«... I'm the only D'Artagnan»

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It is approximately the same feeling after reading the recent statement of the most closed designer of our time - the enigmatic Juan Kouyoumdjian.or simply Mr. K, released after the finish of the fifth stage of the Volvo Race. We have already written about the fact that this stage was a literal devastation for the current VOR fleet, and its distant consequences could be even worse.

The fact is that some competitors (or rather the sponsors behind them) have expressed quite obvious bewilderment at the fragility of their yachts, so seriously affected by recent events on the course. Groupama Abu Dhabi's sponsors have already indicated they may no longer support their sailing team in the near future; (or they might have waited until the end of the regatta to issue a statement, don't you think?) The Abu Dhabi sponsors are also rumoured to be unhappy and the Chinese side feels cheated.

The Chinese have had a particular bad luck because instead of participating in the seventh event her boat will travel to Miami on board of a merchant ship. Team Sanya to Miami on board a merchant ship. This time the cause was rudder malfunction. She is an old boat that had a rough time with steering gear failures in the previous race. During modernization before the current race previous bearings of 100mm diameter were replaced by the new ones with diameter of 140mm. It seemed that such reserve should be enough - but the ocean only laughed at people's naivety. In the end, the boat was literally disposable: in the current regatta, it could not finish the first, second, fifth round, and now will not participate in the sixth. That's enough to make any sponsor feel like a sucker for a team of experienced bunglers! (And let us not forget that behind the support of the Chinese team stand not individuals or companies, but one of the Chinese provinces, that is, de facto, the state . And the state does not forgive such jokes).

Unsurprisingly such events caused serious concern at VOR HQ. There was talk of a possible switch to monotype yachts in the next race. The regatta managers pressed the designer who drew half the fleet of the current race to make an encouraging statement.
And Juan K. delivered it. Oh... Perhaps he would have been better off not doing so. What was said?
«There is an unfair generalization," said the designer, "that ALL participants of this regatta have problems with the strength of the hull, that the situation is unacceptable, and somethingshould be changed. However, you have to distinguish between mast failures and other defects, and now I think it is very important to understand the causes of mast failures rather than engage in speculation by conflating mast failures with hull defects.
In the first VOR regatta our two ABN AMRO boats were the only ones to finish the circumnavigation without any hull failures. This triumph of ours was blurred by the widespread belief that ALL boats had strength problems and that the rules for their design and construction should be changed. And those changes only made the whole thing worse.
I didn't say anything publicly at the time. However, seeing that the same thing is happening now, I would like to stick to the facts and state the following:

  • VO70 Class yachts can't not break down. In fact, any boat for round-the-world racing cannot be made to not break down. And, ultimately, all of her breakdowns are in the hands of the team;
  • Puma won the fifth stage without a hull breakdown and at the expense of her team's superiority and experience;
  • Telefonica finished second on stage five with a hull de-lamination, which, however, did not prevent her from racing ahead;
  • Telefonica'spit stop at Cape Horn was not due to an obvious need, but was rather a very smart strategic decision based on the certainty of a place no lower than third and a good weather window;
  • Groupama, despite a broken mast, reached Brazil without hull breakage.

So now we are concentrating on investigating the causes of mast failures, and I would ask that we do not generalise and lump together the brilliant work of some engineers and the obvious defect of others
What can I say? Honestly - there are simply no words. As this post contains, sorry, a direct lie. The 2.3x0.6 m carbon fiber insert section was made for her in New Zealand, flown to Ushuaia and thence by boat to the pit stop (Hershel Island), lifted to the yacht and glued inside the hull to prevent it from coming apart completely. If this kind of work (you can estimate the cost yourself) is considered «not caused by a clear need», then it is hard to understand what is?

Is it a torn off keel by the same Juan K.?
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