Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Leaving behind a tragic accident, the race goes on and hotter than ever with several boats trying slightly different approaches to the Horn. Brunel is making a fantastic race, determined to win, maintaining and even increasing their lead over all the others.

Except for Brunel that managed to increase its lead to almost 50nm, all others are very close with Vestas being the fastest on the last 24 hours, winning over everybody and overtaking Dongfeng.

Conditions are strong but better than what was predicted some days ago: mostly between 25 and 30kt. They left behind the worst of the bad weather and their transition to the Atlantic ocean should be done without problems. The same cannot be said about Scallywag that, due to the MOB situation, is almost two days behind.

They will get worse weather than the one that will be experienced by the other boats. I don't know if they have retired from this leg. I did not see any statement regarding that but the tracker is not giving them as racing so probably that's the case. If so, without the pressure to go fast, they will be in a better position to maneuver to avoid the worst of the bad conditions.

Talking about bad conditions and danger you may like to know that a little Westsail 32 is approaching the Horn too, solo sailed by Jerome Rand. Crazy stuff given the conditions on the area. I wish him all the best and lots of luck. That's not the first small boat to have passed the Horn lately.

Even more crazy was the passage of a little Maxus 22. The boat had been modified with a different keel with much more ballast and strengthened. Also a solo sailor on a non stop circumnavigation, the Polish Szymon Kuczyński, that had previously solo sailed the same boat around the world.

Regarding the MOB on Scallywag and the loss of John Fisher, not much more is known. He had, like all the other sailors on the volvo a Spinlock lifejacket that incorporates an AIS MOB with a stroboscopic light. That device is able to pinpoint a MOB position on the boat plotter with a very small margin of error, just some few small meters.

The device has a working life of 24 hours and the signal is received on a 5nm radius. With a 10 hour search it is hard to understand why they could not find him and I continue to think that something went wrong. Did the MOB AIS or the boat AIS receptor malfunction? Was he using the life jacket? As strange as it may seem the race rules don't make mandatory the use of a lifejacket or the use of an harness in any conditions. Look at the photos on the post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Yes of course, accidents are inevitable and racing involves always some sort of risk. But there were two cases of man overboard on this race, both on the same boat. It can be a coincidence but I remember the first sailor was wearing a black tee shirt that made difficult his localization, even on good sea conditions (according to statements of a crew member). Why is it not mandatory bright colors on the crew equipment?

Now another one in very demanding conditions and this time a man lost. As I said accidents are unavoidable and a man overboard can happen, what should not happen is not finding him. And it is unacceptable because there are ways that would have allowed to find him. That is absolutely unacceptable on a top race like the VOR where state of the art technology is everywhere.

Why is not mandatory a MOB AIS device on all sailors, on demanding conditions?  No, it is nothing new, neither expensive or big. It can fit in almost any pocket of the sea suit they are wearing in bad weather. Sure, they could have taken too much time to find him on a 9º water...or maybe not but that is not the point. The point is that they should be able to find him and give him a chance.

Many will say that I should not be saying this at this moment over a dead man out of respect. I disagree, I believe that it is now, and on his memory, that this should be said, not to happen again. Risks are inherent to any racing activity but there is no excuse for avoidable risks and the risk of not finding a man overboard is an avoidable is only necessary a piece of personal equipment that costs 250 €.

Edited with new information: It seems that all the crews have the new Spinlock life-jacket that includes a MOB AIS, the one that is picture above with the stroboscopic light. the question remains, they searched for 10 hours and could not find him. Why?!!! if he had a MOB AIS active and a very visible lifejacket with a yellow head cover?

Did the AIS MOB malfunctioned? Was the boat AIS receptor out of service? Was he wearing a life-jacket? Somebody said that his disappearance was only noticed two hours after and that may explain why they have not found him, since the MOB AIS range is 5nm, but that MOB AIS sets on not only the AIS alarm but the DSC VHF alarm. How is it possible that, with a big crew, nobody was with him on the deck on bad weather? How it was possible that nobody has heard the alarms?

Regarding the MOB AIS, it is not only necessary to have it aboard but having it all the times outside and if the lifejacket is not used extensively, it should be carried on any pocket on the vest one is using. The MOB AIS is small and much more comfortable then the life jacket.

Note that I am not advocating the non use of the lifejacket, quite the contrary, but fact is that the race rules don't make the use of the lifejacket mandatory in any circumstances and we can see many photos with difficult conditions where the sailors are not using a lifejacket.

Monday, March 26, 2018


The conditions they are meeting are terrible, with all the boats under over 30kt of wind (TTP has 44kt)  but the worst is still to come: they have a big storm ahead that blocks the access to the Horn and they have no choice except to dive in.

The conditions near the Horn will be slightly better in two days. when they arrive there, but still they will get 40k sustained winds gusting to over 50k. With the water near 0 degrees and spray flying all around these are incredibly hard conditions to sail aggravated by the boat design that allows tons of water to wash over the cockpit when sailing fast on these conditions.

These boats are very seaworthy and have a great stability but something has to be done on the design of the next boat to prevent water coming in the boat the way it does now, when they sail fast in waves. It is freezing water and that is not acceptable, increasing risks and creating unnecessarily fatigue due to weather exposure.
I am quite sure the designer of the new VOR, Guillaume Verdier, will have that into account. He was a large experience designing top solo racers for the Vendee Globe and circum-navigation record attempts where that situation has been solved long ago.

The race has been incredible and on these conditions they keep pushing with Team Brunel leading at a short distance from all others, except Scallywag, that is a bit far away, but at only 13nm. The next days, crossing that big storm will be decisive and if someone can get some advance passing the Horn it will be very difficult for the others to recover later.

Don't miss the next days on the VOR, they will be very hot for us, watching, and very cold and exhausting for those racing down there:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Cigale 18
The Italian nautical press has been talking a lot about a new Italian voyage boat, according to them a very innovative boat, the Gulliver 57. It is certainly an interesting one but the total absence of reference to the Cigale 18 left me not only surprised but also pissed.

Bad journalism, by ignorance or voluntarily, since the Gulliver 57 is nothing more than a version of the Cigale 18 with a lifting keel made in Italy. And the Cigale 18 is just a bigger version of the Cigale 16, a boat that has existed for decades.

The Cigale 18 and the Gulliver 57 share the same main dimensions, the same interior generic layout and the same designer (Marc Lombard).
Above the Cigale 18, below the Gulliver 57
This is a very good fast aluminium voyage boat and certainly the lifting keel is a very good contribution since the 2.85m draft of the Cigale leaves something be desired in what regards world wide accessibility to small ports and getting close to the coast on anchorages for better protection.

I never saw the interior of the Cigale 18 but regarding the one of the Cigale 16 this one is looks more luxurious. It really looks very well done with a lot of clever details (see the movie). It would be interesting to make a price comparison but neither give any information about the price.

These boats are beamy, light (15.5t) with hulls based on the ones used for long range solo racing and have a good reserve stability due to big draft, torpedo keels and a good B/D ratio. The one on the Cigale is 32.3%, 27.4% on the Gulliver. Even if with a smaller B/D probably both boats have a similar stability since the draft of the Cigale is 2.85 and the Gulliver one 3.5m, with the keel down 1.7m with the keel up.

Alubat, the firm that makes the Cigale is experiencing some difficulties. I hope they surpass them and also that they introduce the Cigale with a Swing keel, that is a far better solution, for the use intended for the boat than, a fixed keel or even a lifting keel as it is proposed on Gulliver. A lifting keel, even if provided with a crash box is always a more fragile solution than a swing one in what regards accidental groundings.

Two great boats for long range cruising even if they seem a kind of overkill to me: certainly the much less expensive Cigale 16 is more than enough for the job, with a  2.46m keel dispenses a lifting keel expensive solution, allowing access almost everywhere. It offers already a good storage, three cabins and two heads. A post about the Cigale 16:

Saturday, March 17, 2018


As most of you know Najad went down some years ago and in 2013 was bought by a small company,  Lidköpings Båtsnickeri, the builders of Swedestar. From then on nothing impressive happened, quite the contrary, a lot of confusion: they changed the names of the Swedestar (370 and 415) to Najad and maintained in production some of the old Najad models.

They gave up on the Swedestar models, made a new cockpit design and some interior alterations on the Najad 505. Now, finally they made a new boat, the 395 that is the first one by the "new" Najad company.

Commercially it seems that they got it right. They have already sold several boats and a considerable interest was raised around the 395. They also bought Arcona (recently) and that seems to indicate that things are going very well for Najad.

For designing the new boat, instead of relying on in the house design or local designers (as they used to do with Swedestar), they called major yacht cabinets, Farr for the hull and cockpit design and Ken Freivokh for the interior design.

The work of Ken Freivokh is very good and even if he habitually designs super yacht interiors he showed that he can as well design small yachts with the same quality. About the work of Farr I am not so sure. I have no doubt that the hull design and the underbody are very well designed and efficient but out of that, the design seems as uninspired as in some of his Bavaria designs, featuring a high freeboard. Probably Judel/Vrolijk, the Najad old NA, would have managed a more elegant yacht.

The 395 is offered in two versions, a center cockpit and an aft cockpit one. The version they have already finished and was presented at Dusseldorf was the aft cabin, that seems much more interesting than the CC that has a minuscule cockpit and practically no storage space, the cost to pay for having a king sized aft cabin.

The Center Cockpit is not adapted to offshore cruising or long range cruising (unless it is from marina to marina) because it has no way of carrying the equipment that kind of cruising implies.

The same can be said regarding the aft cockpit version if the three cabin set up is chosen. But that version has an option with one of the cabins transformed in a big storage space.That option allows also for a bigger head and it is a pity that they have not taken the opportunity to make the other aft cabin bigger at a slight cost of storage space.

The galley/saloon design is similar to the other Najad, maximizing the saloon space and allowing for a galley that is comfortable and functional, specially if used while sailing. The problem of using this solution on a boat of this size is the complete lack of storage space aft on the hull, since all space is needed to implement this layout.

The hull is a nice modern one, beamy, with all the beam pulled aft but maintaining relatively fine entries. Not very different from the one of the Halberg-Rassy 412, that will be the closest competition for this boat.

The Halberg-Rassy is bigger (length 12.61m to 11.99 - beam 4.12m to 4.0.) but lighter (11.1t to 12.4) with a similar keel and rudder (a single one). The standard draft is a bit bigger on the Najad (2.10 to 1.99m) having both boats versions with a smaller draft. The Halberg Rassy has a slightly bigger B/D (36.0% to 35.5%) but the Najad compensates that with a slightly bigger draft.

Both boats have a not very different stability curve with AVS close or slightly superior to 125º and curiously the Halberg Rassy due to its superior dimensions is able to have a bigger overall stability than the Najad, that weights 1300kg more. Both have a very good reserve or safety stability and have a good offshore potential.

The building quality will be probably very similar, both using cored hulls, the Halberg Rassy only over the water line. The Najad uses vacuum infusion while Halberg Rassy uses the old method, hand lamination. On Najad they make a big publicity about the boat structure that seems to be made the same way as the one on Halberg Rassy, a GRP grid that is laminated to the hull.

Both boats will sail well, for this type of cruisers, the Halberg Rassy better due not only to the longer waterline (11.50m to 10.98) but also because it is lighter and more powerful, with a superior stability. That is visible on the SA/D that is clearly superior on the HR (18.5 to 16.3).

The Halberg Rassy offers only a version with a AC cockpit and a single wheel, the Najad offers two versions, a AC version with two wheels, a CC version with a single wheel and on both versions an arch for the mainsheet or a traditional traveler near the wheel.

The arch is very high (the boom seems to be higher than usual) and disproportionate. On that version the Najad has an incredibly high sprayhood  that finds support on the arch: it would be hard to make it uglier than that.

The difference in sailing speed, specially in light winds, probably will not matter for most cruisers that are interested in one of these boats so I would say that the main factors for a choice will be built quality, safety/stability, storage, interior and exterior design. These two last points are substantially different between the two boats and  liking more one or another will likely be the decisive factor.

The price of both boats should not be very different. The Najad 395 is announced at 364 000 euros , the Halberg  Rassy probably will cost just  a bit more. But the prices  are without tax or delivery. A decently equipped yacht will cost considerably more than that.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


A great boat with a horrible denomination. What's wrong with the X-yacht guys that can design and make great boats but cannot give them a decent or even comprehensible name? X4-6 means that the boat is from the cruising line and a 44.3ft boat. The smaller boat on the cruising line is called X4-4, they have a bigger X4-9 and the biggest one is the X6-5. Confused? At least I am, I cannot remember the size of the boats without checking out on their site.

But excluding the boat name there are very few things I don't like on this boat, that they call the perfect family cruiser. I didn't like much the interior of the smaller boat, the X4-3 (41ft) that, compared to other 41ft interiors, looked small and cramped but by the drawings and interior layout it seems that this one, with the extra beam and length, has a very agreeable living space and has plenty of storage space.

You may find odd that I start to talk about the interior, but on this boat I know that all the rest will be alright. But the sailing performance (on this type of design) has as consequence a smaller interior space so, getting a comfortable, nice and acceptably spacious interior is one of the main challenges on this boat.

Just to put things in perspective, let me tell you that the much smaller Oceanis 41.1 has about the same beam as this boat. Compared to the smaller X4-3 the (41ft) the Oceanis 41.1 (39.3ft) beam has a huge difference (3.95m to 4.20) and that is one of the reasons the bigger X4-3 has an interior that looks small, even if compared to other fast cruisers.

This will be one of the boats I will check carefully on the next Dusseldorf boat show because I do agree that it is probably close to be the perfect cruiser at least for some type of sailors. I am very curious about the interior. I know the quality will be good, like on the other models,but what I am  really interested about is in the interior feeling and in what regards that, space and design are critical.

In what concerns seaworthiness I have no doubt this is a great boat: the big 41.3% B/D on a lead torpedo keel with 2.30m draft in a boat with a moderate beam will give it not only lots of power as it will assure a high AVS and a big reserve or safety stability. One of the cruisers with better values in what that concerns.

This type of high performance keel with a huge ballast (4500kg) can pose safety problems in what regards the way it is secured to the boat, not when the boat is new but decades later or on the sequence of groundings. Not the case with this boat that has the keel bolted to a big galvanized steel grid that distributes the efforts by the hull.

The hull is cored having as core a top foam, using epoxy resins and vacuum infusion. This, with the steel structure allows for a strong but light boat with a displacement of 10900kg. That is more 2250kg than the more sportive XP44 but since the building techniques are almost similar (the XP44 has a carbon reinforced hull structure, not a steel one) I would say that superior weight means a stronger boat....and the XP 44 is already a strong one.

To be fair let me say that not all that weight has to do with a stronger boat: only the difference of ballast for a similar B/D ratio (due to a lighter boat with a higher B/D) is responsible for about 850kg, the epoxy/carbon boat structure versus a steel one for probably 200 or 300kg, and about the same due to a lighter cruising interior. Considering all that the diference in weight would be probably around 900/1000kg, even so a considerable one if it corresponds to a more substancial laminate.
Above X4-6 below XP44

Comparing the XP44 (13.29m) hull with the one of the X4-6 (13.50) we will see that the X4-6 is more modern with a bigger LWL (12.33 to 11.89), a bigger beam ( 4.20 to 3.95) and the beam more pulled aft. Surprisingly we can see that Niels Jeppesen had resisted to increase the width of the frontal cabin much, giving  more substancial bow entries to the cruising boat.

He also resisted using the older performance cruising boat hull for the cruising boat, creating instead a new hull, a more modern one and better adapted to cruising due to the bigger beam.

That bigger beam and the much bigger transom will increase substantially hull form stability and even considering the XP 44 slightly bigger B/D (44.5% to 41.3%) its GZ curve probably equals or has slightly better values (except AVS). That, with the difference in weight, will  that give the X4-6 a considerably bigger overall stability.

The hull has a lot of rocker for a performance boat and that with the fine entries will reduce in much the possibility of slamming upwind increasing also the boat performance on that point of sail. Note also that the sail drive is closer to the keel than in many other boats, being better protected by it.

Regarding sailing, giving the quality of Jeppesen design and the boat characteristics the X4-6 will be an excellent sailboatboat, fast but easy. The reduced weight will make dispensable the use of a big genoa and the small jib mounted on a self tacking rail will be enough to provide a good speed on most occasions.

With really light winds a furling code 0 or geenaker can be used on the fixed bowsprit that also includes the anchor stand. X yachts are known to have a very good performance upwind and this one will not be an exception but the beam pulled aft will give the X4-6 an easy downwind performance, with a bigger roll resistance, making it more adapted to be sailed fast with an autopilot.

There are some more points that are worth consideration: the very interesting lateral cabin portlights that when open offer protection from the rain and opening to the outside offer an increasing protection to infiltration and safety in extreme conditions. The main winches near the wheel are also neat, even though  I don't like the rigging using only 4 winches and much less the other two to be far away from the wheel.

Also the very interesting solution in what regards the ventilation of the aft cabins that is made not by the usual small cockpit portlights in conjunction with a hatch but by a hatch and bigger portlights opening to the outside. That solution gives a boat a very distinctive lateral cabin shape, unusual on modern designs but far from being ugly.

The boat features a boom traveler, big and recessed near the wheel, a traveler for the self tacking jib and an optional genoa jib over the cabin, a not very usual location on cruising boats and one that will contribute for a great upwind performance.

The outside storage seems very good with a sail locker aft the chain locker, two big cockpit lockers, one of them dedicated to the liferaft and a big under the cockpit locker with two hatches.

The transom opens to form a swim platform, more than enough for having a better water interface while swimming.

There are a few things I don't like, among them the choice of a single rudder for this boat. It is not an efficiency concern but one regarding practicability and exposure: A big single rudder is necessarily more fragile then a smaller one from a twin system. A shock with an object near the end of it will result in a much bigger force on the rudder structure and the hull due to a much bigger arm (rudder length). Also when a rudder has problems due to delamination or is broken by a shock, with a twin rudder it is possible to continue sailing the boat, even if more slowly.

But most of all the biggest problem has to do with sailing on the Med where the traditional mooring system is to bring back the boat on anchor to a quay. The depths near the quay are many times smaller than 2 meters while the depths at just three meters away are 3 meters or more. This poses a big risk to touch the bottom with the rudder while backing up with catastrophic results.

Note that this can be a smaller problem on a cruising boat with a smaller performance but on a boat like the X4-6 the rudder should have a depth of 2.0m, possibly a bit over, making the Med mooring a delicate maneuver. I know what I am talking about since I have a boat with similar characteristics.

I would say that for someone that will be sailing extensively on the Med it makes sense to have the boat with the optional 2.50m draft. It will not be a problem to touch the bottom at small speed with the keel but it can be with the rudder. The rudder has the same size on the two versions and the keel with 2.50m offers a much better rudder protection, making sure that in case of grounding it is the keel not the rudder that it will touch the bottom.

Besides the rudder and in what concerns negative remarks, one regarding aesthetics and the interior: Obviously the port hulls were positioned to be at equal distances on the hull but I would say that the interior aesthetics are in this case much more important and it makes no sense to have a port hull sideways on the saloon and not in the middle of it.

 I would also say that it would make more sense to have two in the saloon even if smaller. That would give a bigger sense of interior space (that's amazing what light can make in what regards spacial sense). The other regards the non integrated swim ladder. There are plenty of ways to do better than the adopted solution, I mean it looks like a kind of after thought (the ladder) that needs yet to be moved to the right position to be used.

Generally the information provided by X yacht regarding this new design is a good one except on one point, that unfortunately has become usual not to be provided, not even in boats already on the water: sprayhood, bimini an other sun protections. Even if optional they should be integrated on the boat and the best or worst design shown on the boat information.

These are pieces of equipment that almost all cruisers use and it makes no sense in calling a boat the perfect family cruiser without showing them and their adequacy.

Finally the price that on a boat with this quality cannot be a bargain one: they are offering a promotional discount on the first boats including free extras on the value of  68 5000 euros  (Hull Treatment and Antifouling, Instruments: (Raymarine Wind, Speed and Depth and Chart Plotter), North Sails: Mainsail and Jib in Soft Norlam, 2 years warranty, 2 years Winter Service). The price for the standard boat including those extras is 386 500 euro without taxes.

Certainly it is a lot of money but that does not mean it is not a reasonable price for the quality and for what it offers. With this promotional price it costs more than 100 000 euros less than an Halberg- Rassy 44 equipped the same way.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Grand Soleil 48
It doesn't make sense does it? Well, about the same sense as buying or being interested in a cruiser racer without knowing the ballast or having a good look at the the underbody.

This talk would not seem odd if you knew that recently two Italian brands, Italia Yachts and Grand Soleil, presented to the press two new cruiser racers without revealing the ballast or showing the underbody.

And it was not by accident because I asked them about the ballast and I did not get any answer. Of course they sent a lot of talk regarding what they wanted sailing magazines to say about the boats and sail magazines just published that. Well I am not a sail magazine LOL and I refuse to post about things I don't have enough information.

So, what can I tell you about the new Grand Soleil 48 and the new Italia 11.98? Very little except that they look well, the IT 11.98 on an updated line of ORC development style the GS more in a  conservative IRC/ORC line of development, very similar to past models of both brands.

That the Italia 11.98 belongs to the more sportive line of Italia yachts and the same happens with Grand Soleil. Both boats will have two versions, one with better performance than the other. 

On the IT 11.98 the version developed for ORC racing will have a tiller and a bigger cockpit working area, with less seating space, the one more pointed for a dual use will have  a two wheel system and a bigger seat, but I am sure that if one prefers a tiller on the more dual version that would not be a problem.

IT 11.98

The Grand Soleil 48 on its faster version (one ton less) is not pointed as much to racing as the IT 11.98 and even if the more expensive version is called "Race", it is just a  better boat than the cheaper version. The"Race" has a more technological built and it is pointed to those who can afford it.

Sure the "race" version will have a bigger racing potential but while on the IT 11.98 we are talking about top racing on a very naked boat on the GS we are talking about "gentleman" racing in a luxury boat with a very good interior.

On the GS "cruising" version the winch set-up is more appropriate to short crew sailing but I am sure that could be interchangeable between the two versions. The IT 11.98  version more adapted to cruising is presented with a fixed bowsprit with an anchor stand while the ORC optimized version has none.

Of course, both boats will have a long list of options including a lot of carbon options: spars, wheels and rudder included. Both are relatively light weight boats, the 11.98 weighting 6.2t, the GS 40 10.5 or 11.5t. The IT has a  28.0 SA/D, the GS 27.5 SA/D. Both will be very fast performance cruising boats, the IT 11.98 aims to be a top ORC racing boat, the GS aims to be more of a dual boat with good performance on the race course.

If you are so pissed as me with this new trend of presenting boats without disclosing some of the things that matter more, namely the underbody and the ballast, please post about that on the comments and I will be happy to send them to the brands in question: maybe that will help to change that.