The Ocean Race, the round-the-world crewed race, has returned to Europe, with the fifth leg from Newport to Aarhus, Denmark, setting records. In fact, the North Atlantic was the scene of conquest for the Imoca 60, which set a new record for miles in 24 hours as a crew. If the stage winner, 11Th Hour Ocean Racing, did not set a new mileage record, it was taken care of behind it by Holcim PRB first and Malizia.
Comanche’s 24-hour record falls
The story is well known but worth recalling: at the 2015 Transatlantic Race (from Newport, Rhode Island to Cowes, England), the crew of Comanche, the Hodgdon 100 at the time of Jim Clark, clocked 618.01 miles traveled at an average speed of 25.75 knots!).
A record that has remained unassailable for many years, both because there are few boats like Comanche around, if any, and because to make such distances you need perfect weather conditions that are difficult to encounter in the Ocean: shallow seas and strong winds with at least 25 knots of intensity. These are exactly the conditions that the Imoca 60s in The Ocean Race rode for about 20 hours, Holcim and Malizia in particular. The first to go above the Comanche record was Kevin Escoffier ‘s Holcim PRB by scoring 640.95 with his crew. Just enough time to celebrate and Malizia, on the heels of Holcim, was scoring 641.13 coming close to 27 knots average speed (26.71).
24-hour record: what it tells us about the new Imoca
The new record gives us confirmation, if ever we needed it, of the potential of Imoca foils, capable under the right conditions of sailing at 30-plus knots of constant speed covering distances unimaginable for the older generation of 60s. Foils in these cases make all the difference, there is little you can do about it, without these appendages that allow boats to rise almost completely out of the water these distances would not be feasible.
Is all that glitters gold? Not really. Two dismastings in the fourth leg of The Ocean Race and other frailties also tell us that these boats continue to be quite complex for designers to build, and not easy for sailors to drive all the way to the finish line in one piece. From the point of view of The Ocean Race, the totally covered cockpits are not the ultimate spectacle for video footage, but net of these objective criticisms the Imoca 60s remain the top there is at the moment in the world of ocean racing monohulls.
Record of 24: who are the holders
QUESTION OF SPEED
The 40-meter maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V (now Spindrift), skippered by Pascal Bidegorry and 12 crewmen covered a whopping 908.2 miles at 37.84 knots average in 2009, a crazy record that stands untamed.
But in terms of absolute speed? The record on the maximum speed expressed on the 500 meters belongs to Vestas Sail Rocket 2 (and it is dated 2012), the boat (if you can call this futuristic bolide) equipped with a rigid wing by Australian skipper Paul Larsen that in Walvis Bay, Namibia, reached a peak of an impressive 65.45 knots: 121 km per hour! The chronology of man’s challenge in pursuit of maximum sailing speed tells how it took thirteen years (from ’75 to ’88) to go from 30 to 40 knots and that it took as many as twenty to break the 50-knot wall. Then, in just five years, it went directly to 65 knots, without even going through 60.