Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vendée Globe halfway through - A designer's perspective

[Source: IMOCA] Whilst the main protagonists are still at sea, the IMOCA talked to a group of people that have played a crucial role in getting the sailors to where they are today. Boat designers were asked if recent events in the race have surprised them and if the skippers are pushing their boats too hard? We also hear from Alex Thomson who was forced to retire earlier in the race.

Merf Owen, Owen Clarke Design Group (Designer of Algimouss Spirit of Canada; Aviva; Ecover 3; Temenos II): "Breakages are rarely linked they all have their own causes. If a mast breaks it could be rigging, a tube or a fitting. If a keel is reported as breaking it can also be a generalisation - in Dominique Wavre's case a fitting on the top of the keel, in other cases in the past a whole keel, or a failure of the hydraulic rams...."

Pascal Conq, Finot-Conq (Designer of Brit Air; DCNS; Génénerali; Hugo Boss; Akena Véranda; Roxy; Spirit of Weymouth; Aquarelle.com): "In these sorts of conditions, it really is down to where each of the skipper puts himself that makes all the difference and that depends on his state of mind and how he/she wants to control their race. It is not about pushing the boats 100% to their potential. I'm not surprised or worried about the events that have taken place as we all expected lots of retirements. The fact that they are being caused by masts, keels or rudders, is nothing unusual......."

Patrick Shaughnessy, President of Farr Yacht Design (Designers of BT; Delta Dore; Foncia; Gitana Eighty; Paprec-Virbac 2; PRB; Cheminées Poujoulat): "We been very proud to see a good number of our teams in the top 5 or top 10 boats and at the same time we've been devastated by the retirements our teams have experienced." "Of course in the end we at Farr Yacht Design hope that one of our teams will ultimately win the Vendee Globe race. That said, it feels way too early to be talking about those expectations when the sailors have so much hard work in front of them." "The second generation of boats benefited from a better understanding of how the boats are sailed and generally explored more powerful solutions but also with a strong focus on balance and the skippers ability to use as much of the boat as possible..."

Simon Rogers, Rogers Yacht Design Ltd (Designer of Artemis) : "The new generation 60 have proved that they need considerably more time to set up and find their speed potential over previous generations. Miles on the water with their skippers are proving critical along with striking a balance between reliability and weight saving. With over a third of the Vendee fleet abandoned with the leaders only half way round the world, reliability is playing its hand and proving that the Vendee is largely still about the sailor."

Marc Lombard (Designer of Veolia Environnement; VM Materiaux): "The retirements are not surprising at all. Masts always come down as they are such a crucial part of the overall performance. A mast that's too heavy kills a boat's performance, a mast that's too light can break. Its durability also depends on how it is treated all the varying conditions and varying wind strengths. There's no 1 reason for a mast breaking, sometimes it's the mechanics, and other times the original calculations or overworking the rigging. The only common theme is that it is a sensitive part of a boat!...."

Alex Thomson, IMOCA Executive Committee member & skipper of Hugo Boss: "This is the world's toughest challenge, it shouldn't be easy!..."



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