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Family adventure: How we home-schooled our kids while sailing across the Pacific (17 Sep 2020, 7:50 am)

Cruising with their children allowed Ralf and Dina Schlaepfer to fulfil their pacific dreams, although set lessons were overtaken by the school of adventure

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Sailing the paradise of the Pacific Ocean with my own boat had been my dream since forever. The first big question was when would be the right time for the adventure? Should I take time off work or retire early?

Since our daughter was born in 2009 and our son in 2011, early retirement was clearly the better option, when the kids were old enough to enjoy and remember the trip, but not so old they missed important school years. The age of the kids from 7 to 11 seemed perfect, so we set the date for 2018.

Having chartered yachts around the world, with one exception all monohulls, the second question was what boat to buy? My wife, Dina, was clear about the space she wanted for a trip over one year. Accordingly, we were looking at 70ft to 80ft boats but soon realised that this size would mean having professional crew on board. Discussing with friends who’d done similar trips led us to consider multihulls.

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The Swiss family Schlaepfer aboard their Fountaine-Pajot Saba 50 catamaran RAID. All photos: Ralf Schlaepfer / World ARC crews

A catamaran would provide the same living space, while being more compact and shorter than a monohull. I also wanted to have back-ups for the key systems, and a catamaran comes with two engines, two propellers, two rudders. In addition, with two hulls and short, light keels, catamarans are practically unsinkable and can enter much shallower anchorages.

After a year of evaluations we decided on a Saba 50 from Fountaine Pajot, which would provide for us the right balance between weight, space and performance for long bluewater crossings.

Our reason for choosing the Saba 50 over the wide range of other catamarans was its weight – other brands can be 10-30% heavier. We felt the four-cabin version would give us space for sailing with the family, but leave the possibility to have friends with kids on board.

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Some other brands give more options, especially in colours and interior materials but, for us, at that stage still 100% engaged with a demanding business life, this was not what we wanted to spend time on.

All the same, we’d have liked some options from Fountaine Pajot in the field of ‘make sailing easier’ for a small crew. We added a number of cleats and blocks, for setting reefs or adjusting the topping lift from the helm station rather than from the mast.

Regarding security, the initial emergency tiller only allowed you to steer standing down in the engine compartment with the locker open, and it required quite some work to make it suitable for bluewater needs. Another change was the original 25kg anchor, which we replaced with a 45kg Ultra and double the length of chain.

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The Schlaepfer family concluded a 50ft catamaran offers similar living space to a 70ft monohull

To provide redundancy for all key equipment for long crossings, we added a second autopilot and an additional hydraulic pump to the second rudder. Then, a camera on the masthead enabling us to see the blind spots on the other side of the helm while manoeuvring in ports, SSB radio, satellite communication and a worldwide TV receiver completed our electronics.

These were all in addition to the full package of extras available from the yard and rounded up what we saw as essentials for our planned trip. One option we don’t advise is the additional bumpers fixed to the transoms. Ours let water into the engine compartments even after being repaired once. In the end we removed them.

We ordered the boat with the bowsprit option for a gennaker, which proved to be a fantastic sail. We also had additional fittings made for a Wingaker, a Parasailor-type spinnaker with a vent, which is an absolute necessity for the Atlantic and Pacific crossings with their long downwind passages.

For the looks, we added much more teak on deck and rigid metal gates rather than difficult-to-close wires at the transom. As we planned to go diving on our own rather than looking for local dive instructors – and in many nice spots there are none – we also added a dive compressor to our gear, which we never regretted.

Other families in smaller monohulls happily made such a trip too, but the fact that RAID became somewhat the party boat of the World ARC fleet showed us that space and many other amenities like an icemaker for the adults or large TV for kids’ movie nights were an asset.

Sailing classroom

RAID was delivered in June 2018 and we spent the first part of our trip in the Med – an extensive sea trial which allowed us to get to know the boat better and to add to the equipment of the boat in a familiar environment. En route to the Canary Islands, we ‘ran into’ Hurricane Leslie, the strongest storm ever to hit Portugal. After zigzagging its way across the Atlantic, it finally hit Figueira da Foz with 95-knot winds while we waited in Cadiz.

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Transom steps offer easy access to and from the water

Leaving on the tail of the storm might not have been the best decision – we paid with heavy swell and rather unstable 30-knot headwinds. We joined the ARC+, which crosses from Gran Canaria to St Lucia via the Cape Verdes, and found the passage surprisingly easy with steady tradewinds. They gave us a crossing in 13 days, placing us third in the ARC+ multihull division.

For the kids, we planned to have home schooling on non-sailing days and took textbooks in all their subjects (maths, geometry and German) to follow the syllabus. We’d discussed the trip with their teachers before we left and they’d been very positive about the experience ahead. We planned to share the teaching between both of us, being very strict with a daily routine of 2-3 hours except on special days with excursions or sailing in heavier weather.

But in reality we found this hard to execute faced with the beauty of the places we visited. It’s important to understand the wealth of learning kids do without formal schooling. This is not only living through different cultures during the trip, but also interacting with all the other sailing families.

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The trampoline is the ideal place for dolphin spotting

As a side benefit, both of our kids are now fluent in English after only half a year. English is the predominant language all families choose for interaction with other sailors. The key skills our next generation needs are social competence, creativity, understanding of other cultures and of our planet, plus independent thinking.

All of these are learned on a year’s sailing trip by meeting other sailing kids, local children, visiting different countries and cultures (some really still very archaic) or spending 24 hours camping on a desert island with kids from another boat.

For two months we also had a marine biologist on board, who taught the children about the sea and its creatures. Little wonder the attention span in these classes was longer than in German lessons! Learning kitesurfing or diving was also a good alternative to school sports.

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Snorkelling, fishing, kitesurfing and crossing the equator are all experiences well beyond lessons in a school classroom

In hindsight, the most important things the kids learned was not from schoolbooks but from the trip itself. We succeeded with the schooling, in that they were able to come back from our one-year trip and join the same class as their peers without falling behind. And they have re-adapted to school life without any problems.

In mid-January we said goodbye to the Caribbean Islands to sail for Panama with the World ARC. The highlights were the San Blas or Guna Islands, as the local Indians call them. This mostly uninhabited string of islands is truly fantastic and would be worth a much longer stay. In Panama we had a memorable visit to the Embera Indians in their village. It was wonderful to see how our kids immediately started to play with their children.

Into the exciting pacific

Traversing the Panama Canal was an unforgettable dance in a very small space, together with some of the largest ships on the planet. Then it was as if a new book had opened to us. The Pacific was way more exciting and interesting. People are much closer to nature, very friendly and enjoy visitors, as opposed to just seeing them as a source of income.

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Galapagos with its incredible wildlife – wow! Only the amount of tourism and space humans have already taken was unexpected. It was a stark contrast to places we visited thereafter. Most memorable were the Marquesas archipelago, with its high mountains, or the islands of the Tuamotus, stretching over 1,000 miles, with 78 paradise atolls where, on most, you would never see a soul.

The Tuamotus definitely warranted a longer visit with their beautiful dive sites, swimming with hundreds of sharks as we did in Fakarava, and unbelievable kiting spots.

Everyone has heard of Tahiti, Moorea or Bora Bora, but have you ever heard about Suwarrow, Niue or the Ha’apai island group in Tonga? Here a yacht is the only real way to get around and explore the unbelievable beauty of unspoiled nature, be it on land or in the sea with an abundance of colourful corals and fish, even whales.

You must respect Pacific islanders’ way of life, so in Fiji, for example, you should pay a visit to the chief of the village including offering him a gift (we gave Cava). Once this is done, you are very much treated as one of their own with the right to swim, fish, go ashore, visit their homes or go to school (which our children did for a week). Coconuts are the property of the local landowner and you should not pick up even a fallen one – this would be seen as stealing.

Dangerous approaches

Charts are not very accurate and the approaches to islands can be dangerous, especially the ones surrounded by reefs, like the Tuamotus. Be sure you enter with the sun at your back around midday and be aware of the tide, as currents can be much faster than your yacht’s engine(s).

The scariest moment for us was a six-hour thunderstorm between the Tuamotus and French Polynesia with winds well over 60 knots, which broke our Raymarine wind indicator. That said, RAID always felt safe, and we kept the sails up with maximum reefs.

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Visiting Huahine among the Society Islands

In all, we spent seven months in the Pacific, flying back to Europe from Fiji, where we left the boat. We had intended to go back to Fiji this May, as we felt we wanted to spend more time there, but the coronavirus pandemic has stalled that. Eventually we’ll carry on to Vanuatu, Tanna and Australia. We want to ship the boat back to the Med after that, so she can be our holiday home in Turkey and the Greek islands.

Spare parts

For spare parts, first to my mind is a spares for a watermaker capable of producing a reasonable amount of water. Having no water reduces the quality of life on board drastically. Our Aquabase produced up to 180lt per hour, but failed three times. Obviously, this always happens in the worst spots, in our case in the San Blas Islands and the Tuamotus. The low-pressure pump broke twice, and the high pressure pump once.

Another vital spare part is Volvo’s black box attached to the engine (MDI). Our D2-75 suddenly produced all kinds of rpm without being prompted and it could not be stopped from the helm station. Nobody knew what this could be, and only a search on the internet blogs showed that it’s a well-known issue.

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Luckily Volvo sent a replacement, but I don’t understand why they are not recalling all these MDIs. Getting a replacement is probably fairly fast in Europe, but it took us weeks in Colombia!

Bring additional rope and enough cloth to repair sails – as a bare minimum a replacement for the main halyard. A problem for us was the main halyard with a Karver Hook that had too much friction, so we needed an additional line at the head of our sail to be able to haul it down. In addition, one of the plastic masthead sheaves chafed through.

Consequently, we had to climb the mast to cut the sail down. Since then we’ve had to replace the main halyard twice where it chafes against the topping lift. Some additional strong protection over the top 50cm of the halyard has helped reduce the problem.

RAID specifications

Builder: Fountaine-Pajot
Model: Saba 50
LOA: 14.98m 49ft 1in
Beam: 7.99m 26ft 3in
Draught: 1.25m 4ft 1in
Displacement (dry): 15.5 tonnes
Design: Berret-Racoupeau

pacific-sailing-homeschooling-World-ARC2019-Ralf-Schlaepfer-bw-headshot-600px-squareAbout the author

Ralf Schlaepfer is a serial entrepreneur who launched his first company at the age of 16. He built up and sold his own consulting firm, and is now CEO of plastic recycling company Tubis Group. He is also mayor of his hometown of Schluein, in the east of Switzerland. He married Dina in 2007 and they have two children, Alexander and Ivy. Ralf got his skipper’s licence 30 years ago and has chartered yachts many times on holiday since.

First published in the September 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post Family adventure: How we home-schooled our kids while sailing across the Pacific appeared first on Yachting World.


It takes a team to Tango: The inside story of the fourth Wallycento superyacht (17 Sep 2020, 7:43 am)

This fourth Wallycento took the design and build to an aggressive new level. Toby Hodges reports from a test sail of Tango off the coast of Monaco

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This may be the fourth 100ft yacht designed to the Wallycento box rule, but it’s one that raises the bar with regard to combining form and functionality with outrageously cool aesthetics. Considering that Wally is yachting’s deity of style, that’s saying something.

Tango is at the very forefront of modern fast monohull design and advanced technology. Its stealthy black livery and long, low lines combine with a bold reverse sheerline to create a potent, powerful look. The ruthlessly clean deck is signature Wally. The image of the single helmsman on deck, with all that power and beauty controlled simply by the touch of a network of buttons on the pedestals, has become an icon for the Italian brand.

If Tango’s form is captivating on paper, in the flesh it’s mesmerising. As a sail trial from Monaco was to prove, however, here is a yacht that is just as much about function and how its detailed design and engineering allows it to perform as a cutting edge racer-cruiser. Rigorous weight centralisation, rig and rudder adjustment and an innovative ramp deck are core design details that demonstrate a new level of grand prix racing-inspired thinking.

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‘The design is more in keeping with out-and-out racing yachts like TP52s and mini maxis than luxury cruiser-racers’. All exterior photos: Gilles Martin-Raget

The team that collaborated to make it possible is impressive: lines from Mark Mills, structural engineering by Pure Engineering, MYT project management, construction at race yacht specialists Persico Marine and styling by Pininfarina.

Marcello Persico explained that after 15 years of building top end race yachts, including five America’s Cup campaigns, this is the first cruising boat his team has built: “It required 30,000 hours for the interior and 100,000 hours structural (composite) work!”

Raceboat inspiration

The Wallycento box rule creates light displacement superyachts with powerful sail plans and planing hulls. I have had the privilege of sailing aboard two of the previous three Centos, Magic Carpet3 and Galateia, yet Tango still stands out one of the most awe-inspiring yachts of any size I’ve ever sailed or seen.

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The design is more in keeping with out-and-out racing yachts like TP52s and mini maxis than luxury cruiser-racers. For those unfamiliar with the Irish designer Mark Mills, Tango’s lines instantly give you a glimpse into his racing pedigree. They are smooth, bucking the trend for hard chines or twin rudders. “There’s a time and a place for twin rudders and most inshore boats don’t qualify,” said Mills as he introduced me to his largest design to date.

It was the success of Mills’s 72ft Alegre, which has an innovative sloped or ‘ramp’ deck that inspired Wally founder Luca Bassani to recommend Mills for the Tango project. “Wally has constantly blended form and function to improve the sailing experience,” said Bassani, adding that for Tango in particular this involves, “the cutting-edge deck layout that combines our flush-deck with bulwark, introduced in 2006 with Esense, with the ramp deck of Alegre.”

A seamless deck from transom to bow makes a telling difference when you consider the sheer size of the sails that need to be carried up to the foredeck.

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The ultra clean deck and pit area

If the headroom is not required below, it’s a potential game changer. “Structurally a ramp deck is a big improvement [for a lighter, stiffer yacht] and crew work improvement is unparalleled,” said Mills. “The ability to haul sails up or across the deck without interruption is very cool – and it’s aesthetically unique.”

Time to Tango

The huge square-top mainsail emblazoned with a red rose was hoisted (… and hoisted) until it reached the mast top, which towers 47m above sea level. Following my gaze aloft Mills remarked: “The request was for the most aggressive Southern Spars rig yet.”

Again, it’s the functionality of this rig that really stands out. This is the first time a Cento’s mast step can be adjusted under load – no small consideration given that there is up to 34 tonnes of compression at its base. The mast step has a rounded base, made from a special alloy with low-friction material. A jack inside the mast controls vertical lift, while a ram can move the base fore or aft.

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Mills was very keen to capitalise on a class rule change that no longer penalises mast rake adjustment. “We wanted to bring race boat practice to the Cento,” he explained. “We actively change rig rake in the TP52s to get the best rudder angle.”

To compensate for the rake of the rig (“which is unprecedented at this size”), Mills designed a trench in the pushpit area. “We wanted to make sure the tack of the jib is always at its lowest – it’s as you would find on a [mini maxi] 72”.

Typically, the larger a yacht becomes, the more disconnected the helm can feel. Tango’s owner was very keen that the helm retained the feel of a smaller performance yacht. Two cogs inside the wheel pedestals therefore act as a gear change to make Tango’s steering feel lighter or stiffer, according to the conditions.

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The silver grilles set into the transom resemble afterburners, but conceal liferafts for easy launching

“We had the boat heeled at 25° in 25 knots of wind in Saint Tropez, but the owner could still steer with one finger,” said Carlo Torre, director of the project management company MYT responsible for the build.

The rake of the rudder can also be adjusted half a degree fore or aft via a button at the pedestal and the quadrant is mounted on the deckhead in the lazarette, below the helm pedestals, to minimise the linkage.

It was perhaps asking too much to feel anything from the rudder blade in the five knots of breeze I had when helming. However, the 640m2 of upwind sail area is certainly enough to convince Tango’s nimble 17-tonne hull to heel in the lightest of airs. And it is a remarkable feeling to stand with one foot on the angled deck or substantial bulwark and have all that power at your command.

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Pininfarina drew deck details such as the steering pedestals

We still matched or exceeded the 4–7 knots true wind speed for most of the sail. Wallys are typically used for inshore racing and short-term cruising in the Mediterranean, so the ability of Tango to sail – and for the helmsman be able to feel and appreciate the experience – in the lightest of breezes when most other yachts of this size wouldn’t even hoist canvas, is a potent one.

Sailing for scientists

The helm and trimming areas are kept particularly tidy and compact, and the deck is Wally-clean. Even the gennaker sheets are run through the bulwarks. There are only six winches (more comparable to a Farr 40, as one crewmember pointed out), to help minimise weight and long hydraulic runs.

By ensuring all winches are mounted at the same height on deck and that each has a crossover base, every line can lead to every winch. They are the latest three-speed Harken models with an exceptionally powerful first gear, capable of pulling 900kg – which means a jib can be hoisted in one gear in just 7.5 seconds!

The deck layout facilitates crew communication. The mainsail trimmer sits directly forward of the helmsman with remote push button controls to hand, the jib trimmer only another couple of metres further forward.

The mainsheet and runners are adjusted via huge MagicTrim rams below decks. The B&G readouts in the ultra-shallow pit don’t show the usual windspeed and direction figures, but rather heel angle, rudder angle, forestay load and port/starboard run times. Hydraulic rams allow for exact tack loads to be set. It’s sailing for scientists.

Wallys have always been known for their ease of use for cruising with minimum crew though – even the Centos. Which is why there are rams and remote controls for most functions and a self-tacking jib track (even if Tango has transverse clew tracks for racing too).

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Stability and trim

“We asked Mark Mills for a slightly forward trimmed yacht, because from past experiences we knew how easy it is to trim a boat aft when needed, but how it’s almost impossible to move the trim forward in light wind, when these big hulls have more drag,” explained Carlo Torre.

The water tanks are located aft so that, before racing in heavy wind, water can be added to bring the trim aft and increase stability. “To be competitive now you need to be agile in windward/leeward racing so central weight is needed,” added Torre.

The centralisation of interior weight is another weapon in the armoury for Tango’s assault on the Wallycento class. “The centralisation of the interior layout has a knock-on positive effect for the centralisation of winches, systems, hydraulic hoses, everything else,” Mills declared, “leading to a boat that’s not only lighter but better centralised weight wise than any other Cento.”

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Glistening hull and slippery lines: Tango is designed with forward trim so weight can be added aft in more wind

The engine room and powerplant below decks are as close as possible to the cockpit winch package, keeping cabling, tubing and power loss to a minimum.

The experienced team behind Tango knew that to improve on what had been done previously with Galateia, it would need a fresh approach, a configuration change even. “It required an owner who would let people do things for an improvement,” said Torre.

Every gram the project team could save on the interior, they could add lower down as ballast. Centralising weight and reducing it wherever possible in the hull so it can be used in the keel instead. “This means more energy going into making the boat go forwards rather than just going up and down in waves,” said Mills.

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The forward sliding hatch has a watertight pneumatic seal. All interior photos: Toni Meneguzzo

The keel trunk alone is 370kg lighter than Magic Carpet3, said Torre. “For the same displacement we have the heaviest bulb. We are lighter than Galateia by 900kg, but with more lead in the keel.” Such savings could prove significant – there is reportedly a 1.5 tonne difference in displacement between these three boats, excluding masts and keels.

Start with the engineering

This strict weight plan made the interior design more challenging. “It was a boat that started without a layout, but instead with the engineering,” Torre pointed out, as he guided me around the interior. “We wanted to have the most efficient structural layout, and suggested to Mills and Pure Engineering to define the structures with the only constraint of having the engine room just aft of the keel.”

The result is that, as you descend the magnificent, wide, curved companionway, you enter the after part of the accommodation, which contains the saloon. The cabins and galley all surround a central machinery space – as do the heads, to minimise plumbing runs.

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The aft saloon, with its showcase suspended steps, features a long table to port and a large sofa to starboard. The navstation adjoins the forward end of the sofa

Panels and doors are built of Airex foam to keep them super-light. The compact galley, built and finished in titanium and carbon, even uses a gyro on the induction stove to save the need for stabilising weights.

Despite this scrupulous attention to weight, Tango’s interior still has the elegant feel of an Italian-styled superyacht, with the design aiming to complement the structural lightness. The stark contrast of black carbon and white leather with scarlet red details (such as the stitching on the sofas) sets off a modern, sporty theme.

Fluid horizontal lines, most notable in the suspended steps, are used throughout the interior to give an impression of seamless surfaces. Mills explained that 1.9m is the minimum headroom requirement of the Cento box rule and that they designed all of the interior to within 10mm of that limit, admitting “we probably went too tight on the tolerances!”

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The sharp Italian styling continues down below. The layout surrounds a central machinery space

The reverse sheer means headroom tapers away towards the transom, but from the companionway aft the area is given over to one vast lazarette space.

The owner’s cabin in the forward section of the accommodation has a double berth each side and an en-suite with walk-in shower compartment. There is a generous space between berths to house and shift sails below the enormous sliding foredeck hatch.

The captain uses the guest double cabin to port, complete with another luxurious walk-in shower, while the permanent crew have a Pullman to starboard. The downside to designing an interior around centralised weight and machinery is that it creates an unusual layout, with a corridor effect through the central and forward accommodation.

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This, combined with low deckheads, makes the space feel compact for its length. If the boat is used for cruising it would perhaps make more sense in privacy terms for the owner to use the aft port cabin, which adjoins the saloon.

To discover a yacht that is so aesthetically on the money inside and out is perhaps not surprising when it carries the Wally logo. But to find one where the design and engineering has been pushed so hard towards performance, while somehow maintaining enough of Wally’s DNA as well as the capacity for shorthanded daysailing, is another thing altogether.

Tango is proof that a dual-purpose, high-performance superyacht remains as attractive and exciting today as it has for Wally designs over the past 25 years. It helps explain why these yachts continue to be so popular and why the brand regularly attracts 20-strong fleets at Mediterranean regattas.

The pretty red rose on Tango’s transom is also a nice touch. The advanced raceboat design, technology and engineering poured into this latest Cento could mean that her competitors will need to get used to a good view of that aspect of the boat.

Specification

LOA: 30.48m (100ft)
Beam: 7.20m (23ft 7in)
Draught: 4.4m-6.2m (14ft 5in-20ft 4in)
Displacement (light): 47,500kg/104,720lb
Upwind sail area: 640m2/6,889ft2
Downwind sail area: 1,398m2/15,048ft2

First published in the April 2018 issue of SuperSail World.

The post It takes a team to Tango: The inside story of the fourth Wallycento superyacht appeared first on Yachting World.


Cruising New Caledonia: Spectacular sailing in the French corner of the Pacific (16 Sep 2020, 7:33 am)

Janneke Kuysters and Wietze van der Laan are captivated by the Pacific islands of New Caledonia

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“OK, this time you’ll do it, right?” Wietze asks, full of hope that this time I’ll grab the mooring buoy without a hitch. I’m totally focussed on the white buoy bobbing right in front of us.

I mentally prepare the mooring lines in my left hand to go through that ring. But just as we are 3m away from the mooring, a pig surfaces, a big, fat, grey pig. It looks me straight in the eye and says: “Pffff!” I am stunned. “There’s a pig!” I yell at Wietze.

“A what?” And then I’ve missed the buoy and have to do another turn. The second time it all goes well and ten minutes later the stillness of this sunny day descends around us.

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Amédée lighthouse and nature reserve – the lagoon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: Hemis Alamy

“Now what did you say about a pig?” Wietze asks me. I open my mouth to tell him, when it hits me – it’s not a pig, it’s a manatee! We both dash outside and there he is again, swimming slowly around our boat before making a majestic dive to the grassy patch behind us. Welcome to New Caledonia.

Time to dwell

“Are you going to Vanuatu?” a lot of people asked us when we were waiting for a weather window in Opua.

“No, we’re aiming for New Caledonia, so we have more time there,” was our answer. As always on a circumnavigation, you have to pick and choose where you go, and we feel we are richly rewarded for making this choice. After an uneventful crossing, we see Mount Doré vaguely in the early hours of the morning. The VHF comes to life with French chattering.

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The pass through the reef is easy to spot (the flat bit between the massive rollers) and the Amedée lighthouse beckons with her arms of light. As soon as we are inside the reef, the sheer size of New Caledonia hits you. It takes 13 miles to get from the reef to the capital Nouméa. And all the time you feast your eyes on innumerable shades of blue which the morning sun reveals.

“Did you know that it is only slightly smaller than the Great Barrier Reef?” I ask Wietze while I read through a cruising guide. “And a World Heritage Site also. Lots of protected coral and wildlife”. He nods, trying to avoid hitting one of the many anchored boats outside Port Moselle, one of the two marinas that provide check-in facilities.

Port Moselle has one dock set aside for visiting yachts. The rules are strict in the busy season: three nights maximum stay. That’ll give us plenty of time to clear in and have a good look around. Clearing in is a breeze: a brisk walk to Immigration (two forms, two stamps), Customs is handled by the marina (one form) and the biosecurity officer comes on board. Our vegetables can stay; she only takes one potato.

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Nouméa’s Port Moselle and cathedral. Photo: Oliver Strewe / Getty

Within two hours everything is done at no cost at all. All forms are French/English and all the people involved speak English in a very charming French way. We feel like we have found Paris in the tropics.

Time to explore

The market is next to the marina and we stock up on delicious papayas, melons, bananas, veggies, fish, all mouthwateringly fresh and colourful. The local produce is reasonably priced but everything imported is breathtakingly expensive.

We wander through Nouméa and love the Place Cocotier (Palmtree Square) where there always seems to be an event going on. The little museums are gems where there is lots to learn about New Caledonia’s history. Having a little French cup of coffee on a terrace is the best start to the day imaginable here.

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Local produce is relatively cheap

Our three days pass very quickly and soon we find ourselves begging for more at the marina office. “No, please go,” a local sailor says to us. He grabs my elbow and points at the chart on the wall. “Look here: protected anchorages on the little atolls. And here, Île des Pins. World class, you have to go and see it. And here, Prony Bay, you can spend a week there.

“Go, and come back after a month. Or better, after a whole season. It is such a shame that most cruisers come here for only a few weeks.”

We decide to take his advice seriously. One more round of the market to stock up on fresh goodies, and late in the afternoon we cast off. A whopping four miles from the capital is the first atoll, Îlot Maître, a cute little island surrounded by a reef. To avoid people anchoring on the coral, the French government has laid hundreds of free mooring buoys all over New Caledonia.

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Anna Caroline at anchor off Île Uére´near Nouméa

They can take boats of up to 10m in all wind strengths; bigger boats have to go elsewhere when the wind picks up over 20 knots. We tie to a mooring and enjoy the sun setting. No green flash on the horizon, but the green flash of a very French bottle of Chablis on board.

We spend a week exploring. While we enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach of Île Amédée, where the old metal lighthouse proudly stands, a fellow cruiser walks over and asks: “You’re going to Île des Pins too tomorrow?” We shamefully admit that we haven’t been pulling up our weather charts in the past days. Happily cruising around in the benign tradewinds has made us lazy. But the wind is veering to the east. Now is the time to go.

Unexpected gem

The next morning we are on our way at first light. We sail 40 miles upwind, a long slog against a steady ocean swell. “I sure hope that it is worth it,” says Wietze sourly.

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Anna Caroline beating upwind

Once we turn into Kuto Bay we know that it was worth every minute. We sail into a wide, sandy bay, palm-fringed with an inviting terrace right in the middle. The anchor sets beautifully, we inflate the dinghy and off we go.

We run into a local guy who introduces himself as William. “I’ll take you to go sailing,” he says with a smile. Wietze points at our boat: “We know sailing, my friend.”

“No, not the sailing we do here,” William persists.

So the next morning at 0700 he picks us up from the beach. We wade through the water to Bernard’s boat. It is a classic pirogue, made from the trunk of a pine tree. Sailing on a log is interesting, but Bernard manages to make remarkable speed with it. A turtle can only just dodge us when we thunder downwind.

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Old and new: sailing with a traditional pirogue outrigger canoe – which also has an outboard motor

Bernard steers his nimble craft with a large paddle as an oar. It turns on a dime, as we find out when we race past a massive rock, while Bernard chats about his tribe. He is Kanak and a member of one of eight tribes on the island. The total population is less than 1,500, so the tribes are relatively small.

Another pirogue sets off from the beach and apparently it is the same with Kanaks as with all other sailors: two boats on the water is a race. We’re having lots of fun comparing the speed and the wind angle of both boats. After two hours, we declare Bernard’s red boat the winner.

He drops us off at a beach, from where we walk through the forest to a river. Then we follow the riverbank for about a kilometre before we get to La Piscine Naturelle (the natural swimming pool). Again, one of those unexpected gems: white sand, spectacularly blue water filled with colourful clams, coral and tropical fish.

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Beautiful La Piscine Naturelle on the Île des Pins, just south-east of the main island of New Caledonia

After snorkelling to our hearts’ content, we walk back along the river to the road. William picks us up, his face beaming with pride: “This was special, right?” It really was.

A lovely downwind sail brings us to Prony Bay. It is as if we enter a different world with lush green hills and red earth. Mangroves show their feet at low water. It’s a mysterious landscape, I feel as if fairies could come out of the bush any moment.

Badge of honour

The people of New Caledonia have a special word for this red earth; they call it ‘boue rouge’. When things have their own word, alarm bells should go off. The boue rouge is the most amazing mud; it sticks to everything and water won’t wash it off. The non-skid on our deck will bear the boue rouge badge of honour for years.

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Vegetation clings to rock formations on the reefs that have been sculpted by waves over the millennia. Photo: Blaine Harrington III / Alamy

For the Kanak people, there are many sacred sites in this bay. Anchorages are all a convenient four or five miles apart, and from almost every beach there is a marked track leading to a lighthouse or hot spring. We walk for hours and can’t stop being amazed at the abundance of flowers and unusual plants.

After weeks of pottering around its bays and islands, we were convinced our decision to focus on New Caledonia was the right one. Early in the season the tradewinds are not as strong, so the range of destinations is much wider.

In the marina office we run into the same local sailor again. “Did you like it?” he asks with that special grin of barely hidden superiority. “Yes, we did,” we say.

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Mountains are the backdrop to New Caledonia’s landscape. Photo: Tim Hester / EyeEm / Getty

About New Caledonia

New Caledonia is a French Overseas Territory. Although French is the official language, most people speak (or at least understand) English.

Clearing customs is a straightforward process which can be dealt with in English, as most forms are in two languages, and most of the formalities can be handled by two marinas: Port du Sud and Port Moselle.

Channel markers and other navigational aids are maintained to European standards, but it pays to have detailed and recent charts of the lagoon.

The price level of marinas is high, as is as eating out, but with some careful shopping it is possible to provision without emptying the cruising coffers.

ATMs are widely available, and credit and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere.

cruising-new-caledonia-pacific-islands-Janneke-Kuysters-Wietze-Van-Der-Laan-bw-headshot-600px-squareAbout the authors

Janneke Kuysters and Wietze Van Der Laan left the Netherlands in 2013 with their Bruce Roberts 44 Anna Caroline. They have crossed the Atlantic, sailed the Americas up to Alaska and cruised the Pacific extensively.

First published in the September 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post Cruising New Caledonia: Spectacular sailing in the French corner of the Pacific appeared first on Yachting World.


From the archives: How the early years of the Fastnet Race shaped its legend (15 Sep 2020, 8:14 am)

As part of our 125th anniversary celeberations, Nigel Sharp delves into the Yachting World archives to trace the origin and early years of the legendary Fastnet Race

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In 1931, a Yachting World correspondent who went by the name of Solent opined: “615 miles seemed to me too long for any yacht race by some 500-odd miles.”

But he confessed to a complete change of heart after taking part in the Fastnet Race aboard the American schooner Mistress, writing that: “There was not a single hour of that race that I would have missed.”

Up until then the race had been an annual event since the first in 1925, but from 1931 it would be – apart from the war years – every other year to allow it to alternate with the Bermuda Race.

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Jolie Brise, the only boat to win the Fastnet Race three times. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

The inaugural event, called simply the Ocean Race, was open to “fully decked yachts of any rig measuring not more than 50ft and not less than 30ft on the waterline” according to the Notice of Race, and yachts ‘must sail in cruising trim’.

With regard to crew, it specified: “No restriction will be made as to the number of amateurs carried, but no more paid hands will be permitted than can be normally accommodated in the fo’c’sle.”

That race was won by the Le Havre pilot cutter Jolie Brise which, after winning it again in 1929 and 1930, remains the only boat to have triumphed three times.

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Pipe smoking appears de rigueur among the Jolie Brise crew in the 1930s

At a dinner at Plymouth’s Royal Western YC immediately after the first race, the (later Royal) Ocean Racing Club was formed with Jolie Brise’s owner Lt Cmdr EG Martin as commodore.

The recent announcement around the next two races finishing in Cherbourg has certainly caused some controversy. But it wasn’t until 1949 that what is considered to be the traditional course, starting in Cowes, going through the Solent to the west and finishing in Plymouth, became established.

The first race started from Ryde, as the Royal Western Yacht Club’s new Lonely Rock Race did, with the Isle of Wight left to starboard. The next six also left the island to starboard, but started from Cowes, while in 1933 the fleet left the island to port for the first time, but finished in Cowes; and in 1935 it started in the western Wight, from Yarmouth.

Just six boats started the first race in 1925 when Jolie Brise’s winning time was 6d 14h 45m. Compare that to last year when a record 388 boats took part and the Ultime Maxi Edmond de Rothschild took line honours in 1d 4h 2m.

“There is no doubt that the sport of ocean racing is growing more popular each year,’ wrote Major Heckstall-Smith in 1930 as editor of Yachting World, “and we are delighted that it should because it encourages and recruits many young amateurs to the sea.”

The post From the archives: How the early years of the Fastnet Race shaped its legend appeared first on Yachting World.


Taking control: How modern autopilot systems can be your best helmsman (14 Sep 2020, 10:29 am)

There is a school of thought in the IMOCA 60 world that a good autopilot system is worth sacrificing a few sails for in the overall campaign budget – that’s how big the perceived advantage is for some.

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A Raymarine autopilot takes control under spinnaker. Photo: ISTEC

It’s hardly surprising. At speeds that are regularly in the high 20s with sustained bursts in excess of 30 knots, there is much to gain from getting it right and a great deal to lose if you don’t.

At these speeds, the rudder not only alters heading but will behave like an aeroplane’s elevator: every twitch risks changing the fore and aft pitch of the boat. This is already balanced precariously on the giant foil to leeward and the canting keel fin to windward.

So given this, it’s little surprise the human pilot is considered to be the weakest link in maintaining a high speed balancing act. As a result, there continues to be a great deal of effort focussed on designing autopilot systems that would do an F18 jet fighter proud.

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Autopilots are now being permitted during short-handed racing. Photo: Paul Wyeth

You might ask yourself what this has to do with grassroots sailing, but the answer is quite bit – thanks in part to this year’s global shutdown. Unless your crew was drawn from a large family living under the same roof, it’s unlikely you were able to sail fully crewed this spring. And even if you were somehow able to pack the weather rail with crew sitting shoulder to shoulder, who else was out there to race?

So this unprecedented period has at least provided an opportunity to look at the latest autopilot technology and how it could help with both short-handed and fully crewed sailing, either racing or cruising.

Understanding how you can get the best out of your autopilot is more than just simply reading the manual, as I discovered when talking to some of those who depend heavily on their pilots. They all made the point that getting the pilot to work properly so that it can be relied on in challenging conditions takes time.

Article continues below…



It’s not just racers who can benefit, either. Many cruising crews are sailing short-handed and, as events such as the ARC illustrate, the trend of sailing bigger boats with fewer crew is still growing.

So, being able to rely on your autopilot when you have slowed down to change a sail or put in a reef is just as important when cruising as it is when racing flat-out. Plus, steering in a way that reduces the rolling motion by reading a quartering sea more intelligently could make for a significantly more comfortable ride.

This season also saw a change in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s rules which now allow autopilots to be used on fully crewed boats. Some argue that a human can perform better than any pilot, but there are plenty of solo rock stars that will tell you quite the opposite. They claim that even some of the most common, mass-produced autopilots can now sail better than a human in certain conditions. The key is setting them up correctly and that, it seems, is where so many of us go wrong.

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Autopilots are now commonplace in the ARC. Photo: TimBisMedia

So we’ve talked to some of the experts in the short-handed racing scene about how they set their systems up to get the best out of them. Getting this right could make life more comfortable, and give you a competitive edge.

Getting it set up

Before you look at working on the pilot’s settings, the first essential step is to calibrate the boat’s basic instruments.  “When we get aboard to investigate an autopilot system, it is not unusual to find that the only item that has been calibrated is the echo sounder depth offset,” says B&G product director Matt Eeles.

“Calibration is essential, not just as part of the normal commissioning process, but before any of the data on the displays can be relied on. Here, the compass and the boat speed are fundamental to any instrument system. Without doing this, any adjustments to the autopilot will be meaningless.”

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Matt Eeles joined B&G in 2003 after previously working as a software engineer and completing a full-time Olympic campaign in the Tornado multihull class. After some time world cruising his role at B&G started in R&D before then moving on to become product director in 2020

The first calibration is for the compass which, thanks to modern software, is the simplest of all and requires turning the boat steadily through a circle (at around 3° per second), until the display shows that the compass has been fully calibrated.

Next up is calibrating the speed which, according to Eeles, is best done along a known distance between two fixed points. “Use your chartplotter to select a couple of marks that are half a mile apart to set up a calibration run between them. Start the calibration function on the instruments and then make three runs at a steady speed,” he says.

“While it is very tempting to try and adjust your speed based on your GPS output, the results are not that reliable and it is surprisingly hard to get right by this method, especially if there is some tide and wind.”

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Will Harris competed in the La Solitaire du Figaro circuit 2016 with the Artemis Offshore Academy, winning the La Solitaire du Figaro Rookie title that same year. Sailing Hive Energy, he completed the 2019 Figaro circuit after which he joined Boris Herrmann aboard his IMOCA 60 Team Malizia. Photo: Andreas Lindlahr

Preparing ashore

Working for Boris Herrmann’s Vendée Globe campaign, Team Malizia, solo sailor Will Harris is very familiar with the way in which a professional IMOCA 60 team will go about calibration. But his experience on the Figaro circuit means he also understands the real world aboard far smaller boats with more down to earth systems.

“You can save a great deal of time on the water by studying the various autopilot functions,” he says. “I make a point of studying the manuals and making a list of key functions that I laminate and stick next to the controller as a handy guide.

“When you do get down to the boat there are a few key things you can do before you even head out to sea. First, pick a day or time with flat water, minimal tide and wind. Then, before you do anything make sure you know how to switch the autopilot off in a hurry in case you need to.

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A control head for the latest NKE autopilots. Photo: Paul Wyeth

“Then it’s a case of finding out whether the rudder and the pilot agree on what dead ahead is. This can be achieved by motoring ahead slowly in the river or harbour where it’s easier to make heading assessments with a backdrop.

“Set the pilot to dead ahead and then watch to see if the boat’s heading remains straight. Make small adjustments until you’re happy. From here, the key function to understand is ‘Gain’ and what it does. Later on you’ll use this 80% of the time to adjust the behaviour of the pilot across a variety of conditions to make it steer like you would.

“More advanced functions like ‘Auto trim’ and ‘Counter rudder’ are functions that you will use 20% of the time to refine your performance later on where you are looking to make the pilot better than you at steering.”

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Henry Bomby has competed in four Solitaire du Figaro campaigns and spent over two years racing the MOD70 trimaran Phaedo3. He joined the Volvo Ocean Race in 2017-18 aboard Turn The Tide On Plastic and is now working towards a Paris 2024 Olympic campaign in the new double-handed offshore category. Photo: Brian Carlin

Volvo crewmember and solo/shorthanded sailor Henry Bomby is also well versed in adapting best practice for smaller boats and campaigns.

Sailing with fellow VOR sailor, Hannah Diamond, they finished second overall in last year’s double-handed class in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Bomby’s starting point is also calibration. “If the boat speed calibration is out, then calculations like true wind speed and direction will also be out, which will start a knock-on effect elsewhere.

“So, whatever the boat, the speed sensor needs to be directly on the centreline and the same for the windspeed and direction.”

Bomby has several other tips.“Clearly it is important to avoid shifty conditions and stay out of any current as best as you can. Then make sure you give yourself sufficient space to perform at least 10 minute runs to settle things down.

“Observation is a key part of the process. Unless you’re about to wipe out or you are in danger of a collision, don’t be too quick to take over – you need to know how the pilot is responding in order to understand what the appropriate adjustment needs to be.

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“It’s also important to keep a log of the sailplan and conditions. A square topped mainsail will produce more upwash than a conventional pin head mainsail, so your calibration charts will need to be more detailed. They will also need to take into account when you are reefed and when you are sailing under full sail. Here, the square top mainsail has a big effect.”

Extra functions

Once you have got used to the basic controls and how you vary the adjustments depending on the conditions, getting to the next level of functionality is more about understanding how the pilot delivers the instructions you have set.

“The amount of rudder angle and the way in which it is delivered to the autopilot ram is calculated from the sum of three key factors known as; ‘Proportional’, ‘Integral’ and ‘Derivative’ feedback control, better known as PID,” says Matt Eeles. “On board the boat these factors can be adjusted by the helmsman using three functions.”

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B&G autopilot Palma H5000 graphic displays

“Rudder gain is the first of these three factors (Proportional), which changes the amount of rudder angle used to get back onto course and how quickly it is applied.

Turning the gain up means that the autopilot responds rapidly and aggressively to any request. This is the main function to make sure that the autopilot is responding in a suitable way for the conditions.

“It’s not unusual for people to think that high gain is what they want in all cases, but the reality is not as simple. In a car, if you’re going fast you will want a smaller amount of steering wheel input applied gently to make a change of direction than when you’re going slowly. The amount of gain you may want afloat varies in a similar way.”

“The second factor (Integral) is the Auto Trim function, which learns how much weather helm to apply to achieve a steady heading. Changing this setting adjusts the speed with which the autopilot learns to cope with weather helm.

“To set up Auto Trim, set the boat up on a reach and steer by hand until you are happy with the feel on the helm. Switch the autopilot on and wait to see that the heading remains the same. Now introduce some weather helm by, say, over sheeting the mainsail. If the autopilot doesn’t compensate fast enough you need to reduce Auto Trim to allow it to learn faster.

“The third function (Derivative), we describe as Counter rudder, which is the function that applies rudder in the opposite direction to stop it overshooting the required heading.

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The NKE multidisplay

“To check this function, set up the boat under engine and note the angle at which you have started and where you want the pilot to steer. Then put in some large course changes of say 20-30° at a time. From this you will be able to see whether the pilot is over- or undershooting. If it overshoots, increase Counter rudder and decrease the setting if it undershoots.”

There are some further points that all three experts mentioned. In particular, take plenty of time available to calibrate, understand and set up your system, don’t expect too much too soon, but do expect to get it wrong from time to time. Getting an understanding of how your pilot works and building confidence in its behaviour takes time.

Top tips for setting up your autopilot system

  • Calibrate your compass
  • Calibrate your log
  • Study the autopilot manual and make cheat sheet/crib card to keep in the cockpit as a quick guide to functions
  • Check rudder and autopilot agree on what dead ahead is. Reset as required.
  • Understand what gain control does – the amount of rudder angle used to get back onto course and how quickly it is applied. Think of it as you would the steering on a car, less input at high speed than when travelling slowly.
  • Under sail, allow yourself space for minimum 10 minute runs under autopilot to allow things to settle down.
  • Resist the temptation to take over, (unless there’s a risk of collision or wipe out), observe how the autopilot responds
  • Keep a log of conditions, sail settings and calibrations.
  • Set up Integral function, (‘Auto Trim’ in B&G terms) to get the pilot to respond to other heading influences such as weather helm.
  • Set up Derivative function (‘Counter rudder’ in B&G terms) to ensure that rudder counters correctly to avoid overshooting the correct heading.

First published in the September 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post Taking control: How modern autopilot systems can be your best helmsman appeared first on Yachting World.


Vendée Globe 2020 preview: Next generation foilers will sail on the limit (10 Sep 2020, 8:02 am)

This year’s Vendée Globe is a race for futuristic flying machines. Helen Fretter and Andi Robertson take a closer look

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The Manuard-designed, scow bowed L’Occitaine has shown huge potential: the increased bow volume and substantial forefoot means the nose does not dig deep but skims even in a seaway, but no one has really tested a scow in the deep south! Photo: Pierre Bouras

The world of single-handed offshore racing is a uniquely rarefied one. It’s an oft-quoted statistic that more people have been into space than sailed around the planet non-stop, but solo sailors who have successfully taken on the toughest race in the world belong to a particularly exclusive club.

“I think there’s only about 80 of us who have ever finished the Vendée Globe,” remarked Sam Davies, who will be entering her third Vendée this November. “That’s nothing compared to the number of people that have been on the International Space Station [240].”

But as the pace of development in the IMOCA class accelerates ferociously, this elite world is changing. The 2020 Vendée entry list includes few of the ‘old guard’ who featured heavily over the past decade, such as Vincent Riou and Jean-Pierre Dick.

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The 2010 design Initiatives Coeur has been upgraded with latest generation foils and autopilot. Photo: ALEA

Among the skippers with brand new latest generation designs are Charlie Dalin and Sébastien Simon, who will be starting from Les Sables d’Olonne for the first time. For Dalin it will only be his second solo IMOCA race.

They’ll be racing two of the most experienced sailors on the circuit: Alex Thomson, entering his fifth Vendée and hoping to finally take the top spot after 20 years of trying; and Jérémie Beyou, on his fourth attempt. Both are in new boats.

The fleet is more of a technology race than ever, while the Vendée Globe will forever be a battle of attrition and seamanship. So what do you need to succeed in the IMOCA class today?

Article continues below…



Road to Les Sables

A well-worn path to the Vendée Globe start line has been trodden by hundreds of hopeful French sailors. It begins with a Mini Transat campaign, where they learn to fix everything that can possibly break on tiny, overly complex boats, to manage a campaign on small change and hope, to read ocean weather systems, and to contend with the fear – or joy – that can only come when you are thousands of miles from land, in thousands of feet of water, alone, and often heart-wrenchingly young.

Subsisting on coffee, sleeping on generous friends’ floors (or worse, Ellen MacArthur famously lived in a container in a French boatyard), Mini Transat sailors have their commitment thoroughly tested. For many the next stage may be a Figaro, racing in a fleet so close that shines a spotlight on every tactical option missed, every manoeuvre fumbled. Here they learn how to manage the kind of sleep deprivation that leads to hallucinations, and how to abandon all ego. The budgets go up, the need to satisfy a sponsor increases.

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Sam Davies will be entering her fourth Vendée Globe this year

The prize can be a ticket to the big league: an IMOCA 60 sponsorship deal, and a chance to try and emulate Alain Gautier, Michel Desjoyeaux or Armel Le Cléac’h, who all won at least one Figaro before winning the Vendée Globe.

However, to run a foiling IMOCA 60 campaign today requires a budget of €10-15million. Do these traditional pathways still produce the best skippers, or are marketing and boardroom negotiation skills more important?

“I do think that France has got just the best set up ever with the Mini Transat, the Figaro circuit, the Class 40s and then the Vendée Globe,” says Davies.

“It’s the ideal ground to go through, and I guess I did that because I went from Mini to Figaro, and truly the performances that I did in Figaro gave me my first opportunity with Roxy in the IMOCA.

“But then other people do it the opposite way and manage through being very clever and having good contacts. Getting a budget can get an IMOCA project going straight off without too much sailing experience. But then they’ll struggle because the performance in the IMOCA circuit is now pretty high.

“I would never have dared to have gone straight to an IMOCA having not been in a Mini or a Figaro! But I remember being really impressed with Jean-Pierre Dick who came through having found a budget, but never having sailed Mini or Figaro. He actually did some IMOCA sailing, realised he was being beaten by people who’d done a lot of Figaro racing and he just swallowed his pride and set off on a Figaro campaign because he knew that was the quickest way to improve his solo sailing.”

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Charlie Dalin’s Apivia. Photo: Maxime Horlaville/Apivia

Solo sailors have always had to be their own engineers, but the complexity of a modern foiler now requires a huge team that not only includes sailmakers and electricians, but also specialists in aeronautics, hydraulics and composites. Charlie Dalin, skipper of the impressive Apivia campaign, is not only a graduate of the Mini and Figaro circuits but also a qualified naval architect renowned for his stringent attention to detail. Sébastien Simon is a composites engineer, Sam Davies a Cambridge engineering graduate.

“On Initiatives Coeur, I developed a new autopilot with Madintech last year, and I was the first one using that pilot. I’ve got a Mechanical Engineering degree and I love all that, the development and feedback, working with these companies who are right on the leading edge. It is really technical. I use my degree pretty much every day,” says Sam.

“Our boats are full of technology now. So, naturally, it leans towards the people who are a bit geeky and have a technical brain. But you can still be a young up-and-coming sailor who wants to buy an entry level boat that’s reliable, and you can go and have a great adventure.

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Alex Thomson has made one of the most radical design choices for his latest Hugo Boss with a completely enclosed cockpit at the mast base. Photo: Graham Snook

“The company that sponsor you will just will get just as much out of it as the sponsor of the winning boat if they manage to live the adventure of the Vendée Globe with you. The great thing about the class is that these boats do exist, they’re much easier for a smaller team to work on, and they’re maybe more likely to finish.”

Many sailors and shore crews have begun their careers working as preparateurs, sometimes offering their skills for free. But as the boats have become more technical this area of work is increasingly formalised.

“It is more and more professional,” says Davies, “So maybe it’s a little bit harder for the young people to get a break. But if you are really motivated to do something, then you get there, if you’re brave enough to knock on the door and ask to come sailing or get some advice.

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Training at places like the elite Port la Forêt school is key to performing at the highest level in the IMOCA class. Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut

“That’s the great thing about Lorient, it’s a unique place where the whole world of offshore sailing is. There are the young keen Mini Sailors who are living on a shoestring, who’ve all clubbed together to rent an AirBnB for not very much money so they can train in Lorient, and just hang around bigger projects and be in the right place at the right time to jump on opportunities. That does still exist.”

The area is also home to world-famous training centres where solo skippers can be coached in the very specialist skills of offshore racing. They fall into two camps: the Pôle Finistère school in Port la Forêt, some 40 miles north; and a group that sails out of Lorient.

“It’s really important to train together, especially in the single-handed world, because there’s only so much you can learn when you’re on your own. It’s good to group together in organised, structured training. Like everything else, it’s professionalising. And if you don’t do that, then other people who do will get ahead of you and it will be hard to keep up,” explains Davies.

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Charal is considered by many to be the benchmark latest generation 60, although it is not the absolutely newest launch. Photo: Gauthier Lebec / Charal

“Port la Forêt was one of the first French elite squads. It’s based around the Figaro class and the IMOCA, and is a selective squad so you can’t just pay to go training there. You have to put in an application that has to get accepted by a committee who decide whether you’re going to bring enough to the group. You have to have the right attitude, because it’s all about exchange and sharing and learning together. And if the group is too big, then nobody will share anything because they’re giving all of their secrets away to all of the opposition!”

The Port la Forêt 2020 skippers’ roster is a frankly intimidating list of the best offshore sailors in the world. Davies is a member of the squad. “It’s great, and I get a lot out of it. The sharing sail trim and boat performance aspect is managed really well by the coaches. Obviously they have to respect the privacy between us, because at the end of the day we’re all competitors.

“Then the Lorient set up is a bit more of a club kind of atmosphere, where anyone can come and pay their own subscription and then you sign up for the training sessions you want to do. So it’s more open to everybody.”

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Thomas Ruyant’s Verdier-designed LinkedOut at full speed. Photo: Pierre Bouras / TR Racing

For sailors like Davies, Port la Forêt training is only part of their armoury. She also works individually with physical coaches and meteorologists, as well as fellow solo skipper Paul Meilhat.

“When you do a single-handed campaign, you’re a little bit alone, and for some of the pre-race decisions weather-wise, or strategy or sail choice, it’s nice to have another skipper to bounce ideas back and forward to help take the strain. A lot of the IMOCA skippers have another skipper who is their kind of their ‘performance coach’, they’re not necessarily a coach but they are another sailor to share the load,” she explains.

Despite the ever-increasing professionalism, the ever-bigger teams, and the single-minded competitiveness of the skippers, one thing that has not changed is the camaraderie among Vendée entrants.

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Charlie Dalin is skipper of the very promising Apivia. Photo: Vincent Curutchet

“It still has that feeling; I guess it’s down to the seamanship involved, and the fact that what everybody is doing is just so hard. Even the people who are lucky enough to have a big team supporting them, at one point, they were a small team with not much money, or a Figaro sailor dreaming of one day doing the Vendée. I remember when I was younger it was amazing to be able to have just one tip from one of the top sailors. And so I try to do that.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to do something absolutely amazing. And there’s a very mutual respect between everyone, because just to get to the start line is an incredible achievement in itself.”

Next generation IMOCAs

The 34-boat fleet that is expected to line up for this year’s round the world, non-stop, single-handed epic is one of the most intriguing, and untested that we have seen.

In the last Vendée Globe in 2016, the majority of new IMOCAs built for the race were from the VPLP-Verdier collaboration. But the design field has been blown wide open for the 2020 race with four different design studios in play, all with very different ideas. The resulting combinations of hull shapes and foil concepts span a much wider spectrum than recent editions of the race.

Factor in a critical lack of racing and training time because of the COVID-19 pandemic and November’s solo race promises to be the most intriguing since the landmark 2008/09 edition.

Dominant duo

Back in 2016 the VPLP/Verdier near-monopoly accounted for six new boats, all launched in close succession in the summer of 2015 and the first in the class to all sport foils from the outset. By the finish they had taken three of the top four spots, including winner Armel Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII, 2nd placed Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss and 4th placed Jean-Pierre Dick on St Michel Virbac.

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Hugo Boss has a narrowed waterline and interesting bow design compromise; the sharp reverse sheer and minimum deck area forward reduces weight but still allows bow volume and lift. Photo: Lloyd Images

VPLP and the group headed by ETNZ’s America’s Cup winning lead designer Guillaume Verdier have since gone their own ways and both have designed new boats for the 2020 Vendée Globe cycle.

The first of the 2020 generation boats to launch was Jeremie Beyou’s Charal by VPLP, considered by most to be the current benchmark boat and winner of the recent Vendée Arctic Race. VPLP followed that with Alex Thomson’s radical Hugo Boss and Japanese skipper’s Kojiro Shiraishi’s DMG Mori Global One (built from the Charal moulds).

Meanwhile Verdier’s designs are an extension of the initial research and modelling that went into the one-design Volvo Super 60s proposals, which sadly did not survive the transition of The Ocean Race to new ownership. They include Apivia – a collaboration between Verdier’s design team with project management by Francois Gabart’s MerConcept, and top Figarist Charlie Dalin as skipper.

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Apivia with its V1 foils in pre-lift off mode, showing the improved water flow onto the foils compared to previous foiling IMOCA iterations. Photo: Maxime Horlaville / polaRYSE / disobey. / Apivia

Apivia won last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre and finished 2nd in the Arctic Race. Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut is another highly fancied Verdier package that finished just behind Dalin in 3rd in the Vendée Arctic. The VPLP-Verdier heritage is apparent across all five boats, but there are benefits to working separately also.

“It is good for us to be working on our own, when you have six projects from one design office you cannot focus so much on your design.

“I think now, with three new designs and two 2020 foil upgrades, you can be more focused on your concepts,” explains VPLP’s Quentin Lucet.

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The Verdier design LinkedOut uses a powerful hull shape accepting a little more wetted surface compared with the low drag VPLPs such as Hugo Boss. Photo: Martin Keruzorel

“It is exciting now for everyone because the range of philosophies is so wide. You can go from a fully boxy shape to much more rounded. Some don’t compromise on weight at all, others are focussed more on the skimming mode, some flying.”

The fundamental key to Charal’s design was that the hull would not generate any real righting moment: the foil does that. VPLP’s lower drag model proved very fast at the start of the TJV, with both Charal and Hugo Boss in full flying mode making 1-2 knots faster as they left the Channel. Both also have ‘skimming’ mode; touching down periodically.

“We have worked hard to reduce drag. Consider that 15 years ago we all added chines to add extra righting moment,” explains Lucet. The VPLP designers have now realised that instead it is more efficient to generate, for example, 1.5 tonnes per metre less in terms of righting moment to have significantly lower drag.

Hugo Boss, launched eight months later in April 2019, benefits from the extra design development time. Thomson’s boat is a more extreme option in terms of lowering drag, the beam waterline is narrower with a more rounded transom and slightly straighter, more parallel, waterlines and a fuller nose. Thomson’s team also placed an obsessive focus on weight reduction.

Juan K returns

The return of three times Volvo Ocean Race winner Juan Kouyoumdjian to the cutting edge of IMOCA design in this cycle was unsurprising. Juan K, as he is widely known, initially worked on optimising Vincent Riou’s 2009 design PRB, including new foils that were precursors to those on Sébastien Simon’s new Arkea-Paprec.

Arkea-Paprec was launched last year but broke a foil very early on, which rendered the team short of testing and training miles. Simon entered last month’s Vendée Arctic race, only to again break a foil soon after the start. He is now in a race to qualify for the Vendée Globe.

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Designer Juan Kouyoumdjian is back with two new IMOCAs

The second Kouyoumdjian boat is the very last to be launched before the Vendée Globe: Nico Troussel’s Corum L’Epargne went in the water only in May this year, so is also missing time on the water.

In essence there are two hull families, while the VPLP designs are slimmer and lower drag, Kouyoumdjian and Verdier’s IMOCAs are more powerful with more wetted surface, designed to be sailed heeled: Kouyoumdjian says the optimum is at 10-15°. Both Kouyoumdjian designs are relatively angular with the most pronounced chine aft, and noticeably flatter underwater.

Like Dalin’s Apivia, Troussel’s project has a dream team behind it including project management by double winner Michel Desjoyeaux. Corum L’Epargne has a more pronounced reverse sheer in the aft sections, and both boats also have the dreadnought-style bows that are common to several of the generation 2020 designs, not least Hugo Boss.

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Corum L’Epargne is the last IMOCA 60 to be launched, sharply chined with the deckline and coachroof fully integrated for maximum protection while still retaining a high cockpit volume. Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut / polaRISE / CORUM / l’epargne

Troussel’s boat has a raised, flush deck line making for very high freeboard aft but offering good protection with lots of cockpit volume. It offers a different solution to Alex Thomson’s and Charlie Dalin’s enclosed, or near-enclosed ‘cockpits’.

The innovator

The real newcomer to the IMOCA design field is Sam Manuard. With Armel Tripon’s L’Occitaine the successful Mini and Class 40 designer and sailor has pushed the hard scow bow concept as hard as the IMOCA rule will allow. The scow concept may have been successful in Class 40 transatlantics like the Transat Jaques Vabre, but on a foiling IMOCA in the big southern sea success for a chunky snub-bowed hull is far from a given.

L’Occitaine launched in February this year, only to be immediately locked down for two months. Tripon then suffered bow and rudder damage on an early qualifying sail. “We are definitely lacking sailing time right now. Armel is not yet in the state of mind to really push it yet,” Manuard commented as they prepared for the Vendée Arctic start in early July. Tripon was forced out of the Arctic race due to structural damage, after the skipper reported a collision with an underwater object.

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Arkea Paprec with Juan K’s trademark angular topsides. The curved starboard ‘C’ foil broke in the Vendée Arctic race so skipper Simon is building a new set for the Vendée Globe. Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut / polaRISE / IMOCA

“With the scow influence we are a bit alone,” observes Manuard. “The advantage we have with the scow is that when the boat is well lifted on the foils, [if] the bow pitches down the scow bow helps the hull bounce back and get back a normal trim without the bow plunging deeper into the wave.”

Manuard explains that the scow shape allows a more parallel sided hull form. This means that when the boat heels the effective waterline remains longer and so the flow to the foil is less disturbed, compared to a more classic bow shape, where the waterline shortens when the hull heels.

“When you heel you don’t alter the angle of incidence on to the foils so much. If you hit a gust, and the boat heels, you are transforming the change in energy more directly to boat speed. In flat water the scow has no advantage but as soon as you have wind with waves then you have the benefit. And, to me, there is no weak point in the light.”

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Kouyoumdjian worked on new foils for the 2009 design PRB. PRB (together with Davies’ Initiatives Coeur) kept well in touch with the new launches in the Vendée Arctic Race to finish top five. Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut / polaRISE / PRB

L’Occitaine has curved foils and a very high exit point, which also means they can be retracted completely, and should create significantly reduced drag in light airs.

Flight control

Foil evolution has been rapid and increasingly focused on reducing the amount of regulation required for both foil and sails to provide a much more stable, even ride for high, sustainable averages. Charal and Apivia, the fleet’s best optimised new boats, have just fitted their 2020 generation foils.

Beyou’s first generation foils were essentially too hard on the skipper. The boat would take off too bow up and would crash down back to ten knots, Beyou recalled. So their new 2020 ‘C’ style foil converges with Verdier’s thinking as well as Hugo Boss’s, being more forgiving while retaining high average speeds.

Marcus Hutchinson, project manager on Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut, explains, “The V2 2020 foils are less extreme. The first version effectively had two elbows. It was more about lifting the hull than generating righting moment, which the newer generation do.”

The new V2s now have single elbows but work deeper in the water with a longer shaft so that the boat will have less of a tendency to ventilate but will also make the boat more powerful.

Hutchinson adds, “The new profiles are more tolerant. Flying stability is going to be everything. But maybe the most significant changes are inside the boat where the ergonomics have been updated, the bunk, the seating arrangement, everything needs to be at arm’s length at most. You are on all fours to get around: it has to be like a padded cell.

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Photo: Lloyd Images

“It is dangerous. The weak link is not the boat, it is how much punishment the skipper can take and how quickly they can recover.”

Kouyoumdjian also believes this race is more endurance than design race: “Every boat will have its moment. I don’t think one will outperform the other, it goes way beyond design. These boats are capable of very high speeds but they are not withstandable for the skipper.”

Finding those limits will involve stepping into the unknown for many of these untried designs, in a race where the attrition rate can be over 60%. Hutchinson warns: “None of us have done any sailing. It is pretty scary. I am really worried about this because right now, we should be finishing the New York Vendée and that would have been two transatlantic races by the end of June. Some of these boats have hardly sailed.

“To go straight into a Vendée Globe without the boats having done miles is pretty scary. It really is.”

First published in the September 2020 issue of Yachting World.

The post Vendée Globe 2020 preview: Next generation foilers will sail on the limit appeared first on Yachting World.


Video: See inside 9 of the most amazing modern sailing superyachts (10 Sep 2020, 7:37 am)

Sailing superyacht technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years - we take a closer look at nine of the most stunning examples...

1. Aquarius

The brief for Aquarius included that she should be, ‘an elegant, muscular sailing yacht with a classic profile for family enjoyment.’ But that barely scratches the surface of the main requirements for this giant ketch. The owners also wanted a yacht that would combine good seakeeping characteristics with performance, reliability and quality.

Essential features included relative simplicity, robustness of systems and a contemporary interpretation of elegant, classic lines, with a clean and uncomplicated appearance. Aquarius’s graceful lines and timeless shape belie a rugged world cruiser configured to be self-sufficient for extended periods when voyaging well beyond the popular Med and Caribbean circuits. In addition, the yacht is welcoming for family and friends, while providing sufficient performance to compete in superyacht regattas.

Specifications

LOA: 56.18m (184ft 4in)
LWL: 41.17m (135ft 1in)
Beam: 9.51m (31ft 2in)
Draught: 4.80m (15ft 9in)
Displacement: 264 tonnes (591,360lbs)
Mainsail: 520m2 (5,597ft2)
Mizzen: 440m2 (4,736ft2)
Blade: 430m2 (4,628ft2)
Air draught: 58.50m (192ft 11in)
Spars: Rondal carbon with Rondal/Carbo-Link continuous standing rigging
Builder: Royal Huisman
Launched: 2017

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Photo: Baltic Yachts

2. Pink Gin VI

The Baltic 175 Pink Gin may have captured most of the headlines for her sheer size and cleverly engineered topside balconies, but below decks a collection of Cuban art and some phenomenal styling demand equal attention.

Mark Tucker’s team at Design Unlimited in the UK worked closely with the yacht’s owner, Professor Hans Georg Näder, with whom they had co-operated on his previous Pink Gin, to produce an unusual exercise in interior styling.

Specifications

LOA: 53.90m (176ft 10in)
LWL: 45.27 m (148ft 6in)
Beam: 9.55 m (31ft 4in)
Draft: 4.50-7.00 m (14ft 9in – 22ft 12in)
Displacement: 250 tons (560,000lbs)
Ballast: 79 tons (176,960lbs)
Naval architect: Judel/Vrolijk & co
Interior: Design Unlimited
Builder: Baltic
Launched: 2017

Article continues below…



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Photo: Baltic Yachts

3. Canova

The Baltic 142 Canova may not be using the hydrofoils popularised by the America’s Cup, but her 29ft 6in long (9m) horizontal sliding foil employs the same principle of lift to reduce heel and boost speed. The designers of the Dynamic Stability System (DSS) say it could improve the performance of this super-cruiser by 20 per cent, delivering a sustained 25 knots – not bad for a superyacht that displaces 146 tonnes. This is the first time the DSS has been used in superyachting, but its benefits will be used for comfortable, fast long-distance cruising rather than gaining an edge on the racecourse.

With styling and interior design by Lucio Micheletti as well as the in-house team, Canova sports a sleek, low deck saloon with a hard, fixed bimini extending over the forward cockpit area. Below, her vast deck saloon, providing panoramic views, forms the focal point of her luxury accommodation.

Unusually, the owner’s suite is located almost amidships, where motion is at its least, with further accommodation for six guests in three cabins. Other features include a Rondal rig with electric in-boom furling, a lifting keel and a propeller leg rotating through 180 degrees.

Specifications

LOA: 43.3m (142ft 1in)
LWL: 41.6m (136ft 6in)
Beam: 9.m (29ft 6in)
Draft: 3.8-6.5m (12ft 6in-21ft 4in)
Displacement: 146.5 tons (328,160lbs)
Naval architect: Farr Yacht Design
Interior design: Baltic Yachts / Lucio Micheletti
Exterior design: Lucio Micheletti
Builder: Baltic
Launched: 2019

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Photo: Perini Navi

4. Seven

Part of the world’s largest sailing yacht series by length, Seven is hull number 3 in Perini Navi’s 60m ketch series, after Seahawk and Perseus 3. Launched in 2017, she was feted for her groundbreaking interior lighting design throughout all five guest cabins. A powerful motor-sailer, her twin MTU engines and 47,000-litre fuel capacity mean a globe-trotting range of 3,600nm when motoring at 12 knots.

LOA: 60m (197ft)
LWL: 50.4m (165ft 4in)
Beam: 11.4m (37ft 4in)
Draft: 4.3m-12.3m (14ft 1in – 40ft 4in)
Mast height: 62.2m (204ft)
Total sail area: 2,097 m2 (22,572ft2)
Displacement: 575 tonnes (1,288,000 lbs)
Naval architect: Ron Holland / Perini Navi
Builder: Perini Navi
Launched: 2017

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Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget / Wally

5. Tango

This may be the fourth 100ft yacht designed to the Wallycento box rule, but it’s one that raises the bar with regard to combining form and functionality with outrageously cool aesthetics. Considering that Wally is yachting’s deity of style, that’s saying something.

Tango is at the very forefront of modern fast monohull design and advanced technology. Its stealthy black livery and long, low lines combine with a bold reverse sheerline to create a potent, powerful look. The ruthlessly clean deck is signature Wally. The image of the single helmsman on deck, with all that power and beauty controlled simply by the touch of a network of buttons on the pedestals, has become an icon for the Italian brand.

Specifications

LOA: 30.48m (100ft)
Beam: 7.20m (23ft 7in)
Draught: 4.4-6.2m (14ft 5in-20ft 4in)
Displacement (light): 47,500kg (104,720lb)
Upwind sail area: 640m2 (6,889ft2)
Downwind sail area: 1,398m2 (15,048ft2)
Naval architecture: Mills Design
Exterior design: Wally / Mills Design
Interior design: Pininfarina
Builder: Persico Marine
Launched: 2017

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Photo: Breed Media

6. Ngoni

The owner’s brief for Ngoni would be challenging for any size of yacht: “Build me a beast. Don’t build me a sheep in wolf’s clothing. This has to be an edgy and innovative weapon; fast and furious.” When the boat in question is a giant 58m (190ft) sloop with a displacement of nearly 400 tonnes this project was always going to push hard against existing boundaries of design, deck hardware and materials technology.

“The owner wanted me to take a fresh look at large yacht design,” Dubois recalled before his untimely death four years ago. “He wanted me to go back to my roots in the late 1970s and ’80s when we were designing race boats, but he also knew we had designed a number of high-performance yachts that were nevertheless seaworthy and comfortable cruisers. So I had to reset my internal computer, if you like, and look hard at how we could save weight and add strength.

“That’s how the reverse sheer came about. I was worried he might not like it. The next time we met in London I showed him the design and he loved it – in fact he gave me a big bear hug!”

Specifications

LOA: 58.15m 190ft 9in
LWL: 51.20m 167ft 12in
Beam: 9.54m 31ft 4in
Draught: 5.3m-81m (17ft 5in-26ft 7in)
Displacement: 353 tons (778,224lb)
Upwind sail area: 1,950m2 (20,989ft2)
Downwind sail area: 3,093m2 (33,293ft2)
Air draught: 75m (247ft)
Naval architect: Ed Dubois
Interior design: Paul Morgan / Rick Baker
Builder: Royal Huisman
Launched: 2017

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Photo: Vitters Shipyard

7. Ahimsa

Ahimsa is a 216ft sloop-rigged aluminum yacht, designed by the late Ed Dubois. Built with a combination of innovation and advanced technical craftsmanship, Ahimsa boasts a low superstructure and deck clean. Key features include the ability to hoist her mainsail in less than two minutes and tack the boat within 30 seconds.

The 83m carbonfibre mast is the largest ever produced by Southern Spars and had to be transported to The Netherlands in two pieces. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Ahimsa‘s Code 1 sail is the world’s largest artwork on canvas, designed by the Norwegian artist Magne Furuholmen.

Specifications

LOA: 66m (216ft 6in)
Mast height: 83m (272ft 4in)
Naval architect: Ed Dubois
Builder: Vitters
Launched: 2012

8. Svea

Svea, the newest addition to the now nine-strong J Class fleet, is one of the most outstanding new yachts of modern times – a harmonious meeting of historic and modern design; a blend of J Class lines and maxi grand prix yacht technology.

All Js dazzle on the water, but Svea simply stops you in your tracks. Her lines and deck are kept spectacularly clean, thanks to the compact wheelhouse, sunken wheel and wonderfully low boom.

Her dark metallic grey hull and black and red sail wardrobe lend her timeless lines a slightly menacing appearance – a purposeful racing look that belies the luxurious interior below decks. The aggressive aesthetics are in keeping with her name, a Viking word (it means Swede).

LOA: 43.6m (143ft 1in)
Interior design: Pieter Beeldsnijder / deVos deVries design
Builder: Vitters/Bloemsma
Launched: 2017

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Photo: Breed Media

9. Liara

Not only is Liara a masterpiece of style, thanks to UK-based super designers Malcolm McKeon and Adam Lay combining to stunning effect, but she clearly represents a formidable amount of experience. And that all stems from the boss.

This is the fourth Liara for British serial yacht owner Tony Todd, who is now in his seventies. His initial brief was for a safe, comfortable family cruising yacht for circumnavigating the globe, hence the deep and well-protected cockpit. However, Todd has been racing yachts all his life, and once his competitive side kicked in and the odd regatta was mentioned, the speed, weight and deck layout to make this possible became critical features. The result is Liara, the definitive multi-role superyacht.

Specification

LOA: 112ft 0in (34.14m)
LWL: 105ft 0in (32.00m)
Beam: 25ft 11in (7.90m)
Draught: 13ft 0in-20ft 2in (3.95m-6.15m)
Displacement (light): 88 tonnes (194,000 lbs)
Design: Malcolm McKeon / Adam Lay
Builder: Baltic
Launched: 2019

The post Video: See inside 9 of the most amazing modern sailing superyachts appeared first on Yachting World.


Pink Gin VI: The inside story of Baltic Yachts’ all-carbon super sloop (9 Sep 2020, 8:13 am)

The interior of the Baltic 175 Pink Gin IV, party gallery, part boutique hotel, reflects its owner’s passions. David Glenn takes a tour

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The Baltic 175 Pink Gin may have captured most of the headlines for her sheer size and cleverly engineered topside balconies, but below decks a collection of Cuban art and some phenomenal styling demand equal attention.

Mark Tucker’s team at Design Unlimited in the UK worked closely with the yacht’s owner, Professor Hans Georg Näder, with whom they had cooperated on his previous Pink Gin, to produce an unusual exercise in interior styling.

Professor Näder’s fascination with Cuba and his taste in art, fashion and music helped inspire Design Unlimited to use materials rarely seen aboard a yacht. They include fish skin, sealskin, fashioned leather, bamboo, pewter and 8,600-year-old bog oak combining to create an eclectic style that takes the visitor by surprise at every turn.

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The pewter covered bar in a cockpit lit by two Murano chandeliers. All photos: Marco Moog

Not shy of throwing a party, Professor Näder wanted to create a platform for entertaining in a variety of environments above and below deck with music, art and unusual finishes very much part of the mix.

No ordinary experience

Stepping aboard Pink Gin from a tender is no ordinary experience. Instead of taking a boarding ladder to the deck, a topsides opening balcony leads guests directly into the port side lobby, the outboard facing bulkhead of which is taken up almost entirely by artwork fashioned from metal acetone drums. It’s by Roberto Diago, the Cuban artist, whose work can also be seen in the owner’s suite.

Once through the sliding glass safety doors, turn left, or forward, to move into the lower deck saloon dominated on the port side by an extraordinary table featuring dried flowers set in clear resin. The piece is by London-based Polish artist Marcin Rusak and was a constant talking point when we were aboard. One can waste hours examining each tiny petal suspended in the table-top.

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Marcin Rusak’s saloon table features flower petals set in clear resin. A baby grand is seen aft

The ornate glass chandelier above this table is a keepsake from the owner’s previous Pink Gin, as is the leather Louis Vuitton trunk furnishing the seating area opposite.

Pillars finished in salmon skin

Design for the leatherwork adorning the lifting keel casing was inspired by bookbinding and the two deck support pillars located either side of the stairway leading to the upper saloon are finished in salmon skin. To port, in the upper saloon, is an Edelweiss Sygnet piano, finished in a subtle shade of pink – or is it purple? It’s positioned to overlook the lower saloon.

Opposite is a smaller dining area furnished with a large, U-shaped custom-made Chesterfield sofa and a table made of rare bog oak, a hard, dark timber possessing a particularly rich hue. This bog wood is thought to be almost 9,000 years old and would have been retrieved from a swamp or bog, the acidic qualities of which preserve and form the colouring we see today. The oak cabin soles in this and most other areas are finished with a type of distressed paintwork that helps create a less formal atmosphere.

Article continues below…



Don’t miss the day head

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Design Unlimited sourced the unusual wallpaper for the day head

No visitor should leave without a visit to the day head. It’s decorated with a stunning bespoke wallpaper pattern of coloured fish set on a jet-black background. Design Unlimited sourced it and it will leave a lasting impression.

Forward of the main saloon are four guest cabins, one double, a twin and two tiered twins, all with en-suite bathrooms equipped with unusual taps and fittings finished in a type of oxidised metallic bronze; industrial chic might be a way of describing it.

A lobby serving the forward cabins is illuminated naturally using glass decklights by way of the mast. It features a sculpture by Roberto Fabelo, another notable Cuban artist.

Ultimate view

Of all the areas in Pink Gin’s accommodation, it is perhaps the owner’s suite that succeeds more than any other as a living space and styling exercise, not least because of the fantastic effect created by the topside opening balcony.

This is a large, starboard-side aperture creating a stunning framed vista for the cabin’s occupants and, of course, direct access to the water. You enter the suite through an office area furnished with a desk, the top of which is finished in laser cut stingray skin and horn. There’s nothing understated about Pink Gin.

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Spectacular views and direct access to the sea from the owner’s suite via a starboard opening

Informality sets the tone

This leads into the main sleeping accommodation furnished with a king-sized double, the base of which is constructed of bamboo. What is referred to as an ‘art wall’, facing the bed, is dominated by another work by Roberto Diago, this time featuring coarsely finished painted timber from old Cuban fishing boats. This sets the tone for a cabin in which the style is interesting and challenging rather than predictable.

The ‘his and hers’ full-width head and shower room again features the industrial chic styling seen elsewhere in the yacht. It is lined with what look like substantial white tiles, complete with heavy-duty grouting. In fact, the finish comes in composite sheets, made by Baltic, which are notably light.

The effect is remarkable. Another stunning feature in the owner’s suite and this time in a walk-in wardrobe and dressing room, is a carpet using a pattern inspiration taken from one of Professor Näder’s favourite French scarfs.

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Roberto Diago’s acetone drum artwork greets visitors boarding via the port side

All the crew accommodation, plus one other large guest cabin are located aft. One of the many advantages of the port side opening into the lobby is that the crew and particularly the galley staff can, if necessary, transfer stores quickly and easily from a tender.

Turn right, or aft, and you step immediately into the large galley, which has its own style comprising granite counter tops that no doubt had the weight police in tears, and composite cabinet doors adorned with what is made to look like a hammered metal finish. There is sleeping accommodation and a mess area for up to nine crew.

Bog oak and pewter trim

On deck there is no let up in the quest for eye-catching style. The aged bog oak can again be seen in the cap rail and the bar occupying the middle of three cockpit areas. The main cockpit table is by I Vassalletti, master craftsmen from Tuscany who have used waxed teak and pewter in its construction. The aforementioned sealskin is used to finish the handrails around the bar.

The cockpit is illuminated by two vast Murano glass chandeliers suspended from the boom. They are so heavy they need to be lifted into place with a block and tackle. Design Unlimited in their press release state: ‘Pink Gin is a yacht that cannot be categorised within existing superyacht parameters’. It’s quite a claim and they might be right.

Specifications

LOA: 53.90m (176ft 10in)
LWL: 45.27 m (148ft 6in)
Beam: 9.55 m (31ft 4in)
Draft: 4.50-7.00 m (14ft 9in – 22ft 12in)
Displacement: 250 tons (560,000lbs)
Ballast: 79 tons (176,960lbs)
Naval architect: Judel/Vrolijk & co
Interior: Design Unlimited
Builder: Baltic
Launched: 2017

First published in the April 2018 issue of Supersail World. Pink Gin VI is currently listed for sale with Fraser.

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Inside a legendary Whitbread: Extract from Maiden by Tracy Edwards and Tim Madge (8 Sep 2020, 9:11 am)

Tracy Edwards’ book ‘Maiden’, written with Tim Madge, tells a tale that has quite properly passed into legend

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Foaming seas but, for once, some fair weather in the 1989/90 Whitbread

Tracy raises the funds, finds the boat of the same name and skippers the first all-female crew around the globe in the world’s greatest fully-crewed yacht race. The years 1989/90 were iconic for the Whitbread, with the likes of Peter Blake driving Steinlager II, Lawrie Smith with his redoubtable crew jockeying Rothmans, and Fisher & Paykel with Grant Dalton at the helm.

The stress on Tracy throughout this book is almost unbelievable, but it is in the Southern Ocean, hammering down to Fremantle in Australia, that she really shows her mettle. The text comes in the form of her daily diary and it lays her soul frighteningly bare.

In the extract below, she has just been relaying messages and standing by for Creighton’s Naturally, a maxi which had just lost a crewman. She has turned in exhausted, while inaccurate steering compasses have forced Maiden further north than she’d intended. Read on. I couldn’t put it down.

From Maiden

November 14th 49°24’N, 19°05’E

I spent the whole day in a dreadful mood because we had gone too far north. When I finally thought I had sorted it all out, the satnavs packed up. I started praying my calculations had been right, but I have no way of checking them.

Dawn, Jeni and I racked our brains trying to work it all out. Why did this have to happen when we were first? Well, we won’t be for much longer. Rucanor will have creamed past us last night.

I stood by for Creighton’s all day. Bart is getting better all the time. I had a message for them from British Defender.

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Edwards at the Maiden nav and comms station. Unreliable instruments piled on the pressure

At the chat show, sure enough Rucanor were only 39 miles behind with lots of wind. I had to fight my temper – difficult. I still couldn’t get weather maps because of being on standby. It was too cloudy to take a sight (using a sextant).

I am beginning to feel, too, that if we can’t sort out these compasses in Freo then the girls can get themselves another navigator, I’ve had enough. I expect Rucanor can’t believe their luck.

November 15th 49°40’S, 25°17’E – 3,960 miles to go

I kept getting up in the night to check on the sat nav. Nothing, bloody nothing. We had pancakes for breakfast but Jo was in a foul mood. I missed Creighton’s calling as I was trying to deal with a couple of our own problems.

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If anyone who didn’t sail had been on the boat today it would have put them off sailing for life. It very nearly did it to me. What a nightmare. The wind, too, was up and down. No weather charts again – very bad reception.

It was very cold and damp and miserable – now there is something wrong with the breakers (for electric power). I wonder if they are leaking into the hull and creating the compass problem? At one point everything went. I screamed for Jeni and we sat down and went round and round in circles trying to figure it all out.

We checked everything: the compasses again, the cables to the satnav, the computer. Tempers were again a little short today. Then, at the chat show, things were not too bad. Rucanor and the others are still in the high as well as us. We’ll try to head south again as they all are. Rucanor is still 40 miles behind (are they sailing backwards?). I really thought they would have overtaken us last night. L’Esprit is 100 miles behind, Schlussel 173. Good.

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Dramatic view of Maiden in the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race

Everyone else is very fed up but trying to make the best of it. Good on ’em. I stayed up all day but did manage to grab two hours this afternoon. Finally, the satnav took a fix in the early evening; then immediately stopped again.

Dawn had worked out the fuel. Because of Creighton’s (not that I mind), we will probably run out during the last week. Thank the Lord for the emergency batteries. I have worked out that in five days we can finally head north. Jeni will be pleased – she has been suffering badly from her frozen feet.

We went today onto the chart which has Australia away in the corner. Rucanor are not on it yet. That makes things seem a lot better. But while we were gybing, Sally managed to slam the hatch shut on my hand. When Jo brought some water to soothe it she stumbled and spilled it all over the chart. If I hadn’t been crying, I’d have laughed.

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Hallberg-Rassy 50: New model continues the Swedish yard’s twin-rudder revolution (7 Sep 2020, 3:03 pm)

This builder of quality serious cruising yachts has been busy with an overhaul of its entire Hallberg-Rassy range over the past few years

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The Hallberg-Rassy 50 is the fifth new generation twin-rudder model from the Swedish yard. As with its immediate predecessors – the 340, 40C, 44 and 57 – the new boat retains many of the brand’s hallmarks that make these boats such a popular choice for longer term cruising.

The additional volume the new hull shape provides makes the Hallberg-Rassy 55 that was produced from 2012 to 2017 the yard’s closest comparator to the new model.

Even then the waterline length of the 50 is 0.5m longer than the older boat, maximum beam is 33cm wider and the width at the transom more than 1m greater.

This translates into faster passage times, greater form stability, more accommodation space and more stowage space.

It’s often said that long overhangs help to confer a more comfortable motion at sea. However, designer German Frers has created a rounded shape to the underwater sections forward that we’re told will create a soft motion in a seaway at any angle of heel.

The rig is just as up to date as the hull shape, with an easily handled blade jib, or an optional self-tacker. There’s also provision for a removable heavy weather headsail.

The standard mainsail is an Elvstrom Epex membrane FatFurl in-mast furling sail with vertical battens that support a reasonable area of roach. Both the mainsail and headsail furlers are electric.

A high level of standard equipment also includes teak decks, a retractable bow thruster, 12kW generator, electric cooking, fridge and freezer. Both the generator and the 110hp main engine are housed in a large walk-in machinery space.

Two boats are currently in build and the first completed yacht will be unveiled to the public at the Düsseldorf boat show in January next year.

Specification

Hull length: 15.23m (50ft)
LWL: 14.8m (48ft 7in)
Beam: 5m (16ft 5in)
Draught (standard keel): 2.35m (7ft 9in)
Displacement: 21,000kgs (46,300lbs)
Price: SEK 11.97m (approx €1,141,400)

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5 tips: Vendee Globe veteran explains how to face the fear and do it anyway (27 Aug 2020, 8:15 am)

Nick Moloney has faced some terrifying scenarios at sea. He tells Andy Rice how to handle fear

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Nick Moloney campaigned Skandia in the 2004/05 Vendée Globe. His race ended when the boat lost its keel off Brazil. Photo: Josh Nash / Offshore Challenges

Facing your fears is something that challenges every sailor, but none more so than those taking on single-handed offshore racing.

Nick Moloney is a social animal and thrives on being in good company. He’s never more in his element than racing as part of a team. Even before he set out on the 2004 Vendée Globe, Nick had his doubts about whether he was really cut out for the long-term solitude of a circumnavigation, but his race started well and Skandia was in the top 10 for the first month.

However, when he found himself caught in an 80-knot storm in the depths of the Southern Ocean, Nick was forced to face up to his mortality in a way that has shaped his outlook on life ever since. Here are his five tips for facing your fears.

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1. Plan and prepare

As an offshore racer your goals come with inherent risk. At some point you’ll need to face up to a level of fear, and manage it.

In ambitious projects you must understand that you have chosen to attack a goal with clear and known risk, so you need to prepare accordingly, with a strict focus on managing that risk.

The more effort you put into this at the preparation stage, the more confident you will become in your ability to manage a potentially life-threatening situation at sea.

2. Don’t dwell

During the planning process it’s easy to be drawn into dwelling on the worst-case scenario. It’s important to be aware that we can very easily inflate fear to the point where it can strip you bare emotionally, affect your rationality and restrict your ability to function effectively. I’ve experienced this personally, and I’ve seen fear overpower some very strong and brave people.

In the planning phase I identify a list of elements that will give me positive support in most worst-case scenarios – positive buoyancy or watertight provision built into the boat’s construction, satellite connectivity or other vessels in my vicinity, for example. Try to keep these foremost in your mind when you find yourself fighting with your fears.

3. Manage the manageable

It’s important never to get complacent, to ensure that you and your equipment are ready to adapt to change, to make sure you’re wearing the right protective gear, not cutting any corners in your preparation.

Competitive athletes talk about controlling the controllables, which means focussing only on the things where they can make a difference. Everything else is wasted time and energy. For example, while you can’t control the weather, you can control your knowledge of the weather that’s coming your way. Diligent forecasting can give you the time and opportunity to literally and metaphorically batten down the hatches.

4. Communicate

In worrying situations I try to take my mind away from the source of the fear. To get another perspective, talk with one of your crew mates or, if you’re sailing solo, get on the comms with your one of your shore team.

I turn to those who are good at putting me at ease, who make me laugh, or who simply offer sound advice that will help me see the situation differently. Being able to speak to my team and family on shore was a lifesaver for me during that 80-knot storm in the Vendée Globe. Without them I’d have been lost.

5. Understand the fear

When I have growing concerns about something, I try to identify the source of that worry. One example I recall vividly is sailing a 110ft catamaran at speeds in excess of 35 knots through an ice field, with night approaching and the radar out of action.

In situations like that I’ll ask myself: ‘How is my concern or fear affecting me?’ Often the answer is that I feel ill, or restricted in my ability to perform at my peak. When I find this happening I convince myself that any restriction fear places on my body and mind will hinder a worst-case fight for survival. So I eat, hydrate and dress accordingly.

Sometimes I’ll do stretching exercises and have even practised holding my breath in the event that I might have to swim if caught underwater in a capsize.

While there might seem an element of bravado in this I’m not afraid to admit that fear has also brought me to my knees. One particular event in my career destroyed me emotionally and it has taken me a long time to mentally work back through those circumstances and how I responded.

Learning to face your fears is not an innate talent, it’s a skill you can – and should – work at developing.

expert-sailing-tips-face-your-fears-nick-moloney-bw-headshot-600px-squareAbout the expert

Nick Moloney is a two-time America’s Cup sailor but the Australian is best known for his offshore exploits. Among the 15 speed and endurance records Nick has won is the Jules Verne Trophy. He has also competed in the Volvo Ocean Race and the 2004/05 Vendée Globe.

First published in the August 2020 issue of Yachting World.

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