While the solo skippers battling it out in the North Atlantic will be centre stage during next month’s New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne), there is a group that has already been diligently working on the event behind the scenes for months. After the start gun fires on 29th May 2016, this group - all experts in singlehanded offshore racing, many even past competitors - will be on call 24/7 to ensure the event’s smooth running. They are, of course, the race management team: The highly experienced Jacques Caraës, supported by Guillaume Evrard and Hubert Lemonnier.
The first job for Caraës and his team was to define the rules and lay them down in the Notice of Race and the Sailing Instructions for this key Open Sports Management-organised IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship event. To do this, they had to balance the requirements of the competitors and the race organisers, anticipate the likely weather for the race, and assess the logistics and all potential risks.
While the race is on, the race management team will remain on call around the clock, watching over the race like guardian angels, closely monitoring the safety of competitors, while also ensuring all the rules are observed.
Prelude to the main event
As a taste of what lies ahead in the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne), there will be a prologue race, starting from Newport, Rhode Island on 21st May. This 150 mile long warm-up will provide a unique opportunity for guests and media to experience first hand what it is like to race on board the ocean-going thoroughbreds.
The prologue takes the IMOCA 60s along the south coast of Long Island, arriving around 24 hours later at the finish off the Statue of Liberty, in the heart of New York Harbour. The IMOCA 60s will then be tied up at Manhattan’s North Cove close to Ground Zero, where they will be berthed for the next week.
A media crewman onboard (or not)
While it represents the perfect training for the Vendée Globe, the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) will also provide an opportunity to stockpile valuable media material, photos and video, prior to this winter’s singlehanded round the world race.
The race management has proposed to the teams that they each take a media crewman on board for the race itself. Before the start, both skippers and media crewmen will sign a sworn declaration in which they will agree that the media crewman be in no way involved with the running of the boat.
However those using the event as a qualifier for the Vendée Globe will be required to race alone. These include:
- Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Stéphane Le Diraison (NC) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss)
- Sébastien Destremau (FACE OCEAN) and Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) if they do not qualify on the Calero Marinas Solo Transat,
- Paul Meilhat (SMA), if he does not qualify during The Transat
- Yann Elies (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) if he has not managed to sail 1500 miles singlehanded before the race
- Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) if he enters the Vendée Globe.
High voltage start in the heart of the Big Apple
The New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) start line will be on the Hudson River, immediately off North Cove Marina, in the shadow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Given the large amount of maritime traffic on the Hudson River and in New York Harbour, the race management reserves the right, dependent upon conditions, to allow competitors to take a crew on board for safety reasons, to help them with manoeuvres etc, as far as the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, 2.5 nautical miles from the start.
One of the principle risks in races across the North Atlantic is competing yachts colliding with icebergs. The great circle route for the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) takes the boats straight through the middle of ‘iceberg alley’ to the east of Newfoundland. To ensure the fleet completely avoids this area, the race management will set an ice exclusion zone, which competitors are prohibited from entering. Initially this has been set so that competitors will not be allowed further north than 42°N around the Grand Banks area, but Jacques Caraës and the race management team will be monitoring this constantly and reserve the right to amend this closer to the time.
The race management team will monitor the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) round the clock in two hours shifts for the entire duration of the race. Skippers may call them at any time of the day or night. Otherwise the race management team constantly monitors the fleet tracking, as the course and speed of each boat are the prime indicators any problems that may be occurring on board. Each day they are provided with a weather forecast from Christian Dumard and Bernard Sacré’s company Great Circle.
Prologue: Start 21 May 2016 at 1600 local (2000 UTC) from Newport, Rhode Island. Arriving on 22 May at approximately midday in New York Harbour. Two courses are possible, of 150 or 220 miles, depending upon weather conditions.
Charity Race: on New York Harbour on 27 May followed by the official start party at the New York Yacht Club.
New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) start: On 29 May at 1100 local (1500 UTC), on the Hudson River off North Cove Marina.
Position updates during the race: Every 15 minutes, with a blackout between 2200 and 0300 UTC
Arrivals: from 5 June on the Vendée Globe finish line, between Nouch Sud cardinal mark and a committee boat, moored to the south of it.
Entry list for the New York- Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne)
Fabrice Amedeo - NEWREST Matmut (France)
Jeremie Beyou - MAITRE COQ (France)
Conrad Colman - NC (New Zealand/USA)
Bertrand de Broc - MACSF (France)
Tanguy de Lamotte - INITIATIVES COEUR (France)
Sébastien Destremau - FACE OCEAN (France)
Jean-Pierre Dick - StMICHEL VIRBAC (France)
Yann Eliès - QUEGUINER-LEUCEMIE ESPOIR (France)
Nandor Fa - SPIRIT OF HUNGARY (Hungary)
Pieter Heerema - NO WAY BACK (Netherlands)
Ari Huusela – FLYING WITH FINNAIR (Finland)
Morgan Lagravière - SAFRAN (France)
Armel Le Cléac'h - BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII (France)
Stéphane Le Diraison - NC (France)
Paul Meilhat - SMA (France)
Vincent Riou - PRB (France)
Kojiro Shiraishi - Spirit of Yukoh (Japan)
Alex Thomson - HUGO BOSS (Great Britain)