Why Figaro 3?

At a first glance it might seem like an odd choice to choose a Figaro 3 for normal offshore shorthanded regatta sailing, especially considering that we are just happy amateurs. In this post I’ll try to explain the logic behind this decision and why it makes perfect sense.

I currently sail a Seascape 24 and I absolutely LOVE that boat! The amount of fun you can have with it is pretty much unlimited, plus it’s a very practical boat that is easy to maintain. For normal coastal racing it is the ultimate boat! However, it is not a boat that is well suited for serious offshore racing and it would not be allowed (for good reasons) to participate in any of the big races. My bucket list contains races like Middle Sea Race, ARC and Caribbean 600, and in order to be permitted on those races the boat needs to be at least 30 feet long and CE cat A. Hence my decision to search for a new boat.

Considering the bucketlist and my motives for sailing, these are the factors I deem most critical:

  1. Safety & suited for shorthanded
  2. Speed / funfactor
  3. Community
  4. Total cost of ownership

Let’s walk through each criteria.

Safety & Suited for shorthanded

There are many different ways to measure safety. First of all I’m only interested in boats that have CE certificate A since it’s a requirement for many of the races on my bucketlist. Secondly, I believe Upwind Sail Area (UwSA) and Downwind Sail Area (DwSA) versus Righting Moment (RM) will be a good indicator of how “twitchy” or prone to broach a boat will be. For long distance solo or shorthanded racing it is my firm belief that a boat that doesn’t force you to be “on the edge” all the time with the trim will be a safer boat since it will save the crews energy.

I’ve estimated the RM at a 20 degree angle, under the following assumptions:

  • Centre of buoyancy is 75% out from the centerline
  • The depth minus 10 cm is the centre of the keel weight
  • The centre of the water ballast is 30cm in from the widest point
  • Effect of foils on Figaro 3 is the same as the water ballast on Figaro 2

These assumptions will obviously not lead to a correct answer, but it is better to be roughly right than exactly wrong…

This is what the UwSA/RM and DwSA/RM looks like per boat (multiplied with 100 to make the numbers easier to read):

In the list there are some boats that are not CE cat A, just to make an interesting comparison.

As you can see Class 40, SunFast 3300 and JPK 10.10 really are in a class of their own when it comes to sail area versus stability. My current boat is at the other extreme of the spectrum and I can vouch that: yes, you have to be active on the trim when sailing it (which is very rewarding when you have the energy to do so).

But sail area versus stability doesn’t really tell us anything if we don’t take the funfactor in consideration, i.e. the sail area versus deplacement. Otherwise the “optimal” boat would have no sails… So let’s have a look at the speed and funfactor of each boat!

Speed / funfactor

The classic formula for calculating SA/D looks like this:

SA/D = (sail area in square feet) / (displacement in pounds / 64)^0,6666

That’s the formula I’ve used and the numbers come out like this:

Now things start to get more interesting! We can see that a Seascape 24 has pretty much the same UwSA/D and DwSA/D as a Class 40 but is much more sensitive (SA/RM).

To make things easier to digest, let’s plot two different charts. The X-axis represents either UwSA/RM or DwSA/RM, the further to the left a boat is placed the more stable it will be. The Y-axis represents UwSA/D and DwSA/D, the further up a boat is placed in the chart the more power it will have relative to its deplacement. A boat in the upper left corner will have a lot of power and a lot of stability and a boat in the lower right corner will be underpowered and weak.

Looking at the charts some things become crystal clear:

  • Class 40’s really are in a class (pun intended) of their own. Super powerfull AND super stable.
  • The FarEast 31R is probably a very fun boat to sail and fairly stable, very similar characteristics to a ClubSwan 36 but at a much lower cost (both boats unfortunately not CE cat A)
  • Archambault M34 was really ahead of its time when it was released. Powerful & fairly stable.
  • My Seascape 24 really is extreme 😀
  • The Pogo 12.50 is probably the best cruiser in the market if you love speed
  • L30, wtf? It lacks stability and power.
  • The coming Fast30 by Farr will hit a sweetspot if it is CE cat A.

A Class 40 would be my dream boat but is unfortunately out of my budget. The Archambault M34 is a super fun boat that I have sailed quite extensively and I absolutely love it, but unfortunately it is not a boat that is well suited for shorthanded or solo sailing, at least not for an amateur like me (if it had twin rudders and a different cockpit layout it would be a different matter).

Let’s remove all boats that are not CE cat A and also remove Class 40 and M34 for the reasons above, to end up with these simplified charts:

As you can see the Pogo 12.50 and the Figaro 3 really are in a class of their own versus the other boats, both upwind and downwind. Of all these boats those two are likely the most fun and safe to cross an ocean with.

Community

Having been part of the Seascape community for almost three years have really taught me the value of a strong and supportive community. It is truly amazing how Seascape supports their customers, they always make sure their sailors move up the learning curve and prepare them for whatever adventure that lies ahead. The activities carried out by Seascape at the Danish solo race Silverrudder is a good example:

  • Help with assembling and setting up the boats
  • Super thorough weather briefing and walk through of the course
  • Group chat on WhatsApp before and after the race
  • Group dinners
  • Too much wind to race? Arrange a separate downwind blast just for fun and a Q&A session with Phil Sharp
  • Shoot plenty of pictures and films (check out Hard Bastards Association)

I can not stress enough how much it means for a happy amateur to get that kind of support and community, it is absolutely priceless.

Of all the boats in the list the only boat that seem to have a similar kind of community is Figaro. Some of the best sailors in the world race Figaro 3 and we hope to get access to that community and knowledge. Sure, the Figaro circus is extremely competitive so I wouldn’t expect the top racers to share tips & tricks with each other, but we are outsiders and happy amateurs that won’t participate in the Figaro circus so hopefully some Figaro 3 sailors are willing to share a bit of knowledge with us. On top of that the Classe Figaro have been very helpful during this procurement process with answering all the questions I had and hooked me up with their technical director so he could do the survey of the boat I bought.

I don’t expect the Figaro community to be as strong and helpful as the Seascape community, but I’m confident that it is better than any of the other brands and that it will be very valuable to us.

Note: my co-skipper Erik Nordborg has sailed Figaro 2 in France and confirmed that the Figaro community indeed is very helpful and friendly.

Total cost of ownership

Being a happy amateur means that the sailing has to be on a limited budget. The best bet from a strict economic perspective would probably be an Archambault M34, but for reasons mentioned earlier in this blogpost I don’t deem it suitable for the type of sailing that I wish to do. So let’s reason a bit about these alternatives:

  • Class 40
  • Pogo 12.50
  • Figaro 3
  • Dehler 30 OD

An important aspect to keep in mind during this discussion is that it matters greatly to me to have my boats in perfect condition, I rather have a small boat where I have the time and money to keep it in top notch order, than a larger boat where constraints in time and money inevitably makes things deteriorate over time. It’s simply more fun to sail on a boat where everything is in great working order and perfectly set up, and the amount of time required for maintenance grows exponentially with the length of the boat.

Buying a used Class 40 can be less money than buying a used Figaro 3 or a brand new Dehler 30 OD, but the cost of maintaining a Class 40 is not for the faint hearted…  especially if you want everything to be in top order. I’d also expect the depreciation to be a lot worse on a Class 40. Although it would be a dream to race a Class 40 it is simply out of my budget, both my financial budget and time budget.

A pogo 12.50 is a Class 40 modified for cruising. If you wish to race it then you can expect the maintenance cost to be pretty much the same as a pure Class 40, but the depreciation is probably a bit more manageable. The Pogo 12.50 would still be out of my time budget, and probably out of my money budget as well.

A brand new Dehler 30 OD that is fully ready to race costs about 160 000 EUR + VAT and a used Figaro 3 including a new set of sails costs about 170 000 EUR + VAT (there is currently one on the market for that price), so it is roughly the same amount of money.

The Figaro 3 is slightly larger which should lead to a bit higher maintenance costs, but on the other hand there is a good market for cheap 2nd hand sails in good or decent condition since all the pros buy seem to buy new sails at least once per season. Overall, I think the maintenance cost is more or less the same for the boats.

The big question mark is depreciation. Which boat will depreciate the least over the next five years, a used Figaro 3 or a brand new Dehler 30 OD? It’s hard to know, but if I was forced to make a bet I’d put my money on the Figaro 3 as long as the Figaro circus keeps going and as long as you keep it strictly by the class rules. One design boats within an active one design class usually keep their resale value quite well and I’d expect the Figaro class to be more active than the Dehler 30 OD class.

So investment, maintenance and depreciation should be roughly the same for a used Figaro 3 and a brand new Dehler 30 OD.

Conclusion

If you want a CE cat A boat suited for solo and shorthanded, where the fundamental numbers (SA/D and SA/RM) are best in class, where the total cost of ownership and maintenance are fairly manageable, and where there is a strong community… well then there currently really is no choice except the Figaro 3.

On top of that there are two more reasons to chose the Figaro 3:

  1. You can race against the very best offshore sailors in the world in the Figaro circus.
  2. The boat is really designed and built for tough offshore sailing.

Participating in any of the Figaro races is not part of the plan, but plans can always change and it’s nice to have the opportunity.

Please note that handicap (IRC or similar) has not been part of the equation, and that is for two good reasons:

  1. Handicap rules change over time, hence it doesn’t make sense to let that factor influence the decision.
  2. I don’t give a sh*t about our results on handicap, we’re in it for the thrill!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winning just as much as everyone else. But the potential for winning on handicap is not important compared to what truly matters: the fight, the adventure, the thrill, the learning curve and the camaraderie. Considering everything I do believe that Figaro 3 is the right choice. It’s not the intuitive choice for an amateur, but it is where the numbers and logic point. I hope I’m right 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Why Figaro 3?

  1. Your math’n’graph was helpful – would love to see the Pogo 44 added to figure out if it’s a lame 12.50 or a formidable weapon. Would you care to share your plot chart so I can dig out the info?

    1. If you can find the ballast weight for the Pogo 44 I’d be happy to add it to the chart, unfortunately that number seems to be unknown for the moment and without it I obviously can’t plot it.
      But the 44 should be a powerfull boat. The keel is 40 cm deeper, the sails are slightly bigger, but the deplacement is also 400 kilos higher. The UwSA/D is 35.2 for the 44 and 35.0 for the 12.50, and the DwSA/D is 71.1 for the 44 and 71.2 for the 12.50, so from that point of view they should be pretty much identical.
      The question is the SA/RM but I need the ballast weight to be able to say anything about that 🙂

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