Yvan Zedda / Foncia

Michel Desjoyeaux's radical new Foncia IMOCA 60

The double Vendee Globe winner gives us a tour

Tuesday November 2nd 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Despite these hard economic times three new IMOCA 60s have been launched this year in the VPLP-Verdier designs - Vincent Riou’s latest PRB, Jean-Pierre Dick’s third Virbac-Paprec and most recently the latest Foncia for Michel Desjoyeaux - and beyond this Bernard Stamm has a new Juan K design in build due for launch in March and we understand there is yet another for a Spanish client in build to an Owen Clarke design. However of the three launches to date, none is more radical than the double Vendee Globe winner’s new Foncia.

Michel Desjoyeaux’s second Foncia IMOCA 60 was built in record time and was launched just one month prior to the start of the Route du Rhum. In typical MichDes style, on 20 September the boat was craned into the water, underwent the 180deg inversion test required by the IMOCA class rules was rigged and went on her maiden sail...all in one day. Despite her newness the latest Foncia IMOCA 60 has a busy schedule ahead of her and is one of three boats set to be dispatched on a ship at the end of the Route du Rhum bound for Spain, ready to be on the 31 December start line of the Barcelona World Race.

To get the build completed in just six months, the components of the new Foncia were built far and wide. Desjoyeaux enjoyed the look of surprise on our face when he told us that the hull had been built on our home turf at Green Marine in Lymington (so the UK does have an IMOCA 60 in the Route du Rhum...) – while the deck was built across the Channel at JMV Industries in Cherbourg.

Much of innovation in the design and engineering of the new Foncia has come following the latest iteration of the IMOCA class rule. To curb escalating costs in their new boats, IMOCA has taken numerous steps such as limiting rig height to 29m and sail wardrobe size, as well as further tightening stability rules.

For IMOCA 60 stability requirements have for the last decade included:
- the ancient 10deg test (boat at the dock must heel by no more than 10 degrees with all its movable ballast deployed)
- a demonstration that a boat can self-right from a full invesion without her rig
- angle of vanishing stability >127.5deg (AVS is the point where the boat wants to invert rather than right itself)
- a stability curve where positive stability is at least five times negative

The latest iteration for new builds has upped the AVS ‘worst case’ from 108 to 110deg and introduced a maximum righting moment of 32 tonne metres. To achieve this latter requirement Foncia’s hull has a full length chine that starts working at 25 degrees of heel, while more generally her overall weight has been pared down to the minimum and her centre of gravity lowered as much as possible.

This is particularly evident from her hull where the deck join has been lopped off forming a kind of angular tumblehome and perhaps stranger still is the foredeck that cambers down from the deck perimeter to a central fore and aft trench. This latter feature lowers the CoG of the deck as well as the fittings (furling drums, etc) attached to it, but also now there is a maximum rig height is limited, allows the size of sails to be marginally increased in the only direction left – downward. A side affect of the strange foredeck camber is that it also allows for more secure footing on the foredeck when the boat is heeled and so the foot chocks that typically run the length of the foredeck have been removed.

“Some people reckon that we’ll keep some water on the deck but it is like on a multihull - if you heel enough with the boat then you will have no problem with water and if you don’t heel enough it means you have to push harder!” explains Desjoyeaux.

Both the unusual foredeck and the tumblehome have resulted in a weight saving but according to Desjoyeaux this has been reinvested in beefing up the hull structure. “We’ve increased the safety factor of the hull in the bottom at the front to 10-20% stronger than what I had before [on the previous Foncia]. This never broke but some of the boats - with similar values, but not the same building process - did have problems, so I decided - not for the Route du Rhum, but for the Barcelona World Race and for the next use of the boat after me - that it was intelligent to increase the safety factors.” This presumably also helped lower the CoG.

While the forward underside area of the hull is subject to slamming loads, which in the past have resulted in severe delamination, some designers such as Finot-Conq have for at least a decade been specifying a solid carbon fibre laminate in these areas, but on Foncia the hull has a Nomex foam core.

Another feature of the boat that many are waiting to hear reports back about are the daggerboards. Historically twin daggerboard arrangements on IMOCA 60s (or Volvo 70s) are toed out so that the leeward board is typically vertical in the water to prevent leeway when it is deployed. On Foncia the asymmetric boards are now not only as far outboard as they can be, but they are also slightly toed in, so that when heeled the leeward board creates vertical lift, reducing the drag of the hull. The boards are much larger than previously seen too, so that despite being angled they will still prevent leeway. This idea is an evolution of the curved ORMA 60-style daggerboards fitted from to Marc Guillemot’s VPLP-Verdier designed Safran prior to the last Vendee Globe.

Desjoyeaux says that IMOCA 60s are currently going through a similar evolution that racing multihulls went through 20 years ago. The speed of the present IMOCA 60s is similar to the 60ft multihulls of that period – he cites Elf Aquitaine III, the ORMA 60 trimaran in which he and Jean Maurel won the 1990 TwoStar. “In that boat we never went faster than 25 knots and we have already reached more than that with these boats. So you can imagine the advantage of using hydrofoils...”

The latest IMOCA rules limit appendages to five – two rudders, two daggerboards and one keel – and crucially limits the movement of each to one axis, otherwise Desjoyeaux says he would certainly have installed a system to change the angle of inclination of his daggerboards, like the foils in the floats of the BMW Oracle Racing trimaran. Then it would be a small step to add a lifting foil to the rudder (were it allowed under the rules) and, hey presto, a fully foiling IMOCA 60... Back to reality and one imagines that Desjoyeaux is constantly thinking about the heel angle of his boat – ideally keeping it upright to prevent leeway when sailing upwind and heeled to the maximum to reduce hull drag when reaching in strong conditions.

The cockpit is in much the same position in the boat as it was on the old Foncia, expect that it is a little narrower to allow easier access to the winches to leeward. Desjoyeaux has kept the enormous moveable hatch as was fitted on his previous boat (and the last Virbac-Paprec) that pulls out from the cabin top by more than a metre, thereby protecting the entire working area of the cockpit. This runs on tracks down either side of the cabintop.

NKE instruments are fitted and the only aspect of the boat Desjoyeaux wouldn’t discuss with us, although it may equally be a red herring, is his autopilot system. “That is one of my secrets. We did it in the beginning with NKE and it is only for us.”

A significant departure with the new Foncia is that Desjoyeaux has moved away from the C-shaped mainsheet track used for both mainsheet and vang. In order to save weight he has what appears to be a conventional slightly curved track at the back of the working area of the cockpit but in fact this is for the vang while the mainsheet is on a block and tackle arrangement at the transom. The result is not only a weight saving through having less track, but has resulted in the weight of the boom being halved compared to the last Foncia.

While the hull is bristling with new features, Desjoyeaux has kept the spreader-less rotating wingmast rig, with the deck spreaders protruding from the cabin top, the spreaders also used as the sheeting point for headsails. As he says: “Because we had to build a boat in less than six months we didn’t have time to reinvent everything on the boat. Anyway it is the lightest system you can find at the moment.” We ask him to confirm this and he says that there is now only a small weight difference between the wingmast rig and a classic fixed rig with spreaders. Foncia’s wingmast was built by JMV Industries and finished by his brother’s company CDK Composites in Port la Foret.

The mast is further aft and the main a little smaller than the previous Farr design and another new feature required by the new rules is that they are obliged to have one fixed forestay which on Foncia is for the ‘trinquette’ (ie the middle of the three tacked to the foredeck). Further forward the Solent is on a lock with a small hydraulic ram available to tension the stay/bend the mast.

Below decks

Down below the interior on Foncia is even more minimalistic than we saw on Desjoyeaux’s previous Farr-designed Vendee Globe winner. He has kept the unusual box-section tunnels for the lines running aft from the mast and foredeck. As before lines drop down through the deck round a block and up through the two tunnels the out in the open to twin pit areas either side of the central hatch. While creating more friction in the blocks, this does allow any water passing down through the deck apertures to run off directly to the enclosed box for the canting keel.

On the last boat Desjoyeaux had a bucket seat he could mount on each of the tunnels but with the new boat he has dispensed with this altogether (since donated to PRB). As he says: “You don’t need it, so you don’t carry it. 4kg gone!”

All the electronics - performance instruments, two PCs, comms gear, etc - are fitted within one large box that is attached to the main bulkhead via a large arm and can be brought up to windward. Desjoyeaux admits that the main reason they did it this way was so that they could get the box prepared and working before it was installed in the boat.

There are no pipecots fitted – instead Desjoyeaux will sleep on a waterproof bean bag, similar to what he had on his ORMA 60 Geant, he says. Once again there is a stacking system involving a large yellow bag that can be hauled fore and aft down either side of the boat or tacked across the main saloon area. On a race like the Vendee Globe Desjoyeaux reckons ‘the stack’ could amount of 500kg of sails and 500kg of extra gear like food and safety equipment.

As usual headroom down below seems abnormally short (although you can stand up no problem) due to the numerous water ballast tanks. Like the other IMOCA 60s Foncia has this ballast in forward, centre and aft compartments, but according to Desjoyeaux they have fitted an additional tank between the canting keel bulkheads. Due to the lighter weight of the new boats we understand that the amount of water ballast has been reduced to somewhere closer to 4 tonnes as opposed to 5 on some of the heavier last generation IMOCA 60s.

Other significant weights saving have been made in changing the batteries from lead to Lithium-ion. Desjoyeaux reckons that this alone saved him 150kg. But the biggest weight saving has come from changing from a steel to a carbon fibre keel foil – the only one of the three new builds to go down this route.

Like most modern canting keel boats, only one ram is used and Desjoyeaux says the set-up for the keel canting is the same as they used on the previous Foncia.

Another feature of the new Foncia is that the hatches on the two full bulkheads either side of the box for her canting keel now open in different directions. This might seem of little consequence but are there following the near loss of Seb Josse’s BT in last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre when the interior of the boat was decimated as the swell rolled fore and aft, up and down the boat. Having bulkhead doors opening in opposing directions should prevent this.

With the changes to the IMOCA rules for the new builds, particularly the mast height and righting moment limits, there has been some concern that the new generation of boats might be no faster than the previous ones. Desjoyeaux says they haven’t managed to come up with the evidence yet but he expects the boat to be faster in all conditions. “I think it will be faster downwind in the medium for sure because the boat is much lighter.”

Another concern specifically regardingly Foncia is that in the break neck build pace, and having only one month in the water prior to the Route du Rhum start, reliability might be an issue, but Desjoyeaux says that this shouldn’t be the case since he had hands-on involvement in the construction of his new boat from the outset. “I know how it is made and I know all the safety factors that we have on the boat and it is not less than on the previous one, so there is no reason why we should have any problems. That is why I am completely confident today.” Asking for trouble... “It was the only way to be able to make the boat in six months and to be sure that when we launched the boat I wouldn’t have any problems with it and I would immediately be very confident with it.”

Desjoyeaux is racing Foncia in the Route du Rhum and will then compete in the Barcelona World Race with young hotshot Figaro sailor Francois Gabart. After this the boat will be for sale as he moves on to the new Foncia MOD70 in 2011. The asking price for the new IMOCA 60? A cool 2.8 million Euros.

Foot of the wingmast showing the halyards disappearing into the deck Asymmetric daggerboard, toed in and located at the outboard extremity of the deck
Thanks to the unusual foredeck camber, no foot chokes are required Going outboard - storm jib, trinquette (fixed) and Solent (on a lock)
The deck spreaders attached to the side of the cabintop and are used as a sheeting point for headsails. Note the cute dome in the side of the cabintop
Aerodynamically tapered stanchion The cockpit is enclosed aft by the vang track
Kick up rudder - a more robust system than the one on the last Foncia
One side of the pit area
Vang. The new Foncia doesn't have the combined mainsheet/vang track Simple galley
The electronics box on its large hinged mount The yellow lines are to move the stack
The beam used to run lines aft from the mast and foredeck







Latest Comments

  • deecaffari 05/11/2010 - 11:30

    Yet more interesting features on a FOncia! Interstingly the old Foncia had her boards moved to the outside 'toed-in' position after she changed to Movistar colours. So I assume that Iker and Mich have been sharing informaiton from all the sailing they have been doing.
  • 119912 03/11/2010 - 11:27

    HI James, thanks for the article really good. Any chance of adding descriptions to the photos, they are great but sometimes not sure what i'm looking at. Captions would be a real benefit. thanks, Martin.

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