It’s 04:21 in the morning of the 6th of April. The operation here at the port of Lorient La Base is about to begin, the excitement is growing. The blue belts come tight as the crane starts lifting Malizia out of the yacht’s cradle. 

Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva

There she is, looking like new: The light grey coloured hull gleaming like silver; the branding Yacht Club de Monaco finely drawn in white; the keel, foils and rudders shining in bright Monaco red.

Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva
Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva

 

Finally, after five months of extensive refit and thousands of working hours in the boatyard, Malizia is ready to sail or rather ready to take off, in view of the impressive set of foils. Before the sun rises on this cold Saturday morning, our IMOCA 60 touches water for the first time this year – in perfect shape. A lot of work has been done over the winter by Team Malizia’s shore crew – Stuart, Mike, Shane, Robin and Ryan – to get the boat in mint condition.

But what exactly has been done on board? Here is the answer.

 

Over the past five months, Malizia was basically completely taken apart. Let us start with the appendices: The rudders were demounted and underwent an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan to check for any damage that cannot be noticed with the naked eye. At the same time, a major overhaul was done to the rudder system in order to fix the wear and tear, and movement it had created over time. The foils were demounted and thoroughly checked, too. After extensive examination, the rudders and foils were repainted, wet-sanded, polished and remounted before the boat went back on keel.

Special attention paid to the rudder system due to the wear and tear over the years. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing
Reinstalling the steering system. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing
Overhaul of the fixation for the rudders: The refit team worked with maximum precision. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing
Thorough inspection: Here, the massive bolts connecting the bulb and fin. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing

Speaking of the keel: It was completely disassembled, meaning the bulb was detached from the fin and the barrel fairings were removed, so that its components could be X-rayed and checked for cracks and any possible damage or material fatigue. Following the excellent test results, the team reassembled the keel and applied paint in several layers. Finally, the keel’s reattachment to the boat happened just before leaving the shed.

 

Keel reassembled and ready for the final paint coating. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing

In the context of modifications within the IMOCA Class rule affecting the righting moment, the limiters of the keel ram were adapted accordingly, so that the keel can now cant more (from 32° to 38°). There have also been some changes concerning the boat’s centre of gravity: Some of the ballast tanks could not be used anymore and were cut out; the aft ballast tank holds a reduced quantity of water from now on.

The mast was fully serviced and underwent an ultrasound, along with certain critical areas of the boat and its structure – again the results were very good. All the mast’s fittings were checked and serviced, a new stay was installed, and new halyard strops were made.

Equipment service and maintenance were major points during the refit process. All the deck hardware was removed – from the winches, blocks, pad-eyes up to the last screw of the deflection rollers. Malizia was externally and internally almost fully stripped of gear for service, modification or replacement, and finally every single piece had to be reinstalled on the boat.

Great effort: All deck hardware was removed, serviced and reinstalled. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing
Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing

Below deck, there were additionally a series of works concerning the boat’s electronics to be performed: The team has fully redesigned and engineered the generator charging system, which is now easier to handle and offers the highest reliability. On top of that, with the help of SOLBIAN Solar nearly 9m² of solar panels were installed on board, including all the cabling and regulator boxes for the respective output control. For a full review of the new solar system on board, click here.

In the meantime, the bowsprit was modified so as to be able to hoist two headsails in line from now on and thus facilitate sail handling at sea.

Optimising the bowsprit for better headsail handling. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing

The whole boat and deck surfaces were finally sanded and newly painted, which was done by contractors.

Everything prepared for the deck painting. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing
Tough job: 18 metres hull length to paint! Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing

All in all, a five-month long complete refit and extensive yacht optimisation programme, which went on in Lorient. Except for the painting, all these works were carried out by our team: Stuart Mclachlan (NZL), who joined the team at the beginning of February as the boat captain, Mike Yates (GBR), specialist in composites and technologies, Shane Diviney (IRL), responsible for the deck gear systems, Robin Salmon (FRA), our highly experienced shore team member, and Ryan Breymaier (USA), responsible for rigging and ropes. Without any doubt, that is a massive feat! It took thousands of hours to make it all work and achieving this result is a sign of exceptional teamwork and full dedication. Have a look at the video below to get a vivid impression of the boat works:

On the Saturday, the 6th of April, the “big day” had finally arrived: The launching of Malizia and all its associated procedures in the port of Lorient. Stuart Mclachlan talks us through the operation:

Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva

“After having accomplished all the works, we were able to roll the boat out of the shed for the first time in the late Friday afternoon and started getting everything ready for an early 04:30 a.m. Saturday launching. We had to weigh the boat, get her back into the water, weigh the rig, step the rig and set it up in IMOCA 60 class measurement mode. Then, we had to mount the boom and sheets, before doing the 90° test. The whole procedure had to happen within less than four hours due to the draught of the boat and the tide constraints in Lorient, which we eventually managed to do. So, much to our satisfaction, everything went according to plan! Now, we still have a mountain of work to complete in order to get the boat into sailing mode, ready for the upcoming sea trials.”

90° test being performed in the port of Lorient. Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva

Skipper Boris Herrmann shared his thoughts during the special moment of the boat launching and pointed out the outstanding work done by the entire team:

About to touch water… Photo credit: Holly Cova

It’s a fantastic feeling to see the boat coming back in the water. I’m really proud of the team. It’s also a scary feeling to imagine how much work has gone into this, it took roughly 5000 work hours during this winter refit – basically 5 months of work from mid-December to mid-April. So, it is a big job to maintain these boats at a high level and I’m very proud of the team to have done this.”

 

The “scary feeling” evoked by Boris did also refer to the 90° test, which puts the boat into an extreme situation:

Test passed successfully! Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva

“It’s very scary to see the boat at 90°, I hope we will never be in that position. It’s a very tall, steep wall when the boat is tipped over. The good thing is to see that the boat floats quite highly when it’s capsized. We basically do that do measure how much righting moment the boat has when it’s capsized to make sure that it’s always coming back up again.”

 

Happy team: Everything went according to plan. Photo credit: Eliza Chohadzhieva

In the end, Boris was happy and relieved that everything went smoothly and according to plan:

“I think it has been the first time that the team has done everything on one morning. The team got up quite early, the weight of the boat was measured and Malizia was put in the water; the mast got stepped and the boat got tipped over to 90° for the class measurement certificate. After that we came here to the dock and we’re almost ready to sail!”

 

 

Malizia at the dock almost ready to sail! Photo credit: Holly Cova

Have a look at the video of the “mise à l’eau” – the yacht launching procedure:

At the moment, the team is performing a series of sea trials off the coast of Brittany and testing extensively every single component and system on board.

First sailing session in 2019 off the coast of Brittany. Photo credit: Boris Herrmann Racing

“We have done quite a few changes to the boat. In general, we are always looking to make it more reliable, we updated a lot of the deck fittings, the ropes are stronger and all kinds of little details. In addition to that, we installed a big solar generator. We have more autonomy now and are more independent from generating energy with the engine. We hope to almost not need the engine anymore. We also installed a new bowsprit system and few other details that will hopefully make the boat a bit easier to sail single-handedly and go faster, as well”, said Boris just before leaving the dock in Lorient La Base and settings sails for the first time this year.

After the first miles at sea, the conclusion is thoroughly positive. Stuart is very happy with how the test phase has been going on so far: “The testing went exceptionally well with just a few minor details that need to be changed and the steering, which needs some adjustments and fine-tuning to make it even better.”

Sea trials will continue in the next weeks and soon, the racing will begin. Without doubt, it will be a very lively year!

Yannick Kethers