With an overwhelming majority (85%), the General Meeting on 17 December 2013 validated the final adjustments enabling the decisions made back in April to be ratified. The skippers of both the new projects and the existing boats are now fully aware of the technological scope of their particular sphere of activity.
There was an urgent need to set out the new rules, despite the complexity of the subject. The stakes were clear: to leave the door open to innovations enabling the new boats to be competitive, without putting the existing craft out of the game. All this had to involve specifications that required increased safety, reliability and simplicity for stabilised budgets.
This massive undertaking began in January 2011, when IMOCA tasked Eric Levet (Lombard firm) with conducting a study into the evolution of the class measurement. A few months later, to be in line with financial constraints and in a bid to define the cost parameters, the idea of a standardised boat was put into action.
This whole process adhered to an open approach dating back to 2008 and backed by Luc Talbourdet, President of the Class and Vincent Riou, President of the Technical Committee.
At the beginning of the Vendée Globe 2008, economist Jacques Guilbaud returned to take up the role of President of IMOCA and supported the actions undertaken to simplify the boats.
In April 2009, at the end of the Vendée Globe in question, under the presidency of Dominique Wavre, IMOCA ratified modifications to the class measurement which, in part, took up those proposed some nine months earlier: limiting the Righting Moment, standardising the mast height, increasing the angle to capsize, increasing the solidity of the keels through the application of safety factors and minimum characteristics, implementation of tests on masts and keels and limiting the number of appendages.
These decisions contributed to making the fleet more uniform, at least as far as the new boats were concerned. Though these put a limit to the extremes, particularly in terms of power, the performances of our boats continued to increase. The courses sailed by François Gabart and Armel Le Cléach in the last Vendée Globe testify to this.
The IMOCA skippers also know that this kind of performance doesn’t come free. It is achieved through an increase in costs and risk taking. The desire to keep the best possible handle on these two parameters has become a desire shared by everyone involved. All the actions carried out over the past two years have been heading in this direction and are accompanied by a real desire to preserve the sport and hence the uniformity of the fleet.
Jointly achieving these goals is reminiscent of achieving the impossible: how can you reconcile the old and new boats? How do you maintain a true sense of competitiveness? How do you combine sport, adventure and technology?
The conclusion has been a long time coming and we should like to thank everyone who has contributed to this tedious work, to the string of administrators who have kept everything on track, to the technical committees, who have put a great deal of effort into coming up with solutions, the various naval architect firms who have shared their opinions with us, Finot-Conq, Owen-Clarke, and over recent months VPLP-Verdier, Farr Yacht Design and Juan Yacht Design, who have supported IMOCA in putting together the final proposals presented at the General Meeting by the Executive Committee.
The parameters of the class measurement we have retained are the fruit of a collective approach where the experiences and skills of each person have been combined to come up with this end result.
On 17 October 2013, IMOCA set itself a deadline of two months to refine its class measurement criteria and make the necessary amendments. Without departing from the route carved out by previous meetings, it was a question of finding ways to have an homogeneous fleet and guarantee the competitiveness of the new boats, which were considered to be at too much of a disadvantage by the naval architects.
On 17 December IMOCA validated the following decisions:
For greater reliability and better cost control:
For greater simplicity:
To contribute to the uniformity of the fleet:
IMOCA is moving forward, respecting its history, and preparing for its future.
The future also incorporates its World Championship, which now has a name: IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship. Announced during the Paris Boat Show, this new World Championship is managed by OSM (Open Sports Management), a company created by Sir Keith Mills, to whom IMOCA has granted its commercial rights.
From this coming spring, the Championship is being fleshed out by a new race, setting sail from New York bound for Barcelona.
The finish of the Barcelona World Race, the start of which will take place on 31 December 2014, will be the grand finale of the IMOCA Ocean Masters 2013-2014, which will see the crowning of the World Champion. Two years later, the finish of the Vendée Globe will serve the same role for the 2015-2016 season.
With fine boats and a mouth-watering programme in prospect, the skippers of the IMOCA 60s and the IMOCA OCEAN MASTERS will continue to thrill us!
*AVSwc: angle of capsize in the most unfavourable condition