The new Sill and Bonduelle at the start of the 1000 Milles de Calais on Sunday

The new Sill and Bonduelle at the start of the 1000 Milles de Calais on Sunday

The yellow submarine

We look at Jean le Cam's brand new Marc Lombard-designed Open 60, Bonduelle

Tuesday May 11th 2004, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

This weekend saw not only the start of the 1000 Milles de Calais race for the Open 60s, but also the race debut for the two new Marc Lombard designed sisterships, Jean le Cam's Bonduelle and Roland Jourdain's new Sill.

Jourdain's previous Sill, now Alex Thomson's AT Racing, was a highly potent boat winning a majority of the IMOCA Open 60 class regattas following the last Vendee Globe. MkII versions of Sill, from Lombard's board and in the hands of two of France's most seasoned solo sailors, are expected to work great magic on the circuit, particularly in this November's Vendee Globe.

In Calais over the weekend thedailysail had a tramp around Bonduelle.

While very quick, the chink in the armour of the first generation Lombard Open 60s, Sill and Whirlpool (now Marc Thiercelin's Pro Am) was downwind and in light airs. With the new design Marc Lombard says he spent much time trying to fill in these performance gaps without compromising the strong points of his Mk1 design.

While no tank testing was performed on the new design, considerable development was carried out in the computer. Lombard's team benefitted greatly from having well defined polars from the original Sill to refine their numbers and Lombard says that this was a lot quicker than tank testing. "Because we had the real boat and the numerical simulation of the old Sill we could compare them easily - what was going on when we changed parameters. But one of the main parameters was not to go far out from what we have done before, because we knew we had the best performance hull upwind for sure. We also knew we were very efficient in directional stability. These two things made sure that we did not make more than x cm of change. So we tested three types of hull - wider, narrower and similar but different in shape."

The hull shape of the new Lombards is similar to the old Sill except the bow is slightly finer, there is a shallow chine in the run aft and there is more shape at the transom. Lombard says these have come about following their study into ways to reduce drag and optimise wetted surface area. The chine is also designed to improve the lateral resistance of the hull - important on Open 60s as it relieves the load on the autopilot. "So the boat is lighter and more stable, but with less wetted surface and have the same power when we are heeled," says the designer.

The freeboard of the hull has been increased forward back to the mast. Thus the boats can be driven harder and the ride will be much drier. "We found that a problem with Sill on a reach was that the boat was so wet that we always carried 200l of water everywhere. On this boat it won’t happen," says Lombard. Aside from the added freeboard this should also be helped by the chine in the sidedecks, also a feature to destabilise the boat when inverted.

Following the 1996 Vendee Globe when Canadian skipper Gerry Roufs was lost and two other Open 60s capsized and remained inverted, the Open 60 class rules were tightened up to prevent this reoccurring. Thus to comply with IMOCA rules every team must prove their boat can be righted from a full inversion without its rig. They achieve this by having sufficient camber in their deck and volume in their cabintop and then use the canting keel to tip the boat over (on fixed keel boats this is much harder and involves flooding the forepeak...)

The first generation Lombard boats, both designed shortly after the new rules had been introduced had long cabin tops extending forward of the mast like a cruising boat. The new Lombards have considerably more camber to the decks and much smaller cabin tops.

Lombard says that one of his primary aims in evolving the new design and Sill and Bonduelle has been to lower the centre of gravity to help increase stability. The new boats have a CofG some 35cm lower than the previous generation. This has been achieved in many areas - from the location of all the heavy cockpit hardware or gear down below to manufacturing the keel foil from lighter weight carbon fibre rather than steel.

This is most apparent in the cockpit layout which is very different from the previous boats. The cockpit is effectively on three levels - the heavily cambered deck drops down to what is effectively a cockpit seat, from which one helms (they have tiller rather than the wheel steering found on the latest Owen Clarke designs like Ecover) and where the primary winches are mounted. Thus the sheets must pass through two blocks - one to take the sheet inboard, the other to take it down a level to the winch. "Everyone thinks it is complex, but it's not," says Lombard. "It won’t create any problems."

Similarly all lines led aft from the mast now pass through the cabintop and back to a centrally mounted winch located between the twin companionways, a similar arrangement to Virbac.

The cockpit area is one of the few areas that differ between Bonduelle and Sill. Le Cam prefered an open back to the cockpit while Jourdain opted to have a conventional Open 60-style aft deck. The arrangement on Bonduelle allows water to be shed quickly from the cockpit, while the aft deck on Sill should decrease the chances of her skipper being washed out of the back of the boat.

Another fundamental difference between the new and old generation boats are the rudders. In the interests of security, both new boats have transom-hung kick-up affairs . These are each fitted with a fuse (a metal pin, notched so that it breaks when a certain load is exerted on it) so that should the rudder strike a submerged object the rudder should siply pop up. Lombard says this means that provided they establish the correct size of fuse it will not be necessary to carry a spare rudder.

Transom hung rudders traditionally don't perform as well as spade rudders slung under the hull, but each rudder on the new design is fitted with an endplate to help prevent ventilation.

The boat obviously has a canting keel with two rams, one on either side. The cant angle is around 2 degrees less than the Mk1 design, Lombard says, because the boat is lighter. They spent much time developing the bulb shape to work with the canting arrangement as well as on the structure of the carbon fibre keel foil. "The carbon fibre keel is a challenge because the material is not as strong as steel," says Lombard. "Our research was into creating a profile that is not thicker than a steel one. If you have a heavy keel and a light bulb, like Virbac, you have a hydrodynamic advantage, but you lose some weight overall. When the boat is empty of ballast, the overall displacement is a lot heavier. Our VPP analysis showed there to be an advantage having more drag in the bulb and in the keel, but to keep the boat lighter, because overall the drag is diminished."

Forward there are two asymmetric daggerboards and interestingly these are both raked aft. This maybe an influence from le Cam's time skippering the Bonduelle trimaran (most of the 60ft tris have raked boards) as it allows the centre of lateral resistance of the hull to be moved fore and aft according to have far down the board is.

Above the deck the rig ostensibly looks very similar to the old Sill with a rotating wingmast and deck spreaders. Like Sill 1, the spreaders terminate in the sides of the cabintop rather the Finot arrangement where they hook on to the maststep - some believe the former may be illegal, but it has never been protested. The deck spreaders are swept back and in the dock at Calais were noticably shorter than those fitted on the old Finot design Arcelor Dunkerque. Lombard says that the new deck spreaders are some 30% lighter than the old ones. This is due to there being only one cable carrying all the load down to the deck rather two (although there are still two security lines).

While some Open 60 rotating masts have evolved so that they don't require deck spreaders, Lombard says that both le Cam and Jourdain wanted them for added security in the Vendee.

An interesting development is that the mast on the new boats, instead of rotating along its leading edge, rotates along their trailing edge, improving the all-important flow between mast and mainsail. Jean le Cam told us that this is a development from the 60ft trimarans where this rotation point has slowly been moving aft over recent seasons.

The mast is believed to be roughly 0.5m taller than on Sill 1. Lombard says that this is partly to increase the size of the staysail. The mast also has slightly more cord and has been structured so that it won't perform an alarming S-shape under load with some sail combinations as the old Sill's does. Boom length is the same as before and unlike the old Sill at present there isn't a huge amount of rake in the mast.

Standing rigging is in PBO while the forestay is in Kevlar. Up forward there are two forestays both fitted with the smart new Karver roller furlers (more on these shortly) and a fixed bowsprit from which gennikers and spinnakers are flown.

The sail plan has been increased because the new boats have the ability to be sailed with more displacement. "We found that on Sill, not according to the VPP [but from what they learned sailing her] that the motion through waves was better when the displacement was heavier. The central ballast we kept on increasing on Sill and now we have a big one." The displacement of 8 tonnes in IMOCA measurement trim (without sails) is lighter than the old Sill which started life at 8.6 and is now 9 tonnes, but there are three giant tanks below to bring on water ballast.

These tanks are located fore and aft, but Lombard gets slightly sheepish when we discuss the central ballast. The boats definitely have them (as do all the Owen Clarke boats and Virbac). Generally there is a move in the Open 60 class, which those in other classes should heed, of boats that can have the maximum variation in displacement so that they can run 'light' in light wind or in 'heavy' mode in fresher conditions or when momentum is required to take them upwind, as well as using the front and rear tanks to alter fore and aft trim - lifting the wide transom out in light breeze or the bow when there is the potential to go down the mine are typical uses.

Down below on Bonduelle Jean le Cam admitted it wasn't finished when we looked around her at the weekend. There is a island in the middle of the cabin with a basin and stove. Forward of this down very low is the chart table which can be canted to remain horizontal with a seat - effectively a pipecot - that can also be canted. Structurally the boats has the normal array of athwartships bulkheads, including two full bulkheads either side of the canting keel but also has two fore and aft bulkheads.

Construction of the boats was carried out by JMV Industries in Cherbourg, who most recently built Mari Cha IV and have previously built Christophe Auguin's BOC and Vendee Globe winners as well as Mike Golding's original Ecover. Construction was in carbon/Nomex but Lombard says that the construction has been much more precise. "We have tried to get rid of all the places where the structure is not built as on paper. This boat is really built like we designed it. We have designed a structure and there is no improvision on it." Engineering on the boat was carried out by Julien Valette of Tensyl in La Rochelle.

Unlike old Open 60s which were essentially reaching and running machines, Lombard says that he has always believed that Open 60s should have a good all-round performance.

"Before we started with Whirlpool, the boats were not at all optimised for upwind performance. Since Whirlpool, everyone has started thinking it is right and they are trying to do a good boat upwind - everyone has increased the daggerboards and more efficient sail plans. Even PRB [winner of the 2000 Vendee Globe] was not good at that and they have improved a lot on that point now. So now we don’t want to improve our upwind performance any more. What we know is that for the Vendee Globe you need good all-round performance. It is a mistake to think it is all reaching or downwind. We do want a good upwind boat - it is very important for the start of the race and the last part in the Atlantic. And it is very important to be good in light air, in the South Atlantic and in the Doldrums. You can also have that at the start. You also still have to be very good reaching, because down south it is mostly reaching.

"Once [you have got to the stage where] the boats won’t break and are sailed pretty well, you will see there are differences in the Atlantic. If you see all the Figaro boats going across the Atlantic at the moment they are all stuck together. This could happen in the Vendee Globe in the future. So it is important not to have a bad boat in the Atlantic, as that is the more tactical part of the trip when you need good tactics and you need a good all round performance boat. But if no one makes any big mistakes and the boats are closer in performance you may find that in the next Vendee the boats will be very close after St Helena and then the south will become a place where you can make a difference."

Lombard says that in the south what is important is not how fast a boat goes, provided it is not much slower than the competition, but how easy it is for the skipper to use that potential.

"In singlehanded sailing the big thing is directional stability. We were not the fastest boat in the south in the last Vendee Globe, but we were one of the fastest to be sailed because the boat was so stable, so you could push the boat more. Take a fast boat like a VO60 - they are very fast downwind too, but you can’t sail a boat like that singlehanded. So there is no point in having very narrow floatation and having high potential speed if you can’t achieve it. That is the big difference between our boats and say Virbac."

The new Lombard boats are certainly favourites for the Vendee Globe - provided the teams running them can iron out all their bugs before the start of the race. Lombard says that they have already prove to be 10% faster than the old design in light conditions. The 1000 Milles will give an early indication if the rest of the Open 60 fleet should start worrying.

More detail photos on the following pages...Showing the multi-layered cockpit arrangement on Bonduelle

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