A New World for IMOCA 60 Sailing?

I made the mistake of thinking an IMOCA 60 delivery could be boring without a sailing race going on around us. Not the reality at all!

We are pushing this boat hard. TJV winner Charlie Dalin got a head start out of Salvador 15 hours before us, alone, on his latest generation foiler Apivia, but we rolled him on our first generation foiler during the fourth night. “I don’t think people fully understand the potential of these boats,” Charlie (Enright) said, alluding to the fact that the IMOCA boats performance numbers may be handicapped by their universal use in conservative singlehanded applications. We may be exploring some new ground out here with the full crew allotment.

But six people onboard is going to be a lot to ask… Six days in and I don’t think anyone has come close to acclimatizing. We’re all still searching for optimal sleeping locations – nowhere seems to work too well. Leaks in the cockpit roof mean all but one or two spots are “dry,” so if you’re not driving you’re in the companionway, wet, or down below in the bilge or on a beanbag. Kind of feels like a full family trip in the minivan.

A leaky cockpit makes it tough to stay dry. Photo: Amory Ross | 11th Hour Racing\
Typical scene, count 6! Photo: Amory Ross | 11th Hour Racing

Two nights ago was pretty surreal. Flat water, 20-25 knots of wind – we were absolutely tearing across the ocean in total and complete darkness, sitting on 30+ knots. Huddled in the cockpit staring at the maelstrom of spray and mist behind us, our wake from the foil and single leeward rudder disappearing into the dark faster than anything I had ever seen. 31, 32, 33, 34, the boat kept accelerating. No waves needed to surf, no huge amount of wind required. Just an overwhelming sensation that you were on a runaway train, surely to fly off the rails at some point. Never happened. Wild.

November 20, 2019. Running from the night at high speed. 11th Hour Racing Team (entry in The Ocean Race 2021-22) deliver their IMOCA 60 back to France after finishing the Transat Jacques Vabre in Brazil with The Ocean Race crew configuration. Photo by Amory Ross | 11th Hour Racing

Our to-do lists continue to grow but the focus lately has been a little bit more on handling our surroundings. This is a complex body of water and weather changes quickly. In an unfamiliar boat, staying ahead of the conditions is essential because decisions of consequence can creep up quickly. We’re doing our best to give Charlie a rest after his race south, but his expertise and knowledge of the platform has proven pretty essential.

In the meantime, next big question is whether to continue our northerly route or push west, a little further into the Atlantic Ocean and away from some coastal high pressure systems and Cape Verdes wind shadows.