on tour

Solo sailor and rigger Ronnie Simpson will be crawling through nearly every Open 60 on theVendee Globe dock this week in an effort to show you what each one is about; their strengths and weaknesses, how they are customized for each skipper, what the shore team are most proud of, and what jumps out at him. Some of this will be on video, some in pics, and some in writing; we’ll put the best stuff here on the front page, but real junkies should get inside the Vendee Globe threadin Ocean Racing Anarchy for every report and up-to-the-minute news from Les Sables D’Olonne.

It made sense for him to start with the winning yacht from 2008-9, Maitre Coq (ex-Mapfre, ex-Foncia). Ronnie’s 8-minute video tour of the boat is here 

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Some Open 60’s are perfect right out of the gate, while others require years and years of tweaking to achieve good results. Maitre Coq is not the latter. The Bruce Farr designed yacht was a collaboration between Michel Desjoyeaux and his late, great brother Hubert Desjoyeaux at the Brittany-based CDK Technologies, and the group effort has resulted in a yacht whose performances have been nothing short of breathtaking: 1st place in the 2008-09 Vendee Globe, 1st place in the 2009 Istanbul Europa Race, and 2nd place in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race. In her Vendee triumph, Desjoyeaux had to turn the boat around after an electronics/regulator failure, and his repairs resulted in a 41-hour headstart for the rest of the fleet.  MichDesj sailed around the fleet, winning by more than five days and setting a Vendee record.  Clearly, Maitre Coq is a weapon in the right hands.

Skipper Jeremie Beyou and his Maitre Coq team have done very little to modify the yacht before entering it in this, it’s third non-stop round the world race. “We didn’t want to revolutionize the boat when we bought it. Jeremie wanted a strong and fast boat, and Maitre Coq is quite special,” said preparateur Erwan Steff. Keeping true to that intention, the boat has only been the beneficiary of a new mast, a new boom and a new diesel engine. In MAPFRE guise, Spanish skiff/ Volvo sailors Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez altered the mast from Desjoyeaux’s design; they wanted a mast that was bullet proof, allowing them to sail the boat hard all the time, like a Volvo 70 or 49er. While training in April, a broken shroud killed the Spanish rig. Beyou and company consulted with CDK Technologies to design a mast which was both lighter and stronger than the old mast. “We know the boat is fast. Jeremie’s top priority is to have a reliable and fast boat, something where he can sail fast all the time and not have to worry about breaking the boat. That was the design brief to the rig engineers.”

The general sentiment from Jeremie and his head preparateur Erwan is that the boat is fast, but more importantly, reliable. The word kept coming up again and again. Even when John Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron won the Barcelona World Race on Virbac-Paprec 3, they were forced to stop twice for repairs.  The Macif/Banq Pop sisterships are as fast as Virbac-Paprec, but have also shown structural weakness and are said to be somewhat brutal to race.  Jeremie has the benefit of having sailed with Dick to a TJV win last year, so he knows what the new boats are capable of, which could help inform his decisions aboard MC. This bodes well for Maitre Coq, as Jeremie will know when he has to push 100% and when he can back off the throttle slightly. Jeremie admits “Upwind we’re all the same speed, downwind depends more on decisionmaking and how much handsteering you do.  Reaching can be tough against the newer boats – we sometimes give them a knot or two of boatspeed when power reaching – but reliability is the key and that’s something we are very confident about.”

Bottom line: Maitre Coq is a contender for the win. She is a proven boat with a talented skipper who may be peaking; the TJV champ and 2011 Figaro winner seems ready for anything. Watch for Maitre Coq to sail in the top 5, and rise in the ranks when some of the newer boats begin to falter…