On 26 November 1989, thirteen sailors took the start of the first edition of the Vendée Globe, which lasted over three months.
The latest generation IMOCAs are expected to deliver a new Vendée Globe record time.
Hugo Boss skipper Alex Thomson suggested . . . “Between 59 and 70 days depending on the weather”.
Since the last Vendée Globe speeds on all points of sail have increased thanks to major innovations in three main areas: foils, data, and skippers’ safety.
Foils are up to three times the size of 2016-7’s ‘chicken wings’
The obvious evolution of foils is in their size. Four years ago we were just in the early stages of these new appendages. But the surface areas have changed a lot.
Foils are developed now to a fourth generation lifting the hulls to “fly” in as little as 12 knots of wind.
And since the last edition, the IMOCA Class has also allowed the foil to now rotate up to five degrees: in the horizontal plane “This is a major change to go faster upwind which was not the case before.
Sensors for reliability, safety and performance
On board Hugo Boss, 350 sensors are distributed throughout the boat, from the rudders to the hull, including the rigging and foils. Knowing that alarms are triggered if the thresholds are reached, especially where rig loads are concerned.
Fiber optic sensors have been installed on all elements that are under stress to transmit vital information to the skipper’s data centre.
Thanks to the fibre optics, the skipper knows the dynamic loads instantly and for example the the deformations of the foil or the slamming loads on the hull. Nothing is left to chance.
Autopilots Artificial Intelligence Making The Biggest Difference
As the speed of the boats has increased considerably, the way of sailing has changed:
The autopilot now manages the course according to keeping the apparent wind angle and speed more constant and has learned to anticipate what the boat needs to maintain this optimum speed and angle.
The autopilot taking care of keeping the boat in flight, while the skipper concentrates on the adjustments.
Data collection, processing, machine learning along with advanced algorithms has made it possible to significantly develop the pilots. Thanks to the sensors, the autopilots understand the boat’s movements, detect yaw, pitch and roll.
A new application of advanced artificial intelligence makes the level of work and interaction required – trimming sails and foils – by the skipper manageable rather than impossible.
Safer boats, safer sailors
The fast foiling skipper will now come ashore having spent most of their time fully protected, spending much more time ‘indoors’ than on deck.
Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has gone to the extreme of the concept by having this living and working area inside. He watches the sails and the sea on screens thanks to a battery of on-board cameras. There is no real feeling of wind and spray anymore.
In the area of safety several systems have been developed to reduce the chances of hitting OFNIS (unidentified floating objects) or cetaceans which have, over the years, caused many breakages and retirals.
Oscar is a box installed at the top of the mast comprising three cameras, two of which are thermal cameras linked to an advanced artificial intelligence programme, making it possible to detect an object measuring from 4 to 150 m up to 600 m in front of the boat.
On this ninth edition of the Vendée Globe 18 IMOCAs are equipped with it.
Sleep and energy levels are measured and optimised
Thomson uses portable devices and sensors to analyze his physical and mental state in real time, as others do.
All to try to ensure the skipper does not drop into the mental and physical red zone when performance slumps, mistakes happen and decision making is compromised.
The 9th Vendée Globe will leave Les Sables d’Olonne, France on Sunday 8 November 2020.