Vendee Globe the pace slows but the race gets tighter at the front

Picture copyright Vendee Globe Banque Populaire Armel le Cleac’h aboard Banque Populaire in the Vendee Globe 2016/17

The Vendee Globe is a sailing race like no other for various reasons. This years edition has pushed the edges of performance probably a couple of hurdles further than normal boat evolution with the new foiling boats. Foiling leapt to the sailing limelight in the America’s Cup in 2013. Foiling sailing boats have been around for at least, today, close to 100 years. The most prominent recent example of a foiling sailing boat, this side of the foiling AC 72’s, is the French program L’Hydroptère. This remarkable vessel is the life’s goal of Frenchman (of course) Alain Thebault who has dedicated the past 30 years to foiling sailing.

Photo sent from the boat Hugo Boss, on November 15th, 2016 - Photo Alex Thomson Photo envoyée depuis le bateau Hugo Boss le 15 Novembre 2016 - Photo Alex Thomson

Photo sent from the boat Hugo Boss, on November 15th, 2016 – Photo Alex Thomson
Photo envoyée depuis le bateau Hugo Boss le 15 Novembre 2016 – Photo Alex Thomson

Fast forward to the 2016/16 Vendee Globe, seven of the entries are the latest generation designs by VPLP/Verdier. Three of them have been on a cracking pace led by Brit Alex Thompson who as of this writing, (Saturday 26 November) remains in the lead over Frenchman Armel Le Cleac’h who has, however, run down the tenacious Brit from 120 or so miles behind two days ago to 12 miles as of 1500 race time today. And five of the top seven are latest generation foilers

One of the interesting details in a race full of interesting details is the spread between the foiling boats even within themselves. Thompson and le Cleac’h are alongside each relatively speaking but they have broken away from the remaining pack. In third, now over 300 miles astern is Seb Josse in Edmund De Rothschild, fourth is a non-foiling boat, (albeit the 2012/13 winner under the command of then wunderkind Francois Gabart), skippered this year by Paul Meilhat at almost 900 miles astern with fifth, six and seventh at 900, 1200 and 1700 (roughly) miles behind respectively. The last remaining foiler is under the command of Dutchman Pieter Heerema at almost 3,000 miles astern. So what accounts for this huge spread?

This latest generation IMOCA 60 has the now common deck spreaders and wing shection mast. The spreaders are to get a wide shroud base, to minize the compression on the spar so it can be a but lighter. Many many Excel spreadsheet Cells were sacrificed in figuring out the cost benefit of this arrangemebt.

This latest generation IMOCA 60, this one belonging to Dutchman Pieter Heerema, has the now common deck spreaders and wing section mast. The spreaders are to get a wide shroud base, to minimize the compression on the spar so it can be a but lighter. Many, many Excel spreadsheet Cells were sacrificed in figuring out the cost benefit of this arrangement. Joe Cooper Sailing photo

The top three skippers are all within a couple of years of the same age, at around 40, They are underway in their fourth, fourth and third Vendee globes respectively. These three are sponsored by, and have possibly the best funded and organized teams-Thompson has 13 people working for Alex Thompson Racing and is sponsored by the German clothing company, Hugo Boss. Second and third are funded by two banks and all three are long term sponsors, with Thompson serving Hugo Boss for 16 or so years while the two banks, Banque Populaire and Edmond De Rothschild, have been in the sailing game for at least that long, albeit with different skippers.

It is reported that Thompson’s boat while being from the same design office is ‘different’. Obvious differences are the dreadnought bow and sloping foredeck, a reportedly narrower boat and wider foils. Thompson is using Doyle sails, something of a departure from the ‘standard’ North France that the other two are using. Can it be ‘just sails? Hardly, but perhaps it is one of those situations where a lot of small details add up to a greater whole? Even more remarkable in the case of Thompson is the 6 months his boat was out of action after breaking in the last TJV and being abandoned, recovered and rebuilt. And on top of this he has already broken his starboard foil in a collision with something in the water. Thompson is considered a tough nut, which is saying something in a world of tough nuts.

Picture of Pieter Heerema’s boat ‘No Way Back’ (the yellow boat) by Joe Cooper

Pictures via Vendee Globe Press office except where noted.

Banque Populaire feature picture via Armel Le Cleac’h aboard Banque Populaire Vendee Globe

Reuse of pictures is prohibited.

 

Vendee Globe-Solo record still possible

The foiling IMOCA 60’s are giving a good impression of multihull speed over the course of the first 19 days of this edition of the Vendee Globe, solo circumnavigation. As of 1700 EST, Brit Alex Thompson aboard Hugo Boss has had the pedal down despite breaking a foil on something in the water a few days ago. (It is worth noting that at the moment four boats have hit something and broken the boat obliging three of them to abandon the race).

The VG tracker has a number indicating the percentage of the race the leader has completed. After 16 days Hugo Boss had completed 25% of the calculated great circle length of the race. Extrapolating on this data brings one of course gets to a 64 day circumnavigation. Will this be the end result? Too soon to say fo course. BUT I just did it again for 19 days at 30% which is 62 and some days, so they are not backing off at all.

Thompson has been able to get back up to full foiling speed having gybed to starboard for a while today allowing him to deploy the ‘good’ foil for a while. But sail boat racing regardless of what the boat or the course is needs wind and they appear to be light on for such at the momenet, light being the operative word.

The biggest hurdle the two front runners, now 25 miles apart (at 1700 Race time) is the wind petering out and becoming confused and light. Thompson reports basically sailing into the back of the front.

Oops- pays to pay attention. The 2200 race time position updates places The Boss stretching again over Armel LeCleac’h, (aka The Jackal in French solo terms) at 31 miles over his earlier 25 miles. AND the Boss has the juice again at 22 knots versus 18 of The Jackal.

British Bull Dog lives to fight another day.

The following link/news update courtsy of the VG press office.

http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/news/16495/the-jackal-is-on-the-hunt

 

Offshore sailing-Ideas from single-handed sailing

Regular readers will know of my interest in the Mini Transat, OSTAR, Vendee Globe, Figaro and similar solo and double-handed races. Apart from the actual racing itself, these boats represent a melting pot of ideas and were lots of smart people invent ways to sail fast when alone or with only two people. The majority of cruising sailors sail with a crew of only two people aboard anyhow. Short-handed boats prepared for racing have been at the forefront of most of the ‘advances’ that cruising sailors take for granted today.  So when I see boats from this short-handed cohort of yacht racing, I am always curious to see what the thought process is and if there any new ideas I can pinch.

I was at Sail Newport last Sunday and I noticed the Mini Transat boat that, a couple of weeks ago was in the water, had been pulled out. I was interested in this boat because it had a canting keel, but there was no obvious dagger board or other device to resist leeway, at least as viewed from the dock with the boat in the water.

Not only canting side to side, but moving fore and aft close to a meter the fin on this Mini Transat class boat requires some pretty careful attention to detail.

Not only canting side to side, but moving fore and aft close to a meter the fin on this Mini Transat class boat requires some pretty careful attention to detail. That she had a canting keel is evident by the lines exiting the cabin bulkhead under the cowling-see below-(and passing thru jambers) These lines are part of  a three or four to one tackle inside the boat and  then lead outside to a winch so as to lever the keel side to side.

The large clutch on the deck secures the line controlling the canting keel.

The large clutch on the deck secures the line controlling the canting keel. The lines are set up to lead to a winch. The boat was set up with a canting keel but where the dagger boards?

 

This mini, designed by Simon Rogers for Australian Tom Braidwood and built in Sydney, Aust. 2006 has both a canting keel and the keel moves fore and aft too.

This mini, designed by Simon Rogers for Australian Tom Braidwood and built in Sydney, Aust. in 2006 has both a canting keel , articulating from side to side and the keel moves fore and aft too.

574 looks, at first glance, like a ‘normal’ (And not like mine) mini: beamy, twin rudders, skinny fin with a big bulb, huge rig, and articulating bowsprit

Apart from the ‘canting keel but no dagger boards’ question, a second interesting detail was the mast. It is longer in section (fore and aft)  than ‘normal’ mini masts and has only one set of spreaders. Hummm me-thinks.

MAST and Rigging

Tis boat has a maast with only one set of spreaders. IT can do this because the mast is longer in the fore and aft plane and probably thicker walls too. The underlying scheme here is to minimize windage, drag, from the rigging. The configuration of 574 is likely to have less exposed stays and certainly spreaders, than a 'normal rig'.

This boat has a mast with only one set of spreaders. It can do this because the mast is longer in the fore and aft plane and with probably thicker walls too. The underlying scheme here is to minimize windage, drag, from the rigging. The configuration of 574 is likely to have less exposed stays and certainly spreaders, than a ‘normal rig’.

Almost all of these speedy little boats, the custom ones, anyhow, have composite rigging today. Securing the shrouds to the boat is a wonderful throw back to the ‘old days when stays were lashed to the deck with lanyards and pad eyes.

The stays are secured to the deck/chainplates with Spectra line, with multiple passes around the chainplate and the stay. The black tube is what amounts to a reaching strut. This is inserted into a hole built for the purpose in the side of the hull. The end result is to holt the bow sprit after guy out away from the boat at a wider angle.

The stays are secured to the deck/chainplates with Spectra line, with multiple passes around the chainplate and the stay. The black tube is what amounts to a reaching strut. This is inserted into a hole built for the purpose in the side of the hull. The end result is to hold the bow sprit after guy out away from the boat at a wider angle.

 

This image shows the hole in the side of the boat to accept the strut.

This image shows the hole in the side of the boat to accept the strut.

Underwater: The keel and canard

It turns out that this boat has a lot going on down below. The keel swings, or cants in the parlance, port to starboard. It also can move fore and aft 800mm according to the designers website.

Here you can see the root of the fin disappearing into its own mechanism to handle the canting. The longer orange rectangle is the pathway for the fin to slide fore and aft.

Here you can see the root of the fin disappearing into its own mechanism to handle the canting. The longer orange rectangle is the pathway for the fin to slide fore and aft.

The fin on a canting keel boat enters into the hull through a suitable sized slot. There is an axel with bearings on it that passes through the fin fore to aft and is secured to the boat. Around the hole is a V shaped box, the top of which is above the LWL. This box has some kind of pretty waterproof cover on it too. The top of the keel pokes up thru this and has a block and tackle on the top. The l ine from this tackle is led outside thru a ferrule in the cabin wall as shown a few pictures above.

The fin on a canting keel boat enters into the hull through a suitable sized slot. There is an axel with bearings on it that passes through the fin along the fore & aft axis  and is secured to the boat. Around the hole is a V shaped box, the top of which is above the LWL. This box has some kind of pretty waterproof cover on it too. The top of the keel pokes up thru this and has a block and tackle on the top. The line from this tackle is led outside thru a ferrule in the cabin wall as shown a few pictures above. I am not certain that the area around the keel entrance to the hull is race ready, but it seems to me there are a lot holes and slots that would create drag when sailing, especially, fast. ON the other hand this boat did correct to third in class in the Pacific Cup in

The object when designing a racing boat of course is to have a boat that can, and will, win races. All manner of calculus goes into the design engineering and building of such a boat. One of the curious aspects of this boat is the engineering and building detailing required to make the keel more fore and aft. This requires a lot of additional designing, engineering and boat building time and skill. All of this of course consumes (extra) money. In simple terms, what is the risk reward, or if you, like the cost benefit ratio.

x

The white ‘thing’ sticking down to the left is the canard, set forward of the keel. This is deployed to resist leeway, acting like a ‘normal’ keel on normal boats. That it can be canted too is a benefit because when the boat is heeling, the canard can be vertical and so be working most efficiently.

This boat is a close sister-ship to the one Jonathon McKee (a prominent and successful US sailor from the Pacific North-West) sailed in the Mini Transat in 2003. Sadly he was dismasted while leading the second leg of the race. I don’t know what style of mast McKee had, but the one on 574 is configured in a way that many of the new IMOCA 60’s are, which is interesting since this boat is 10 years old now. The idea is that the mast and standing rigging has a certain amount of drag.

Another view of the canting Canard

And finally back to the mast

If you do the math on the surface area of the standing rigging on your boat—Sum the total length of standing rigging, multiplied by the various thicknesses, it is a lot of square units. Ignore for now the radar, radar reflector, satellite dome, spare halyards, the bulk of the furled headsail or staysail etc. Now, for the average 45 foot cruising boat, this kind of drag is repressed into oblivion by Bimini’s, dinghy davits and so on and traveling at 5 to 7 or 9 knots, BUT on a boat traveling at 15-20 knots, like a Mini or an IMOCA 60 traveling, as the boats currently leading the Vendee Globe are, at over 20 knots most of the time, for the foiling boats, drag becomes something to think about. Minimizing drag becomes especially important for boat traveling fast because the drag goes up exponentially with boat speed. Hence the wing masts and lots of effort art educing drag on fast Multihulls of IMOCA 60’s

This latest generation IMOCA 60 has the now common deck spreaders and wing shection mast. The spreaders are to get a wide shroud base, to minize the compression on the spar so it can be a but lighter. Many many Excel spreadsheet Cells were sacrificed in figuring out the cost benefit of this arrangemebt.

This latest generation IMOCA 60 has the, now common, deck spreaders and wing section mast. The spreaders are there to get a wide shroud base, to minimize the compression on the spar so it can be a bit lighter. Many, many Excel spreadsheet Cells were sacrificed in figuring out the cost benefit of this arrangement.

The benefits of reducing drag are even more visible on big trimarans. This picture is courtesy of Spindrift Racing.

Spindrift stb tack

 

 

 

Vendee Globe: Hugo Boss inches away.

So far so good for the tenacious Brit on his fourth attempt to get his Knighthood, I mean, win the Vendee Globe. Personally I reckon the big job now is to be steady and cool and not get too psyched by being in front. I am sure he’d rather be there than in some of the other positions he has been in during his three previous races. Right about now 4 years ago I think he was fixing one of the rudder connecting rods after the Watt and Sea came adrift and busted said rod. Ever the Sponsors Man, he recorded it on board the boat with Hugo Boss logos everywhere. And of course this time, he is posting positions on the Alex Thompson website, so more eyeballs again. THIS is great sailing as marketing tool thinking

The other two leaders are putting the yards (meters?) on the top of the next group. Currently in second is Seb Josse on his third Vendee Globe. Just the short version of his CV includes a fourth in the first leg of the 1999 Mini-Transat, a second in the 2001 Solitaire du Figaro-A four or five leg stage race soloin 33 foot one design boats, around the Bay of Biscay and the western approaches to the English Channel. ‘The Figaro’ is THE training ground for the serious French solo sailor, and lately Brits too. Josse was a part of the crew and so, co-holder, of the Trophy Jules Verne aboard the Maxi Cat Orange, nee PlayStation. Third in the TJV with Isabelle Autissier in ‘03, fifth in the Vendee globe in ‘05, fourth in the ’06 VOR on ABN Amro 11 including a 24-hour speed record. You get the picture. He is sailing for the financial house of Edmund de Rothschild, long a prominent name in sailing with a collection of Gitana’s.

In third lies Armel Le Cleac’h, presently 92 miles astern of The Boss. Le Cleac’h is another professional sailor with a long history of big time racing. Figaro, World Champion in IMOCA (these Open 60’s) fourth in the Route du Rhumb, France’s answer to the OSTAR. A second place, twice, in the 2009 and 2013 Vendee Globe gave him the scent no doubt.

Interestingly when researching the basic stats of the boats, the beam of Hugo boss is not given. But Thompson has the most upwind sail of the three leaders at 340 sqm. Compared to Le Cleac’h at 300 and Josse at 290. He is also a tenth of a metric tonne lighter, 7.5 vs. 7.6. And, in what must be an enormous mental boost for Thompson and a bit of a ‘WTF’ moment for the rest, is the fact Hugo Boss was abandoned in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre, in November after being launched 01 September. After being recovered, a nice bit of work in itself I reckon, Thompson’s team spent six months rebuilding her again. And a slight bit of sailing trivia for you Thompson’s co-skipper in the abandoned TJV was the same Spaniard, Guillermo Altadill, (the most successful sailor no one has ever heard of) who was aboard High Noon, the youth boat that blitzed the 2016 Newport to Bermuda race.

Second and third are 89 and 92 miles astern of the Boss, and after that the distances really exercise the bungy cord. From fourth through tenth, they are respectively: 123, 195, 207, 285, 442, 575 and 619. And we are not talking about the rookies here either. Just in this group are a total of 17 (including this one) Vendee Globe races from a total of 43 previous races within the fleet.

From todays interviews with the sailors, Sébastien Josse remarks on the increasing discomfort aboard the boats in this race. ‘With each Vendée Globe it’s worse and worse. In my first one, I had a comfortable bed, but now it’s really uncomfortable and it’s hard to sleep’. Having boat speed is a great way to win a sail boat race but it does have its down side in a three-month race. Josse again:

When the boat is above 18-19 knots, it’s hard to move around. It’s noisy and it’s impossible to sleep with all the banging. It’s less comfortable than a multihull.

Then there are the forces these boats are subjecting themselves to. The following remark was made while the boats are sailing in 15 knots of true wind. We’re at the maximum loads for the boat. In the Southern Ocean we won’t be able to do that.”

If you did not know Thompson, (is British) it might be easy to infer it from his remarks from the same body of ocean. “It’s a bit bumpy. He goes on: (In this cut and paste from the VG news section whose work is duly recognized)

It is pretty amazing to be on a boat which in 16-17kts of breeze I can average 22kts. The breeze has finally come left a bit to allow Hugo Boss to lift up her skirts a little bit and go a bit faster. I have a bit more breeze for a few hours and then it will lighten up and drop a little bit before tomorrow when we will start a real fast, fast dash for three or four days towards the Cape of Good Hope. I could not have asked for it to be positioned more perfectly. It is a very normal scenario this. It is developing just to the south of us and will move down, and I will be able to stay ahead of it. I think just this lead pack will be able to stay with it. We will be with this low pressure for quite a while. I think Seb is right. This is going to be the first big test for the boats. I am imagining a wind angle of about 120 to 125 degrees true, sailing in 23-26kts of wind. Depending on the wave conditions is what will decide how fast the boats go. To be honest if it was flat water in those wind conditions my boat could average over 30kts. With waves I don’t expect to be going much faster than I am now, to be honest 22-24kts maybe. Today I will prepare the boat a little, re-tidy up, re-stack, and I will try and get as much sleep as I can in the next 24 hours. I have a little composite job to do, just to make sure everything really is ready, make sure my sail plan is correct for when it comes, make sure my contingencies are ready, make sure I am fresh to be able to hit the turbo button when it arrives. I guess we are going to find out how strong these boats are now. Who will be ready to lift the foot first? Show the French you have learned? I think these boats…well the limit is quite obvious. You know when you have to slow down. Last night I had to slow down. 24 hours before the Cape Verdes you get slowed down. You get told by the boat. The boat tells you when to slow. It is as demanding now as in more wind. We do not need a lot of wind. The more wind, the more waves, the slower you go.”

We’re not in Kansas any more Toto.