Hydrofoils: The Key to Winning the 2016 Vendee Globe?
We here at Musto are huge fans of the Vendee Globe and the excitement that comes from watching a person pit themselves against the ocean, pushing themselves to the absolute limit to try and achieve something less than 250 people have ever done. Compare this to around 4000 people who have summited Everest, or the 536 who have been into space. It truly is a unique undertaking and one of the most mentally challenging races in the world.
The 2016 edition of The Vendee Globe is no exception, with 29 competitors starting the race on the 6th November. The new twist this year is that seven boats are competing with hydrofoils.
This has added a whole new look to the race, with plenty of speculation as to how and where the foils will have an advantage over the rest of the fleet, but the main question leading the debate is whether the foils will be able to last the entire race. Alex Thompson has so far been the only hydrofoil casualty, losing his starboard foil and hitting an object, or potentially a large sea animal, a couple of days ago. Musto brand ambassador, Armel Le Cleac’h, has spoken up before about the dangers of large animals causing damage to boats, saying “Large marine mammals, such as whales, are exhilarating and very impressive… [but we’ve] always said that an impact with such an animal can do much damage.”
Some unfortunate news hit last week when another of our ambassadors, Vincent Riou, called in to say he had to retire due to damage to his keel. When able to assess the damage he found his keel pin, which attaches the keel to the hull of the boat, had been compromised. This was a huge blow for Vincent who was in hot pursuit of the leaders in fifth place, and one of the pre-race favourites. After the incident Vincent commented on this unfortunate event: “I’m heading for Cape Town and we plan to remove the keel very quickly. The team is on their way with the parts and then I’ll sail her back to Europe as soon as possible. When things like this happen, the quicker you move on the better it is for everyone.” Incidents like this are inevitable in races such as the Vendee: sailing solo, with no stopovers means on-board repairs can be tricky. Our hearts go out to Vincent, knowing the amount of work, time and energy that goes into a campaign; it is heart-breaking when something like this happens. We know how disappointed he will feel but his performance over the last couple of weeks was incredible and we are hugely proud.
However, the race goes on and currently it is poised with the top six boats all past Cape Horn and into the Indian Ocean. Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cleac’h who are in second and first respectively, are making quick progress both doing speeds in excess of 20 knots. This is causing a huge gap to develop between them and the chasing boats whilst the progress of the rest of the field was slowed by a high pressure system. For the rest of the fleet all they can do is hope the leaders get stuck in lighter winds, allowing them to gain an advantage from the next opportunity, which is sure to be just around the corner. Careful positioning of their boats over the next few days and weeks is the key to capitalising on the next weather system moving in.
There is little doubt so far though that the hydrofoils have been a success story during the race. The best average speed over 24 hours goes to Alex Thompson at 22.3 knots, who also broke the record for the furthest distance sailed in 24 hours at 535.3nm. However two of the top five recorded average 24 hour top speeds are boats without hydrofoils, including Vincent’s, which clocked up 20.9knots before his retirement. The jury is still out on whether the hydrofoils or the regular set-up will be the ultimate winner and we can’t wait to follow the fleet to find out.
One thing that is noticeable in the 2016 edition of the Vendee Globe is the sailors’ choice of kit. Our HPX, top of the range offshore kit has given sailors a performance edge by keeping them warm and dry, and has the durability to last the whole length of the race.
Our HPX drysuit offers all the manoeuvrability needed to sail these demanding boats effectively, whilst not sacrificing anything when it comes to comfort and staying warm and dry. After all, this is a race of pure endurance. Testing the sailors’ capacity to think longer, sail smarter and keep on going right to the very end by not giving them the chance to miss that final crucial weather system or opportunity could be the difference between winning and losing. The impact of Musto toward these performance parameters is clear to see, with almost 60% of the competitors choosing the brand’s kit to get them around the world and currently 100% of the top five also opting for Musto.