A cracked keel on Jean-Pierre Dick's new Open 60 raises fresh questions as the class undergoes a growth spurt


What have designers and builders learned since the last Vendée Globe or, for that matter, the Volvo Ocean Race, two races that were plagued by keel failures? Not enough, it seems.

The news that Jean-Pierre Dick’s new Farr-designed Virbac-Paprec 2, launched in February, has a cracked keel and that it must be changed is the first deeply worrying sign that the latest generation of Open 60s is not immune. Dick’s last Open 60, also a Farr design, was dogged by keel problems from the first.

Most of the last generation of Open 60s had keel problems of one kind or another: Mike Golding’s fell off, Roland Jourdain and Jean Le Cam’s sisterships suffered from ‘flutter’, then Jourdain had to retire from the Vendée Globe when the top of the carbon keel cracked. Every material used for keel construction – carbon, milled steel, fabricated steel keel – has had its failures.

Some questions are clearly not yet fully understood. Yet there is an unprecedented flurry of building and the next batch is still more powerful. Six other new Farr Open 60s are on the water or due to be launched (for Guillermo Altadill, Michel Desjoyeaux, Vincent Riou, Jeremie Beyou, Alain Gautier and Loïck Peyron) and there will be 11 other new designs by next year.

It does make you wonder – and it must be making a few skippers worry, too – how many more keel problems are going to emerge.

2 comments:From Graeme:I crunched some numbers, and in the last Vendee Globe there were 13 boats with canting keels, five of which suffered some sort of major problem. Of the five, only Conrad Humphreys was in a state to sail any distance. Mike Golding was lucky that his broke sufficiently close to the finish to make it back. So a failure rate of almost 40%, and a terminal (race ending) failure rate of over 30%.

Plus Bernard Stamm’s boat dropped her keel mid-Atlantic, which put him out of the Vendee.

Keels seem to be a point of failure on modern racing yachts, and adding a hinge and set of hydraulic rams make it a more complex (and therefore unreliable)

From John Morrison:With the number crunching done it makes one wonder where a fixed keel Open 60 would finish in the right hands?