Tag Archives: chris museler

New designs in Vendée Globe offer more speed, and danger


LES SABLES D’OLONNE, France — A tear appeared at the corner of Morgan Lagravière’s eye as he was interviewed before the start of his first Vendée Globe, a solo, nonstop around-the-world race.

By the time he was halfway out the mile-long channel to the North Atlantic on his Team Safran Imoca 60 racer, roars from the 350,000 people gathered along the natural amphitheater overwhelmed him. He slid to the deck, crouched with head hung, and broke down in tears.

The start of the Vendée Globe, which takes place every four years, is a phenomenon that rivals the world’s largest sporting events. Bars along the channel were opened at 4 a.m. as visitors filled the streets, singing and chanting in the 40-degree darkness. By dawn, the people were 10 deep along the sea walls for a mile on either side.

More than 1.5 million people, largely French families and school children, poured through the race village here on the west coast of France over three weeks to catch a glimpse of the 29 skippers and the radical 60-foot boats that will take them to the most remote areas on the planet.

When the race began on Nov. 6, the crowds cheered as each boat slowly motored through the channel, the skipper playfully starting an uproar with his arms. Four hours later, the last of the support boats and television helicopters peeled away, and the sailors were left alone to negotiate the solitude and challenges of the open ocean.

They are facing perhaps the most dangerous edition of the race since its inception in 1989.

For the first time, Lagravière and six other skippers are using hydrofoils, which can lift the boats nearly out of the water and reach speeds of more than 30 miles per hour. Designers said these boats would sail an average of three to four knots faster along the 28,000-mile course.

If the new Imoca 60 designs, known as foilers, hold together, François Gabart’s record of 78 days, set in the previous race, is predicted to fall.

The additional stresses the foils are placing on the skippers and the boats have forced some to wear helmets and body armor when below deck to protect against the violent motion of these avant-garde designs.

The new boats are untested in the three-month race. Skippers including the British sailor Alex Thomson, considered one of the fastest in the fleet and the current leader, know the risks well. Though he was third in the last race, he failed to finish the previous two. To reduce this risk, he and other teams have installed sensor alarms that will sound when the boats become overstressed at speed.

On Thursday, Lagravière shed tears of despair as he became the third skipper, and first foiling boat, to retire from the race. His boat hit what he labeled an “unidentified floating object” that tore off more than half of one of the boat’s two rudders.

Entering the weekend, all but one of the new-generation boats were still filling the top five places as the leaders hurtled past the Cape of Good Hope. The top nonfoiling boat, PRB, whose skipper is the former race winner Vincent Riou, became the second retirement of the race on Tuesday.

Proving the dominance of the new boats, Thomson broke the 24-hour world speed record for this class last Saturday, covering 535.34 nautical miles. He rounded the southern tip of Africa on Thursday, beating the race record from the start to the Cape by five days, even though one of his foils broke a week ago while the boat was averaging more than 27 m.p.h.

Since the first race, about half the competitors have finished. There have been deaths and daring midocean rescues.

Illuminating the close bond and respect between the competitors representing 10 nations, the veteran skipper Kito de Pavant held the head of a rival in his hands before the start, kissed his cheek and embraced him, closing his eyes and sharing a final supportive message.

This extreme race is distinctly French.

“There is a huge public love and intrigue and fascination in particularly about single-handed sailing here,” said Mark Turner, chief executive of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Turner said this interest went back to the solo sailing exploits of the Frenchman Éric Tabarly when he won the 1964 Observer Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race, a feat for which he received the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Today the race is considered the pinnacle of solo ocean racing and is mainly sponsored not by a corporation but by the region of Vendée, contributing to its longevity and prominence in the country.

Gabart said the attraction of the Vendée Globe was the shared experience.

“Everyone looks at the sea, and there is a feeling of freedom,” he said the day before the start. “This is not only about sports. This is something more universal. Something more human about going on a boat and going away.”

“One in, One out” Days in Bermuda

by Chris Museler

American Pat Wilson at “the knot” out of a gybe, big breezy Day 4 of The Amlin. BEAU OUTTERIDGE Image.

American Pat Wilson at “the knot” out of a gybe, big breezy Day 4 of The Amlin. BEAU OUTTERIDGE Image.

Sitting on the trampoline of an International Moth is rarely good. It probably means you slipped in a gybe and you’re about to get your ear sliced open by your shroud. Well, that happened to the winner of last week’s Amlin International Moth Regatta in the penultimate day when there was another 25-30-knot front.

Rob Greenhalgh looked like he was in a round with Mike Tyson and on the light wind finale on Friday, the … continue reading on Chris Museler blog

New Yacht Technology Off to a Rough Start

On New York Times by Chris Museler

Armel Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII is one of the new VPLP-Verdier boats, considered the most complex monohull sailboats ever built. Credit Transat Jacques Vabre

Armel Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII is one of the new VPLP-Verdier boats, considered the most complex monohull sailboats ever built. Credit Transat Jacques Vabre

The last place the British sailor Alex Thomson expected to be last week was lying on the ceiling of his new racing yacht in the North Atlantic.

With the Vendée Globe, the premier solo round-the-world race, starting in a year, Thomson was testing a new generation of innovative hydrofoils in the 5,400-mile Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre, France, to Itajaí, Brazil.

The double-handed race, which started Oct. 25, featured several first-of-their-kind 60-foot yachts, known as Imoca 60s, designed by Guillaume Verdier and VPLP Design.

Four days after the start of the race, Thomson and his Hugo Boss crewmate, Guillermo Altadill, had to be rescued off the tip of Galicia, Spain, with their boat dis…

Continue reading on New York Times

The US Garage Band vs. The World

by Chris Museler

“OK, someone has to take a picture and send it to our hosts as a thank you gift,” shouted Anthony Kotoun, the Dali Lama of the US Moth fleet at dinner a few nights ago. “Then we have to shanghai Zack Maxim’s boat from the shipping company. There’s a $200 prize for anyone willing to wake up at 6 a.m. tomorrow for the 1.18-hour drive…” And the list rolled on that way until our beers and grilled oysters were delivered.


November US Moth Training Camp, Neuse River, NC

It was a pretty spendy call to take a week from work and family and head to the Neuse River in North Carolina for a training session in the outrageously quick and touchy Moth. The US fleet was offered rooms and a launch at Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s compound on this enormous estuary of brackish water and oyster fishermen.

The major selling point? A $10,000 prize, of course! Amlin International Moth Regatta in December has hand-selected the best sailors in the world to bring their personal, single-handed boats to Bermuda and race for not only a prize purse but bragging rights. You see, all the top America’s Cup teams (with the highest paid sailors on the planet) have fleets of Moths for their sailors to train with. And the Royal Yachting Association has sponsored elite Mothies from the UK for a few years now to top this influential class. They all want to beat the crap out of each other on their own terms, with their own boats. Trimmers wanting to take races off their Cup helmsmen, etc.

Victor Diaz de Leon, nearing 30 knots downwind, Neuse River, NC

Victor Diaz de Leon, nearing 30 knots downwind, Neuse River, NC


3-D Printed adjustable forestay fitting by Nat Shaver

Then there are the Americans, last week layered in wetsuits during the day getting ripped off their trampolines and hucked into the brown water of the Intercoastal Waterway when the chop would pitch the boats while they were hitting 30 knots. Strangely absent from many of the Cup teams and only supported by the environmentally forward thinking 11th Hour Racing, this group of pro and amateur sailors have been covered in carbon dust and resin every week for the past season adjusting, designing, 3-D printing and training their way toward their goal of out sailing the privileged group in Bermuda.

Last week was my chance to witness how the DIY approach to boat work and training can get someone ready to beat the most well paid, and funded, teams in the world. Very American!

Mach2 Moth box always doubling as work bench

Mach2 Moth box always doubling as work bench

The routine has been the same for this group since the frigid mornings of last April in Newport, the fleet’s summer home. Boat work at night and hours of training during the day to test new systems. North Carolina was a hyper-focused version of this system. Late the other night, Nat Shaver, who designed foils for Team New Zealand in the last Cup and is now working with the French Cup Team was jamming on one of his many carbon fixes since the training camp began.”It’ll be so shitty and ugly,” he said, after using a dremel to grind off the broken bits at the end of his homemade boom, “but it’ll do the job, I think.”

11 p.m. boom repair, 49 degrees

11 p.m. boom repair, 49 degrees

Moth sailors in America easily spend 70 percent of their time on boat work in this development class and barely the remaining 30 on the water. The base structure of the boats is the Mach 2 Moth built by McConaghy in China.

Why do the boats need so much work? Foiling sailboats are still new, at the boundaries of the sport and when you are traveling upwind at 16-17 knots and downwind at 20-30, the most minute adjustment can make many knots-worth of difference. So the short answer is: systems.

Making carbon levers to articulate and assist canting the rig from side to side, gluing little tabs to anchor sail adjustment pulleys (some so tiny they are sourced from remote control boat manufacturers) and repairing the constantly breaking modifications to the carbon wing bars and booms are added to work lists daily, attended to at night, and tested the next day.

The Americans are their own pit crews and coaches. And they want to kick ass next month. Jamestown Distributors president Mike Mills, a foil boarder himself, saw an awesome parallel between what this group is doing and what he was part of in the late 1990s in the International 505 class, easily the most elite double handed class in the world. Mike won the worlds in 1998 with Nick Trotmen after years of this very organic approach. JD sent me down with boxes of their house brand Total Boat epoxies and supplies to support the group.

Asking around, I realized that literally all the top performance sailors in the US, all plugging away in their garages to modify and repair their boats, use JD and the growing line of Total Boat products, especially the epoxies and fibers.

And when you do everything yourself, and pay out of your own pocket to make your boat faster, knowing there is a company that understands and gets you what you need STAT, makes a huge difference.

I’ll report back on how it all went with the work lists, which fixes worked, which didn’t and if this rag-tag group of rouge sailors will be ready to dethrone a few of those fully-sponsored pros in Bermuda next month.

Foiling in the USA

Foiling in the USA is April 9 at 7pm EST

This is the HOTTEST TOPIC in sailing today and since there has been overwhelming interest in this discussion, Thursday’s talk will be broadcast LIVE with the help of LiveStream producers


A Q&A will be held with the live audience and a TWITTER Feed will be used to handle questions from viewers around the world

The New York Times correspondent CHRIS MUSELER makes sense of the latest developments
GunBoat founder PETER JOHNSTONE on live SkypeVideo chat about the foiling G4 cruiser/racer catamaran in trials THIS WEEK!

The Foiling Week founder Luca Rizzotti will chime in from Lake Garda to explain the vibe when the world’s top foil designers get together to create the future of the sport

AND contributions from other influential visionaries including radical kite foiler Bryan Lake, Waterlust Project filmmaker Patrick Rynne, US Sailing Executive Director Jack Gierhart and more!!!

It Happens at Doyle Sailmakers This Thursday Night, April 9th 7PM
If you want to come in person drive to Doyle Sails LI,1345 New York Ave.
Huntington Station, NY 11746
We’ll Have Pizza, Bring Your Own:

  • Bottle
  • Folding Chair
  • Slippers for the floor
  • $15 Donation for Chris’s Efforts

Please RSVP to: Info@DoyleSailsLI.com