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Swedish inventor going 'round again

Jan 1, 2003

Sven Yrvind, the Swedish sailor and inventor formerly known as Sven Lundin, is hard at work building another of his funky sailboats this time for an ambitious east-about solo circumnavigation that includes Tristan de Cunha Island, Tasmania, and Cape Horn. His latest vessel, Bris Orädd, a 22-footer with a thick foam core and polyester fiber skin, incorporates the inventor's passionate belief in utilizing the latest technology in unconventional ways.

Yrvind has made numerous high-seas voyages aboard his various little craft, including a transatlantic with his artist wife Olga in a 15-footer; to Tristan de Cunha in a 20-footer; and around Cape Horn in a 19-footer. Like his nine previous designs, Bris Orädd (literally: Fearless Breeze) will carry an unusual and versatile rig, a combination of several configurations, including a sprit-rig mainsail with topsail, and an unstayed jib rigged to a "Bris-spar," a sprit-like club with a universal joint that can be sheeted in several directions. The carbon-fiber mast is only nine feet tall and weighs five pounds; it is meant to be frequently down-rigged (while at anchor or in snotty weather) and is stayed with fiber rope instead of wire. Furthermore, Yrvind said that, because of the soft line and a hinge at the base of the mast, he is able to cant the mast to windward, a technology that recent high-tech racing vessels employ to improve sailing ability. The unballasted hull, which was drawn by Yrvind using modern computer-aided design (CAD) technology, is three inches thick, composed of a Divinycell core, and coated in Dacron fiber with epoxy resin.

"The thick hull provides both insulation and flotation, and the Dacron skin can stretch 17 percent, as opposed to fiberglass, which can only stretch four percent. It's much more difficult to break a hole in my boat than a standard fiberglass hull, because it's flexible," Yrvind explained. Critics of the design told him the polyester sheathing will make the hull too flexible, but he said the added thickness counters the effect, and his experience proved that the hull is actually many times stiffer than ordinary hulls. "It's locally flexible, but globally stiff," he explained.

The hull is vented by a system of plenam-like tubes (pirated from a vacuum cleaner) that drop to the bilge and back up above the waterline. This allows the vessel to be fully turtled without taking on water, provided the main hatch is fully dogged. The little yacht's big centerboard is placed well forward under the hull and situated a bit forward of the mast, which follows Yrvind's belief that conventional wisdom on certain subjects is not always the best approach.

"By placing it forward, first of all, when my wife visits me on the boat, we will not be separated inside the boat; it's all open inside. Also, since I intend to beach the boatit is a landing craftthe centerboard is not situated in the deepest part of the hull; it's about four inches higher, which means that when the boat is grounded, the centerboard trunk won't be crunched by the ground," Yrvind said.Despite having the centerboard so far forward, the yacht's center of lateral resistance is actually well aft, since the large rudder contributes to the underbody's lateral resistance. He explained another reasons for the design: "When a boat makes speed through the water in heavy weather, there is a hollow next to the center of the boat in the wave pattern as it moves down the hull; a high spot forward and a high spot aft. Other boats that have a keel or centerboard in the middle create turbulence around this area because air is sucked into it from the hollow spot. By being forward, my centerboard is in deeper waternice clean water." In foul weather, as Yrvind found on the Atlantic crossing in his 15-footer with a similarly placed centerboard, the vessel weather-cocked: with the mast just abaft the centerboard, and the rudder pulled out of the water, the yacht pivoted around the centerboard and actually fore-reached through storms, rather than driving astern as with a sea anchor, he said. The yacht's rudder features a trim-tab for self steering, which is affixed with a pintle and gudgeon system that runs the full length of the rudder from top to bottom. Instead of using a windvane, Yrvind can fine-tune the trim tab, which is rigged to either the main or jib sheets.

If Yrvind were not so accomplished it would be a simple matter to dismiss his inventions, and the inventor himself, as insanehe has been heading to sea on improbably small boats of unconventional design for more than 30 years. He speaks in metaphor and non sequiturs, calls himself an idealist who believes in "fighting for a perfect world," and seems not in the least affected by the influence of commercialism and the lure of owning a large yacht in which he can be moderately comfortable. But his journeys and tinkerings have not gone unnoticed: he was awarded the Royal Cruising Club (U.K.) Medal for Seamanship in 1980 for adventures around Cape Horn in a 19-foot aluminum boat, and his yacht Bris, which he sailed across the Atlantic many times from 1971 to 1983, is displayed at the Museum of Yachting in Newport, R.I., as a tribute to his derring-do.

Yrvind, who earns his living as a lecturer on his adventures, said he changed his name because of the plethora of Sven Lundins in Sweden; by changing his name to Yrvind, he said, his inventions would be more recognized. The word "yrvind" in Swedish means turbulent or wayward wind. "You know when in winter the snow swirls around the house? That's the kind of wind I am now," Yrvind explained. As if that clears the matter up. Yrvind plans to leave his wife behind and set sail from his home on the west coast of Sweden in Lysekil. On the way he will try to explore several backwaters not on the standard cruising itinerary, including a seldom-visited island, Isla Diego Ramírez, situated 60 miles southwest of Cape Horn. "To try to land on an island with no good anchorages in such a region is near impossible for most people. But my boat I can pull up on the beach!" he said.

Follow the turbulent and swirling progress of Sven Yrvind and Bris Orädd on the web: www.yrvind.com.