Adventure 40 June 2023 Progress Report

June 2023

We are making lots of progress on making the Adventure 40 a real boat you can buy. Let’s take look at the state of play.

But, first off, a quick recap of how we got here:

A Brief History

  1. I first conceived the idea for a simple, reliable and reasonably priced offshore voyaging boat eleven years ago.
  2. In early 2021, Maxime and Pascal took on the project.
    • Pascal left the project in 2022.
  3. In the rest of 2021, Maxime and Pascal, using the original A40 articles as a base, wrote a specification to guide the designer.
  4. In late 2021 Maxime and Pascal appointed Vincent Lebailly and his team to design the boat.
  5. We published and discussed the specification over the first 7 months of 2022:
  6. In April of 2022 we opened a gofundme campaign to help pay for the design, which raised over €15,000 in just a few weeks.
  7. Vincent and his team completed the first design iteration in the third quarter of 2022 and we revealed and discussed that in four articles:
  8. The above articles generated lively discussion—over a thousand comments.
  9. Maxime and Vincent used that input to inform the second design iteration, which was completed in early 2023.
  10. We published the first Version 2 article on the deck in April of 2023.

Task List

We have come a long way in the last two years since Maxime grasped the nettle to make this happen, but there is still much to do:

  • One more Version 2 design-reveal article covering the cockpit.
    • I plan to write and publish this in August.
  • Ongoing articles on systems, including rigging, engine, electrical, etc.
    • I plan, when there is something to write about, to publish one A40 article every two months in summer (our sailing season) and one a month in winter.
  • Produce a set of renderings of the Version 2 boat to be used in marketing going forward.
  • Refine the Adventure 40 area at AAC to make a clearer path from concept to order.
    • I plan to do this over the winter of 2023/24.
  • Select a builder.
  • Structural engineering.
    • The French team has done some preliminary work on this, but the majority will need to wait for a builder to be selected so they can be part of this process.
  • Fix a price and produce a detailed specification.
  • Start taking orders with deposits.
  • Construct deck and hull mock-ups, and test.
  • Build tooling and moulds.
  • Complete and test-sail Hull #1.
  • Commence production.

Final Renderings Tease

Talking of the final renderings, I have seen them in an almost finished state and am over the moon about how the boat looks and the design changes made since the version 1 design.

Am I going to share these new renderings? Yes…in the next article. In the mean time here’s a small version to get you as excited as I am.

Sorry, it won’t get bigger if you click on it.

Why am I being such a jerk? Simple, if we show the full size rendering the comments to this post will turn into a discussion of the boat without the context of an article explaining the changes and then we will have to do it all again on the next article.

Schedule

And that brings me to the schedule. Maxime has set two deadlines:

  1. Late 2024 to have everything in place to start taking orders, including a builder.
  2. About 1 to 1-1/5 years from the builder being selected to the first boat being delivered, so late 2025 to mid-2026.

If this first deadline can’t be met, Maxime will wind up the project, although that might change a bit if he is close to achieving the milestones when a deadline arrives, but obviously we can’t expect him to keep investing time, energy, and money into this indefinitely without a clear revenue plan.

Price

The 800-lb gorilla in the room is what will the price be?

Sorry, we don’t know, and can’t know until a builder has signed on and done a detailed costing.

What I can say is that I personally—this is me speaking, not Maxime—see no reason that the price can’t be close to that originally envisioned but adjusted for inflation, or about US$295,000 in today’s dollars¹ without sails, or about US$315,000 after the owner buys sails.

That may sound like a lot of money, and it is, but as someone who has just bought an 18-year-old smaller production boat—two-thirds the size of an A40—and then refitted her to a standard that is not even close to that of the Adventure 40, I can tell you it’s the deal of the century.

Also, the Adventure 40 buyer won’t go through the horrors I have over the last two years.

Of course, to hit this price target without cutting quality we must stick to the Adventure 40 core principles, which is why I’m such a pain in the ass, constantly reminding people of said principles in the comments.

Also, keep in mind that the Adventure 40 will have no dealer-related costs and very low marketing costs. The marvels of unbundling.

For example, I’m guessing that when someone buys a typical production sailboat for say US$400,000 dollars, what they are really getting is a US$200,000 boat with the other US$200,000 going to profit, marketing, and sales.

So Maxime and the builder can actually spend more on the build, but on a simpler boat, thereby delivering better quality for less money.

Also, because all Adventure 40s will be identical, with no options, simple gear, and built to a higher standard than most production boats, Maxime and the builder will have much lower warranty expenses.

For example, an in-build screwup is way less likely on a boat with a tiller than it is on a boat with a wheel, and way, way less likely than on a boat with two rudders and two wheels and a bunch of huge curved plastic ports and windows, some in the hull. That’s just two examples of scores of things on the Adventure 40 that will be easier to build right.

And for those who still think that I’m dreaming about bringing her in at US$295,000 because she is a 40-foot boat, please read this.

Of course, the wild card in all of this is the exchange rate, since we are talking price in US dollars but the boat will be built in Europe with costs in Euros.

¹Matt, Erik de Jong, and I did quite a bit of research and costing in the early days that supported the US$200,000 price. I started from that number and used this inflation calculator, and then added a guesstimate of US$25,000 to cover the amount that boat-building costs have inflated over and above core inflation due to demand. If we get a recession, I’m guessing that some of that added $25,000 may go away as builders start looking at rapidly diminishing order books.

Work in France

For the last two years, while all this was going on, and while working closely with Vincent and his team, Maxime has been visiting:

  • Boat shows
  • Prospective builders
  • Equipment manufacturers
  • Specialized engineering companies
  • Keel foundry

Maxime has been using the information he has gathered, together with his engineering training, to make progress on knotty problems like the vane gear installation and engineering a super-strong keel (more on the latter in a moment).

And let’s not forget that Maxime also has a demanding day job and a young family that he has to fit all this around. I’m guessing that the lights have burned late at his Paris apartment!

Talking of which, all of us who look forward to a sailing Adventure 40 should thank Maxime’s wife, Christel, for being an active and enthusiastic partner in the project.

The Keel

The project Maxime has put the most time and effort into so far is making the keel as close to grounding proof as is practical.

We already published the results of preliminary modelling.

And since then he has done a lot more work and produced another paper (link below), which I strongly recommend you take the time to read. The highlights are:

  • Most production boat keels are not engineered to withstand any sort of grounding.
  • Standards such as American Bureau of Shipping and ISO/CE make no mention of grounding resistance, and are even inadequate for hard-usage sailing over time without a grounding—Members of the World Sailing technical committee have reported on this to a committee I’m a member of.
  • However, work has been done on grounding resistance for superyachts.
    • Maxime has visited the foremost keel foundry in France, who have already built superyacht keels to withstand groundings.
  • It’s important to understand that just building the keel stronger does nothing useful.
    • It’s fundamental that to dissipate impact force safely over time, something must bend and/or distort.
    • Building the structure super stiff, while intuitively comforting, is actually counterproductive.
  • There is no reason that a high-performance fin keel like on the Adventure 40 must be any less grounding resistant than a longer keel, or an encapsulated one. It’s all about the engineering.

Bottom line, most lay people (including me, until Maxime sorted me out) are wrong about how to make a grounding-resistant keel, and the stuff you read about the subject on forums is, to put it gently, most-all total horseshit. But this is understandable because none of this is intuitive.

For example, the two pictures below show how a structure can be built that looks strong to lay people but is failure prone in real cruising.

You can read more about this kind of thing here.

That said, the generally accepted wisdom that lead keels absorb more impact than iron and steel ones is true.

Maxime and his advisors have taken that to the next level by actually modelling the impact on a lead keel and further figuring out how to improve the shock absorption with the addition of cavities in the keel forming a crush zone, to the point that the forces transmitted to the hull become manageable.

Here’s what that looks like dynamically:

But wait, most of the damage we see from groundings is at the keel to hull joint, so why are we not making more of that?

Simple, because once they have both reduced and modelled the forces, it’s relatively simple…well, for an engineer with a bunch of relevant training and experience…to design a hull structure to withstand those defined forces.

Stop! Read the last paragraph again. It’s really important and is a big part of why the A40 keel will be more robust than pretty much any production boat keel out there.

Maxime has tackled this head on and knows how to solve it.

He has also lined up an engineering firm with the skills to design the hull-to-keel area to withstand the now-known forces.

Maxime’s second paper:

My Deal

In other news, Maxime and I have struck a royalty deal where I, and in the event of my death, Phyllis, will receive a small royalty based on the purchase payment for each boat in recognition of the work I have put into this over the last eleven years and for coming up with and defining the concept.

So far, said agreement is just a couple of emails, since we don’t want to incur contracting costs before we get decent cash flow.

And, anyway, my thinking is if someone is going to weasel out of making a promised royalty payment, they are going to do that no matter how much contracting we do. I trust Maxime.

That said, let me be super clear:

  • This is Maxime’s project, not mine.
  • He is the boss and always will be, I’m just a reporter and sometime advisor.
    • Some of my advice he takes, and some he does not, and that’s cool with me, and the way it will be going forward.
  • I don’t have, and never will have, any control over, or responsibility for, the design, engineering and/or building of the boat, its quality, or fitness for task.
  • I don’t work for Maxime, or his company, and I have no equity invested.
  • If you buy an Adventure 40 and have a problem, I can’t help you and have no responsibility to make things right.

Bottom line, I’m 72 years old (this month) and have no interest in being operationally involved in another business. AAC is quite enough, thank you.

All that said, I’m still totally committed to doing everything I reasonably can to make the Adventure 40 a reality.

State of Finances

As of the time of writing, all the money already contributed has been spent on the design, as agreed.

None of the money contributed has gone, or will go, to me or AAC.

As before, Maxime and Christel are willing to pay ongoing costs that exceed donations out of their own pockets, but obviously there’s a limit to that.

The Critical Part

Clearly, although Maxime has made great progress to date, the key part of this is finding a builder. Of course, the ideal situation to make that happen would be having a bunch of deposits in hand.

But that’s not practical since final price and specification can’t be fixed without the builder’s input—a classic chicken-or-egg problem.

But let’s not get defeatist about this. We have over 650, mostly highly engaged—our open and click rate on the A40 list is off the charts—people signed up as interested in the Adventure 40 and more joining the list every month.

And, further to that, we can point to the incredible support the gofundme campaign received.

But here’s the best part for a builder: the preliminary design and most of the specification is done and at no cost to them.

So all a builder needs to do before taking orders is fund the engineering and do a cost analysis to fix price. No, not trivial, particularly the engineering, but less expense than the rollout of a new design would generally be, particularly when balanced against the potential of building hundreds of identical low-hassle boats over time.

So why don’t we have a builder signed up now? Primarily, I think, because of the crazy surge in new boat orders since Covid.

But that cycle will end, probably with a nasty bump—these things almost always do—and when that happens there will be a bunch of builders looking to fill the capacity they ramped up in the go-go years.

And what better answer than a turnkey project with low start-up costs, since tooling could be at least partially financed out of initial deposits.

That said, we need to realize that the moulds, other tooling, and engineering added together will, Maxime advises me, cost not far off a million dollars. (By the way, that’s almost exactly what I estimated eleven years ago, so half what I thought, when adjusted for inflation.)

At this point the nay-sayers will be crowing, “that’s never going to happen, you’re dreaming”. The same as they did when I initially talked about my ideas for the four successful businesses I have started, or when I first wrote about the A40.

The point being that starting a business that depends on a new idea is always met with derision and scorn. But, on the other hand, it’s businesses with a new idea that are generally successful, or, as I used to say in my entrepreneurial years, “If it’s easy, everyone is doing it so there’s no profit in it”.

Or to put it another way:

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.

Howard Aiken

The difference between real entrepreneurs and the rest is the drive to overcome all the negativity and keep going, despite setbacks. I think Maxime is that sort of person.

And, after all, while a million dollars is a lot of money to most of us individually, it’s trivial in terms of new-business start-up costs.

Heck, if just 5% of the people who have signed up as interested in an Adventure 40 paid a 10% deposit, it would be covered with no out-of-pocket costs to the builder. Or if just 2% put up a deposit, I’m guessing it would be relatively easy for an established builder to finance the rest with debt.

Anyway, can I tell you exactly how we are going to get to success? Of course not. The idea that a business start-up can be planned ahead of time to that level of detail is the stuff of B-school bullshit, not the reality. In the real world, the road is full of bumps and wrong turns but real entrepreneurs keep on driving.

So let’s stay optimistic and keep plugging away while ignoring the nay-sayers.

Help Make This Happen

To that end, if you are willing to make a deposit on a boat, or some other investment in the project, before the price and schedule are fixed, please explain in a comment what terms you would want. If even a few people sign on to your idea, it could make Maxime’s task way easier.

One idea would be that most, but not all, of the deposit would be escrowed and refundable if certain predefined goals were not met by agreed dates.

Or, if you are interested in investing significant money, email us and we will pass your interest on to Maxime.

It would be way cool to have even a few deposits, or a chunk of cash, to wave under a prospective builder’s nose.

That said, please, no hand waving along the lines of “I’m not willing to contribute anything, but how about…”. At this point in the project we need participation, not chatter.

For The Rest of Us

The rest of us can still help by making additional contributions to the gofundme campaign to fund the second design iteration and producing marketing quality renderings.

Phyllis and I have kicked this off with our second contribution.

Mailing List

And if you have not done so already, sign up to be kept informed of Adventure 40 developments. The bigger the list, the more impressive to a builder.

Comments

It you have any questions, please ask in a comment.

But please stay on the topics discussed in this article. And particularly please do not use a magnifying glass on the version 2 rendering and then start a comment thread on what you see.

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