Loads of attrition in the New York-Vendée race

31 May
Current race leader - Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss
There has been a lot of attrition in the New York-Vendée race which started this past Sunday. Within 24 hours of the start five boats have had to return to land for repairs. All five skippers reported hitting some kind of debris. First to bail was Jann Eliès aboard Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir. He reported hitting something in the early hours of Monday morning and was heading for Newport, Rhode Island to repair a damaged daggerboard and daggerboard case. Soon thereafter, Armel Le Cléac’h, one of the pre-race favorites, reported that his new generation Banque Populaire VIII had also hit a floating object with a similar outcome. He arrived in Newport last night and this morning formally withdrew from the race.

Not long after Banque Populaire VIII turned around than Morgan Lagravière’s aboard Safran, Pieter Heerema’s on No Way Back and Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbak also turned around and headed for Newport with varying degrees of damage to their hull and appendages. The most severe damage is to Safran and Banque Populaire. The new generation foils on both boats have been knocked backwards in their respective cases with varying degrees of severity.

Currently in second place - Jérémie Beyou on Maître Coq

Meanwhile while the damaged boats were in Rhode Island there was a lead change at the front of the pack. Vincent Riou on PRB had been out front since the start but it was Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss that did a bit of an end run around the leaders and at last check was 25 miles ahead of second place Jérémie Beyou on Maître Coq. Thomson reported having had very little rest since the start and was sailing on a reach with boat speeds closing in on 30 knots. He also mentioned that he had had a number of collisions but could not find any damage. His foils his twice, both times very hard he reported. He also reported that the keel hit something soft and his rudder also hit something. Fortunately the rudders kick up when they hit something so there was no damage. Alex reported there was a lot of bang and crashing around and we can only imagine what it must be like to be all alone on a boat going that fast and worrying about what might be in the water ahead of you.

As of this morning only Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbak had rejoined the race. One can only wonder how these IMOCA 60s are going to make it all the way around the world in the Vendée Globe with vulnerable foils and so much debris floating around out there .  There is an old saying that says, “You can win if you don’t finish.” It will be interesting to see if some of these skippers change their appendages before the start on the Vendée in November.

Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbak 
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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

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Land Rover BAR, can this AC35 tech partnership “bring the Cup home”?

31 May

Written by Ben Ellison on May 31, 2016 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Land_Rover_BAR_tech_press_conference_NYC_cPanbo.jpgAt this press conference in New York City on Saturday, May 7th, the UK's largest automobile manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover, made the case that their support of Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) in America's Cup 35 is not just about marketing. It's also a technology partnership that may be critical to finally bringing the Cup back to England, which both parties would really, really like to do. I completely bought the story and I was especially feeling my inner Brit after taking in the rest of the weekend's AC World Series pageantry off lower Manhattan...

The_Yacht_'America'_Winning_the_International_Race_Fitz_Hugh_Lane_1851.jpegI vaguely knew the story of the "Auld Mug" that is now the oldest international sporting trophy, but the Land Rover BAR managers were willing to go into embarrassing detail. Simply stated, in August 1851, the Royal Yacht Squadron purchased the £100 trophy for the first annual race around the Isle of Wight that allowed foreign challengers, the American schooner America soundly beat 14 British yachts to the finish line, and the Mug -- which was soon renamed the America's Cup -- has yet to be won back!

replica_yacht_America_hosting_Team_Oracle_NYC_May_2016_cPanbo.jpgIn 2016, this replica Yacht America is a classic design to all eyes, but in 1851 she was a radical vessel with deep roots in New York City. The syndicate that had her built to show the "old world" a thing or two about American sailing -- and hopefully to win some serious prize money in the process -- was headed by John Cox Stevens, the founding commodore of the New York Yacht Club (detail here, much more NYYC history here).

It is rumored that Larry Ellison (not my relative) largely bankrolled the New York City edition of the America's Cup 35 World Series and I imagine him relishing the ironies of using this replica America to host Oracle Team USA's guests (who are getting a post race visit from the Oracle AC45 and her snappy support RIBS in this photo). The NYYC may have held onto the Cup for 132 years, but Ellison famously resuscitated the blue collar Golden Gate Yacht Club to bring the trophy to the new world of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. (The Billionaire and the Mechanic is the must-read account of that friendship and AC competitions 33 and 34.)

AC_World_Series_NY_courtesty_ACEA-Richard_Pinto.jpgNew York City is also a reminder of yacht America's blue collar roots. In 1851 competing pilot organizations raced out there beyond Staten Island and Sandy Hook to be the first to meet an incoming ship, and America was very much a modern pilot schooner built in lower Manhattan by George Steers and professionally sailed by NY pilot Dick Brown and his mates. Some 21st century sailors may look down their noses at the highly professional and sponsored style that Team Oracle has brought to Cup racing, but the excellent Cup Experience chronicler Jack Griffen points out that it's really always been about money, pros and tycoons in his fine Cup History video.


I particularly like this America's Cup Event Authority (ACEA) helicopter shot because -- thank you, Land Rover BAR! -- I got to watch the NYC event from that 122-foot classic motor yacht seen just to the right of the racing catamarans. (The big blue superyacht is the impressive Northern Star, and she could be yours for just £99,959,000.)

Charter_Yacht_Mariner_III_w_Capt_Kennedy_n_historic_electronics_cPanbo.jpgThe charter yacht Mariner III turned out to be much more than a handsome and well kept example of 1920's luxury boatbuilding. Captain Sean Kennedy has been the vessel's owner/operator for nearly 30 years and apparently he was already a fan of early marine electronics technology. His son, now a mate, told me how excited his dad was to recently acquire that huge old Furuno radar, and I also learned that the historical devices mounted behind the helm can still be powered up.

AC_World_Series_NY_Land Rover BAR chase boat_cPanbo.jpg

The starboard deck outside Mariner III's pilot house was a great observation post even when docked in the tight North Cove Marina where the AC Village had set up. The AC45 cats themselves were based in New Jersey, but before and after each day's racing the crews ferried in to meet the crowds. If you click this photo larger, you'll see Oracle's Jimmy Spithill on stage and on screen, while team Ben Ainsle Racing (BAR) regathers on their sharp UK-built Scorpion RIB.

AC racing may never reach the popularity level hoped for in this country, but it does have celebrities. In fact, the long-haired gentleman chatting with Sir Ben is Sir Richard Branson, who is about to assume the Guest Racer position. It's not clear if Virgin Group tycoon Branson is a BAR sponsor yet, but Ainsle certainly lucked into a pitching opportunity on his honeymoon.

J_Class_at_ACWS_NYC_cPanbo.jpgAs Capt Kennedy backed Mariner III out through North Cove's skinny entrance -- using well trained spotters, not cameras -- we got this view of two J-class racing yachts like the ones that fought over the America's Cup in the 30's. The white J5 Ranger is a replica of the Ranger on which Harold Vanderbilt successfully defended the cup in 1937 (great Maine launch video here), and while the blue J boat was designed in 1935, J8 Topaz just launched last June.

The pair looked sensational sailing off Manhattan even given Saturday's gray and nearly windless weather, but when they stayed tied up during Sunday's brisker and sunnier conditions, I wondered if it didn't symbolize the apparent current diffidence to the Cup by the NYYC, to which both boats may be associated. On the other hand, AC35 will host a J Class regatta just before the final Cup racing in Bermuda scheduled for June 2017, and that should be quite a sight.

AC_World_Series_NYC_shore_village_Virtual_Eye_exhibit_cPanbo.jpgThe efforts of Larry Ellison and his ACEA crew to make the AC more accessible to regular folks was quite evident ashore. It appeared, for instance, that these youngsters (and their mom) helped themselves to the Virtual Eye racing simulation stations, and they seemed deeply involved.


The NYC Event Village also hosted a line of booths for local boating organizations as part of the AC Endeavour Program to promote community sailing. Rocking the Boat looked like a particularly terrific program to me. I remember motoring by Hunt's Point about this time last year, and I was thrilled to learn that kids are building boats there and learning to use them on their East River backyard.


When possible, the ACWS race course ran right along the Battery Park City Esplanade, and so the general public often had a better view than those of us floating on the other side of the course boundary. In fact, Adam Hyde took this photograph while on a getaway trip to NYC from Vancouver, BC.

AC_World_Series_NY_photo_power_cat_cPanbo.jpgWith Sunday's northerly winds coming down the Hudson, the race course did extend well out into the River and we got some good views from Mariner III. But as always since Panbo lauded Stan Honey and his tech team for the vastly improved AC broadcasting very well explained by Wired (plus the race management and umpiring I saw in San Diego), perhaps the best view of the racing is on TV or maybe on the AC+ app. (I say "maybe" because the app seemed like a waste of money when I tried it during the first AC35 World Series events in England and Sweden last summer, but hopefully it works better now.)

Much of the work that Honey and team members like Eric Steinberg did for AC34 is definitely helping with the 35th edition. Actually, I first admired the clever video boat above in 2011 and once again it was zipping all over the course wirelessly delivering the output of that FLIR UltraMedia HD cam without leaving a wake. (I've heard that this boat was built in about six weeks using stock sailing cat hulls, but have never been able to verify the story.)

ACWS_NYC_2016_fireboat-org_cPanbo.jpgYou may be gathering by now that the actual ACWS racing in NYC was troubled and that's even more true than the images indicate. Fluky winds combined with lots of current and boat wash meant that the AC45s almost never got up on their foils and there was a lot more luck than skill to winning the few races that did finish. But hopefully the over 100,000 spectators who took in the last crazy race got a taste of AC excitement, and I'm not sure I could ever tire of New York Harbor boats and skyline.

Did you know of the 1931 fireboat John J. Harvey, now apparently maintained and sailed by volunteers? And wasn't it nice of them to hold off with the 18,000 gallons-per-minute water pumps when we were to leeward?

AC45_New_Zealand_NYC_May_2016_cPanbo.jpgNew York Harbor seems always alive with contrasts and commerce even when wing-sailed catamarans aren't slicing by, and I've long had a personal interest in its history. In a 2005 entry about finding antique maps I mentioned the 18th century Ellison dock that was purportedly one of the first on the Hudson but would now be several long blocks behind the amazing array of buildings that dominated the race scene.

Soon after that map research, my daughter and I explored our family history by boat, starting at North Cove, for a magazine article called Hudson River Melting Pot (PDF) that I still relish. What I was particularly remembering as a guest of Land Rover BAR is that the first New York John Ellison suppossedly arrived from England as a ship's carpenter in about 1688. I figure it's not too late to wave the Union Jack.

Land_Rover_BAR_tech_press_conference_NYC_closeup_cPanbo.jpgSo let's go back to the very British Land Rover BAR tech press conference that began my AC in NYC weekend. On the left is Jaguar Land Rover's "Director of Experiential Marketing" Mark Cameron (whose video nicely explains experience marketing) and to the right is BAR CEO Martin Whitmarsh (most of whose work life involved Team McLaren F1 auto racing). In the middle and gesticulating toward his slide is Head of Research Tony Harper, who leads a team of about 6,000 Jaguar Land Rover engineers.

When Harper said that he and his mates "live in 2019" he meant the automobile technology they are trying to anticipate and create. And that led to how enthusiastically his team has taken to helping design the powerful BAR America's Cup Class (ACC) catamaran that will challenge Emirates New Zealand, Softbank Team Japan, Groupama Team France, and Artemis Racing (Sweden)...and only then possibly Oracle Team USA in Bermuda next year (CupExperience guide here). Harper shared some details but first let's remind ourselves about how different the ACC boats will be from the AC45s.


The AC45F used by all the teams in the World Series events is a pure one design and so the competition is purely about human skills (and mother luck), not technology. But while the ACC is just a few feet longer, the design rules apparently permit about twice the power -- "Think 46 knots in 16 knots of wind..." -- and they also permit lots of technical innovation. Tony Harper says they're focusing on three areas: aerodynamics, data acquistion, and human machine interface (HMI).


Given the racing speeds of the ACCs, aerodynamics is obviously important -- Land Rover BAR wind tunnel testing video here -- though I was sad to learn that the poor grinders will probably be on their knees, heads down (and they won't even be grinding sheets, just hydraulic pumps). On the other hand, the helmsman, tactician, and trimmer may all need extra eyes and hands as they both sail and fly relatively short legs around Bermuda's Great Sound -- not so great at 40 knots -- with possibly game ending manuevers in between.

That's of course where the sailors will appreciate truly effective controls and data displays, a challenge whose solution may even trickle down to regular boaters. I doubt, however, that we'll get to see what Land Rover BAR and the other teams come up with until all the racing is done, if at all. While I really enjoyed covering the last Cup's game changing non-competitive tech -- summed up in this Geeks win America's Cup 34 entry -- it's still somewhat mysterious how Oracle USA made such an amazing comeback (as deeply reported by the WSJ here).

BAR AC test boat T2 courtesy Harry KH-Land Rover BAR.jpg"Real" sailors may wince, but in 2013 Team Oracle seems to have benefited from deep data acquisition and analysis (as well documented here and in Forbes), and no doubt data was getting acquired as team Land Rover BAR blasted around Portsmouth UK earlier this year on their AC45X test boat T2 (above). AC45X? Right, so the AC35 teams are only allowed to build one real ACC racer and it can't be launched until December, but they can build as many slightly smaller test boats as they want. Land Rover BAR T3 is already flying and T2 is already "a Museum Piece."

So there are two AC35 competitions going on right now. The World Series -- next raced along the Chicago waterfront starting June 10, followed by Portsmouth in late July and then Toulan, France -- earns points toward the final challenger series. But the technology battle is taking place on test boats, in build shops, and at engineering work stations around the world. If you have some insight about those goings on, please share, and, Mr. Harper, I'm keen to listen when you're ready to talk deeper about what will make Land Rover BAR a winner ;-)

Sure, I've picked my team for AC35, and why not the British? The team looks strong in many dimensions, and, oh, what motivation they have. The story goes that when Queen Victoria asked which yacht was second in that famous 1851 race, the answer was, "Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second."

The New York City event was certainly a reminder of the Cup's long and fascinating history whichever team you favor. But just beyond North Cove Marina was a potent reminder of bigger things. If, like me, you have not seen the new 9/11 Memorial pools, prepare to reflect on the fathomless darkness captured by those square drains. I thought of the sight again yesterday when Memorial day taps sounded in my neighborhood.


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#isbjornsailing Passage Calendar Changes

28 May
Alas, Isbjorn will not be crossing the Atlantic this summer as was planned. After much discussion, Mia and I have decided to re-arrange our sailing schedule for the rest of 2016 and early 2017. Read on to find out why, and what the new schedule looks like. Read More

I admit it: I was wrong about the Caribbean

28 May
I’ll be honest: I didn’t think I’d like sailing the Caribbean very much. Too many people. No unique experiences. Credit-card captains on holiday. Commercialism. Surly locals. I have no problem admitting that my negative preconceptions were mostly shot down, as these islands have proven to offer a string of wonderful experiences. Here’s a smattering of […] Read More

New York-Vendée race starts on Sunday

27 May
Manhattan will provide the backdrop for the start on Sunday
This coming Sunday New York City will be the backdrop to one of the newest ocean races on the calendar. The New York-Vendée race is essentially a feeder race for the Vendée Globe which starts in five months from France. It will provide an opportunity for the skippers to complete their qualifying voyage in order to take part in the Vendée Globe. The turnout for this inaugural event is very good with 14 IMOCA 60s lining up for the start. Among them are the who’s who of solo sailing including previous Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou on PRB and Armel Le Cléac'h on Banque Populaire. Le Cléac'h finished second in the last Vendée Globe and is the odds-on favorite for the next one. Also competing will be Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss. Thomson finished third in the last Vendée and is back with a brand new boat.

The race starts at 14:00 EST on the Hudson River and exits the mouth of New York harbor at Sandy Hook before crossing the Atlantic to finish off Les Sable d’ Olonne on the west coast of France some 3,100 nautical miles away. It’s going to be a very interesting test for both skippers and their boats. Until now most of the head-to-head racing that they have done has been upwind. This race will be a downwind sail and designers and pundits alike will be keeping a close eye on whether those boats equipped with foils will do better than those that do not have them. The conditions of the New York-Vendée race will be more similar to those of the Vendée Globe. 

Of the 14 entries, 9 are French with the rest from New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, UK and my old friend Kojiro Shiraishi from Japan. Only Thompson from the UK stands a chance of a podium finish otherwise it’s going to be a French dominated race. The first boats are expected to arrive in Les Sable d’ Olonne in a little over a week.

Fleet assembled on the Hudson River

Last minute tweaking on Hugo Boss

I hope that you enjoyed this blog. I invite you to subscribe so that you will not miss a blog post. You will get a great free gift and weekly blogs about sails and sailmaking. Click the pic to subscribe.

Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

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Chapter 3 – From thread to finished fabric – Part 5

27 May
In this chapter we will look at how fabric is made from basic weaving to laminating layers together to building whole sails in one piece as with a membrane sail . At the end of this blog is a link to subscribe so that you get all posts and can educate yourself on the subject of sails and sailmaking. There is also a great free gift when you subscribe. Thanks for reading.


In Part 4 we took a closer look at laminates and what goes into making good laminated sailcloth. This is the last section of Chapter 3 where we will continue to look at laminates and the various parts that comprise a well engineered laminate.

As already noted, in addition to the adhesives that bond the layers together and the films that cure bias stretch, the other real breakthrough in laminated sails was the discovery that it was no longer necessary for the substrate to be woven, or at least not as tightly woven as had been the case with standard Dacron. The result has been laid-up scrims in which the warp and fill fibers are simply arranged in a loose grid pattern that is then held together by the Mylar film. The yarns used in scrims are extruded flat rather than round, and because they are simply placed on top of each other there is none of the over and under that causes crimp in a standard weave. When the scrims are laminated, they are held in tension to remove initial stretch from the fabric, and as soon as they are bonded to the film they remain in place and the initial stretch characteristics of laminated fabrics are always very good as a result. The resulting gaps between these yarns have been shown to be the key to good laminated sails since the adhesives used in the laminating process work better when they are allowed to adhere to film rather than the fibers.

An example of a basic Scrim
Fabric makers have also discovered that in many cases a third layer, for example, a taffeta, helps prevent tearing since the fact that the individual yarns do not interlock as in a woven fabric results in a lower tear strength. The taffetas are usually light, fairly loosely woven polyester fabrics. Their job is not specifically to help with diagonal stretch, although they do contribute a little. Rather the taffetas are there for abrasion resistance and overall strength. These days taffetas are treated with UV inhibitors and anti-fungal agents to prevent mildew.

Diagonal Yarns
The final piece of the laminate puzzle was the addition of diagonal yarns, which lend some strength to the film when it comes to handling off-threadline stretch. The angles at which the yarns are placed in the fabric have been part of patents, and their number and relative thicknesses are an integral part of the fabric engineering process. It is not as important to have as many diagonal yarns as warp or fill yarns, since if the sail is engineered properly the principal load-bearing yarns will manage most of the loads on the sail. The diagonal fibers come into play when the sail is eased out and the loads no longer travel along predictable load lines or “catenaries.” The good news is that once a sail is eased out, the loads are greatly reduced, therefore having as many fibers there to accept them is not that critical.

Laminated Sails in Depth
Laminated fabrics have come to play an increasingly larger part in the sailmaking industry and their continued growth is assured. There are a number of reasons for this:
  • Lamination is the most effective way of combining materials with different characteristics to maximize the advantages of each.
  • Laminates allow individual fibers to be placed in straight uninterrupted paths. This is the most effective way of getting the most from the fibers and the most efficient way of using a fiber.
  • When films like Mylar or PEN are introduced, the result is an effective way of minimizing off-threadline stretch.
  • As laminates have become more accepted and earlier problems of delamination and mildew have been dealt with, the demand has reduced the prices to a point where they are competitive with Dacron.

Laminate Styles
Because the number of plies is virtually unlimited, and various combinations of fibers and film are readily available, there is no practical limit to the kinds of laminated fabrics that can be created. The only limits are engineering and cost. In the case of some of the giant SuperYacht's, these fabrics are complex creations designed to handle the loads and abuse the sails are certain to undergo. For the rest of the sailmaking world, there are four main construction styles of note.

Type 1: Woven/Film
This is the most basic style of laminated sailcloth, and at the low end might consist of an inexpensive woven polyester laminated to a substrate or film. The film provides stretch resistance while the woven fabric provides resistance to abrasion and tears. The combination results in a relatively inexpensive sailcloth that more than adequately serves its purpose as, say, a performance cruising fabric. If a heavier weight or stronger fabric is required, a second layer in the form of a light taffeta or rugged woven material can be added to the other side of the film (woven-film-woven).

A high-end version of this type of fabric might use a woven Spectra or Vectran layer laminated to a film, where the Spectra or Vectran yarns provide stretch resistance, and the film adds off-threadline stability. Again, this is an effective way of creating a fabric that is both rugged and offers good stretch resistance. A third layer can be added to the other side of the film in this case as well, possibly a light, balanced, tightly woven taffeta to help with durability and bias control. In all cases where a woven material is used, you need to remember that there will be crimp in the fabric and the problems associated with crimp, notably initial stretch, will be inherent in the fabric. If rugged durability and overall stretch resistance is required with a cheaper construction cost, these fabrics are a good choice.

Type 2: Film/Scrim/Film
This construction style results in a low-stretch, low-weight fabric that is excellent for racing sails. The structural fibers are sandwiched between two films and inserted into the laminate in a scrim. That way the load-bearing fibers are used to their fullest potential with no crimp, with the loads going directly onto the fibers. With the fabric laminated film-to-film, the adhesive bonds between the fibers resulting in a strong bond that uses a minimal amount of glue. By eliminating layers of fiber and keeping the amount of adhesive to a minimum, the over- all weight of the fabric is kept as light as possible.

The scrims for these fabrics are usually of a high modulus type like Kevlar, Spectra, Twaron, or a combination thereof. Fabric makers add UV inhibitors to the film so that the delicate load-bearing yarns are protected from the harmful rays of the sun. The drawback of these kinds of films is that they are not very rugged or abrasion resistant and get a lot of wear and tear, reducing the life of the sail. As a result only racing programs that replace their sails on a regular basis tend to choose this style of construction.

Using the same engineering lay-up but different yarns and deniers for the scrim allows the fabric maker to have a range of fabrics. For example they can make a fabric for a No. 1 genoa for a 35-foot racing boat made up of a scrim of alternating 400 DPI Twaron and Spectra in the fill, and 1,100 DPI Twaron in the warp. To add some off-threadline performance the fabric maker might add 375 DPI Spectra on the diagonal. On the other hand, in a heavier fabric for a heavy No. 1 genoa on a 55-foot racing boat, the scrim might have the same fill and diagonal yarns as for the lighter fabric, but the warp would be 3,780 DPI Twaron, giving the fabric the strength it needs for the heavier sail.

Type  3:  Woven/Film/Scrim/Film/Woven
This construction style is an obvious further development of Type 2 in which woven taffetas are added to the film/scrim/film center in an effort to create a rugged, low-stretch fabric. The “film–on-film” center, as Type 2 is known, includes low-stretch, load-bearing yarns that are then protected by the woven taffetas on the surface of the fabric. These woven taffetas protect the film from both flex fatigue and abrasion, and they protect the core fibers from UV degradation. You can even use light-sensitive fibers like Kevlar and PBO as the load-bear- ing yarns in the center since they will be protected by the outer layers.

The taffetas can be made of either a lightweight polyester, or a woven Spectra or Kevlar. Note, however, that one problem when combining woven fabrics with scrims is that, because of the crimp in the wovens, their initial stretch is much more than that of the scrim and the scrim ends up by taking all the loads with very little being handled by the outer layers. As a result, for a rugged fabric created for long offshore races such as the Vendée Globe or the Around Alone, Spectra taffetas do help a little in terms of stretch, but their main function is to add durability. This kind of lay-up has been very successful, although the cost of producing the fabrics is quite high.

The Type 3 fabric is also useful for the SuperYacht market where you need both strength and stretch resistance. Again, because the outer layers protect the inner layers, these inner scrims can be made from high-modulus fibers like Kevlar and Vectran, with the outer layers adding a measure of protection to the inner fibers.

Type 4: Woven/Scrim/Woven
This type of fabric is relatively new and eliminates film from the construction. In high-load applications like sails for SuperYacht the films have proven to be a liability in terms of longevity and durability. The difficulty, however, has been bond- ing two woven fabrics together since you get a
better adhesion by bonding to a film. Development continues on this kind of engineering and new adhesives show some promise. Doyle Sailmakers, for example, is pioneering this technology specifically for an inventory of sails for the 248-foot Mirabella V, the latest generation of SuperYachts.

In summary?
There are a number of reasons why a laminate is a better option for paneled sails over Dacron. As we discussed with a cross-cut Dacron sail you have to engineer the sail for the highest loads which are along the leech of the sail. Unfortunately because of the way the sail is put together that same fabric weight is in the body of the sail and along the luff where it is overkill for the job.

With a laminate you can make a tri-radial sail and as such you can put a heavier fabric in the high load area and a lighter fabric in the areas that see less load. It’s a much more efficient way of engineering a sail. This will all be covered in much more depth in Chapter 4 - A Primer on Panel layouts.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog. I invite you to subscribe so that you will not miss a blog post. You will get a great free gift and weekly blogs about sails and sailmaking. Click the pic to subscribe.
Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

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Richie Wilson and the Vendée Globe

26 May
Great American IV - getting ready for the Vendée Globe 

Every four years in Les Sable d’ Olonne, France there is a gathering of some of the most talented sailors in the world. These are the extreme athletes of our sport, the skippers of the Vendée Globe. Long gone are the days of sailors fueling themselves on black coffee and filterless Gauloise cigarettes. These days the top sailors have a strict gym regime and put in lengthy hours sailing alone on their highly strung IMOCA 60s. I have sailed an IMOCA 60; it’s a terrifying experience. The boats are so powerful and so quick to respond to even the slightest puff of wind that if you are not fully engaged you could be in for a whole lot of hurt. Things can go bad quickly and when they go bad, they go really bad

So how then does someone like Richie Wilson get to play with the top guns of our sport? First let me introduce him to those who are unfamiliar with the name. Rich is my neighbor and one of the most experienced American offshore sailors. He holds numerous records including Hong Kong to New York and San Francisco to Boston. He is also one of two Americans who have completed a Vendée Globe. In 2008/09 he came ninth in a packed field that started out with 30 boats. In that race Rich was the oldest skipper at 58 racing against others in their late twenties and early thirties. The race started in very rough conditions and on the second day out he was thrown across the cabin cracking a number of ribs. It takes more than a little mental fortitude to deal with cracked ribs in a building gale in one of the most notoriously bad stretches of water, but Rich is no quitter. He continued on under reduced sail and taking it one day at a time completed his solo, non-stop lap of the planet. It was a remarkable achievement.

You would think that having taken on one of life's biggest challenges he would hang up his sea boots and rest on his laurels. Well that’s not the way it goes for someone who is driven to compete and to continue his work with sitesALIVE! which serves to educate myriad schools across the US and around the world in a live, interactive educational program that runs congruent to his sailing adventures. New partnerships will bring sitesALIVE to schools in over 50 countries. In order to continue the educational component you need to be doing some interesting sailing so it’s no surprise to those who know him that he will once again be on the start line of the Vendée Globe this Fall. And this time he is on a much more powerful ride and let’s not forget that he is eight years older. If I mention the age thing to Rich I get a dismissive look. Age is just a number and so long as all the bits are working and your head is in a good place you can take on a challenge like the Vendée Globe and get around the planet. In Rich’s case all the bits are not working including one of the most important; his lungs. Rich has suffered from asthma since he was one year old. In an odd way Rich says that it’s his asthma that has really helped him. “When I was a kid I didn’t want to be left out of the games,” he told me. “So I just tried unbelievably hard to keep up. I think that in a strange way this toughened me up, mentally, because I just wouldn’t quit no matter how much I was gasping for breath. Those were the days before there were any asthma medications for home use. With many medications available now, there’s no reason why any asthmatic shouldn’t do exactly what they want to do. Just get a good doctor, get a good plan, follow the plan, and go live.”

The Vendée Globe is quite possibly the toughest race of them all and I am not just talking just about sailboat races. For starters, as I have already mentioned, the boats are beasts. They carry massive sail area and with a combination of canting keels, leeward lifting foils and daggerboards they sometimes literally fly above the water with average speeds in the twenties and low thirties not uncommon. The race starts on the west coast of France just as the most miserable weather is rolling in. Sheets of ice cold gray rain are normal for the first few days but it’s the searing heat of the equatorial region that some say is the hardest part. No wind and pounding sunshine make the interior ambiance unbearable. Then there are the endless days riding the Southern Ocean rollers, dodging icebergs and trying to keep the mast in the boat. On top of it all you are totally alone, completely isolated from any other human life, for three to four months. It’s solitary confinement with a cruel twist of wet, filth, constant motion and serious anxiety about keeping the boat intact.

So later this year give Rich Wilson a thought. While we are enjoying Christmas festivities and some bubbles on New Year, Rich Wilson will be back in his own self -imposed purgatory doing what he loves; sailing, challenging himself, educating children and inspiring the rest of us to take on challenges of our own.

Here is his website Sites Alive

Follow Rich on Facebook

Vendée Globe Website

I was lucky enough to go sailing on Great America IV

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

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