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Spirit of Hungary ocean sailing project – Technical details by IMOCA rules

Nándor Fa interview — January 11th 2014


Interview in written version:

Technical details by IMOCA rules – Nándor Fa interview – January 11th 2014

Nándor Fa:

At the general IMOCA meeting, we had new problems and new points to accept. The technical committee advised the IMOCA Assembly to rise the Righting Moment of the new boats. Because earlier they realized, that the new boats will be slower, than the previous existing fleet, and that was a disaster. It’s very difficult to reach sponsors, saying ‘we want to build a new boat, which will be slower, than the previous existing fleet’. So the design offices started thinking about how to rise the speed, the performance of the boats again. Previously, the theme was ‘to make the boats more reliable and if possible, more economical’. Now the question was ‘how is it possible to speed them up again’, just so that they can be sold to the sponsors.

Therefore, the offices advised us to rise the righting moment — which was obvious —, from the 22 m tonnes to 25.5 m tonnes at the heel of 25 degrees. The AVS angle changed from 112 degrees down to 110 degrees, which is not a big change, but some — and that’s enough to make the boat just a little bit faster than the previous boats. The question is: who, and how much will they respect the rules. Because this is an existing rule, the boats should comply the ISAF rules, which ask the designers respect the ISO standards, regarding the panel strength. Some of the boats do not perform these standards — how this is possible, I don’t know. Instead of the 22 tonnes per square meter water pressure, these boats stand a maximum of 11 tonnes per square meter. This is an interesting question, knowing, that the Cheminée Poujoulat just sank, in the last month, when they made a delivery sailing back to Europe. In strong wind and running conditions, the boat broke into two pieces, and after a couple of hours, it sank.

There are 3 very important questions from the security aspect. First: How can an IMOCA boat break into two pieces? Surely, because the construction and other parts of the skins were not strong enough. Second: The bulkheads should withstand the water pressure, which is coming in after breaking. These walls obviously didn’t stand the waves and the water pressure. After the break, the boat got completely filled with sea water, and sank. In spite of being flooded, the boats should still float, because normally we are supposed to build so much material into the boat, that it’s 130% all together. This is more displacement volume, than the weight of the boats. These boats should float in any condition. The fact, that the Cheminée Poujoulat sank, means that the boat did not comply this rule. Again.

This brings up a lot of new questions, which we have to talk about in the future, because now fortunately, and thank God, the two skippers survived. The British rescue teams and the Norwegian cargo ship just managed to save them, but if this situation happened in the middle of the ocean, there could have been a much bigger problem: possibly the loss of lives too. It is a really big danger. So in the future, we need to talk about these questions: how would the boats be safer, how should they respect the existing rules. Now the boats are going in the right way, the main question is: we have the rulebook, and the boats should be designed and built according to these rules.

How does your boat design have to change?

F.N.: My boat didn’t need too much change. Only, because we had to raise the righting moment a little bit. There are two existing compartments under the bed in my boat. I close two third of these compartments and I create two small water ballast tanks. With these extra two water ballast tanks, my boat has exactly 25.5 m tonnes righting moment, which meets the new rule. So within a couple of days of work, I can completely speed up the boat for the limit, by small changes. There’ no problem for me. I am really happy, because the boat is absolutely on the performance limit, that is possible.

What’s your plan about developing, finishing, and launching the boat? What will be your first race?

F.N.: We have a tight program until the New York — Barcelona race, which is on the 1st of June. We are planning to transport my boat from Székesfehérvár, down to the Adriatic Sea, to Slovenia. In March, we finish all the jobs that will be necessary to get done at the seaside: including all the measurements, all the tests, the capsize test, the scrutineering committee will come hopefully, and we will do all these kind of measurements. After that we put the mast into the boat and start sailing. On the 6th of April I’d like to start from Isola, Slovenia to Gibraltar, of course with a small team at the beginning. From Gibraltar, I would like to do the cross-atlantic with my partner skipper Marcell Goszleth. We would like to arrive in New Port around the 15-16 May, when the program starts, and after that, we follow the participating boats of the fleet. Around the 26th May, the fleet is sailing down to New York, where there are some programs, and the start will be the 1st of June.

Written version: Lili Fa