The story of Riccardo Tosetto‘s boat, an Italian skipper of the Global Solo Challenge, takes us on a journey into the heart of French offshore sailing, in Brittany, discovering adventures of sea and men. In offshore sailing communities, there is solidarity and a longing for discovery. Riccardo will take these authentic values around the world.
Riccardo, after his decision to sign up for the GSC, looked for the boat to make this dream come true. He had clear ideas: “I chose a Class40 because I wanted a simple, reliable boat, already designed to sail the oceans, and fast enough to give me more security when facing storms. Small, manageable, and affordable.”
The Class40 “Obportus” was located in Saint-Malo and owned by Louis Burton’s team, skipper of the IMOCA Bureau Vallée. Louis handed over the boat to Tosetto to write a new story of the sea. Obportus is a project by architect Jacques Valer, built in 2007 at the JPK Composites shipyard in Brittany.
Jacques Valer, an officer of the French merchant navy, sailed on oil tankers for twenty years before turning the passion for designing sailboats of his youth into a profession. His first project dates back to 1965: a dinghy designed for friends. That talent was later expressed in giving life to magnificent sailboats. Valer himself, a self-taught man, says in an interview: “For fifty years I have been drawing boats on paper, with pencil and eraser, like a child.”
JPK Composites Shipyard was founded by Jean-Pierre Kelbert in 1992 for the production of funboards, a type of windsurfing board that is shorter and without a central daggerboard, designed for speed and acrobatics competitions. When the market moved to Asia in 2000, Kelbert turned to the construction of cruising racer boats for the IRC circuit. The meeting between Valer and Kelbert is the turning point for both. Valer started collaborating with the shipyard, and in 2003, the first production boat, the JPK 9.60, was launched. The rest is now nautical history.
Obportus, built entirely in fibreglass sandwich, is a Class 40 boat belonging somewhere in between the first and second generations of these boats. The class was established in 2004 to create a category of boats intermediate between the Mini 6.50s and the IMOCAs and to offer amateurs the opportunity to participate in offshore yacht races.
The rules imposed by the class aim to create safe and affordable ocean-going boats. Obportus fits the class’s box rule: 12.20 metres long with a 4.3-metre beam and a 3-metre draft. It weighs about 4700 kilos, of which 2000 are in the bulb.
The mast, boom, and bowsprit are the only elements allowed by the class to be made of carbon. The mast is about 18 metres high from the deck.
As for the sails, “in Class40, there’s a limit to the number of sails, but not during the GSC. The journey is long, and I decided to also bring some spare sails. I have a mainsail in Technora/Vectran, a solent and staysail in LoadPath Technora/Carbon Taffeta, and a storm sail. Off the wind, I can hoist a large drifter, a Code Zero, and a couple of nylon spinnakers. The upwind sail area is 115 square metres, and downwind we reach 280 square metres.”
The keel is fixed, as per box rule, with a steel blade and a lead bulb. The boat has four water ballasts, two on each side, and each pair of ballasts can hold 750 litres of sea water to balance the boat and keep it in trim. The hull has a lateral chine to increase lift, especially on upwind courses. It has two tiller rudders.
The choice of an older generation Class40 was deliberately assessed and does not depend solely on the budget. “The construction of the boats in the 2005–2008 period, like mine, had volumes that are smaller compared to modern Class40s, but the weight is the same, which implies greater solidity. The class rules define the minimum weight as approximately 4500 kg, and my boat with modifications weighs 250–300 kg more. This is a strong point that I capitalised on for my round-the-world trip: less performance, but more reliability. The latest generation of Class40s are very competitive in terms of speed, especially downwind. At the same time, they have a considerable fragility of structure and components, and are pushed to the limit to win high-level competitions. In the GSC, performance takes a back seat. The goal is to complete it first. If you don’t make it, you also exclude the possibility of achieving a good position.”
The refit for a complete and thorough non-structural overview lasted about five months, from mid-November 2022 to mid-April 2023, at the Ocean Marine Shipyard in Monfalcone, close to Riccardo’s home.
“To get working on the boat, we first had to remove the keel. It was a battle; we were dealing with just a few millimetres of margin. The connecting pins are transverse, unlike the keel of a normal boat, where they are vertical. It does not have top keel bolts. It was also tough to reassemble it.”
The mast, boom, and bowsprit were completely dismantled and repainted. The rigging was replaced with materials supplied by Armare: rod rigging and an anti-torsion forestay in structural Zylon-PBO textile with a dyneema cover. The running rigging, ropes, sheets, pulleys, and all the halyards, in dyneema, have been replaced. The deck equipment, like winches and stoppers, is original.
Inside the boat, before repainting, we built three watertight bulkheads, in compliance with the GSC regulations, to increase buoyancy in case of collision or water intake.
One of the few structural modifications made was to lengthen and widen the coachroof, a sort of structural hood over the cockpit. “In the yard, they were all very doubtful about the coachroof that I had designed, because during the construction phase the mould had unique shapes. When they mounted it, they were amazed by the result. From an aesthetic point of view, the boat is even more attractive, but above all, I will be much more protected while sailing. For extreme cold, I also have mobile enclosures in transparent material, to better insulate the cockpit. On the coachroof, we applied four transparent panels: two on top, to see the sails from inside, and two slightly inclined on the sides, to monitor the bow.”
The engine was removed and recommissioned. The electronics and autopilots were checked, and a desalinator was installed. A complete check of the ballasts and rudder bushings confirmed their reliability. The hull was brought “back to gelcoat,” and the anti-fouling was reapplied. The graphics were changed. “Choosing the graphics was challenging because it’s hard to imagine them on the hull. We decided to represent the world, which is my logo, with a small dot spinning around it in a stylized way, in bright yellow over a matte black background.”
Energy management in a round-the-world voyage is essential. “I entrust energy production to hydrogenerators and the engine. I chose to install a second hydrogenerator, to have a spare one and not have to move a ten-kilogramme piece of equipment on the stern at every tack. I added two additional batteries. I will also install solar panels even though I don’t have much usable space and, when they are dirty with salt, they perform less. Hydrogenerators remain more functional, producing electricity regardless of the amount of sunlight.”
Riccardo is satisfied with the instruments he found on board. Obportus has two complete NKE installations with two linear drives, two pilot heads, double control units, and two anemometers, that are interfaced with the computer. There will also be a second spare laptop. For communications, there is a fixed satellite system for voice and data, an Inmarsat C that only transmits text with the position, and, by regulation, two satellite phones to handle emergencies. The electrical system has been completely revised, and the wiring has been sorted out.
After purchasing the boat in France, Tosetto sailed 3600 miles to bring it home, in the Adriatic, and this gave him important feedback for the modifications to be made. “After the first transfer, I decided that I would install heating. We installed an Eberspächer air heater, with two central outlets, to heat the boat inside during the colder sections of the event.