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Around Alone

Graham Dalton has chosen a new Open 60 designed by Owen Clarke

vendredi 22 février 2002

In July 2001 a young UK based design office, the Owen Clarke Design Group won the design contract for a new Open 60. Built in New Zealand and launched in February this year, this new exciting yacht is the latest open 60 design to be launched anywhere and may point the way towards the type of boat that can be raced efficiently solo or fully crewed in much the way as the ORMA 60’ trimarans already are. Although designed principally for the Around Alone, it’s not hard to see why this yacht could be seen as an indication of how a Volvo Open 60 might look should the race shift away from the Volvo 60 rule in 2004.

Merfyn Owen and Allen Clarke began working together in 1987 when they designed and built the racing trimaran, Fiery Cross for the 1988 OSTAR. After project managing Thursday’s Child in the 1994/95 BOC, their first big break came between 1996 and 1998 when they acted as project managers for the design, construction and operation of Mike Golding’s Team Group 4.

Their next experience with open boat’s was acting as the principal designers and project managers to Ellen MacArthur, for the design of Kingfisher. Along with Alain Gautier, Rob Humphreys, Giovanni Belgrano, the design team, led by naval architect, Merfyn Owen decided to design a yacht specifically for Ellen to compete in the Vendee Globe Vendee Globe #VG2020 . What followed was a focused effort to produce ’the best’ and not necessarily ’the fastest’ Open 60, capable of sailing 30,000 miles non stop, solo, around the planet – an extra ordinary feat in itself. To do this, Owen Clarke initiated and ran a research and development program which included wind tunnel, CFD, tank testing and an in-depth meteorological study. The result, when combined with the varied experiences of the design team was both the narrowest and one of the smallest sail areas among the leading yachts. The design team’s principal aim at almost every corner was to improve reliability and efficiency rather than outright speed and this was reflected in many of the choices that were made. Kingfisher exceeded everyone’s goals in every way and of course Ellen sailed the boat with great skill and everyone was very proud to be involved with such a great project. It was a dream result for such a young design office and was pivotal in them securing not only the Dalton Project last year, but two open 50 designs shortly after Ellen’s incredible win in the 2000 Europe One NewmanSTAR transatlantic race.

Twelve months later, in July 2001 the Owen Clarke Design Group were approached at very short notice to design an Open 60 for Kiwi sailor, Graham Dalton (brother of Volvo skipper, Grant Dalton). Instead of the luxury of 5 months design time they had with Kingfisher before starting construction, Owen and Clarke had less than 5 weeks. There was no time for the design team approach this time, although they acknowledge that the new 60 owes much to the work carried out with others during the Kingfisher project. In addition to this background knowledge however, they had themselves been working for a solid 12 months on the design of two Open 50’s as well as a new ’generic’ Open 60. In fact, the previous month, French MSc graduate, Nadjean Geslain had joined the office to work closely with Merfyn, with the specific role of working solely on Open 60 naval architecture/research and improving communication Communication #Communication and design management with future French based programs. As the contract was signed with Dalton, tank testing had already begun as part of Owen Clarke’s internal Open 60 development program.

The result of this work is a yacht that looks markedly different from Kingfisher, but still incorporates all that was learnt there and includes the same basic characteristics. Obvious differences are the articulating bowsprit, single daggerboard, twin wheels and Volvo style trench cockpit. The design also incorporates Graham Dalton’s minimalist approach, like his brother he rejects comfort in any form and the result is a smaller coachroof and an emphasis on saving weight at almost any cost. Experienced Open 60 watchers might discern a taller rig, more sail area and one would expect the new boat to be lighter, one might be right. Certainly the summer’s work in the tank has led to some hull shape changes and optimisation of the ballast tank system.

There’s no doubt that the yacht will be quick, but how succesful against experienced opposition like Bernard Stamm will remain to be seen. Much will depend as always on the sailor getting to grips with the boat and the preparation and attention to detail of the shore team. It may not be the Vendee Globe Vendee Globe #VG2020 , but one must have respect. The Around Alone is a round the world yacht race and one of the toughest events in any sport.


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