Technology plus art. These are the pairings that distinguish the Imoca 11th Hour Racing which, since last November 7th, has been engaged in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the transatlantic race in pairs from the French port of Le Havre to Martinique. With American skipper Charlie Enright and Frenchman Pascal Bidégorry on board, this 5800-mile race is the testing ground for this first Imoca, specifically designed and built to take part in The Ocean Race scheduled for 2022-2023, the fourteenth edition of the round-the-world crewed race.
This legendary race began in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, then became the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001 and today The Ocean Race. The Ocean Race will feature two classes of yachts on the starting line: the Volvo Ocean 65 or VO65, the 22.14-metre long by 5.60-metre wide monohulls used in the 2017-2018 edition, and the Imoca class (International Monohull Open Class Association), which was established in 1981 and has played a leading role in all the great ocean races. This long history, but also to give new opportunities for comparison to its numerous “fleet” of 34 boats, including more or less recent designs, all equipped with foils, led to the idea of including it in the classes that will be competing in the next round-the-world race. This choice is also a stimulus for research and design, and for the first time Imoca boats, which until now have been used for solo races such as the Vendée Globe round the world race or for small crews, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre, will be involved in a full crew race to tackle the ten legs of The Ocean Race. These include the longest stage in the history of the round-the-world race from Cape Town, South Africa, to Itajaì, Brazil, with the passage of Cape Horn: over 12,000 miles.
The story of technology and art of the new Imoca of the 11th Hour Racing Team fits into this picture. Designed by Guillaume Verdier, the US team’s new Imoca has a number of new features, especially in terms of its all-round layout, which distinguishes it from previous Imocas whose main event, the Vendée Globe, started and finished in the same port, Les Sables d’Olonne in Vendée. The start and finish will be marked by low pressure from the Atlantic. The Ocean Race, on the other hand, will have stages and relative starts and finishes in a wide variety of weather conditions, even if, as the history of the race tells us, the final stages will be characterised by tight sailing. Hence the need for a boat with no weak points. Another priority was to get the new Imoca off the ground as quickly as possible.
This is where the foils come in, which can be adjusted in the angle of incidence by around 5 degrees and which, thanks to their circular shape (a solution already applied by Verdier on Hugo Boss, ed.) as well as providing different support, can be completely retracted into the hull in light wind conditions, thus eliminating unnecessary resistance in the water. The need to maintain maximum waterline length together with the need to keep the bow out of the water then led to a “spatula” bow, similar to that of a scow but not as extreme as those proposed by Sam Manuard first on his Mini 6.50 and then on the Imoca L’Occitane en Provence in 2020.
The design of the bow section is linked to a practically flat hull in the central strip with a hint of lateral “wings”, wide redans that connect to vertical sides. This is a design that Verdier applied, but not in such a decisive way, to Apivia, Charlie Dalin’s hull, first to cross the finish line of the Vendée Globe 2020-2021. (However, Jannik Bestaven’s name appears on the race’s roll of honour, having been declared the winner thanks to a compensation time awarded to him for his participation in the rescue of a competitor).
This particular design of the hull, also derived from the need to have a boat that, even without foils, would maintain its competitiveness, is combined with the search for the best aerodynamic coefficient, the famous CX. The deck is characterised by a low, full-beam deckhouse, with numerous windows, which extends as far as the mainsail rail and a small open-air area accessed by a manhole at the stern.
A veritable “steering and control cell” in which, with the wheelhouses and all the manoeuvres deferred to the interior, the two skippers at the Transat Jacques Vabre and the five crew members at The Ocean Race will manage the boat not only sheltered from the natural elements but with minimal air resistance.
A complex of elements that on the new Imoca 11th Hour Racing, launched on 8 August 2021 with the name Mālama, a word from the Hawaiian language meaning to assist, care for, preserve, protect, creates an absolutely innovative “package” and which today, together with the materials and processes for its construction, represents the reference point for those who intend to try their hand at this generation of Imoca also from The Ocean Race. But Imoca 11th Hour Racing combines all the aspects of research and technology with the message that the 11th Hour Racing Foundation brings with its initiatives and its boats all over the world to stimulate attitudes and above all positive behaviour in defence of the natural environment, especially the marine one. This message is summed up in the slogan: “What is beneath the surface connects us all”.
To do this, the 11th Hour Racing Team decided to use the hull and sails of its Imoca as a real “canvas” on which, through the universal language of images, to propose its environmental project invitation. Thus, on the over 151 square metres of the mainsail of the new Imoca, Stefano and Marco Schiavon, founders of Van Orton Design studio, with a work in their “gotich-pop” style, summed up the positive and hopeful message of 11th Hour Racing Team. A work that, through the chromatic composition and graphics that have made Van Orton Design the studio of reference for big brands, from Disney to Microsoft, from Armani to BMW, stimulates, as Rob MacMillan, co-founder of 11th Hour Racing a. stated: “Emotional responses and making a real connection with the ocean. This is a key principle in getting people involved in our cause for the natural environment”. Whales, seahorses, waves and references to the horizons of the sea bring to life the symbolic 11 that distinguishes the team, along with the 12 dots that mark time in the 11th Hour Racing logo, in strong, cheerful colours. “We love bright and bold things,” said Marco Schiavon. “And we believe that the colours make 11th Hour Raing’s hard-work striking and very fresh.”
Colours also play a leading role on the entire hull, with a large wave running from the sides of the hull to the headsail, creating an articulate and involving narrative that only the power of images can make universal, now more than ever. And which Mālama of the 11th Hour Racing Team will take around the world.