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93 days 22 hours 52 minutes

IMOCA General Assembly in Paris

The all-day-long discussion at the IMOCA General Assembly about the rules and rule changes concerning the IMOCA 60 World Championship series’ sailing boats took place in Paris today.
Thanks to the contribution of the skippers’ professional opinions, the monopolistic power of certain economic groups has died down, giving more space to the sailors’ orientation and innovations. As a result, Nándor Fa’s original concept of his mast and sails got its way again. Free to go!

Interview #1. with Nándor Fa in ENGLISH version:

Ahead of the Imoca General Assembly in Paris
The new Hungarian monohull gets transferred from Pauger to the Fa Hajó Ltd’s factory

It’s been a while since the start, I don’t remember exactly. Now you moved the hull from the Pauger to the Fa Hajó Ltd’s factory. What does this mean? Where is the project at the moment?

Fa Nándor: It’s been almost a whole year since the beginning. We started to transport the foam to the Pauger factory in September, and put the first blocks into the CNC machine to form the female mould. The high-tech carbon- structured hull had been finished within a year. Today, it is only Pauger Carbon near and far in our area, who’s able to produce this quality. I am really glad he exists. He can construct boats of the exact kind of technology, which I need. Together, we are able to create a competitive boat, which is ready for international challenges. Now the construction-ready hull came out of the Pauger workshop. The boat had to be rotated because of its width, so that it fits the size of the door. Fortunately, we managed the maneuver well, without any problems. The hull had been transported into my factory in Székesfehérvár, where we’ll continue with fittings, electronic works and the instrumentation. I believe, that these works can be finished within around two months. Meanwhile, some serious works are still going on at Pauger, since the mast, the boum, and lots of doors are also being produced there. However, the main structure of the boat is ready, and it only depends on us, when the whole boat is 100% finished.

Just to accent the stress behind all this, which you summed up in a few sentences: you just finished the ten hours long transportation of the hull, and fixed the necessary wall-demolition of your factory – which was due to the great size of the boat – in the early morning, and you now have to travel to Paris to the Imoca General Assembly. I remember you telling me, how many different interests are lobbying to influence the rules of the Class. Is there any risk of regulation-changes, which might affect your boat?

F.N.: I was constantly e-mailing the Class Chief Measurer of Imoca – who is responsible for the whole measuring procedure our boats have to go through before launching her. Supposedly, he should be able to answer all of our questions, when we either do not know certain details, or we cannot know them yet. One of the things we cannot know, is the case of the mast. It was already decided in April, that standardized masts are the future: they be either wing masts, or conventional masts. I chose to go with the classical mast. Some of its parameters had already been finalized and announced back then: the weight is being minimized, the center of gravity is being defined, and the material of the mast is going to be given as well. We already know certain things like these, but the details and the wording of the regulation has not been born yet – this is why I was trying to communicate with the inspector, but unfortunately, even he wasn’t able to give me further information at that time. We expect this Thursday’s General Assembly in Paris to provide us with all the necessary information, so that we get to know exactly, what sort of masts we have to build. For my luck, I was informed in the invitation, that I might be allowed to construct my own mast, if it meets the parameters of the official regulation. All the others, who are about to start after me, are probably obliged to purchase One Design masts from a producer, which is given by the Imoca Committee.

Does this mean, that the lead is taken by that wing of the committee, which is trying to monopolize the Imoca 60 foot class, and drive it in a One Design direction?

F.N.: Some people are really forcing the One Design. I don’t know, what interests or reasons are in the background – that’s all behind the scenes –, but this direction is obviously very attractive for them. When the idea of the One Design boat failed at the Imoca voting, they started brainstorming about which parts of the boat could be standardized. They realized, that these parts are the keel, the mast, the propulsion and the communication system. Those are really costly elements of the boat, which can be provided by one sole producer, and this way the whole fleet would be obliged to use the same products. They think, this way will be cheaper, but I don’t. I am very lucky to have started my boat at the point between the previous regulation system and the latest decisions. I can consider my boat one of the new “proto 2016” generation, while at the same time, it’s the only one that’s allowed to be constructed individually – as far as it follows the new regulations. I can build my own boat, I am not obliged to buy a new one.

There are only a few cases like yours: when the designer and the skipper are one and the same person. The most important key figure of the whole project is the skipper himself.

F.N.: The Imoca, or the Open 60 has completely gone into a direction, that it makes this sort of complexity cease. There is no possibility for a skipper to design for himself, to say: I am a man with the way of thinking and with the know-how to manage the whole campaign from A to Z on my own. Who would be able to do so? There’s Desjoyeaux, for example, who designed for himself, but not completely on his own, he was supported by other designers. Nevertheless, he has the big picture of what he wants and how exactly he wants it. He also helped others with his ideas and concepts. I don’t know about anybody else, who would design for themselves.

You told me about Gabart, that he is a boat design engineer. On what level does he take part in the design process?

F.N.: It is really hard to see from the outside. He certainly knows what he’s talking about, and he is a very clear- minded, intelligent guy. Nevertheless, he is a member of the team, that is managed by Michael Desjoyeaux. Within that team: Gabart, Desjoyeaux, and some others, they always create mutual dreams by putting their knowledge together. The winner boats are born as a result of their team work. I cannot highlight any of these people.

Who is the key figure in the background, who synchronizes the lobby interests?

F.N.: I don’t like to put the blame on one person, because in my opinion, all of these things are defined by interest groups.

But somebody among the skippers must have joined this wing, if it has gotten so strong. Do you know those guys?

F.N.: This case cannot be seen in either black, or white. There is no simple yes or no answer, it is really nuanced. I believe, that the best French skippers – who work with huge sponsors –, don’t really care about this, it’s neutral for them. The most important thing for them is to have a reliable and fast boat, and to be out there and race. The sponsors have the same priorities. Those sponsors sacrifice financially way much more, in favor of success. It is not a problem for them to put a mast into the shed and buy a new one because they were told to. By certain logic, these people – sponsors, managers, skippers – just go with the flow of the arguments. Most of the time, it’s the reliability and being economical, that is in the spotlight. But in my opinion, the One Design is not a good tactic for reliability, or to be economical, because if someone becomes a monopoly in producing these equipments, it leads to an increase in price. On the other hand, I am not sure about the remaining of development either. No designers have designed anything so far, that was perfect.  The possibility for development seems to be eliminated with this direction. I think, this orientation is the lobby, or the result of the lobby of a certain economic interest group. It could be traced back to many people, we will never see it clearly.

This boat designed and constructed by you, that will also be sailed by you, is in fact, a harmonic organization of a high tech hull and a traditional mast- sail combination, am I right?

F.N.: I am absolutely for the safety. Despite the fact, that I am not and will never be a fan of One Design, I built the kind of boat for myself, which is completely trustworthy and durable. I rather put a little extra reinforcement into certain parts of the hull where needed, than being in a constant fear whether something breaks or not, in case of facing stronger waves. From this point of view, I have a classical way of thinking and I do not sacrifice safety for a few extra knots of speed.

One last sentence about timing – we don’t want you to make any promises, knowing that one race is now out of your program. When do you think your the boat could be launched?

F.N.: I don’t know the exact time yet, but I believe we will move the boat to the Adriatic See – at least this is the plan right now –, around the end of January. There, we will have one month of measurement and assessment procedures before it is finally launched. Then we start sailing. In March, we will have to be sailing at all events, because at the end of the month we have to leave the Adriatic. I would like to participate in the New York – Monaco race, in case it is being realized – it is not for sure yet, they are just talking about it.

Do we know the race’s official name?

F.N.: So far it is called New York – Monaco, but this race is only planned at the moment, there’s no official announcement of it yet.

Is this a single- handed, a double- handed, or a crew race?

F.N.: It’s a double- handed race, and it is intended to replace the lost Transat Jacque Vabres for me.