Brian BJ Caldwell

After finishing my first solo circumnavigation of the world - (at which time, I was the youngest in history to do so) the priority isn't to break the new record but rather - to achieve a relaxed build an extension of myself (the boat) - I've long envisioned. Like the dream of crossing oceans solo, her design is simple.

The philosophy being - to create a boat that resembles yourself. For me, this means - to never fight against Nature but to fight with her. I envision a feather-weight machine that's blown 'round the planet by utilizing the 'powers that be,' in this non-confrontational manner.

Forget going to windward; the fastest way around is to rocket east before the prevailing westerlies, flying maximum sail and surfing on the leading edge of weather systems. Catch the right ones as they coiled around the planet, and a record 100-day passage is not unthinkable.

One design firm embodies this philosophy: Groupe Finot of France. An attestation to their creations, is the fact they've won the last four solo races around the world

I would sail this extension of myself - a Finot Open 50, through numerous circumnavigations. Of course, these passages won't be mere pleasure cruises, records are what justifies sponsorship.

I would like to mention that I couldn't agree more with a letter by Peter Hogg to Latitude 38 magazine. Of notability:

"The current generation of boats represent light years of improvement over those that took part in the original Golden Globe race that was won by Robin Knox-Johnston."

Since Alain Gautier's aluminum Generali Concorde in the 1989 race, Groupe Finot say that using high-tech composites has reduced the weight of their hulls by 50 per cent Isabelle

Autissier's PRB, for example, was built in La Rochelle by Marc Pinta using pre-impregnated carbon fibre.

How can a lighter boat be more sea-worthy? The better variety of materials & building methods for one. Take for example this quote from Yachting World magazine comparing 1993 Vendee Globe winner - Gautier's Bagages Superior with Johnston's Golden Globe winning Suhaili:

"Reduced displacement means that the loads aboard the boat reduce This in turn often means lighter fittings can be used, cutting the all-up weight and reducing the loads still further, towards an equilibrium."

"By way of contrast, the design philosophy 30 years ago was generally to add a bit more on for safety's sake'. And as each scantlinq increased and each fitting grew to accommodate the additional safety factor, so the all-up weight of the boat grew. Increasing the displacement increased the loads and justified the need for larger fittings, and so the process went on.

The longer I've sailed, the more I've come to believe that speed equates to safety. Consider the fact that open class designs can evade extreme weather systems through speed. However, more often than not - they're looking for 'stronger' wind and won't divert for reason of longer distances...

Things start snow-balling...Consider for example: An Open 50 would spend only four months over the course of a nonstop circumnavigation versus - eight plus months on a more 'conventional' or out-dated design...should I dare say. Fifty percent less time at sea means less wear & tear on both skipper and vessel.

That goes without saying that some boats competing in the Vendee Globe have had serious problems. First, any boat in those seas would, (in comparison - only one boat of ten completed the first edition in 1969 - 'Robin Knox-Johnston.') Secondly, the carnage of the fleet widely differs from one designer to another (the last Vendee winner had no damage and the current race leader has none.) Thirdly, the race is a test bed, (through these races, rolling reefing and autopilots have reached their present sophistication) breakages are expected; to maximize the potential of a boat, you have to know how far the design envelope can be pushed back with today's materials & building technology.

Finally, don't forget that skippers are pushing the boats to the limit - because this isn't a competition of survival - it's a race.

Listen to what Christophe Auguin - two time BOC Challenge winner & current leader of the Vendee Globe said during an interview with Sailing World magazine concerning his now 'lighter' Finot Open 60:

"My boat is a very good boat, particularly reaching, and that's an important point. We worked two years to develop the conception of the boat and I am very happy with the results."

"This time, in the south, I pushed the boat more. I have fear, yes, (95' BOC) but not all the time. When the wind is under 45 or 50 knots it's possible to push the boat. And now I have no problem in these conditions. In the last BOC with the wind at 40 knots or 35 knots I was careful, but in these conditions the boat can go around 20 knots...And in the south (Southern Ocean)...the south is difficult. It's impossible to speak about. It's like another planet."

Groupe Finot specified - the 50 I hope to build is the 'improved' clone, of Christophe's remarkable vessel. A boat that has covered 447 nautical miles in 24 hours! A boat that carried the French skipper through two circumnavigations and two wins - unscathed.

My dream is to become one - again, the boat, me & the ocean. I achieved this nirvana with my Contessa - Mai Miti. However, stops were disruptive and the depression of the finish is something I never really anticipated. I long for an 'un-broken passage' - without ports or assistance.

The last voyage was undertaken to enhance my future sailing plans. For me, the vision from the beginning has been to find a nice rythm with nature. To sail with a conception that personifies all my experience at sea...not just from the last circle but since my parents first took me out when I was two months old.

The racing and pursuit of records is secondary to my love for the sailing itself. In the great scheme of things, any skipper can win a race - but man will never have the advantage over the mighty sea. We can only strive to go down to the sea showing full respect by bringing all of our experience to bear. It's the ocean I love, not the race...but I think the race results will reflect the sailor who most loves the sea...because to win, you have to finish!

BJ Caldwell

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Last Modified: Friday - 19990205.14:51 HST