the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race was thwarted and he had to ship his boat home from New York to Hungary for expensive, time consuming remedial work. So when 31st December comes around and the start of the Barcelona World Race, it will be the first time Fa’s Spirit of Hungary has lined up to race another IMOCA 60.
Nandor, tell us how the project came about?
When I am tired after work that is what I did. I would sit down and draw boats and design them. My brain relaxes like that. It is a hobby for my free time and I have done it for many years. I did small boat boats, bigger boats. This is the third sixty footer I have done, fourth really because we pretty much rebuilt this one. We had to change some things inside. It is my first carbon fibre big boat, 60 footer, and I had to understand that carbon fibre behaves differently.
And you did the engineering work as well as the designs?
I did most of the engineering. I have a young guy in Hungary who helps me with some calculations and digitalisation. But most of the job is done by me. And there is an Austrian company which has a very specialised computer system, I used that especially for the keel blade, four times. It is a forged inox blade, which is not easy to have it as slim as possible and to be in the rules. That was not easy.
Part of the catalyst to starting the campaign was an offer of materials.
I had a club mate who told me once upon a time that if I wanted to build a bigger boat he would support me with materials. I asked him what he meant and he told me carbon fibre. He told me then that he was the Vice President of Zoltek in America. I asked him again a couple of weeks later and I found out he was really serious. And so then one evening I sat my family down and said ‘What if I start thinking seriously about doing a boat?’ My wife and daughters were so positive that I started work the next day. I started to make all the drawings, not just the boat but ergonomically in any aspect, right down into the smallest details. One year later I was basically ready, that was in 2012. I started to build the boat physically in summer 2012. I designed it to the old rule, asking to the IMOCA technical committee what would change and they told me to just design the boat and it would be OK. I talked to Luc Talbourdet and Vincent Riou and the chief measurer Rene Boulaire. The changes became a reality when the boat was finished. The construction was finished when they changed the righting moment and the ballast tanks. They changed the mast, keel, water ballast and the righting moment AVS, AVS VC. The mast is now monotype so for the classical mast it is has to be three spreaders, with a certain weight and centre of gravity of the tube, so I had to change the configuration – I designed for two pairs of spreaders originally. So I had to change that. The keel I had to respect the new rule. I was wanting to make a steel keel blade. But the new rule said forged inox (stainless steel) which immediately doubled the price. I had to come down 200 kilos in the bulb weight, now at 3 tonnes. And we had to cut out the bog central water ballast tank. That was taken out of the rule. Those were some tough moments because we had just finished the boat, but we had to do it.
Presumably you looked very closely at the other current boats?
I knew all the boats, the VPLP-Verdiers, the Farr boats, I knew them all. I had some ideas in my mind. I wanted to find the boat which is optimal for me. For example I felt the VPLP-Verdier boats were too fat on the bow. For me some of the Farr boats were too slim in the bow. And most of them were very big and very powerful, like the Juan K boat like the ex Cheminées Poujoulat. So I wanted something which is middle sized in beam and in the bow, but having the maximum righting moment. I am at 25.5 tonnes per metre, which is just a couple of hundredths under the limit. We have two small side ballasts because the rule changed from 40 degrees cant to 38 on the keel. So we are on the limit with the keel and the mast. We are a little heavier than designed as we had to respect the new ISO rule for 21 tonnnes per square metre, so the hull has to accept 21 tonnes per square metre, so the shell strength and the construction inside had to change. And that was a dramatic change. Before the previous boats hardly reached ten tonnes. So it has doubled. On the one hand is skin is the thicker, the inner and outer skins and the core are all a little bit more. The bulkheads are all a little bit more. The stringers are more and we now have some ribs to split the panels. So all together, if these new boats respect the ISO rule as they should, they should be about 5-600 kilos heavier. I look forwards to seeing how the new boats will meet the new ISO rule as they should be heavier and maybe slower.
Do you have any ideas how the boat will perform against the others?
At the moment we are still in the learning period. We don’t know what to expect really from the boat. But I am not nervous at all. Not at all. I know I have done my best. I am completely responsible for myself and my family. It is different for sailors with expectations because they have sponsors. I am much more relaxed. I want to make a good result, to sail a good course. But I don’t really care what the outside world is thinking. I concentrate on the boat and the sailing. I know there are now sure solutions. In spite of the science, it is not a perfect science. Some guys are rebuilding the boat or parts two months later. And five years later some boats have been rebuilt five times. There have been some design disasters. But for me it is about being out there sailing well, to be close to nature, enjoying the speed, the life, that is much important than running at the front of the pack. I want to enjoy the race. And having designed and built the boat, all that adds to the enjoyment. This is pure fun, in spite of all the years of fighting to be ready. I am a person who seems to enjoy the fight. I enjoy the fight. It is part of the game. I would hate to lose the boat, to destroy the boat and lose it. In the BOC Challenge I lost my rudders and the organisers told me to get off the boat. And I said ‘Why? I am close to the Antarctic, but the boat is here, it is floating, I have sails, I have a mast, I have food and drink. I did not ask for rescue I and sailed back to Port Elizabeth, sailing 11 days, 1600 fetching with no rudders. Two new rudders came to Port Elizabeth and I repaired and went on.
And what is the best attribute of the boat?
My real strength is that I am not out to win. I hope that the main point will be the reliability. That was the main objective in the design of the boat, to have a safe boat which it is possible to push to 100 per cent without the risk of breaking something. That is really important for me considering how fragile some of the other boats have proven. So I wanted a boat I can push and not be worried. I cannot compare my boat to the others yet. I guess that the lighter boats, in light and medium downwind conditions will be faster. In upwind and stronger winds I don’t think there will be a significant difference. But I don’t think there are any real conditions I will be faster. But the boats all have a certain sail area, righting moment, have a certain wetted surface, weight. It is physics. There are no miracles. My boat is built on the safe side. I don’t think there is a wind angle or strength which is really where I will be better. My boat is an allrounder. It is more important to be structurally strong. I am an old man and I want to feel good, to feel confident in my boat.
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