FoilingMultihullsOcean Racing

transatlantic flight

Names like Chichester and Hasler graced the first-ever solo transoceanic ocean race, and while it’s seen its share of rocky times since its 1960 birth, the Transat Bakerly (née OSTAR) is back with a vengeance in this Vendée Globe year, and it’s the first time the historic race is back on its original course – from Plymouth to New York City.  This time, it features four classes – Class 40, Multi 50, Open 60, and Ultime multihulls.
Will the 2016 edition look like Chichester’s, in which he famously said of the course: “Every time I tried to point Gipsy Moth at New York, the wind blew dead on the nose,” said Chichester. “It was like trying to reach a doorway with a man in it aiming a hose at you.”  There’s a good history of the race on the event site, and the IMOCA thread is probably the best place for breaking news.
The race starts on May 2nd, and a huge thanks to the Anarchists for translating this excellent Seb Josse interview from Ouest France (Edmond De Rothschild foiler):
The Transat bakerly. Sebastien Josse on his foiling Edmond de Rothschild hopes to get a lot of answers from this race. Start from Plymouth on May 2nd.
Sebastien, why did you have to cancel the warm-up from Saint-Malo?
We had a bit of a complicated start up, racing against time since getting the boat back into the water. Everyone is working on a very tight schedule and the Vendee Globe will be here in no time. Calibrating the foils takes a lot of time. We had a problem with one of the foils, which we could manage at our base in Lorient, but which would have been a lot more complicated to do in St-Malo.
The boat’s winter refit was quite long. Why?
The goal was to get rid off the teething troubles that plagued us during the Transat Jacques Vabre. We had seen that there were structural problems with all the new boats, so we had to deal with those too. Apart from that, the goal was also to carry out some major modifications that we won’t reveal and that are not visible right away. We basically came out with version 2 of the boat, which will be the final version for the Vendee Globe.
Did you mainly have to erase the weaknesses or enhance the strengths?
We knew that upwind, the foiling boats weren’t among the fastest, but we were able to really measure against the others during the Jacques Vabre. And it stung even more (laughs). Like Banque Populaire, we also tried to close those gaps.
Yet, in the end, did your early retirement in the Jacques Vabre in a way allow you to catch up?
Yes. The boat was only three months old and we left in heavy weather. I think we would have certainly been subject to big breakages if we hadn’t turned around. Like Jean-Pierre Dick, who ended up in Madeira with a broken boat and a lot of time lost. Our boat was still intact. So we did as the other boats, we reinforced the structure, because all the new IMOCAs clearly had a problem in that regard. And then we were able to do a delivery trip to St Barth’s and race the Transat B to B, so in the end we did two transats, something no other (new) IMOCA has done, which allowed us to clock up valuable miles.
So the problems you experienced during the Transat Jacques Vabre were quite serious
We had a succession of minor damages – with outrigger, mast, rigging – which, in 45-50 knots, showed that it wasn’t reasonable to continue in a storm, only if we wanted it to have a catastrophic ending.
In the B to B, the return transat to Brittany, you encountered very heavy weather conditions that allowed you to test the reliability of your boat Edmond de Rothschild
Yes, I had 50 knots of wind for about six hours, but those behind me had 60 knots, and for even longer! But, for me, it was a great experience because you don’t get these types of conditions during training, you don’t go out in such a storm because it’s dangerous for the boat. But it allowed me to tick a box: 45 knots with a 6 m swell works with this boat.
So what did you really work on during the winter refit?
Let’s say stability. I don’t want to divulge more. But it’s not just about the foils, which represent only one third of the boat. There are the ballasts, the keel, the sails Not everything revolves around the foil issue, even though it is our primary field of questioning, for which we’re still waiting for answers, just like the other teams.
You and Banque Populaire are the most advanced teams
Two weeks ago Banque Populaire was at the same level as we are, but they broke their second generation foil, and were forced to go back to the first generation, so they made a step back. Surely to be taking two steps forward later. We are waiting for answers. We have sailed five times with the new configuration and The Transat will either validate our approach or bring more questions, something only a race can do. So we can say that we are the least behind the older generation boats that benefit from 8 years of development or more. If we manage to do the two transats back-to-back (The Transat and New York/Les Sables) with honorable rankings and without a hitch, only then can we claim that we widened the gap with the previous generations. We can’t say that yet. But if a foiler wins The Transat, then I will say that the die is cast.
And if that doesn’t happen?
Then we have to look at the circumstances. If we are two days, or two hours behind. If the upwind conditions aren’t too crappy at the end During the Transat Jacques Vabre, if Armel hadn’t had his problems near the end, plus the doldrums where he had to tack, which rarely happens, he would have left everyone in his wake. Deep down, he must be pretty confident to hold some reserve But now, our new boats, which are much more powerful than anything that was done before, have to win a race to ratify all that.
You were the first to sign up for The Transat, even though it isn’t part of the IMOCA schedule
Yes, but is is a legendary race that exists since 1960. So yes, it is risky in terms of breakage, but we’ve signed up for the Vendee Globe, which can bring tough conditions, so this is a major test for both man and boat. Whoever finishes The Transat garners a lot of points in preparation for the Vendee Globe. We shouldn’t only do races where everything is to our advantage. We might be leaving Les Sables d’Olonne in November with a southwesterly blowing 30-35 knots in the Bay of Biscay and have four days of upwind sailing, which amounts to half a Transat
What are your expectations for this transat?
It is clearly a warm-up. Creating reflexes, getting into the swing of things, not hurting myself. The Transat is a race where you have to show good seamanship, it’s not a speed run. It is a tough race, you have to be mentally strong, have stamina and tenacity. Whoever finishes The Transat is a sturdy one.
You are now using a second generation set of foils. How much progress do they bring?
I have a good feeling about it, but I haven’t been able to test against others. I couldn’t do the training at Port-la-Fôret. I can’t wait to start this race. But we can already say that between the first and second generation of foils, there is a 5-6% performance increase, which is considerable. But we have to test their reliability.
Lifting boats, even making them fly, is part of what the Gitana Team is about, isn’t it?
Yes, it fascinates me since I first saw the foiling Moths in 2005 And speed, innovation and avant-gardism are the Gitana Team trademarks. When it comes to foils, using them was a no-brainer. We have Gitana XV (former MOD-70) which serves as a real-life model for the design and construction of the new maxi-trimaran that will be launched next year. It is an exciting way to go for the entire team. There’s a whole world to explore with tremendous room for improvement. The next 10 years will bring us amazing things. We will reach speeds that, two to three years ago, we were barely able to touch, over 40 knots (on a multihull) at a steady speed.
Jérémie Beyou’s boat, your pontoon neighbor, will be the only boat of the older generation to have installed foils. Was that, in fact, not the ideal compromise?
His goal was to keep the benefits of the older generation boats combined with the addition of foils. There is a hole in the IMOCA rules that greatly benefits these older boats that want to incorporate new technologies. Today, a boat like Maître CoQ is free in terms of power! They were able to strengthen its mast, keep important ballasts, a wide angle of keel, and even add more power with the foils, while all of that has been restricted for our new generation boats, with a one-design mast and a MR of 25 tons/meter. Jérémie made an interesting gamble and fully to his credit.
Will the transat New York – Les Sables, which normally should be more favorable to the latest generation boats, be able to show everyone’s true colors?
No. I think that it will already happen during The Transat. The level is high, it includes the boats that finished first and second in the Jacques Vabre, and the one that won the Vendee Globe they’re all there. I’m not saying that the others don’t count, but if a foiling boat were to beat one of these two other boats, it would be very reassuring for the choices we made.
How is the construction of the maxi coming along?
It’s going well Launch is scheduled for a little over a year, these kinds of boats take a long time to build. We have moved beyond the moulding stage for the three hulls and the arms. It is a tremendous job for the design office, with four people working on it full-time.
You have chosen to build a 33 m long boat, which is one meter longer than the Ultim class box rule. Why?
Why limit ourselves? Our goals with this future maxi-trimaran are the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum, which do not impose any limits. The box rules set by the Collectif Ultim will come into play when they start organizing races. For the moment the only one scheduled is the solo around the world race in 2019, which is still far away. And we will be able to fit into the box if necessary.
You will cut a meter off the boat?
We’ll see
With the former Mod 70 that you use as test boat, it seems you blew up the speedo?
Yes, we recently sailed at 43 knots. We’re able to get a steady speed of 40 knots, which before wasn’t possible with a 21 m trimaran. It’s very exciting! Even though these speeds bring about quite some stress as well, as there is no zero risk.
Isn’t it frustrating to go back to an IMOCA after that, with which you cannot reach these speeds?
No, because for me, the Vendee Globe is a dream. The 2008 edition left me with a taste of not having had enough, as I had to give up on my ambitions off the coast of New Zealand. It’s a race that you want to be able to nail. Finishing alone is a feat. Making the podium or even winning is a whole other story. Given the level, you have to be fired up. The high level of the participants is what makes it so interesting.