“It’s Russian roulette”, the Imoca powerless against the ofnis?

Jérémie Beyou hit an ofni –


  • It’s the great return of ofnis in the Vendée Globe

  • Jérémie Beyou collided with one and was forced to turn around in Les Sables d’Olonne

  • Research avoids large obstacles on the surface, but invisible enemies are still plentiful

“At sea, humility is the rule.

It’s even a survival instinct.

»We would have done better to drink the wise words of Clarisse Cremer (

Banque Populaire)

before showing ourselves too laudatory vis-à-vis the technical progress supposed to lead the Imoca of the Vendée Globe to top speed with a level of detection of marine dangers never reached.

Three days of racing and an ofni is already making us lie.

“The awakening is a bit hard”, does not hide Jérémie Beyou, super favorite on


, whose starboard rudder has died following a collision, forcing him to return to Les Sables d’Olonne to repair the damage. damage.

For those who catch up with the hype of sailing in mid-flight, remember that the ofni – an unidentified floating object – is to the Vendée Globe what the blue thorny shell is to Mario Kart: the pure and simple expression of wrath divine.

And to make matters worse, they can be anywhere on the skipper’s route.

Vincent Riou, winner of the race in 2004, in the inventory:

In the North and South Atlantic:

“Wooden pallets, tree trunks and marine mammals.

In the Southern Seas:

“Mainly marine mammals and ice.

It must be said, these are less polluted waters.

See and (re) act

So many small and big things that put a strain on the nerves of the teams of skippers.

Laurent Bourgues, technical director of Thomas


, on


: “It’s a bit of a tragedy in our job, no matter how


we try to predict everything, there are always situations that remain unpredictable.

The ofnis are really Russian roulette.

However, should we question the technical advances in the detection of red sea shells?

“We have nevertheless solved a lot of problems with the systems we have put in place on the boats and which allow us to see a large half of the things with which we can collide, calm Riou.

So it still reduced the risk by at least half.

“The boats have entered another dimension”, according to Thomas Rettant via @ 20minutesSport https://t.co/Wy2amXsKAJ

– 20 Minutes Sport (@ 20minutesSport) November 6, 2020

Same opinion on the side of the Rettant team: “this year most of the fleet is equipped with an Oscar system, a thermal camera with two types of waves in visible and infrared, it is from the automobile.

These systems progress year after year, race after race, and make it possible to see what is not visible.

In short and to spare you the scientific gullibility, the anti-ofnis arms race has several major issues.

View, process data and intervene in time.

The eye of the boat:

At present, large obstacles are no longer a problem.

Most boats, from freighter to fisherman, are equipped with AIS, and for those who don’t, the oscar system is able to spot them.

On the other hand, says Bourgues, “what happens at the interface of water and air is complicated to watch because it causes interference.

A semi-submerged thing, an animal, a piece of wood, a buoy, we cannot see it correctly.

Sonars could well alleviate the problem, but the system is currently very energy intensive and therefore not in line with what an Imoca can take on board.

Riou: “Before, there was information that we collected but did not know how to process.

Now with Oscar we know how to treat her.

It would now be necessary to succeed in making miniaturized sonars which do not consume too much energy.

The ability to react:

Seeing is good.

But seeing at 400 meters an obstacle on which we are speeding at 30 knots without being able to intervene in time, hello interest.

“Detect, ok, but, illustrates the technical director of Thomas Rettant, the time for the alarm to sound, for the skipper to wake up if he takes a nap, and for him to understand what is going on, he banged in.

The next step will be to couple the autopilot to the detection system.

“The consequences of these small shocks are getting bigger and bigger”

Small detail that is important.

Although the largest projects benefit from ever-larger budgets (the annual operating budget of Charal is estimated at 2 or 3 million euros), the interest of the research lies in its application on a larger scale.

So don’t count on big manufacturers to slam big bucks into concepts useful to 12 sailboats that go around the world once every four years.


“For example, in fishing they used pingers to ward off sea bream that looted ponds, these are subjects on which they are working on very targeted species.

But it is for the world of fishing which compared to us is enormous.

We, when we went to ask them to ask them if they knew how to keep dolphins and whales away, they told us that they did not know how to do it.

[…] And if we take the example of freighters, investing in research for such a tool would have little interest.

They don’t care, if they hit a whale they don’t even realize it.

Us, it concerns us because it is sad to kill animals and annoying to damage the boat.

Finally, we must not forget that the safety of the skipper is at stake, especially as the boats have to be faster and faster.

“The consequences of these small shocks are increasingly greater”, warns Vincent Riou.

Kito De Pavant, victim of a shipwreck caused by a collision with a sperm whale during the last Vendée Globe, is worried about it.

“I hope we won’t see any human drama.

More and more medical teams are worried about the safety of mariners on these faster and faster machines.

Maybe we have to do like Formula 1 and take a step back at some point.

Kinetic energy and materials more suited to performance than to safety do not necessarily mix well, such as the carbon on Jérémie Beyou’s boat, the ends of which probably sheared the backstay by shattering.

“I don’t want to express myself specifically on Jérémie’s boat,” explains Laurent Bourgues.

But to talk about carbon … Cars are designed to absorb as much energy as possible by bending on impact.

The problem with carbon is that it doesn’t bend.

So we should do things that don’t break and wouldn’t have an impact on themselves.

It is as if we were studying a car that could have a shock at 50 an hour and then set off again.

Irresolvable (sic).


Vendée Globe: “It’s super violent,” says a disappointed Jérémie Beyou after his forced U-turn towards Les Sables-d’Olonne

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