"Let's open the debate" Ian Lipinski talk's SCOW Bows and the Vendée Globe

When one of the most accomplished Mini6.50 and Class40 sailors gives their opinion on the state of play within IMOCA, well, we listen! Ian Lipinski, speaks to Emmanuel Versace about his views on traditional IMOCAs, the latest generation of foilers and the constraints imposed by IMOCA on the maximum bow volume.

It is safe to say that Ian Lipinski is a fan of a “Scow” designed boat. It is a familiar type of boat to him and one he’s won races and broken records on. According to him, these voluminous bows could also be the solution to (finally?) reducing the exponential cost associated to the research and development of foils whilst also increasing reliability and reducing the risks associated to striking UFOs!

“I’m currently in Thomas Ruyant’s (LinkedOUT) boat yard and I’m so happy with the race he’s racing! He’s about to pass the place in which his race came to an end in 2016. I’m also in admiration of guys like Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA-Water Family) and Damien Seguin (APICIL). I think it's great that they're rookies, racing at the forefront, with older generation boats.

At the front, Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ), Thomas and Charlie Dalin (Apivia) remain well grouped. Material damage will remain an important element in major races such as the Vendée Globe. The slightest problem immediately reshuffles the cards! I was seriously impressed with how little time in took Charlie Dalin to repair his broken port foil system. Let’s see if the repair holds but it seemed like a good and incredibly efficient fix!

Let’s open the debate

We can see the limits of these new, large and latest generation foilers in these big solo races. The average speeds have been relatively low, that said I think they’re going as fast as they can! It difficult for them to go any faster. The question is, is it the violence and discomfort of being onboard or the fear of the catastrophic damage that limits the speeds we’re seeing, we won’t have an answer to that question for a while yet.

I am quite convinced that under the conditions currently seen by the Vendée Globe fleet, and even without foils, a “scow” type boat would be hugely competitive. I’m thinking particularly of the boats from David Raison (the designer of Class40 #158 Crédit Mutuel, editor’s note) and Samuel Manuard, the designer of L’Occitane en Provence skippered by Armel Tripon.

I think we should open the debate on limiting bow volumes within IMOCA. I think it would be interesting to really open up the possibilities – after all it is a Class born out of continual innovation. The conversation could also bring about solutions to reduce costs. It would increase the reliability by reducing the complexity of parts like foils, their manufacturing and design costs. It would also decrease the likelihood of a collision with an ‘UFO’ in our ever more polluted oceans!

600,000 € for a pair of foils

While it is hard to compare Armel’s speed with those leading the front of the fleet, Armel proved earlier in the season that his boat was quick, perhaps even considerably faster than others. He’s very quick at the moment and I think life on board for him probably remains much simpler too. The scow concept is limited to certain constraints, but you can imagine going much further than we have before with the IMOCA60. It’s surely an interesting avenue to explore.

Today we see historic Vendée Globe sponsors such as PRB, who according to what they say, are struggling to finance new projects like they always have. It’s too bad!

It is true that the technological race is hugely exciting but when you see the cost of the foils, and the big teams that replace them once, twice, or even three times before for the start of the Vendée Globe before hitting or breaking them less than one month in, at €600,000 a pair the maths and unsustainability of it becomes pretty clear, pretty quickly.

Since discovering the ‘scow’, one thing is sure, performance levels increase substantially quicker than the financial ask made to a sponsor. In this Vendée Globe, when we see the boats of Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA - Water Family), Damien Seguin (APICIL) or Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) performing so well, posting big averages and exceeding all expectations let’s imagine what they could have done with a ‘scow’…


Photo Credit 1: Breschi Live / Credit Mutuel

Photo Credit 2: Armel Tripon Sailing

Photo Credit 3: Eloi Stichelbault


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