Yoann Richomme’s Class 40 Veedol is a latest generation Marc Lombard design that was the dominant class winner in the 2018 Route du Rhum
A curious pattern repeated in the 2018 Route du Rhum, as the newest designs – like the foiling Ultimes, and foil-assisted IMOCAs Charal and Hugo Boss – were defeated on the line by older boats. But there was one class which bucked this trend: the Class 40s, where Yoann Richomme sailed a near-faultless race in his customised Lombard design Veedol to lead from day two, also setting a new class course record.
This is an interesting time for the Class 40s. Thanks to the success of previous production models, including Lombard’s Akilarias, the fleet has developed strength in numbers, with 53 taking to the start in the Rhum. But many skippers at the front of the fleet are now ordering semi-custom designs, and the performance level in the fleet has made a real jump.
“I did two Transat Jacques Vabres in 2011 and 2013 [in a Class 40], and it doesn’t feel like it was the same class at all,” says Richomme, who has also competed in the IMOCAs. “Back then they were painted inside, they weren’t as stiff, the sails weren’t as good – nothing was up to the level it is now. They didn’t cost as much either! Because this does cost a lot of money. But the boats have improved, they’re a lot harder to sail. This is almost where the IMOCAs were ten years ago.”
Richomme has a hugely covetable sailing CV. Having been part of the Macif stable for several years, he won the 2019 Solitaire du Figaro, having already won it in 2016. He came 2nd in the 2013 TJV, has worked as a preparateur for Roland Jourdain’s IMOCA 60 campaign, studied naval architecture in Southampton, and was heavily involved in the development of the new Figaro 3. He is technical, fluently bilingual and a superb communicator. From a sponsor’s perspective, he is a complete package.
However, when his Macif sponsorship came to an end he had to decide what to do – try and raise the funds to pursue a Vendée Globe dream in an older IMOCA, or prove his potential by bidding to win in the Class 40s? For 2018 he chose the latter, and when that ambition aligned with his new sponsors’ aims, he placed an order for a new Lift 40 (hull No.1 had been designed for Louis Duc) and set out to optimise it further (this year, after his Figaro win, he is back in the IMOCA class and will be competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre in October 2019).
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Volume and power
The most striking feature of the Lift 40 is its fat forward sections and almost scow-like bow. Internally this creates a positively cavernous space, which Richomme has worked hard to maximise the stacking potential of, getting all available weight as far outboard as possible.
“This is definitely the boat with the most volume forward,” he explains, “It’s not structured the same way [as other 40s], which makes the stacking a lot easier. It’s very, very stiff, it’s got a lot of longitudinals, whereas [other designs] have transverse structures and are a lot more bendy, a lot softer.”
“This boat has got 12% more righting moment than the Mach 3, because it is wider, and because I can stack better. Basically when I am fully powered up – which is quite late compared to the others, at more than 18 knots – I’ve got full stack at max beam. I’ve got six bags, the gennaker, then all the water ballast. They’re stacking about a metre inside the hull when I’m stacking right on the outside.”
The forward sections also provide the lift which the Lift 40 is named for – Richomme says one of the things that makes the class hard to sail currently is the propensity for many boats to bury their bows in waves.
“What you have to imagine is that the boat is never running flat, so what you see in the harbour doesn’t make a lot of sense. But when you heel the chine is in the water, so it’s providing a lot of righting moment all the way forward, and that nose is out. So while we have a very round nose lying flat, it’s actually a ‘V’ when it’s heeling at 20° or 25°.
“That volume helps with lifting the bow out. You’ve got 2m of bow completely out of the water the whole time, and the water is just running underneath a flat surface. So it actually isn’t creating that much drag.”
“I think the designers have really done an amazing job, it’s got so much power.” Richomme says that in less than 18 knots the Lift is very comparable to other designs. Even in light conditions the extra volume hasn’t proved a handicap – Richomme won the Drheam Cup in very light winds soon after the boat launched.
Once true windspeed reaches 18-20 knots he will often be half a knot quicker. “I carry more sail for longer and a lot faster; the boat goes about 9.5 knots upwind. It’s absolutely crazy.”
One area Richomme has particularly personalised on Veedol is the cuddy, pit and nav area. Rather than having any lines running through the side of the cuddy to split winches, Richomme has led as many sheets as possible outside to the cockpit.
The rest are channelled through a central beam, which runs diagonally through the companionway to a central winch on the cockpit floor. This hugely reduces the amount of water that enters the sheltered cuddy area.
Richomme has two seats on each side of the cockpit – two fold-down footrests turn the side decks under the fixed roof into dry seating positions, while fold-down backrests a couple of feet abaft provide seated helming positions out in the open.
A screen on a pivoting bracket can be pulled into the companionway on either tack, so Richomme can trim the main and jib sheets, traveller and tackline, and navigate, all from under cover. The computer can be spun to face inside the boat also, and he can reach the central winch from inside too.
“So I can play the mainsheet from my resting position. Even if I’m in my pyjamas, I can do it without getting wet! I can even do the first sheet. Either jib sheet, spinnaker sheet or main track – I can do all that while watching the computer. To me that’s a big gain.”
Whilst the companionway entrance is slightly awkward when the boat is flat, Richomme says that when heeled the beam provides a useful bracing point. The other result is that the rest of the cockpit is very uncluttered.
The Lift 40 has a single spreader rig, created by Lombard together with spar makers Axxon. Richomme has also made efforts to reduce clutter aloft. “I worked the aerodynamics a lot on this boat, I’ve probably got the mast with the least gear on it – I took a lot of things out. So that’s saving a lot of windage and a lot of weight obviously.
“A lot of people tell me that the boat looks empty, it looks like there is nothing on deck, but it’s like Desjoyeaux’s rule: everything must be used twice, if not more. So every time there’s a rope, a fitting or anything, it must be used more than once to justify itself.”
LOA: 12.18m (41ft 1in)
Beam: 4.50m (14ft 9in)
Draught: 3.00m (9ft 10in)
Displacement (light): 4,500kg (9,920lb)
Water ballast: 2x750lt (2x165gal)
Upwind sail area: 115m2 (1,238ft2)
Downwind sail area: 265m2 (2,852ft2)