column-1031-reynolds-art1By Pat Reynolds
To boaters, boats are not just boats. They’re a vehicle to places we aren’t designed to go, and for this we are forever grateful and always intrigued when we see something special.
Up on stilts in a boatyard in Fiji Way in Marina del Rey sits such a specimen.
She’s 60 feet long, 21 feet wide and oddly flat. There is no cabin, but two pods on either aft corner. A giant Hugo Boss logo on each side of the boat stretches below the waterline, indicating that when it sails it heels up high and the bottom of the boat is exposed.
Among sailboats, this is a muscle car, a spaceship. A vessel built to carry a single person around the world non-stop — and as fast as possible.
Anyone might guess it’s expensive, and they’d be right. Some $6 million went into the design and build of this watercraft, an investment in creating the fastest and most durable 60-foot mono-hull on the planet.
Owner Alex Thomson is a pro round-the-world solo sailor of the International Monohull Open Classes Association, an elite group that fosters development of high-speed “open 60s.” The 39-year old Englishman is one of the more successful racers in the class and has a devoted and generous sponsor in Hugo Boss. Many of the racers in IMOCA struggle to fund their incredibly expensive campaigns, but the high profile apparel company has backed Thomson for many years and many boats.
All of the boats in IMOCA are essentially made for one purpose — to sail in the Vendee Globe, a non-stop circumnavigation in some of the harshest ocean environments in the world. The vessel that now sits peacefully at Windward Boatyard is part of this fraternity.
Though Thomson didn’t sail this boat in the Vendee, it did make the journey shortly after its 2007 birth, when it was known as Pindar. Thomson bought the boat in 2010 and made it more powerful. Under the direction of famed designer Juan Kouyoumdjian the boat’s redesign explored the limits of power with research and development on “righting-moment,” or torque that keeps a hull upright.
Acting captain Will Palmer said the boat, after its retrofit, was actually a bit too much for one man to get the most out of it.
“It’s the most powerful 60-foot mono-hull ever built,” said Palmer, who has sailed the boat all over the world with a four man crew. “It’s incredible to sail. It’s basically like riding a 60-foot surfboard.”
Palmer said he and his crew have sailed at 30 knots, but he feels confident that with the right set-up, sail wardrobe and conditions the boat could reach 40.
“It’s pretty nice offshore. It’s not for inshore,” he said. “I kind of liken it to an American muscle car: It goes in a straight line like nobody’s business, but trying to get it around a short course you’ll break your back.”
But Palmer is a man about to lose a close friend. Having fulfilled the needs of its corporate sponsor, the boat is now going up for sale.
It’s likely the boat will sell for a loss, considering the amount of work that went into creating it and the 2010 retrofit.
But for the right buyer, it’s a gem.
“The boat’s ready go, said Palmer. “It just needs someone who wants to break some records with it.”