From Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th September, ten of the twelve IMOCAs signed up for the next Transat Jacques Vabre will be getting together in Lorient (Brittany) for the seventh edition of the Azimut Challenge. With just a few weeks to go to the start of the double-handed transatlantic race, this weekend in Lorient should tell us a lot, especially with a 24-hour double-handed race, which starts on Friday at five in the afternoon…
The line-up for the 2017 Azimut Challenge is very attractive. In particular, we should see four of the seven IMOCAs so far fitted with foils, including Bureau Vallée 2, Armel Le Cléac’h’s former Banque Populaire VIII, the legendary winner of the last Vendée Globe, which is now in the hands of Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier. One other mixed doubles crew will be racing on a foiler: Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies will be sailing Initiatives-Cœur (Jérémie Beyou’s former Maître CoQ).
Aboard StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès will be a team to watch as they must surely be serious contenders for victory. The fourth IMOCA with foils taking part is none other than the former Safran, skippered by Morgan Lagravière with Eric Péron at his side.
Among the six boats with straight daggerboards, some are clearly in with a chance of upsetting the apple cart, starting with SMA sailed by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet, brilliant winners of the Rolex Fastnet Race last August. The IMOCAs from the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe generation will be well represented. On Generali (Yann Eliès’s former Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), there will be the pairing of Isabelle Joschke and Pierre Brasseur. Still in the colours of La Fabrique, Alan Roura will be at the helm of his new boat (Bertrand de Broc’s former MACSF) with Frédéric Denis at his side. Although he recently acquired a foiler (Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back), Fabrice Amedeo is continuing for the time being aboard his Farr design from 2007, Newrest-Brioche Pasquier, sailing double-handed with the Italian, Giancarlo Pedote. On La Mie Câline-Artipôle, Arnaud Boissières is continuing the handover process with Manuel Cousin, the new owner of the 2007 Farr-designed boat. The tenth IMOCA taking part in the Azimut Challenge, Vivo a Beira (a 2004 Lombard design), will be sailed by Yoann Richomme, accompanied by Donatien Carme for this event.
“A line-up, which illustrates the vitality and vigour of the class”
After the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Azimut Challenge will give us a good idea of the state of play as we look forward to the Transat Jacques Vabre. No fewer than ten out of the twelve double-handed crews due to line up in Le Havre on 5th November, will be present in Lorient. Only Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys (Romain Attanasio/Aurélien Ducroz) and Bastide Otio (Kito de Pavant/Yannick Bestaven) will be missing. “This is a fantastic line-up and illustrates the vitality and vigour of the class. There are new skippers appearing, new boats are being built and most of the skippers, who did well in the last Vendée Globe are fine-tuning or changing their boats to enhance their performance. The 2017 season is indeed looking very positive,” a clearly pleased Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA told us. He is also delighted to see three mixed doubles taking part in the Azimut Challenge. “The last Vendée Globe was a huge success in every way except for one thing – the fact that there were no women lining up. With Samantha Davies, Isabelle Joschke and Servane Escoffier competing in races in the 2017 season, we have the confirmation that this trend may well be changing and that has to be good news.”
The event schedule
At five in the afternoon on Friday 22nd September, the ten IMOCAs will set off at the start of the Azimut IMOCA60 24-hour race. This will be sailed double-handed with a media man alongside them. As its name indicates, the race should last around 24 hours, so the racers will be expected back in Lorient on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday 24th September, the day will begin with speed runs. Then, the crews will tackle the Azimut Round Groix Race. They will be attempting to beat the record for sailing around the island of Groix set by Vincent Riou with a time of 1 hour 8 minutes and 10 seconds.
The ten crews registered for the 2017 AZIMUT – IMOCA60 24-HOUR RACE