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Düsseldorf Boat Show 2021 postponed to April due to COVID-19 infection rates (3 Dec 2020, 1:43 pm)

The latest boat show to face postponement due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is Europe’s largest, with Boot Düsseldorf rescheduled to April 17-25

The 2021 Düsseldorf Boat Show will be delayed by almost 3 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The organisers of the Düsseldorf Boat Show have today announced that Europe’s biggest indoor boat show will be delayed by 12 weeks due to “ongoing high infection numbers across all of Europe”.

The new dates (April 17-25) have been agreed following “close consultation with its partners and exhibitors who endorse this decision”, a statement from Messe Düsseldorf GmbH added.

It is hoped that giving exhibitors and visitors more than a month’s notice of the decision will ease the inconvenience of having to wait three more months for the return of such a pivotal event in the boating calendar.

By postponing rather than cancelling the event the organisers have avoided going the same way as the Cannes and Southampton boat shows, both of which were shelved at the 11th hour when local authority approval was withdrawn, moves that have proven costly to the wider yachting industry.

The 2021 Miami Boat Show, originally scheduled for February 11-15, was cancelled at the end of October, leaving the 2021 Dubai Boat Show (March 9-13) as the next major event in the international boat show calendar.

However, those looking for a boating fix before then can look forward to the Ancasta Virtual Boat Show, which is due to take place online during the original dates of the 2021 Düsseldorf Boat Show (23-31 January).

Potential buyers will be able to compare and contrast different models from Beneteau, Lagoon and McConaghy Yachts.

“The Düsseldorf boat show is such a fantastic show and the postponement, although understandable, is disappointing,” said Will Blair, Ancasta’s Group Marketing Director.

“Many people use Boot Düsseldorf to compare and contract different models, and we didn’t want people to miss out on that opportunity, so we’re holding our own virtual version.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming people onboard in January, to assist them in finding their perfect boat ready for the 2021 season.”

For more information and to book an appointment, visit:

The post Düsseldorf Boat Show 2021 postponed to April due to COVID-19 infection rates appeared first on Yachting World.

How a sperm whale collision sank our yacht and sparked a mid-Pacific rescue (3 Dec 2020, 8:45 am)

A Pacific crossing became a dramatic mid-ocean rescue for Peter Nielsen after his yacht collided with a young sperm whale

Photo: Amana Images Inc/Alamy

It’s noon on Sunday, 23 August, and just another day in the life of our small crew sailing across the Pacific. The Atlantic 46 catamaran One Tree Island is making a steady 6-7 knots, heading south-southwest under a reefed mainsail and genoa, both well eased in the 12-knot south-easterly.

It’s less sail than we’d like to carry, but we’ve learned to tailor boatspeed to sea state, and the 2m swell is topped by smaller whitecaps that make for an uncomfortably bumpy ride if we push harder. Panama is 2,500 miles astern, we’ve been at sea for 18 days, and even if we keep to this modest speed we’ll be in the Marquesas, 1,500 miles away, in less than ten days.

Shoals of flying fish erupt, startled, from the water around us and scatter among the waves. Willy Stephens, One Tree Island skipper and owner, is asleep in his bunk in the port hull. I’m hoping he wakes up before too long to bake another loaf of his rather good bread.


The crew of One Tree Island (pictured before setting off from Florida) believe they collided with a young sperm whale (main image)

His wife, Anne, is below decks, rummaging for a book. I’m mentally planning next year’s cruise from Florida to the Bahamas and onward, reading a page of Bruce van Sant’s Passages South between each lingering look around the horizon. Not that there is ever anything to see; we haven’t had an AIS target in days, and only a few seabirds enliven our watches. There is only ever the sea, huge and indifferent.

We are late travellers in the Pacific; the prime season for the Panama-French Polynesia crossing is from February to April. Any later, and you don’t get to spend much time in these legendary islands before heading for cyclone season shelter in New Zealand or Australia.

In this year of COVID-19, however, there is no normality. Expat Brits (turned Kiwis) Willy and Anne had planned to sail across the Atlantic from the United States in May after launching their refitted cat. But as borders began to slam shut in March, their options became more limited by the week. They were stuck in a Florida boatyard, reading accounts of cruisers in limbo around the world.

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With their American visas about to run out, Willy and Anne decided to go for a near straight run to New Zealand, which was only letting in citizens and residents. The Panama Canal was open, though they’d first have to spend two weeks in quarantine. It appeared that they would be able to stop in French Polynesia, the previous weeks at sea being sufficient proof that they weren’t carrying COVID-19 to the islands.

I was refitting my own boat in the same yard, but it became apparent my 2020 cruising plans would have to go on indefinite hold. Being in possession of a highly desirable New Zealand passport; I gladly came aboard as the third hand, fulfilling both insurance and nationality requirements.

On this August day we are just over three months into the journey. We’ve motored down the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Fort Pierce, sailed around the Bahamas, and across a lumpy and surly Caribbean Sea. We sweated out our two-week sentence anchored outside Panama’s Shelter Bay marina, then spent another two weeks at anchor waiting on a new staysail and deck awnings. We know we are better off than many. At least we’ll be welcome in New Zealand for the cyclone season.


Happier days: One Tree Island at Shelter Bay Marina in Panama

Whale strike

I stretch and take another look around the horizon, beginning with a squint through the rear window of the saloon. The previous week, while hundreds of miles from land, voices behind the boat had frightened the hell out of me. They turned out to be two Colombian fishermen in a small panga, asking for water (their mothership just over the horizon, minus an AIS transponder). When they peeled away, they were hidden by the swells within minutes.

As I turn towards the bow, out of the corner of my eye I register a dark shape in the water just ahead of us. A nanosecond later, at the instant I recognise it as a whale, the port bow makes contact and the boat jolts as if bashing into a steep head sea. I have just enough time to shout “****! Whale!” at the top of my voice before it passes down the port side. As it does so I hear, and feel, a crunching impact.

Willy shoots out of his bunk, instantly awake, and the three of us stare out the rear portlights at the whale lying on the surface in a froth of pink-tinged foam. For a moment we are all transfixed. Then I see a red warning light on the switch panel and say, “Bilge, check the bilge!”


Willy and Anne knee deep in water in the port hull

Willy jumps down the steps into water that’s already ankle deep, gushing into the boat from the hanging locker outboard on the port side. Tearing out the locker’s contents, he sees bright blue sea through a pair of inch-wide vertical cracks in the cedar strip and glass hull, water spurting into the air.

He grabs a couple of T-shirts and stuffs them into the cracks, then disappears into the aft locker and emerges with two of those orange foam rubber cones that are supposed to plug leaks – just not our kind of leaks, as he quickly discovers. Anne is in the cockpit, cranking away at the manual bilge pump, while I pull down the mainsail and roll away the genoa.

With the leak slowed if not staunched, it becomes obvious that we are in no immediate danger of sinking. When Willy replaced the engines he also sealed their compartments, so there is at least some reserve buoyancy in the hulls. There are no watertight bulkheads forward, though, but the entire forepeak is still above water and its door has a high threshold.


Sole boards and locker contents start to float around inside, but One Tree Island does maintain some buoyancy

Willy grabs a roll of sticky-back rubberised tape and applies it all around the door, effectively sealing it, moments before the rising water would have slopped over the sill. “Right,” he says. “Let’s have a look at the damage. Maybe we can patch it from the outside.” I tie a safety line around his wrist and the owner goes over the side.

“There’s a big dent maybe 3ft across, with two cracks in it, just above the keel,” he reports. That’s possibly the worst place for it. There’s no way we can fother it with a sailcloth patch, and nothing will stick to slimy, ablative antifouling.

By now the water is chest-deep in the port hull, but it seems to have reached a natural level just a few inches below the bridgedeck. The hull cracks are well out of reach from the inside, not that we can plug them effectively. We have not yet sent out a distress signal, although Anne has begun letting their shoreside contact in New Zealand, Frank Michaux, know what is happening via Iridium Go.


Willy and I talk through the situation. Could we sail or motor the boat? If we were 100 miles from shore, we would give it a go. But we are 1,500 miles from the nearest land, and with so many tonnes of water in the hull, would be lucky to make a couple of knots. Are we in danger of sinking? Not immediately. Catamarans are hard to sink, and this one is especially so, by virtue of its wood and foam construction.

What would make the situation worse? If the wind increases and the sea state gets up, there’s a good chance that water will slop over into the starboard hull and sink us lower in the water. Predictwind has the wind increasing to 20 knots in a couple of days. Do we want to abandon the boat? No, but it seems we have no option. The liferaft, though, will be the very last resort.

Abandon ship

Already we are taking some hefty slams from waves surging under the hull and smashing against the bridgedeck, and the decision is made. Willy activates the EPIRB, and I hit the emergency button on my SPOT X satellite communicator, tapping out a short message: STRUCK BY WHALE. TAKING ON WATER. Just over half an hour later, Willy gets an email from the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Honolulu, Hawaii, asking us to confirm the EPIRB signal.

From then on, events develop in a slightly surreal fashion. The JRCC brings the Peruvian Coastguard into the picture (the US and Peru have a joint SAR agreement to work together in the Eastern Pacific) and we are handed over to an enthusiastic Peruvian Coastguard officer, who tells us that a Chinese fishing boat 24 miles away has agreed to take us on board.

The Chinese longliner won’t be with us until after dark, some six hours from now, which gives us plenty of time to pack a change of clothes and some personal effects to take with us.

We decide these emergency supplies will include the contents of the freezer and wine lockers, and all the chocolate and candy bars on board, as we doubt there’ll be much of that on a Chinese fishing boat. There’s a large piece of rather good steak in the fridge that we don’t want to leave to Neptune, so we cook that up for our last lunch. Then, there is nothing to do but wait.

As night falls, a bright light astern signals the arrival of the Fu Yuan Yu. We each fire a red flare – mostly just to say we’ve done it in anger, as we’ve got every light on board going so there’s no way she can miss us. As the small ship draws close to windward the excited shouts of her crew drown out the throb of her diesel.

She stops and drifts down on us, and the two vessels meet with a crunch. Her fish gate is only a couple of feet above our deck. Willing hands snatch the bags we pass up and then, one by one, timing the rolls, we are plucked off One Tree Island.


Next, half a dozen fishing crew swarm onto the cat. Two head for the dinghy and outboard, which are hoisted aboard in short order. Others disappear below deck, emerging with odd items of gear. Pillows and blankets come flying up to the deck, a pile of books is thrown aboard one by one. Towels, sun lotion, charts, random items of clothing, Willy’s drone, even my travel umbrella make their way onto a growing pile. There is shouting, a lot of it.

There is a final flurry as the crew carry up more tools, handheld VHFs and the like, all of which disappear up to the bridge of Fu Yuan Yu. Meanwhile the swell is increasing and the two vessels roll and grind against one another. I see the stanchions ripped loose and feel the crunching as the ship’s steel gunwale crushes One Tree Island’s hull-deck joint. One of the crew almost falls between the boats as he scrambles back aboard. Then suddenly One Tree Island is drifting astern, her lights still ablaze.

I look at my watch. It is 2130, just nine hours since we hit what we later agree is a half-grown sperm whale and eight hours since we triggered the EPIRB. In this part of the ocean, it must be a record for a rescue. The transition from flooded sailing boat to noisy, brightly lit fishing boat is surreal.

The din from the engine is overpowering, and there seem to be people everywhere, all trying to help us in one way or another. We are ushered into a tiny cabin, just 10ft by 7ft, with four bunks in it. Somehow we fit all our possessions in there and immediately understand why the crew salvaged our blankets and pillows: there were no spares on this boat.

There are not even mattresses, the crew sleep on half-inch-thick futons. But an AC unit keeps the temperature manageable, and it’s still an awful lot more comfortable than a liferaft.

By the next night, we are in tune with the ship’s rhythm. It steams on a zigzag course, alternately paying out its miles of fishing line and baited hooks and reeling it all back in again. The primary target is sharks, but we also see marlin, tuna and big mahi-mahi reeled in.


MV Tonsberg hoves to off the Fu Yuan Yu

Each time there’s a fish on the line, the ship slows while it is gaffed and hauled on board. The sharks’ fins, great delicacies in China, are cut off, bagged and snap-frozen; their owners are weighed and then join their fins in the freezers. Much of the by-catch goes to the galley, and the staple diet on the ship is rice and fish.

The captain, aware of the political sensitivity surrounding longlining, makes clear that he’ll confiscate our electronics if we take photographs. He even gets angry when he sees me writing in my notebook.

Alternative transport

In the meantime, Willy has been in contact with the Peruvian Coastguard, who has been phoning the captain at odd hours. Each time, Willy is called up to the captain’s cabin, where he must drink beer and smoke cigarettes with our host while they communicate via the time-honoured method of sign language and raised voices.

The problem is finding a way back to land for us, given that the captain is as keen to get us off as we are to leave. The Fu Yuan Yu won’t be back in port for another six months. Our only hope of getting off seems to be on one of the tankers from Panama or Peru that periodically resupply the 250-odd Chinese fishing boats in the eastern Pacific. This may not happen for a few weeks: a dire prospect.

However, back in New Zealand, Frank has been tirelessly working on our behalf. He has found and contacted the agents for ships coming through Panama and heading west past our general location, which is on the rhumb line to Tahiti. He has good news; the captain of Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s MV Tonsberg, a RORO ship bound for—hurrah!—Auckland, has agreed to stop by and rescue us from our rescuers.

Finally, much beer and smoke later, there is consensus: the captain agrees to meet the Tonsberg at a specified position, the end point of one of its longlines. We will be transferred via the Tonsberg’s rescue boat.

As we wait, we slip into the routine of the Fu Yuan Yu. We join the crew at mealtimes, eating our rice and fish at the officers’ table. The young deck hands are from Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Some speak a little English, and Anne speaks some Indonesian.

They tell us they were hired on two-year contracts, and haven’t touched land since the previous October. They fish around the clock, every single day. It’s a hard life. Dangerous, too; the ship rolls enough in calm weather and I wouldn’t want to be on deck in a blow.

There’s high excitement among the crew when the Tonsberg finally comes into view, a huge red and white presence blocking the horizon. There’s a big swell running, and we are relieved to see the Tonsberg’s rescue boat is considerably larger than the RIB I’d been expecting.


Anne scales the ladder on the sheer sides of the massive Tonsberg

It gingerly comes alongside, its bow rising and falling a metre or more with the swells while Chief Officer Boris Ribicic expertly steers away when the ship’s threatening steel rubbing strake rolls towards him. The bags go in first, then us, one at a time, helped by the longliner crew. Then we are off, bouncing across the steep seas.

The Tonsberg’s clifflike topsides stretch 30m above the water, a rope ladder dangling down and meeting a partly lowered gangway halfway up. I try not to think of the Australian couple who, a few weeks before, had been lost while trying to board a freighter from a liferaft, but in the Tonsberg’s lee the sea is flat and the three of us scale the ladder one at a time. Soon we are being welcomed by the ship’s officers in what seems to us like the lobby of a city hotel, then shown to large, comfortable cabins.

Later that night, over a beer with the ship’s Captain Josip and Ribicic, we relive the events of the past four days. Ours had been possibly the softest abandon-ship scenario I could have imagined. We’ll never forget the kindness of the Fu Yuan Yu’s crew, who obeyed the law of the sea to help fellow mariners in distress, nor that of the crew of the Tonsberg, who were under no obligation to help us, since we’d already been rescued. Rescued twice in one week—that’s a record I hope never to break.


The rescued trio with Tonsberg officers

What we learned

  • Communication is key. The ability to exchange information with rescuers can save your life. Take a satphone, a device like Iridium Go, Garmin InReach or SPOT X, and watertight bags or cases for phone or tablet.
  • Don’t panic. We went through the stages one by one – identify and try to stop the leak, send the emergency signals once we were sure the boat could not be saved, communicate with the authorities, add other equipment and supplies to the grab bag we had already packed. We were lucky in that the boat was not about to sink. Had One Tree Island been a monohull, I’m sure we’d have been in the liferaft within an hour.
  • Expect the unexpected. The hardest thing to defend against on a small boat is hitting something you cannot see. You won’t see objects that are just awash until you are literally on top of them.
  • Stop the leak. Could we have saved the boat? Willy comments: “Of all the safety gear, tools and spares on board, I had nothing to plug a hull breach of this size and shape (two narrow 8in cracks, perhaps an inch wide at the middles). I had three or four JB Weld epoxy putty sticks, I needed 20 times more! It is so frustrating that I had no solution to plug a simple, fully accessible hull breach! What I needed was a six-pack of cricket ball sized epoxy putty balls. Knead for two minutes, stuff it into or over the hole, hold while curing, repeat until the leak is plugged: simple. Why is there no such thing on the market?”

whale-collision-sank-yacht-peter-nielsen-bw-headshot-400px-squareAbout the author

US sailing journalist Peter Neilsen contributes to Yachting Monthly and recently retired as editor of Sail magazine. Based in Florida, he is currently preparing his Pearson 39-2 for extended Pacific and Caribbean cruising.

First published in the November 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post How a sperm whale collision sank our yacht and sparked a mid-Pacific rescue appeared first on Yachting World.

Eddie Warden Owen interview: The offshore boss who changed the RORC’s fortunes (3 Dec 2020, 8:24 am)

After an enviable professional sailing career, Eddie Warden Owen has a rare perspective on the world of racing, as Elaine Bunting hears

Warden Owen overseeing the 2019 Fastnet Race. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Whether at the windswept finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race, or in the wood-panelled rooms of the Royal Ocean Racing Club in London, Eddie Warden Owen is one of the most familiar faces in offshore racing. The genial and popular Welshman, who cheerily admits to being “naturally aggressive and highly competitive”, has a special purview of more than a half century in competitive sailing and, as CEO of the RORC, has shaped participation racing in events such as the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Caribbean 600.

From a boyhood of club sailing in Holyhead in Wales, he was part of the boom in dinghy racing during the 1960s and 70s. His talent, fitness and drive took him into the British Olympic sailing team, then on to race J/24s, big boats and the Admiral’s Cup, before he was propelled towards the international match racing circuit and three successive America’s Cups.

Warden Owen’s generation was the first to make a living entirely from professional yachting. Today, as CEO of the RORC, he helps to shape participating in the sport through the club’s international racing calendar.

Naturally gifted

As a teenager, Warden Owen was sports mad. His father, a carpenter and shipwright, was one of the founding members of the Holyhead Sailing Club, where members had built and raced a fleet of GP14s. Young Eddie, and his elder brother David, more or less lived at the club. David was, says Eddie generously, “the more naturally gifted. I applied myself, that’s all, and I wanted to do something with it.”

It was not until his brother David was in his early 20s and had earned enough money for a car from his job in the merchant Navy that the two began travelling to competitions. After graduating, Eddie trained as a PE teacher and began working in schools near Birkenhead.

But he was already questioning his career choice after winning the Welsh Games in 1969. That victory led to him being selected the following year for a competition called the Finnfinder, in which ten sponsored Finns were raced at ten clubs round the country.

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The winner of each round was then invited to the Finnfinder final in Torquay, raced at the same time as the Finn Nationals. Warden Owen won, and was presented with a brand new Finn with Boyce spars and Musto sails.

In 1971, the two Warden Owen brothers entered the GP14 Nationals in Plymouth, then a hotly contested fleet. Again, Eddie won. “That led me to believe that I could do something different,” he recalls. Noting the result, the well-known yachting journalist Bob Fisher gave him some advice. “He said to me: ‘Look, you should go for the Olympics.’”

In that year, the 470 was introduced as an Olympic sailing class, and Fisher introduced young Warden Owen to Seahorse Sails, which was looking for someone to campaign a 470 for them. So he left teaching, and swapped Wales for Suffolk to learn sailmaking.


Warden Owen competing in the Finn

So began an Olympic campaign for a Games that the British sailing team never got to compete in. In 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The British government supported the boycott but left it up to individual sports associations to decide whether or not to compete. The governing bodies of equestrian sports, hockey, shooting and sailing decided not to send a team.

Despite having been strong contenders, Warden Owen’s – and many others’ – Olympic prospects were extinguished. “For me, it had been six years of my life, but for Chris Law, who had been a realistic medal possibility since 1972 [in the Finn class] it was much longer. It was tough, but it only came home when the Olympics came to Weymouth in 2012 that I realised how affected I had been by the whole thing, and it brought back those memories I’d forgotten about.”

It left Warden Owen in a kind of limbo. He’d left teaching and gone into sailmaking on the basis of competing in the Olympics. Now what?

He decided to move to the south coast of England and was swiftly invited to join racing crews. He stepped up to J/24s, the hot one-design keelboats of the Eighties, and a kingmaker class for contemporaries such as Ken Read, John Kostecki, and Terry Hutchinson. So good was Warden Owen that he was undefeated National Champion for four successive years and runner up in both European and World Championships.

His success in J/24s brought him to the attention of a keen racing yacht owner, Graham Walker. Walker invited Warden Owen to race alongside Harold Cudmore on his yacht Indulgence, a relationship that lasted for many years and paved the way for Admiral’s Cup campaigns throughout the team event’s heyday in the 1980s and 90s.


Skippering Indulgence. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

A proper job

In 1985, Graham Walker decided to back a 12 Metre campaign for the 1987 America’s Cup in Australia. He’d recently bought the White Horse whisky brand and named his challenger White Crusader. Cudmore headed up a two-boat campaign based in Fremantle with Chris Law and Warden Owen.

The British team was forced out in the round robins of the Louis Vuitton Cup, and it was to be another 16 years before a British team entered again.

In 1987, he got an invitation to compete in the Congressional Cup in Long Beach, California. The event was tantamount to a world championship of match racing competition, and the main pathway to America’s Cup racing. “It was a big deal,” says Warden Owen, “and we went there and won.” On the way to collect the trophy he beat Russell Coutts and Rod Davis, among others. “Winning that put me on the world stage.”

Thanks to the experience gained in Fremantle and his Congressional Cup win, Warden Owen had earned a toehold in the Cup world. He went on to be a part of four subsequent Cup campaigns: as coach to Team New Zealand in 1991/2; to the Spanish team in San Diego in 1995 (where he and his wife, Sue, had their first son); again with the Spanish in 1999/2000 in Auckland; then Italian team Mascalzone Latino in 2002/3 and for the Spanish team in Valencia in 2006/7.


1991 Admiral’s Cup on WIII. Photo: Beken of Cowes

In between, EWO, as he is often referred to (or, from the old days, the nickname ‘Blodwen’), was always busy as tactician in the leading classes: TP52s, Swans, Wallys. But in 2008 he found himself at a crossroads.

“I said to Harold [Cudmore]: ‘I think I’m going to have to get a job.’ I was older than most of the owners. Harold knew they were looking for someone to run the RORC and said. ‘You’d be perfect for it.’ So I spoke to Chris Little, the commodore at the time, and he just said: ‘Interesting.’”

Races new and old

After the failure of the 2003 Admiral’s Cup and the cancellation of the 2005 event, the RORC decided they could do with Warden Owen’s profile and ability to open doors round the world, and that is what they got.

His first new event as CEO of the RORC was to launch the 600-miler known as the Caribbean 600. The idea of the race was put forward in 2008 by RORC member John Burnie and Antiguan rigger Stan Pearson. Burnie and Pearson believed there was a challenge equal to the tactical battles of the Fastnet Race or the Sydney Hobart to be had in the tropics in February.

In the first year the race made a loss, but publicity snowballed and thereafter it grew year by year to become a fixed and popular part of the racing calendar.

He also oversaw a merger between the RORC and the Royal Corinthian YC in Cowes, giving the RORC a south coast base. What he was not able to manage was the revival of the Admiral’s Cup the club so dearly wanted to see.

Conversely, the Rolex Fastnet Race has increased its allure, attracting record breaking entries and professional classes such as the IMOCA 60s and VO65s that blaze their own comet tail of renown.


Warden Owen with famed coach Jim Saltonstall advising crews the 2018 RORC Easter Challenge. Photo: Paul Wyeth

The 605-mile race from Cowes to Plymouth is the original offshore race on which the RORC was founded by 1925, and fundamental to the genome of ocean racing. It was a formula no one was clamouring to alter, so when it was announced last year that the next two races in 2021 and 2023 would finish in Cherbourg there was an outcry among members and non-members alike.

Most knew nothing of the decision until they read about it in a press release and many are still very upset by the change, which they view as a betrayal of the race.

More sanguine voices argue that Cherbourg has the wherewithal to put on a worthy show in a way Plymouth can neither afford, nor be seen to splurge on. Judgement must wait until crews next year have experienced the new format race for the first time.

From his perspective, Warden Owen says: “We will always still get critics. I’m a traditionalist and it was a pretty hard decision from my point of view.”

But he points to the waiting list of 150 yachts for the over-subscribed race in 2019, and says that the package of support offered by Cherbourg versus “Plymouth’s lack of interest over the years” was conclusive.


Photo: Paul Wyeth

Club life

Disputations among strong-minded individuals come as part of the job when working for any club, and chequered reviews of these passionately felt issues will one day be a part of EWO’s legacy at the RORC.

But he is looking forward to what members want to do in future. Will sailors want more day races? Will the boom in short-handed racing continue? The RORC, an institution as much as a members’ club, is part bellwether, part trendsetter.

“We will ask people what they want and put on what they want,” Warden Owen says. “I get the distinct impression that people don’t want to do long races other than destination races.”

If other sports are indicative, the next generations want to test themselves and have more meaningful experiences. But beyond the swing towards endurance races and bucket list events, Warden Owen foresees a need for revival at a local level. “I think developing club life is what is missing,” he suggests. “We professionals have done a good job for ourselves more than for the sport. Our system has created medals but not done so much for club life, and that is how things started.”

It is always worth remembering that going faster or getting more technical doesn’t necessarily make a sport more enjoyable. Warden Owen’s own satisfactions have come full circle. He looks forward to racing back in Wales on the 20ft Seabird, Scoter, which he shares with his brother. The Seabird is one of the oldest one-designs in Britain, raced only in August at Trearddurr Bay, near Holyhead, and the brothers regard their restored boat as a ‘family heirloom’.

On a summer race, nearly two dozen Seabirds may turn out in the fresh, clean breezes of the Irish Sea, and Warden Owen relishes its familiar simplicity. “We race together, we really have a lot of fun and I cherish it,” he says.

“I’ve always said: ‘Aren’t I lucky to be sailing and lucky to get paid for it?’ Sailing is a joy, and so it should be, and the secret is to try to make it fun for everyone.”

Career highlights


Warden Owen was 470 UK National Champion from 1977-1980. Photo: Alastair Black Archive/PPL

  • 1971/73/76 GP14 National Champion
  • 1977/78/79/80 470 UK National Champion
  • 1979 505 Pacific Champion
  • 1980 470 UK Olympic Representative, Fireball National & European Champion
  • 1981 12 Metre World Champion
  • 1982/83/84/85 J/24 UK National Champion
  • 1987 Navigator and back-up helmsman of White Crusader, the British Challenge for the America’s Cup
  • 1989 Skipper of Indulgence, Admiral’s Cup winner
  • 1991/2 Coach to Team New Zealand America’s Cup Challenge
  • 1993 Skipper of Indulgence, British Admiral’s Cup Team, winner of the Fastnet Race
  • 1995 Skipper of Mumm A Mia, winner of the Admiral’s Cup for Italy. Skipper Team Mobil, Ultra 30 class
  • 1999 Coach to the Spanish America’s Cup team
  • 2002 Coach to Mascalzone Latino America’s Cup Challenge
  • 2006 Coach to Desafio Espanol, Spanish challenger for the 2007 America’s Cup
  • 2008 Appointed as CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club

First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World

The post Eddie Warden Owen interview: The offshore boss who changed the RORC’s fortunes appeared first on Yachting World.

Sailing Newfoundland: Swan 59 skipper shares his summer on ice (2 Dec 2020, 8:31 am)

Andy Schell shares his experiences after spending the summer of 2019 sailing Newfoundland’s rugged fjord coast aboard his Swan 59 Icebear

Drone shot shows Icebear dwarfed by an iceberg off Newfoundland’s Cape Race

“Humpback, 300 metres. Hard to port, Tom!”

Icebear encountered her first whales in Cabot Strait, the deep passage separating south-western Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island on the far north-eastern corner of Nova Scotia. Earlier in the day we’d witnessed wild breaching by a couple of humpbacks in the distance, and ever since had kept a sharp lookout, hoping to spot more, and closer. This time I heard the whales before I saw them, as I heard a spout off to port over my left shoulder. I turned just in time to see a low dorsal slip beneath the surface.

Tom Harkin, retired US Senator and veteran 59° North crew (this was his fifth trip with us) heard it too, and put Icebear’s rudder hard over. At 79, Tom is our oldest crewmember, but as a former Navy F4 and F8 fighter pilot and lifelong sailor, he’s also one of our fittest, at any age.


Crewmember Tom Harkin is a retired US Senator and a regular aboard Icebear

Besides Tom, this particular crew was one of our most eclectic. At the other end of the generational spectrum on board we had Liz, in her early 20s and one of our youngest crewmembers. The crew also included Richa, an Indian citizen living in Seattle who was closer to my and my wife Mia’s demographic, while Jack was newly retired and looking to gain some offshore experience. Other crew Mike, Bill and Jeremy rounded out the team.

As Tom conned Icebear towards the spout, two humpbacks approached from about 100 yards off. We killed the engine and Icebear drifted becalmed, the water glassy.

The whales came to us. Gently and slowly, first one, then the second. Both were visible beneath the surface, their iconic white flippers curving deep underwater and turned fluorescent green by the colour of the cold, nutrient-rich northern water. Both humpbacks circled the boat in lazy arcs, diving beneath the keel in slow motion, then surfacing only feet away from the stern.

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The crew watched from the cockpit in stunned silence. The whales were close enough we could feel the spray from their spouts as they exhaled.

Mike, a hardy Minnesotan and an avid cold water swimmer, was the first to get in the water. I gave him my mask and he climbed down the stern ladder and slipped into the ocean to watch the whales play beneath him. He was only feet from two adult humpbacks, each about 40ft long, as they gracefully cavorted underneath Icebear’s hull.

The Rock

The Rock is Newfoundland: Canada’s tenth and newest province, a massive island at the edge of the Atlantic and the eastern-most point of North America. The minute you make landfall (if you can see it through the fog), the reason for its beloved nickname becomes instantly obvious. The place is literally one giant wind-and-sea sculpted slab of granite.

sailing-newfoundland-dolphins-credit-andy-schellFor years Mia and I had tried to break into Newfoundland’s ‘fjord coast’ along its remote southern shore. Finally, in summer 2019 we had a risky opportunity to go for it on Icebear, our Swan 59, during a passage from Lunenburg to St John’s.

We had a schedule to keep and a gale was in the offing, but if we timed it right, we’d be able to explore the fjords for a few days, ride out the gale in a snug wilderness anchorage and round iceberg-strewn Cape Race in clear weather. If the timing was wrong, well, we’d blow up our whole schedule.

Inspired by the whales, I decided to head for the fjord coast. After three days we made landfall on the rugged, remote south coast of Newfoundland, navigating into a five-mile-long fjord at Hare Bay.

A deep, scary-looking low pressure was forecast to pass directly over Newfoundland and would make the next 250-mile passage around to St. John’s touch-and-go. If the low slowed down, we’d be stuck, and crew would risk missing their flights. But with sunshine in the immediate forecast, we took that risk.

The entrance to Hare Bay only becomes apparent as you close the coast. High cliffs line the shore for as far as you can see east and west, broken every few miles by deep fjords, reminiscent of Norway, just maybe a bit greener.

We motored in a flat calm into the fjord mouth after passing close by the humorously named Penguin Islands. Once inside, a south wind materialised and we sailed the final five miles into the Northeast Arm to a beautiful, amphitheatre-like anchorage at the head of Morgan Falls.


One of many waterfalls feeding into Hare Bay

In the quickest shore party we’ve ever assembled after a long passage, we sent a hiking team to the falls for an afternoon exploring the wilderness. The weather was so nice that we stopped on the hike back for a soak in the river, air-drying in the sun on the warm granite along the shoreline.

François Bay

After a couple nights anchored deep in the fjords, we ventured back outside Hare Bay in search of an outport village. The fog was thick, and we proceeded downwind under genoa on ‘Instrument Flight Rules’, using the radar and chartplotter (which was exceptionally accurate) to navigate to the mouth of François Bay. Here we could only see the red buoy marking the entrance when within 100 yards of it. We made our way in using radar to gauge our distance between the high granite walls.

François, here pronounced ‘Fran-sway’, is Atlantic Canada’s most remote outport, the farthest settlement from any roads, and accessible only by boat or helicopter. In its heyday, over 300 people called the village home. More and more outports are steadily disappearing to modernity in Newfoundland, but François steadfastly remains and is a jewel.


The outport of François straddles a cascading waterfall

The location is insane: the village is divided in two by a rushing waterfall fed by a picturesque pond a few hundred feet above the colourful houses. It’s situated on a rise above the water’s edge, where fishing boats and a ferry make fast to a wharf on the south side of the fjord. At the head of the fjord a floating dock can accommodate a handful of visiting yachts, and despite Icebear’s 12ft draught, we moored bows to the shore only a few boat lengths off the gravel beach.

Above the village are staggering, vertical granite cliffs rising to 700ft and, after a heavy rain, waterfalls line the sides of the fjord. The streets are paved in hand-poured concrete and the locals get around by four-wheel-drives or snowmobiles, depending on the season.

Only 60 people live in the village full-time, but they still maintain a school for the local children, with just two teachers and six students. There is no pub, no restaurant, no coffee shop, only a one-stop-shop for groceries, booze, hardware and fishing tackle.


A cheerful welcome at the port of François

George Durnford greeted us on the dock. “You’re the first yacht of the season!” he pronounced. The calendar said late June.

We soon learned that the ‘Durnford’ name is a common one in the village. George was fourth generation François local, and he was proud to tell us that indeed his son remains a local as well.

“A lot of the houses of the folks who moved away are being sold to outsiders, people who want to come here and use it as a summer cottage,” George explained. “I don’t mind, they all seem to melt in pretty well.”

Later that evening, Tom managed to buy nine fresh lobsters from Eric, another local we met outside the grocery store. The largest pot in Icebear’s galley could only fit one of them, so Tom and Jack went knocking on George Durnford’s door. He happily loaned them two enormous stainless pots and Mia and Tom proceeded to create a feast of fresh lobster, some of the biggest any of us had ever seen.

Around Cape Race

Jeremy Davis, one of the head forecasters at Weather Routing Inc (WRI), was on board Icebear for the passage to St John’s. Jeremy and I have similar backgrounds in that we’ve made careers from that which we’re most passionate about. As a kid, Jeremy’s day would revolve around catching the ‘Tropical Outlook’ forecasts on the Weather Channel and plotting hurricanes on paper charts he had strewn about his childhood bedroom.

At university he did a winter stint at the top of Mount Washington, one of the windiest places on earth, to experience first-hand what the weather instruments up there were telling him, to feel those crazy numbers.


Fresh François lobster for supper

But Jeremy was not a sailor, and I wanted to change that. After years of talking about it, we finally got him aboard where, like his Mount Washington stint, he could experience what a 10-12ft sea-state forecast actually feels like in a small boat, and how it affects our decision making.

This made for a unique experience for me, and the crew. Typically I download GRIBs and communicate with WRI via satphone email. But now we had WRI literally on board the boat with us. Jeremy and I nerded-out over the approaching low and our strategy around it, Jeremy briefing the crew around the saloon table on how the wind direction affects the fog in these parts, me reassuring everyone that 40 knots aft of the beam was a much different story than 40 knots on the nose.

To their credit the crew, to a person, were stoked to get some heavy weather experience. The GRIB files and Jeremy agreed: we’d see sustained gale force winds on the back side of the low, gusts well into the 40s, but likely with good visibility.


We rigged the staysail in a deceiving calm on the dock, nestled inside the protective cliffs of the fjord, stowed the dinghy and the last of the items below decks, set the third reef in the mainsail right there in the fjord, then stuck our nose out into the open sea.

Once clear of the headlands south of François, the wind ratcheted up until it was blowing a steady 30 knots on the beam, gusting higher. The swell was bigger than expected, with the occasional 12-footer rolling under the boat. I’d have liked to have the wind a bit further aft, but we had no sea room; we needed to squeak between St Pierre and Miquelon and the Burin Peninsula, a channel about 10 miles wide and dotted with rocks and skerries.

To do so meant beam reaching for the first 40 miles, during the strongest of the winds.


Swan 59 Icebear making easy progress wing on wing

When we got into the lee of Miquelon, the seas laid down but the wind howled. A steady 38 knots blasted down from the high cliffs on the north side of the island, and we were forced to come up 10° to make it clear of a shoal off the south-west tip of Burin. Icebear flat out flew down the straight, making a steady ten knots under triple-reefed mainsail and staysail, pushing up over 12 knots in some of the higher gusts.

I stood back by the helm coaching the crew on heavy-weather driving and getting sandblasted in the face as each wave sprayed over the windward rail.

It came as a relief when we were finally able to crack off and put the wind on the starboard quarter. The cockpit dried out and the sandblasting abated. Mia served a hot and spicy bean chili to warm up the watch keepers. Down below the boat was damp and cold with all the soaked wet-weather gear. Water temperatures on the south coast hover around 7°C, and the dry, cold westerly air couldn’t have been much warmer. But the stars came out at 2300 and we had clear, fog-free skies as we entered the ice limit.


Icebear keeps a respectful distance from one of the icebergs encountered

Iceberg, right ahead!

The wind, after all that fuss, shut down completely around noon as we rounded Cape Race. Spotting ice in clear skies as we motored up the east coast of The Rock was one hell of a reward after the heavy weather. Having sailed to 80° North in Svalbard the year before on Isbjorn, our Swan 48, I was a lot more comfortable around ice, so when the opportunity arose we manoeuvred Icebear to within a couple of hundred yards of two of the bigger bergs we spotted along the coast.

The drone got us a bird’s eye view, and the crew stopped to admire the beauty of nature’s most striking sculpture. Both icebergs had rolled at some point in their decay, for the tops of them were pure white and smooth as marble, highlighted in spots by deep turquoise cracks where they’d broken apart and re-frozen during their lifespan.

The icebergs here are brought south on the cold Labrador Current from way up north in Greenland, glacial ice that calves into the sea and makes its way to the lower latitudes. The current was noticeable on the other side of Cape Race; the water temp dipped to 4°C and the air, despite the calm, still had a bite in it.


The approach to St John’s was familiar, having sailed into the metropolitan harbour back in 2016. Like the fjords on the south coast it’s not apparent there even is a harbour nestled in the granite cliffs until you’re right at the entrance. The Narrows, a tricky passage for big ships at only 61m wide, was big and deep enough for us to sail through.

Our second time moored along the harbour walls in St. John’s city was more satisfying than the first, having finally penetrated into the wilderness down south, and experienced first-hand its rewards.

The terrible odyssey of Howard Blackburn

This rock-and-fogbound coast that appeared so intimidating to us was salvation for one Howard Blackburn. Blackburn was a Nova Scotia-born Gloucester doryman, a cod fisherman on the Grand Banks, who’d signed on to the fishing schooner Grace L Fears in January 1883. That winter a terrible blizzard separated Blackburn and his dory mate from their mothership schooner. After two days his crew mate gave up the fight for survival, laid down on the floorboards of the open boat and died.


The crew of Icebear had to approach François through thick fog

Blackburn struggled on. Knowing his gloveless hands would freeze, he lashed them to his oars and desperately rowed for shore. Five days later he made it, and villagers from a nearby outport nursed him back to health, although the frostbite took all his fingers and both thumbs.

But Blackburn’s story doesn’t end there. He returned to Gloucester a hero and opened a successful saloon. He went on to launch an expedition to California in search of gold, sailing westabout around the Horn to get there. Then, inspired in part by Joshua Slocum (they were contemporaries), Blackburn sailed solo across the Atlantic in a modified Gloucester fishing sloop, the Great Western, making landfall in England 62 days later. He went on to complete many more solo passages.

sailing-newfoundland-bw-headshot-400px-square-mia-andy-schellAbout the author

Andy Schell and his wife, Mia Karlsson, are the founders of 59º North, where they run offshore adventure passages on their Swan 59 Icebear and Swan 48 Isbjorn. They recently had a son, Axel, and have been riding out the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden where they sail their family boat, a 1977 Norlin 34.

First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.

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Vendée Globe rescue: Le Cam plucks Escoffier from liferaft after ‘shipwreck’ sinking mid-Atlantic (1 Dec 2020, 10:08 am)

In a race famous for its incredible rescues, last night’s search and safe recovery of Kevin Escoffier by fellow Vendée Globe competitor Jean Le Cam in the South Atlantic is one of the most astonishing

Escoffier on PLB before the dramatic events of last night. Photo: Kevin Escoffier / PLB

Escoffier was adrift in his liferaft for over 11 hours, some 840 miles south of Cape Town, at night in 25-knot winds and 3 metre seas, when Le Cam – one of four Vendée Globe skippers diverted to assist – found and rescued him at 0118hrs (UTC) last night after his boat folded in half ‘like pictures of a shipwreck’.

The first sign of trouble came when Escoffier, who was racing in 3rd place in the Vendée Globe solo non-stop around the world race, triggered his distress beacon yesterday afternoon. He sent a brief message to his team at 1346hrs (UTC), saying: “I need assistance. I am sinking. This is not a joke.”

PRB was racing in a strong south-westerly at the time, on starboard tack behind a weather front around 550 miles SW of Cape Town. Rescue services, including the MRCC Cape Town and French CROSS Griz, working with the PRB team and Vendée Globe race organisers, requested Jean Le Cam, the nearest competitor, to sail to PRB’s last known position when the beacon was triggered (40°55 S 9°18 E).

Le Cam arrived on station around 1615hrs UTC and quickly spotted Escoffier’s liferaft, and made visual and voice contact with the PRB skipper, but was unable to retrieve him in 5-metre seas and 20-25 knot winds. Le Cam then lost sight of Escoffier’s liferaft in the dying light and could not establish radio contact, while the range from Escoffier’s AIS was reduced by the heavy seas.

Speaking this morning Le Cam recalled: “Because I had a good position [when I spotted him]. I told him I will be back, there was no need to rush things. I had just the main with two reefs in 30-32 knots with the rough seas it was not easy to manoeuvre. I came back to the spot where I left him but there was no one there.”

“I went there (looking for him) five or six times which means I had to tack five or six times because of the mishaps that happened all the time, the sea state and so on, I ended up going backwards and lost sight of him.”

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Race Director Jacques Caraës explained, “The only [EPIRB] position we were getting was the MOB but we did not know if it was attached to Kevin as it appeared to be quite random and moving a lot from one place to another. And so we did not know if the EPIRB was in the liferaft or close to the boat or what.

“At some point we thought we thought the EPIRB could be in the liferaft, it could be with him, the EPRB could be drifting in the water or it could be attached to the IMOCA (yacht). And so it was not easy. But when we saw that the EPIRB position was lining up with the drift prediction track we sent Jean to that point.”

While Le Cam began initiating a search pattern, race organisers requested that three more Vendée Globe competitors – Boris Herrmann, Yannick Bestaven and Sebstien Simon – divert to PRB’s last known position. By this stage it was dark, with 3-5m waves, and blowing 22-25 knots.

The four searching skippers were given a grid search area using drift positions calculated by Météo France, and began sailing the area – no easy task to be short-tacking an IMOCA in heavy seas whilst maintaining a search look out.

“We had organised a triangle search scan pattern with Yannick Bestaven, who went seven miles away, then Boris was closer and Sébastien was closer. They did seven miles across by 0.3 of a mile apart on each scan. They sailed with three reefs. Jean Le Cam recommended that because it was a battle. Jean did seven scans.”

Le Cam explained how he found Escoffier in the middle of the night. “I told myself I would stay on standby and wait for daylight. Then I thought that in the dark it might be easier to see his light. One moment when I was on deck I saw a flash, but in fact it was a reflection that glinted off a wave. But the more I got closer to the light I saw it more and more. It is amazing because you switch from despair to an unreal moment in an instant.”

“I put myself to windward of him, I saw Kevin. Kevin asked me ‘will you be back?’ I said, ‘No we are doing this now!’ Then at one point the boat was falling backwards too fast in reverse and he was just there, two metres off the stern, and thank goodness I had prepared the red life ring that is usually in the cockpit. I threw it to him, and he caught it… and then he managed to pull himself in to catch the transmission bar (rudder link arm). And that was it.”


Search pattern of Le Cam (white) and 3 other skippers downwind of PRB‘s (orange) last known position before the boat sank

Speaking from onboard Le Cam’s boat Yes We Cam!, Escoffier described the moment the boat literally folded in half before he had to suddenly abandon ship: “You see the images of shipwrecks? It was like that, but worse.

“In four seconds the boat nosedived, the bow folded at 90°. I put my head down in the cockpit, a wave was coming. I had time to send one text before the wave fried the electronics. It was completely crazy. It folded the boat in two. I’ve seen a lot before but this one…”

Asked this morning if he was scared during his Escoffier replied, “No. As soon as I had seen Jean I was sure I would be saved.”

This amazing rescue is a fairy tale ending to a story that began during the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe when Vincent Riou, the then the skipper of PRB, rescued Jean Le Cam from his upturned IMOCA 60 200 miles west of Cape Horn. Le Cam was trapped inside his upturned VM Materiaux for 16 hours before Riou was able to reach his position, shout to him, and recover him from the capsized yacht, ending his own Vendée Globe challenge in the process.

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ClubSwan 80: New design promises the ultimate owner-driver racing experience (1 Dec 2020, 8:25 am)

This 80ft Juan K-designed red missile is the latest in Nautor’s Swan’s burgeoning ClubSwan one-design range, and plugs the gap between its popular ClubSwan 50, the foil-assisted ClubSwan 36 and the spectacular ClubSwan 125, which is currently in build


Another ambitious and innovative project from the Finnish brand, the ClubSwan 80 is aimed at becoming the ultimate in owner-driver one-design racing.

Nautor’s group vice-president Enrico Chieffi said they wanted to “introduce a new concept into the world of Maxis and invigorate owner participation on an international level.”

An expert team has been assembled for the project, which includes Pure Design’s Giovanni Belgrano on the engineering and Nauta Design for the interior, while the builds have been subcontracted to raceboat specialists Persico Marine in Nembro.

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This 80-footer shares styling and shape similarities to the ClubSwan 36 and ClubSwan 125 and again includes a distinctive C-Shape foil.

This foil rotates out to either side to act like a set of curved daggerboards – sailing the ClubSwan 36 we found it reduces leeway upwind and adds righting moment/power downwind.

The ClubSwan 80 will be capable of setting 440m2 of sail upwind which, considering its projected displacement of just 18.2 tonnes, should ensure a high-adrenaline ride.

A canting keel, which also lifts to reduce draught from 6.3m to 4.5m, will doubtless pose a technical challenge for the build team, along with a retractable bowsprit, retractable drive system and internal spinnaker retrieval system.

The first ClubSwan 80 is in build and Nautor’s aim is to have three on the start line of the Maxi Rolex Cup in 2022.

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How to follow the 2020 Vendée Globe (1 Dec 2020, 7:16 am)

It’s the longest racecourse in sport – 24,296 miles around the planet, singlehanded, non-stop. Here’s how to follow the 33 skippers in this year’s Vendée Globe


A record fleet of 33 skippers started the Vendée Globe on Sunday, 8 November at 1302 local time (1202 GMT) and three of them have already seen their race ended prematurely.

The 2020 race was radically different to all previous editions. Traditionally hundreds of thousands of fans line the docks, canal and beaches of the start port Les Sables d’Olonne to wave off the competitors. In the last race over 2.5 million visitors toured the race village or watched the departure and arrivals.

This year, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, all the skippers had to quarantine with their immediate team since November 1. The race village was closed and no crowds were allowed to gather to see the fleet leave, but you can track the fleet’s every move from the comfort of your home. Here’s how to follow the 2020 Vendée Globe:


You can track the Vendée Globe fleet with a dedicated race tracker at, where you’ll also find position data and key statistics, weather forecasts, and latest updates.

A daily live television show will be held in English every day from 1330hrs CET, with satellite link-up interviews with the skippers taking part in the race, shown online every day.

Follow at:


The Virtual Regatta version of the Vendée Globe is one of the biggest e-sailing events. In the last race in 2016, 450,000 players attempted the Vendée Globe virtual course, and even if you missed the start, you can join at any time.

Enter for free at:


Get the inside story on the leading competitors in the Vendée Globe fleet at

Our dedicated event page includes interviews with some of the key Vendée Globe contenders, an in-depth look at some of the technology behind these latest generation foilers, and amazing insight into what it takes to become a Vendée Globe competitor from Pip Hare.

Also don’t miss all the exclusive videos on the Yachting World YouTube channel, which includes Pip Hare and Paul Larsen’s complete dockwalk tour of all 33 IMOCAs, an onboard tour of race favourite Charal, Pip Hare’s tour of her boat Medallia, and an onboard interview with Sam Davies.

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‘Broken’ Alex Thomson retires from 2020 Vendée Globe after rudder damage (30 Nov 2020, 2:54 pm)

Alex Thomson’s dreams of winning the 2020 Vendée Globe are over, after Hugo Boss suffered rudder damage on Friday evening (27 November)


The enormously popular skipper has announced that he is retiring from the Vendée Globe, and is currently heading to Cape Town.

Speaking from Hugo Boss today, a clearly emotional Thomson said: “It’s taken me a few days to digest what’s happened and gather my thoughts. I’m normally a very positive person but if I’m honest right now I feel pretty broken.

“For the best part oft 20 years this race has been my goal; we’ve come pretty close before and this time I really thought it was possible. I have the boat of my dreams, we put together a campaign I’m extremely proud of and despite the setbacks of the last week I still thought it was possible – to win, or at the very least finish.

“I’ve given my life to this sport and it’s a very difficult pill to swallow.”

The rudder damage came just hours after Thomson reported that Hugo Boss was back up to full pace and heading into the Southern Ocean, following lengthy repairs he had made to the internal structure of the IMOCA last week.

After discovering cracking to some of the longitudinal structures in the bow area last week, Thomson consulted his team on how to make an effective repair and worked through the nights from Sunday to Thursday to effect a complex jigsaw of carbon plates and laminate to reinforce the area. He had confirmed that he and his team were confident in the repairs and that he was back in race mode, only to suddenly lose steerage shortly after.

“I was averaging 21 knots, flying the small gennaker and one reef in the mainsail,” Thomson reported. “I was down below when there was a huge bang and the boat broached violently. The steering system was jammed and all I could do was roll the sails away.

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“Once on deck I could see the rudder blade was broken and swinging around with a large piece of fishing gear jammed into the cracks. So I think I must have hit something. It certainly looks that way.

“Now I am having to keep the boat flat while I sail the boat now with just one rudder to Cape Town.”

With the rudder damage deemed irreparable, Thomson had no option but to announce his retirement from the Vendée Globe, a decision he described as ‘heart-breaking’.


Carbon panels on the deck of Hugo Boss: Thomson had to cut up spare materials to make structural repairs in the South Atlantic whilst racing in the Vendée Globe

“This sport, and this race is just so tough, things can change so quickly, but that’s the beauty of it and it’s so challenging and that’s why I’ve given a large part of my life to it,” he said today.

“The messages of support from the fans have just been incredible, I really don’t feel worthy.

“But also from the other skippers and the teams, your words have really touched me, I sincerely hope you all make it safely to the finish.


Many of his Vendée Globe competitors voiced their shock and sadness at Thomson’s news. Journalist and solo skipper Fabrice Amedeo, who is racing in 25th place, expressed many in the sport’s thoughts when he sent a message saying:

“The Vendée Globe has lost one of its favourites. But our race lost more than that. Alex has revolutionised our sport: his boats are always the most beautiful and are one step ahead of those of his competitors. Alex modernised communication in sailing by exploding all the barriers: Keel Walk, Mast Walk, Sky Walk. He is unique in our sport.

“The Vendée Globe needs Alex Thomson’s victory. I hope it will be 2024. And on top of all that, Alex is nice and he is modest. The race loses not just a favourite but also today, a great man. I wish the best to him and his whole team.”


Skipper Alex Thomson in Hugo Boss‘s radically designed ‘inside’ cockpit

Thomson’s departure from the race will be a big blow to the Vendée Globe’s international appeal. He is the only other non-French skipper to have equalled Ellen MacArthur’s famous 2nd place in 2001, when he finished 2nd in the last race having sailed much of the race with a broken foil. On top of his 3rd place in 2013 this makes him the most successful British entry in the Vendée Globe, as well as the most experienced (this is his 5th attempt).

Thomson is also the British skipper who has most successfully bridged the gap between sailing and mainstream sports and news coverage since MacArthur. During the 2020 Vendée Globe he vlogged from the race, showing off Hugo Boss’s multi-directional cameras to show fans a panoramic view of the race.

The team had installed a data ‘Hub’ on their website to share statistics such as boat speed, heel angle, decibel levels, even the skippers’ heart rate and the amount of sleep Thomson had managed. It was typically professional, addictive stuff and absolutely brilliant at communicating the sport of offshore racing to followers who have never experienced it.


Cracks and structural damage marked out on Hugo Boss, which Thomson discovered three weeks into the Vendée Globe race in the bow area

But whilst Thomson may be a brilliant communicator, he is above all a competitor and his gut-wrenching disappointment at having to step out of the race he had spent two decades trying to win is clear. His voice cracked as he said:

“To my team, thank you for your dedication, your hard work, I know you couldn’t have done more. But also to our partners, you’ve worked tirelessly with us, and you’ve shown such dedication, such loyalty.

“I couldn’t quite make history this time around but I can tell you I gave it everything, everything I’ve got.”

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Night sailing: Offshore racer Henry Bomby shares 5 tips for helming after dark (30 Nov 2020, 8:45 am)

Henry Bomby has raced a lot of miles through the night. He talks to Andy Rice about how to keep your boat speed up after dark

Have your most skilled helmsperson at the wheel during the transition at sunset. Photo: Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica / Volvo Ocean Race

It’s when you find yourself caught out in 50 knots with the big kite up on a single-handed Figaro yacht as you’re trying to get round Cape Finisterre that you appreciate the time you spent getting some night sailing routines sorted. For Henry Bomby, that big night just off La Coruña was much scarier than anything he encountered in the Southern Ocean during the last Volvo Ocean Race.

He’s also charged across the Atlantic aboard a MOD70 trimaran at speeds in excess of 30 knots. All are very different experiences of night sailing, but there are some golden rules that apply across the board, whether you’re on monohull or multihull, solo, double-handed or fully crewed.

1. Make it like day time

Night sailing places a greater demand on your other senses. So you should aim to make the night-time as much like the day as you can: dayglo stripes on the sail and torches to illuminate the telltales and the luff of headsails, for example.

On a fully-crewed boat make sure you’re not impeding other people’s night vision, but if I’m racing solo or double-handed I tend to have a bright light shining permanently on the jib and kite whenever it’s flying.

I keep a man-overboard torch in my pocket and wear a Black Diamond head torch. If you’ve got really bright torches, remember that you don’t need to shine them directly on the sail and blind everyone with the reflection. You can shine just 5% of it on the sail and have the rest of the beam disappear into the night sky. If there’s good moonlight, you may not need the torches at all.

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2. Train at night

If you’re doing RORC races in summer, you know you might have five or six hours of darkness, and you’re going to be spending at least a sixth of your racing time in the dark. So you should aim to spend a sixth of your training hours in the dark too.

Almost nobody does this, though, which means there are opportunities for those that make the extra effort to practise in the dark. In a race, boats often drop behind once night falls because they just haven’t orchestrated their manoeuvres in the dark. Don’t be that boat.

3. Sunset and sunrise

Make sure you’ve got good, experienced helms on the wheel for the transition periods between night and day, at sunset in particular. Understanding how the boat performs optimally during the day, and how you might have to adapt the set-up as it gets dark, is a key skill. This is particularly true if you’re sailing a VMG course upwind or downwind where you really see the difference in helming ability, and in being able to keep the boat in the groove. Waves add another dimension of difficulty.

With reduced visibility, a good feel for the boat is vital, but you’ll also need to be more reliant on the instruments. Make a note of the numbers that you’re seeing before the sun goes down, and use them as a guide once darkness falls. At night the instruments really are your friend. It’s a good skill to be able to keep the boat to those numbers.

4. Right of way rules

Remember that at night the collision avoidance rules change. Make sure you’re up to speed on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (IRPCAS). If you’re on a busy race track, the skipper and the navigator should keep the crew on deck well informed of any other boats on a collision course. I’ve had a few occasions in the Figaro where the racing was so close that I’ve called up other competitors on the radio just to warn them of my presence. Better safe than sorry.

5. Fuel up

People often forget to eat at night, or they stay in the same eating pattern as if they were on shore, having dinner around sunset and not eating or having breakfast until sunrise. Always eat something that’ll give you energy between midnight and 0300, whether it’s a freeze-dried meal, an energy bar, nuts, or something else to help get you through the night.

There’s a bit of bravado about being a rufty-tufty offshore sailor but the more sleep you can get, the better you’ll perform when you’re on watch. If you’re in a really close race and you’ve had less than two hours sleep that’s probably 2-3% off your concentration levels, which might translate to being 1% slower than your rivals. If you’re a key part of the steering team, keep yourself as fresh as possible for those times.

night-sailing-henry-bomby-bw-headshot-600px-squareAbout the expert

Henry Bomby is fast establishing himself as one of the big names in offshore racing. A four-time competitor on the Solitaire du Figaro, he joined Turn the Tide on Plastic for the last Volvo Ocean Race. Now the 29-year-old has set his sights on the 2024 Olympic Games in the new double-handed offshore keelboat event.

First published in the November 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post Night sailing: Offshore racer Henry Bomby shares 5 tips for helming after dark appeared first on Yachting World.

Sailing in fog: Pro navigator Mike Broughton shares his top tips (26 Nov 2020, 9:14 am)

Just a few minutes of sailing in dense fog takes most sailors well out of their comfort zones: it’s disorientating and, quite frankly, scary for many. Here are some tips on how to prepare for, and deal with, a ‘pea soup’

Sailing in fog can be exhausting and disorientating. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

At sea, fog can be summed up as condensed water vapour or just thick cloud on the surface. Sea fog, or advection fog, forms when relatively warm moist air moves over colder water and cools to its dew point temperature, causing the air to saturate.

Unlike land fog, or radiation fog, sea fog can occur at any time of day and still exist with quite strong winds. It only really clears with a change of air mass – usually with the passage of a cold front. Without the passage of a cold front, it can last for days.

While radiation fog usually occurs on cold, still winter days, sea fog or advection fog is more prevalent in early summer. June can be a particularly bad month in the English Channel, when the water is still relatively cold, with warm moist air coming up from the south-west.


These website images reveal that what appears to be cloud in the satellite view…

Looking out for the forecasts of fog is important, but one simple trick is to go online and use satellite imagery. is a great website to see the last three hours of visual imagery, where fog often shows as a dull, grey and featureless cloud. Next, do a quick comparison with the infra-red satellite imagery and the fog seems to miraculously disappear, whereas other clouds tops still show up.

This is due to the fog being approximately the same temperature as the sea, hence giving a neat confirmation of the existence of fog on the visual picture. You can then return to the visual imagery and more accurately plot the extent of the fog and potentially take avoiding action.

Caught in fog

If you unexpectedly end up sailing in fog, first consider whether you need to keep heading further into it? Would it make more sense to do a quick 180° turn and head back out into clearer visibility?


…is in fact fog that disappears in the infrared view as shown here in the Celtic Sea and North Atlantic

Once we realise we’re sailing in fog, we need to work through a checklist of actions. Note your compass heading. Do we need a more experienced helmsman? It’s easy to quickly find you’re 30° or 40° off course and not notice. Steering is more exacting and even exhausting.

Could it be less stressful to use the autopilot, to allow you to focus on lookout? Just be ready to immediately switch to manual if you need to at a moment’s notice.

Slowing down is certainly good seamanship and the requirement to proceed at a safe speed appropriate to the conditions is detailed clearly in the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea (IRPCS Rule 6 – Safe Speed).

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With an increased risk of collision, it’s good practise to ensure everyone is wearing a lifejacket. Maintaining a proper lookout is essential. In ‘pea soup’ fog, stationing a person forwards near the bow can help enormously. If motoring, the bow is a good place to escape the noise to allow the lookout crew member to listen for fog signals, or other hazards. On several occasions when I’ve been sailing in fog, the lookout at the bow has provided vital information to avoid a hazard or navigation mark.

In areas of dense shipping, remember to look up as well as straight ahead, I’m sure I am not the only person to have sighted a large vessel from the helm at the angle of the first spreader!

When ‘in or near areas of restricted visibility’ IRPCS states we shall make the prescribed sound signal, which for sailing vessels is one long blast, followed by two short blasts at intervals not more than two minutes. We need to have a working knowledge of sound signals of other vessels: many don’t appreciate that the fog signal for yachts is the same as vessels involved with fishing, towing, and even vessels ‘constrained by draught’ and ‘not under command’.

Make yourself visible

To help other ships see us, our best chance is to ensure we are clearly seen by the equipment on the bridge, which is radar and AIS (automated information system). Radar is a great help, but not all yachts have it, and it does take concerted focus and an understanding of how best to use it. Nearly all yachts have radar reflectors. Disappointingly tests have shown radar reflectors are not as effective at enhancing our radar signature as many people think. Active radar transponders show up much better.

AIS has been a real step change to aid collision avoidance when sailing in fog, though always remember that not all vessels use it and it is only an aid, albeit a very useful one. AIS can give the speed and course of a vessel as well as the closest point of approach (CPA) and time to the CPA: this is really useful data when navigating in fog. AIS also gives the vessel name, call sign, type and size.

Navigation lights are essential in foggy conditions. In a really thick fog the bow navigation lights can reflect back off the fog, leaving you with an eerie red or green glow.


Do you know how to make the prescribed sound signal in restricted visibility?

The amount of radio traffic tends to rise when sailing in fog, though beware using VHF radio to communicate with the watch keeper of another vessel, which can be fraught with problems.

There have been at least three occasions in the Dover Straits where watch keepers have opted to use radio to try to negotiate collision avoidance, which has ended unhappily in a collision!

These have often come about through misidentification and language difficulties, when both watch keepers should have prioritised normal rules of the road and not allowed themselves to be distracted in an important close quarters situation.

One tactic for dealing with fog on small vessels is to head away from busy shipping channels and sail to shallow water and anchor. Once tethered to the seabed remember to sound your fog signal (for vessels over 12m, ringing a bell for five seconds every minute). Many sailors may not be familiar with the additional signal of one short, one long, one short blast that can be made after the bell if you are concerned of a risk of collision while you are an anchor.

Stopping and racing in fog

Racing in fog creates extra challenges. Fog by night can take you by surprise and it is easy to lose hard fought gains, if the helmsperson loses awareness. If you have the choice of tacking into fog or not when racing, I would take the clear option every time: humans concentrate better when they can see.

The disorientation and confusion that sailing fog can create can easily generate high levels of stress. Mat Sweetman, captain of the J Class yacht Rainbow, suggests: “It is easy to get freaked out in fog, [but] look at is as if it was just a dark night and it gets a whole load less stressful.”

One clue as to the existence of fog at night is an absence of ambient lights and low altitude stars. If you are on the helm and getting close to fog, it is a good idea to start a scan of your yacht instruments. Like a pilot flying into cloud, it is imperative to ‘believe in your instruments’.

A regular scan is most effective but is both tiring and exacting over a long period of time. On top of normal sailing skills such as utilising the feel of your helm, tell tales (if you can still see them) and heel angle, we now need to bring in regular glances at true wind angle, boat speed, and heading. Working out a pattern for your scan is a good discipline for sailing in fog.

Sea fog is renowned over the Grand Banks. On the Transatlantic Race in 2005, fog prevailed for over six days with sustained wind speeds of 25-30 knots. Visibility was mostly less than 150 metres. Sailing in fog for nearly a week is tough going!

Using radar for collision avoidance

  • Periodically cycle through the ranges and don’t leave it just on long range. Zoom in to only three miles in busy shipping and even closer when tracking a vessel of interest.
  • Leave the sensitivity and clutter settings on auto. Modern radars handle them well.
  • If you want to look through a rain cloud, alter ‘rain clutter’ control very briefly, then revert it to automatic every time.
  • Use a split screen with radar on dual range, or radar and chartplotter lined up alongside, or radar ‘overlaid’ on the chartplotter.
  • Experiment with this before you hit fog.
  • Consider setting up an alarm zone to help you detect contacts.
  • If your radar display is below decks, have a tested system for communicating to the helm. Some yachts use a private VHF channel.
  • Stay clear of busy ferry routes

First published in the November 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post Sailing in fog: Pro navigator Mike Broughton shares his top tips appeared first on Yachting World.

Solaris 80RS leads a flurry of new yachts set to launch from the Italian yard (26 Nov 2020, 8:51 am)

This Italian builder of stylish performance cruising and racing yachts has been busy developing an unprecedented four new designs to launch in one season – at 40, 60, 80 and 111ft

The Solaris 80RS is aimed at extended cruising in comfort

Renowned Argentine designer Javier Soto Acebal has worked with Solaris Yachts for the past 11 years and for these boats he has drawn powerful, clean contemporary lines with soft chines and subtle reverse bows. The result looks good, should prove fast and also provides a large volume below decks.

All four models have twin rudders and proportionately more volume above the waterline towards the ends of their hulls than earlier models. All, apart from the Solaris 60, have a forward chine, which confers plenty of additional form stability and helps lengthen the effective waterline when sailing.

However, these are not boats that have been pushed to extremes. “With Solaris we innovate in a wise way, with steady evolution, but without risk taking,” says Soto Acebal.


The airy interior of the Solaris 80RS

The extra form stability is intended to make for a more comfortable experience at sea for owners, who also have the added reassurance of the grip provided by the twin rudders. In addition, the wider hull sections forward prevent the bow from dipping when the boat is heeled – instead the forward chine gives dynamic lift.

Soto Acebal has taken time to create a clean long-lasting aesthetic alongside performance. “We want these to be boats to fall in love with for a long time, not just at a first glance,” he says. Styling across the range has therefore been kept as clean as possible, both inside and out.

The aft ends of the cockpits are open, with the helm stations pushed as far outboard as possible. This makes it easy to see tell tales and waves from the helm. “We want the helmsmen of these fast cruisers to feel the same benefits as sailing a racing yacht,” Soto Acebal explains. The arrangement gives more deck space when in harbour or at anchor, including a clearer route between the transom and companionway. Styling below decks is also as crisp as possible.

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Solaris 80RS

This design is geared more towards the needs of extended cruising in comfort and a higher degree of customisation is possible than for the two smaller Solaris models. On deck there’s a second relaxation area at the aft end of the cockpit for use when swimming or using watersports toys while at anchor. While the three different cockpit areas are clearly distinct, the sole is on a single level, which makes moving around easy.

Below decks are four spacious en suite cabins for the owner’s party, plus skipper and crew accommodation. Both owner aft and owner forward layouts are offered, with the latter having the galley and dinette located further aft in the boat to create more space for the master suite. In both cases the windows wrap neatly around the front of the coachroof to allow plenty of light into the saloon.

The first Solaris 80RS was launched in August and the second is already in build.

Solaris 80RS specification

LOA: 23.98m / 78ft 8in
LWL: 22.48m / 73ft 9in
Beam: 6.39m / 21ft 0in
Draught: 3.50 or 4.00m / 11ft 6in or 13ft 1in
Displacement: 46,000kg / 101,500lb
Sail area: 325m2 / 3,500ft2
Price: €3,470,000 (ex. VAT)


The new Solaris 40 is designed to appeal to keen sailors

Solaris 40

This is a design intended to appeal to keen sailors who like to get the best from their boats, even when cruising. The twin wheels set outboard give a clear view forward to the jib tell tales, outside of the sprayhood.

The wheels are more than 1.5m apart, which gives a clear passage between the companionway and transom, facilitating stepping on and off the boat in port, and giving more space for sunbathing.


The combined effect of extra beam in the ends of the hull and longer waterlines allows the forecabin double berth to be positioned 20cm further forward, while extra volume is also available for the aft cabins.

Lockers are more voluminous than in the past and large hull windows boost natural light levels. The first Solaris 40 hit the water in September.


A sportier style for the Solaris 60 to suit racing too

Solaris 60

This step up in size allows for a more elegant layout, with a flush foredeck and low-profile coachroof. This racier styling is not simply skin deep – from the outset this was conceived as a boat that could compete successfully in Mini Maxi class offshore races, including the main annual event at Porto Cervo.

Below decks care has been taken to tuck the well-appointed galley out of sight – it’s a couple of steps lower than the main saloon. The extra volume in the forward sections of the hull helps to create a more spacious owner’s cabin.


The two aft cabins can be arranged as double or twins, and both benefit from an elongated portlight in the face of the cockpit seats, which helps to boost the natural light in these areas. This model also features a crew cabin and large fore-and-aft oriented tender garage.


The 111 is the largest yacht yet from Solaris

Solaris 111

The largest yacht in the brand’s history, the new Solaris 111 superyacht has had input from Lucio Micheletti, Patrick Roséo and MYT Monaco in the deck design and interior layout.

Despite its size and the level of comfort and space offered, Soto Acebal has again drawn a powerful performance hull, which has been constructed at Performance Boats facility in Forli.

Carbon pre-preg construction, along with carbon spars, keep weight to a minimum, while the telescopic lifting keel reduces draught from 6.05m to a more manageable 3.9m. The first Solaris 111 superyacht was launched in August 2020 and named CeFeA.

First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.

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