It was a certain kind of look. It happened as we sailed back towards Antibes over azure waters, carried along…
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Vijonara: Inside one of the world’s most successful sailing superyacht designs (22 Oct 2020, 8:04 am)
The Pendennis-built Vijonara is the second Hoek Truly Classic 128. Perfect sailing conditions off Palma helped Toby Hodges appreciate the keys to this design’s incomparable success
Many will look at this yacht and admire its graceful lines, its presence and elegance on the water. Vijonara is the latest proof that Hoek’s Truly Classic range is the dream for many sailors. But this TC128 is more than just a pretty boat.
Vijonara is an intelligent superyacht choice for modern times, a smart, series-built design that uses a clever build process. The result is a dream yacht but one that is efficient, especially in terms of initial cost and potential resale value.
When I sailed the dark blue-hulled sistership Atalante, the first TC128, three years ago I was sold on the lines and impressed by how it sailed, but wasn’t sure how popular the notion of a repeatable series design would be at this size. Hoek’s Truly Classic models have proven hulls with design calculations all largely completed from 50-128ft. Surely once you get over 90ft or so owners want their own bespoke yacht?
Vijonara proves that notion wrong. Vijonara’s owners fell in love with this hull shape, they knew this was the concept they wanted. The fact that they were able to then charter Atalante meant they were able to reconfirm their decisions related to the rig, deck and interior layout, to make it their own. The project that emerged shows how a multinational build can be a shrewd choice.
Aluminium fabrication experts Bloemsma built the hull in the Netherlands, before it was shipped to Pendennis in Cornwall for fit-out. A third TC128 hull has since been completed and will be finished in Turkey. A fourth has been ordered for the same Bloemsma/Pendennis/MCM build process – the result of the customer seeing Vijonara completed. And André Hoek has signed a contract for a fifth.
To get five commissions from the same hull design at this size is unprecedented. “We design custom boats not production yachts,” says Hoek, “but this has been so successful conceptually that many owners have decided to follow.” He says that the size, flexibility of the design and layout, and the economy of scale is key to its success. “We designed the first one with flexibility in layout – so you can have the main saloon forward or aft of the deckhouse and move cabins or even the helmstations around.”
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Construction can begin within two months of signing a contract, saving at least half a year over a custom build, says Hoek. The major decisions for the design and build team and the owner have been made. “We have over 40 Truly Classic owners now – they choose this because they can see what they get.”
Both the blue-hulled Atalante and the classic white Vijonara were docked in the same STP shipyard in Palma when I flew out for this sail trial. Seeing them it was clear that despite both being built to the same lines, they have enough individuality to create exclusive appeal – it’s not as if the owners will be clicking their alarm fobs trying to identify cars in a very large car park.
It’s rare on any trial to get ideal conditions, but for our day aboard Vijonara, the stars aligned. The owners kindly lent the boat for the day, leaving her in the capable hands of its four crew. The warm weather sail in a sea breeze, gentle swell with some accompanying dolphins meant that, were I prospective owner number six, there would have been little to stop me reaching for my chequebook that day.
The week before our sail I had been aboard yachts that were sailing in less breeze and were confined to the constraints of a racecourse at the Superyacht Cup in Palma, so it felt particularly liberating to be fetching across the same Palma Bay in 15-20 knots under full main, staysail and yankee. Our average speed was a handsome 9.5-10 knots at 41-43º to the true wind.
We had sufficient heel to make use of the yacht’s full waterline length, the additional bulwark helping keeping the sea off the leeward decks. On the helm there was a goodly load on the wheel when pressed and you could certainly feel the 150 tonnes of yacht beneath you. Skipper James Box confirmed that they would normally reef in 21 knots of true wind, so we were on the edge.
The position of the helm forward of the aft deckhouse results in good visibility for the helmsman. It’s a superb place, with a clear view over the low main deckhouse. It is better than that offered from a crowded aft cockpit, as aboard Atalante, but I did miss the more direct helm connection of Atalante, the result of its wheel being mounted closer to the rudder.
But it’s easy to see why Vijonara’s owners chose her particular layout. To have the aft cockpit, deckhouse and all of the after part of the interior to themselves is the type of indulgence one should be able to have when scaling up to a superyacht. The owners were very involved with the design of the helmstation area in particular, with its bare teak rail surrounds and traditional-style binnacle. Pendennis built full mock-ups to allow them to visualise steering the yacht.
Rigged for performance
Vijonara may be the result of a repeatable design, but it allows plenty of sail and deck gear choices. A removable staysail can be rigged for racing, for instance, and a blade jib is another option.
The single-point mainsheet uses a mounting block on the aft deckhouse with a series of rubber bearings that act as shock absorbers. The sheet is run from here, forward in the boom and down to a captive winch in the accommodation. This operates at full speed only when activated, requiring the slight movement of a joystick (together with a sharp eye as to where everyone else is on deck). A backwind function on the Lewmar primaries meanwhile, helps take the initial load off the sheets safely.
Compared with Atalante, Vijonara has a slightly taller Southern Spars rig with EC Six rigging, higher bulwarks and a bowsprit. The 2.85m bowsprit is a key difference, both visually and practically, as it includes a neat furler for a top-down furling Code 0. This is seen as a more manageable method for a small number of crew to fly an offwind sail in light airs. The sprit also has a tack point for an asymmetric spinnaker at its end, which creates a comparatively larger area kite.
When the wind eased slightly we were able to set the Code 0, increasing our average speed to 10.5 knots on a beam reach. It was just then, as we were romping along at full stretch, that the school of porpoises joined us to play in our bow-wave – the icing on the cake of a cracking day’s sail.
The maintenance of the substantial amount of brightwork, I was told, will be subbed out to professionals as the crew will have their hands full. Skipper James Box described the will and need to maintain a first class service, to ensure the boat is in pristine condition for the owners to enjoy and maximise their sailing experience, but how “there is a lot of pressure on the [minimal] crew to keep the levels up”.
This was evident as we came to lower sails. The mainsail is hoisted onto a halyard lock, the palls of which are engaged via a manual pull line running up the luff off the mainsail. Once disengaged from the lock, the Doyle Stratis carbon mainsail stows in a stackpack on the huge V-boom.
Although a similar method is used on Atalante, it is one Box is wary of because it requires all four crew. During our test a crewmember was stationed on the aft end of the boom, helping to flake the sail, the engineer was in a harness at the gooseneck for the luff, the chef let off the halyard, while Box manned the wheel/thruster. And it still took ten minutes to douse sails in flat water.
However, the owner loves sailing, hence the decision to opt for better sail shape benefits over a furling alternative. It was surprising to hear that this is the first boat he has had with a crew, having made a giant 70ft (21m) step-up from a Grand Soleil 56. But chartering Atalante sold him the concept.
The owners plan to spend the first couple of years cruising privately but have had the boat built to LY3 large yacht code standards. This means that, with some adjustment, Vijonara can be used for charter purposes in the future. “The owners love the boat and want to cruise the world, but building it to commercial standards makes sense for resale value,” explains Box.
The huge guest cockpit area is the heart of the social space and can seat eight guests on each side of the tables in the shade of the biminis. I liked the position of the instrument repeaters on the aft end of the biminis, but wonder if these large covers, typical on Truly Classics, deserve more design consideration.
The interior décor befits the elegant, traditional style of a Truly Classic. Sapele mahogany is used as the predominant timber, with satin-painted tongue and groove deckheads, high gloss beams and stained Italian walnut soles. The owner commissioned Hermès to make some of the upholstery, including a world map made of leather marquetry.
The intricate detailing continues as you move through the interior, with tapestry above the bedheads, leather-stitched door handles and all switches and light fittings finished in satin-nickel. Many elements ares indicative of the Swiss-German owner’s eye for detail. For example, the saloon table has an image of the sun at its centre, reflecting his Asian business influences.
The siting of the guest cabins forward of the decksaloon leaves the whole area aft free for the owner’s private use. This substantial part of the yacht includes a gym (and convertible cabin), a particularly spacious lower saloon, and the open-plan owner’s cabin, which links to the aft deckhouse and cockpit.
The owner’s cabin includes an oculus through the bottom of the hull, complete with underwater lighting for night viewing. This viewing tunnel uses two 15mm thick laminates on its base and another two on the top (cabin) end. The tube is purged with nitrogen, fitted with a water sensor, and a deadlight can be secured on top.
Pendennis’s project manager Mike Rusbridge says that when they launched Vijonara they thought they saw a hairline crack in the oculus – the boat was promptly lifted, but, to everyone’s relief, it was just the waterline. The aft cockpit and deckhouse area is an invitingly calm, private area for the owners to enjoy. The deckhouse includes a leather-topped Hermès desk overlooking the island berth below.
The location of the helmstation forward of the deckhouse results in a long connection, with torque tubes running through the aft cabin deckhead to the quadrant and skeg-hung rudder. When you also consider the structural beams in the deckhead, beefed-up aluminium structure and tie-rods used to spread the loads of the single point mainsheet, there is a focal point of engineering here in the aft deckhouse.
The tech room and main engine room access is via the day heads to starboard. Again it’s a similar layout to that of Atalante, but with more space to accommodate a slightly larger engine and PTOs (Power Take Offs). MCM’s Nigel Ingram was the owner’s representative on both projects and here is an example of where he has helped make improvements.
James Box explains that, with a large bank of lithium-ion batteries and a PTO on the engine and both gensets, all the systems can run off DC except the bowthruster. Hydraulic pressure can be proportionately controlled to each area, including a 30% ‘cruise’ pressure and 80% ‘race’ setting (tested to 480bar). For noise insulation, Pendennis used a combination of sound-deadening paint all around the engine room and owner’s accommodation and a sandwich of Rockwool with rubber and lead matting.
The traditional overhangs of a retro-classic hull shape obviously limit stowage and bilge space in the yacht’s ends, but there is a good amount of custom-made refrigerated space in the excellent galley. The crew area is finished in the same tactile mahogany as the owner’s area and includes a proper ship’s office and laundry (where the chain lockers are also housed to help keep weight aft).
A key benefit of the TC128 design is that it requires only four permanent crew for its day-to-day running, but includes the option to house a fifth occasional crewmember if chartering. Pendennis was responsible for the crew accommodation, systems fit-out, deck, and joinery work, while Dutch interior specialists Ruiter Luxury Interiors built the guest accommodation off-site in the Netherlands.
Vijonara’s hull was fitted out in 15 months including planning and mock up, says Mike Rusbridge, who joined us for the sail. Rusbridge, 27, studied engineering before doing a graduate scheme at Pendennis, a shipyard with an award-winning apprenticeship programme. After acting as an assistant and specialist project manager on two refit projects, he was given the chance to lead a largely young team of up to 60 Pendennis staff on Vijonara’s build.
“The idea now is that the people who worked on this boat will be on the next one (TC128 No 4). Getting and keeping key guys who know all the quirks is important,” he says. Hull number four arrived at Pendennis in May 2019 and was launched just 15 months later, bearing the name Halekai (meaning “home on the sea”) and with interior styling by Ken Faulk Inc, of New York.
It is fascinating to observe the process of refinement on a series-design at this size. The third TC128 will have one deckhouse and an aft wheel/cockpit, for example, while Halekai has two deckhouses but no bowsprit. There are pros and cons to each iteration but, with such versatility, it’s easy to see why this Truly Classic design has been so successful and attracted the commissions.
In this day and age, it can arguably be an indulgent and uneconomic choice to go for a full custom boat. The main head scratching to do with this design comes down to which layout to choose, whether to go for forward or aft helms, and what type of rig will best suit your sailing. Truly nice choices to have.
André Hoek’s 10 keys to success for the TC128 design
- Proven hull concept with good performance and comfortable behaviour
- Fewer decisions to be made during the design and build process compared with starting from scratch
- Possibility to see a boat and charter one before you build
- Shorter lead and build time
- Lower build cost than a full custom build
- Flexible interior layout – the guest cabins can be forward of the main deckhouse or abaft it. So too can the lower salon
- Flexible deck layout – the wheel can be in the aft cockpit or centre cockpit. In the centre cockpit there can be either a single or twin wheels
- Four crew for owner to use and five for charter. The four crew option is especially attractive for clients
- Every boat gets better owing to experiences of past boats
- The yachts are part of a Truly Classic family and brand, and have good resale value
LOA: 42.24m (139ft 1in)
LWL: 27.96m (91ft 9in)
Beam: 7.72m (25ft 4in)
Draught: 4.50m (14ft 9in)
Displacement (light): 150 tonnes (330,693lbs)
Ballast: 41 tonnes (90,390lbs)
First published in the October 2018 issue of Supersail World.
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Lithium boat batteries: Why now is the right time to upgrade your electrics (22 Oct 2020, 7:54 am)
Thanks to an ongoing tangible reduction in prices, the life cycle costs of lithium boat batteries are now close to those of conventional options. Upgrading an existing boat to the newer technology is therefore increasingly feasible, writes Rupert Holmes
Larger new cruising yachts, especially those at the quality end of the market, have been routinely fitted with lithium boat batteries for the past few years. Arcona, for instance, says up to 90% of their larger yachts now leave the factory equipped with them. Equally, the technology is increasingly embraced in the racing world, whether at the top end on IMOCA 60s and Fast 40s, or smaller IRC yachts competing in RORC’s offshore races.
Benefits include a huge reduction in physical size and weight, along with a radically increased number of charge-discharge cycles. Typically the best lithium boat batteries will withstand four or five times the number of cycles compared to most deep cycling lead acid batteries.
This is a significant factor in reducing their long-term costs, although it has to be remembered savings will often not be realised until five years after installation, when conventional boat batteries may be nearing the end of their lifespan. As prices of lithium ion relative to capacity continue to fall, total life cycle costs are likely to drop below those of lead acid batteries.
However, a lithium boat battery is not a straightforward drop-in replacement for lead-acid batteries. Instead, a comprehensive and unified upgrade of boat battery management systems and regulation for all charging sources is needed to eliminate the possibility of thermal runaway creating a self-sustaining fire.
Despite the improving economic case for lithium boat batteries, this is rarely the prime driving force behind owners’ motivation. Quite simply they are better suited to today’s increasingly complex and power-hungry yachts. Lithium boat batteries can even make it possible to run air conditioning through the night without resorting to the disruption of a generator.
Equally, a lithium-based system may be able to store enough power to make it feasible to change from gas to electric induction cooking, and from a petrol tender to an electrically powered one.
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Each of these changes have safety benefits in that they get rid of other sources of potential fire or explosion. However, there is so much power concentrated in a lithium boat battery that its chemistry is more lively than that of conventional batteries, with a potential thermal runaway situation able to create a self-sustaining fire that’s impossible to control.
Granted, this is an extraordinarily unlikely event, but boats have been lost as a result and multiple safeguards are essential.
A properly designed installation will have three comprehensive lines of defence against thermal runaway. At the heart of the system the individual cells of each battery have electronics to keep the state of charge balanced across adjacent cells and to trigger isolation of the cell in the event of an over-temperature situation.
At the next level up each battery module also has a more sophisticated embedded battery management system that can also shut the unit down. Both the cell level and battery level monitoring are, in theory, backstop solutions that should never need to be called upon.
Each battery module also communicates with the boat’s overall battery management system, which is the first line of defence. This overarching system should warn the user if they are approaching operational limits, and will automatically decrease charge or discharge rates to reduce load on the battery. If necessary it will also isolate specific battery modules.
Both rapid discharge and rapid charge can cause problems, so all elements of the charging system must be part of the battery management system. Standard alternator regulators, for instance, are designed to charge at 14.4V (or 28.8V for 24V marine systems), but a nominal 12V lithium ion phosphate battery will only reach 12.8V when fully charged – they are formed of four 3.2V cells, rather than six 2.2V cells for a standard lead-acid battery. A standard charging regime would therefore overcharge the lithium units, risking overheating and potentially shortening their lifespan.
That’s why a system-wide approach, encompassing power management, charging and monitoring must be adopted. All elements have to be designed from the outset to be compatible with lithium power storage and sized to match each installation.
Hardware bought from reputable suppliers will satisfy all these conditions. However, it’s as well to be aware that there are also very low cost, unbranded cells available for online purchase that have no embedded safety or management systems.
At the moment the use of reputable and experienced suppliers is all the more important, given the marine industry is still on a learning curve with this technology and specific standards for lithium ion battery installations have yet to be developed for marine use.
Specifying lithium boat batteries
To prevent damage from storing batteries at a full state of charge, many manufacturers only allow a maximum charge of 90%. Equally, many don’t allow discharge below 10-20% of total capacity, partly reflecting the self-discharge rates of a battery in storage, which can reach 3% per month. In practice, it’s therefore worth banking on being able to use only 70% of the rated capacity of a lithium ion battery bank.
This of course is far better than conventional lead acid alternatives, where in real-world use only 30% of rated capacity is available, but not by as large a margin as some vendors of lithium boat batteries might suggest.
In terms of battery chemistry we’re most likely to see lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries, a chemistry that was discovered in the late 1990s, advertised for service or start batteries. These are excellent for this purpose and are generally well priced.
However, the automotive industry uses lithium nickel manganese cobalt chemistry, which has a better response to fast rates of charge and discharge, which also makes it a better for choice for electric propulsion on the water.
With Torqeedo alone having supplied more than 100,000 electric drives for marine use, including huge numbers of electric outboards, LiMNC batteries represent the bulk of lithium boat batteries used afloat. Storing LiMNC batteries in a fully charged state reduces their lifespan, so charging regimes will need to reflect this. With the motor industry continuing to drive down costs of LiMNC batteries, we’re likely to see wider use of this chemistry in the future.
Temperature ratings for batteries are also important. While automotive batteries have both heating and cooling systems (usually run off the vehicle’s AC system) to keep cells in the 0-45˚C range, this is not the case for other battery types. Even in temperate climates engine room temperatures can easily top 60˚C in summer; while sub zero winter temperatures could leave a battery unable to start an engine.
Charge and discharge rates
Whatever the chemistry, it’s important to match batteries to both charge and discharge regimes. If you need batteries to charge quickly via a large alternator they must have a high charge acceptance rate.
Equally, if running large loads such as overnight air conditioning, check the specified discharge rates of the battery match or exceed the maximum power drawn by your aircon system at start up.
When updating an existing electrical installation don’t fall into the trap of replacing like with like in terms of available capacity. Part of the advantage of changing to lithium boat batteries is being able to run a wider range of power hungry appliances, so consider additional equipment you may want to add over the next few years, such as coffee machines, induction cookers, freezers, watermakers and dive compressors.
A bigger battery bank also enables better use to be made of opportunistic ways to charge batteries, such as when motoring in a calm, which reduces the number of occasions on which the main engine or genset has to be run for battery charging.
At METS last year Ken Whittamore, managing director of Triskel Marine, which developed the ultra-efficient Integrel charging system, told an audience that 20 years ago a typical cruising yacht used around 1kWh of electricity per day. Today, his Hallberg-Rassy 42, which is equipped with electric cooking, water heating and tender outboard, uses 5-6kWh daily.
A similar size boat with air conditioning could double these numbers, while values rise rapidly for larger yachts – 50-60ft multihulls running air-conditioning can use 20-30kWh per day. To put these figures in context, an average size north European home uses around 10-12kWh daily, averaged over a year.
It’s a testament to the efficiency and variety of charging systems now available that such large power usage can often be achieved without recourse to a generator. This in turn makes cruising yachts more resilient in terms of reliability, and their ability to be self-sufficient for longer without needing to refuel.
Over the past few years the overall trend has been to increase the energy density, and therefore capacity, of batteries without a corresponding increase in their physical size or cost. Historically the general trend has been for the available technology to advance at about 5-7% per year – a trend that Torqeedo says it expects to continue.
“Beyond that, it’s hard to say when step changes will come,” says vice-president of program management, Thomas Wiedemann. “However solid-state and other new lithium technologies are still very new and very, very expensive, with significant challenges for widespread adoption.”
He predicts short-term gains over the next two to four years may come in optimising how we charge lithium boat batteries, including more efficient and cost effective forms of charging while under way. Solar power, for instance, continues to fall in price, while a greater range of companies now offers panels in custom sizes and shapes that can be tailored to neatly fit the available deck or coachroof space.
Looking further ahead, the automotive industry is putting a huge effort into extending the total lifespan of batteries. To date, car manufacturers have generally guaranteed the batteries of their electric vehicles for 200,000km (125,000 miles), or eight years. However a recent report in the Economist revealed three companies – one in China and two in North America – that are expected to launch a production battery that will be good for one million miles. That’s a figure that’s necessary for electrically powered buses and trucks, but such technology would also render a yacht’s batteries as fit-and-forget items that have the potential to last as long as the vessel itself.
The case for lead acid batteries
It’s still too soon to automatically discount lead acid batteries. While they’re less suitable for high-demand applications, there are still many boats for which they are appropriate – and this technology has also been advancing over recent years.
They also avoid the big humanitarian and environmental issues currently associated with mining cobalt and, unlike lithium ion batteries, recycling is easy and cost effective.
First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.
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Expert sailing tips: How to make emergency offshore repairs to your yacht (21 Oct 2020, 8:11 am)
Boatbuilder Jason Carrington talks to Andy Rice about how to make emergency offshore repairs
Jason Carrington was always in demand in professional offshore racing crews for his repair skills. Keeping the wheels on the wagon for skippers like Lawrie Smith, Neal McDonald and Ellen MacArthur has taken the British professional on some thrilling adventures around the world.
These days Jason’s company, Carrington Boats, is the go-to yard for producing some of the most high specification racing designs of recent times, though he is concerned about a lack of engineering and boatbuilding know-how coming through the current ranks of pro sailing.
“The sailors we see today are brilliant, but it’s becoming rarer to find any with a good practical side to their sailing skills, with some kind of background in boatbuilding or structural engineering,” he says. So you may not be surprised by the first of Jason’s five tips for what to do when things start falling apart mid-ocean…
1. Know your boat
I can think of a number of times when boats have failed to finish major races with problems that could have been resolved with the right expertise on board. Wherever possible, make sure you’ve got someone on the crew with practical knowledge who’s not afraid to have a go at fixing things, ideally someone with a background in engineering, maybe even a boatbuilder!
You need to have a good understanding of how the boat is put together, what is critical and what is not. When you’re making emergency repairs, knowing the right mixing ratios for epoxy resins needs to be second nature. Failing that, make sure there’s someone on shore who you can communicate with. At the very least, it’s good to have experienced technical back-up onshore if you can’t have it on board with you.
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2. Pack Sikaflex
There is always a difficult trade-off between how big a tool bag you bring with you, and the additional weight of stuff you might never use. If I was going to play ‘Desert Island Discs’ and identify the one thing I’d want with me, it’s Sikaflex. This construction sealant bonds pretty much anything to anything, and it’s good in water, which actually helps it to go off more quickly. So it’s just brilliant for all sorts of big leaks and sticking things back together.
3. Take C-plate and C-Tape
I always take some C-plate (carbon plates) with me. If you pull out a deck fitting, you could glue the C-plate to the deck and use it for a temporary rebuild that will keep you going. Bring a bag of nuts, bolts and washers and plenty of drill bits, and you can use C-plate to clamp delaminating skins back together.
We had to do this during a Jules Verne Challenge with Ellen MacArthur on the Kingfisher trimaran: we bust the aft beam where it was taking a constant, high-speed pounding from the waves. The core had sheared, so I climbed inside the beam with nuts and bolts and a battery drill, bored through the inner skin, through the core and the outer skin and then Neal McDonald was on the outside. With the bolts, C-plate and Sikaflex we bolted the beam back together while bouncing along at 35 knots.
The other thing that has come along in recent years is self-adhesive unidirectional carbon tape. It’s expensive, but fantastic for fixing things like broken steering wheels.
4. Bespoke spares
It’s ideal to be involved from the construction stage of a project so that you know that something like a bulkhead hatch could be removed and used as a spare for use in a hull or a deck repair, for example. If you’ve got big foredeck hatches, you need a back-up plan if one were to rip off and start letting in water. Maybe you could use a hatch from down below or a floorboard? Have your Plan B in mind before it happens.
Some things you just can’t replace easily so you’ll need bespoke spares. For a tough racing leg like the Southern Ocean, you might consider taking a spare steering wheel or rudder. With things like foils, if you break them it’s probably terminal. So weigh up the risk and decide if the extra weight and practicality of changing complicated and heavy parts is a price worth paying.
5. Emergency bag
At the start of the race I put all my epoxy resin with pumps and hardeners, the unidirectional carbon, all the fragile stuff, in a vacuum-packed see-through plastic bag. I’d have the bag marked up so that I could find it easily down below in the dark if there was an emergency. Make sure the rest of the crew is gentle with it because it’s going to help all of you out of trouble when things go wrong.
Also, buy the best tools you can afford: powerful battery tools are worth their weight in gold.
About the expert
Aside from being an experienced ocean racer, Jason Carrington is the most in-demand boatbuilder of the moment. He is known for his precision carbon builds. Recent projects have included Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, the all-conquering Fast 40+ Rán, and two foiling AC75s for INEOS Team UK’s 2021 America’s Cup campaign.
First published in the September 2020 issue of Yachting World.
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Sailing Cape Horn on Pelagic: An extract from Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy (20 Oct 2020, 7:33 am)
A voyage round Cape Horn and through the Beagle Channel is interrupted by an encounter with a submerged rock
‘Rounding the Horn – Being a story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives – a deck’s eye view of Cape Horn’. So reads the front cover of Dallas Murphy’s book of the same name. Settling in for a good long read of this work is a pleasure a sailor doesn’t come across every day.
Murphy signs aboard one of Skip Novak’s yachts, Pelagic, under Captain Hamish Laird and his mate Kate Ford to cruise south from the Beagle Channel. He is a journalist and a novelist, so you’d expect his account to be well written, but this remark, as bland as a school report, does not begin to do him justice.
The construction of the book, its widely varying content and the descriptions of personal experience are a rare class act. Meticulously researched historical references are blended with hands-on accounts of present-day action in these remote seas. We join Dallas and his shipmates soon after dark, bound from Puerto Williams towards the archipelago of the Horn.
From Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy
The haze that had materialised with full dark suddenly lifted – maybe it had never been there at all, another atmospheric trick. The taut horizon distinguished water from air, and the sky filled with stars we’d never seen before except on charts. A strange, indistinct brightness arced over our masthead light like a scattering of luminescent powder – from Puerto Williams to Caleta Martial.
Dick stood up on the side deck and looked aloft. “I wondered if we’d see them.”
“What? See what?”
“The Magellanic Clouds.”
“Well, maybe it’s only one cloud. I can’t tell. It’s another galaxy, you know, that orbits the Milky Way. It’s only visible in the Southern Hemisphere.”
We all went forward for a better view.
“There are two, actually, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.”
As we stared, they seemed to expand, smudging the entire southern sky with dusty white light. Hamish joined us, peering up nearly vertically, losing our balance every now and then in the swells, scrabbling for handholds.
“Do you see two clouds, Hamish, or just the one?”
“I don’t know. I can never tell.”
They are indeed two separate galaxies, I later affirmed from a volume in the Pelagic public library. The Large Magellanic Cloud, which contains fifteen billion stars, is nearer to earth, 179,000 light-years against the smaller’s 200,000 light-years. It dawned on us then that we were seeing the Southern Cross just below the arc of the Magellanic Clouds. Most of us had never seen either before, and again we stood staring in silence.
It was nearing midnight when land appeared ahead, first a single ragged black point rising over the horizon, then another away to starboard, the high points of the Wollaston Islands. The next time I looked, 15 minutes later, solid black land loomed in irregular clumps against the lighter sky until land entirely blocked our way.
We seemed to be going like a freight train toward a mountain range. It’s remarkable how the sensation of speed increases when a boat is approaching a featureless coast at night. The mood changes.
I slipped below to plot our position for my own edification, and when I returned topside, I listened to Kate and Dick talking about what a suicidal move it would be to attempt Paso Bravo in the dark if we couldn’t know precisely where we were. But we could.
We’re essentially the first generation of sailors in the history of ships who have the luxury of a dead-accurate fix at the press of a button when ever we want it. Our global positioning system knows where it is on the surface of the earth within a few yards, and reports it to us in the age-old language of latitude and longitude. A machine that knows where it is from moment to moment also knows how fast it’s moving over the bottom.
We are, therefore, the first generation in thousands to know where the current is setting us without visual references. Drake, FitzRoy, Cook, and the other artists would never have attempted to nail a narrow cut like Paso Bravo in the dark. And we probably wouldn’t be doing it if we had to rely on the GPS alone, since, as Hamish said, the chart isn’t all that accurate.
In other seas, the navigator can be fairly certain that the land and other obstructions are accurately charted. But you can’t bet the boat on it down here. A spot-on position fix isn’t much use if the land is drawn in the wrong place. The radar would show us exactly where the land was located.
Black cliffs closing
We were in the jaws now, and everyone was alert, bright-eyed, standing lookout for dangers impossible to see as the black cliffs closed in around us on port, starboard, and dead ahead. We had to crane our necks now to see the remaining sliver of lighter sky, still smudged by Magellan’s galaxies. The navigator grows edgy in these circumstances, pencil tapping, now that he’s committed to this hole in the wall; doubts can cloud his logic. What if this is the wrong hole? What if this turns out to be a cove, not a channel?
Only known things, numbers and angles applied with practised technique, can assuage the anxiety. In Magellan’s day, sailors suspected that navigators practiced necromancy, for how else could they know their way? I was glad not to be responsible for tonight’s nav.
Hamish called something from below. David leaned into the doghouse to relay instructions from the captain. “He said slow down.”
Driving, Kate pulled off several hundred rpm. “Tell them to come right ten degrees.” Hamish meant to clear his angle of approach, take it right down the middle.
I relayed the order to the helm, then came back to watch the course adjustment take shape on the screen. Hamish was using dividers to measure distances right off the screen – nothing is as accurate as a radar range if you read it right. He drew circles of position on the chart. “Now come back left those same ten degrees.”
When I returned to the screen after passing the message, I saw the bottleneck gap at the bottom of the channel about one hundred yards ahead, and we were on it. All we had to do was hold our present course. He’d set it up beautifully. We had almost reached the open water of Canal Franklin when we struck bottom. Hard. That sound is appalling. A high, hollow thunk with the pitch of finality about it.
Now I don’t want to seem an expert on groundings, saying that the sound causes every muscle in the body to contract simultaneously, adrenaline gushing. Then everything turns sharp-edged with a terrible clarity, and events slow as the crucial question – “How bad is it?” – floods in. Has the inrush begun? Are my feet still dry?
It took a moment, while the dreadful sound was still bouncing around the inside of the hull, to understand that Hamish was gone. I recalled a blur shooting up the companionway that must have been him.
I snatched a headlamp from a hook on the bulkhead above the nav station, scurried forward into the cold workshop compartment, and pulled up the floorboards to look for water. There was none; her innards were dusty dry. It would take a torpedo to hole Pelagic’s hull. But her hull hadn’t hit, I realised, because we were still moving, or more precisely because we hadn’t come to a spine-snapping halt. She’d run right over the rock.
Sense of relief
I went topside. Kate stood clutching the wheel with both hands, eyes flashing in the red glow of the compass light, and when I clapped her lightly on the shoulder, she giggled and shook her head. The others were all crowded onto the foredeck, leaning outboard stabbing at the waterline with beams of white light as they moved aft, chattering, laughing at their own dark jokes, because they knew they’d find no holes, dents, or dings.
It was clear to us now what had happened. The keel had struck a deeply submerged rock, and the impact had kicked the keel back up into its box, as designed, harmlessly. Had the keel been fixed permanently to the bottom of the boat in typical fashion, one of two things would have happened, both bad.
The keel would have been torn off completely, leaving a big hole in the bottom, or else it would have been driven up through the cabin floor, making a somewhat smaller hole in the bottom. But even if neither of these worst-cases had been obtained, Pelagic would have come to that vicious sudden stop, and only the lucky would have escaped injury.
“There was only one rock, right?” asked Hamish. “We only struck one.”
“No,” said Kate, “I heard two thunks.”
“You know what we should do, Kate? We should go back and find the rock with the keel and plot it on the chart.”
“Then we’d have the discoverer’s right to name it. Pelagic Rock… Sorry about that untoward bit, gentlemen.”
We didn’t mind.
“You know, I’ve been through this pass a dozen times in daylight and never hit that thing. I was just ten feet one side or the other.”
“Where am I going?” Kate asked. “Could I have a heading, please?”
Calera Martial on the east end of Isla Hermite lay only three miles away across the narrowest part of Canal Franklin, but it took two hours before we had Pelagic securely attached to the bottom. Bleary-eyed but unready for sleep, we slouched around the ship’s table, and after passing a bottle of Bermudan rum, Dick proposed a toast to lifting keels.
The conversation shifted fluidly, fragmented and reformed, settling on near-disasters and marine absurdities we could laugh at because they were past. So I didn’t realise at first when Hamish was talking in his understated mode about this young Norwegian sailor called Jarli, a friend of his and Kate’s, that he was missing. It wasn’t going to be a funny story, we realised. We discontinued our own to listen.
Kate and Hamish had met Jarli in Ushuaia. He was just 18, and, Kate said, he looked like the Hollywood version of a Viking. In this 26ft cheap plastic boat powered by weak, blown-out sails and a tiny outboard mounted on a rickety stern bracket, he’d sailed down the east coast of South America to Ushuaia.
He meant to cross the Drake Passage bound for the Antarctic Peninsula in that toy boat ‘to see the birds and seals.’ He’d picked up a young California surfer dude, Dave, who had no sailing experience, hanging around the docks looking for adventure. After politely thanking old hands like Hamish and the Poncets on Damian II for their warnings against it, Jarli and Dave sailed south.
Six weeks passed, and when Pelagic returned to Ushuaia, Kate and Hamish searched the harbour and asked around town, but no one had seen Jarli. “You mean you think he’s dead?” asked Jonathan, right to the point. Hamish shrugged, paused, and said: “I wouldn’t want to cross the Solent in that bloody Clorox bottle.” Kate peered silently into her empty glass.
Up on deck, we saw black islands and the Magellanic Clouds, but the Southern Cross had set. There has of late been much talk in boating circles (and mountaineering) about responsibility, because if you go missing in other seas, someone is going to search for you, perhaps at risk to their own lives, and therefore you have a responsibility to your would-be rescuers.
You own the broad right to commit reckless acts in boats only if they don’t endanger others. Trouble is, people expect to be rescued. That wasn’t an issue down here. No one would launch a search for Jarli. A faint glow was visible in the east when we went below.
First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.
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Fountaine Pajot 59 first look: This new cruising cat is a social animal (19 Oct 2020, 10:57 am)
The French yard’s luxurious new Fountaine Pajot 59 cruising catamaran is designed to replace the five-year-old Ipanema 58
The Fountaine Pajot 59 integrates many of the new design features of the 2019-launched Elba 45, which boasted a longer, wider hull that nevertheless showed 10% less drag. Chief among the new attractions is an enlarged cockpit and flybridge, for more socialising space.
With a table to seat eight, the cockpit covers 27.5m2 and the flybridge is three times bigger than on the 45, reaching some 30m2. Up here there’s lots of lounging room, a fridge and grill, and the main helm station, centrally positioned behind the mast and with a hardtop for shelter.
There’s a dedicated forward cockpit, which has direct access from the saloon, and the option of a hydraulic bathing platform aft, which doubles up as tender stowage. With up to six cabins in the charter version, the aft two have handy access to the aft deck via a dedicated companionway and sliding hatch.
As on other models, you can select from a galley in the saloon, or down in the port hull. Either way, the saloon is the social hub – very open with sofas on one side, plus some loose furniture. Displacing 25 tonnes (light), the new Fountaine Pajot 59 is more efficiently built than some competitor catamarans, but the emphasis here is clearly on providing a home away from home.
LOA: 18.21m (59ft 9in)
Beam: 9.46m (31ft 1in)
Displacement (light): 25,500kg (56,217lb)
Price: €1,302,900 (ex. VAT)
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Sailing from South Africa to Europe: Chris Tibbs’ top tips for a smooth passage (14 Oct 2020, 9:12 am)
Over recent years an increasing number of yachts have made the passage directly from Cape Town to Europe without going via the Caribbean, writes meteorologist Chris Tibbs
There are a number of advantages to doing this, as well as saving around 3,000 miles of sailing, but the passage from the doldrums is predominantly upwind against the trade winds.
Some of the gain in distance will be lost in the extra miles sailed from being hard on the wind. However, this also needs to be offset against the fact that few passages sailing from the Caribbean to Europe are on a direct course as routeing takes us around the Azores High, with most boats stopping at the Azores.
Weather in the South Atlantic mirrors that in the North, with sub-tropical high pressure driving the trade winds of both hemispheres. On the pole side of the highs are disturbed westerlies, where depressions cross the Atlantic from west to east bringing fronts and stronger winds.
Between the high pressure centres are the doldrums, which we usually refer to as the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone). This is the area where the south-easterly trade winds of the southern hemisphere meet the north-easterly trade winds of the northern hemisphere.
The ITCZ can also be described as the thermal equator of the world. It follows the sun to the north and south, depending on the season, but generally lagging behind it. Despite following the sun, the movement of the ITCZ is not as extreme over the sea as it is over the land, and generally stays north of the equator on the eastern side of the Atlantic.
The ITCZ is a product of converging trade winds, and where we get convergence we will also get rising air. Add the heat of the sun into the mix and we get a band of large cumulonimbus clouds producing the typical doldrums conditions of light winds and squalls.
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In general, the ITCZ is narrower on the western side of the Atlantic and wider on the east with a fairly large triangle of more variable wind close to the African coast. This is why round the world racing yachts and record attempts, cross into the southern hemisphere close to Brazil, then get south of the high pressure before heading east.
It is also why there can be significant gains and losses coming back up the Atlantic after Cape Horn as racing yachts try to minimise the distance sailed while keeping in the strongest and most favourable wind – not an easy job.
The route from Cape Town to the Caribbean is relatively straightforward, although it is long. It usually sees trade winds all the way except for when passing through the ITCZ. This is best done near the north-east corner of Brazil where the light winds zone is generally quite narrow and the currents are also favourable making for fast passages.
With St Helena, Brazil and the islands of Fernando de Noronha on the way it is a pleasant passage and as the South Atlantic is hurricane free it makes an easy transition from the southern hemisphere summer to northern winter. This also ties in with most round the world cruises and rally schedules, as we need to be away from the Indian Ocean tropical cyclone season, which starts in November.
Together, this makes Cape Town a natural Christmas break point before continuing north. It also brings us to the Caribbean ready for a return to Europe before the hurricane season starts in June.
But not everyone can neatly fit into this timetable. Back in 2000-2001 the BT Global Challenge raced from Cape Town to La Rochelle, which was the first time I looked at this route in detail. Since then I have provided weather support for an increasing number of yachts on a direct passage to Europe – yachts built in South Africa to be sold in Europe, and owners that either don’t want to go to the Caribbean or whose schedule doesn’t fit in with this route.
Heading north from Cape Town is the same if heading direct to Europe or to the Caribbean as we are in the southerly or south-easterly trade winds driven by the St Helena High. These will generally hold (although they tend to back) all the way past St Helena to Ascension Island. The winds tend to be quite strong in the south but will ease further north, and can be very steady in speed and direction.
North of the Ascension Islands is the ITCZ; precisely where depends on the time of year but tends to be north of the equator. On the eastern side of the Atlantic this can be a wide band of variable wind sometimes from close to the equator to 10°N or even further north in mid-summer. Statistics show that close to the African coast the wind can come from any direction and there is likely to be some thunder.
As we move into the ITCZ it’s worth trying to set up for the north-easterly trade winds; the further east, generally the better the wind angle as you leave the ITCZ. However, this will be restricted by how comfortable you are in closing to the coast in this area. Personally I’d stay at least 200 miles offshore.
Once out of the ITCZ the approach to the Cape Verde Islands will be hard on the wind on starboard tack. A few port tacks may be necessary depending on wind angle and how hard you beat! The Cape Verde Islands are realistically the only place to refuel and provision. Then you are ready for the hardest part, heading into the trade wind belt.
The trades do vary and it may be worth waiting for them to ease, but if you delay for perfect conditions you’ll be waiting a long time. Although you could find lighter wind close to the African coast, from the Cape Verde Islands to Europe will entail a long starboard tack towards the Azores some 1,300 miles away.
I’ve had some yachts make for the Canary Islands, but this generally entails a lot of motor-sailing into the trades and Canaries current. I did see the track of one boat that beat to the Canaries; the tacking angle was not good and this was a boat that beat well, but with adverse current, big seas, and leeway it was disappointing progress.
So we’ll normally have to sail hard on starboard tack until into the Azores High, or into the westerly/south-westerly winds on the north of the High. We can usually turn east before the Azores if heading to the Mediterranean, however the Azores is a good place for a break and a bit of a recovery. From there, the rest of the passage will seem easy!
The Azores High will generally be a little further south in the northern hemisphere winter, so too will be the ITCZ. At the same time the north Atlantic storms and cold fronts will extend further south and will be more aggressive, which will displace the trades to the south. However, the Azores can see some very strong conditions before April, with a 6-8% chance of gales in March, dropping to 1-3% in May.
So when is the best time to go? My suggestion would be to aim to be in the Azores after the beginning of May and before the increasing chance of Cape Verde hurricanes in July.
The later you leave it the further north the ITCZ is expected to be, making getting to the Cape Verde Islands easier, but the trade winds north of the Cape Verde Islands tend to increase from about mid-June.
The direct route
- A shorter distance and faster passage
- Allows a wider departure time from Cape Town with the main risk of hurricanes reduced to a few months near the Cape Verde Islands
- Arrival in the northern hemisphere winter can be managed by staying south of the Azores
- Hard on the wind from north of the ITCZ, to probably near the Azores
- Beating into the trade winds is never easy
- You will sail against the Canaries current in the north Atlantic
- A lot of motoring through a wide ITCZ
There is the alternative of passing west of the Cape Verde Islands, heading north-north-west towards the centre of the Azores High, but this will give a long passage without breaks and would require greater care for hurricane season.
The real question is how will your boat, and crew, take to a hard beat?
Cape Verde hurricanes
In the North Atlantic the hurricane season starts in June and lasts until November. On this route we are generally east of Atlantic storms but there is the possibility of Cape Verde hurricanes. These are hurricanes that develop close to the Cape Verde Islands or even between the Cape Verde Islands and Africa, before tracking west across the Atlantic.
They’re not very common and will generally be late in the season, however particular attention needs to be paid to the forecasts from June onwards as the possibility of Cape Verde hurricanes is one to be taken seriously. Typically Cape Verde hurricanes are most likely in August and September but there have been some in late July and October. North of the Cape Verdes hurricanes are not likely, unless you are a long way west.
First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.
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How to sea trial a boat: Professional boat testers share their top tips (14 Oct 2020, 8:18 am)
How do you know which yacht is right for you? Will Bruton gets expert advice from sailors who test drive boats for a living…
Yacht brokers don’t really sell boats, they sell dreams. To buy any sailing yacht requires a leap of faith: a conviction that the winds will blow in our favour, and that the places we voyage to will be better than the places we leave behind (or at the very least, that the experience of sailing there will be better than staying put).
No matter how hard-headed you plan to be about a yacht purchase, it’s easy to get distracted. At boat shows an overdose of polished chrome or fancy systems can overwhelm sense and reason. Sales patter can paint a picture of idyllic sailing experiences that are not, in fact, how you actually spend and enjoy your time on the water.
With so many different designs on the market, making the right choice is far from easy. What’s more, few of us get to regularly sail a really wide selection of yachts. Even when we do test sail a boat we’re considering buying, time on board is often limited. So how best to use that time wisely, and to work out what is really important?
We asked boat testers, who compare and trial dozens of different yachts all year round, for their tricks of the trade to help find the boat that best matches your needs.
Yachting World’s Toby Hodges has tested hundreds of yachts for these pages, viewed many more at shows and has sat on the European Yacht of the Year judging panel for the last decade. He stresses the importance of getting to know the yachts on your shortlist as thoroughly as possible, to understand the real, or standard, boat and not just the boat show model.
“Use any resources available such as videos, virtual visits and boat test reports – compare specs and numbers, always conduct viewings, and take trial sails if at all possible,” he says.
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“Try to visualise what your own reality will be like on board from the beginning. It’s almost impossible to replicate the sailing you’ll be doing, even with an extended test sail, so it’s important to mentally separate yourself from the artificial sales environment and focus: what would life be like day to day on this boat at sea? Be honest with yourself about your plans for the boat and realistic about whether it really does meet your needs.”
Do your homework
Hugely experienced sailing journalist and Yachting World tester Matthew Sheahan has test sailed more than 1,000 boats over the course of a 24-year career. He highlights how much doing serious preparation can influence your boat buying experience. “If you meet [the sales agent/broker] equipped with knowledge of the product, you will be taken seriously.
“Sadly, while agents are sometimes lambasted, they have to deal with a lot of tyre kickers that are far from serious, and with limited resources to demonstrate their product adequately. They are far more likely to arrange a test sail or factory visit if they can see you are comparing a list of contenders from the start that you have thought about.”
Norwegian journalist Axel Nissen-Lie, who is editor of SEILmagasinet and also a regular judge for the European Yacht of the Year awards, believes how you start your search is critical. “Establish your ‘musts’ before you begin. Agents selling boats want it to be an emotional process, so establish your priorities to keep that emotion in check!
“Data can be really useful to determine a baseline criteria for the boat you are seeking. Then, when you come to test sails, you can compare against this. Does the yacht meet your minimum passage speed? Is the draught realistic for everywhere you plan to explore? Is the tankage really suitable for long term cruising? These are the kind of numbers that will stop you buying a boat that isn’t capable of the sailing you have in mind.”
Nissen-Lie also believes prospective buyers shouldn’t shy away from looking at market depreciation, whether buying new or used. “There’s been a trend in recent years of manufacturers appealing to a genuine, if misguided, customer demand for ‘more boat for the money’. A quick look at the residuals will reveal just how much cheap big boats plummet in the first three years of ownership, whilst their smaller, seemingly more expensive quality counterparts often retain value and for longer.
“Of course, all boats lose a lot of value as soon as they hit the water. After looking at initial depreciation over three years, compare values at the 10-12 year mark as well. That’s when the yacht will really be starting to show how it stands the test of time.” If you are considering a new-build yacht, a factory tour can give you an opportunity to learn more than you’d ever glean from marketing materials.
“If you are offered a factory tour, take it,” advises Toby Hodges. “The time, effort and expense of travelling there will be well worth it and you’re likely to see parts of the yacht you would never normally have access to, while also getting a real grasp of what the yard that builds it is all about. There are big differences in how yards approach a build and some inspire more confidence than others.”
At every stage, dig into the detail. “Asking questions, perhaps some difficult ones, will reveal a lot about the substance of the boats they sell,” says Matthew Sheahan. “Can you see a relative stability curve to see how stable the boat is? How is the hull constructed? Can they show you how easy it is to get to the skin fittings? These are questions that start to open up what the boat is really like.”
Build a relationship
John Rodriguez is now a well-known broker specialising in bluewater yachts, but started out in yachting as a first-time buyer, looking for a boat to take he and his wife, Nicola, around the world. He freely admits that, at the start, they knew very little. “Until we met other cruisers I became convinced our boat was cursed… it kept going wrong!”
Today he uses this experience to help his clients, many of whom are planning similar adventures. He has also been the chairman of the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents, and has strong views about what customers should expect from a good broker.
“Because we specialise in bluewater, I never think of myself as a salesman, partly because it’s not a strategy that gets results. You should expect guidance from the broker and a depth of knowledge you can draw on from day one. If they’re pushing a particular boat really hard, that’s a bad sign,” says Rodriguez.
“People come to me and often that initial conversation will be around viewing a boat that I just know isn’t right for what they want to do, but that can be a starting point as they learn what is suitable over time.
“My biggest advice to customers starting out on their search is to read as much as possible. Books on bluewater sailing, blogs and owners’ experiences of particular boats can be absolutely invaluable. Over time your broker should be getting a feel for you, your plans and what you really need.
“Also, don’t rule out refit. A good broker will find boats that don’t meet your needs currently, but would with a quality refit. A good broker will also know the people to make that process far less daunting, which ultimately opens up your search to far more yachts in total.”
How to test drive a yacht
On the water, a yacht’s true nature will out. It’s here that a creaky interior, carelessly positioned winch or uncomfortable helming position will become clear. But most test sails are time limited, so how best to make the most of it?
“A test sail is an unrivalled opportunity to see a yacht in its real-world environment, on the water. It is crucial to make this time count, ensuring it works for you, not just the agent selling the yacht,” explains Toby Hodges.
A test sail is still a long way from the reality of owning the boat and living aboard, so a lot of it is about visualising what life aboard would be like. Put the boat through its sailing paces, certainly, but don’t let that be all you evaluate.
“When we test for Yachting World, we will go overnight if at all possible, to cook and sleep aboard. That helps to really get a deeper impression, but if you can’t do that, you can visualise.
Walk around the cockpit, deck and interior while out on trial. How practical is the layout?
“Would this shower compartment be large enough for everyday use? Is there enough stowage space in the galley? How noisy is it in the cabins? Bringing someone along with you that you sail with a lot can help to talk through the boat candidly.”
Test sails are provided by the agent, but all the testers we spoke to emphasised the need to try and shut out the sales pitch.
Test sails are something you should look to do early in your boat search rather than later, yet most people leave it until they are really serious about a type of boat. Sail several yachts and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the agent to get as much time as possible. A shared test sail for a couple of hours with several others immediately after the boat show isn’t going to give you the time and space to feel how the boat might be with just you on board.
The sailing experience is important, but try to see beyond the fun factor. Professional IMOCA 60 racer and RYA Yachtmaster examiner Pip Hare also tests for Yachting World. While naturally interested in all aspects of boat performance as an offshore racer, it’s the relationship between the sailor and yacht that stands out to her most when testing boats.
“When you go for a test sail, do every job possible in the cockpit to see how it works in practice, or doesn’t. Can you get from the wheel to the sheets, or is there too much in the way? Particularly if you’re sailing with inexperienced crew, it’s something to consider.
Good positioning of winches, jammers and sheets can make a huge difference. Also, are they sufficiently powerful for the job they have to do?
“Below decks, test usability by getting the boat sailing hard to windward. Go below and walk from one end of the boat to the other. How hard is it to move around? Are there enough handholds? Does that spacious saloon suddenly become dangerous because of how beamy it is?”
Matt Sheahan agrees: “A boat that’s physically comfortable on deck will be mentally comfortable. What I mean by that is: if you can’t get to the mainsheet from the helm, you can’t depower the main quickly, so it can make you anxious. Good boats are designed around ease of sailing and logical design.”
Pip is positive about modern boat design, but occasionally sails boats that fail fundamentally. “Occasionally you’ll come across yachts, even monohulls, where sailing comes second to marina comfort. In one case I was initially impressed by a beautifully clean cockpit with all lines leading to two winches close to the helm.
“The trouble was, no one had thought about where all the lines go, so when you actually went sailing you were left with a huge mass of lines with nowhere to put them. That’s never going to work.”
To try to find a boat’s flaws. US boat tester and former editor of Sail magazine, Peter Neilsen, believes you shouldn’t aim for everything to go really smoothly on a test sail.
“It’s tempting to just go through the usual manoeuvres of tacking, gybing, and so on, seeing how well the boat goes on various points of sail, how easy it is to balance the sail plan,” he says. “But why not try stopping the boat: let the sheets fly and see what she does. How does she lie to the wind?
“Find out how well she heaves to and, indeed, if she will heave to. Spin in a circle without touching the sheets to see how easy it is to get out of irons; try to sail under mainsail or genoa alone. Under power, find something you can back up to, to see how she steers going astern. Bring her up to cruising speed then let the wheel go, and see if she dives off in one direction or another.”
Eyes wide open
It’s clear, then, that you should approach buying a boat with eyes wide open. Be realistic about identifying the type of sailing you do – or want to do – and draw up a list of your absolute necessities. Think about your priorities in the short and longer term. The more comprehensive your list, the better the chance you’ll find the boat that fits your needs. Some may find it helpful to rank or score their criteria to help make the decision.
Use this to draw up a shortlist of suitable boats, and as a means of rejecting ones that will be unsuitable – but don’t rule out a refit, or ask if something can be altered.
Crawl over yachts at boat shows, but always push for a test sail for a yacht you are considering. And once you get aboard, try to visualise how this particular boat will serve you in the real world. It may be then that you find a yacht you have a real connection with.
Chartering a boat that’s the same as, or similar to, one you’re thinking of buying is the best way to establish if it’s really for you. “Ask the manufacturer’s agent or broker if there is scope to charter the boat or a similar model,” advises Toby Hodges.
“In the case of a new yacht, the charter cost can sometimes be written off against a purchase. For larger yachts, which are often semi-custom, it’s a great way to determine how you’d like your own build fitted out, what works and what doesn’t.”Multihull sales have seen a big increase over recent years, and many of those sales are to owners switching from a monohull. “If you’re thinking of converting to a multihull, consider where the major points of difference are and put them into practice by chartering,” says Toby.
“Power handling, anchoring and living are all very different aboard a multi. Sailing, while often a pleasant surprise, is a very different thing on a cat. So why not enjoy the selection process more by chartering in some lovely locations first?”
Boat show comparison
Terysa Vanderloo and Nick Fabbri compared dozens of catamarans when searching for their new Ruby Rose. Terysa shares her top tips…
After living on board a 38ft monohull for the past five years, my partner Nick and I decided to make the move to a catamaran. We had no clear idea of which catamaran we wanted, or even what the options were, so over the course of 2019 we went to numerous boat shows, toured dozens of catamarans and did five sea trials.
We took our YouTube audience with us on this journey, filming a total of 19 catamaran reviews and sampling the entire spectrum of catamaran designs. We wanted to be analytical in our decision making process, so we assessed each boat using five criteria: safety and design; build quality; interior design and liveability; price; and performance.
Each boat was given a total score out of 50, and we even opened up the ‘scoring’ to our audience through an app, which removed any bias from both ourselves and brokers. These are some of the things we learned:
Come prepared: Knowing your must-haves in advance will be of huge benefit at the show. Every boat is a compromise, so it helps to know the characteristics or features that are absolute red lines. For example, in choosing our new boat we were determined to have a catamaran with well-protected helms, high build quality and excellent natural ventilation.
This allowed us to create a shortlist in advance by doing online research before arriving at the show. Most manufacturers will have virtual tours or comprehensive photo galleries on their website and obtaining information on price in advance is a good idea if you’re working to a budget.
Bring a camera: Filming a full walk-through on your phone or an action camera for further study and comparison when you get home is really useful. Once you’ve seen a few boats, it can be hard to remember the details – getting it all on film lets you relive the experience later and compare different models retrospectively.
Allow extra time: Although I’m a big advocate for being prepared, sometimes you fall in love with a boat you totally overlooked during your initial research. And sometimes your priorities change once you’ve done a few walk-throughs.
You might think you want a performance catamaran, for example, but after spending some time in the spacious hulls of a cruising catamaran you start to rethink your stance… Give yourself plenty of time to do some generalised browsing, because you might be surprised by what you fall in love with on the day.
First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.
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Outremer 55 first look: Efficient catamaran promises more sailing and less motoring (14 Oct 2020, 7:48 am)
Feedback from some 310 previous Outremer owners has gone into refining the design of the new Outremer 55
Plugging the gap between Outremer’s longstanding 5X and 51 models, the Outremer 55 will exhibit the brand’s typical balance of performance and comfort.
“It means much less use of the engines,” explains commercial director Matthieu Rougevin-Baville. Outremer considers performance to be a key plank of its environmental policy. “If you can sail at 5 knots, you can sail 95% of the time,” he reasons.
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There are daggerboards for 15-degree better windward performance, and a swing helm pedestal that allows you to sit up on the side deck in fine weather, or shelter under the hard top when it turns inclement.
Tillers are still an option, but Outremer has worked hard to give the wheel better feedback. It is set up for short-handed bluewater sailing.
Outremer is part of the same Grand Large group which owns Gunboat, and there have been some technical improvements, notably on the lamination.
For instance, the coachroof is now stiffer, despite being lighter and having more openings. Powered winches are electric rather than hydraulic, saving kilos.
The yard also considers ventilation paramount for an eco-friendly cruiser, rather than fitting air conditioning, which needs more fuel and results in additional weight.
With 2.3kW of solar panels on the coachroof, Outremer claims the 55 is electrically self-sufficient – and that is despite having equipment such as watermakers and dishwashers.
The rear of the saloon completely opens to unite the cockpit and the interior, and there is the option of three or four good-sized double cabins.
LOA: 16.69m (54ft 9in)
Beam: 8.28m (27ft 2in)
Displacement (light): 13,500kg (29,762lb)
Price: €1,215,000 (ex. VAT)
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Why these extreme multihull concepts could be the future of catamaran design (13 Oct 2020, 7:30 am)
Holiday homes, restaurants, even cities may soon be coming to a quiet beach or harbour near you, reports Sam Fortescue
As boats become ever more like homes on water, something else is changing: designers and builders have been turning their attention to the market for floating buildings. New concepts to emerge range from a thatched beach cottage atop a catamaran hull to an entire floating city, generating its own food and power. The one thing they have in common is they’re movable structures that can be parked wherever they can drop the hook. And soon they could be coming to a peaceful estuary near you.
There is an opportunity here, of course, to create additional living and leisure space in areas where the land is already choked with people. Imagine being able to moor a temporary holiday village off Bournemouth Beach, for example, or create a restaurant off Dartmouth without affecting the townscape.
But the flip side of the coin is that someone could park a large floating structure right in front of your sea view, or occupy a quiet, sensitive environment. Imagine, as sailors, falling asleep in a deserted anchorage and waking up with a throbbing beach bar right next to us!
“If a craft is movable and can drop an anchor, it would be classed as ‘any other vessel’ and would not need consent,” confirms Martin Willis, executive officer of the UK Harbour Masters’ Association. “But if it’s a commercial business, it’d be subject to the relevant regulation – there are no rights to come in and open a business in a harbour without the Harbour Master’s consent.” Alternatively, it may fall under MCA coding as a passenger craft.
In some parts of the world, floating structures are already quite common. Upscale luxury holiday resorts in Thailand or the Maldives, for example, offer floating villas. And soon you might expect to see whole floating marinas if you find yourself close to St Tropez. France’s recent move to protect crucial Neptune grass meadows in the Mediterranean means that anchoring off the town is severely limited for yachts over 24m.
To get round the problem, a company called Seafloattech has developed a system of screwing steel frames to the seabed to moor big structures on giant hydraulic shock absorbers. “We had a prototype size in place for six months in the Bay of St Tropez,” says managing director Lionel Péan, the French ocean racing star and past winner of the Whitbread Round the World Race. “It could accommodate up to 70 boats in a maximum wind of 42 knots, with up to 2.4m wave heights with no structural problems or injuries.”
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The hydraulics keep the marina on station despite the tide and help to counteract wave action. It is even possible to use the system to tether a boat or a home through storm-force conditions, insists Pean. “If you want to build something to resist a typhoon, for instance, you have to make special arrangements with the customer. It can be done, but it costs a lot. In the Med, you don’t need 5-6m waves resistance.”
Seafloattech itself will ultimately just licence the tethering system, but it is working with partners who envisage all manner of structures atop their platforms. There are swimming pools, beach clubs, superyacht berths, hotels and villas.
“We believe that the demographic surge will force the coastal states to really focus on offshore coastline development,” adds Pean. “I am for a two-fold operation including sanctuary areas and social offshore development zones. We think that Northern Europe will take some more time but as soon as we have some units up and running, it will happen quickly.”
Another French concern, Faréa, has taken a markedly different approach, developing a home that sits on two deep metal floats that also contain cabins. It is a simple catamaran, propelled by an outboard at the ‘stern’ and anchored with normal ground tackle at the ‘bow’. Navigation is slow and only for fine weather, but retractable centreboards mean it can be beached.
“They amount to 86m2 of space, with seven double cabins separate heads and bathroom and three terraces,” explains founder Christophe Roi. “They are self-sufficient in water and electricity, thanks to the oversized photovoltaic panels and fuel cells.”
A thatched roof multihull?
The original plan was for something more like a floating house, but feedback from insurers pushed Faréa towards a craft that meets category C of the Recreational Craft Directive. “It means they can stand up to Force 6 and 2m waves,” explains Roi. “What with rental prices so terribly high in England, I am certain that living on water should be a possibility.”
A fully equipped F2C model would cost around €160,000 to install, he adds. With the average Newquay home costing £730,000, according to RightMove, he has a good point.
Alva Yachts offers more architecturally ambitious 45m2 holiday homes with an infinity pool and a terrace. Not self-propelled, costs range from €85,000 to €200,000 depending on finish. The fledgling German company is using its founders’ experience of building catamarans that run on renewable power to offer low-carbon homes.
“The floating homes are literally super luxury yachts without propulsion,” explains co-founder Mathias May. “The hull and ‘sails’ are made of composites, while energy consumption, supply and distribution is comparable to a solar yacht. We strive to be as efficient as possible to get rid of diesel gensets in remote areas. It is no coincidence that our first customer for such a project comes from the Maldives.”
Meanwhile, two Finnish companies have developed a series of even larger floating structures whose near-total self-sufficiency allows them to remain offshore indefinitely. Architects Sigge and builder AdMares have turned the world’s largest floating villa (all 6,000m2 of it) in Abu Dhabi into an autonomous boat capable of tackling waves up to 1.2m.
By fitting a wheelhouse and three Rolls Royce US 55 FP azimuth thrusters with a total 750kW output, the villa can move itself around the sheltered waters of the emirate. An anchoring system at each end of the platform is equipped with whopping 38mm chain and 1,575kg anchors.
Off nearby Qatar, the Finnish firms have been hard at work installing 16 floating hotels with a total of 1,616 rooms, aimed at providing temporary accommodation for the huge influx of football fans due for the 2022 World Cup. With four storeys including a lounging area and a restaurant, each hotel can simply be towed to a new location after the tournament. The only restriction is the 4m draught.
Several orders of magnitude further up the scale and you reach floating towns. Some concepts, like Oceanix, are very serious attempts to expand the boundaries of human habitation to ‘the next frontier’. It is a consortium of companies focusing on the UN’s ‘New Urban Agenda’ with a plan to build homes on pods clustered in hexagons, in turn clustered into larger hexagons, and so on, up to cities of 10,000 people.
Their vision includes parks, arenas, restaurants, offices up to three stories high and built-in docking for solar-powered watercraft. Energy is harvested from waves, wind, sun as well as algae bioreactors and more to create a net-zero consumer, while food is grown on and under the city.
“We believe humanity can live in harmony with life below water – it is not a question of one versus the other,” says CEO Marc Collins Chen. “The technology exists for us to live on water, while nature continues to thrive under. Floating cities by design embrace all types of marine activities, so they are complementary to existing activities like fishing and sailing.”
The initial sites envisaged for a city are all on the fringes of the Tropics, from Japan to Thailand, and the structures are designed to withstand Category 5 storms.
A more Eurocentric view comes from two designers of cities on boats. French naval architect Sylvain Viau has developed an outline for a triangular craft measuring 372m in length, with a jaw-dropping beam of 369m. Across 12 decks moving at up to 5 knots, some 3,000 guests can be accommodated, along with lecture halls, meeting rooms, restaurants, shops, manmade beaches and an internal marina capable of berthing ten 100ft yachts.
Fun and games afloat
These giant ‘craft’ are nothing to do with loving the sea or even respecting the enivronment. “People are not interested in the sea, they are interested in casinos, cinema, fun entertainment,” Chen explains. “In my imagination, you welcome everybody on board in a nice location. The platform doesn’t move during the season, only in the winter, when it’s time to find a new spot.”
At anchor, giant inlets like gills down each flank would channel waves into a generator to produce energy. And when it’s time to move, the boat raises its 300-tonne anchor and blows out its ballast tanks to reduce its draught from 20m to 11m.
Germany’s beiderbeck designs recently made headlines with the publication of a €500m concept catamaran called Galileo2, capable of berthing yachts up to 80m, and offering a fold-down restaurant and an open-air amphitheatre cinema. With a nod at managing greenhouse gas emissions, this small floating town would be powered by gigantic fuel cells, and would pioneer so-called marine thermal energy in yachting.
“You can use the temperature difference between the deeper and surface water,” explains Timo Hartmüller of beiderbeck. “Obviously, you need to be in deep water, but we designed the yacht to stow a 1km long hose on board.”
Some of these floating titans may never make it off the drawing board, particularly in view of the way that coronavirus has decimated the cruise ship industry. But the current is running hard towards extending communities above the waves, and whatever you may think of these concepts, be they luxury pads or modest holiday cabins, expect to see more of them coming to a stretch of coast near you.
Multimarine near Plymouth is nearing completion of a 108ft x 28ft motorised platform called the Gweek Pontoon, which the owner plans to charter out for use as a mobile regatta and watersports base.
It is fitted with an anchor and windlass, as well as three 200hp engines, and includes a built-in hydraulic slipway. It is built from foam-core vinylester laminate and carbon fibre for light weight and a trifling draught of just 100mm.
First published in the September 2020 issue of Yachting World.
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How to sail across the Indian Ocean: Everything you need to know (12 Oct 2020, 10:31 am)
In our latest special report, world cruising veteran Janneke Kuysters explains how to sail across the Indian Ocean
“It’s still a long way to get home,” Carina Hammarlund muses. My partner Weitze van der Laan and I nod. Between us and our home ports in northern Europe it feels like we have to sail half the globe.
In the New Year yachts from all over the world gather in Phuket, Thailand, for the last legs of their circumnavigation. For yachts from northern Europe, there are three options to get back to their home countries.
The first is sailing across the Indian Ocean and rounding the Cape of Good Hope before sailing back up the Atlantic. The second is to sail around India and then head up the Red Sea, across the Mediterranean and then home. The third is to ship the yacht home from Thailand and jump on an aeroplane.
Every option has its advantages and disadvantages, and making the right decision depends on a lot of very personal factors. We spoke to cruisers who had chosen different solutions.
“We ran out of time,” Conny Hammarlund says. “We enjoyed four years of glorious cruising and found ourselves in Thailand, trying to decide which way to go back to Sweden.” An enticing job offer for his wife, Carina, made the decision simple: their Amel 56 Ultimo was going back on a ship and they would fly.
“For us it was a simple business case,” Carina says. “The cost of the shipping versus the time we would save to get home and get back into a great job was better than using at least another six months to sail her through the Red Sea.
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“We prepared the boat in Phuket in March and in April she was picked up by the transport ship. Four weeks later she was offloaded in Copenhagen. We made the decision in January and were back home in April. She is our home, so we went to Copenhagen straight away to pick her up and sail her to our home port of Stockholm.”
Carina continues: “The advantages of shipping are simple: it is a quick and safe way to move the boat if you need to get back home relatively fast.”
Conny adds: “Of course there are disadvantages. Preparing the boat for transport is something you don’t do often in your sailing career, so you have to learn fast. Apart from that, it is expensive at first sight. But the comparison with the wear and tear of a long ocean crossing was not too unfavourable for shipping Ultimo.”
There are three main elements to the cost of shipping a yacht. First the Hammarlunds spent two months preparing to ship, which cost around £5,000 (if we assume an average cruising cost per month to be £2,500 for fuel, maintenance, insurance and living costs). This was done at anchor in Thailand. The actual cost of shipping was £40,800, plus the two flights home from Thailand.
After Ultimo was relaunched in Copenhagen, the couple sailed straight to Sweden that same day, so they incurred no additional harbour costs.
The third minor cost was insurance: “We signed a third party insurance via the transport company which was £160. During the transport there was no insurance cost, because the boat is covered by the transporter,” Conny explained.
The couple did a lot of research before Ultimo was loaded onto the transport ship. “We compared prices, but also the experiences and feedback of other cruisers.” They based their choice not only on cost, but on customer references.
“We invested a lot of time in communication with the shipping company and the agent right from the start. This proved to be vital, because in the first stages a lot of information needs to be exchanged fast.
“During the transport they kept informing us and sent us all necessary details. You need to be flexible; schedules change, pick up dates and even locations can change because of regulations and delays.”
The Red Sea question
For a long time, sailing to Europe via the Red Sea was a definite ‘no go’ – yachts have been hijacked by Somali pirates, yachtsmen kidnapped and sometimes murdered. The efforts of the international maritime community have decreased the risk of piracy and past years have seen more and more boats successfully making this passage.
In the 2019 season 53 boats travelled through the Red Sea in both directions. Among them were Frank Mulder and Sandra van Manen, who sailed their Trintella 49 Blue Roger through the Red Sea and Mediterranean en route to the Netherlands.
“For us the most important reason to travel through the Red Sea was the limited time we had,” Van Manen said. Her work commitments as a doctor and, even more importantly, the birth of a grandchild, urged them back home. She adds: “We didn’t feel like doing long crossings again and wanted to sail the shortest route back home.”
“And it was a quick passage,” Mulder says. “We left Thailand mid-January and were back home in the Netherlands at the end of May. It took us a month to travel the 1,000-mile track up the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal.
“There we left Blue Roger for two weeks in Egypt to fly home and be with our grandchild. After that, we sailed the passages in the Mediterranean, Bay of Biscay and North Sea at leisure.”
In Frank’s opinion: “Safety is not really an issue any more, especially with the help of UKMTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations). In the Gulf of Aden there is the biggest risk of piracy though.”
For Mulder, the disadvantages are: “The weather. You have to think of the Red Sea as a chimney: the hot deserts on both sides with the cooler water of the Med on the north. The wind blows from the north with a Force 6-7 all the time.
“The wind shifts make it very hard to tack. We’ve had days that we only moved forward with 1.8 knots. It’s very frustrating, and you have to be on your guard all the time.
“There are yachtsmen who anchor under way in between the reefs but they are poorly charted and we considered the risk too high. In that respect it was one of the most dangerous parts of our circumnavigation.”
For the five months it took Blue Roger to sail from Thailand to the Netherlands, the total cost was £12,500. “In addition to that,” Van Manen comments, “you need to budget for the transit of the Suez Canal (£450) and for a lot of small cash payments. At least £1,800 is needed to pay for all these expenses while you transit the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.”
Having access to good and recent information is vital. “We used the Red Sea Pilot and we were members of a secret Facebook group of Red Sea crossers. That was very helpful. And the contacts with UKMTO were invaluable,” Sandra says.
“In Thailand an informal flotilla formed,” Frank explains. “But because of our time pressure, we didn’t join them. These flotillas have advantages, but there are disadvantages too, especially when some boats are a lot faster than others. There is a sense of security when travelling in a group. We went alone and never felt unsafe.”
Transiting the Red Sea is not a decision to be taken lightly and would require very thorough research. The reduction in piracy attacks reflects the greatly reduced number of vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden or venturing close to the Somali coastline, but the political issues which created the piracy problem remain, combined with increased instability in Yemen. Nevertheless, for those considering it, Frank Mulder has the following tips and suggestions:
- Take cash: at least $2,500 USD in small notes.
- Stay away from Saudi Arabia; they are not used to yachts there and treat (and charge) you like a large cargo ship. There are also security issues.
- Make sure the boat is ready to tackle strong upwind conditions; prepare for significant wear and tear and carry lots of spare parts.
- A satellite phone is useful in the Gulf of Aden: you cannot use your radio to contact UKMTO. If there is an issue with a vessel approaching you, call UKMTO and they can send a plane to fly overhead.
- Most insurance companies will not cover sailing in the Red Sea. Start talking to alternative insurers at an early stage.
“You must be able to motor at least 1,200 miles,” says Alarie. “Every year several unprepared sailors run out of fuel, food, and money. Some end up begging for diesel from the Coalition Forces while sailing slowly in the High Risk Area (HRA). This ends up being a distraction to the hard working Coalition Forces, one that Somali pirates may use to their advantage.”
How to sail across the Indian Ocean
We chose to sail Anna Caroline across the Indian Ocean for two reasons. First, we were not sure that we wanted to tackle the headwinds and potential danger of the Red Sea. But more importantly we wanted to visit the wonderful islands in the northern Indian Ocean and then sail around the Cape of Good Hope. As part of our itinerary we have already sailed around two of the three big Capes, so this third one was still on our wishlist.
Choosing to cross the Indian Ocean means adding a year to your circumnavigation. To avoid running into cyclones, you need to leave Thailand in January, make a stop in Sri Lanka and arrive in the Maldives in March. You then have over six months to spend in the Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Mauritius or La Réunion until the southern summer starts and you can round the Cape of Good Hope, so it is a relaxed schedule.
The other option is to stay longer in Thailand or Malaysia and cross in September straight to Madagascar. Either way, cruising to Europe via South Africa will take around 18 months.
The advantages of crossing the Indian Ocean include having the time to pick relatively benign weather, and the ability to visit some groups of islands that are still not overrun by cruising yachts. You might also choose to make some interesting land trips ashore in Africa.
The disadvantages are mainly the time that is involved in getting back to Europe, and the extra wear and tear on the yacht caused by sailing many miles (for us on Anna Caroline it will be around 16,500 miles from Phuket to the Netherlands) in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
If you take this option, there are two major cost factors. First there is the additional cost of living, maintenance and insurance. Given the earlier assumption of £2,500 per month, this amounts to £45,000 for 18 months. On top of that, there is the cost of hiring agents, clearance and cruising permits.
Chagos and the Maldives are expensive with an average cost of between US$1,000-1,500 each. For other countries, the cost is lower, often much lower, but you should allow another £2,000. Depending on your insurance company, you may also see an increase in premium or deductibles.
Because cruising in the Indian Ocean is still relatively rare, sources to find information are scarcer. The Indian Ocean Cruising Guide by Rod Heikell is helpful, as are numerous Facebook groups and forums. There are some older cruising guides for specific destinations like the Seychelles and Maldives, but they are very hard to find in hard copy. We found that it is a good idea to start selecting agents at an early stage; a lot of countries require you to have an agent and there are quite large differences in fees.
“For everyone dreaming of crossing the Indian Ocean the way we did, I would recommend that you do a very thorough check of the boat and all your spare parts while you are still in Thailand and close to resources,” Wietze van der Laan advises. “Most boats are at the end of their circumnavigation and the many miles that have been sailed by then have taken their toll.
“Your boat needs to be in mint condition, because it is very hard to get spare parts in most parts of the Indian Ocean. You need to be independent.”
The scenarios mentioned are for a ‘normal’ cruising season. The 2020 season has been anything but normal with COVID-19 causing lockdowns and restrictions.
At the time of going to press many countries, including South Africa, required arriving yachts to undergo COVID-19 testing and quarantine. The Maldives and Tanzania are relatively unrestricted, while Madagascan authorities are limiting yacht movements heavily. Social upheaval caused by factors like rising unemployment and the collapse of tourism is also impacting on the safety of destinations in the Indian Ocean.
Red Sea updates
“The coalition forces don’t encourage cruisers in the area but they will tolerate us – particularly if we try to follow their guidance,” says Wade Alarie, moderator of the private Facebook group for Red Sea crossers.
Organisations issuing guidance include the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).
About the author
Dutch couple Janneke Kuysters and Wietze van der Laan are sailing around the world in their Bruce Roberts 44 Anna Caroline, returning home via the Indian Ocean.
First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.
The post How to sail across the Indian Ocean: Everything you need to know appeared first on Yachting World.
Vendée Globe 2020 contenders: Who will win the world’s toughest sailing race? (8 Oct 2020, 10:16 am)
We pick out some of the skippers worth following closely in this year’s Vendée Globe, the world’s toughest sailing race
Boat: Hugo Boss
Is this the year that Alex Thomson finally wins the Vendée Globe? Second in the last edition, third in the one before that, Britain’s best hope of a Vendée victory for many moons rests on the flamboyant Thomson and his newest Hugo Boss.
This Vendée Globe campaign, his fifth, has been a little different – no elaborate stunts, for starters. The focus was laser direct: to create a non-compromise IMOCA design that would give Thomson his best chance yet of winning.
Hugo Boss was launched intentionally later than Charal, the aim to be last in the design cycle, and to be radical. It was a gutsy decision, but events since have squeezed an already tight schedule further.
First Hugo Boss lost its keel in last autumn’s Transat Jacques Vabre, then COVID-19 halted all work, including the build of Thomson’s V2 foils at Persico in a badly affected region of Italy.
The rebuild and lockdown have left Thomson short on sailing time, and with race cancellations and quarantine rules making competing in France impossible, Boss has yet to line up against most of the IMOCA fleet. It is not the uninterrupted preparation he will have been hoping for.
However, Thomson has been here before. Ahead of the last Vendée he had to abandon, then almost entirely rebuild Hugo Boss after it was rolled and dismasted in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre. Then, he came back stronger, with an improved boat that proved lightning quick: expect him to do the same this time around.
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Arguably the benchmark boat of the fleet, Beyou’s Charal was launched almost a year before Hugo Boss, and has had the most thorough race testing of the new IMOCAs.
Charal is now on its third set of foils, which Beyou has reported make the boat more controllable after the V1 design produced some dramatic flights, followed by equally dramatic downward pitches.
Beyou’s solo career includes podium places in all the major offshores, winning the Figaro Series in 2005 and 2014, the TJV in 2011, and the Transat New York-Vendée in 2016. This will be his fourth Vendée.
Like Thomson, he has retired from two races, while in the last edition he finished 3rd, behind Thomson and winner Armel Le Cléac’h.
With his apparently smooth campaign, and the speed Charal has demonstrated in racing and training, Beyou is widely considered the French favourite to beat.
Davies returns for her third Vendée start, this time competing against her husband Romain Attanasio.
Despite being persistently asked about childcare arrangements for their son, Davies is much more enthusiastic to talk about the technical development work she’s done to her ten-year-old boat, which includes some of the biggest foils in the fleet and an innovative new autopilot system.
Initiatives-Coeur also benefits from the class’s ‘grandfathering’ rule, which allows Davies greater freedom with rig choices and sail plans.
With enormous experience, Davies has clearly taken control of her campaign and is passionate about both the performance modifications and the charity it represents.
But above all she will want a competitive result to assuage just missing the podium in 2008 and dismasting in 2012.
Ruyant is an experienced ocean racer with a new, fast boat, and as such a clear podium contender. Having retired from the last Vendée after his boat began breaking up near New Zealand, Ruyant commissioned a brand new Verdier design before he had sponsorship secured.
The gamble paid off, and he now has a fully funded campaign and promising new foiler: LinkedOut took the early lead in the Vendée-Arctic Race, before finishing a close 3rd to Charal and Apivia.
A rookie in this race, but a well-fancied one, Dalin has a new Verdier design which proved an even match for Charal during the Arctic Race, where Dalin was 2nd.
A naval architect by trade, Dalin’s IMOCA is more radical than Ruyant’s, with an almost entirely enclosed cockpit, and was built with the expertise of Gabart’s MerConcept project management team.
With a reputation for being both talented and meticulous, Dalin will be well-equipped if the foiling fleet develops into a closely matched race, having a solid track record of podium places in the Figaro.
PRB’s distinctive orange livery features large in the history of the Vendée Globe; the building products company has sponsored an entry in every race since the first edition, winning twice.
Escoffier is an enormously well-respected sailor who has been part of some the most successful offshore campaigns. He was on the design team of Banque Populaire for many years, and part of the Volvo Race-winning Dongfeng crew and Loïck Peyron’s successful Jules Verne Trophy bid. His well optimised 2009 VPLP design includes new Juan K-designed foils.
Boat: Bureau Vallée 2
Louis Burton is following a textbook pathway going into his third Vendée start.
Having completed the 2016 race on one of the older and heaviest boats in the fleet, which he sailed to an impressive 7th, this time he has acquired the former Banque Populaire VIII, the foiling winner of the last race.
Jean Le Cam
Boat: Yes we Cam!
A Vendée Globe without the presence of the hirsute ‘King Jean’ is almost unthinkable. This will be his fifth start, following a Vendée career that includes finishing 2nd in 2004 and being rescued from his upturned boat off Cape Horn in 2008. This time he’s doing it on a tight budget and with one of the older boats without foils.
Boat: Campagne de France
British sailor Merron has devoted the past 15 years of her life to getting to the Vendée Globe start. Taking the experience gleaned from years of Class 40 campaigning, Merron says she is competing in the original spirit of the Vendée with the aim of getting round.
For an exclusive interview with fellow Vendée Globe contender Pip Hare, pick up the November 2020 issue of Yachting World, which is out now.
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