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Autonomous boats: The rise of self-sailing vessels (22 Apr 2021, 8:46 am)
Sam Fortescue reports on the latest developments in autonomous boats and self-sailing technology, which is ready to be deployed in a variety of uses from weather monitoring to shipping
‘Vessel not under command’ looks set to take on a new meaning, with the race to develop a new generation of autonomous boats sailed by artificial intelligence (AI). But what will it mean for other water users?
Today we’re all familiar with the concept of autonomous vehicles. Self-driving cars are the next development frontier, and the tools needed to make them a reality are being intensively tested by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech firms.
Less well known is the similar trajectory being followed in the marine industry. So-called unmanned autonomous vehicles, or marine drones, are attracting research interest from everyone from backyard inventors up to engineering behemoths like Rolls-Royce.
They come in all shapes and sizes, with intended purposes varying from meteorology and oceanology, to cargo, surveillance and defence. From the outside, some resemble normal sailing multihulls.
You might never realise there is no human aboard Artemis Technologies’ self-sailing cat, for example, with its 50-knot top speed. The Belfast-based company has based its design for a 45m-long Autonomous Sailing Vehicle (ASV) on technology developed for the 2017 America’s Cup.
With two fixed wing sails, the catamaran rises up on four foils and hits top speed in just 20 knots of wind. Regenerating propellers on two of the foils charge a large battery bank on board, and that harvesting of energy brings the boat speed back down to 30 knots.
In lighter 8-knot winds, the boat still foils at 20 knots, and electric motors spin propellers that bump the speed back up to its optimum 30 knots. Artemis believes it can be used as a constant-speed commercial vessel for delivering cargo.
Meanwhile, in Plymouth, a consortium including IBM is testing a new Mayflower, a 15m power trimaran studded with solar panels, that should be capable of operating independently for months at a time. It has a top speed of 10 knots achieved with an electric motor drawing power from batteries topped up by solar.
The purpose of the boat is to collect oceanographic data, with sensors on board collecting information on marine mammals, ocean plastics, sea-level mapping and maritime cybersecurity.
See and avoid
The sheer size of some autonomous boats, and the astonishing speed of Artemis’s ASV, highlights the need for safe navigation. Such vessels carry a plethora of collision avoidance systems. While AIS technology has revolutionised collision avoidance over the last decade, it is not universally adopted among fishing vessels or yachts.
Inshore, where marine traffic is at its most dense, many dayboats will lack even a radar reflector. Other solutions, therefore, were required.
On Mayflower, computing giant IBM has installed its PowerAI Vision technology to crunch the inputs from onboard cameras that use both normal and infrared light.
In the development phase, so-called ‘deep learning’ is enabling the computer to spot navigational hazards from buoys to floating debris.
This complements radar and laser range-finding to help the boat’s software decide on the best tactic for avoidance. “We’re testing the system, but it is designed to be COLREG compliant and should spot things as small as a man in a rowboat and be able to avoid it,” said Brett Phaneuf, co-director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project.
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The safety and wellbeing of both crew and vessel are the primary responsibility of any skipper. Without exception every crew…
“It is programmed to detect and identify all manner of marine objects from many types of ships and boats, to buoys and kayakers. It understands how they behave and can predict movement and act to navigate in and around them.”
In principle there’s no limit to the number of objects it can track. But in the greatest traffic areas inshore, there will be a high bandwidth data link which will enable a human to step in to make decisions for the Mayflower if necessary. “There will always be a low-bandwidth satellite connection so that we may assist the vessel should it ask for help. Its prime directive is ‘don’t hit anything’,” added Phaneuf.
The maiden voyage has been postponed until mid-April 2021, when Mayflower will attempt to become one of the first full-sized autonomous ships to cross the Atlantic. Once the technology is proven, it has myriad potential uses.
The race is on to develop commercial vessels with no humans aboard, only remote oversight from someone in a control room keeping an eye on dozens of vast container ships. Rolls-Royce was looking into just this before it sold its marine division to rival Kongsberg.
The company believes the first steps towards using remote-controlled coastal ships will be taken in the middle of this decade, with fully autonomous vessels coming at least 10 years after that. “Autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry,” explained Mikael Mäkinen, former president of Rolls-Royce’s marine division. “As disruptive as the smartphone, the smart ship will revolutionise the landscape of ship design and operations.”
The military, too, hope to use the technology to remove vulnerable humans from tedious or dangerous frontline duties, including surveillance. The Royal Navy has earmarked £184m to develop crewless minehunters.
The US Navy has already completed a trial that saw one of its Ghost Fleet Overlord vessels navigate from the Gulf Coast to California through the Panama Canal without incident.
“During this voyage, the vessel travelled over 4,700 miles, 97% of which was in autonomous mode – a record for the program,” reported Josh Frey, spokesman at the Department of Defense.
Small scale autonomous boats
There is also a growing fleet of smaller autonomous craft that can gather a wide range of data. These include the Wave Glider from Liquid Robotics, a 3.05m craft that generates power to operate from 192W of solar panels and a submarine element that harvests wave motion.
As it weighs 155kg and moves at 1.3 knots, the Liquid Robotics team doesn’t consider it to be a navigational hazard. “The Wave Glider is very small and therefore is the one who needs to get out of the way of any other boats,” marketing director Leigh Martins told me. “So, our software uses AIS for vessel detection and avoidance to stay safe.”
Two craft closely resembling the Wave Glider were discovered washed up on the Scottish coast without their trailing submarine elements.
Meanwhile, the Sailbuoy under development by the Norwegian firm Offshore Sensing is designed to glance away from collisions.
It measures 2m and weighs 60kg, and its sole means of avoiding collisions are the words ‘Keep Clear’ stencilled onto the balanced wingsail that propels it. “Our solution to this is to make it withstand collisions on the open ocean,” explained CEO David Peddie. “A small vessel like the Sailbuoy does not present any danger to other traffic.”
The company’s website features a video of the Sailbuoy being run down by a small freighter during testing, then righting itself thanks to its heavy keel before bobbing clear.
These craft are designed to survey their environment, and can hold station like a buoy or travel slowly along a predetermined route.
It has proven a robust approach: Sailbuoy became the first autonomous sailing vessel to successfully cross the Atlantic in the World Robotic Sailing Championship last year.
Saildrone takes a different approach for their autonomous boats. Its Explorer vehicle is larger – 7m LOA, with a 2.5m draught and a displacement of 0.75 tonnes. At this scale, a more robust approach to collision avoidance is required.
While it also uses AIS to spot other vessels at sea, each Saildrone is constantly under the supervision of a human back at mission control in Alameda, California.
Saildrone has also scaled their design up to a hefty 72ft ‘unmanned surface vehicle’. The Surveyor is equipped with deep-sea surveying equipment capable of scanning down to around 7,000m depth, and has an air draught of 18m.
Like its smaller cousins, there is a human in remote control of the boat at all times, to avoid collisions. But Surveyor also bristles with cameras, images crunched by an onboard processor to identify other vessels.
The company plans to put a fleet of 1,000 USVs onto the world’s oceans for a range of missions, from weather monitoring and gathering oceanographic data to patrolling border waters for smuggling and illegal fishing.
One of the most exciting features for sailors will be the real-time weather information autonomous boats can deliver.
Saildrone founder Richard Jenkins grew up sailing in the Solent, and his company supplied a super-detailed forecast for Cowes Week in 2019, based on publicly available predictions enhanced with ‘secret’ local measurements taken by a Saildrone.
The result was a forecast with a high 200m resolution. In the end the uses for autonomous boats will be as myriad as those for satellites but, as with any new technology, there can be dangers, warns Luc Jaulet, robotics professor at France’s ENSTA engineering school, which is developing the Vaimos autonomous vessel.
As the concept becomes commonplace, the world will have to create suitable rules to keep the oceans safe. “The technology is basically ready, we just have to work out the legislation and then invest in it,” says Professor Jaulet.
Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
The post Autonomous boats: The rise of self-sailing vessels appeared first on Yachting World.
Two trimarans to fight it out in record attempt match race (22 Apr 2021, 7:39 am)
Louay Habib reports on an exciting match race between two MOD70 trimarans as both attempt to set a new Cowes - Dinard record
Peter Cunningham’s MOD70 PowerPlay is set for a world record attempt Cowes – Dinard today, Thursday 22 April 2021 and will be going up against another MOD70 in the form of Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati.
The current record for the 138 nautical mile course is held by MOD70 Phaedo 3 which scorched across the English Channel at an average speed of 28.66 knots in a record time of just 4 hrs 48 mins 57 secs.
It should be thrilling to watch two of the world’s fastest ocean-going multihulls going head-to-head on a racecourse that dates back to 1906.
“This is a great occasion for the sport, PowerPlay has the greatest respect for Maserati and we know the feeling is mutual,” commented Peter Cunningham. “Maserati beat PowerPlay across the line in the RORC Transatlantic Race but PowerPlay beat Maserati in the RORC Caribbean 600, so this is going to be a fascinating race.”
The Cowes – Dinard World Record attempt follows PowerPlay’s successful world record run for the original Fastnet Course in April 2021.
For more information about PowerPlay Racing: www.PowerPlay.ky
Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
The post Two trimarans to fight it out in record attempt match race appeared first on Yachting World.
Shirley Robertson on why offshore racing should be in the Paris Olympics (21 Apr 2021, 3:15 pm)
Olympic sailing is in turmoil, with the classes to be sailed in the 2024 Games still undecided. Shirley Robertson tells Helen Fretter why the proposed mixed gender double-handed offshore class would be so positive for sailing.
With just three years until the 2024 Olympics take place in Paris, the Olympic sailing classes for the 2024 Games are yet to be confirmed.
This week the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave World Sailing, the sport’s governing body (formerly ISAF), six weeks to come up with a new plan for the Paris Games in 2024, as well as for the 2028 Olympics. All this while the Tokyo 2021 Games is just 93 days away.
The current programme is for 10 Olympic sailing medals. They will be raced in three male and three female classes (the Laser and Laser Radial, 49er and 49er FX, and men’s and women’s foiling windsurfing) and four mixed, including Nacra 17, 470 and kiteboarding.
A proposal was made in 2018 that the mixed fleets should include a double-handed offshore class.
The proposal was radical – it would create the longest racecourse in the Olympics, with round-the-clock competition over a short coastal track (the race was expected to be around three days long). The yacht class to be used would also need to be determined.
But double-handed racing is one of sailing’s biggest growth areas. Many of the world’s biggest inshore and offshore events have introduced double-handed fleets to meet ever-increasing demand, a trend accelerated over 2020 by double-handed racing’s neat fit with social distancing and ‘bubbles’.
The announcement that double-handed offshore racing was under consideration for the Olympics also attracted new sailors and returning sailors into the Olympic sailing fold.
One of those was Shirley Robertson, one of the most successful female Olympic sailors of all time, as well as being a highly experienced broadcaster and commentator, covering major sailing events for the BBC and CNN.
Robertson, who won gold in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, has been racing a Sunfast 3300 with Henry Bomby. She has also been racing two-up with Jeremy Waitt on the JPK 10.10 Jangada, the RORC Yacht of the Year.
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Robertson believes that a double-handed offshore fleet in the Olympics could bring wide-ranging benefits to the sport of sailing.
The most obvious gain is that introducing the new class to the 2024 Games, hosted in France, would generate huge spectator engagement.
“It’s no coincidence that the offshore discipline was proposed for the Paris Games, the sport is massive in France, and the interest it would create within the public and the media would be huge. So as far as Paris 2024 goes, it’s a complete no brainer – it would be amazing.
“Moving forward, I can’t think of a recent Games where an offshore coastal race would not have been an exciting addition, and looking at 2028, I’m sure the same could be achieved in LA.
“But more than that, double-handed offshore at the Olympics would represent a vast sector of the sport of sailing, and would pique the curiosity of a significant sector of participant that has no interest in dinghy racing.
“Most importantly, to me, it would create a different pathway into long-term inclusion and commitment in the sport.
“I’m very keen to hear any opinion explaining why it’s inclusion would be detrimental to the holistic health of sailing, but I’m afraid, so far, no one has stepped forward with a viable argument.”
Made for TV
Concerns raised by the IOC include how organisers could secure the competition field (a coastal racecourse), the challenges of broadcasting the event globally, and the fact that World Sailing has not yet delivered an Offshore World Championships (the scheduled 2020 event being cancelled due to Covid-19).
Robertson, who has huge experience in the logistics of broadcasting sailing events, believes the cost and challenges have been exaggerated.
“To be honest, taking into account the resources that OBS (the Olympic broadcaster) had in Rio to cover a medal racecourse, I find this pretty hard to accept. The early rounds of the [America’s] Cup in Auckland were covered with one chase boat and one helicopter. Sail GP have to date used one helicopter, and one chase boat.
“The very skilful camera operators involved in this are the same guys that film at the Games, where, in Rio, there was more than double the resource. All of those assets are already in place for the Olympic regatta, so I’m baffled why it’s been suggested the broadcast would cost millions more Euros.
“I appreciate the technology of supplying onboard coverage is complex, but many of the Olympic classes run onboard [cameras], bikes in the Tour de France run onboard cameras.
“To my mind the multi-day offshore event should be a mouth-watering prospect for the broadcast offering from the Games, a one of a kind showcasing sailing with imaginative coverage. And tracking – what a massive interactive opportunity! The Sydney Hobart race, the Middle Sea Race, the Fastnet Race, they’re all covered with a fraction of the [Olympic broadcast] budget.”
Securing the competition area should also not be insurmountable, as Robertson points out “The reality is the course is largely coastal, it’s not full on ocean sailing.”
Losing an Olympic sailing medal?
For many involved with Olympic sailing, the risk is that if the IOC deem the mixed keelboat unsuitable for Paris 2024, then sailing might be demoted to nine medals.
Among the many alternative ideas being bounced around are: splitting one of the mixed fleets to create men’s and women’s medal classes; reinstating the Finn, the heavyweight singlehanded dinghy which will lose its Olympic class status after the 2021 Games; or reintroducing match racing, or even team racing, to the Games.
Whatever solution is chosen, it will need to meet the IOC targets of gender parity for 2024 as well as reducing overall athlete numbers.
“To be scrambling around with a six-week timeframe ‘looking’ for another medal option that ‘fits’ the IOC criteria, when in reality we are already a year into the Paris cycle, is utterly unacceptable,” says Robertson.
“This offshore option was discussed at a high level within the governance framework of our sport, and by a significant margin was voted in. For some time now, rumours of its apparent ‘unsuitability’ have been rife, grumblings from the IOC have been around for some time.
“So where is the contingency? Where is the option, readied and prepared for the inevitable refusal of the IOC to ratify the offshore event? It doesn’t exist.
Robertson believes that “if they could, the leadership of our sport would solve this problem in one easy vote: bring back the much loved Finn class, give Olympic opportunity back to the heavier male sailor, attract the biggest names back into the sport and be done with it.
“It won’t happen of course, the optics are far too bad.
“So they’ve delayed and delayed, but the fairest thing is to split the combined kite medal. At least there’s a fleet of women’s kitesurfers that have actually been training for an Olympic event, so it’ll impact them the least, and have the benefit of gender parity.”
Women’s sailing opportunities
For Robertson, one key advantage of the mixed double-handed Olympic sailing medal is that it creates a career pathway for experienced women sailors that is currently sorely lacking.
“I’ve just returned from Auckland, where for four months I’d been commentating for the America’s Cup. I’ve been commentating on four teams chasing the illusive trophy, the pinnacle of our sport, in a regatta comprised of teams made up solely of male sailors, male coaches, male decision makers.
“I am not looking for issues through which to generate a gender discussion, but this example has some very significant implications.
“Offshore coastal racing is surprisingly accessible – boats around 30ft are available in many of the world’s marinas. It’s a relatable discipline, and presents a real pathway into competitive sailing, but also into a form of competitive sailing that isn’t dinghy sailing.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that, despite claims to the contrary, there is currently no realistic, achievable pathway into any kind of decision making role in sailing for female athletes after an Olympic campaign, and this option would help change that.
“In the current, barren landscape for women in sailing, the introduction of the mixed offshore discipline presented a way to make a real dent in to the status quo. Double-handed offshore had the capacity to provide a genuine pathway, to create respected, skilled female athletes.
“Previous efforts to half-heartedly manufacture rules or incentives to have women on boats, thinly veiled attempts at presenting a publicly acceptable gender equality, is not helping women achieve in our sport.
“Creating a mixed double-handed pathway, would, following a Games cycle, produce a pool of really talented women decision makers with an irrefutable set of assets [who are] as valuable onboard as their male counterparts.
“This would be an unprecedented step forward. It would be a stride towards the levelling of a playing field that is so very far from being equal across all aspects of our sport.”
What do you think? Should double-handed offshore racing have a place in Olympic sailing, or should the 10th medal go to another class? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Robertson hosts a regular podcast with some of the biggest names in sailing. See http://shirleyrobertson.com/podcast/
Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
The post Shirley Robertson on why offshore racing should be in the Paris Olympics appeared first on Yachting World.
World’s coolest yachts: Tornado catamaran (20 Apr 2021, 2:45 pm)
We ask top sailors and marine industry gurus to choose the coolest and most innovative yachts of our times. This month, Carolijn Brouwer nominates the Tornado catamaran
“The Tornado catamaran is a really cool boat. It was my introduction to high performance sailing and it had a big influence on me in many ways.
“Once you get a taste for it, there is no way back. Sailing the Tornado opened up different doors for me in my sailing career,” says Carolijn Brouwer.
The Tornado catamaran was for many years the fastest Olympic sailing class and was the first catamaran to be introduced to the Olympic Games. It was first sailed in the 1976 Olympic Games and saw its last Olympic appearance in 2008.
There was not multihull option for sailing at the Olympic Games in 2012, but the Tornado undoubtedly led the way for the current catamaran class, the Nacra 17, which must be sailed with a female and a male member of the crew.
“Sailing the Tornado is where I got the feel for apparent wind sailing. It’s a pretty big cat in the small boat sailing world with its 20ft length and 10ft width creating decent loads and righting moment.
“Also, the Tornado was the only Open discipline at the Olympic Games but it was extremely male dominated.”
Brouwer helmed for Belgium at the 2008 Games, sailing a Tornado catamaran with crew Sébastien Godefroid. “I hope this showed that being a woman you can compete at a high level and be very competitive against men in a mixed gender configuration – just like the great Paul Elvstrøm did sailing with his daughter.”
Tornado catamaran stats rating:
Top speed: 20 knots
Adrenalin factor: 70%
A three-time Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race crew, Carolijn Brouwer is also a three-time Olympian. She was born in the Netherlands and represented the country at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in first the 470, and then the Europe. She then switched to the Tornado, representing Belgium in 2008, when she finished 12th.
Battling to Hobart: Memories of the Sydney Hobart (19 Apr 2021, 1:39 pm)
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Race has its own mythology, as Andrew Wilson finds out from those who’ve done it. Tom Cunliffe introduces this extract from Blue Water Classics, Portaits of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Discovering Andrew Wilson has been the sort of exciting surprise that comes with editing a column like Great Seamanship. Andrew is a photographer working in Tasmania. He knows yacht and boat seafaring from keel to truck and is quick to point out that the weather in his part of the world, which he describes as the ‘Roaring Forties’, generally changes every five minutes.
This lavish new volume, Blue Water Classics, Portaits of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, is an absolute must-have for all ocean racing fans, revealing through interviews the feelings of the event’s greatest participants.
The extract below is the interview with Ian ‘Barney’ Walker from Melbourne, a true Southern Ocean warrior and one of those supremely versatile professional sailors who seem to excel in all areas of the competitive scene, having campaigned in three Whitbread/Volvo round the world races, two America’s Cups, three Olympic keelboat events and 32 Sydney Hobart Races, including three overall victories.
In the book, this redoubtable mariner discusses the ‘Hobart’ challenge from the perspective of very different boats, then goes on to tell us how it is when you’re going well in a flying machine until the swing keel falls off…
At the level of boats I’ve been dealing with for the last 20 years it’s been an incredible challenge for me to get the crew together, to race the boat at 100%, 100% of the time. It’s not an easy job to do, but it’s what’s required these days to win the race.
You must have an up-to-date boat, a boat that can plane; it’s an incredibly quick race now. I was on Nokia when we beat the two-day record – 1 day, 19h 48m 2s in 1999. The supermaxis have [since] cut that down to just over 1 day, 9h.
The boats have changed, and the standard of competition and the level of the boats are incredibly high. There’s probably only about 10 boats that enter the Sydney Hobart that can realistically win it.
In 2017, the 45ft Concubine, 46ft Patrice and 47-footer Indian beat the two-day barrier – incredibly fast sailing. There’s no doubt that the top-end boats are well-prepared, like Matt Allen who won with Ichi Ban in 2017 and 2019. He’d been trying to win the race with his own boats for a long time. He persevered with a professional crew, blew out sails, pushed the boat to its absolute limit.
We were 3rd in 2017 on corrected time on Patrice. You don’t get to sleep because there’s no time. The boat’s on edge the whole time. It’s a hard push. You might put your head down for an hour somewhere here and there, but it really is a balls-out effort to race against the top boats. You know that you’ve got to present yourself at Tasman Island with a chance to win. Luck has its way from thereon in. That’s how I look at the race.
Chasing the Sydney to Hobart dream
There’s still a dream element of boats that just want to compete in it. I hear of people who turn up to do the Sydney Hobart on lesser boats. They certainly love doing the race just for the challenge, the experience, and the novelty of it.
The last time a Hobart was won by a less-likely boat would have been Love & War in 2006. It was an upwind race, so the very high-end planing boats had to be careful, as they’re super-lightweight, quite fragile.
In that race, they all stayed inshore close to the coast, while they beat upwind the whole way in about 35 knots. It was a lot of breeze for a 24-hour period.
I was on Challenge, a Sydney 38. It was Lou Abrahams’ last race. I remember our navigator, Richard Grimes, asking: “Barney, is this boat good enough to go out into the East Australian Current, where there’s 4 knots running with you? Can we deal with that?” And I said: “Well, yeah, I think the boat’s strong enough.” It was slow enough that we weren’t going to fly off the end of the waves when we climbed up the top. We were only going to be doing 7.5 knots upwind at best.
So we took the risk, along with a few other boats. Love & War was one of them. We were sailing in more pressure, with much bigger waves, because we had current against the waves. However, our little 38-footer handled it quite well. We were okay out there, with two reefs and a No4 or 5 jib.
When we got to Green Cape, where you had to radio in to continue across Bass Strait, we were ahead of all of the 50-footers because we were so wide [away from the coast]. We were the fifth boat to radio in; there were only three supermaxis and a 73-footer in front of us.
I think Love & War beat us by half an hour. We were 3rd overall, with another older boat, Bacardi, in front of us.
I think a solid upwind race now would certainly shake up a lot of the top-end boats; I would say 50% of them wouldn’t even make it. But that’s the only time.
I’ve had three wins. One was with Lou [Abrahams] on Ultimate Challenge in 1989, and then I did a back-to-back with Terra Firma in 1995 and Ausmaid in ‘96.
And I’ve had three line honours wins. We were the first boat to ever break two days on Nokia the Volvo 60. That was a pretty wild ride and good fun. Then one with Neville Crichton’s 90-foot Alfa Romeo in 2002 and Grant Wharington’s 100ft Wild Thing in 2003.
Capsizing a 100-footer
The following year in the same boat we lost the keel and capsized it. [That was] not pleasant. I was driving when the keel rams failed. It was about 2am, and we were on port tack 70 to 80 miles offshore, slightly south of Flinders Island heading into Tasmania. It was a 35 to 40-knot sou’easter, very solid, very big sea. We decided to risk it, take it on.
Gavin Brady was on Konica Minolta, another 100-footer. They were inshore trying to stay out of the weather and their boat folded in half. They didn’t sink or break, but they had to stop.
Anyway, I’m port tacking at about two in the morning and there’s a huge bang! The keel rams were both on one side at full extension, pushing the keel to leeward, so the bulb was out on the port side of the boat. They both compressed. We fell off a wave, and the arms just folded right in the middle and sheared off.
We had no control of the keel; it was just flopping around. The boat just laid over at about 65° heel and stayed there. So we dropped sails and then the biggest drama started.
The boat was sitting beam-on to the swells, and every time the boat stood up, the keel was swiping back and forth, and it was starting to break up the main cage area, which holds the keel in place.
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We decided we had to go dead downwind. The rail was working, but not at 100%, because of the heel, but we had some steering. We then used all the ropes we had to tie the keel to a big bulkhead to stop it swinging back and forth. We sort of had the boat in a safe mode, and the navigator, Will Oxley, put out the call: “We’ve got a Pan-Pan situation; doing our best.”
Anyway, a bad wave came through and it caused the bulkhead to be ripped off the wall, so now the keel’s free again. It was a keel structure where there was only one pin holding the keel on the back end, and the front of the blade sat on a thrust pad.
Basically, the keel had come off the edge of its pad, which held it vertical. So now there were just bolts grinding through this 40mm-thick solid carbon vertical bulkhead that held the keel in place. It was only a matter of time before that bulkhead was chewed out and the keel would slide out.
By now a Mayday call was sent out, as we knew we couldn’t hold the keel on the boat for much longer. We managed to keep the boat going ’til daylight and had helicopters and other yachts circling us. We put half the crew into a raft; the other raft was ready to go. The guys were still working out whether they could save the yacht. But it wasn’t to be.
Everyone abandoned ship, and by then we’d basically chewed up enough time that a police boat had come around from Flinders Island. We were only in the rafts for a couple of hours. It was not long after that the keel fell out and the boat rolled over.
If the keel had fallen out at 2am, lives would have been lost. It would have been a completely different story.
I was quite calm; we had a very professional crew and it was dealt with amazingly well. We were confident that it was going to take a fair whack of time for the keel to disappear out of the boat. So it gave us time to be organised, to do all the right things, make the radio call, get all the liferafts ready…
I would have hated to have been on board if it just rolled over, like Simon Le Bon’s Drum did in the 1985 Fastnet. It would be horrible…
Jean Le Cam: Vendée Globe legend they call ‘The King’ (19 Apr 2021, 8:34 am)
Jean Le Cam was already a legend, now he’s the undisputed hero of the Vendée Globe, having massively outperformed his boat in the last edition of the race and making an incredible mid-ocean rescue of fellow competitor, Kevin Escoffier, writes Ed Gorman
He’s the solo skipper who might remind you of Keith Richards. A rugged, hawkish face topped off with an unruly mop of black curly hair, Jean Le Cam was the rockstar of this year’s Vendée Globe. When he finished, he danced, fists pumping the air, to French rocker Johnny Hallyday played loud as he made his way up the channel of Les Sables d’Olonne.
Appearing on the race’s live video calls, Le Cam updated his fans with a self-conscious grin and the famous twinkle in his eye. “Clack, clack, clack,” he would mutter, mimicking the rotating camera as it spun to show outside his beautifully optimised IMOCA 60 (which he refers to as ‘Hubert’). “Why are you looking at me?” he demanded in his gravelly voice, scowling into the lens.
‘The King’, as he is known, surprised a lot of people by running in the top 10 all the way around the world and then finishing 4th overall in his fifth Vendée Globe. That’s because, at 61, Jean Le Cam was the oldest skipper in the fleet and his daggerboard-configured boat (the 2008 Farr design that Michel Desjoyeaux won with in 2009) was not one of the latest foiling models.
But those who know him were not in the least bit surprised. What they saw was the evergreen Breton legend bringing his usual ingredients to bear: immaculate preparation, a racecourse he had encountered four times before (solo, as well as double-handed and crewed round the worlds) and self-confidence in his own ability, born of a 40-year career at the top of professional ocean racing.
Jean Le Cam earned his ‘King’ nickname thanks to his utter domination of the Solitaire du Figaro circuit 20 years ago, which he won three times. He is one of those unreconstructed characters in French sailing (Francis Joyon is another) who has never tried to change his natural persona to meet the needs of commercial backers.
Outspoken, and a man who loves a drink and a smoke, he can be, by his own admission, a pain in the arse. But his relationship with boats and the sea gives him a unique aura. He has a knack of explaining why he loves sailing, and what motivates him, that people find compelling.
When he reached Les Sables d’Olonne at the end of January, he was exhausted by the stress of worrying whether his boat would fall apart before he got there (due to delamination issues he only revealed at the finish), his diction slurring. Yet Le Cam spoke like a philosopher about why he is still doing the Vendée Globe – and who is to bet against him turning up again in 2024?
“It’s the dreams,” he said. “It’s the extremes, it’s about things which are unreachable in daily life. You need to know what is bad to know what is good. You need to know unhappiness to know what is love… When you start accumulating difficulties, it becomes hell. And later on when you get out of it, it is true happiness. Two days ago it was quite difficult, a week ago it was horrible but today it is incredible.”
Le Cam was born in April 1959 into a Breton family living near Port-La-Forêt, where he would go on to play a key role in establishing the world renowned offshore racing school and the CDK shipyard, now one of the top composite yards in the world.
One of three children, Jean Le Cam sailed dinghies as a boy and on the family keelboat with his father, competing in local races. He clearly had a natural affinity with the sea, but what really fascinated him were the technical elements, and working on boats to maximise their performance.
In his early 20s he was part of Éric Tabarly’s crew in the 1981 Whitbread Round the World Race on Euromarché. He went on to become a regular on the Figaro circuit, winning the solo multistage title in 1994, ’96 and ’99. He was Formula 40 champion three times, raced on multihulls with Philippe Poupon and Philippe Jeantot, competed in the ORMA 60 class and crewed on Alain Thébault’s record-breaking speed machine Hydroptère.
In his first Vendée Globe in 2003-04 Le Cam finished 2nd on Bonduelle behind Vincent Riou. Four years later Riou saved his life after Le Cam’s boat VM Matériaux lost its keel bulb and capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn, while racing in 3rd place. Le Cam would later say his best ever memory at sea was seeing Riou’s PRB approaching, as he emerged from his escape hatch in his survival suit after waiting for 16 hours in his upturned hull.
Returning to the race again and again, Le Cam was 5th on SynerCiel in the 2012-13 edition and then 6th on Finistère Mer Vent four years ago.
A Vendée addiction
Le Cam’s great friend and fellow sailing legend, Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain, has known Le Cam since they were teenagers. Jourdain says Le Cam has two qualities that set him apart: his understanding of the technical side of the sport and his uncommon feeling for a boat.
“He belongs to the boat and the boat belongs to him, if you see what I mean,” he explained.
But, Jourdain added: “Jean needs the sea. He needs to be on the water. He’s a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He says a lot, he can be a real pain and can sit in the corner complaining, but he needs his fix and sometimes, between Vendée Globes it can be hard for him.”
Kevin Escoffier gained a unique perspective of Le Cam’s approach to solo sailing, when he lived in close quarters with him for five days after Le Cam rescued Escoffier from the South Atlantic. He says what struck him most was the way Le Cam does not get obsessed with detail.
“The way he sails, he tries not to zoom in too much, but to have a big picture of what he wants to do and what he can do with his boat,” explained Escoffier. “He looks forward to doing the best thing, not only for the next few hours but for the next few days.”
Escoffier was impressed by how on top of everything Le Cam was, pre-empting problems. He added that Le Cam carries the bare minimum of kit on board – what he needed and nothing more. Tactically, Le Cam does his own thing. “He will follow his own path and do what he thinks is right,” Escoffier noted.
For someone who has prepared his boat so assiduously, contending with serious delamination issues will have been tortuous. “[After] Kevin disembarked there was a big front,” Le Cam explained after the finish. “I went to the bow and inside the hull, the boat was delaminating. The hull had moved about 5cm and you are afraid that you are going to sink. I repaired the bulkheads, I cut out the ballast and had carbon everywhere.
“Since then, [I couldn’t] slam and bang. Every hour you are telling yourself that you don’t want to go on. Even the day before yesterday I told myself, I can’t do anymore. You open the hatches and see what is happening every time the boat hits on the waves. It was terrible. And finally I managed to finish. Hubert brought me back home.”
His own path
Despite the structural issues, Le Cam was within 200 miles of the leaders when he recrossed the equator, and finished on the same day as the winner, Yannick Bestaven (Le Cam finished 8th, and both he and Bestaven received time in redress for their part in Escoffier’s rescue, awarding Le Cam 4th overall).
Bernard Stamm, the Swiss ocean racer who won the double-handed 2014-15 Barcelona World Race with Le Cam, says his old friend is a master at sailing the shortest course with the minimum sail area.
“Jean is somebody who does not like to hurt his boats,” said Stamm. “He doesn’t like to over-charge the boat. He prefers light or medium conditions and is able to sail with less sail area than others.”
Stamm recalled racing with Le Cam for three months was fun, despite a growing list of problems on board. “He is somebody who listens a lot,” he said. “Even if he doesn’t agree, he listens and then afterwards gives his opinion.”
Marcus Hutchinson, who managed Thomas Ruyant’s Vendée Globe campaign, has known Le Cam since the late 1990s on the Figaro circuit. He believes Le Cam is the ultimate single-hander. “In terms of preparing a boat properly, preparing yourself, anticipating correctly, imagining all the scenarios – he’s a commensurate all-rounder who has been right at the top of his trade for the last few years,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson recalls Le Cam on stage in Concarneau, having just won his third Figaro, and being asked why he kept coming back to sailing alone. “There is only one way I can show you,” he told the presenter, “and that’s for you to come with me next time. But unfortunately you can’t because it is a single-handed race so, unless you do it yourself, you will never know…”
The post Jean Le Cam: Vendée Globe legend they call ‘The King’ appeared first on Yachting World.
SailGP: All you need to know about the 2021 season (16 Apr 2021, 10:07 am)
SailGP is now in its second season, with some of the best sailors in the world, sailing some of the fastest boats, going head-to-head in a global sailing series with a prize of $1m
When Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts launched SailGP back in 2018, the plan was that, by 2021, the series would be heading into its third consecutive season and starting to build some serious momentum. As with the rest of the sporting world, however, COVID-19 has caused some significant disruption.
The first season of SailGP racing showed the potential of the ambitious circuit, with spectacular racing at events like Cowes and Marseilles over the summer of 2019. But the second season barely got off the ground with just a single event completed – at Sydney in January 2020 – before the global pandemic and consequent lockdown forced organisers and teams to hit the pause button.
2021 will now see a proper second season of the racing, with more teams, more venues and an increased gender balance among the sailing teams.
What is SailGP?
During the Bermuda America’s Cup there had been much discussion about creating an America’s Cup World Series in foiling catamarans, a discussion led by Ellison and supported by most of the Challengers. But when Emirates Team New Zealand delivered their shock win in 2017, they instead announced a return to monohulls for Cup racing (the spectacular AC75s raced in Auckland this year).
Ellison, boss of technology giant Oracle, and Russell Coutts, a five-times America’s Cup winner, decided to launch a brand new multi-stage global circuit in foiling catamarans: Sail GP.
Ellison is understood to have wholly funded the circuit for the first three years. The intention was that, as the circuit grew and gained more television exposure, other commercial backers would come onboard.
The new racing circuit was announced with much fanfare and a $1m prize purse for each season.
The series rules also featured tight nationality rules – at the time tighter than for the America’s Cup itself – albeit with exemptions for countries without a strong history in the sport, to draw emerging sailing nations into the series.
Racing features teams racing under their national flag, in foiling catamarans, with all the action televised using the software created to broadcast the 2013 and 2017 America’s Cups.
Each SailGP event runs across two days and there are three races on each day, totalling six races at each event.
The opening five fleet races involve every team while the final match race pits the two highest ranking teams against each other to be crowned event champion.
The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
What boats does SailGP use?
Sail GP is raced in equally matched foiling, wing sailed, 50ft catamarans, known as the SailGP F50, which are based on the AC50 design that was used for the 2017 America’s Cup
Ellison and Coutts, sensing an opportunity to turn the AC50s into a one design class, modified many of the existing boats used by the different Cup teams, built some new hulls and rigs, and created a new, one design class.
Although the boats are equally matched, the intention is to upgrade the whole fleet on a continuous development cycle, so the design can remain at the forefront of the latest foiling developments without creating an expensive arms race for the latest tech.
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Who are the teams in SailGP?
In the first season, a 100 per cent nationality rule was applied to teams such as Britain, France and Australia, while Japan was required to have 40 per cent of the crew from their home nation.
For 2021, Japan’s nationality requirement has increased to 60 per cent, whilst for the other teams it is now 80 per cent, allowing a maximum of one international athlete onboard each F50.
Australia SailGP team
The Australian SailGP team won the first season of the series and look set to be one of the favourites going into the second season. They have a tight unit of sailors, and are headed up by Laser Gold Medallist, Moth World Champion and America’s Cup tactician, Tom Slingsby. British Cup sailor Nick Hutton joins the squad.
Sailors: Tom Slingsby, Kyle Langford, Jason Waterhouse, Sam Newton, Kinley Fowler, and Nick Hutton.
Great Britain SailGP team
A British SailGP team did take part in the opening season of SailGP, but the entry has since been taken over by the British America’s Cup team, INEOS Team UK.
The opening event of season two in Sydney was the first time this new team took to the water. Led by the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, Sir Ben Ainslie, they were impressive in their first event, winning the regatta before COVID-19 stopped the rest of the season. They will arrive match fit, with many of the sailors coming straight from their recent America’s Cup campaign.
Sailors: Ben Ainslie, Chris Draper, Luke Parkinson, Iain Jensen, Matt Gotrel, Richard Mason, Neil Hunter
United States SailGP team
One of the most successful America’s Cup skippers of all time, Jimmy Spithill, comes onboard to head up the US team in their second season of SailGP. Although Australian by birth, Spithill is a dual citizen in Australia and the USA and is fresh from helming Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to the America’s Cup finals.
The US SailGP team did not have the most successful first season so will be hoping some new personnel will help them get to the top of the results table in this second full season of racing.
Sailors: Jimmy Spithill, Rome Kirby, Answer Campbell, Cooper Dressler, Alex Sinclair, Paul Campbell-James, Daniela Moroz, CJ Perez
Denmark SailGP team
The Danish SailGP team is led by multi-time round the world ocean racer Nicolai Sehested. They did not take part in the first season of SailGP but were involved in the single event in Sydney before Covid 19 halted racing.
Sailors: Nicolai Sehested, Rasmus Køstner, Tom Johnson, Martin Kirketerp, Hans-Christian Rosendahl, Lars-Peter Rosendahl, Anne-Marie Rindom, Kayja Salskov-Iversen.
France SailGP team
French multihull specialist Billy Besson leads this team. As a nation France has always had strong multihull sailors and so should be a force to be reckoned with.
By their own standards they were probably a little disappointed with their performance in the opening series of SailGP so will be hoping to put up some stronger results in this second season. INEOS Team UK flight controller Leigh McMillan joins the squad this year.
Sailors: Billy Besson, François Morvan, Leigh McMillan, Matthieu Vandame, Olivier Herlédant, Timothe Lapauw, Amélie Riou, Hélène Noesmoen.
Japan SailGP team
Headed up by Australian 49er Gold Medallist, Moth World Champion and America’s Cup skipper, Nathan Outteridge, the Japanese team has a slightly less strict nationality rule, due to the position as a developing sailing nation.
The team impressed in season one to finish the series in 2nd overall, and were the only team to consistently challenge Slingsby’s Team Australia for wins.
Sailors: Nathan Outteridge, Leo Takahashi, Yuki Kasatani, Tim Morishima, Ayden Menzies, Yugo Yoshida
New Zealand SailGP team
A new team for this second season of SailGP, New Zealand should be tough to beat from the off. They will be skippered by the hottest name in sailing right now, 49er Olympic gold medallist and reigning America’s Cup winner Peter Burling.
Also onboard is Burling’s long time sailing partner, Blair Tuke and a stack of talent from the ENTZ and New Zealand Olympic squads. This team will have high expectations surrounding them from the first day.
Sailors: Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Andy Maloney, Josh Junior, Liv Mackay, Marcus Hansen, Louis Sinclair, Erica Dawson
Spain SailGP team
The Spanish SailGP team is another who were not involved in the opening season of SailGP, but did take part in the single Sydney regatta last year. They are officially the youngest team competing in the series, but still offer a high level of talent with World Champions and Olympians throughout the boat.
Skipper Phil Robertson is an Australian and has plenty of experience in SailGP having skippered the Chinese entry in the first season.
Sailors: Phil Robertson, Florian Trittel, Joel Rodríguez, Diego Botin, Iago López Marra, Mateu Barber, Jordi Xammar, Luis Bugallo, Joan Cardona
How to watch SailGP
As for the first season of SailGP, the 2021 season will be streamed live on YouTube and will be available in most territories.
For sailors in the UK, in addition to the live YouTube SailGP racing, it will be available on Sky Sports with both live racing and a highlights package.
For those in the USA, in addition to live YouTube SailGP racing, CBS will be offering a mix of live broadcasting and highlights packages.
There will also be a delayed full race replay put out on the SailGP Facebook page.
A SailGP app is available as a companion app to the broadcaster coverage. The app provides: live data and video feeds; video and race stats side by side; the option to change viewing angle and zoom in on the action; switch teams, and select data feeds.
The app will offer delayed coverage and full race replay 48 hours after race completion.
When is SailGP?
Given the complexities of the Covid-19 pandemic the schedule for SailGP 2021 must be viewed as possible to change, but as of the series announcement, there are eight events schedule across the globe.
SailGP Bermuda: 24-25 April 2021
SailGP Italy: Taranto – 5-6 June 2021
SailGP Great Britain: Plymouth – 17-18 July 2021
SailGP Denmark: Aarhus – 20-21 August 2021
SailGP France: Saint-Tropez – 11-12 September
SailGP Spain: Andalucia – 9-10 October
SailGP New Zealand: Christchurch – 29-30 Jan 2022
SailGP USA: San Francisco – 26-27 March 2022
The post SailGP: All you need to know about the 2021 season appeared first on Yachting World.
Superyacht Cup Palma set to return for 25th anniversary regatta (15 Apr 2021, 1:35 pm)
The organisers of the Superyacht Cup Palma have confirmed that the 2021 regatta will be going ahead, with a new-look event that will comply with local pandemic restrictions
Racing will take place in the Bay of Palma from June 23-26, with the shoreside venue relocating to Real Club Nautico De Palma. Last year’s cancellation hasn’t dented the interest from owners and skippers, quite the opposite, with the 25th anniversary of Europe’s longest-running superyacht regatta already attracting provisional entries from 14 superyachts ranging from 24-27m.
Standout yachts include the 46m Dubois-designed Ganesha, set for a return in the Superyacht Class, while the lightweight 30m WallyCento Magic Carpet3 is a possible contender in the Performance Class.
Also eyeing a return is the 40m modern classic ketch Huckleberry, who won the inaugural North Sails Trophy in 2019.
“We had a great time at our first ever Superyacht Cup Palma and we have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to repeat the experience,” said Huckleberry captain Carlos Potier.
“This year the event will of course be a bit different, but the sailing weather is reliable and the racing out in Palma Bay is always outstanding, so we are counting the days to the start.”
In addition, entries from the J-Class fleet are seen as a distinct possibility, with owners, captains and crews perhaps inspired by Velsheda’s narrow but fully deserved overall victory in 2018, when they held off a determined challenge from the superketch Mari-Cha III. Should three or more J-Class yachts compete they will be given their own racing class.
What’s more, 2021 will see the debut of the Superyacht Cup Performance Class. Featuring a competitive fleet start and racing on a separate course, the new Performance Class will join the long-standing original Superyacht Class and the non-spinnaker Corinthian Superyacht Class.
“We know there is a yearning for competitive sailing after what has of course been a challenging time for everyone,” said event director Kate Branagh.
“By keeping the focus out on the water, we know we can meet all local pandemic restrictions, keep owners, skippers, crews and our partners safe, and deliver exciting superyacht racing on what will be our 25th anniversary at the home of Mediterranean superyacht sailing.”
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A long-standing event partner, Real Club Nautico De Palma is making a few berths available for visiting competitors this year on a first come, first served basis.
“We have been collaborating with the Superyacht Cup Palma for years, contributing our organisational experience at sea, and we are proud to expand this support to offer our facilities and hospitality to the yacht owners and crews participating in the event,” said Emerico Fuster, president of the Real Club Náutico de Palma.
To register your interest or request an Entry Form for the 2021 Superyacht Cup Palma please contact: email@example.com
The post Superyacht Cup Palma set to return for 25th anniversary regatta appeared first on Yachting World.
First look: Trintella 45 and 50 – classic yard reborn (15 Apr 2021, 9:53 am)
Rupert Holmes reports on a pair of new German Frers designed yachts, both of which are contemporary designs with a classic aesthetic: the elegant Trintella 45 and 50
These two gorgeous German Frers designs offer an enticing blend of contemporary yacht design with classic elegance. The Trintella 45 and 50 are intended to re-establish the Trintella brand, echoing the timeless style of the original yachts, including their trademark varnished coamings and coachroof sides. Yet they’re bang up to date in every other respect.
The Dutch yard was synonymous with quality boatbuilding and cutting-edge design for more than 40 years until it closed 18 years ago.
During the rise of production boatbuilding in the 1950s and ’60s founder Anne Wever was quicker than his competitors to adopt new technologies, yet he also had a traditionalist’s eye for perfection. The result was beautiful yachts that were fitted-out to a very high standard and his yard quickly became one of the most successful in Europe.
Arguably no one is better placed to revive the name than Joop Doomernik. He grew up sailing at the club next to Wever’s yard in ’s-Hertogenbosch, restored a 29ft Dragon keelboat at the age of 16, and then went on to become an apprentice at Trintella.
For the past 30 years Doomernik has run his own yard less than 10 miles away, undertaking classic yacht restorations, as well as building exquisite Wally Nanos and competitive Dragons.
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Nevertheless Doomernik told me it was difficult to define the real Trintella DNA: “I did a lot of thinking, and talked to Trintella owners, before reaching the conclusion that the underlying philosophy is of a high-end gentleman’s yacht,” he says. “Maybe the owner doesn’t even want light displacement with high speed, but instead wants comfort, quality and that feeling you get when people make extraordinary efforts to produce something beautiful.”
For the new designs he therefore decided on a contemporary hull, while adding in some of the qualities from the 1960s including beautiful wood detailing. “It is a blink to the old days of Trintella.”
Initial drawings are for the Trintella 45 and 50 (at 45ft and 50ft respectively), although larger versions are under consideration. All share the same core concept, including slender hulls with an almost plumb bow and graceful extended counter. Below the water each boat will have a hefty lead bulb on a cast iron fin and an efficient spade rudder.
The lofty carbon rigs, allied to the slippery hull shapes, promise good performance and excellent handling characteristics. Construction is of a stiff but lightweight vacuum-infused glass/epoxy Corecell sandwich with carbon reinforcement.
Sail handling systems include a below deck headsail furler, while all lines for sail trim are led to winches each side of the helm, where there are also concealed and recessed lockers to keep rope tails tidy.
A push-button set up with self-tacking jib is also possible, including hydraulic backstay and vang, plus mainsheet system that’s clear of the cockpit and led to a captive winch.
Doomernik also wants the revived brand to offer an antidote to the numerous big cruising yachts with “… lots of cabins, showers and bathrooms. Many people just want to have a nice sail, either as a couple or maybe with two friends or children. You can have quality time on the water without a boat that’s equipped for 10 people or a circumnavigation,” he says.
Therefore these are intended as graceful boats that will turn heads. Nevertheless, he was also adamant that they should not be daysailers. Instead, the vision is for weekenders that have the comfort and equipment needed to stay on board for several weeks if desired.
Doomernik says prices start, “in the upper range of what you would expect for a yacht of this size. We’re trying to achieve a high end, beautifully finished and detailed piece of art in the water.”
Trintella 45 Specifications:
Hull length: 13.72m / 45ft 0in
LWL: 11.46m / 37ft 7in
Beam: 3.25m 10ft 8in
Draught: 2.22m / 7ft 3in
Displacement: 7,900kg / 17,400lb
Price ex VAT: €997,000
The post First look: Trintella 45 and 50 – classic yard reborn appeared first on Yachting World.
Pip Hare: My Vendée Globe journey (14 Apr 2021, 4:02 pm)
Pip Hare fulfilled a lifelong dream when she finished the Vendée Globe, the first British skipper in this year's event, though the race was also her toughest challenge yet. Pip recounts her experiences.
The Vendée Globe race was everything I ever dreamed it could be, and more. It challenged me every day, it made me scream with laughter, it brought me to my knees with physical fatigue and the emotional agony of disappointment. But there is not one single day I did not want to be exactly where I was.
It had been a hard battle to get to the line. I was sailing the second oldest boat in the fleet, was a rookie in the IMOCA class, had a small team behind me, and very little time to test the upgrades we made after Medallia came on board as my title sponsor.
But I was determined to make the most of what I had, to value every minute of the race and get the best result with the boat I had.
At the start of the race I had really no idea where I would sit in the fleet. My previous IMOCA racing performances were in a tired boat with no funding and the sole objective of finishing races to secure my Vendée Globe qualification.
Among the non-foiling fleet there were two other boats launched in the year 2000 to benchmark myself against, and a number of 2007 boats to aspire to keep up with. It is incredible how my own expectations changed throughout the race as I learned, and loved, to push harder with every week that went by.
If you’d told me at the start I’d finish four hours behind a foiling boat and be racing against them for weeks before the finish, I would have never believed it.
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The first indication that Medallia and I were sailing hard was when we approached Storm Theta in the second week of the race. While most of the back third of the fleet chose a route to avoid the depression, both Didac Costa (who sailed a phenomenal race in another 21-year-old boat) and myself chose to gybe towards the centre of the system and the stronger winds.
It felt like the right thing to do. I’d benefitted from one month of big breeze training in the English Channel before the race and I was completely in control of how close I would go to the system. Why shy away from this now?
I was a little surprised to see other boats in the fleet not taking advantage of that extra breeze, which did make me question my judgement a little. Was this too great a risk early on in the race? But it didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like the right thing to do in the context of a race so I relished the extra speed.
I was slightly relieved to see Didac, who was on his third round the world race, chose the same tactic; we crossed gybes one mile apart.
By the time I’d reached the doldrums, I was leading a pack of boats that eventually stayed together until the beginning of the Indian Ocean. I’d even managed to sneak ahead of one of the foiling boats that had not put back at the start.
This blew my mind, but got me hungry. If I could be with these boats now, why not for the rest of the race? A new benchmark was set and I never conceded a mile to this pack without one hell of a fight.
Who dares wins in the Vendée Globe
Doing well became like a drug to me. The first time I appeared in the top three on the best 24-hour run leaderboard was a shock (I never expected to see my boat there) but it made me laugh with glee and I wanted to be there again.
Then I had my first 400-plus mile day; and that made me want another. I did a three-hour run where I averaged 19.3 knots and that blew my mind. I was outpacing the foilers behind me, Medallia constantly surfing at 25-26 knots. It was incredible.
I couldn’t eat or sleep at first. I was standing by the companionway in full foulies with the autopilot remote in my hand, just watching the numbers, holding on, listening intently to the boat.
My stomach was doing somersaults and I was caught in a continual loop of inner dialogue – was I pushing too hard? Was this reckless? Meanwhile the other part of me was thinking: this is all fine, the wind is not excessive, the pilot is working well, the bow is up, speed is my friend. Eventually I got used to living in these conditions and 17 knots felt slow.
Knowing when to back off became the most important decision for success. Back off too early and you could drop off a weather system and lose a few hundred miles. Backing off too late could lead to problems or damage that would set me back for days, or even cost the race.
It’s a fine line to tread and it would be easy to always back off early. I don’t think I left it too late once. But more often than not I changed down a sail too early, then regretted the decision and had to change back up again having lost a couple of hours of good speed – but having hung on to my weather system.
Medallia is a really physically demanding boat to sail. The lack of protection over the cockpit stung me both in the south and on the equator. It made everything more effort, harder to manage, more dangerous to me.
In the south the volumes of water coming through the cockpit would fill it up to shin level at times and pummel my body. At the equator the heat was at times unbearable and there was no shade. Sometimes I talked to myself out loud to persuade me to get out on deck and make the changes needed. “What are you doing out here if you’re not going to try?” I’d demand of myself.
I often slept in my drysuit on the bare floor to avoid getting the beanbags wet. Towards the end of the race the physicality of the boat started to take its toll. I lost 8kg in weight, and in the last month a lot of muscle mass. But I always knew I’d be able to finish.
A problem every day
Easily 30% of my time on the race was spent dealing with, or trying to avoid, gear failure.
The perceived wisdom of the race is ‘one problem a day’ and having an older boat, and a relatively short time to bed in the upgrades we’d made pre-race, I was fully prepared to be fixing stuff. The reality was more like two problems a day, but they didn’t come in at that rate and some issues just kept coming.
I have always prepared my own race boats on a tight budget and I think this served me well when it came to keeping the boat in once piece; I’m good at spotting damage or wear before it becomes a problem and I’m no stranger to the tool box.
But I was not managing this alone: I also had Joff Brown, my technical director, on the phone. The success of this race is not just mine, it is Joff’s as well. He brought experience of managing five previous Vendée campaigns to prepare my boat and ensure I was equipped to deal with every problem that came at me.
He was available 24/7 throughout the race to keep me performing. He shared my stress, but not so much of the fun.
Even if it meant extra work, or discomfort, I’d always go the extra mile to ensure any repairs or workarounds didn’t impact on my performance. A broken traveller in the first week of the race was resolved by spreading the mainsail load on port tack to a second sheet, jury-rigged to the toe rail. Every time I tacked or gybed I had to rig or unrig the second sheet and trim the two leads, swapping the winches.
Losing one hydrogenerator early on, coupled with ongoing breakage of blades in automatic pitch mode, meant I had to tack the remaining generator and manually set the blades to the best pitch.
I could have left them at a low power setting and left the leg in the water all the time, but to reduce drag time in the water I would pull up the leg and reset the blades at regular intervals to maximise power.
Without doubt, the most difficult setback to manage while maintaining performance was the loss of my wind instruments in the second half of the Southern Ocean.
I’m still not really sure what happened to the wand, but I lost one of the cups from the wind speed sensor and the wind vane jammed, which meant I had no access to wind data.
The performance implications of this are huge. It is possible to carry on sailing using a compass, telltales on the rig and sails, and a lot of brain power – but it is virtually impossible to make timely decisions and keep the boat trucking.
With no wind data, I was not able to analyse my performance according to my polars, so the last 10% of speed was hard to achieve. With no wind angle the cross-overs between sails became difficult to judge, so the punchy calls that won me extra miles before became harder to make.
However, the most debilitating problem was the loss of wind mode on the autopilot, which was vital to performance and safety when sailing Medallia in downwind VMG conditions.
Instead of setting the pilot to steer to a TWA and surf the waves (which almost eliminates the risk of a crash gybe), I had to put the pilot on a compass course, then manually adjust the steering with the remote to allow for wind shifts and wave surfs.
Much of this was done from down below and at night time where I’d be looking for clues to the wind angle by illuminating the sails and watching out of the coachroof window, comparing it to the motion of the boat, noise of the wind and our speed.
I could never switch off. I slept on a beanbag, looking up at the instruments with the remote in my hand, closing my eyes for 10 minutes at a time, waking up with every different feeling or just to check the numbers.
The fatigue of constantly being on alert slowly ate away at me. But I was like a dog with a bone: I would not give up. I kept telling myself there’d be stable or reaching conditions soon, and I could have a proper sleep; but it never came.
After two weeks I was exhausted and started making some of the worst tactical decisions of the race (around the Falkland Islands). I finally arrived at a point where I could tangibly see my ability to perform was diminished but I still had 5,000 miles to go. This was what drove me to climb my mast a second time and repair the wind wand.
I’ll be back
When I look back at the race as a whole I am immensely proud of what we as a team have achieved in such a short amount of time. I hit the line after 95 days and 11 hours and know that I gave the race everything I had – there was very little left in my tank and Medallia had been sailed about as hard as it could take.
I didn’t sail the best race possible, I made mistakes, particularly on the return leg of the South Atlantic, but this was my first Vendée Globe and I will learn from those. I battled right to the end, and am still convinced that had I not lost my fractional gennaker halyard two days before the finish there could have been a chance to come in ahead of a foiling boat.
From the beginning of the race I asserted this was only the warm up. I wanted to demonstrate my potential, to learn, to properly experience the course and to use that knowledge to craft a truly competitive campaign for 2024. I exceeded my own expectations, I loved every minute, and I want to be back out there again.
If you want to hear more from Pip about her future plans, or her Vendée Globe story, don’t Pip Hare’s Ask Me Anything session on our YBW forum.
Fastest sailboats: The teams aiming for a record-breaking 80 knots (14 Apr 2021, 8:18 am)
It's been nearly a decade since Sailrocket set a new record to become the world's fastest sailboat. Now two teams are hoping to set a new record with their radical designs
A little over a decade ago the race to create the fastest sailboat, or fastest sail-powered watercraft was on. Ultimately it was Vestas Sailrocket 2 that claimed a new speed sailing record with such a significant jump that the competition cooled for some years.
Now, a French team and a Swiss team are both hoping to set a new record and in so doing become the fastest sailboat known to man.
The 50 knot mark had long been referenced as sailing’s sound barrier due to the difficulty of making a craft capable of sustaining speeds over that elusive figure. But with everyone from kitesurfers, to windsurfers, and purpose built boats aiming at that target, it was only a matter of time before it fell.
When, in 2012 Paul Larson’s Vestas Sailrocket 2 smashed the previous record, posting a new outright world record of 65.54 knots, they easily become the fastest sailboat to ever take to the water.
Sailrocket was a very advanced concept-boat and one of the many keys to their record breaking was the development of a supercavitating foil.
Put simply, cavitation occurs when the water flow on the low pressure side of a foil gets so low that it ceases over the foil surface and a vacuum or cavity appears – usually at around 50 knots.
Larson and his team produced a foil with a large flat trailing edge, which, at speed, forced the water to detach from the trailing edge and create a void in the water, essentially in the shape of a foil, but not made of anything solid. This is often referred to as a ‘supercavitating’ foil, as it uses the cavitation to positive effect, actively encouraging that cavitation in the desired fashion.
Having proved the concept with their record run, all had gone quiet on the speed sailing boat front and it looked as though the fight to create the world’s fastest sailboat was done. Now, it would seem, the fight is very much back on.
Both of the teams intending to challenge for a new speed sailing record list ambitious targets, both aiming for 80+ knots. If this sort of speed could be achieved it would be very impressive indeed.
If having a top-flight speed sailor as a part of your team is a mark of potential, then Syroco certainly starts off in impressive style.
Alex Caizergues is due to pilot the boat and is the co-founder of the project. He has a wealth of speed sailing records and wins to his name, including holding the outright world speed sailing record on two occasions on his kitesurfer. Additionally, he has won the Kite Speed World Championship four times. So he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to going fast on the water and could well be a key part in this team’s ambition to create the fastest sailboat ever recorded.
The Syroco concept – named after the ‘sirocco’ warm wind originating in the sandy expanses of the Sahara desert – is essentially made up of three components: the hull or module; a kite, which provides driving force; and a hydrofoil, the purpose of which is to compensate for the vertical force and to provide a counter to the forces generated from the kite. This foil is on a long vertical with a T-foil at it’s base.
Article continues below…
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The foil and the kite operate in tandem, so if the kite flies higher in the air the foil will rotate to sit deeper in the water and if the kite is closer to the surface, the foil will be move to be more horizontally aligned with the surface.
Although we may be used to foils operating as lifting surfaces, the foil used by the French-based Syrocco team will broadly be used to keep the whole craft in the sea and prevent it flying off. In theory this balancing of forces from the foil and the power-generating kite, means the harder the kite pulls, the more negative lift will be required on the foil to maintain the equilibrium.
Clearly the faster the craft travels, the more drag is induced by the foil, but other than this, the forces should match up to create a situation where more power simply develops more speed, which develops more apparent wind and so power etc.
As with Vestas Sailrocket, the team are looking into supercavitating foils – clearly an essential part of the project should they achieve their goal of 80 knots.
This year, 2021, the Syroco team are due to get a remote controlled ¼ scale model of their boat on the water and thereafter, all going well, hope to be able to make an attempt on the record in 2022.
The SP80 was conceived by three graduates of Swiss engineering school, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; Benoît Gaudiot, Xavier Lepercq and Mayeul van den Broek. The SP80 probably qualifies as a slightly more ‘normal’ concept – as much as that statement can be made when referring to one-off craft aiming to be the fastest sailboats in the world.
The craft will use a pair of floats located on each side of the main cockpit to produce stability and is designed to skim the surface. In this respect, the concept is not so far away from the current fastest sailboat in the world, Sailrocket, which also skimmed the surface.
Also similar to the Sailrocket concept is a large foil at the aft end of the craft which will take care of the lateral forces from the kite used by the SP80 team. This foil will be what they refer to as super-ventilating – ventilation is different from cavitation as it refers to air sucked down along the length of the foil from the surface.
As the SP80 foils break the surface, they will be manipulating this ventilated air in a similar way to that which Syrocco is manipulating air created by the cavitation pressure voids. Thus the team has superventilated foils rather than supercavitating.
Another superventilated foil features at the bow, which will be used as a rudder, while a further two small foils sit under each float to keep the boat skimming over the surface.
A key part of the SP80 concept, and one where both it and Syroco are similar, will be the aft kite control module. This module can rotate around the circular aft section of the hull and is attached to the main foil.
Thus as the kite increases in height, the large aft foil rotates closer to being parallel with the water’s surface and as the kite gets closer to the water, the aft foil becomes closer to vertical. Again this is a system designed to counter the forces of the kite, maintaining a flat boat while power increases.
The SP80 team has already made and tested a prototype on Lake Geneva and they also intend to be out on the water and aiming for a record run in 2022.
It seems the race is on to create the world’s fastest sailboat again, and 2022 looks set to be a very big year.
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