Extraordinary Boats: the new 11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60

Yachting World

The 11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60, Malãma, is the first to be launched with fully crewed racing in mind. Rupert Holmes takes a look at the boat to see how she differs from the rest of the IMOCA fleet

For decades the whole point of designing an IMOCA 60 has been to win the Vendée Globe solo round the world race. However, the adoption of the class by The Ocean Race has added an entirely new dimension. Malãma, the new 11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60 is the first IMOCA designed from the outset to be raced by a full crew.

Yet extra internal accommodation is not what fundamentally sets this boat apart from other IMOCAs. A more important factor is that the boat is not primarily optimised for downwind speed in strong winds. Granted, the optimisation leans towards downwind VMG, but above all this boat is definitely intended as a more all-round performer.

In addition, Malãma is set up to be pushed much harder than is possible when racing solo or two-handed and the boat’s structure has been beefed up compared to typical IMOCAs to reflect this.

harlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry aboard Malãma en route to the start of the TJV at Le Havre. Photo: Thierry Martinez/11th Hour Racing

Naval architect Guillaume Verdier worked with François Gabart’s MerConcept, which was responsible for performance analysis. The result is a radical hull shape, with the bow showing an interesting combination of chine, knuckle and the broad ‘spatula’ profile, although it’s not a scow bow. The way in which these elements interact and help keep the bow out of the water is important, yet this is by no means the most radical element of the design.

While the new boat from 11th Hour Racing has the potential to be extremely fast in heavy winds, performance in light airs is also critical, when the drag of the foils also has to be overcome. This means minimising wetted surface area is vital – as a result the static waterline beam is surprisingly narrow. The hull is dramatically flared above the waterline, with a complex convex shape between the waterline and the chine.

The result is an extremely different hull to that of the Sam Manuard-designed scow bow boats, including Armel Tripon’s L’Occitane en Provence in the 2020 Vendée Globe (now Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée 3) and Sam Davies’ new Initiatives Coeur that’s currently being built from the same mould.

It’s a daring, but ingenious, way to manage the imperatives of minimising drag in light airs, while ensuring form stability builds as fast as possible to extract maximum power in stronger winds.

‘Skim mode’ on the 11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60

When the boat heels the chine quickly digs in, shifting the centre of buoyancy rapidly outboard, but the boat is designed to be sailed as flat as possible. As boat speeds increase the foils start to generate additional stability, which helps in minimising heel.

The foils are not intended to lift the boat high out of the water. Verdier’s intention is that the hull should skim just above the surface. While they might look impressive, photos of Malãma flying high are therefore not actually showing the boat in an optimal mode.

Limiting flight height is key to achieving fast average speeds, without excessive peaks and troughs. This is what leads to impressive daily runs, whereas high peak speeds are invariably followed by a significant drop in pace. When that’s associated with falling off the foils there’s also a risk of damage to the boat or to her crew.

The foils of new IMOCAs have to be smaller than those of older boats that have been grandfathered. As a result, Verdier devoted a lot of time to developing the most efficient shape.
Those fitted for this year’s Transat Jacques Vabre are optimised for downwind VMG – the profile has a lot of camber, which generates as much lift as a larger foil, but at the expense of a little more drag at high speeds.

Reducing drag across the deck was a key focus, with jib tacks set below deck. This view also shows the cockpit pod ‘lookout bubbles’ set far outboard. Photo: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing

The foils have a very smooth curve, with none of the sharp corners of some IMOCA designs. As the foils are moved out from the hull they also project further downwards, which increases the scope for different settings to suit different conditions.

Before the start of the TJV the team’s Amory Ross told me they were still in the earlier stages of gathering data on optimal foil settings for different conditions. Full extension gives a very flat angle relative to the hull, but is rarely the best, while half extended gives “a very forgiving V-shape”. The foils could be changed to optimise the boat for different conditions, although that would be an expensive process.

Instead of an ordinary clew outhaul, a hydraulic ram moves the whole boom back and forth. A ‘skirt’ at the mast base improves aerodynamics. Photo: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing

Aero package

Above the waterline a lot of effort has gone into improving aerodynamics on the 11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60 – given the high apparent wind speeds of these boats this area is now recognised as one in which important gains can be made. All furler drums and furling lines are under the deck. Even the tack of the J2 jib is just below deck level, which maximises the endplate effect and eliminates as much air as possible escaping under the foot of the sail.

In the same vein, the base of the rig has a textile fairing that cleans up the area around the lines and blocks, while still allowing the mast to rotate. “That took a lot of work to optimise,” says Ross.

The mast is the standard one-design spar for the class, however, the boom is by Southern Spars. To further minimise drag from all the paraphernalia that’s normally at the end of the boom, the clew is in a fixed position. This necessitated a different approach to adjusting foot tension: instead of a conventional clew outhaul, a hydraulic ram at the gooseneck moves the whole boom back and forth.

Foils have a smooth curve, but the cross section is partially convex, which helps to generate as much lift as the larger foils of older IMOCAs. Photo: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing

Equally, different solutions were needed for the reefing lines at the leech of the mainsail. These are on halyard locks built into the boom: the reefing pennants are an exact length and Ross says the lock engages easily, with a clunk that’s loud enough to be sure it has engaged properly.

When the boat was launched the rig was originally set up with 6° of rake. However that figure has been reduced to the class average for the boat’s first big race, the 2021 Transat Jacques Vabre, as the team didn’t yet have sufficient data to be confident in extracting maximum performance in that configuration. But this is not a trivial operation, as the ultra-low foot of both main and headsails means the clew location has to change when the mast rake changes, so sails have to be recut.

Malãma’s sail shapes are also different to other IMOCAs. Sails for solo and short-handed sailing tend to be cut to give a wide groove when sailing upwind. This makes it easier for pilots, or a tired sailor, to steer an efficient course. However, this boat has flatter sails that are designed to be trimmed with less twist. Skipper Charlie Enright says sail trim will hence be “more critical than some of the other IMOCAs – our set-up is not as forgiving and you have to work harder to get the top performance out of the boat.”

Hard choices

Similar thinking can also be seen in the rudders. These have a higher aspect than is usually seen on these boats and are therefore more sensitive, but generate less drag.

Inside the cockpit pod, looking athwartships towards the port side. There’s provision to add a second grinder pedestal when fully crewed. Photo: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing

At the other end of the boat, the bowsprit is a more robust affair with a flat top surface, having more in common with Volvo 70 and Volvo 65 sprits than a typical IMOCA bowsprit – it’s stronger and allows for easier crew work.

In a world in which increasing numbers of cruising boats have floating headsail sheet leads, the curved transverse tracks for jib sheets look initially like a step backwards, but the idea is they allow more precise control of sail shape upwind.

Visibility can be a challenge at the best of times for foiling IMOCAs. As they’re not allowed T-foils on the rudders, it’s often not easy to avoid a bows-up attitude that makes it next to impossible to see forward, while deck-sweeping headsails, low-clewed spinnakers and the very low boom combine to restrict visibility to leeward.

As with other IMOCAs, this boat is therefore set up with a number of cameras. The pair mounted on the top of the aft stanchions have full pan, tilt and zoom capability, allowing them to be used for both look out purposes and for sail trimming. There’s also a fixed camera (with digital zoom) under the mast-mounted radar. This shows the water ahead, even when the bows are angled upwards. There’s also a masthead OSCAR unit (for collision avoidance), which includes both visible spectrum and thermal cameras.

The front bulkhead of the enclosed cockpit pod has three large screens showing camera, OSCAR and AIS data. Ross says this combination works really well, “helping you see more [potential problems] every time you scan the displays.”

Powerful cameras with panning, tilt and zoom capacity are built into the top of each of the aft stanchions for views of boat and sails. Photo: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing

The lookout bubbles at the side of the cockpit pod are much further outboard than for other IMOCAs. This helps to provide a better view, especially to leeward, where it’s possible to see past the usual blind spots around headsails and under spinnakers. However, the view from the windward side can be compromised by the stack of sails on deck.

Placing the lookout bubbles further outboard also creates more space inside the cockpit pod – an important factor when sailing fully crewed. For the TJV only a single grinder pedestal was fitted, but there’s provision for a second to facilitate quick manoeuvres in crewed mode.

Solar panels on the cockpit pod roof can generate enough power to run all daytime electrical loads. Photo: Amory Ross/The Ocean Race Europe

Material gains

Sustainability is another key theme throughout the build of the boat. Although at the moment there appears to be no viable alternative to carbon for the structural elements at this level of racing, the team has worked with German company Greenboats to use flax fibres and bio-resins for components such as hatches and non-structural interior and deck panels.

The 11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60 project started with a full lifecycle sustainability assessment and the lessons learned from this boat will help inform the IMOCA class sustainability rules.

11th Hour Racing IMOCA 60 specifications:

Hull length: 18.28m – 60ft 0in
LWL: 17.50m – 57ft 5in
Beam: 5.50m – 18ft 0in
Draught: 4.50m – 14ft 9in
Displacement (sailing trim): 10,000kg – 22,000lb
Upwind sail area: 280m2 – 3,010ft2
Downwind sail area: 600m2 – 6,450m2
Air draught: 29.00m – 95ft 0in
Mast length: 27.30m – 89ft 6in
Approx weight of each foil: 300kg – 660lb


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