Vendée Arctic – Seems Odd to Call it a “Warm-up Race”

Alone. Nonstop. Around the World. No Assistance. That is the Vendée Globe. The next race starts from France in November.

But before that happens, there is a “warm-up” or qualifying race this year. Match Racing on the Vendée Arctic -Les Sables d’Olonne Race.

The Vendée Arctic race started in Les Sables d’Olonne in the French Vendée. The course takes them to the edge of the Arctic Circle. It is the only qualifying race this year, and as many as ⅓ of the sailors hoping to compete in the Vendée Globe need to complete the race in order to compete in the November race. It is one of the most grueling sports competitions on the planet.

At 62 degrees north, some five days and 20 hours into this 2800 nautical miles Vendée Globe warm up race, Ruyant rounded the most northerly mark of the course with a margin of just six minutes over second placed Charlie Dalin, turning at the mid-point, virtual mark of the at 1141hrs [Central European Time] this Thursday 9th July. And this afternoon not long after the mark, the top three boats, Ruyant’s LinkedOut, Dalin’s Apivia and Jérémie Beyou on Charal were still separated by less than three miles.

Strange to think a sail of several thousand miles, to the edge of the Arctic and back, is only a small taste of what they will face in November.


Alone. Non-stop. Round-the-world. No Assistance

That is the Vendée Globe.

It may seem like November is a long way off, but the next race, starts on November 8th, 2020 from the Département of Vendée, in France. The boats are the IMOCA 60 Open class. The class has been updated to allow for foiling, though no one really knows how that will work through the Southern Ocean. Most of the foiling boats are modified older IMOCA 60s, or they are designed to be competitive without foils. One or two are strictly foiling monohulls.

The current record is 74 days, 3 hours and 35 minutes. To sail around the world.

Here’s the video “teaser” for the race. Considering that it’s only 3 minutes, I think it conveys the reality of trying something like that. Something I would never do…

‡ The Southern Ocean is a band of water that runs around Antarctica, south of South America, Africa and Australia. It is, mostly, an uninterrupted band of water. With no continents in the way to act as windbreak, the winds can be fierce. The Roaring 40s start at 40 degrees south. And then there are the Furious 50s, where Gale-force winds are common year-round. (That means tropical-storm-level winds approaching hurricane strength, but not associated with a tropical depression.) Dame Ellen MacArthur, who briefly held the record for the fastest, solo circumnavigation, noted that when you are in the Southern Ocean, the closest people may be the astronauts in the International Space Station.

Black Pearl (Nothing to do with the Johnny Depp movie)

While looking into the sailing tech being developed for the 36th America’s Cup sailing series, I tripped over something interesting. Black Pearl Yacht.

The Black Pearl is a superyacht, 107 meters long, 15 meter beam (width), with a draft of 7 meters (depth) and a mast height – above designed waterline – of 75 meters. She is a modern square rigger, with rotating masts lots of solar power. And twin 1080kW MTU diesel engines (1450 HP each) and twin 400kW electric propulsion motors.

While she isn’t carbon neutral (as the saying goes these days) while sailing, she can use the propellers the way hybrid cars do regenerative braking to generate electricity. While sailing. Boats like this tend to spend most of their time at anchor or at the dock. But it is still some wild technology.

While this video comes across like an advertisement for Oceanco, the company that built Black Pearl, it still manages to be pretty interesting.

Finally Some Video of the America’s Cup Foiling Monhulls

The 36th America’s Cup match race will be in 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. The class boats (the AC75) are foiling monohulls. Some development boats have been launched, and some video is available.

First up is a 37 second video from the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, of their boat foiling around the Gulf of Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. They are serving the role of “Challenger of Record.” It’s an America’s Cup thing. I’m not sure if it is a sailing, match-racing thing in general.

Ineos TeamUK (headed by Sir Ben Ainslie) have launched their boat, and there is some nice video (though it is silent) of the boat foiling in Portsmouth, UK. It includes some slow motion. No info on speed, but by the look of the chase boats, they are moving pretty well through the water.

Emirates Team New Zealand (the defending champions) launched their development boat, and New York Yacht Club christened their first boat in class, Defiant. Both of those boats were launched in October. There is a bit more explanation of how these things work, in a segment of The World Sailing Show. There is less video of actual sailing.

If you want to see how all this works, here is a link to a 2 minute video on how these boats actually fly. It is a pretty good explanation, but it is all animation, so of limited interest to me.

‡ The America’s Cup is a match race between 2 boats. All of the challengers will meet in the Louis Vuitton Cup Regatta. The winner of that series will be the challenger in the America’s Cup series, which will include only the Challenger and Emirates Team New Zealand, who won the 35th series of races.

It is called America’s Cup, because the first boat to win was the schooner America. It wasn’t expected to be an ongoing series. That original race was in 1851 and cup was awarded by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom. The cup and boat were donated to the New York Yacht Club, and it became a perpetual competition. That is why the Brits are so set on winning, and why the New York Yacht Club sticks its toe in the water all the time.

America’s Cup AC75

I have been trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to find some decent video of the test boats being built for 2021 America’s cup. Some teams are building slightly smaller test boats to get the technology down, before they build boats for the Louis Vuitton Regatta. The winner of that series will face the defending champions, Emirates Team New Zealand, in Auckland.

This video from the American team from the New York Yacht Club, American Magic is the best I can find. It’s from late last year. There are some good shots of the boat, which is a foiling monohull, flying. Those are right near the end of the video (at 2:20 or so) if you want to skip ahead.

But the best America’s Cup video is still this compilation from the 2013 racing season. It is of the AC72, the giant foiling catamarans that started the whole foiling thing with the America’s Cup. They were 72 feet at the waterline, 86 feet long overall, with a beam (width) of 50 feet. They were ridiculously expensive, and proved very difficult to sail. They were replaced 4 years later by the AC50, which had better tech, and were noticeably cheaper to build.

Route Du Rhum: Ultime Trimaran Leader Passes Halfway Point

Sailing 1800 miles in about 5 days is amazing to me. Gabart passes halfway point. (Actually he did that at about 10:00 UTC on Nov. 8th.)

Way down south, more than 1,800 nautical miles southwest of Saint Malo, in the warmer climes and flatter seas west of the Canaries, François Gabart continues to blaze a trail to Guadeloupe chased by Francis Joyon.

But as the days and hours tick by in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race, Joyon has found it harder to stay in touch with his younger rival. The skipper of IDEC Sport is now trailing Gabart’s blue and white rocketship, MACIF, by over 120 nautical miles.

The main enemy right now is fatigue. Garbart is entering the tradewinds to cross the Atlantic.

On another topic, a lot of the slower boats that took shelter in Spain because of the storms that greeted the fleet early in the race, may be coming back onto the course. (The Route Du Rhum isn’t a non-stop race, so they can still finish.)

One of the 40 class monohulls didn’t take refuge, is still working south. Merron – out of one “horror show” but one more to come. She has some interesting things to say about the race so far.

British skipper Miranda Merron on Campagne de France in Class40s has been showing all her experience in keeping her race on track through the very difficult conditions in the early stages of this Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.


“Top wind speed in yesterday’s horror show was 55 knots. A sail change in ‘just’ 35 knots cost me nine miles in the wrong direction. When things go wrong and it’s windy, it takes a while to sort out, especially alone.

There were 2 low-pressure systems (not big enough to get a name, but big enough to be problems) with a third one hitting tonight.

For a look at the conditions the folks are facing… The Atlantic Analysis (From NOAA) indicates that the “significant” wave-heights are on the order of 6 or 7 meters, in the area east of Spain. (That link isn’t to an archive, so it will change as NOAA updates the forecasts.)

‡ NOAA defines “significant wave height” as the average height of the top 1/3 of waves. Individual waves can be higher.

Route Du Rhum – Problems at the Start

In the first 48 hours of the race, a few people have had trouble.

First trouble hit the Ultime class trimarans. Armel Le Cléac’h capsizes but is reported safe.

The French superstar sailor Armel Le Cléac’h has capsized in his maxi trimaran, Banque Populaire IX, in the most serious incident yet to hit the fleet as the skippers contend with a major storm in the Atlantic.

But not the only problems encountered by these huge trimarans.

First to go was Seb Josse after Maxi Edmond de Rothschild broke her starboard hull; then Thomas Coville followed Josse in seeking refuge in La Coruna in northern Spain when Sodebo Ultim’ suffered structural failure in its forward beam.

And the monohulls also have had problems with that storm. Goodchild and Joschke dismasted as gale hits.

The second night of racing proved brutal for British skipper Sam Goodchild who was dismasted while lying in third place in Class40 on Narcos Mexico and Franco-German racer Isabelle Joschke whose mast also broke on her IMOCA, MONIN. Both skippers are safe and are heading for port.

All that transpired in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Spain.

Route Du Rhum

November 4th seems like a crazy day to be sailing the Atlantic near northern France, but that is what The Route Du Rhum is. From Saint-Malo, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. A transatlantic single-handed race. For the IMOCA 60 class Vendée Globe, the Route Du Rhum serves as the qualification race for new skippers. To compete in the Vendée Globe, you must have completed a single-handed open-ocean race of at least 2500 nautical miles. (The Vendée Globe is around the world, non-stop, alone, with no assistance.)

According to the Wiki, the current record time, set 4 years ago, is 7 days 15 hours 8 minutes and 32 seconds, held by Loick Peyron aboard Banque Populaire VII (an Ultime class trimaran).

The fastest boats will be the Ultime class trimarans. They are about 100 feet in length, and can sail about 800 miles per day.

There are too many skippers in this race for me to keep them straight. There are multiple classes. IMOCA 60, Open 50 ft foiling trimarans, and more. The video is a quick introduction to the IMOCA class skippers. (The subtitles are in English – best I could do. You should make the video full screen if you want to read those subtitles.) When YouTube – and Alphabet – freak out over the privacy extensions in your browser, use that link.

While open ocean sailing is nothing to be taken lightly, I don’t think anyone has been lost on the Route Du Rhum since the 1978 race when Alain Colas, a French sailor on the trimaran Manureva disappeared 16 November 1978.

The Boats for the 36th America’s Cup

The AC-75 foiling monohull is radical even by America’s Cup standards. A 75-foot monohull with no keel, and 2 canting T “dagger boards.” These should be even faster than the 50-ft foiling catamarans.

The 36th America’s Cup will run in March of 2021. The first regattas start in September of 2019. So far there are the Kiwis (the defender) and 3 official challengers. (They are hoping for one or two more challengers.)

One team has built a 24t test platform, but there is limited video, since the teams focus on secrecy and security a lot. And also they seem to crash quite a bit. So the best video to date is the computer graphics explanation of the class. (Video from The World Sailing Show.)

Rolex Cup Sailing

Some of my sailing friends have nothing but disdain for the high-tech America’s Cup boats, so here is some classic sailing.

The Rolex Cup is actually a series of races. There are 2 classes of Maxi yachts, and a regatta of Swan boats. Maybe more. I don’t know if YouTube will complain about these non-music videos, but if it says the embedded videos aren’t available, use the links provided. (Do they even support embedding anymore, or do they just hate privacy?)

The video is of highlights of this year’s maxi racing, which finished up in September. It is a bit long at 8 minutes or so. (It isn’t one of the races I really follow.)

The Swan (a European manufacturer of sailboats) races included 3 classes that I know of: 50s, 42s and 45ft boats. This video is highlights from the 50s regatta.

Because I Haven’t Had a Sailing Video Up in a While

Some things are too expensive even for the America’s Cup series. In 2013 they were racing 72 foot-long, hydrofoil catamarans. They were expensive to build, hard to control, and it seems they were suppressing the competition. So for the 2017 series, they went to smaller foiling catamarans. (40 or 42 feet, I can’t remember.) For 2021 they will be using foiling monohulls.

But the AC72 was a magnificent machine. (When YouTube freaks out over the privacy extensions in your browser, use that link above.)

Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed May 9, 2013 during an AC72 training run. He was on Team Artemis.

They Are Holding a 50th Anniversary Edition of the Golden Globe Race

The Golden Globe was a race sponsored by the Sunday Times (London) that was a non-stop, single-handed, around the world race. It was held in 1968-1969. It was controversial because most of the entrants failed to finish. But it did lead to the creation of the Vendée Globe race, and a few others.

They are running the race this year – they started July 1st – from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France. It appears they are having some of the same problems the original race suffered from. Because the boats are not purpose-built, they are having trouble with the Southern Ocean.

Two sailors have had their boats dismasted in one storm. One, an officer in the Indian Navy, may have been severely injured.

Indian Abhilash Tomy, 39, and Irishman Gregor McGuckin, 32, were both rescued Monday. Rescued Indian and Irish sailors head for remote island.

CANBERRA, Australia – An Indian and an Irish sailor rescued from damaged sailboats in the remote southern Indian Ocean will be delivered to land on Tuesday when they reach an island and undergo medical assessments, an official said.

McGuckin was able to jury-rig a mast and sail with remnants of his rigging, and make a very slow 2 knots toward Tomy. Tomy was suffering from a back injury he picked up when his boat rolled through 360 degrees. Both skippers were picked up by the French fisheries patrol boat Osiris. They will be transferred to an Australian island for medical evaluation. They would travel farther by Australian frigate, depending on their need for treatment.

A separate dismasting occurred on August 27th, when the Norwegian, Are Wiig had his boat roll 360 degrees. He was able to put in to Cape Town under his jury-rig. He even declined assistance offered by passing vessel.

The boats have modern communications gear, but otherwise are supposed to be similar to the boats used 50 years ago.

Open ocean sailing is not for the faint-of-heart. The official site for the race is at this link.

Failure To Take Conditions Into Account Results in Sinking

If you are sailing, you should never have a schedule, and you should never disregard current conditions. Drama in the northwest passage. (Yes, the article is in German, but Chrome will translate for you. Or see the link below.)

So the famed Northwest Passage. Sailing from East to West through the Arctic in the summer when there is no ice. Only one problem with that. This summer, the ice was persistent. But someone decided they knew better than the Canadian Coast Guard, and paid a steep price. (They didn’t qualify for the Darwin Award, but they are both young.)

Yesterday night, the French-flagged yacht “Anahita”, an Ovni 345, sank north of the coast of Canada in the Northwest Passage. The disaster occurred in the Depot Bay, east of the Bellot Strait. According to initial information, the ship has been trapped by drift ice from which the crew could no longer free it.

The boat was crushed by the ice, and sank within minutes. The 2 crew took refuge on the ice and eventually were picked up by other boats in the area.

A quick search only turned up one Ovni 345 boat for sale. It is a used 1997 with an asking price of €137,000. The boat that sank had been “specially converted for the journey into the ice.” (Which I take to mean it probably had additional insulation and maybe additional heat sources added.) I’m not sure, but I doubt that any insurance will pay out. Does insurance protect you from being an idiot?

The Canadian Coast Guard had warned people that the ice was not likely to break up this year, and that yachts in the area should head south, or find refuge in ports in Greenland.

The skipper of the “Anahita”, Pablo David Saad, had deliberately ignored the official warning and instead oriented himself to the skipper of another yacht, who has traveled the passage several times and who had been hoping in the last few days still for a withdrawal of the ice , Saad has been on long-distance sailing for several years with changing crews. He as well as his current companion come from San Martín de los Andes, a city in southwestern Argentina near the border with Chile.

Hat tip to Watts Up With That, who has other stories of ships getting stuck in the ice.

Sailing News Roundup: Some Sad, Some Light, Some Political

Since I do this for my enjoyment (and not yours) I will include three bits from the world of sailing.

The serious news is that a British sailor was lost at sea in the Southern Ocean in the Volvo Ocean Race. Sailor lost during Volvo Ocean Race wasn’t tethered when he was knocked overboard

Volvo Ocean Race sailor John Fisher of Britain wasn’t wearing his safety tether when he was knocked off his sloop into the frigid, remote Southern Ocean in gale-force conditions just before sunrise Monday, according to a timeline released by Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag.

Fisher, 47, was lost at sea some 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn, with no other boats within 200 miles.

In the lighter news, the final rules about the next America’s Cup race were published. America’s Cup: AC75 Class Rule Published >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

That is the design rules for the next class of boats. They are abandoning catamarans for the time being, and going to a foiling monohull. I guess the thinking is it will be less expensive to compete. They are also putting significant limits on the number of hulls, foils, masts etc. that can be built. This should also hold down the total cost. (There are 2 videos at the site, but they are probably only of interest to sailing nerds.)

The political news is a sign of the times. Sailing’s Barcelona World Race abandoned over Catalan uncertainty

The Barcelona Race is an every-four-years regatta of 2-man teams sailing around the world. (26,000 miles) It Starts and ends in Barcelona, the capital city of Catalan, but given political “unrest” in that part of Spain, the 2018-2019 race has been canceled.

Volvo Ocean Race Boat Collision With Fishing Boat 30 Miles from Hong Kong

This is going to be a mess. Volvo Ocean Race Yacht Involved in Fatal Accident Near Hong Kong – The New York Times

A sailboat competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, a marquee around-the-world sailing competition, collided with a Chinese fishing vessel near Hong Kong early Saturday, killing one of the Chinese boat’s crew members, race organizers and Chinese state media said.

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team managed to hit a Chinese fishing boat. They were in a tight race with the Dongfeng Race Team of China. (Conspiracy theorists, call your office.) The boat was forced to retire from the leg, though not the race. Nine members of the fishing boats crew were rescued. The tenth guy didn’t make it, despite being flown by helicopter to Hong Kong for treatment.

The collision happened at the end of the 5,600-mile segment from Melbourne, Australia, to Hong Kong.

Was the race boat keeping a watch? (The waters around Hong Kong are very congested with all kinds of traffic.) Was the fishing boat lit with proper running lights? Was the race boat for that matter? This was the end of leg 4, of a grueling around-the-world race; did fatigue play a part? These are questions that will have to be answered. Inquests can take a long time.

For some of my thoughts on Colregs (Collision avoidance regulations) see this post from after the series of US Naval vessel collisions last year.

The 2017-2018 race started in Spain on October 22nd and should end at the Hague sometime in June.

Around the World Solo Sailing Speed Record

MACIFA new record was set on Sunday, and I missed it. Francois Gabart Sets New Round-the-World Record

Gabart sailed around the world, covering 52,000 kilometers or more in 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds. (Timing brought to you by the wonders of GPS!)

On Sunday, December 17 at 2:45 (French time), Francois Gabart, onboard the Ultime Trimaran MACIF, crossed the the finish line between Cape Lizard and Ouessant to successfully end his solo world tour. On his first attempt, at the around-the-world record, Gabart smashed the standing time of 49 days, previously set by Thomas Coville, the skipper of the Sodebo Ultim. MACIF sped through the nearly 28,000 nautical mile journey in just 42 days 16 hours 40 minutes and 35 seconds.

The last time I had checked, more people walked on the moon than did the solo race around the world in these giant catamarans. (MACIF is 100ft long.)

If I can find any decent video, I will add it in the comments. (All the interviews are in French. It is a French boat, a French skipper, leaving from and returning to a French port, in sport that Americans don’t usually care about.)

The Dawn of Ocean Yacht Racing

Not surprising that the idea was fueled by alcohol. Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic by Sam Jefferson review – the super-rich in a thrilling contest on the waves

The dawn of ocean yacht racing can be pinpointed to a drunken night at the exclusive Union Club, on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, in October 1866.

Because what are a bunch of super-rich playboys gonna do when they are convinced they can one-up each other. The set out on Tuesday the 11th of December 1866.

It was a close race that ended on December 23rd. At least 6 men were lost overboard.

There was much fanfare in England when the boats arrived. The Queen even granted them an audience at Osborne House.

In the opinion of the Times, the Great Ocean Yacht Race was a very American innovation: “We would not say that an Englishman would not have accomplished such a race,” the paper noted, “but the idea would perhaps hardly have occurred to them.”

(That’s the London Times for those not in the know – They never specify which city, because London.)

New America’s Cup Monohull Design Introduced

America's Cup AC-75 concept for 36th runningThe next America’s Cup will be raced on foiling monohulls. THE AMERICA’S CUP CLASS AC75 BOAT CONCEPT REVEALED

The Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa design teams have spent the last four months evaluating a wide range of monohull concepts. Their goals have been to design a class that will be challenging and demanding to sail, rewarding the top level of skill for the crews; this concept could become the future of racing and even cruising monohulls beyond the America’s Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand currently holds America’s Cup and will defend at the next running. Luna Rossa is the officially designated challenger, and both have a say in the design.

One of the problems with foiling boats traveling at 40 knots or more, is that things go bad very fast. And if that results in a capsize, a catamaran is in need of help to be righted. The AC-75 boats will be fully foiling, and self-righting in the event of a capsize.

The 36th America’s Cup match race will be held in 2021. (Preceded as always by the Louis Vuitton Regatta to select the challenger.)

Volvo Ocean Race (Leg 2 – Day 16)

The boats are back in cold weather, after a quick trip through the tropics. They should make Cape Town in about 5 more days (or less). The video below is the review of Week 2, it is mildly interesting in that it includes the equator crossing. (And so the visit from King Neptune.)

Leg 2 – Position Report – Monday 20 November (Day 16) – 13:00 UTC

1. MAPFRE — distance to finish – 1,832.6 nautical miles
2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +32.8
3. Dongfeng Race Team +39.7
4. team AkzoNobel +62.8
5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +83.7
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic +88.0
7. Team Brunel – Stealth Mode

1300 Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) is 0800 Eastern Standard Time.

Team Brunel was in 2nd place when they invoked stealth mode. They had been in last place for a while, but have been steadily pulling ahead. The stealth mode lasts 24 hrs. and keeps the competitors from knowing where you are or what you are doing.

After 16 days and about 5500 miles of sailing, less than 90 miles separates the fleet.

Volvo Ocean Race: One Week Into Leg 2

After a week of open ocean sailing, less than 1 nautical mile separates the 1st and 2nd place boats. (They are about a third of the way through this leg of the race.)

The highlights video is from Thursday, but it gives you an idea of what the conditions are like.