like a boss

The new Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 was revealed over the weekend and all I can say is WOW.  Actually I said something much stronger than that but let’s just say that I said wow. Either Alex Thomson and his team have got it really right or really wrong. My money is on them getting it really right. They have been doing this for a long time and along with their own in-house team led by Design Manager Pete Hobson, they have collaborated with French naval architects VPLP who are in my opinion among the best, if not ‘the best’ design team in the world.

Every time a new generation of IMOCA boats comes out I look at them and think, “how can they ever improve on this?”  And when the next generation comes out they make the previous ones look so outdated. This class is incredibly innovative and dynamic it’s no wonder they are at the forefront of sailing technology. The new Hugo Boss is most definitely at the forefront of design and innovation but it looks to me as if they have ‘stolen’ an old idea and made it new again.

In 1960 a boat was built for the OSTAR (Observer Single-handed Trans Atlantic Race). The boat was innovative and proved itself over the years. It was called a ‘Jester’ and the point of the design was that the skipper would sail the boat from down below and not on deck like every other modern yacht. Take one look at Hugo Boss and that’s what I see – and I love it. All controls are below deck and Alex can operate in a space-like capsule that reminds me of the place where drone pilots operate when fly their drones from thousands of miles away. Alex will be completely contained (and dry) – and safe I might add – while operating his yacht like an outrageous video game that’s magically come to life. Blondie Hasler, the man who created Jester, must be turning in his grave.

I don’t know the details but what I have read is that below deck the cockpit layout is simpler and cleaner than the one on his previous boat. Apparently there are only four winches.  The best part is that it’s completely, not partially, encapsulated and fully protected from the huge amounts of water that routinely cascade down the deck of an IMOCA 60. There is hundreds of hours of footage of skippers sitting in their cockpits protected and dry but watching bucket loads of water pour off the coachroof into the cockpit.  The coachroof design on Hugo Boss is streamlined for not only low windage but it is also designed to get the tons of water off the yacht as quickly as possible.

Remember that one bucket of water weighs 40 pounds (18kg). Allowing water to remain on deck for one second longer than necessary runs so counterintuitive to the whole idea of engineering the lightest boat possible. In my opinion this is where the new Hugo Boss is going to be streaks ahead of the other IMOCA 60’s. Do the math; a boat with a cockpit full of water is carrying around so much extra weight and extrapolate that over the course of a 27,000 mile circumnavigation and you get my point.

There are plenty of other innovations. The entire deck and coachroof is covered in non-skid solar panels in keeping with their plan to do the entire race using renewable energy. I have also been told that there is no tiller; the boat will be driven 100% by an autopilot with Alex carrying a remote on him in case of an emergency. Modern autopilots can steer a boat like this better than most sailors even those at the very top of their game. 

As hi boat was being lowered into the water yesterday Alex Thompson said, “What makes us one of the most exciting teams in this sport is that we display the courage to lead. We innovate, we push boundaries and we’re not afraid to do things differently. We accept that, in doing so, we might not always be right. But we are certainly not afraid to explore things that have never been done before.” I think that you may have outdone yourself on this one Alex and I can’t wait to see how things turn out. – Brian Hancock.