I don’t have much news this week. I did work on the website and updated this page that talks about what I call the human factor. I think it’s an interesting read.
If you’re reading this, one thing that’s pushing these Class40 boats outside my budget is the delivery fee. Most boats are at least 6,000 miles away. Shipping, trucking or sailing ends up being expensive, in the order of $30,000. If you know of someone who’d be interested in delivering (for a tiny fee or for free) a Class40 to San Francisco, or anywhere on the West Coast, even Hawai’i would work, let me know. Ports of departure could be France, UK, Adelaide (Australia), Hong Kong, Tenerife, etc. It’s not a cruise, far from it. These boats are as spartan as can be! I’ve been reaching to sailing buddies to see if anyone’s interested, with limited success so far.
Although the light at the end of the tunnel is not showing up yet I am trying to remain positive about the boat search.
As I indicated here I was in Newport, RI yesterday to see Impulse, Class 40 #25. Here are the pictures and a few short movies from that trip.
The boat is in fantastic cosmetic condition, really beautiful. The owner did the work himself, with competent friends here and there. Following the grounding in 2014, which did lead to water ingress, the keel was taken off, the hull repaired, and numerous structural reinforcements were put in place. All the work looks impeccable. I crawled to the stern section to inspect the auto-pilot setup and came out clean. Now, the owner did clean the boat right before I arrived. He’s the first person I see do this, which says a lot about him. Of course, a proper survey out of the water would be necessary. But it was all good news. In addition, the coachroof is very large and high, which allows me to stand inside!
My assessment here is still accurate. What I learned about shipping the boat pretty much kills the deal unless I want to take 2 months to sail the boat to San Francisco, including a Panama canal crossing. The keel was faired then fiberglass was laid over. To ship the boat requires taking the keel off, and that would be about 1 week of 2 guys working on the boat, twice. A back of the hand estimate lands us into 30k territory!
The boat was recently listed and I doubt the owner would consider the offer that I can make, knowing all the additional equipment I need to acquire, in particular in terms of sails. I think I will wait. Interestingly, the original plan for the current owner was to prepare the boat to try and beat Guo Chan’s round the world solo non stop circumnavigation of 132 days. Other plans seems to have lined up for him. So he wants to sell the boat to focus his resources somewhere else for the next 2 years.
Next for me is looking into this boat in Hong Kong, which also has a grounding history.
I’ve been looking at a few Class 40 boats. As we discussed before our budget is short of putting us into a position to acquire a Class 40 boat. I still think it’s worth the investment to go and check some of them. Since I plan to travel to the East Coast for work, I figured I should do a small detour to check this one.
This boat has some history, not all good. FR Nautisme built two, this one and #29. They had some good results, finishing 6th and 7th in the 2006 Route Du Rhum (out of 22), and 3rd and 4th in the 2007 Transat Jacques Vabre (out of 27). #29 sank in 2009, with the crew being airlifted out of the boat. I couldn’t find exactly what happened. #25 suffered a crippling grounding in 2014 and changed hands to the current owner. #25 raced in the 2014 Atlantic Cup and finished last on every leg, most likely showing that it is not exactly competitive anymore, although I suspect that something else was going on as the boat was far behind. As far as the class is concerned, this boat is likely a goner, meaning it won’t attract a buyer who wants to race her in the Class40 class.
As can be seen from the listing the current owner did a lot of work, mostly to the keel structure, the engine, the deck hardware, and then some electrical work as well, which is good. On the other hand, the boat is severely under-equipped. The “white sails” are old, and the boat would need to be shipped to the West Coast. By under-equipped I mean that there’s no redundancy in much if anything at all. Energy generation solely relies on the engine and a small alternator. The house battery bank is only 240 Amps. There’s only one primary auto-pilot (most likely original), no watermaker, and no telecom equipment besides VHF. Last, the boat requires new standing rigging. Even if I try to be conservative with my estimates, it looks like I need to budget for a minimum of $60,000, and that does not include new sails.
This is very common in the used sailboat market. Most used sailboats have outdated equipment. To put things in context, how much would you give for a 10 years old laptop or cell phone? On a 13 years old boat, the electronic equipment has reached its full depreciated value several years ago.
In addition, I have to think about who will buy the boat from me when I return and for how much. When putting all this together the asking pricing appears to be on the high side. From what I learned, I do not think that the owner is looking for a quick transaction. Note that I counted about 27 Class 40 boats available for sale. And another 9 available for charter, out of a total of 150 registered boats. Almost 25% of the Class is looking to change hands, at least temporarily.
This post was inspired by a conversation with a sailing buddy.
To circumnavigate Earth on a small sailboat I must first start and then finish. To start all I need is a boat, any boat, and time. Completing the course, now, that’s a very different conversation. History is full of boats that completed serious feats of navigation but appeared, in hindsight, not fit for the course they completed. They were lucky. Planning for a circumnavigation I can’t put all my eggs in the lucky basket. I need to make choices that maximize my chances of completing the course. A key choice is the boat.
My buddy thought that a good old bluewater cruising boat would be the better choice, the one most likely to guarantee success. He was talking about boats like a Valiant 40, a Fast Passage 39, a Freya 39, a Fairweather Mariner 39. The rationale is that they have a reputation for being strong and sea-kindly. The reality is that the sailboat building industry has made significant progress over the past 30-40 years. The pinnacle of offshore sailing safety now can be seen in a Class 40 boat. However, because they’re seen as fast racing boats, and fast boats must be fragile, the perception seems to be that they are not as safe as good old boats.
Why a Class40?
Class40 boats are built to withstand storm conditions in the Bay of Biscay in November. Their construction is very strong and has numerous safety features directly incorporated in their design. The early generations boats were built for Category 0 racing. Some of the benefits of their construction include:
Reserve buoyancy: the boat keeps floating a little longer when filled with water;
Twin rudders: if one is lost there’s another one. They also provide much better control;
Crashbox: if the boat hits something the damage may be contained to the crashbox;
Watertight bulkheads, forward and aft: if a section of the boat is flooding these can be closed to prevent complete flooding of the boat;
Very large righting moment, giving the boat lots of power to punch through waves, minimizing the risk of being rolled;
Speed, which allows more chance to navigate around difficult weather patterns;
Water ballasts: allowing more control of boat stability;
Designed for short-handed handling, which keeps boat handling manoeuvers simple;
Coachroof, to remain protected from oncoming waves;
And that’s all that I have learned so far.
Good old bluewater boats
There are a few benefits to the good old boats, which I am very much considering:
They can be sailed without electrical power, using a windvane, a sextant and paper charts. Not so for a Class40, which is power hungry, mainly because of the electrical auto-pilot needs. I don’t know of anyone who has tried to solve this on a Class40. The approach taken is always redundancy and repairability.
Seakindliness: a Class40 is a fast boat that will power through waves and bang on the other side when sailing upwind, and downwind they can have unnatural jerky movements. All this can combine into an uncomfortable ride, which over time can be taxing on the skipper. A tired uncomfortable skipper can then make wrong decisions or spiral into depression, leading to the end of a dream. On the other hand, the thinking is that a good old boat is much more comfortable in a seaway. What I think is more real is that a Class40 is pushed hard to sail fast, but if it was depowered and sailed at the same speed as a good old boat, it would be close to as comfortable, not banging upwind, and with the auto-pilot on a lower setting not as jerky downwind.
When it comes to appendages below the water, which are always at risk of hitting something and possibly creating major damage to the hull’s integrity, a Class40 boat has a very deep bulb keel. Although they are designed to be strong and withstand collisions, some of the good old boats may have a stronger keel setup. And they are less likely to hit something fast, because, well, they are slower than a Class40.
If we look at statistics in ocean races, the Golden Globe Race would be a good place to start. Unfortunately only very few boats finished the course, with most boats abandoning the race because of significant damage. On the other hand, in the Vendee Globe, most boats (45% if I look at the past 5 editions) abandon because of equipment failure. These are IMOCA 60, not the same as a Class40, but they do share a lot of the same design features.
In 2018 I spoke with the owner of a Pogo 12.50, very similar to a Class40. He had sailed from the French Polynesian Islands back to Panama, going upwind for 30 days. He said that at the end his boat “had not moved”; everything was still as new. The ride was not comfortable, but I do not think I recall anyone saying that sailing upwind for 30 days was comfortable. Isn’t there a saying that goes like this: “gentlemen do not sail to weather”?
In the final analysis, the main consideration is not the boat alone, but the combination of boat, boat preparation, and skipper. A poorly equipped Class40 doesn’t stand much of a chance. A good old boat that has not been refitted from the inside out doesn’t stand much of a chance either. And if the skipper cannot manage the boat in all conditions, then one should hope that the boat knows the way …
As for me, if had $400,000, I would buy a used Pogo 12.50 and equip it with simple systems with double redundancy and spare parts galore. If I had $250,000, I would buy a used Class40 and equip it just the same, but with used stuff. And if I had $150,000, then I wouldn’t know what to do. Oh wait!
There’s nowhere to hide. Odds are not particularly in my favor. For sure, my project of circumnavigating Earth on a small sailboat faces many hurdles. I’m not delusional. I know it. I estimate the odds of starting the circumnavigation to be 1 in 10 (for no particular reason, and the odds of finishing without stops 1 in 4 (so far only one Class40 in 4 attempts has succeeded in completing a circumnavigation solo non stop). That’s about 2.5% of success. In other words, success is marginal at best.
I’m reading Dodge Morgan’s book “The Voyage of American Promise“. In there he mentioned D.H. (Nobby) Clark of the Guinness Book of World Records. He would have said: “Ninety five percent of those who say they are going to sail around the world do not get their boats in the water; ninety five percent of those who get their boats in the water do not get underway; and ninety five percent of those who depart do not complete a circumnavigation.” That’s a 0.0125% chance of success. Not great by any standard.
Those are only anecdotal odds. Let’s look at some facts. I think of this project along three axis: the boat, the skipper and luck. There’s no way out of simply being lucky. There are too many risks over which one has no control: collision with submerged containers or a whale, freak weather events, a rogue wave, catastrophic failure of equipment, debilitating sickness, etc. Plans can be devised to help manage the dangerous situation; experience and good planning come in handy here. For example, having antibiotics aboard can help control an appendicitis. But most likely a stop would be required to prevent the situation from spiraling down. Although, here, I must admit that some of the first solo circumnavigators had some serious grit about them (read Vito Dumas’ book; he’s not the only one).
It is hard to quantify the odds of not being unlucky. Looking at the Vendée Globe results for the past 5 years, with top professional sailors and very large budgets, I can see that about 45% of the sailors have to retire.
Fifty fifty. That sounds like a great boat name.
Now, that’s only for boats who started the Vendée Globe. In effect, we also need to quantify the odds of actually leaving in a well prepared boat, with a well prepared skipper. And that’s an all different conversation …
Let’s do a bit of math about where the money goes when you buy a boat. For the sake of our conversation, let’s say that the seller has listed a boat for $100,000 with a broker. The broker commission I’ve been told is about 10%. So the seller is only going to see $90,000. In other words, if the seller wants $100,000, the boat must be listed for $111,111. Right, so that’s 10% that neither the buyer or seller are seeing but sits there between the two of us.
Here in California, the government, not content with taxing my income at the source, will want to tax all that is exchanged. Again for the sake of our conversation, let’s just round this up to 10%, which, where I live, is near damn what I get taxed. So now, my buying price is $110,000. Wait, there’s also a registration fee, which is about 1%. So the buying price is increased to $111,000.
But, that’s not all, again here in California, there’s property tax on boats, about 1% every year. Let’s assume that I want to keep the boat for 5 years. My buying price is now $116,000. In order to offer the seller $90,000 for the boat, I need to pay $116,000, which represents about a 30% uplift. This is large enough that it can make or break a deal. In fact, I am looking at a boat that I could afford if it weren’t for all this.
Let’s not forget that the income used to pay for this boat was taxed in the first place. Ok, if you can afford to buy a boat for $100,000, let’s assume that your combined tax rate is about 40% (state tax, IRS, house property tax, and all the other stuff plucked out of my paycheck). To have $116,000 for the boat, one needs pre-tax $193,333, which is more than twice the amount of money that the seller will see.
Hello friends of SF2SF; we hope you like our new name. We may even soon have a logo. Read on as we talk about our crowdfunding campaign to circumnavigate Earth on a small sailboat
It’s time to make hard choices. Acquiring the right boat, just like buying a house, is a difficult process. We’ve talked about boat choices here and there before. Last week, we had an opportunity to discuss boat choices with a very experienced offshore sailor. There was no doubt in his mind that for the course we’ve selected the best boat choice is a Class40 sailboat.
However, as we discussed here, our budget is not enough for this type of boat: we’re short $25,000. We’ve decided to give crowdfunding a try and see if maybe family and friends can help bridge the gap. We’ve got two donations already. Help us get to a good start by visiting our crowdfunding campaign to circumnavigate Earth on a small sailboat.
The Sequoia Yacht Club, based in Redwood City, CA, USA, was hosting their kick off dinner for the summer racing series today. I was also invited to speak and present my story as a participant in the Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race. I have been racing with the club members for the past few months, as crew on SP’s boat Frequent Flyer. Everyone was welcoming, encouraging and good-natured. I had a wonderful time chatting with the club members. Presenting my story brought back good memories. I must admit, every time I watch this little video, I want to go again! And for a moment I do toy with the idea of buying a very small sailboat and try to do this again in 2020.
The club facility is well organized and all the equipment works. The chef did a fantastic job with the menu and set aside a plate for me to enjoy after the talk. It was really a good night and I’m thankful for everyone at SYC. Here are the Google slides of the presentation I did. It has a bunch of links as well.
My wife and I have been discussing the possibility of starting a crowdfunding campaign to boost our budget. So I thought I’d put the idea to the test tonight. Who better than sailors would understand some’s desire to sail 4 oceans? At the end of the presentation, I asked for a show of hands for folks who would contribute if invited to help a crowdfunding campaign for our circumnavigation attempt. To my surprise, about half of the crowd raised their hands, which was both emboldening and encouraging. I know what I have to do next! And tomorrow I talk with a Class40 broker.
Use the Contact Us form if you would like to host Philippe for a presentation as well.
We’re still looking for our sailboat. Selecting a sailboat for this course is rendered extremely difficult due to our limited budget. For the sake of the proverbial stake in the ground, let’s state our budget to be around $150,000 for a 3 years campaign. Note that the boat may suffer major damage, so we have to assume that it will be a loss for the sake of planning. In other words, we cannot plan to recover some of our costs by selling the boat after crossing the finish line.
Many books, many blog posts have been written about the important characteristics of a sailboat for circumnavigating. The focus is often cruising, not so much racing, which is closer to what I will be doing. Looking at boats that have raced singlehanded around Earth is a good way to identify possible candidates, as race committees usually define very strong safety requirements for the participating vessels. But those vessels are often supported by sponsors, which we’re not (yet?).
It is of course of primary importance that the vessel is safe. We would also like the boat to be fast and comfortable, at least to a spartan level.
Where we’re looking
So we’ve been browsing a few web sites: local craigslist, yachtworld.com, class40.com, Owen Clarke Design. But with no luck so far, so we’re still looking for our sailboat; it appears that we will need to find another 100k, or go slower than we want. A decision will have to be made: fast or slow.
When I looked for my first sailboat I received help from the SSS. It took a while but someone informed me of Double Espresso, which was really a perfect fit at the time, as proven by my results with that boat.