Route du Rhum: life aboard a Class 40 at the crossing of the front.

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IBSA – ALBERTO BONNA

The Route du Rhum has been underway for just over two days but really a lot has happened in this initial phase of the regatta that has also had the Italians as protagonists, particularly among the Class 40s. Right now the first Ultim are sailing between the Azores and Portugal, the Imoca 60s have passed Finisterre, and the Class 40s are completing the crossing of the Bay of Biscay. A few retirements were counted, including that of Armel Le Cleac’h among the Ultim due to a broken centreboard, while among the Imoca 60 Damien Seguin dismasted after colliding with a cargo ship, fortunately without consequences for the skipper.

Let’s take a look at how the Italians are doing and, together with a super technician, ocean sailor Pietro Luciani, find out how to navigate these hours aboard a Class 40 in conditions as tough as those the skippers are encountering.

Route du Rhum – Italian Class 40s give battle

Ambrogio Beccaria – Allagrande Pirelli

All eyes are on the Class 40s, where racing includes Ambrogio Beccaria with Allagrande Pirelli, Alberto Bona with IBSA and Andrea Fornaro with Influence, while among the Imoca 60s is Giancarlo Pedote with Prysmian Group.

Highlighted are Beccaria and Bona, who among the 40s are leading the race nice group at the head of the fleet. Both are sailing in the top 10 with a gap from leader Corentin Daguet of less than 20 miles. Beccaria often entered the top 3 confirming excellent cues with the new boat, Bona appeared very solid in both strategy and speed, confirming that the medium is there and the skipper too.

Video – The departure at the Route du Rhum as experienced by Alberto Bona

More detached is Andrea Fornaro, who still limits the gap to around 40 miles. The pace to be kept is very high, the first Class 40s are windward-left tacking at 10 knots of speed in tough conditions, with winds in excess of 30 knots and swell as they are crossing the first expected front on the course.

Notice the windless zone that bars the way for the Class 40 and anticipates the arrival of the second front

Next will be a probable windless zone to cross, before the arrival of a second front, stronger and more nervous than the first. Lots of upwind in short, with a trade wind that seems as far away as ever and compressed far to the south, which the competitors will probably enjoy only in the final part of the race.

The arrival of the second front in 24 hours

The goal for the next 48 is to figure out how to handle the transition into the windless zone and the arrival of the second front, beyond which carrier swaths could finally open.

Route du Rhum – The breakdown of Allagrande Pirelli’s J2.


Ambrogio Beccaria on Allagrande Pirelli complained of a failure in the attachment of the J2, the high wind jib very useful in these hours. He is sailing with the terzarolato Solent trying to grit his teeth while waiting to find a solution, a fact that opens up thinking about how to preserve the boat in these not-so-easy conditions. To analyze the living conditions on board and how to configure the boat in this situation, we spoke with a specialist: Pietro Luciani, Vice President of Class 40, and a great expert on these boats having participated aboard the 40 in numerous ocean trials.

Route du Rhum – sailing in Class 40 to the front

Pietro Luciani, a sailor with long experience among Class 40s and vice president of the class

With what sail configuration does a Class 40 sail upwind in winds over 30 knots? We asked ourselves this question as we analyzed the weather our people are facing, and in help is the experience of Peter Luciani: “As upwind sails, the kit includes the solent (J1), the J2 or foresail, and then they have a J3 which is the turmentine and meets the Offshore Special Regulations. For a Class 40 we are around 12 sq. m. of turtleneck, the foresail has a maximum area of 32 sq. m., the Solent can go up to 55 sq. m., and the skippers who have the Solent on the garrocci also have it terzarolabile (Like Ambrogio Beccaria ed.).”

“For the front end,” Luciani continues, “they will use the J2 or J3, the former pretty much all have it roll-up, also to make the transition from 2 and 3 more agile. In practice they can alternate between the two sails without leaving the cockpit. The problem is that between 2 and 3 there is quite a jump in square meters, and 3 is really small for the way World Sailing wants it. For scows, the sail change between 2 and 3 is exceeded 35 knots. The next front is generated by a young depression and will encounter 25-40 knots of base and stronger gusts near 50 if you catch it to the north. If you take it a little further south it is 25-30 with gusts to 38. To the north you will need two or three hands at mainsail and J3, conversely a little further south J2 and a pair of man. For the configuration the scows have, they are unlikely to take the third hand.”

Easy to imagine how life on board is not the most comfortable: “These are not conditions where the boat is so fast and gets stuck on the next wave as it does on the slack with strong winds,and there you risk hurting yourself on the inside by falling. The problem is that the boat will still slam a lot and be really uncomfortable. It’s very much up to the skippers to find a comfortable position to rest and this also depends on where you put the navigation station, they usually sleep nearby. They spent a lot on the tacking and I don’t think they did matossage all the time (the shifting of all the board weights, sails equipment etc, to optimize the trim of the boat n,d,r,), they certainly reversed the ballasts but the tacking was complicated and it may be that matossage for some edges put it on standby. Under these conditions, the recipe is to have prepared the boat very well and also have some luck because you can’t control everything and some things you can’t see. The more you have prepared it well, the more you know what to check for and what each noise corresponds to. The boats talk a lot and the skippers have to have time to get to know them as well, which is the hardest thing for those who have launched boats not so much before the start.”

Mauro Giuffrè

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