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Hugo Boss: an exciting and radical new IMOCA

For VPLP Design the new Hugo Boss is more than just the second 2020 generation IMOCA to be designed by the firm after Charal, it is a project milestone. Officially unveiled on Thursday 19 September in London, skipper Alex Thomson’s new sailing machine is designed to achieve one single goal: win the next solo round-the-world race (the Englishman was runner-up in the 2016–17 Vendée Globe).

“We already know Alex and his team very well, having collaborated with them on his previous IMOCA,” says Vincent Lauriot-Prévost. “He has a huge amount of experience and a very individual point of view, radical even, as to what an IMOCA should be.” The result is a sixty-footer designed uniquely and precisely for the Vendée Globe.

Specifications were unambiguous about the priorities: tonnage (the boat weighs 7.6 tonnes), points of sail aft of the beam, and foils. “We weren’t looking to generate power,” says Vincent Lauriot-Prévost. And above all, the design teams (Quentin Lucet, Daniele Capua, Philippe Orhan, Xavier Guisnel, Guillaume Dupont and Nicolas Barral for VPLP, and Gurit for structural engineering) were given plenty of time to carry out their specific studies. “That was a real luxury,” says Quentin Lucet, project leader. “Usually we’re working under pressure, for a race coming up. But on this job, Alex asked how much time we needed!”

This freedom and the trust afforded to VPLP right from the start by Alex Thomson’s team (Peter Hobson, Andy Cloughton, Neal MacDonald, Jesse Nemark) were key to the design of this very innovative boat. “It was great working with them, pitching ideas. They’re team players but they know what they want too,” says Vincent Lauriot-Prévost.

Design philosophy is the same as for Charal, VPLP’s first second generation foiling IMOCA, with a hull optimized for minimum drag, although Hugo Boss is even lighter and less powerful. The hydrofoils are tailored for running and reaching, and are less versatile than Jérémie Beyou’s. The teams spent many long hours comparing the current and previous versions on the simulator.
As for the famous fully enclosed cockpit, one of the major innovations to appear on the sixty-footer, it derives its inception from Alex Thomson competing in no fewer than five Vendée Globes… and the vast amount of work done on the aerodynamic drag of foilers, for whom sailing at 30 knots has almost become the norm.

VPLP teams were highly impressed by Jason Carrington’s yard where the new Hugo Boss was built. “He’s a craftsman, an enthusiast who puts a lot of emotion into his work,” says Quentin Lucet. “What he has built is a work of art. He just doesn’t compromise. He’s capable of redoing the gelcoat on a liferaft cradle the night before the boat goes in the water just because he’s not satisfied with the finish. That’s a smidgeon above your usual dedication to detail!”