Vendée Globe with most North Sails sails
The Vendée Globe is the ocean regatta par excellence. In its ninth edition, a record fleet of 33 IMOCA-class ships set out from the French port of Les Sables d’Olonne on November 8 to face the daunting challenge of circumnavigating the planet alone, without assistance and without stops. North Sails is the sailmaker of choice for two-thirds of the fleet, with full inventories on 20 ships (15 of them with foils) and partial inventories on three others.
Charlie Dalin’s Apivia is one of 20 North Sails fully stocked teams.
There are no hard and fast rules for candle design. Literally every inventory is different. Factors such as budget, boat age, hull shapes, appendages, team aspirations or skipper preferences, determine what the sails that will be designed and manufactured for each IMOCA will look like. What they do have in common is that they have to cover with the maximum guarantees the entire range of conditions that will potentially be encountered along the more than 24,000 nautical miles (almost 45,000 kilometers) of travel. North Sails has a team of ten fully dedicated to teams that trust the brand to tackle the Vendée Globe.
Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut competes with full North Sails inventory
It is the responsibility of the sailmaker to design and manufacture reliable, efficient, versatile and tailored sails for the tandem boat-skipper. In the early stages of a project, North Sails experts meet with the team to gather as much information as possible to help them understand your needs. In the case of new boats, it is common to work with naval architects to define which sails are suitable for the boat they are creating. All this information is entered in the North Design Suite to create the first sketches in 3D simulations that will allow obtaining valuable conclusions to refine the design. It is a long, meticulous and decisive process that precedes production, which for IMOCA projects involves the North Sails sailmaker in Minden (Nevada, United States), where their 3Di structure is manufactured, and that of Vannes (France). where the final touches are given. The North Sails team’s work does not end with delivery: they will accompany each team in their preparation, helping the skipper to optimize the trim of the sails to find the ideal configuration of each sail for each wind range and each angle.
Jean Le Cam in the bow of his Yes We Cam equipped with North Sails
Three months without stopping
A determining factor of the Vendée Globe is its duration. The fastest boats can complete the tour in two and a half months, although most participants will spend around three months sailing without stopping. 24 hours a day, and with a single pair of hands on board. Such a rhythm demands extraordinary resistance from the sails, constantly subjected to a high load, an environment in which North Sails 3Di technology is an absolute reference. Current weather forecasting tools play in favor, allowing skippers to avoid extreme conditions and find the route in which they can best exploit the potential of their boat. This affects the specifications of the sails, in the same way as the fact that it is a regatta with a predominance of navigation in cross and bearing courses.
Reliability, versatility and resistance
The inventory of the IMOCA 60 is made up of eight candles, so factors such as reliability (the failure of a candle will directly compromise performance), versatility (reduces the number of candle changes), resistance (with less deformation at the same time, are key factors). length of the regatta, higher performance) and lightness (not only to reduce weight on board, but to facilitate the skipper’s work). In the case of foil boats, the sails must be compatible with the two different modes of navigation: displacement mode and flight mode. According to information from the Vendée Globe, boats equipped with foils can be between three and ten knots faster in cross-country conditions, and consequently their sails must respond to this increase in performance.
Compared to the last edition, the candles have evolved towards a design with less volume in their upper zone and moves the overall volume of the candle forward. Most conspicuous is the reduction in width at the halyard cuff and the S-shaped lining of the main leach. For boats equipped with North Sails, most headsails feature a Helix luff structure for load distribution.
The sail inventory on board an IMOCA during the 2020 Vendée Globe is limited to eight:
A storm of at least 20m2
A J3, hard upwind wing, or asymmetric set sail
A J2, close upwind sail from 12 knots
A FRO, upwind sail with light breeze and across the entire range to load bearing
A J0, 190 m2 masthead gennaker for light breeze and through
An A7, fractional for thru and hardwind gennaker
An A3, gennaker of around 300m2 for carriers up to 25 knots