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IMOCA extremes & Slava Ukraini!

by Mark Jardine 20 Sep 12:00 PDT
14 Sept 2022, Biotherm at the Defi Azimut in Lorient, France © Alexander Champy-McLean / The Ocean Race

The IMOCA class represents the cutting-edge in offshore racing yachts, and is the design used for the Vendée Globe, which has taken the mantle of the preeminent round the world yacht race, as well as The Ocean Race in a fully crewed format.

As such, they are highly developed racing machines, and when a new yacht is launched, there is a huge amount of interest in what route the designers have gone down.

The Défi Azimut provided us with a glimpse of how the newest yachts are performing, albeit over a very short 545-mile racecourse and 48 hours of sailing.

The reference point for performance is Charlie Dalin's APIVIA. Launched in 2019, Dalin took line-honours in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, but finished second overall by just 2 hours 31 minutes, as Yannick Bestaven, the skipper of Maître Coq IV, was awarded 10 hours 15 minutes time compensation for his role in the search and rescue of fellow competitor Kevin Escoffier - incredibly close after 80 days at sea.

Since the Vendée Globe Dalin and APIVIA have been on a roll. This included an extraordinary win in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 sailing doublehanded with Paul Meilhat, winning the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race, and most recently winning the 48h Azimut solo.

But new thinking is out there, and the latest generation of IMOCA yachts are looking to surpass the performance of APIVIA, and none is more extreme than the Manuard-designed Charal 2. Jérémie Beyou's new yacht has a pronounced scow bow and, most interestingly of all, rudders mounted at 90 degrees to each other. I had my hunches as to why this had been done, but spoke to high-performance inshore and offshore sailor Alister Richardson to get a second opinion:

"They have started to design a flying boat with some element of control within the IMOCA foil appendage rule. They probably have quite long rudders with a high aspect ratio.

"The plan with having them so close together and an open angle is to achieve an independent rudder steering system. When the boat is in full-flight mode, I imagine the leeward one drives the boat, but the windward one stays down and controls the flight of the boat. This would give them the option to have more aggressive J foil options, but I doubt they are that far ahead yet. Just controlling the 'Cadillac' foiling would be a huge gain."

IMOCA rules forbid the use of a horizontal foil on the rudders, which so far has effectively stopped them becoming a fully foiling yacht. Instead, they have lifted most of the hull out of the water with the leeward J foil, and just skimmed. Full flight would be another game-changer in the IMOCA fleet, but the complexity of controlling the flight with the arrangement seen on Charal 2 would be immense, so it remains to be seen if this will work.

Where APIVIA looks sleek, Charal 2 looks positively aggressive on the dock. The yacht looks like it wants to escape its mooring lines and tear up the ocean, and if they can avoid gear breakages and collisions with UFOs (unidentified floating objects, not aliens), then she'll definitely be the one to watch.

Scow bows are becoming the norm in the IMOCA and Class 40 fleets, and nowhere is this more evident than on Paul Meilhat's IMOCA Biotherm, which will compete fully-crewed in The Ocean Race, but also singlehanded in the Route de Rhum this autumn and the Vendée Globe 2024-25.

Note just how far back the mast is on Meilhat's yacht: a trend which has been happening for a while, but looks even more pronounced on this Verdier design.

The three yachts discussed above will be taking part in the Route du Rhum, which starts on 6th November at Saint-Malo in Brittany, heading 3542 miles to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe, as well as an incredible 33 other IMOCA skippers and their yachts, many of whom are capable of winning. It's going to be a fascinating watch!

Slava Ukraini!

We've all been shocked and horrified by the war in Ukraine, but Ivan Bidzilya has updated us from the country and has shown us that sailing is still happening, and the Ukrainian people are showing incredible spirit and resilience in the face of devastation.

From the first days of the invasion, the Odesa-based Black Sea Yacht Club became one of the symbols of Ukrainian resistance. The Club received true international recognition in March after Bon Jovi retweeted a video where dozens of citizens were digging sand on the beach adjacent to the club's premises and loading a truck with sandbags.

The photos accompanying Ivan's article are in many cases grim, with boatyards destroyed in Mykolaiv, entire fleets of dinghies gone in Kharkiv, the club and all equipment ransacked in Mariupol, and the yacht club in Energodar ruined.

Many have lost everything in this war, but the spirit of the great people of Ukraine shines through in everything they do. Yes, it's only sailing we're talking about here, but it provides hope of a normal life, and seeing sails on the water in Kyiv and Yuzhniy shows their determination to keep their dreams alive.

Internationally, Ukraine continues to perform at the highest level in sailing competitions, and I have no doubt that SSL Team Ukraine will be cheered on massively in November's SSL Gold Cup, where the team qualified for the Finals by finishing top in Qualifying Series Group 8.

Sailing can provide hope, sailing is home to innovation, and sailing provides calm in a time of chaos and destruction. Wherever you are, and whatever you sail, enjoy your time on the water to the full and, if you can, support those who are in such need at this time.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com & YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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