The latest Lombard Mini

Following Yves le Blevec's Actual winning the last Mini Transat, so we look at HP Schipman's new boat

Wednesday October 7th 2009, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Currently at the sharp end of the Proto fleet in the Charente Maritime-Bahia Transat 6.50 is Henri Paul Schipman, who’s boat Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys is unique in being the only new Marc Lombard design in this race. For it was another Lombard design, Yves le Blevec’s Actual which won the race two years ago (and sadly isn’t racing this year, having been sold to a new Spanish owner). In fact Schipman, known in the fleet at ‘HP’ had perhaps no option in his choice of yacht designer as professionally he works for the Lombard office in La Rochelle!

Like most of the new generation Minis, be they in the Proto or Series classes, Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys has gone the same way as the Volvo 70s, Open 60s and Class 40s in having an immensely powerful hull, complete with chines in her aft quarters. According Marc Lombard her hull shape is similar to Actual (read all about le Blevec's Mini here) only they have optimised the positioning of the centre of buoyancy to make her easier to trim. “There is a lot of sail area on the Mini it allows us to have powerful hulls, but on the other hand you also have to be fast in light air, so it is important keep a low wetted area, so that is the reason this boat is easy to put on the nose [trimmed down at the bow] and it is a very light construction.”

In the proper Mini sailor-style, Schipman built his new boat himself over the course of two years. The construction is in carbon fibre with a foam core, built over a male mould, although Schipman says they were able to par even more weight out of the construction, compared to le Blevec’s boat. “The stringers, are smaller and there is less carbon in them.” The results is that he managed to shave an impressive 60kg off her overall weight compared to Actual.

Structurally inside his boat they have down more doubling up, for example making the ballast tank sides structural. HP points out to a diagonal strut running between the mast and the daggerboard that has a similar double function.

Like other modern Protos, Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys has a canting keel, operated by a block and tackle arrangement rather than the hydraulic arrangements you see on Open 60s and Volvo 70s. According to Lombard, compared to Actual, they have improved the foil package, the keel foil having less chord while the bulb is heavier, thanks to the weight saved during construction.

To accompany her canting keel she has twin daggerboards and, as on Actual, the angle of attack of these can be altered up to 5 degrees. “In reality you use them at 0-4 degrees,” says HP. “I used that upwind and reaching.”

According to Lombard this is something they also tried on the Bonduelle Open 60, although skipper Jean le Cam never really used it. “He stuck it in one position, but there is a very big gain. It is very important because upwind the heeled water line is so inclined and you can really drive the boat up to weather with a lot of angle. But if you keep that while sailing flat on a reach then it is terrible, although you still need some sideways force. It is a tricky thing to adjust, but it is very efficient.”

As we mentioned in our Mini Transat preview, perhaps due to the cost of the Protos these days, skippers are not building such radical boats as we saw a decade or so ago in the class. Some Minis for example have had the fore and aft axis of their canting keel moved off the horizontal so that the foil provides greater lift when canted. On HP’s boat it is horizontal, as Lombard warns: “The problem is to learn how to trim them and that takes some work and also the complication to make it strong enough makes it very heavy and these boats are very sensitive to weight. Basically all the very good boats here are the light boats.”

There is no minimum weight for the Minis. Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys weighs 735kg, making her one of the lightest Protos, although Schipman reckons one of the new Sam Manuard designs are lighter, fitted with a bulb weighing just 280kg and a lightweight lithium battery he doesn’t have. His boat has conventional batteries, although he does charge them from a fuel cell, with some solar panels for back-up.

“The fuel cell is MaxPower and is great - it is all managed automatically. I press the button and that is it,” says HP.

He has also managed to save weight on the deck layout. Whereas Actual had the big MichDes style C-shaped track for the main sheet/vang, on Schipman’s boat there is a conventional straight track.

In terms of movable ballast, Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys has a canting keel obviously. This cants by 30 degree, although up to 45deg is allowed under the rule. She also carries 160kg of water ballast, some 40kg off the maximum permissible as this allows the keel to be canted more. As Lombard points out – the water ballast is the preferred option upwind, while no water ballast and the keel canted is better reaching. HP says he typically uses the water ballast up to 60 degrees of the wind. “When the ballast is full, the nose of the boat goes down. So it is better for upwind and when it is empty the boat is more on its transom.”

Due to their lightness and despite having a voluminous hull for their length, Minis are highly sensitive to trim so in addition to the water ballast, stacking is important and so to ease moving of the stack around the interior of the boat, the canting keel head inside the boat is particularly short.

Positioning of the crew when they represent something like 10% of the displacement is also crucial. “We stack a lot,” confirms HP. “You can move the water. At the back I have got a little area to put everything (at the back).” With the water and sails, the stack represents about 220kg or three crew he estimates.

In terms of gear, HP says it is all much the same as Mini sailors took two years ago. While all his electronics are NKE, his pilot drive is an Autohelm 6000. For his boat’s sails, HP went to Quantum, as Charlie Dalin and Francisco Lobato in the Series class have. On board they are limited to carrying eight sails, two of them storm sails, so having dual purpose sails or reefing headsails is important. “I have got two spinnakers one with a reef. The big one is masthead while for the smaller one I have two positions: when it is unreefed it is masthead.”

His has one set of runners, but as we have seen on the Mini Maxis, the runners have a tweaker line enabling them to be pulled into the mast to align them with halyard mast exit for the masthead or fractional headsails. However he also has a similar arrangement on his spinnaker halyard, pulling the halyard into the mast when he has put a reef into the small kite.

In addition he carries a mainsail, solent, code 5 and code zero. “That is quite standard now. Some people have a smaller one. I have a big one!” No kidding - a Mini is 21ft long and the bowsprit on Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys is 13ft long… “It is about 40cm longer than the others. It allows me to get more lift off the bow and use a bigger spinnaker. The bigger one is around 210sqm, - that is a lot, maybe it is too much,” he admits.

In terms of costs Schipman confirms that Protos aren’t cheap. He reckons that had he had Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys built by a shipyard it would have cost in the region of 160,000 Euros, or around 200,000 Euros ready to race on the start line – a considerable sum for a 21 foot boat. “It is a lot, but you have a very technical boat,” says HP. “The foil alone is 5,000 Euro – it is high tensile steel.” Typically running costs for a Proto he reckons are around 50,000 Euros/year.

“And she is for sale!” points out HP enthusiastically.

More photos of the boat on the following pages....

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top