Luc Talbourdet and Sir Keith Mills shaking hands at the start of the Press Point

Following on from the announcement of the collaboration between IMOCA and Open Sports Management (OSM), media were invited on Friday 9th November in Les Sables d’Olonne to meet with Luc Talbourdet, IMOCA Class President, and Sir Keith Mills, founder of OSM, to hear more about their vision and plans for the future success of the IMOCA class.

Luc Talbourdet kicked off the session by explaining that the Class Members had voted 100% unanimously for this collaboration to be signed and were all extremely excited to be working together and using this initiative as the platform to grow and develop the IMOCA Class for the future.

Sir Keith Mills followed up by making several key points:

  • He has been involved in the IMOCA Class as an owner for over 10 years, and is passionate about it and convinced that the awareness of this amazing racing can and should be developped outside France;
  • He feels the viability of the IMOCA is restricted when awareness and visibility is so limited;
  • It is necessary to build a ‘virtuous circle’ : building an audience – leads to sponsor interest and value – leads to teams and skippers – leads to a great sporting programme : “Without all of these elements lining up, we will never to able to take significant steps forward”;
  • Sir Keith Mills has set up a separate operating company, OSM, to package up and sell commercial rights to the class – criteria of success is measured by bringing investment into the class to take it to the next level;
  • The Vendee Globe is an incredible event – we want to build on that and develop its awareness outside France. This event is essentiel and “We need to build an incredible programme of sport beyond the Vendee Globe event”;
  • Our aim is to bring focus and certainty to the class – this will help bring sponsors and skippers to the start-lines of events – “The economics need to change to make this happen”;
  • Two key objectives – to grow the class and to raise money : the sport will only grow if we can make it commercially viable;
  • ‘Internationalisation’ will take time – Europe, and certainly France, is at the heart of this class but expansion in Asia and South America is possible;
  • Our approach is to ‘walk before we run’, we have been using this week to talk to everyone (Skippers, teams, sponsors, event organizers, media), listen, understand;
  • “This is a long term project and it will take time to get to where we need to be but we start from now”.

Luc Talbourdet continued in sharing his thoughts answering questions from media:

  • “IMOCA had two principal goals at the start of this year”
  1. Grow commercially which we have now started with this agreement
  2. Evolve the design rule
  • The decision over the Open 60 Class technical direction evolution is the responsibility of IMOCA and will take place after the VG finish as it's always been done;
  • The technical direction will be “an evolution not a revolution”;
  • The “direction of the evolution’ will be made by the skippers and boat owners of the fleet of running boats “For sure we will not throw away the 20 boats on the start line of the Vendee Globe”;
  • The ‘evolution’ will not alter the class as much as is being reported;
  • Already we can see the impact of OSM – “They are able to have a team of professionals here talking to teams, sponsors, skippers and organisers and using their experience and time to plan for the future – that’s a great start in the short time since the contract was signed”;
  • IMOCA will always be involved in approving the programme and annual strategic commercial plan.

This Press Point was also an opportunity for Luc Talbourdet to introduce M. Michael LIU, President of 7Seas Group, and IMOCA’s correspondent in Shanghai.
M. LIU indicated his commitment to the Class and to the values that it represents.
7Seas is another asset for OSM to develop IMOCA and to expand our sports in international markets.

Sir Keith Mills closed the session by explaining the plans for the next steps of the OSM approach. Firstly analysis of what has been learnt in Les Sables d’Olonne during this intense week, then the start of the business and commercial planning process together with a programme of continued discussions with key parties and exploration of opportunities ahead of a preparation of the first strategic proposal at the finish of this Vendee Globe.