Thursday, April 5, 2018


Now that all seems to be defined on this leg, it is time to have a look at the race: A new race leader, Dongfeng, a new leg winner, team Brunel, that made an impeccable race. Dongfeng made a magnificent effort to catch Brunel, that had managed a 50nm advance, but it fell just a bit short, only 15 minutes, after 17 days of race.

The third was AksoNobel; the 4th, unless they have big problems on the boat, will be TTP and Mapfre will finish last after having suspended the race for 12 hours for repairs. Scallywag abandoned the race after having lost a crew member and Vestas abandoned after having lost the mast.

Dongfeng is leading the race without having won any leg and it may very well win the race without any leg victory. The rules with double points on some legs  and points earned here and there contributes to that. Dongfeng have already won several Port Races but those don't add any points on this edition.

Four legs to go and one, Newport to Cardiff, with double points. Four boats can still win the race, Mapfre and the ones that made the podium on this leg. This has been a very competitive edition and in what regards that, one of the best VOR ever.

About the new boat there are big news: it seems that it will be designed following the IMOCA box rule and that will allow not only these boats to race the Vendee Globe but also the ones that race the Vendee to race the VOR. Probably the masts will be different (bigger the one for the VOR) as well the running rigging that will be adapted either for solo racing or for crewed racing.

This idea was proposed from the beginning but was initially rejected by IMOCA. Things have evolved since then and there are now very promising talks between the two organizations and the designer, Guillaume Verdier, regarding the possibility of a a boat that could race both races. Verdier is also the best IMOCA designer so it should not be difficult for him to design a great new VOR, faster, easier to sail and offering a better protection to the crew.

The New VOR would be considerably beamier with a bigger RM, a superior stability, easier to sail and therefore not needing such a big crew as the VOR65.

Recently Thomas Luven, the two time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and navigator of the VOR65 TTP was asked in an interview if the VOR 65 was a completely missed design, as it was said by Charles Caudrelier, Dongfeng's skipper. He made some expert explanations that help us to understand
what is wrong with this boat.

In the opinion of most skippers, it is a boat "completely missed" as said Charles Caudrelier.

"In what regards racing, at the conception level, this boat is far from being a marvel, says Nicolas Lunven. It is heavy, but not very stiff in what regards sail area. It must be sailed with lots of sail area for sailing fast, but it does not have enough righting moment. When the sea is strong, it is hard to steer, and heels too much. It is too difficult to get into speed. It is necessary all the time to make sail changes. The center of gravity of this boat is high, so it is unstable. It is very tiring to maneuver. You need a big crew. For sure it is strong, the structure is very reinforced. If we pushed like that on a crewed IMOCA, it would break in a week. "

The next boat, currently being designed by French architect Guillaume Verdier's team, would be a mix of VOR 65 and Imoca. It should be able to be crewed and sailed solo after some modifications. Plans are eagerly awaited.

"It will be designed differently, says Lunven, It will be necessary to ensure that it offers better protection, that will be more efficient, at least four tons lighter and with an heavier bulb so that it is stiffer to the sails" (interview to the Journal Ouest France, translated)

And it is with great satisfaction that I hear also some saying that the organization of the VOR is thinking not only about changing the actual crew rules but also the model of the race. The actual crew rules make this race something strange: it's the biggest offshore crewed sail race but instead of being raced by the best, is raced by crews with a mixture of top sailors, rookie young sailors and women both chosen not by their intrinsic value as sailors, but because their choice allows bigger crews.

What I heard makes a lot of sense: the actual VOR 65 will be raced by young crews, with an age limit and top IMOCAS will be raced by smaller crews (they talk about 4 to 6) of top sailors, the best sailors in the world. That would make the VOR a real top race not only by its difficulty but because it would reunite all top sailors.That is far from happening today.

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