End of an era of stupendous OSTAR innovation as the multihulls are expelled from the Transat race


Will we ever see the like of these genius boats again? I doubt it.

Their eclipse became official today with confirmation of the longstanding rumour that OC Events are expelling multihulls from the Transat next year. They are no longer wanted; they’re risky and they’re dispensable. It’s just Class 40s and Open 60s. The ascendant IMOCA boys have got what they wanted: top billing.

The logic of this really is indisputable. Too many of the modern ORMA 60s have ended up on their roofs in the North Atlantic. Now that they are in such obvious decline, why take the risk?

But it also brings to an end a fantastically exciting chapter in yachting history and innovation that started back in 1968 withPen Duick IV(right) and Tom Follet’s diminutive proaCheers(above).

It went on to produce Mike Birch’sThird Turtleand it gave us the first oceangoing foiler, Eric Tabarly’s trimaranPaul Ricard. The OSTAR, as was, produced big trimarans like Chay Blyth’sBrittany Ferries, saw the advent of the maxi multihull with the 22mJet Services Vand hothoused innovations like wingmasts, the use of laminates, carbon and Kevlar.

This really was the leading edge of sailing technology.

Today, a 60ft monohull is actually quicker than these multihulls were and the gap between monos and multis has narrowed significantly. The graph lines of risk and result have crossed over.

And you could argue (as I’m sure OC Events have) that they’d have enough on their plate with an exclusively monohull race. The North Atlantic in summer can be every bit as fierce as the Southern Ocean, and the sea state sometimes worse. Remember 2004? Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac rolled and dismasted in 50 knots; Vincent Riou’s PRB dismasted and Bernard Stamm capsized and rescued after this keel fell off.

So quite enough to be getting on with. And yet? This crucible of invention is reduced to a race for only two types of box rule monohull – a purer sporting contest, for sure, but one that puts paid to free-thinking concepts and radical designs. Isn’t that a shame? I think so.

What do you say?

1 comment:
Perhaps any article talking about the OSTAR and multihulls would be remiss without a quiet mention of Mike McMullen and Three Cheers. I have no doubt that the loss of both was not due to the ‘hull flipping’ action of current multis, but is certainly a part of North Atlantic racing history. I am proud to have him as my godfaher, even though I was only 3 when he set off on the ’76 OSTAR!Harry Spedding