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Alex spent the weekend repairing a "structural problem" at the bow with one of the stringers. Back to 3rd place, moving slowly. If this is happening in the South Atlantic, what's going to break in the Southern Ocean?
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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It has been a fascinating race. I am surprised at the bleeding edge, pre-race favorite boats which have had to do pit stops or drop out entirely. Its not like these boats are untested. Alex's structural issue especially surprises me since that boat has been sailed hard and he has a very large and competent shore crew.

On the other hand, I don't know if you are enjoying that a 14-year-old, non-foiling, Farr Design is in third place and mostly holding its own (gained on both of the leaders yesterday) in the Vendee Globe. I know I am getting a big kick out of that.

My sense is that this goes towards my belief that a well-rounded design, even if dated, given the right tactical moves should be able to do well in variable conditions relative to a more specialized design that can fly when in a narrower range of ideal conditions. I suspect that it will get much harder for Jean Le Cam to hold on once the foilers get into the steady heavy winds of the Southern Ocean, but his performance certainly has been impressive so far.

Jeff
 

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Getting the weather right and being in the right place at the right time make a big difference. Will Jérémie Beyou catch up? How will breakage impact the leaders? Overall, the boats seem to be holding up better than earlier fleets.
 

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I am still amazed at how spread out the fleet has become this early in the race. I would have expected that the latest generation foilers would have been way out front, with the non-foiling boats at the back, and the older foilers in the middle. The thing is that the new foilers not only have advanced foils but better hull designs and rigs.
I have been surprised at the number of current gen boats which have had structural issues. I get that the impact loads are huge, and beyond anything that had been seen before, but it seems like they should have been able to get the engineering right before the boats were actually racing.
But the mix of generations of new and old IMOCA 60's really talks to the skills of the skippers.
I am still really impressed with Jean Le Cam with an old non-foiling boat in third place and slowly gaining on the second place boat. I don't think he will be able to hold that in the Southern Ocean. But I still think that is quite an accomplishment.
Jeff
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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I saw that. It will be interesting to hear what they think happened.
 

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PRB started taking on water today and sank. Jean LeCam was in 4th place 20 miles behind and tried to pick up Kevin Escoffier from his life raft. They saw each other, but Jean LeCam lost sight of the raft when he went to turn back for another pass in the 5m waves and 20 knots of wind as night fell. Two other boats are adjusting course to help. Kevin apparently has a MOB locator on his raft. Sunup is at about 0500.
 

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Discussion Starter #28
PRB started taking on water today and sank. Jean LeCam was in 4th place 20 miles behind and tried to pick up Kevin Escoffier from his life raft. They saw each other, but Jean LeCam lost sight of the raft in the 5m waves and 20 knots of wind as night fell. Two other boats are adjusting course to help. Kevin apparently has a MOB locator on his raft. Sunup is at about 0500.
Fun, spend the night in a 1 man life raft in 5 meter seas with 3 single handed 60 ft boats with tired skippers sailing around 😮
 

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I just watched season 6 of Alone. A documentary show (reality, not fake reality) of 10 people who were left alone, separately in the Arctic, without food or shelter. They can bring 10 survival items. You then watch a season of their struggles, health/life threatening weight loss, as they only occasionally eat fish or rabbits and endure sub freezing temps, in makeshift homemade shelters. The last one not to tap out or to fail a medical check wins $500,000.

I enjoy survival documentaries, but this was like watching gladiators being force to fight the lions. It wasn't educational, it was sensational and dramatic. Maybe they are very skilled survivalists, but the odds are horrible and the audience is engaged by that drama.

These round the world solo sailing trips are starting to make me think the same way. Very skilled participants, with poor odds and lots of drama.
 

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I must say that I went to bed heartsick when I heard that Escoffier's boat had sunk and Le Cam had found him but lost sight of him. I awoke to read of the rescue and was greatly relieved. It adds to my admiration of Jean Le Cam's amazing seamanship, first for staying in the hunt in a 14 year old non-foiling boat, then executing this rescue in these difficult conditions.

For me, I am conflicted about the race itself. I like the idea that it serves as a test bed to advance sailing science and technology. I admire the skill, dedication, athleticism, and courage of the skippers who do this race.
But I feel that maybe, the sailing world's willingness to use a series of technologies that are so early in their infancy that the use of those technologies are purposefully putting they racers at perhaps too high a risk.

Jeff
 
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It seems Kevin Escoffier was cruising along on PRB in 5m seas and 32 knots of breeze when he heard a "crack". He looked forward to see his bow pointing to the sky, wrenched 90º from the hull forward of the mast. He set off his EPIRB, grabbed his survival suit and was setting up his aft life raft when a wave washed him and the raft out of the cockpit. Two hours later he & Jean Le Cam saw each other and spoke, but Le Cam lost visual contact when he had to tack back again. It then got dark, but Le Cam figured that would make Escoffier's light easier to see, so he kept looking, with multiple passes. When Escoffier heard luffing sails he stuck his head out of the raft saw Le Cam drifting down towards him. Le Cam tossed him a buoy with a line attached and managed to get him aboard shortly after. Ouf.

 

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The seamanship involved is unbelievable. To be able to maneuver a 60 foot boat single-hand and get it close enough to bring another person aboard in 16 foot waves and 25 knots winds is absolutely outstanding and seemingly super human.

Jeff
 

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Two more dings: Initiatives Coeur and Arkea Paprec have both hit things today 02DEC. Both seem to be heading north, for calmer weather, to take stock of things and see what to do next. Paprec's starboard foil is bashed up along about 3', and the collision has also damaged the foil trunk, which is leaking. He looks really bummed.
 

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There are many things to hit at sea...

When I was racing in another persons beautiful timber boat we came off a wave and heard a tremendous bang on the hull. Fearing a shipping container it was a few months before we hauled the boat out to see the imprint in the antifouling of a turtle shell. RIP turtle, no doubt.

As what happened in the Fastnet Race disaster in 1979 and the Sydney Hobart 1998, we have, imho, erred in having many very light boats doing extreme speeds in dangerous waters.

At 25 knots having the leading edge of a rudder hitting a coconut could spell damage... let alone a decent bit of stick.

Mark
(Yes, OK, especially if the coconut is still up its palm on an island)
 

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Seems to be an argument that the field is highly skilled, but the winner is the luckiest of the bunch. That's not really sporting.
 

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Discussion Starter #37 (Edited)
Luck's going to be a factor.

If I think of it like rally racing, you can't keep the throttle pinned or you're going to crash or break something. Have to use all 5 gears, throttle, wheel and breaks.

Racing these fast boats is the same, can't go around the track in third or every one will pass you by, but if you keep the throttle pinned in 5th all the time you are going to crash.

That's where the skill lies, it's not being the fastest, it's being the fastest to finish that counts. A line needs to be walked between too fast and not fast enough for ~70-75 days.
 

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Is the stuff that's breaking a matter of speed?
 

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It's a matter of the stuff hitting things at speed. These boats are doing 20+ knots at times. Kevin on PRB said he was doing 30. If you run your car into an empty shopping cart (not a particularly heavy object) at 5mph, little damage is likely; the cart will bounce off. Different story if you do it at 30 mph; lots of things could get busted. Alex Thomson ran into fishing gear. Kevin Escoffier apparently hit a wave. Samantha Davies may have hit a whale. The French call them "OFNI"s. Objets Flottants Non-Identifiés. There are a lot of them out there.
 

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Is the stuff that's breaking a matter of speed?
Its not strictly a product of speed. obviously speed plays a role. One of the things that has happened as boats have gotten faster, the impact forces have gone up enormously. The formula for impact force is (mass of the object times the initial velocity squared) divided by (2 times the distance traveled between the impact and stopping). These boats are capable of moving 1 1/2 to 2 times the speed of earlier boats so if nothing else the forces are somewhere between 2 and 4 times those of older boats. The misleading part is when you see these boats averaging 18-20 knots, they are hitting speeds into the 20 plus knot range.

But because they are foiling, they can also be falling from 6-8 feet in the air, and because they have nearly flat bottoms, and are hitting with a more vertical component (minimizing water being able to spread out and disburse the collision in the way a similar speed collision with a wave would disburse) when the boat hits the deacceleration is over a very short length. The short lengths can quickly magnify the forces as well. Similarly, when they hit a nearly immovable object like a whale or a container, the forces are greatly increased due to the short stopping distance.

Before the 1980's very little was known about 'slamming forces' on sailboats, and so basic physics was applied. That proved in adequate. But as speeds increased and slamming failures occurred more frequently, there was a lot of attention paid to this issue.

One of the more interesting studies literally cut the bow off an aluminum boat that had been stove in by a wave. The original hull deformation was very carefully measured and the replicated based on the original drawings and observations. The new undamaged bow was mounted so it could not move and an incrementally increasing uniform force was applied until the bow deformation matched the original. The forces involved were enormously larger than had been anticipated based on the simple math.

Probably one of the most infamous early failures was the Open 60 'Imagine'. She was damaged coming off of waves during her maiden voyage. The forces separated the skin from the frames and in some tellings, some of the frames buckled. I was at a presentation by the design office who drew her at a yacht design symposium. Lars Bergstrom (the 'B' in B&R Rig) was in the audience, He was working on Thursday's Child and asked the designers about the assumed slamming forces they used for design. Once described, Bergstrom said that their initial research suggested that was roughly half what it should be.

The part that baffles me is that you would think there would be all kinds of data from the power boat world. After all, power boats have moved way more than these high speeds for decades,

Jeff
 
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