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Under the Hood: A Look at Didac Costa's Vendée Globe Sails

Confidence in your sail inventory is paramount when you’re taking on a solo race around the world. Not just confidence that they will hold up and perform in some of the most demanding conditions one can imagine, but also confidence that you have the right sail to tackle whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

Let's go - Didac Costa performs final sail and boat checks leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe. Photo courtesy of Vendée Globe and © Jean-Louis Carli/Alea

Sailors who complete the Vendée Globe sail on average 23,000 miles in a wide range of conditions. To help Didac meet this challenge, Quantum offshore expert Antoine Thuillier and sail designer Gildas Dubois led the effort to create a custom inventory for Didac’s IMOCA One Planet One Ocean. (Formerly named Kingfisher, which you may recognize from Ellen MacArthur’s 2000 Vendée Globe historic race.) The sail inventory needed to be versatile, durable—yet still manageable by a solo Didac—and fast, not to mention within budget. Working closely with Didac and his team, Antoine and Gildas used their respective expertise in big boat and offshore sail design—and sailing—and Quantum’s iQ Technology to build a custom six-piece inventory to power Didac around the world. Didac’s custom Quantum sail inventory for the 2020 Vendée Globe includes a mainsail, three headsails, and two downwind sails. Here’s a closer look.

BUILDING THE INVENTORY

The rules of the Vendée Globe race leave a lot of room for creativity and customization when it comes to sail inventory. Sailors must have a mainsail (of course) and carry a J2. Other than that they can have up to six additional sails—for a maximum of eight sails.

With just six sails, the design team used Quantum’s iQ Technology to run simulations and dial in sail shape to optimize wind range and angle to help cover a larger range of conditions with fewer sails. The versatility of the sails in the inventory is especially important as it helps to reduce the number of headsail changes. These sails are not only huge, they’re heavy, making them difficult to manage alone in the most ideal conditions—not to mention in the middle of the South Pacific on an angry day. Headsails can range from 100 to over 200 lbs meaning each sail change is incredibly demanding and a drain on precious energy. Fewer sail changes also mean less time on a potentially dangerous bow and fewer interruptions in speed. 

All of Didac’s sails, with the exception of the spinnaker, are Grand Prix Fusion M membrane sails constructed with an aramid fiber-filament matrix, chosen for its strength, shape retention and for its extreme durability. The fiber-filament matrix is then protected with Quantum’s ultralight VX offshore skins extra for durability, shape retention, and UV protection. (This is all part of our core product line available and customizable for every sailor not just for the likes of Grand Prix programs.) The Fusion M construction process is incredibly accurate and based on tolerances measured in fraction of millimeters, meaning the iQ Technology simulations truly come to life. The sails are finished by hand with incredible attention to detail. The result is a superior membrane sail with a longer structural and performance life, without sacrificing ease of use and shape. More simply put, epic sails up to the challenge of a Vendée Globe campaign and whatever sailing adventures you find yourself tackling.


MAINSAIL

  • Construction: Square-top Fusion M 7 - high-tenacity aramid fiber-filament 
  • Skins: VX Offshore – Black
  • Size: 152 m2
  • Details: Grand Prix finishings
  • Three reef points, 5 full battens and 1 mid

This mainsail was designed and constructed for serious long-haul performance. That means that the sail won’t only stand up to the rigorous demands of an around-the-world race, but it will do it with insane speed and performance. Quantum’s experts and iQ Technology design process produce sail shapes that are both fast and incredibly easy to trim, which is a huge advantage. This sail is no exception. Three reef points were added to make the sail more versatile and give Didac more control over the boat in a wider range of conditions. The full-length battens help create a stiffer foil shape and give needed support to the large sail area.


J2 ALL-PURPOSE FURLING HEADSAIL

  • Construction: Fusion M 7 - high-tenacity aramid fiber-filament
  • Skins: VX Offshore – Black
  • Size: 60 m2
  • Angles: 40-95° TWA
  • Sweet Spot: 10-25 kts
  • Deployed from the main headstay furler

The J2 is one of the two required sails and is historically the most used by the sailors. As the go-to headsail, Didac’s J2 is a powerhouse sporting a very wide wind range and extreme durability. To help with ease and frequency of use, the sail is kept and deployed from a furler on the headstay. The J2 will be especially important during the Atlantic legs at the beginning and end of the race.


J3 HEAVY-AIR HEADSAIL

  • Construction: Fusion M 7 - high-tenacity aramid fiber-filament blend (No carbon)
  • Skins: VX Offshore – Black
  • Size: 30 m2
  • Angles: 40-145° TWA
  • Sweet Spot: 22-45+ kts
  • Deployed from the baby stay with textile shackles

Ringing in at about half the size of the J2, the heavy-air jib is a dream when Mother Nature cranks it up. This headsail will be kept on the deck in a custom bag—to make it easier to deploy—with its home on the baby stay. The size and design make it one of the more versatile sails, but that doesn’t mean it lacks in any of the performance categories.


J1.5 MDTK FURLING REACHER

  • Construction: Fusion M 7 - high-tenacity aramid fiber-filament 
  • Skins: VX Offshore – Black
  • Size: 100 m2
  • Angles: 90-150° TWA
  • Sweet Spot: 15-40 kts

This sail is nicknamed “Michel Desjoyeaux Trinquette (MDTK)” after the famous sailor that one of the first to bring this style of reacher to their inventory. The team designed this J1.5 specifically for the trials and common conditions of the Southern Ocean. In addition to being the perfect reacher, it also helps save wear and tear on the J2 in the higher ranges. While the sail does not live on a stay, it still furls for easier deployment.


FRACTIONAL CODE ZERO XC (FR0)

  • Construction: Fusion M 7 – Cable-less XC design with high-tenacity carbon and aramid fiber-filament blend
  • Skins: VX Offshore – Black
  • Size: 161 m2
  • Angles: 40-130° TWA
  • Sweet Spot: 0-20 kts

Quantum’s Code Zero XC is hands down the most versatile sail in the inventory. In Quantum’s cable-less XC line, designers removed the torsional cable from the luff and used iQ Technology® to achieve unprecedented shapes. The Code Zero XC has more luff projection to weather and less sag compared to a traditional Code Zero with cable. Most importantly, without the cable you have less tension on the luff, which means less tension on the halyard and ultimately less compression on the mast.


A5 ASYMMETRICAL XC

  • Construction: Tri-Radial – Cable-less
  • Angles: 120-160° TWA
  • Sweet Spot: 15 kt-35 kts

The A5 is a highly versatile downwind spinnaker. Chosen to compliment the Code Zero XC and manage the more extreme downwind angles. Quantum designers used Dimension Polyant’s Carbon Sport and CZ Grand Prix radial laminate cloth for extreme durability. 


Click here to learn more about Didac Costa and be sure to follow his 2020 Vendée Globe campaign on his website and social media—Instagram, @_didaccosta_ and Facebook, @DidacCosta.

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