The IMOCA Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday, 26th April in Paris at the
Fédération Française de Voile. This meeting was highly anticipated, because, in addition to reviewing a rich season that culminated in the end of the Vendée Globe, the IMOCA class rules had to be set for the next four years, and technical decisions made, given the number of new projects waiting in the wings.
2016 – an exceptional year
The 2015-2016 IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship concluded with an extraordinary Vendée Globe : 29 skippers on the start line; 18 finishers; 10 nations represented ; 7 IMOCA 60s equipped with foils, phenomenal competition, a podium only decided in the last few miles; a grand adventure with which the public can identify and added bonuses such as a new race record. This 8th edition of the singlehanded round the world race was unanimously hailed as a success, confirming the position of IMOCA alongside the world’s leading oceanic racing classes.
Jean Kerhoas, who has chaired the IMOCA since 2013, presented his report and highlighted the wise choices made over the last four years, especially those concerning safety and reliability. The introduction of one design masts and keel systems met the objectives as there were no failures among the six boats equipped with them.
Another major development for the IMOCA class has been the establishment of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship, begun in 2013 by Open Sports Management (OSM) with the backing of Sir Keith Mills. The success of the Transat New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) was such that it is now set to be part of the IMOCA calendar for years to come.
At the end of the latest cycle, many of the IMOCA60s which were for sale have found buyers, most of whom have already set their objective as the next Vendée Globe in 2020, along with other races beforehand in the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship calendar. For example, this week Jérémie Beyou announced his new partner, Charal, along with the construction of a new IMOCA 60 making for a dynamic start to this latest IMOCA cycle.
The choice of foils
Unveiled for the first time on an IMOCA60 in 2015, the new generation foils have caused lively debate. Although ground breaking, these appendages proved very reliable and efficient, as well as making for a very strong topic for communication during races. IMOCA60s equipped with foils took the first four places in the Vendée Globe, demonstrating that this technological innovation has more than proved its worth. As a result it was very logical for the General Assembly to reinforce its initial decision to permit these foils by allowing more options to adjust them in order to optimise their use.
Creating stability in the rules guided the Technical Committee's proposals for new development, and so the new rules, adopted by a very large majority of the General Assembly, are now fixed until 2021.
Among the decisions approved at the AGM, boats will now carry one sail less while some other amendments have been made to improve safety following feedback from the last Vendée Globe and Barcelona World Race.
The racing program is agreed until the 2020 Vendée Globe
The Assembly agreed the race program for the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship cycle over the next four years to ensure the best preparation for the 2020 Vendée Globe. It again opted for stability with a schedule including the Rolex Fastnet Race, Transat Jacques Vabre and Route du Rhum while reiterating its support for the Barcelona World Race, which was presented by Xosé-Carlos Fernandez, the Director of its organisers, the Fundació Navegació Oceànica de Barcelona (FNOB). On 12 January 2019 the round the world race will start from Barcelona, where it will also finish, but its renewed format now includes a stopover in Sydney. Laura Legoff, Managing Director of the Vendée Globe, also took the opportunity to confirm the interest of SAEM Vendée once again to work alongside the IMOCA class to help reinforce the consistency of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship races over the long term.
The IMOCA 2017 General Assembly also provided the occasion to welcome new members and new projects, such as those of Franco-German Isabelle Joschke ; German Boris Herrmann, who will sail under the colours of the Yacht Club of Monaco on the former Gitana 16 foiling IMOCA 60 ; or Pierre Lacaze and Yoann Richomme who will compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre in November with the Lombard design aboard which Samantha Davies started the 2012 Vendée Globe.
A younger, more international Board of Directors will lead the IMOCA Class in its latest evolution and in making strategic decisions for the future.
In fact, apart from Alex Thomson, re-elected to the position of Administrator for a ninth consecutive year, the Committee welcomed the new additions of skippers Conrad Colman, Tanguy De Lamotte and Paul Meilhat plus Antoine Mermod, Team Manager of No Way Back, who was elected President.
Motivated to continue the development of the Class in the same direction as it has taken for the last few years, while also improving the way it functions, the Assembly has chosen to place its trust in the new Committee and confirms its willingness to become more international with the appointment of the most French of New Zealanders [Conrad Colman].
After four years managing and developing the IMOCA Class, the term of the incumbent President, Jean Kerhoas has concluded while the three remaining members of the council - Vincent Riou, Jean Le Cam and Luc Talbourdet – have all stood down.
Over the next few weeks the new team will take the opportunity to get their feet under the desk as they identify areas of development upon which they wish to focus.
Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA Class, commented:
"I am very proud to have been chosen to lead the new Board of Directors elected by the IMOCA class membership.
The class is doing very well thanks to the quality of the work carried out over the last four years by Jean Kerhoas and his team.
Today we have set a revised rule until 2021 and a race program taking us beyond the next Vendée Globe.
"New skippers are arriving in the class, new boats are under construction and most skippers who competed in the last Vendée Globe are optimising their boats or will replace to find better performance."
"The 2017 season will include some magnificent events culminating in the Transat Jacques Vabre in November."
IMOCA Ocean Masters programme 2017-2020:
2017 Rolex Fastnet Race / Transat Jacques Vabre
2018 New York – Barcelona / Route du Rhum
2019 Barcelona World Race / Rolex Fastnet Race / Transat Jacques Vabre
2020 New York – Vendée / Vendée Globe