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Volvo Extreme 40

2006 August 1

It's fun to look at what is happening on the extreme edges of sailing. The Volvo Extreme 40 class was designed for one-design racing and following the Volvo 70s around the world to provide spectator excitement wherever the 70s were berthed. No, they don't follow them the hard way. The VX40 is container friendly and the mast breaks into two sections for its 40-foot container. This is a boat that according to its published PR sheet is "demanding to sail and punishes mistakes." This means you will need both sailing lessons and swimming lessons if you intend to sail a VX40.

The concept for this design came from two world-class Tornado sailors, Yves Loday and Mitch Booth. The target was "action." The hull is all waterline and the L/B for the individual hulls is 13.6. If we take the entire beam of the cat we get an L/B of 1.74. This means we have two very narrow, symmetrical hulls very far apart. The midsection shows a deep arc with no deadrise. The hull profile shows volume pushed forward, I suspect to help minimize the chance of pitchpoling. In looking at the pics I got in this package it appears that the bow of the VX40 is of the surface-piercing type. This means there is more volume low on the hull than there is at what would be the deck, if there were a deck forward. I don't have full hull lines to confirm this. The VX40 has the lowest D/L I have ever calculated, 19.18. I suppose when you consider that crew weight is an essential component of the big cat's stability you should add crew weight to the displacement for this ratio. If I use a crew of five averaging 180 pounds apiece this raises the D/L to 25.46; still my current record.

To build a boat this light takes technology above and beyond your typical, even high-tech, boatyard. The VX40 is built from carbon fiber with a Nomex core. Nomex is a honeycomb configured Aramid paper core. The skins are pre-impregnated with epoxy and the entire hull is put into an autoclave where a vacuum is drawn while the boat is baked at 120 degrees Celsius. This is typically the type of construction technique used for aircraft, Formula 1 racing cars and some carbon spars. This technique produces strong and light hulls but due to the construction demands and size limitations of an autoclave it is not likely that you will see any monohulls autoclaved too soon.

I'll take the sail area right off the PR package. There is no use using I, J, P and E for a rig like this. Full, fathead or "square head" main and jib have a total area of 1,076 square feet. Throw in the gennaker and you have 1,915 square feet of total sail area. You can see where I am going with this: a new SAILING Magazine review record for SA/D. Without the gennaker and crew weight the SA/D is 87.7, and with crew it's 72.62. We have a winner! Now, just for the sheer fun of it, lets do a SA/D with gennaker and crew: 129.25. "Puff coming, dear."

It might help here to summarize and put this in perspective. The newest Farr TP 52 has a D/L of 65.5. and an SA/D of 39 and by any standard the TP 52 can be considered very light and very high powered. The TP 52's numbers are anemic compared to the numbers of the VX40.

The bottom line to all this is a top speed of 40 knots and a speed of 35 knots in 20 to 25 knots of wind. There is a cockpit for a "guest" or observer so you can take your non-sailing sponsor or your mother-in-law along for a ride. I guess you would find out in a hurry if he or she liked sailing. These boats capsize easily and you can do a full gainer from that windward hull with the boat on its side. Or, you can just cling, like a spider, to the vertical trampoline and pray.

Obviously this is a boat intended for the best of the best sailors. The goal was to provide a boat that would be fun for spectators to watch race. I heard they raced in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Now, that I would have liked to see.

LOA 40'; LWL 40'; Beam 23'; Draft 6'; Displacement 2,750 lbs.; Sail area 1,076 sq. ft.; SA/D 87.7; D/L 19.18; L/BOA 1.74
Volvo Extreme 40 Class, Leidsevaartweg 1k, 2106 NA Heemstede, P.O. Box 87, 2120 AB Bennebroek, The Netherlands, www.volvoextreme40.org.

OBE: $385,000
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