Rich WIlson Arrival Vendee Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Rich Wilson (USA), skipper Great American IV, 13th of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on February 21st, 2017 – Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe
Arrivée de Rich Wilson (USA), skipper Great American IV, 13ème du Vendee Globe, aux Sables d’Olonne, France, le 21 Février 2017 – Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

American skipper Rich Wilson crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race off Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France this afternoon (Tuesday 21/02) at 1250hrs UTC. From the fleet of 29 boats which started the 27,440 miles singlehanded race from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 6th, Wilson and Great American IV secure 13th place in an elapsed time of 107 days 48 mins 18 secs.

Wilson, at 66 years old the oldest skipper in the race, successfully completes the pinnacle solo ocean racing event for the second time. He improves his time for the 2008-9 edition of the race, 121 days and 41 minutes by a fortnight, thereby achieving one of the key goals which drew him back to take on the race for a second time. Whilst racing he also delivered a daily, multi faceted educational programme to over 750,000 young people in more than 55 different countries around the world, another of the fundamental reasons Wilson returned to the Vendée Globe. He becomes the fastest American to race solo non stop around the world, beating the 2004-5 record of Bruce Schwab of 109 days 19 hours.
 
The hugely experienced American skipper who is a lifelong mariner and a native of Boston,Massachusetts, adds to a remarkable catalogue of achievements under sail over an extraordinary career spanning nearly 40 years, including three record passages including San Francisco to Boston in 1993, New York to Melbourne in 2001, and in 2003 Hong Kong to New York.
Wilson crossed the finish line on a cool February afternoon, emerging from the grey skies of the Bay of Biscay, with scarcely a rope out of place. His Great American IV returned to Les Sables d’Olonne in almost exactly the same, near perfect condition as they left in early November. Wilsonhas dealt competently with a range of small technical problems, notably gripes with his autopilot system, his hydrogenerator system and some modest sail repairs. To finish two Vendée Globe races with both of his boats in great condition is testament to his impeccable seamanship, his ongoing focus and discipline to stay within the prudent protocols he sets himself, looking to achieve high average speeds and sail very efficiently while keeping the skipper and his boat safe. The efficiency of his actual course, that is how direct a route he sailed, is almost exactly the same as that of race winner Armel Le Cléac’h – sailing around 27,450 miles and is only bettered by the fourth to sixth placed skippers Jéremie Beyou, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam who sailed around 300 miles less.
Wilson is in no way a crusader looking to prove a point about the capabilities or achievements of older solo racers or athletes. Suffering from asthma since he was an infant, he has also considered age a mere number but strove to be as fit and strong as he could be prior to both races. ‘I am not ready for the pipe and slippers. Age is just a number.’ Wilson said many times before the start. That said his success today will be a huge inspiration to older people around the world to pursue their dreams and follow their passions. His boat for this edition of the race, an Owen-Clarke design which raced to seventh with Dominique Wavre in 2012-13, is faster but more physical than Great American III.
Along the route Wilson has told the story of his race with clarity and passion, his educated and inquisitive mind ensuring topics have remained interesting and informative with a broad appeal to all ages. A former maths teacher he has graduate degrees from Harvard Business School and MIT and a college degree from Harvard. He enjoyed regular communication with many of the other skippers in the race, most of all Alan Roura, the Swiss 23 year old youngest racer who finished yesterday.
Rich Wilson’s Race
7th Nov: Replacement of a batten car on the main mast track, sailed with conservative sail selection not wanting to make a mistake while tired. Hydrogenerator propeller pitch control pump leaked all of its hydraulic oil into the box.
12th Nov: In a squall the boat took off, and then the autopilot decided to stop. So the boat turned up toward the wind, and lay over at about 45 degrees, with both sails flapping. I rushed into the cockpit and grabbed the tiller. Unidentified autopilot problem fixed.
17th Nov: First part of the Doldrums further north than was predicted. Sudden squalls.
19th Nov: At 0450, Great American IV crossed the Equator. 12th crossing under sail for Rich.
24th Nov: Getting to know the boat well. Gained miles on those ahead. Nice chat with Tanguy de Lamotte.
1st Dec: Peak speed of 24.7 knots. “I don’t understand how the leaders can deal with the speeds, and the stress that comes with them”
6th Dec: Entered the Indian Ocean. More Work on the Hydrogenerator
9th Dec: Chats with Alan Roura, and with Eric Bellion. ‘The three multi-generational amigos, me at 66, Eric at 40, and Alan at 23’13th Dec: “Pushing very hard to get east across the top of the Kerguelen Shelf before the big depression gets here in 36 hours. Our plan is to then head southeast to get to where the strong winds will be. Eric has chosen a north route, Alan and Enda look as though they are working on a similar plan to mine.”
15th Dec: Average of 45 knots wind for a 16 hour period, and our thundering sprints of boat speed from 10-12 knots into the mid-20s, ricocheting off waves
20th Dec: “Interesting encounter last night with Enda O’Coineen”
21st Dec: “Fantastic encounter today when my friend Eric Bellion came roaring up from behind us and passed us close aboard”
25th Dec: “We are a long way from home, and have a long way to go. Usually in my voyages, I haven’t gotten too lonely. But today I did. I’m sure it was exacerbated by the big depression that is forecast to develop ahead of us.”
31st Dec: Crossing the International Date Line
1st Jan: “We are in the gale. We have 35-40 knots of wind now and it looks as though this will last for another 18 hours. The violence that the sea can heap on a boat is not describable.”
5th Jan: “the nicest day of sailing that we’ve had in one might say months”
7th Jan: Exactly halfway
13th Jan: “We were in the bulls-eye of the strong winds for the depression. Solent to staysail to storm jib, and 1 reef to 2 reefs to 3 reefs in the mainsail.” Autopilot malfunction.
17th Jan: Cape Horn
18th Jan: “We went west of the Falkland Islands, behind Alan Roura, who followed through the Lemaire Strait”
22nd Jan: “A very bad night last night. We had 35 knots of north, steady, up to 38, which created a big wave situation, with cresting seas 12-15′ high. This went on most of the afternoon. And then suddenly, nothing. The physicality of this boat is beyond description, and I am exhausted and, frankly, demoralized.”
25th Jan: “We just got clobbered through the night, with 30 knots of wind, upwind, into the big building seas, and crashing and crashing and crashing. The conditions are just chaotic. There is really nothing you can do on the boat, because you just have to be holding on at all times.”
29th Jan: “Latitude of Rio de Janeiro. Southwest winds, 2 – 3 knots, very bizarre. The boat went in circles for 3 hours, and it was very frustrating.”
5th Feb: back into the Northern Hemisphere
7th Feb: finally into the NE’ly trade winds
16th Feb: sailed close to Faial in the Azores.
21st Feb: finished
First words 
“It’s great to be back. To see France and all the French people here. It was great to see Eric (Bellion) and Alan (Roura) here. They were my brothers in the south. We talked almost every day by e-mail. In this race I think there was a lot more communication between the skippers than in 2008-2009 – Koji, Fabrice, Nandor, Stéphane and Didac who was chasing me. We talked about everything in the world. It was a little bit harder, because I’m older. The boat was easier because of the ballast tanks. You can use the ballast rather than put in a reef all the time, which is what I had to do on the other boat. What distinguished the race for me was that it was grey all the way. Across the south and then all the way up the Atlantic. Grey. Grey. It was so depressing. Four or five days ago, the sun came out for twenty minutes and I leapt out and stuck my face and hands under the sun. It was grey and just for so long. That was hard.”“I found all the calms that exist in the Atlantic. It was never-ending in the Atlantic. Eight years ago, I said never again. But now it’s too difficult. This is the perfect race course. The most stimulating event that exists. My goal was to finish this race and to work for SitesAlive, which has 700,000 young people following. What is fantastic about this race is the support of the public with all the people here. I remember the first time, someone said, if you finish the race, you’re a winner. I think that is correct. I could give you a quotation from Thomas Jefferson. When he was ambassador to France, he said everyone has two countries, their own and France and I think that is true.””The Vendée Globe is two Vendée Globes. It is very long. The oceans, the capes. It’s all very hard. But the other Vendée Globe is the one ashore. The welcome that our team and I have had here. It’s incredible. I felt older. I am 66! My thoughts go out to Nandor who finished two weeks ago at the age of 65. We sent back data each day concerning me and the boat. Each day, I did an average of 12,000 turns on the winch. But it was hard.””The worst thing was it was so grey. I had a map of the stars with me but I couldn’t use it. The best thing was communicating with the others. We’re a real community.”

A few of the 29 skippers in the line up for the 2016 Vendee Globe (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe)

A few of the 29 skippers in the line up for the 2016 Vendee Globe (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe)

Sunday 6th November 1302hrs (local time), 1202 UTC the start gun will send 29 intrepid
solo skippers off on the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. In a modern age where the
pursuit of instant gratification and always-on social interconnection prevails in even the
most remote corners of the world, the challenge of racing non stop around the globe
without outside help – one person, one boat non stop 24,020 nautical miles Les Sables
d’Olonne to Les Sables d’Olonne via the three great capes for somewhere between 75
and 120 days, retains an enduring, magical appeal.

The purity and simplicity of the race remains unchanged since the first edition in 1989 when 13 pioneering soloists started. But it is testament to its incredible magnetism that the race which starts Sunday will be the most international yet as for the first time the challenge is taken up by soloists from the Australasian and Asian continents. Twenty French skippers and nine from Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the USA will answer the start cannon Sunday. Ireland, New Zealand and Japan are represented for the first time. The performance and age spectrum of the skippers and their respective View the online version

2016 Vendée Globe: The Focal Point
IMOCA 60 foot racing yachts has never been greater. Set on January 27th 2013 by the youngest skipper ever to win the race, François Gabart at the age of 29, the benchmark of 78 days 2hrs 16m 40 secs is thought likely to fall. Since the last race four years ago there has been a technological leap as innovative hydrofoiling daggerboards have been adopted on the IMOCAs of seven skippers. These new foils generate substantial lift on the hull, literally allowing the 7,5 tonne boats to fly almost clear of the waves to sustain speeds averaging 2-4kts faster than their conventional modern generation counterparts. When they were first used in a full ocean racing environment just over one year ago there was a high proportion of mechanical failures associated with these foils. Even after months of further development and reinforcement of the hull structures there are still question marks over their potential reliability and seeming susceptibility to hitting objects. Briton Alex Thomson on his latest generation Hugo Boss took third place in the last edition of the Vendée Globe race. After numerous failures in different high profile ocean races Thomson’s choice of a solid, slightly older proven design – which he pushed hard and sailed smartly to finish third – this time sees him back to pushing the technology frontiers. His new boat bristles with the latest design interpretations and technology. He is widely considered a major threat to
the top, all-French hierarchy. Last night Thomson and his team sailed one final, overnight
testing mission, checking different foil and sail set ups. During the summer his Hugo Boss
proved to have race winning potential when he lead the New York – Vendée warm up
Transatlantic Race before electrical problems compromised his winning challenge. Since then, despite having to resort to his set of first generation foils after the second generation set failed, Thomson asserts that Hugo Boss is even faster.

Even among seasoned race watchers the perennial question ‘Who will win the Vendée Globe?’ has many different answers. Including Thomson there are six highly experienced, top skippers equipped with foils. Armel Le Cléac’h has finished second in the last two Vendée Globes, only three hours behind winner Gabart in 2013, the conclusion of a mind bending match-race all the way around the world when the two near identical IMOCAs raced all the way as if joined by bungee elastic. Sébastien Josse lead the epic 2008-9 race at different stages before he was forced to abandon with rudder damage. Edmond de Rothschild is the highly optimised, immaculately prepared new IMOCA aboard which he won last winter’s solo Transat Saint Barth’s-Lorient race before finishing second in this year’s New York- Vendée race. His experience racing the Edmond de Rothschild Multi 70 trimaran crewed and short handed has fine tuned his ability to race on the edge for long periods. Jean Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac is a multiple winner of big ocean races, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre and two Barcelona World Races around the world. He missed third in the last race when his keel failed 1500 miles from the finish, dropping to fourth. Jéremie Beyou has yet to finish the Vendée Globe despite starting twice. He is the only skipper to retro-fit foils, to his Maitre-Coq, the 2010 launched boat which finished second in 2013 as Banque Populaire.

The only skipper to have won the race before who will be on the start line this time, 2004-5 winner Vincent Riou on PRB, has stayed with a conventional, non foil set up. But his March 2010 launched boat is considered the most optimised, furthest refined IMOCA which possesses a great all round potential. While the foiling IMOCAs are at their best fast reaching in winds over 15kts, they are still felt to have a disadvantage in increased drag in lighter airs and less efficiency upwind. Riou is a firm believer that his choice will give him an at least even chance over the long game. So too Yann Eliès has a well optimised IMOCA with more conventional boards. A three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, he returns to the Vendée Globe eight years after being rescued 800 miles south west of Australia. Eliès lay stricken and unable to move suffering from multiple leg fractures inside his yacht for two days before being taken to safety.

An unprecedented five sailors will be racing the Vendée Globe for their fourth time. Riou,
Thomson, Dick and veterans Jean Le Cam and Bertrand de Broc. Two of the 14 first timers will start with realistic aspirations of emulating Gabart’s feat, winning the Vendée Globe at their first attempt, never having raced solo in the Southern Oceans. Morgan Lagravière, 29, is an Olympic skiff sailor turned Figaro sailor turned Vendée Globe racer. He was selected by Safran as the best of the new, younger generation talent to fly their colours and he has a foiling, March 2015 launched design. His programme has been managed latterly by Roland Jourdain’s organisation. Similarly Paul Meilhat’s SMA is the leading IMOCA programme for double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée stable. Meilhat, 34, is also an ex 49er sailor who moved through the one design Figaro circuit, winning the 2014 Transat AG2R. There are set to be many races within the race as different generations of boats and skippers compete against each other. A posse of skippers with 2006-7 designs are expected to have equally intense, hard fought battles. Tanguy De Lamotte on Initiatives Couer which publicises acharity which provides life saving heart surgery for children, Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée, Arnaud Boissieres on La Mie Caline, Jean Le Cam on Finistere Mer Vent and Thomas Ruyant on Le Souffle Du Nord, are all expected to form the middle and upper middle order of the fleet.

The race has drawn an engaging cross section of adventurous skippers of all ages who set off with the only common theme being their shared dream of finishing the race, completing the circle. Twenty four year old Swiss soloist Alan Roura has a low budget campaign which
bottomed out financially when he did not have enough money to put fuel in his team van.
KiwiAmerican
Conrad Colman starts his third round the world race having only just secured a last
minute sponsor for his 100% Natural Energy. He is looking to be the first skipper to finish the race using only naturally generated electrical energy. Sébastien Destremau will realise an almost fleeting ambition which only took him over when he was reporting for TV at the start of the last race. Irish businessman, adventurer and sailor Enda O’Coineen on Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland is looking to fulfil a lifetime ambition but also to spearhead a lasting legacy for Ireland which also encompasses building a sail training vessel and, in the future, a sail training academy. Similarly Holland’s Pieter Heerema is a successful businessman looking to fulfil a sailing ambition, racing a latest generation foiler. Hungary’s Nandor Fa, 64, starts his third Vendée Globe twenty years after his first one, racing a boat he mostly designed and built himself. American Rich Wilson is driven to compete in his second Vendée Globe, the oldest skipper in the fleet, by the burning desire to share the educational values of the race. His Sites Alive program run from on board Great American 4 will reach over 1 million youngsters, including 3000 schools in China, an educational program approved by the French Education Department, and 50,000 students in Taiwan.

Fair weather expected for the start The weather is now becoming clear and more precise for Sunday: 15 to 20 knot northerlies, ideal conditions to get the world’s most extreme race underway. “A north to NW’ly air stream blowing at between 15 and 25 knots out at sea, probably lighter on the coast with squally showers possible around Les Sables d’Olonne. The NW’ly swell should remain below 1m,” announced the Great Circle team, the official weather partner for the 8th Vendée Globe. Decent conditions are expected for the 29 IMOCAs as they cross the Bay of Biscay in a northerly flow offering good speeds on seas that remain slight, before they reach Cape Finisterre and then the coast of Portugal in stronger winds (gusting to 35 knots).

In other words, we can look forward to a fast start for the non-stop solo round the world race allowing them in theory to sail downwind all the way to the Equator. “Conditions should enable us to get a good time for this first portion of the race with everyone going down quickly to the Equator. We could see a day less to get there than it took four years ago. We’re not about to be shaken up like in 2012. This weather should favour the foilers. That much is clear,” explained Vincent Riou (PRB).

A relief for the sailors and their families “We’re not looking at a deep low and strong headwinds . I can remember how complicated the start was eight years ago. This time we’re not getting thrown in at the deep end and so that removes some of the stress,” admitted Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), who is already drawing up his route for the first part of the course. A huge relief too for the families. Arnaud Boissières, (La Mie Câline) told us this morning, “The weather is looking decent for the start I’m pleased in particular for my family and friends and sponsors, as that makes it easier to
bear, even if there is bound to be some stress. That means that the fleet should remain intact for longer, which is good.”

Quotes
Rich Wilson, Great American IV:
“I can’t wait to get going. It’s time we were out there. It’s a huge pleasure casting off, even if there is always some stress and apprehension. But we’ve all been working hard on that. The weather suits me. I prefer to set sail in these winds with less than 20 knots expected, even if know that later in the South, we will get some tough conditions. It was hard for me back in 2008.”

Morgan Lagravière (Safran):
“The weather looks good as it will allow us to ease ourselves into the race. That means we can get used to being at sea more easily and avoid getting seasick, while gradually putting our foot down. I was looking forward to this sort of weather, and it seems to be happening now. I’m particularly apprehensive about the morning of the start, as I can get very emotional and I attach a lot of importance to the human aspects ashore. I guess I’ll probably be in tears. But we must not see the start as a punishing separation. I’ll soon get into race mode and put the rest behind me.”

Vincent Riou (PRB):
“Less than a year ago, it was seen as risky fitting foils on these boats. Now it seems that the risk has shifted, making it harder for those without foils.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac):
“On Sunday, I’ll be setting sail on my fourth VendéeGlobe, but in spite of that, I feel
apprehensive. But who can set off without any worry though, as if they were nipping into their garden to pick some strawberries? No one! In any case I don’t know this superman. You can’t take anything for granted in top class sports and that is even more the case, when we are looking at the sea. In my previous attempts, I always found it tough settling into the race at the start. The fact that the weather looks decent is good news for me. But I’m not celebrating, as during the round the world voyage, we’ll all have to deal with harsh conditions at some point.”

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII):
“The start of the race should favour the boats with foils with the wind coming from a good angle. We know how to sail quickly in these conditions. It’s something we worked on during the training sessions in Port-la-Forêt. We should be able to find our feet relatively easily after this long period ashore. But the second night looks like more of a battle with fairly strong winds along the coast of Portugal. We can’t rule out beating the record to the Equator (held since2004 by Jean Le Cam with a time of 10 days and 11 hours).”

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean):
“Some skippers have huge pressure on them. They must win. Today, when you see skippers
refusing to shake your hand because they are afraid of catching something, I applaud them with both hands. That’s fabulous. It was my personal choice to go off to Australia last week to see goodbye to the children. I wanted to talk to them and tell them that I was doing something very important, but that was risky. I wanted them to know I loved them before setting off.”

#VG2016 #VendeeGlobe #Vendee #France

 

11/03/2015, Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Onboard Spirit of Hungary with Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman

11/03/2015, Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Onboard Spirit of Hungary with Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman

  • Neutrogena cross the Equator this evening
  • Spirit of Hungary walk a tightrope to Cape Horn
  • Catalan Match sees One Planet One Ocea & Pharmaton back on the charge

As Neutrogena crosses the Equator this evening there will be a certain disparity of feelings between the two skippers, Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz, a rare situation in a partnership which is clearly working well.
For Muñoz, from Algarrobo, Chile, will look to the stars tonight and feel like he is sailing out of his home hemisphere, whilst Catalan Altadill will be marking his return to his home Northern Hemisphere.

They are very much a complementary duo, a team which is working well, lying in second place.  The sailing CV of Altadill extends to many pages, from Olympic coach to maxi multi record attempts. The boat they sail together was built for him in England for the first edition of the Barcelona World Race.  Muñoz started out with no IMOCA 60 experience at all, but has fed off the knowledge and experience of Altadill. And over recent days they have maximized their speeds to reduce their deficit to leaders Cheminées Poujoulat to 870 miles today.
Their gains have been halted by the passage of the Doldrums, slowed to eight to 10kts, but they should slide across the Equator around 2200hrs UTC.Cheminées Poujoulat continue their northwards climb, extending into slightly increasing trade winds. Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam are about 360 miles WNW of the Cape Verde islands today making just over 12kts.Spirit of Hungary have about 550 miles left to sail to Cape Horn, Nandor Fa said today he is expecting to round the lonely rock in the small hours of Monday morning. Spurred by the same strong low pressure system they have been with for five or six days, according to co-skipper Conrad Colman there is a ‘little bit of a tightrope walk’ during their approach. They have to press as hard they dare so that they can outrun a bigger, more active depression which is behind them and chasing hard. But the duo have it foremost in their minds that they need to preserve Spirit of Hungary and themselves for the climb up the Atlantic.  Conrad Colman said:
“Spirit of Hungary, despite out best efforts is not at 100 per cent. So we cannot push hard with these strong conditions that we have and so we need to throttle back to preserve the boat. But we cannot slow down too much because there is a new depression forming behind us, and it is due to bring with it anothe r round of 50kts. So if we stay with our routing we should pass the Horn with 20-25kts from the north, and if we are slow we get 50kts. Nandor and I are talking a lot to make sure we are both happy with the level of performance that we are aiming at. But it is tricky to get it right.”For Conrad Colman it will be his second passage of Cape Horn. He rounded on 22nd February 2012 leading the Global Ocean Race, passing 87 miles south of the island, also then being chased by a big gale.  And for Nandor Fa it will be his fourth time. He rounded for his first time during a 1985-87 round the world voyage on a 31 foot boat he and his friend and co-skipper had built and finished from a hull. The second time was in 1991-1992 on the BOC solo round the world race and the third was on the 1992-1993 Vendée Globe. Fa recalled today:” The last time when I was here it was in 1992 and we had 75 kts of wind in the gusts and 60 on average. So that was very tough weather then and it is looking similar this time. My last experience is strong winds, high seas, stormy conditions. And a very tough passage. That is my memory of this area in the past.
At the moment I have no imagination of what will happen at the Horn. I just try to go safely and we will see what it is like when we get there.  I think when we pass we will celebrate, somehow.”And meantime in the South Atlantic, due east of Florianopolis, Brazil the Catalan match between We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton sees them still separated by 64 miles, racing in a good vein of SE’ly pressure but they will run into a high pressure ridge which could see them compress closer together.

Skippers quotes
Conrad Colman (NZL) Spirit of Hungary:“It is very, very cold at the moment, especially because we just had a cold front come through in the depression which we are currently sailing in, and so we went from overcast skies and quite a lot of wind, to beautiful clear skies with more wind. So there is a nice moon and clear skies, but it is freezing cold.
We eat lots just now, there is a lot of soup and tea being drunk so we can fule the inner fire to keep us going. And then there is a lot of drying out of socks and things on the engine cover so we are warm and dry.
Strong winds and big depressions are nothing new for us at the moment. And so it is standard fare of 35-40kts, gusting 50, with big swells which we have had since the middle of the Pacific and so it is a very badly named ocean this one, there is nothing peaceful about it.
But it is fun. I am really enjoying it. It is pretty magical to be down here, it is far from easy. It is nice to be getting closer to the Horn because there we get to turn left and start heading back to Europe and home. But at the same time it is sad as well because I love it down here. I love playing with the Albatross and the big waves. There is something very special about being so far away from land and humanity, just relying on ourselves. It is an experience I am going to miss.
It is a little big of a tightrope walk for us at the moment because Spirit of Hungary, despite out best efforts is not at 100 per cent. So we cannot push hard with these strong conditions that we have and so we need to throttle back to preserve the boat, but we cannot slow down too much because there is a new depression forming behind us, and it is due to bring with it another round of 50kts. So if we stay with our routing we should pass the Horn with 20-25kts from the north, and if we are slow we get 50. Nandor and I are talking a lot to make sure we are both happy with the level of performance that we are aiming at. But it is tricky to get it right.
It is the accumulation of little problems we have had so far.
Memories?
I have yet to see Cape Horn. The last time I came through I was being chased by a monstrous storm with 60kts in it. So I passed the Horn 80 miles south and went all the way round and so I have not seen a thing yet. It looks like I will be going through in darkness and so I will just have to come back for a third time to see the Horn properly. But regardless it has been and will be magical to pass this famous line of longitude. And I am looking forwards to getting there in a little less than 48 hours.
We still have two small bottles of Cava on board and we will have some of that and scream with joy because it has been a long time coming. Sometimes we have doubted if we would get here. And so Nandor and I are looking forwards to it. We have worked pretty hard at but it is going to feel pretty good when we get there.

Rankings Saturday 14th March 2015 at 1400hrs UTC
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 2310 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 871 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1162 miles to leader
4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 2577  miles to leader
5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 2639 miles to leader
6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 3710 miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 5143  miles to leader
ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)

 

Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm, Jean Le Cam)

Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm, Jean Le Cam)

With Cheminées Poujoulat making good progress up the Atlantic, making close to 18kts, 120 miles SW of the Falklands, Cape Horn marks the frontier between the two different worlds inhabited by skippers on the Barcelona World Race.
All but two pairs, the bookends of the fleet, are still awaiting their release from the Big South, the relentless grey, chilly, damp world. For Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, bows of Cheminées Poujoulat pointed NE, there is the added vigour of knowing every mile north is a mile closer to sunshine and tradewinds,  a mile closer to Barcelona, and a mile away from their Southern Oceans escapades. And for seventh placed Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman in Bluff, South Island NZ, there is an unfortunate but not unpleasant technical pitstop as they make repairs to ensure a less troublesome second half of their race. Cheminées Poujoulat had a reasonable passage across the border last night, under the cover of darkness. They crossed into the Atlantic passing 14 miles south of Rock at 00:53 UTC, after 55 days 12 hours and 53 minutes of racing. This afternoon Stamm and Le Cam passed the Strait of Le Maire, between Tierra del Fu ego and Staten Island, and their next choice is which side to leave the Falklands. So far the windward, west side looks better and a shorter route. Tensions remain high between second and third. But by virtue of better, stronger breezes Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz have progressively driven a bigger and bigger wedge between themselves and third placed Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín. The GAES Centros Auditivos pair have found themselves – rather incongruously – upwind in moderate breezes and so losing miles to Neutrogena. From being within five miles at the start of the week, they are now 115 miles astern of second place. “I think we’ve gone faster [than the Neutrogena] most of the time” Corbella said today, ” But there have been times when they escaped because we slowed down for technical reasons. We just try and hold on for a good fight in the Atlantic, to try and stay relatively close.” For Renault Captur, now back at 48 deg S and targeting the Furious 50s again, there is finally the prospect of pulling miles back on fifth and fourth, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton, and We Are Water: The delta between the two Barcelona boats, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton and We Are Water has now shrunk from 600 miles to 160 in a week. And with the possibility of Renault Captur progressively getting back to them both, an interesting three cornered fight might just be on the cards for their ascent of the Atlantic. Making their pit stop in the country of birth of Conrad Colman, one might have hoped for a more hospitable welcome for Kiwi Colman and his Hungarian counterpart Nandor Fa. But the duo had driving rain, winds over 50kts, and chilly, wet conditions for their final approach.  Spirit of Hungary tied up yesterday at 22:50 UTC at the port of Bluff, on the South Island of New Zealand. Their list of repairs is longer than expected, having discovered on the way in that they needed to replace a couple of keel bolts. “We’re fine, but there is much work to do,” said Fa. “We had a good dinner and we will relax a little. Tomorrow we lift the boat out of the water to change the keel bolts, but basically things go as we expected “ Unscheduled and unwanted their pit stop may be but Colman, is delighted to be briefly in his home country: ” To come into a dairy and see the familiar sights and sounds, to see magazines and chocolates of my childhood it is fantastic to be back in New Zealand.  I have never been here, and it is funny to have to sail half way around the world to discover a new part of my own country, but it is great. We discovered the problems with the keelbolts after we decided to stop. We were chasing a couple of leaks and decided to re-torque the nuts on the keelbolts and unfortunately one have way in our hands. We were already heading in to New Zealand so that made us feel good about our stopover and also quite thankful. ” We are not shooting for the podium and Nandor and I, as since the beginning of the race, we have a long term vision of where we want to be with our careers, what we want from this race. I am trying to establish myself in my career and Nandor is counting every mile as a precious one. So he wants to do them all. So given that, we would be foolish to rush out of here and compromise for the sake of a few extra hours. Skippers quotes: Renault Captur, from email: “Today, we’re back in the fifties. The albatrosses have found us again and are offering their support by flying over the boat, calmly without flapping their wings. Since we set off again, we have been focusing on getting around a low-pressure area blocking our path. Reaching in moderate winds, it all seems to be working out for the moment, and as the hours go by, we have made up a little of the time. We shall be sailing quite close to the centre of this low and beyond that, Renault Capture will be able to dive downwind chasing after the Water Brothers (We are Water) and their compatriots on One Planet one Ocean. Everything is fine on board and we are feeling fairly quiet in between trimming, navigating and looking at the weather. It isn’t that cold yet, so it’s fairly pleasant sailing for the time being. Well done to Jean and Bernard, who rounded Cape Horn some distance ahead making them well placed to achieve overall victory.” ; Anna Corbella (ESP)  GAES Centros Auditivos: ” I am excited about my second crossing of Cape Horn. I want to be there right now, and I think it is important, we want to begin to go north and point the bow in the direction of home that is something we have been looking forwards to for many days now. The conditions at the moment are that we are in a transition zone between two fronts, and at the moment we are sailing upwind with ten knots of wind with flat water, so it quite a strange situation  sailing towards Cape Horn right now, strange, but in a few hours it will change the NW wind will come again. And it will increase. I think we are going to cross the Cape in typical conditions – probably 30kts – and we are happy with that because it should be the last windy situation in the south and we are happy to sail these last days.” Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary:“Our relationship gets deeper and deeper. On the one side we are a sailing partnership we are in one team and we think of ourselves as a team. In any aspect at all we help each other. On the human side there is respect also. I guess at the moment we are a better team than at the start. We have had surgery before (Colman had to put four stitches in Fa’s head)…….I needed a bandage before and so that has been a good exercise for Conrad (jokes) but he is really talented to do it (stitch) like a sailmaker, making much nicer stitches in my head than a doctor. ” ” When we start again we will be pushing the boat, it will feel like racing, of course we will be a long way from the fleet, hopeless to think of catching up, but at least the performance is important to us and from that point of view we race against the most difficult rivals, ourselves and so we push to our limits, we should be satisfied and proud.”< /p> Standings at 1400hrs Wednesday 25/02/2015 1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 6695 miles to finish 2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1096 miles to leader 3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1211 miles to leader 4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 3244miles to leader 5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3405 miles to leader 6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 4000.4 miles to leader 7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 4748 miles to leader ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)
Bernard Stamm (SUI) and Cheminées Poujopulat (Photo  copyright Cheminées Poujopulat / Barcelona World Race)

Bernard Stamm (SUI) and Cheminées Poujopulat (Photo copyright Cheminées Poujopulat / Barcelona World Race)

 

  • 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.

Skippers quotes:

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)

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings, We Are Water (Bruno Garcia, Willy Garcia)(Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget/Barcelona World Race)

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings, We Are Water (Bruno Garcia, Willy Garcia)(Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget/Barcelona World Race)

 

Barcelona World Race 2014/2015 Start (Photo © Nico Martínez / Barcelona World Race )

Barcelona World Race 2014/2015 Start (Photo © Nico Martínez / Barcelona World Race )

 

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.

NEWS  DEC 31, 2015

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

 

Skippers’ quotes:

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.”

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings (© Gilles Martin-Raget / Barcelona World Race )

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings (© Gilles Martin-Raget / Barcelona World Race )

..

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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