Boat Test - MOD 70
Simon McGoldrick previews the latest one-design multihull class taking on the world.
Is this the age of the multihull? Pro-sailors these days are more likely to be stepping onto a trampoline than into a cockpit. Be it the America's Cup or Extreme 40s, speed, thrills and spills are spectacular and make sailing worth sponsoring.
But what about offshore? Capsizing spells disaster mid-ocean, and the French have had plenty of experience with this. Their solution: the new Multi One Design (MOD) 70 Class.
Concieved as the ultimate successor to the Ocean Racing Multihull Association (ORMA) 60, the MOD 70s are tougher, easier to sail and strictly one-design - the perfect 'financial-crisis' round-the-world racer. And the recipe is working, with seven out of 12 boats already bought by a mixture of international teams.
According to organisers Multi One Design, the class "brings together the adventure of ocean races with the tension and drama of inshore races. Held within easy view of the public, the Multi One Championship combines sport, spectacle and suspense, within the heart of the leading economic capitals". It all sounds a bit like the Volvo Ocean Race but promises even more pace and excitement.
However, to fully understand the MOD 70 concept, we must flashback to 2002. The ORMA 60 class was thriving with inshore and offshore events throughout Europe. The boats were so powerful, the threat of capsize and chaos kept both sailors and spectators enthralled.
Things started getting out of hand during the treacherous solo Route du Rhum, when only three boats from a total of eighteen finished. The rest dismasted, capsized or broke in half. It was all getting a bit extreme, both the sailing and the costs, and sponsors pulled out one by one. By 2007 the circuit was over. The class went back to the drawing board and created the MOD 70.
One-design, but still exciting
Drawn by French multihull gurus Van Peteghem Lauriot-Prévost (VPLP), the MOD 70 features design elements seen in recent ocean-going trimarans such as IDEC and Banque Popularie V. Most significantly, the really long bows are where most of the extra 10ft has gone.
There is much more buoyancy forward, and combined with lift from the curved foils, the risk of pitchpoling is massively reduced. Rig-wise it is very similar to the ORMA 60, with a rotating canting wing mast carrying a slightly smaller sail plan. Overall width has been cut to 16.8m (from 18m in the ORMA), while cross-beam clearance has been increased to minimise slamming.
The end result is a boat that can be pushed harder, in safety, and have a better chance of finishing in one piece.
Construction is carbon-nomex, laid up with a focus on longevity and reducing delamination rather than absolute minimum weight. Pricey titanium has been replaced by aluminium alloys for different components, yet at 6.3 tonnes the boat remains extremely light.
To reduce timelines, construction has involved builders across Europe. Assembly and main hulls by CDK Technologies in Brittany, while the crossbeams are made in Switzerland, the foils in Italy, and the floats elsewhere in France. Sails are 3DL by North Sails France and each team receives a racing and delivery set, so everyone has exactly the same gear to play with.
While the first MOD 70 was launched in April, three more have followed in quick succession, and it is anticipated the 12th will be floating by August 2013. The advantages of one-design and series production are obvious, and this is key to the success of the class. No more modifications, enhancements, and failures as a result of experimentation. These boats are fast enough already, and strict class rules serve to control costs and keep competition close.
Not just for Frogs
Despite the French dominance of multihull offshore racing, the MOD 70 circuit will mark a change. Marco Simeoni, president of Multi One Design explains: "We are keen to develop an international circuit so from the outset of the project, we’ve been implementing a class rule stating that there can be no more than four MOD 70s per nation."
With Veolia Environnement, Foncia, Edmond de Rothschild Group and now Paprec-Virbac, the maximum number displaying the French flag has been reached. This French fervour has now been adopted by several international projects, which will shortly be fleshing out the ranks of the MOD 70 fleet. These include Oman Sail and the Swiss-based Race For Water and Spindrift Racing. As yet there is no boat representing the Americas or Asia-Pacific.
It will be interesting to watch the crossover of America's Cup, Extreme 40 and Volvo sailors into this arena. There has been a great influx of talent into multihulls recently, and the MOD 70 is a chance to venture offshore. Crew numbers are set at six for ocean races and eight for city events, so there will be plenty of opportunities.
Multi One Championship
Central to the development of the class is the official racing circuit. The KRYS Ocean Race is the first major event for 2012, a transatlantic from New York to Brest. It starts on the 4th of July and will feature three French and three international teams. A European tour will follow this and occur each year, taking the fleet from Turkey all the way to Finland, with six to eight stopovers.
By the middle of 2013, the full 12 boat fleet should be sailing and ready for the Ocean World Tour, a circumnavigation following the warm trade winds. This means no Cape Horn or Southern Ocean legs, but instead a transit of the Panama and Suez canals.
I spoke with Jacques Vincent, veteran of four multihull round-the-world races, about the prospect of sailing through the tropics: "Having experienced sinking on an ORMA 60 during winter races across the Atlantic, I would not complain sailing in warm water in case I have to swim! Which is and should always be an option when sailing with more than one hull. Provided there is a decent ventilation system, life onboard should be bearable".
As for being in the lighter trade winds, he said, "I can't imagine sailing the MOD 70 ever being boring. Pushing hard any modern racing multihull keeps the blood running fast through the veins! The sail area/weight ratio was probably better on the ORMA 60 but the MOD will really power through a seaway."
Capable of sitting on +20 knots continuously, with maximum speeds up to 40 knots, the ocean crossings are going to be quick. How will these designs stand the test of non-stop hard racing? A crew of six will be fully occupied just sailing the boat, but by 2013 I'd expect most design issues to be sorted. They should enjoy reliability and close competition.
Each stopover in the championship is geared to maximise exposure for sponsors, with an ‘eco-friendly´ race village and close-quarters inshore racing. These boats are incredibly visual, even dockside, and the publicity generated during these periods is critical for sponsor return, along with the increasing amount of online streaming throughout the legs. Given their potential speed, some spectacular footage is guaranteed.
The extinction of the ORMA 60 circuit made a lot of people very unhappy. They were so fast, exhilarating to sail and amazing to watch. Anyone who has been passed by Simon Hull's Team Vodafone or Sean Langman's Team Australia in full flight will understand, it's a draw-dropping moment seeing one underway.
A few years ago I worked on an ORMA 60; it was the best job and sailing I´ve ever done. Reaching at 38 knots, going upwind at 18 knots, it was heaven until one day the aft beam snapped, the mast came down and a float broke off. It spelt the end for this boat, and our jobs, and we soon discovered this type of event was not unusual in ORMA 60 world.
The MOD70 will attempt to carry on this spirit of high-paced racing that sailors and spectators love, doing without the disasters of the past. There may not be scope for development due to strict class rules, but it seems these boats are already good enough. Visit www.multionedesign.com to follow the progress.
Length overall: 21.2m
Beam overall: 16.8m
Hull draft: 4.50m
Mast rake: 4°
Air draft: 29m
Light displacement: 6.3tonnes
Up-wind sail area: 310m2
Downwind sail area: 409m2