For the second season in a row Charlie Dalin, the skipper of Apivia, has become the IMOCA GLOBE SERIES Champion, a remarkable achievement which confirms that he has been the most consistent performer in the Class in 2022.

Dalin followed up a stunning year in 2021, when he took line honours in the Vendée Globe, by winning each of the first three races in the calendar this year – the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race, the Vendée Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne and the Défi Azimut-Lorient Agglomération 48 Hours – and then finished runner-up in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

In the season ranking that puts him 13 points clear at the top of the table with Jérémie Beyou, the Charal skipper, in second place and Thomas Ruyant, the skipper of LinkedOut and winner of the Route du Rhum, in third place, another 39 points back. In fourth place is Benjamin Dutreux after a consistent season on Guyot Evironnement-Water Family, one of five IMOCAs due to take the start of The Ocean Race in January.

Modest and self-effacing, 38-year-old Dalin, who is now awaiting his new IMOCA which is due to be delivered in late May or June, summed up another fantastic year which has seen his team put a boat on the water from their base at Port-La-Forêt that has performed almost flawlessly.

“Apivia 1 is definitely a great boat and I have a great team,”said Dalin. “Basically, you need three elements to win in the IMOCA Class – you need a good boat and a good team and you need to deliver as a skipper as well. So I think I definitely have a good team and a good boat and I must have taken some good decisions at some point.”

And Dalin thanked his sponsor, the French insurance company Apivia, who backed him with a new boat from the moment he set foot in the Class having won a reputation as a highly competitive soloist in the Solitaire du Figaro.

© © Pierre Bouras

“Their ambitions were high from the beginning even though I had never skippered a boat bigger than a Figaro before,”he said. “I went from a Figaro to an IMOCA straight away with a new boat and I am very thankful that they decided to trust me with such a big upgrade. I am really happy to prove that they were right with all the results that we have achieved, not just this year but in the previous three years too.”

Antoine Mermod, the President of the IMOCA Class, congratulated the Apivia skipper and his team. “I would say it has been an incredible three or even four years actually for Charlie,” said Mermod. “During this season we have seen all kinds of racing – upwind, downwind, offshore, inshore, long courses and short ones, in summer and winter – and at the end Charlie is the clear IMOCA GLOBE SERIES Champion. It shows that, on average, he is the best skipper.”

Mermod said Beyou and the Charal team should also be congratulated for achieving something unprecedented in the Class in the way they managed to establish a new boat on the racecourse halfway through the season, but not suffer in performance terms at all. “They managed to make the swap during the summer from the first to the second Charal and they stayed at the same level – very close to victory in each race. That has been a very impressive team effort and it’s the first time in IMOCA history that a team has achieved this,” he said.

© Eloi Stichelbaut - polaRYSE / Charal

And he praised Ruyant too who followed up his win in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year with a brilliant solo performance in this year’s Route du Rhum on board LinkedOut. Like Dalin, Ruyant became very hard to beat in what is now his old boat as he prepares to launch his new one early in the new year.

“Sailing downwind, Thomas seems to be the fastest – that is what he proved last season and again this year,” said Mermod. “We could also see that he is able to find a level of fine-tuning that the others can’t match yet. Again this has been an impressive project because they have been building a new boat while also taking part in all the races this season.”

Mermod picked out a few other sailors in the Championship top-10. Benjamin Ferré finished in fifth place overall on Monnoyeur-Duo For A Job – a superb performance in an older non-foiling IMOCA, albeit a fast one, which was built on his exceptional fourth place in the Vendée Artique. “There is no doubt that Benjamin is sailing a good boat, but the skipper is the most important variable in IMOCA sailing and for his first season in the Class, he has done very, very well,”said Mermod.

The first non-French sailor in the IMOCA GLOBE SERIES ranking is the Italian skipper Giancarlo Pedote, in sixth place, who finished all his races on Prysmian Group and in strong positions at the head of small team of just three people. “At the end of a race Giancarlo is always in a very good position,” commented Mermod, “and it has been another very impressive season by him.”

Mermod has also been highly impressed by Sébastien Marsset, who finished in seventh position on Mon Courtier Énergie-Cap Agir Ensemble, despite having virtually no budget to campaign his boat. He was also the first non-foiling finisher in the Route du Rhum in 11th place.

“We cannot even talk about a small budget with Sébastien,” summarised Mermod. “There is no budget. Sébastien managed to buy a boat and started the season with no partners. It was a huge battle and a big risk for him to take the start of the first race of the year. But he is a very, strong sailor and he did very well.”

Britain’s Pip Hare on board Medallia finished one place behind Marsset and is the top female skipper in the ranking, just ahead of Isabelle Joschke on MACSF in ninth position. Mermod says the performance of the top women in the Class sends a strong message. “It shows that female skippers can compete no problem within this competition and they have a very clever way to sail,”he said.

Other sailors that caught Mermod’s eye include the Swiss skipper Alan Roura in 11th position on Hublot – “a strong season, especially in the Vendée Arctique (Roura was 7th);”Roura’s fellow countrywoman Justine Mettraux, who produced a highly competitive performance in her first race on Teamwork in the Route du Rhum, and is 14th overall – “she is playing in the leading pack which is impressive given the short time she has had to get used to her boat;”Conrad Colman on Imagine in 15th position – “let’s say, partners and sponsors should have a close look at this guy and this project because it is a very accomplished one;” and finally Tanguy Le Turquais in 19th place on Lazare – “we can see that he is a very high level guy.”

Mermod was delighted to see that all the seven new boats in the field finished the Route du Rhum, another record for the Class, and that four of them were in contention for the podium for much of the race. He believes this shows the benefit of the more intensive IMOCA sailing schedule that has been established over the last few years.

“For six years now we have been pushing teams to sail more and that means we have much more feedback from the racecourse for designers and the fleet is now much more resilient,”he said. “All the knowledge that is being accumulated is much greater than before and it means the fleet is much tougher, so when teams are designing new boats they have a much better idea of what to expect and there are less mistakes and more performance as a result.”

The Class president is looking forward to the first The Ocean Race to feature the IMOCA Class, something he believes will come to be seen as perfectly compatible with the rest of the IMOCA programme in years to come. “The strength of the 2022 IMOCA GLOBE SERIES Championship tells us that the whole programme around the Vendée Globe is very, strong and very popular with a lot of skippers and there is a high quality of performance – everything is working well,” he said.

“But when everything is working well you need to build the future and then open new doors that can be a great opportunity for IMOCA teams,” he added. “We hope that this is start of a strong model that we will build together, with the Vendée Globe, with The Ocean Race and with the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum and all our other events.”

Ed Gorman