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Sunday, 09 December 2012 10:19

With 6 IMOCA running the Vendée Globe this year (over a total of 20 units), the view of these well known designers bring interesting  light and perspective on the future of those racing beasts.

 

SAFRAN (Launched May 2007) – Skipper : Marc Guillemot

Safran is the first IMOCA 60 to come from the collaboration between VPLP and Guillaume Verdier. The design process of Safran began in 2006. The collaboration between the architects, the skipper and Safran was very productive and enabled the boat to evolve and remain up to date both in terms of technology and in techniques applied.

Key Points:

  • Powerful hull chine 5.5m wide
  • Classical mast
  • Curved foils
  • Carbon keel (then titanium keel in 2012)
  • A deck layout influenced by trimaran design with a unique winch arrangement

GROUPE BEL (Launched September 2007) – Skipper : Kito De Pavant

The construction of Groupe BEL began 4 months before the launch of Safran and she has the same hull shape and structure as Safran.
In his preamble to the design brief, Kito was very clear: Light – simple – reliable.  He put the emphasis on the ergonomics under sail with the helm station well protected, providing good general visibility.

Key Points:

  • Powerful hull chine 5.5m wide
  • Wing mast
  • Straight foils
  • Carbone keel
  • A wheel helm with a protected wind shield lookout post

PRB (Launched January 2010) – Skipper : Vincent Riou

The hull of PRB was produced from Safrans mould and has a structure similar to that of Safran. No compromise was made in terms of mass in this project. Vincent Riou applied his experience gleaned from his precedent IMOCA’s in order to have a radical interior layout which dispensed with any superfluous kilos.

Key Points:

  • Powerful hull chine 5.5m wide
  • Wing mast
  • Curved foils
  • Steel keel
  • Minimalistic equipment

Paprec Virbac 3 (Launched May 2010) – Skipper : Jean Pierre Dick

Virbac Paprec 3 is the first 2nd generation VPLP / Verdier.  Six months of study went into this new hull design which is more powerful that the first generation, while still remaining within reasonable ratios of power.

After his last two IMOCAs J P Dick wanted to have a boat where comfort was given less importance, although the helm station was designed to have a sheltered niche.

Key Points :

  • Powerful hull chine 5.7m wide
  • Classic mast
  • Curved foils
  • Steel keel

Banque Populaire -ex Foncia  (Launched September 2010) – Skipper : Armel Le Cleach

Michel Desjoyeaux and his team were involved in the conception of this boat, as well as in terms of defining the systems.  HDS were involved in the general structure of the boat, in consultation with the architects.

Lowering the general centre of gravity of the boat and refining the ergonomics for offshore conditions were the criteria for the design brief of the boat.

Key Points :

  • Powerful hull chine 5.7m wide
  • Wing Mast
  • Straight foils
  • Carbon keel
  • Deck in seagull wing form

MACIF (Launched August 2011) – Skipper : François Gabart

This boat is the sister ship of Foncia and was designed to optimise the previous version, especially in terms of interior structural arrangement and the distribution of ballast.

Key Points:

  • Powerful hull chine 5.7m wide
  • Wing Mast
  • Straight foils
  • Steel Keel
  • Deck in seagull wing form

Questions to the Architects:
What are the important criteria in designing a wining IMOCA project?

VPLP/Verdier : The driving forces behind designing a monohull for the Vendée Globe for VPLP / Verdier are:

  • Lightweight
  • Power
  • Reliability
  • Performance
  • Ergonomics

These criteria were the cornerstones of the design of both first and second generation IMOCA produced by the collaboration between VPLP and G. Verdier.

The desire to produce a lightweight boat and therefore favour velocity was a determining factor in the design process. We chose to give priority to the relationship between the skipper and their boat, rather than pushing the limits determined by the box rule to draw on pure power. The Vendée is a marathon, not a sprint; and in the long term, managing an overpowered boat can be too hard for one person to handle, so we prefer to focus on a compatible relationship between man and machine.

What changes do you envisage to improve performance on future designs?

Over the past 10 years, the performance of the IMOCA has progressed exponentially and the way we approach the design has also evolved. Feed back offered by skippers has enabled us to better adapt the design theory to reality.

The involvement of the various teams in optimizing each boat enables us to widen our R&D into subtle areas such as the interface between the hull and the appendages as well as windage or the ergonomics of the boat. Research for the current generation of IMOCA has led us to discover valuable potential evolutions for the future of the Class and sailing in general.  The IMOCA class along with the Mini Transat remains a source of inspiration and creativity for the yacht racing industry and sailing in general.

The key to reliability is through a thorough understanding of dynamic loads, and we have really improved reliability by applying data acquired from sea trials.

It is also possible to envisage improvements to the structure of the boats by using materials that are stronger and lighter to optimize the homogeneity of the boat in terms of performance and reliability. It is vital to remember that without reliability performance does not exist …

Do you feel confident that your six boats undertaking this Vendée Globe are reliable?

In order to win the race, you have to finish the race, so it is essential for us that when it comes to reliability we are totally transparent; any damage must be analysed so that all the teams can benefit from the feedback and experience of others.  Winning by default because other competitors have experienced technical failure is not satisfactory.

In fact, after the last Transat Jacques Vabre, all the data we gleaned from sustained damage was shared with all our teams who had a mutual desire to work towards preventing them reoccurring.

Sailing remains a mechanical sport and therefore a compromise between being lightweight and providing reliable performance. Confronting the elements means there will always be a certain amount of unpredictability.

How do you envisage the evolution of the IMOCA Class ?

This class is, by definition a class open to innovation and evolution as the opening statement to the Rule implies:

[...] “However, these rules are always in evolution, and must be developed in such a way to encourage technological innovation in terms of performance, as well as the research and application of new techniques in terms of safety at sea.”

Measures should be taken to increase the reliability of the boat, while trying not to fall into an arms race that would favour the largest budget in the fleet. Indeed, collaboration between architects, structural engineers, shipyards and skippers enable us to converge towards finding solutions and increasing reliability, security and simplicity; all the while maintaining a level of competitive performance at least equal to the existing fleet.

The Vendée Globe, and thus by extension, the IMOCA Class is a chemistry between  man and machine; if there is one race in which the sailor must be in harmony with his vessel – this is it!