On standby with Jacques Guichard on Maxi Spindrift 2

Danielle Neri

Walking down the dock to Spindrift 2 is an experience in itself. 40 meters of carbon engineering drawing five meters into the sea, she floats off the final “T” of a very long pier. As you walk by slip after occupied slip, your eyes do not look beside you but gaze ahead at a massive sailing structure, looming in anticipation. It strikes you right away that this boat was not made to be on a dock. After all, Spindrift 2 is not 'parked' at Newport Shipyard. She is merely on standby, impatiently waiting for her next departure (which could happen next week, or maybe, this afternoon..).

Launched as Banque Populaire V in 2008, she was designed to sail at maximum speeds around the word. In January 2012, Banque Populaire V claimed the Jules Verne in 45 days 1 hour 42 minutes and 53 seconds, which stands as the fastest circumnavigation of the world by any type of yacht. Prior to that, the boat set the Transatlantic record (west to east) and the 24 hour speed record, twice. In January 2013, she was purchased by Spindrift Racing, and thus began the career of the maxi trimaran Spindrift 2.

A literal mind might say this is a yacht designed to set records, then break them. Yet the rule of the WSSRC states that a boat cannot break its own record unless it is modified. A number of modifications were completed in the creation of Spindrift 2, one of which was shortening the mast by six meters. In our interview with Jacques Guichard, he estimated the modifications to transition Banque Populaire V to what is now Spindrift 2 resulted in a weight reduction of roughly 2,000 kilograms.

Jacques has built a career in sailing and sail design. A member of Spindrift Racing since it began in 2013, Jacques has worked with North Sails out of the loft in France since 2005. A wealth of experience in offshore and multihull racing makes Jacques the ideal point man for sail projects within the Vendée Globe, Volvo Ocean Race, and the MOD 70 class. His contemporaries in France describe Guichard as a very experienced and demanding sailmaker in addition to an excellent sailor and trimmer. As a member of Spindrift Racing, Jacques crews on the MOD70 Spindrift, and will trim onboard the maxi Spindrift 2 in their upcoming North Atlantic record attempt (from Ambrose Light in New York to Lizard Point in Cornwall). He also sails on the Decision 35 Ladycat powered by Spindrift Racing, which won the Bol d'Or Mirabaud last week. Below, Jacques explains the modifications behind Spindrift 2, how the team is preparing the boat for its next record attempt, and his opinion of North Sails’ newest baby, 3Di Raw.

Hi Jacques, we understand there have been a number of modifications to Spindrift 2 for the upcoming record attempt. Can you explain them and how they will make the boat go faster?

Possibly the biggest modification was cutting six meters off the mast because we knew that Spindrift 2 would not attempt the record in anything less than 22 knots of wind. When using the original mast in that much wind, the sails would always be reefed. By shortening it, we are essentially “reefing” the rig and reducing drag at the same time. The mast is now 300kgs lighter, and our decision to use North 3Di Raw (instead of 3Di) saved us an additional 30 kilos*. Since both of the reductions were up top, the result is brilliant. When you combine all the modifications - in sail, composite structure and other details - we reduced the boat’s weight by about 2,000kgs.

When the wind speed is above 22 knots, Spindrift 2 is sailing at 5 or 6% above the boat’s original polars**. Simply, when the wind is up, we maximize our speed. If there is less wind, we lose the advantage of a higher mast and sail, but we will only attempt the record in 22 knots or more, 30 knots would be ideal. When the wind gets up to 35 knots, the sea state becomes an issue and not suitable for breaking records.

*Note the sail layouts were highly optimized for Spindrift 2, so the difference in weight did not solely result from the switch to 3Di Raw.
**For those of us who don’t know, polars are digital models that predict how the boat will perform in certain conditions. 5-6% above indicates the boat is sailing faster than originally anticipated.

How are you preparing the boat for the upcoming Transatlantic Record attempt?

To break the Transatlantic Record, Spindrift 2 is optimized for weight savings. In order to set the record we’ll have to sail the whole trip on starboard tack. Everything that is not essential will be removed from the boat, including the starboard foil. The mast will be canted (tilted) to one side. It’s an all-or-nothing approach, we either set the record or we don’t. There is also a potential of setting the 24 hour speed record in the same attempt.*

*Jacques said that last sentence with a sparkle in his eye…

What is the decided sail inventory for the North Atlantic record attempt?

Simplification is key. We will sail with the Main, a Gennaker, and a J1, J2, and J3. The J1 is a reacher that was built specifically for the North Atlantic record attempt, designed to be flown in 25-30 knts of wind at 120º true wind angle. The sail is 300 square meters and weighs 100kgs, which sounds heavy but for this boat is actually quite light.


Over many years of creating sails for the world’s fastest boats, we know you've had access to the industry's best materials and practices. Given this, we are curious to know your opinion of North Sails’ latest product, 3Di Raw?

We benefit largely from the reduction in weight (about 10% when compared to standard 3Di). 3Di Raw is ideal for our headsails, because they roll up on the forestay and are handled much less. The product is also fantastic for inshore racing and we use Raw on Ladycat’s D35 (for their win in the Bol d’Or Mirabaud last week). On Spindrift 2, we have no doubts about the integrity of 3Di Raw for our upcoming record attempt or for the Route du Rhum. 3Di Raw can be susceptible to friction, and our mainsails receive quite a bit of that during ocean crossings. Although we have noticed some signs of wear, we treat it as we would any other part of the boat - record the condition and keep track of it. By keeping notes on signs of wear, we can confirm the sails are holding up within the standards we expect.

To be honest, North Sails did not want us to use 3Di Raw for Spindrift 2 and advised that we use standard 3Di material, which has resistance to friction and UV*. The reason we chose to use it anyway is because our plan is to use the mainsail for only four transatlantic crossings** which, for this boat, is not that much sailing. Also, we are going to build a new, bigger mast next year for the Jules Verne and the sails will have to be replaced anyway. For the Jules Verne around the world record attempt we will use a North Sails standard 3Di main.

*3Di is used for all VO65 sails in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race.
**That's 11,520 nautical miles.

Spindrift 2 tied to the final pier at Newport Shipyard.

Since you will crew for the North Atlantic attempt, can you tell us what you’re looking forward to? What is your favorite part about sailing aboard Spindrift 2?

The sea is a passion of mine, it's something I have always enjoyed being a part of. My role on the boat is instrumental in designing and building the sails. I enjoy reaping the rewards of that effort while sailing across oceans. Spindrift 2 is a very fast boat and a good model for sails because we cover so many miles in such a short time. Its a continuous cycle, the more time we spend sailing, the more knowledge we gain for making sails in the future. I've sailed multihulls for the past 12 years and they are my favorite type of boat to sail and design sails for. Spindrift 2 is an amazing boat to sail.

Once you find the right conditions, how fast is the turnaround from routing the trip to leaving the dock?

Spindrift 2 is on standby in Newport, RI until the 15th of August. In the meantime, there are weather checks every single day. While the boat is ready to go, we’ve implemented a traffic light system for the sailing and shore crews. We’re currently in a “RED” phase, meaning only three shore crew will be here to clean the boat, maintain the batteries, etc. The sailors fly home to rest or, for me, go sailing on Spindrift Racing’s Decision 35. When we move to "Amber" phase, the rest of the shore team will fly back to Newport to double check systems, structure or whatever is their speciality. "GREEN" phase leaves us with just enough time for the sailors to fly in, usually T-24 hours to dock off. The sailors will arrive on the day the boat leaves the dock. For this record, we also need to budget enough time to sail to the starting line in New York.

Our last question is a little profound, but we’d like to know who would dream up a boat like this?

Everyone who dreams of sailing, of technology, of adventure, of getting away from it all, of sailing around the world and being in a true willderness where so few have had the chance to be. We are endlessly thankful for our partners, our program and our founders, Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard. But the ideas, the passion, the dream - that comes from the crowds of people who share our passion. We are here because of them.

Jacques Guichard (left) and Tim Carrie were excellent hosts! See photos from our tour on the North Sails instagram account (@north_sails or http://instagram.com/north_sails).