With the ORMA 60 and MOD70 trimaran classes successfully killed off, you would have thought that French multihull sailors might do the sensible thing and consolidate their efforts in a class that was smaller and cheaper. Not a chance of it.
Instead, a new breed of 100ft trimarans is in the pipeline, due to compete in the ultimate single-handed non-stop round the world race scheduled to sail from Brest in 2019. Yes, for better or worse, there is to be a multihull version of the Vendée Globe.
Although boats such as the 2007 Irens-Cabaret designs, Francis Joyon’s 97ft IDEC and Thomas Coville’s 105ft Sodebo, were a first stab at such a thing, the concept of a 100ft multihull class was properly established when Franck Cammas won the 2010 Route du Rhum. This proved that a skipper could be competitive single-handed on a substantially more powerful boat, in Cammas’s case the 103ft x 70ft 6in VPLP-designed trimaran Groupama 3.
With the announcement of the new race, boats are now being built especially for it. The first of these was launched last year: the latest MACIF for 2012-13 Vendée Globe winner François Gabart.
The original Sodebo and IDEC trimarans were effectively elongated ORMA 60s, a development of Ellen MacArthur’s B&Q trimaran, with substantial buoyancy forward to prevent pitchpoling. But the new-generation boats have more sail area and, being wider and heavier, have more righting moment.
Wider and heavier
For example, while the original Irens-Cabaret Sodebo was the same length as MACIF, she was 54ft wide, displaced 11 tonnes with upwind/downwind sail area of 350/520m2.MACIF is 69ft across, weighs 14.5 tonnes and has sail areas of 430/650m2.
Apart from the added grunt, all these boats are similar conceptually, with three hulls joined laterally by two crossbeams. Some, like MACIF, have a substantial extra semi-circular beam for the mainsheet track, which doubles as the after end of the elliptically shaped cockpit.
All the boats have giant rotating wingmasts that can be canted to weather with the aim of presenting the maximum sail area to the wind, while also alleviating downward force on the leeward float – typically a contributing factor to a trimaran pitchpoling. To prevent this effect still further, a retractable foil is fitted in each float. This is deployed to leeward.
Where the boats continue to develop is in their drive to move the centre of effort ever further aft. ORMA 60s typically had their mast stepped on or around the forward crossbeam, but onMACIF the mast is stepped nearer the aft crossbeam than the forward beam, with the daggerboard immediately forward of the mast.
The use of foils
Inevitably, the strides in foiling being made in other areas of the sport are being picked up on here. MACIF has embraced this cutting edge technology wholeheartedly. Lateral foils are fitted to all three of her rudders and angled L-shaped retractable foils used in her floats.
Previously, offshore trimarans had C-shaped foils with a little hook on the end – leaving just a small vertical part of the foil protruding when the foil was retracted. On MACIF, the leeward foil when lowered creates more of a V-shape passing through the water and while the pitch of the foil can be adjusted manually, the V-shape makes the foil inherently self-levelling.
However, though such foils work well inshore in flat water on AC72s, AC45s and GC32s, it is still early days in terms of establishing the best foil configuration for use offshore in waves, when the boat will be pitching more and the foils may not be continuously immersed. Nonetheless, François Gabart believes that using these foils can add five or six knots to MACIF’s boat speed.
MACIF may be the latest of the new-generation Ultimes to be launched, but new boats are in the pipeline for Edmond de Rothschild/Gitana and for Banque Populaire. So we can expect the event in 2019 to be something very special.
As ever, you have to take your hat off to the French for tackling what could be an Ultime boat for the ultimate challenge.
Solo non-stop multihull round the world race
When? 2019, starting Brest, France.
Who is behind it? An idea by the teams from Banque Populaire, MACIF and Sodebo.
Who could race? The above plus Yves le Blevec’s Actual, possibly Francis Joyon on IDEC Sport and whoever buys the ex-IDEC from Guo Chuan.
LOA 30.0m/98ft 5in
Beam 21.0m/68ft 11in
Draught 4.50m/14ft 9in
Mast height 35.0m/114ft 9in
Designed by VPLP
Built by Multiplast/CDK Technologies
Foils Florian Madec Composite, Ravussin Concept and C3 Technologies
Sails North France
A pedestal is vital to provide enough horsepower to handle the giant sails, although life is made substantially easier thanks to the use of lighter weight sail fabrics such as North Sails’ carbon 3Di
The three rudders are fitted with horizon wings so that when there is wind for the main lifting foils to start working, a correct fore and aft attitude is maintained
Giant pedestal-driven hydraulic rams mounted on the after side of the rear crossbeam are used to cant the rotating wingmast to weather
The rotating wingmast is mounted a long way back in the main hull. The block suspended from the boom is the headsail barber-hauler tackle
The elliptical cockpit formed between the aft beam and the semi-circular beam for the curved mainsheet track offers a high degree of security for the crew
The screen on top of the aft beam provides great protection for those in the cockpit
The MACIF team has been carrying out work to develop the retractable main lifting foil fitted in each float
The huge array of hydraulic controls governing the sail and mast trim is mounted beneath the pit
Wave-piercing bows help prevent MACIF from being slowed when the sea state picks up