Argo breaks Bermuda-Plymouth record – Live Sail Die
On her first outing since the start of the pandemic, Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo trimaran broke the existing record for the passage between Bermuda and Plymouth in the United Kingdom last week.
The previous record for this 2870 mile course east across the North Atlantic was set in May 2016 by American Lloyd Thornburg’s sistership, the Phaedo 3 with a time of 5 days 11 hours 57 minutes. Argo’s 4 days 19 hours and 30 minutes (measured, but still subject to World Sailing Speed Record Council ratification) was 16 hours 37 minutes or 14.4% faster. Her average speed for the direct course was 24.85 knots. In fact, comprising several gybes, Argo has sailed 3,347 miles through the water at an average speed of just under 29 knots, making it one of the highest shifting records ever set by a MOD70.
“It was great, everyone was very experienced and we had good riders so everything went really well,” said Brian Thompson, record skipper / navigator. “Everyone just kept their pace and we were just trying to stay in the ‘golden loop zone’ with the wind around the high pressure, not too close to the sun and not too far …”
It was a rare occasion where owner Jason Carroll was not on board as he has just become a father. Five years earlier, Thompson had also skippered Phaedo. On this trial attempt he was joined by Argo project manager and crew member Chad Corning, Athens Tornado silver medalist Charlie Ogletree, British Sailors Cup America Pete Cumming and Alister Richardson and American Westy Barlow (who is part of Carroll’s two-time Argo crew, winner of the Melges 32 World Championship). .
Chad Corning added: “There are two transatlantic records, New York-Lizard and Bermuda-Plymouth. The one in New York was set by the 40m long Banque Populaire V at a very high average speed and that is not something we could accomplish with this boat. Nonetheless Bermuda-Plymouth is an official transatlantic record, it meant something to us and it was a goal we knew we had a realistic chance to beat.
The record was a great opportunity to test Argo’s new third generation foils, created by the original designers of the MOD70 VPLP. While the central hull of the Argo has a regular rudder and rudder, on each float there is an inverted T rudder and a J-shaped lifting foil, the adjustable rake on both. It’s a slightly less extreme foiling arrangement than on Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati and the latest 30m long Ultime trimarans. “Our foils lift the hull to leeward and flatten the boat, so you have more power – they work really well,” says Thompson. “It looks more like a 90 footer than a 70 because the boat is much flatter upwind and upwind.” The foils have proven to be 2-3 knots faster in flat water and waves allowing them to maintain high speeds but navigate deeper angles in complete safety.
“With the old setup, we were just constantly afraid of pitchpoling – digging the arcs and making them not come out,” Corning adds. “With this setup that’s really hard to do – the bows are up and it’s very safe and when you come down from a wave or crash into the wave in front of you the rudder tilt control gives you a lot of confidence. “
Argo was delivered to Bermuda from Newport, RI in anticipation of a strong weather window for the attempt. Ultimately their departure was delayed to let a storm pass and by the time they reached Bermuda the opportunity to set the record in Plymouth waned. “There was a high pressure ridge over the UK and it looked light for the last 200 miles on almost all models,” said Thompson. However, soon after arriving in Bermuda, the forecast improved, indicating that the ridge, stretching east from Bermuda to Europe, had dropped enough to leave a small corridor of breeze up at the arrival.
En route, the Argo crew were able to achieve wide span to starboard at the top of the ridge, occasionally making a small team north to reposition themselves in a stronger breeze. “You could be near the high in 10 knots of wind or you could have 30 knots a little further north. We were trying to find that Goldilocks position with 22 knots of wind where we had a reef, a genniker and a J2 and the waves weren’t too big… ”said Thompson. The maximum speed during the record was 37 knots.
For the delicate approach from Plymouth, they saw another 12 knots of wind, enough to keep propelling them towards the finish at record speed.
The crossing was extremely quick but was not without incident. Argo suffered two collisions with unidentified floating objects on both her port side. The first of the third night, while in the north of the Azores, broke the tie bar along the aft beam joining the port and center quadrants of the rudder. This prompted the crew to make quick repairs in the middle of the night. The second collision impacted the foil and damaged the rear of the case, not so bad that the foil was stuck in position but making it difficult to raise and lower.
Thompson has extensive experience in racing large multihulls gained over the past three decades. Reflecting on the latest record, he said: “We have done 4,600,000 days in a row which would have been unheard of a few years ago. I remember when we did 580 miles on Playstation and that was enough to set a new 24 hour record in 1998. ”
From there, Argo is expected to continue training in the UK, with her next major fixture being the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, where she will face Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati. Its program will then include the Rolex Middle Sea Race which will close the year with the RORC Transatlantic Race ready for the 2022 RORC Caribbean 600.