IMOCA Lasts news en-EN <![CDATA[Historic: over 30 IMOCAs at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre!]]> Thu, 18 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT Whilst Alan Roura (La Fabrique) hurtles across the Atlantic in a bid to secure the singlehanded North Atlantic record (50 miles in front with 666 miles to go), the list of duos signed up for the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 was revealed yesterday as its organiser unveiled the exceptional line-up of over 30 monohulls at the race start. As a result, IMOCA will be the main class represented in this latest edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre.Jean-Pierre Dick, four-time winner and reigning champion in the IMOCA category, together with Maxime Sorel, winner of the last edition in Class40' and a newcomer to IMOCA circles, give us the low-down on the upcoming edition and recall some of their memories of the race over a coffee. It’s historic. Never before has there been an IMOCA line-up quite like this for the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre. We’ve gone from 13 monohulls in 2017 to over 30 in 2019. The Vendée Globe effect is playing to full effect, but let’s not forget that there were 20 of them in the pré-Vendée Globe edition in 2015, which was a record participation at the time. Among 60 of the best sailorsAll the series’ big names and heavyweights will be there, forming complementary pairings, some of which are surprising and always high-performance, including: Charlie Dalin - Yann Eliès (Apivia); Sébastien Simon - Vincent Riou (Arkea-Paprec); Clarisse Crémer - Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire); Jérémie Beyou - Christopher Pratt (Charal); Nicolas Troussel - Jean Le Cam (Corum l'Epargne); Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme (Groupe Apicil); Alex Thomson - Neal McDonald (Hugo Boss); Samantha Davies - Paul Meilhat (Initiatives Coeur); Isabelle Joschke - Morgan Lagravière (MACSF); Fabrice Amedeo - Eric Péron (Newrest - Art et Fenêtre); Yannick Bestaven - Roland Jourdain (Maitre CoQ); Kevin Escoffier - Nicolas Lunven (PRB), not to mention the German sailor Boris Herrmann and Thomas Ruyant from the north of France, who are yet to reveal their co-skippers... Prudence for the latest generation IMOCAsAt least five spanking new IMOCAs are set to take the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, a genuine test match before the next Vendée Globe. Though Jérémie Beyou’s Charal will hit centre stage with a slight edge over her rivals in terms of preparation, the other 4 monohulls, Charlie Dalin’s Apivia, Sébastien Simon’s Arkéa-Paprec, Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss and Thomas Ruyant’s new monohull, will have barely had two months to carry out their first sea trials. It’s worth pointing out that the sea and wind conditions were very rough during the previous pré-Vendée Globe edition in 2015, during which 11 of the 20 IMOCAs had to retire and of the 6 latest generation monohulls competing, solely Banque Populaire VIII helmed by Armel Le Cléac'h and Erwan Tabarly made the finish in Itajaí, after an epic duel, which ultimately saw Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col take the win on PRB. The winners’ takeJean-Pierre Dick is IMOCA’s reigning champion and the only skipper to have won the Transat Jacques Vabre 4 times (in 2017 with Yann Eliès, 2011 with Jérémie Beyou, 2005 with Loïck Peyron and 2003 with Nicolas Abiven). As such, his take on things gives us an interesting insight into the next Jacques Vabre, along with that of Maxime Sorel (V&B), a newcomer to the IMOCA circuit, albeit a reigning champion in Class40'. We have a two-way interview! What’s your take on the exceptional line-up in IMOCA for the next Transat Jacques Vabre? Jean-Pierre Dick: "There were 13 of us at the start just two years ago, so the line-up is exceptional as it’s benefiting from the Vendée Globe effect as it does every 4 years. However, beyond that aspect, it’s fair to say that IMOCA has become the leading series in offshore racing. The fact that the 60-foot IMOCA is the boat selected to compete in The Ocean Race (Ex Volvo Ocean Race) will only accentuate this phenomenon. The first clash between the new boats will be intriguing, even though not all of them will be in full race mode by then. The most reliable boat will have the edge, which was the case for us in 2017 with StMichel-Virbac." Maxime Sorel: "Yes, the line-up is great with some fine matches on the cards. The hunt for miles for the Vendée Globe remains wide open... This edition will be thrilling, with a very mixed line-up, comprising a fair few new boats as well as some very high-performance boats from the previous generation. What do you remember from your victory in 2017? JP Dick: "Inevitably I have lots of fond memories of this race, which I’ve been lucky enough to win four times. I particularly recall our victory in 2017 where we took the lead thanks to a slightly daring option around the Raz Blanchard in a SW’ly wind punching into 10 knots of current and hence very heavy seas. Contrary to the advice of the weather gurus, we took the risk of going there and by the early hours of the next day we had a 15-mile lead over SMA and Safran. The race was an almighty battle, especially pitted against Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet. Together with Yann, in whom I had complete trust, we were constantly on the attack, carrying the maximum sail area and constantly piling on the pressure and accelerating. The race was a great moment for me, culminating with my fourth victory, passing the baton to Yann, the magical finish in Salvador de Bahia, the Caïpirinhas and all the delights synonymous with Brazil". Maxime Sorel: "I was under real pressure in 2017 as my sponsor (V&B) was under the impression that I was bound to win… I’d finished 2nd in 2015 so inevitably I could only finish 1st in 2017! My campaign got off to a bad start though as I broke some bulkheads in the boat, but Antoine (Carpentier) and I worked like crazy, breaking the 24hr-record in Class40 and taking victory with just a 17-minute lead over Aymeric Chappellier and Arthur Le Vaillant. It was just fantastic." What are the main difficulties and the winning recipe for the Jacques Vabre?JP Dick: "The Transat Jacques Vabre is a very tough race and you need to be on the attack the whole time. The calibre of the pairing is crucial, as you need to get along well and have complimentary skill sets. You also have to be able to cope with the permanent stress, because you have to maintain some very high average speeds, keep up the stamina and constantly keep your foot down". Maxime Sorel: "To my mind, the Jacques Vabre is a much tougher race than the Route du Rhum. In essence, there are two races in one. The first is the race to the Doldrums (inter-tropical convergence zone) then the drop down to Bahia, with a fair amount of downwind conditions and high speed. I consider myself to still be learning the ropes in IMOCA, so the difficulty for me is combining a longer race and a very physical machine".A prediction for the 2019 edition in IMOCA?JP Dick: "That’s very difficult as we don’t know a lot about the new boats. I think Charal will be the odds-on favourite, but we mustn’t forget some of the highly optimised boats with top-flight pairings like Kevin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven on PRB or Sam Davies and Paul Meilhat on Initiatives Coeur. Clarisse Crémer and Armel Le Cléac'h may also cause some damage..."Maxime Sorel: "Charlie and Yann will be formidable on the new Apivia, as will Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on Charal. We’ll also have to keep an eye on Initiatives Coeur (Sam Davies-Paul Meilhat), Malizia, PRB and why not Maitre CoQ with Yannick Bestaven and Roland Jourdain, who’ve got in a fair amount of training".[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[A busy summer for the IMOCA skippers]]> Thu, 11 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT With 22 crews working on their boats to prepare for the Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts off Cowes on 3rd August, a lot is going on around the world in the IMOCA class. Starting with the imminent launch of a few new generation IMOCAs, such as Thomas Ruyant’s monohull, which was unveiled on 4th July. It is a similar story for Sébastien Simon’s new Arkéa-Paprec, which is just about to leave the yard where she was built to be launched in Port-La-Forêt in the second half of July. In New York in the United States, Alan Roura is on stand-by for an attempt to beat the IMOCA North Atlantic record. In Japan, Benjamin Dutreux has acquired Kojiro Shiraishi’s former Spirit of Yukoh and is getting ready to bring her back to Vendée. Finally, Paul Meilhat has just officially registered the first French project for The Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race on IMOCAs, which will start from Alicante in 2021. Time to look at all of this news in detail. Paul Meilhat has registered the first French project for The Ocean Race After the German project led by Boris Herrmann, French skipper, Paul Meilhat, the winner of the last Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, has just officially registered for The Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race on IMOCAs, which will start from Alicante in 2021. “It has well and truly got off to a good start,” declared Paul. “This is my main goal and now I’m officially registered. The fact that it is being raced on IMOCAs means I can hope to do well. My goal is to set up an ambitious, winning project for The Ocean Race in 2021, then the Route du Rhum in 2022 and the Vendée Globe in 2024.” Alan Roura to tackle the solo North Atlantic record In New York, Alan Roura is on stand-by for an attempt at the IMOCA North Atlantic record. After Bernard Stamm in 2002, Alex Thomson in 2012 and Marc Guillemot in 2013, Alan Roura and his Imoca “La Fabrique” are waiting for a weather opportunity to begin this attempt at the solo IMOCA North Atlantic record. With 2880 miles to sail between Ambrose Light (off New York) and The Lizard (at the SW tip of Britain), the record held since 2013 by Marc Guillemot aboard his Imoca Safran is 8 days 5 hours 20 minutes and 20 seconds. Alan Roura: “I wanted to attempt this record on my way back from the last Route du Rhum, but neither the boat nor the skipper were in good enough condition and I didn’t want to attempt it if we weren’t in the best of shape. 2019 is a relatively quiet year, so there was a good opportunity this summer to give it a go.” Alan announced yesterday that he was moving to code amber, which means that it is possible that he will set off within the next 24 hours. We shall be watching... Thomas Ruyant’s IMOCA on her way to Lorient In Italy, Thomas Ruyant has just unveiled his brand new IMOCA designed by Guillaume Verdier and built at the Italian yard, Persico Marine. The new generation IMOCA, which revealed a very aggressive appearance, is now on her way to Lorient. The boat is due to be launched next month. Damien Seguin, Benjamin Dutreux, Maxime Sorel... There was a great result for Damien Seguin in Cadiz (Spain), as last weekend he grabbed his fifth world 2.4 mR title (paralympic sailing). The skipper of Groupe Apicil, who is preparing for the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre, will be taking Yoann Richomme, recent winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, aboard with him.  In the Far East in Japan, the Vendée based skipper, Benjamin Dutreux recently acquired the Spirit of Yukoh monohull aboard which Kojiro Shiraishi took part in the 2016 Vendée Globe. Once back in Vendée, the skipper from Les Sables d’Olonne will be out there sailing after the summer break and intends to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre in order to qualify for the 2020 Vendée Globe. To finish, we have some good news about the skipper from Saint-Malo, Maxime Sorel. After the Vendée department, which organises the Vendée Globe, another department from the Pays de la Loire region, Mayenne, is now committed. The department will be partner to Maxime Sorel and his boat, V and B, for the next set of races leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe. [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[A month to go: 21 IMOCAs registered for the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race]]> Thu, 11 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT In just one month from now on Saturday 3rd August, 21 double-handed crews in the IMOCA category will line up off Cowes for the start of the 48th Rolex Fastnet Race, the classic biennial offshore race. Officially part of the IMOCA Globe Series (with a weighting of 2) and part of the selection process for the 2020 Vendée Globe, this 608 mile race takes the fleet via the Fastnet Rock to the finish in Plymouth and will be a good test for the double-handed crews preparing for the Transat Jacques Vabre. This is also an important race for a few boats from the latest IMOCA generation, as we will be able to see what they are capable of as they take part in their first race. Gwénolé Gahinet, the winner of the last edition in which he raced with Paul Meilhat, analyses the line-up and the race course for us. All of the races on the official IMOCA calendar fill up quickly and smash all the records for the number of boats competing. The Rolex Fastnet Race is no exception, as 21 duos have registered with a month to go to the start. In comparison, there were just nine in the last edition back in 2017.Not one, not two, but three shiny new IMOCAsEveryone is looking forward to seeing the competitors sailing on boats that have just come out of the yards. That is particularly true in the case of Sébastien Simon and Vincent Riou, who will be taking part aboard Arkea-Paprec (a Kouyoumdjian design). If things go smoothly, Charlie Dalin and Yann Eliès will also be aboard their new monohull, Apivia (a Verdier design). “For these competitors, the Fastnet Race will above all be a way to test the reliability of their new boats. If the weather cooperates, they will be able to get the most out of their machines. But if the wind gets up and the seas are rough, it will be more complicated for them,” explained Gwénolé Gahinet, winner of the race in 2017 with Paul Meilhat on the ex-SMA. A top class line-upPaul Meilhat racing with Sam Davies will in fact be one one of the favourites this time. These two excellent sailors will set off aboard Initiatives-Cœur, an IMOCA that has been updated with extremely powerful foils. We will also keep a close eye on Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt, as Charal now seems to be reliable, and on Boris Herrmann (Malizia 2-Yacht Club de Monaco), who is currently in second place in the Globe Series. There are pairings too in the Rolex Fastnet Race, who will be taking part in their first major race together on some very good boats. That is the case for Yannick Bestaven and Roland Jourdain (Maître CoQ), Kevin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven (PRB), Isabelle Joschke and Morgan Lagravière (MACSF for the first time as a foiler), Louis Burton and Davy Beaudart (Bureau Vallée 2), Alan Roura and Sébastien Audigane (La Fabrique), and we must not forget Armel Le Cléac’h and Clarisse Crémer on Banque Populaire, an IMOCA that Gwénolé Gahinet knows well, as she is the former SMA. “This is the type of race where that boat is capable of winning, particularly as she sails well upwind,” he said. “Armel finished second on her sistership in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe and will know how to sail her.”Then, there are the crews that know each other well, such as Fabrice Amedeo and Eric Péron (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres), Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme (Groupe Apicil) and Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire (Campagne de France). For the latter pair, this is an occasion to adapt to the boat. “In general, I’d say that the standard is fairly even and I’m looking forward to a great contest,” explained Gwénolé Gahinet. “I’m pleased too that the line-up reflects the class’s move towards sustainable development, as this is a subject that is very important to me.” A race that is worth watchingThe race course, which is 608 miles long and part of the selection process for the Vendée Globe, is highly technical. The competitors will set off from Cowes, round the Fastnet lighthouse and then sail back down to Plymouth. “Even in the middle of summer, there are often very varied conditions and it can be rough,” analysed Gwénolé Gahinet. “In the Celtic Sea, you have to deal with the various weather systems, ridges of high pressure and the influence of low-pressure systems. It can in fact look like some of the legs in the Solitaire du Figaro race, as they have to tack along the coast making the most of local effects and currents. It’s fantastic to be able to take part in races like the Fastnet Race, where professionals and amateurs come together on small and big boats. It’s good too to be able to show off the IMOCAs to British sailing enthusiasts. This race is really worth watching.” Entry list - Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 :  Ariel2 - Ari Huusela Richard Tolkien & Rune Aasberg La Mie Caline - Arnaud Boissière & Kitada Hiroshi Eyesea - Denis van Weynbergh & Lionel Règnier Campagne de France - Miranda Merron & Halvard Mabire Superbigou - Pip Hare Time For Oceans - Stephane le Diraison Groupe Setin - Manuel Cousin & Gildas Morvan Pyrsmian - Giancarlo Pedote Arkea Paprec - Sebastien Simon & Vincent Riou Bureau Vallée 2 - Louis Burton & Davy Beaudart Charal - Jeremie Beyou & Christopher Pratt Initiatives Coeur - Sam Davies & Paul Meilhat La Fabrique - Alan Roura & Sébastien Audigane MACSF - Isabelle Joschke & Morgan Lagravière Maitre Coq - Yannick Bestaven & Roland Jourdain Malizia - Boris Herrmann Newrest Art et Fenêtres - Fabrice Amedeo & Eric Peron PRB - Kevin Escoffier & Nicolas Lunven Banque Populaire - Clarisse Crémer & Armel Le Cléac'h Groupe Apicil - Damien Seguin & Yoann Richomme V And B - Maxime Sorel [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Figaro circuit, the final necessary step before racing IMOCAs?]]> Mon, 01 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT The 50th Solitaire Urgo-Le Figaro finished last Wednesday after a fourth and final leg won by Eric Péron, which confirmed Yoann Richomme’s overall first place. With hardly any time to get over this fourth leg, which was just as exhausting as the previous ones, a few skippers, who race in both the Figaro and IMOCA circuits looked back at this 2019 edition in which they took part. You really have to be an expert in Figaro racing to come out on top in the Solitaire, and for the IMOCA skippers returning to the Figaro circuit, it was not the easiest of tasks. What are the similarities and differences when racing on the little boat (a Figaro) in comparison to on a big one (an IMOCA 60)? Do you really have to go through the Figaro circuit to win in major IMOCA races? Is it very hard to go back to a Figaro after racing on an IMOCA? We put these questions to Yoann Richomme (1st), Michel Desjoyeaux (12th), Yann Eliès (16th), Jérémie Beyou (20th) and Thomas Ruyant (38th). With a few months left to go to the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre and just over a year to the Vendée Globe, and with most of the new IMOCAs not yet in the water, the 50th Solitaire du Figaro offered some IMOCA skippers an opportunity to see how they measured up against Figaro racers. It was a way to measure their physical condition and their endurance levels. The overall winner of the 2019 Solitaire, Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Groupe - Groupe Télégramme) could not hide his pleasure and praised the class and his new Figaro 3: “I really enjoyed myself with this new boat, thanks to which the class is going to become very important. In terms of the standard, nothing compares to the Figaro... It teaches you all about commitment and is a great school to learn more and make progress. Moving up to an IMOCA is quite logical in my opinion and I still hope to be there at the start of the Vendée Globe next year." The winner of the last Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in Class40 will now continue to train on an IMOCA with Damien Seguin alongside whom he will take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in a month from now before competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre in the autumn. For Thomas Ruyant (Advens - La Fondation de la Mer): “The Figaro is the Olympics of ocean racing. Performing well on a Figaro is proof of your talent and that talent can be applied on an IMOCA..., but for me it is not compulsory to go via a Figaro. Many of the big names like Jean-Pierre Dick, Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson to mention just a few, did not need to compete in the Figaro circuit to get where they are today. Just doing the Figaro is not enough either. You need to have done other stuff such as the Mini or Class40, as these are just as important if you want to prepare for a move to IMOCA racing.” Figaro racing to perform well on an IMOCA Triple winner of the event (2005, 2011 and 2014), Jérémie Beyou (Charal) says openly and loudly: “You really have to be up for it. You don’t compete at such a high level if you are not motivated. The Solitaire is a reference in terms of preparation. Personally, it takes me two or three years to find the pace again and sail like a true Figaro racer. The 2019 race is no different. It really was an exercise for experts. You just have to look at the list of the first ten places. To win you have to be 100% a Figaro racer.” After a fortnight’s holiday, the skipper of Charal will be back out there training double-handed with Christopher Pratt, with whom he will line up at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre. For Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird), three times winner of the event (1992, 1998, 2007), who was very pleased with his 12th place this year, “It doesn’t make any sense racing an IMOCA, if you haven’t raced a Figaro, as the biggest group of top class racers competes. Gaining experience of Figaro racing is something you simply have to do if you want to perform well in the Vendée Globe. Having said that, you have to understand there is a difference when you move to an IMOCA, as she is a much bigger boat, which is heavier and more powerful, so preparing is a highly technical affair.” Yann Eliès (StMichel) shares this opinion, declaring, “Going through the Figaro circuit is practically compulsory if you want to win in the IMOCA circuit. The Figaro is a condensed version of what you experience on an IMOCA, especially with the new boat. Racing in the Figaro class complements IMOCA racing, as you don’t get to spend enough time out on the water on an IMOCA and the Figaro enables you to maintain your level and continue to make progress. This year’s race was complicated for me. I thought I would end up much higher in the overall rankings. I wasn’t fresh enough for the race, and every leg was difficult. I may return next year, but for the moment, I’m busy looking for a partner for The Ocean Race, which really attracts me, and for the 2024 Vendée Globe." Returning means accepting the danger “Sometimes it can be good to start to question yourself and put yourself in danger in the Figaro circuit,” explainsYann Eliès, “ as the exercise is very tricky and the standard very high. This year only one of us handed in the perfect exam paper…"  He was thinking of Yoann Richomme, who paid homage to all the IMOCA skippers, who return to the Figaro circuit. “I imagine it must be very hard for Yann, Jérémie, Armel and Mich’ to return to the Figaro circuit, where everyone can come a cropper very easily. You need to be strong psychologically to know how to deal with that.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Le Cam is back]]> Mon, 24 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT Since early April, Jean Le Cam has done a lot of sailing aboard the IMOCA on which he won the Barcelona World Race (in 2015 with Bernard Stamm) and finished in sixth place in the Vendée Globe (in 2017). Currently busy sailing from port to port between Genoa and Calais, Jean will be decorating his boat in the colours of Corum L’Epargne, Nicolas Troussel’s partner, for the Transat Jacques Vabre. At the same time, Le Cam is looking for funding to be able to compete in the Vendée Globe next year. He has lined up for every edition of the race since 2004. Jean Le Cam is back.“There’s no stopping. I am out on the water practically every day and clocking up the miles,” he explained. “On 2nd April, I set off with Nicolas Troussel to sail from Port-la-Forêt to Genoa, which enabled us to qualify for the Transat Jacques Vabre. I then started a long journey around Europe from Genoa to Calais via Cannes, Marseille, Port-Camargue, Barcelona, Cascais, Porto, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Les Sables-d’Olonne, Nantes, Brest, Saint-Malo and Le Havre. This project in conjunction with a partner (La Famille ibis), will enable me to gain some more experience and check out all the settings.”Le Cam/Troussel paired up for the Transat Jacques VabreAfter this experience around the coast of Europe, Jean Le Cam’s IMOCA will be taken out of the water (on around 10th July) and decorated in the colours of Corum L’Epargne, Nicolas Troussel’s partner. “Nicolas is currently having a new IMOCA built and before the launch, we need to train for the Vendée Globe,” explained Le Cam. “My IMOCA was available, so that worked out well. It also allows me to take part in my first major race since the Vendée Globe, making improvements to the boat, in particular offering her new sails. Everyone’s a winner like that. I know Nicolas well. He’s a great guy. You can’t imagine finding anyone better to pair up with.” The pair are not going to be competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race (start on 3rd August) as the boat is not due to be relaunched until early September. “There won’t be any foils on my IMOCA. Our aim in the Transat Jacques Vabre is to race against the boats with straight daggerboards from the same generation,” added Jean. The 2020 Vendée Globe: Yes We Cam! While he has no worries about competing in the Jacques Vabre, Jean Le Cam needs to set about the task of finding partners for the next Vendée Globe, which starts in less than eighteen months from now on 8th November 2020. “For the moment, it’s not looking great. I only have a small part of the funding I require. With my background and reputation, I can’t understand why. It’s true that I’m not a great salesman. In 2012 and in 2016, I found the funding at the last moment. I’m getting used to that, but it’s exhausting,” admitted Jean. “The general idea is to set off with a boat, ‘Yes We Cam’ with the support of five or six partners. But if a sponsor turns up with the whole budget and wants to give his name to the boat, that too is possible.” For Jean Le Cam, being at the start of a fifth Vendée Globe in a row is something that seems natural. “I love this race, as it is different each time. You never go through the same things twice,” he said. “In 2020, it’s going to be fantastic race, as it is each time, especially with eight brand new boats lining up. When you see the speeds they are forecast to reach, it’s scary. Finishing sixth like last time would be an unthinkable performance. I think there will be around ten boats without foils lining up. I would like to be the first to finish in that group. That’s the unusual sporting challenge I’m giving myself.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA class shows its commitment alongside Ocean As Common]]> Sat, 08 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT As every year on 8th June, it is World Ocean Day, which stresses the key role the oceans play in our existence, the fundamental place they occupy in our ecosystem and the threats that human activities represent... In the context of this day supported by the IMOCA class, the latter has just signed an agreement showing their support for the Appeal for the ocean to be seen as a common good of mankind (Ocean As Common) launched a year ago by the French sailor, Catherine Chabaud. The IMOCA class, some of the skippers of which have signed up personally to measures in support of environmental causes, will shortly be issuing a programme of concrete measures, involving many people involved in acting more responsibly and showing greater respect for the environment. The IMOCA class continues to support the Ocean As Common project For a year now, the IMOCA class has been supporting the Appeal for the Ocean to be seen as a common good for mankind (, which was launched on 8th June 2018 during the Monaco Globe Series. To make this partnership official, the Class has just signed an agreement with Ocean As Common expressing their support of its message and carrying out concrete policies at IMOCA events. As during the Guyader Grand Prix that was held in May, the measures within the Ocean As Common programme will be stepped up this year and will be seen at various events, including the exhibition “The Sea XXL” in Nantes, the Azimut Challenge in Lorient, and the Transat Jacques Vabre in Le Havre. Next year, Ocean As Common will be involved in several major IMOCA events including The Transat, the New York-Vendée and the Vendée Globe. IMOCA skippers committed to protecting the ocean Sailors, particularly when sailing around the world relying on wind power, have been able to witness for themselves the impact of man on his environment. They are vital observers and legitimate ambassadors for the preservation of the oceans and the sustainability of the natural environment in which they live and work. Some of them have developed sustainable development programmes and go even further placing the protection of the oceans at the heart of their projects, whether they are scientific or educational. With his project “Time For Oceans,” Stéphane Le Diraison wants to stress that the preservation of the oceans should concern everyone. He invites us all to take part on our own level (citizens, businesses, leaders). Winner of the 2018 Route du Rhum, Paul Meilhat is at the vanguard of the movement underlining what is at stake in terms of the environment, particularly in his role as ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation Europe. German sailor, Boris Herrmann has fitted solar panels and very efficient hydrogenerators which should supply him with 100 % of the energy required without ever using his engine. “It is a great symbol trying to complete the round the world voyage without using a drop of diesel,” declared Boris, who is also taking a mini oceanographic lab aboard with him and has come up with an educational programme, “My Ocean Challenge,” which is aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 12. As for Alexia Barrier, she set up the 4myplanet project, which has made available an educational kit about the oceans (for primary and secondary schools) and is also committed to working on scientific and technological schemes linked to environmental protection. The IMOCA skippers state their case in the “NAVIGUER ÉCOLOGIQUE” (How to sail ecologically) book Published a few weeks ago, the book "Naviguer Écologique" by Rachel Moreau, who was one of the authors of the Appeal for the ocean to be seen as a commoon good for mankind, deals with eco-friendly ways of sailing, as we look at the future of the ocean and our planet. This guide offers several rules and recommends certain measures to reduce the human impact. It features statements by IMOCA skippers, such as Paul Meilhat, Alexia Barrier, Loick Peyron, Alan Roura and Vincent Riou, who is also signed up with the WWF: "If I can bring along my vision showing the importance of sustainable fishing, the interest in developing protected maritime zones or if I can make the public more aware of plastic pollution in our oceans, it will give my ocean racing project a real meaning." [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Seven IMOCAs setting sail on the ArMen Race this Thursday ]]> Wed, 29 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT It is on Thursday 30 May that the 9th edition of the ArMen Race will set sail from La Trinité-sur-Mer in SW Brittany. More than 200 crews are expected, seven of which are competing in the IMOCA category, which is due to set off at 16:00 hours local time on a technical course along the Atlantic coast of around 300 miles. Though it does not form part of the event schedule for the Globe Series, the ArMen Race will be a great opportunity for the seven IMOCA skippers to do battle and rack up some more experience in race mode.        The IMOCA skippers are performing on all fronts at the moment! Following on from the Bermudes 1000 Race, which rounded off last week after a 2,000-mile course in solo format, seven racers will be competing in the ArMen Race, a crewed event spanning a little over 300 miles. Starting and finishing in La Trinité-sur-Mer, the course will take the competitors from the Penmarc’h headland to Ile d’Yeu, via the Glénan archipelago and the south of the island of Belle-Ile. Six men, one woman, three foilers The seven IMOCAs will be crewed by at least three people. Given the highly technical nature of the course, the older generation IMOCAs will likely be entitled to have their say against the three more modern foilers (Sam Davies’ Initiatives Cœur, Fabrice Amedeo’s Newrest-Art & Fenêtres and Giancarlo Pedote’s Prysmian Group). Among the entries are the ‘local of the leg’, Fabrice Amedeo, whose boat is based in La Trinité-sur-Mer. Also in the running will be five other sailors, who completed the Bermudes 1000 Race: Giancarlo Pedote, Sam Davies, Stéphane Le Diraison, Damien Seguin and Manuel Cousin. As for Romain Attanasio, having secured the win in the monohull category of the recent Tour de Belle-Ile, he is hoping to excel in crewed configuration once more. “Any confrontation is worthwhile” The ArMen Race does not form part of the event schedule for the Globe Series, IMOCA’s World Championship, but the competing sailors are still champing at the bit. “It’s important to be here, any confrontation is worthwhile”, explains Giancarlo Pedote, 3rd in the Bermudes 1000 Race. “I’m new to the IMOCA class. I’ve only had my boat for a short while and I need to take part in as many races as possible if I am to progress, test the latest tweaks and increase my speed when manœuvring... Sailing in waters I’m very familiar with will be nice, with various local effects to be exploited according to the site.” Romain Attanasio shares this outlook: “Confrontation and top-level navigation is just what we need. There is no better training than competing in races. I missed the Bermudes 1000 Race for timing reasons so now I’m taking part in every possible race. I’m notably going to make the most of the ArMen Race to trial some new sails. These crewed races are interesting as they enable you to have various people aboard with different approaches so they may have some interesting ideas.” For Sam Davies, the ArMen Race will be an opportunity to sail with Paul Meilhat, her co-skipper for the Transat Jacques Vabre, together with the members of her shore crew. “I’m lucky to have a team in which the préparateurs are also inshore racers. The ArMen Race is a great opportunity for them to see how the boat handles in race mode”, explains the British sailor. “Following our ambitious winter refit, we need to continue racing. It’s terrific to take part in a race like this, which combines professionals and amateurs.”  Fabrice Amedeo will also boast a solid entourage since he’ll be sailing with the likes of Armel Tripon, who is about to launch a new IMOCA, as well as Alan Pennaneac’h from the North Sails sail loft. “I have surrounded myself with a stellar team so as to work on the trimming and up my game with regards to understanding the finer points of the machine”, says Fabrice. “We’re going to do our best, though the weather won’t favour us as we’ll be largely sailing in light airs. All the competitors will have a chance to shine!” Arnaud Boissières, injured, has had to stand down Eight IMOCAs were signed up for the ArMen Race but Arnaud Boissières won’t now be attending after fracturing his jaw. “This is no minor mishap as I have to go in for an operation to recover”, explains Arnaud. “However, it won’t call into question any future training sessions with my co-skipper Xavier Macaire, nor my participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race and then the Transat Jacques Vabre. I’ll do my level best to have as speedy and as effective a recovery as possible and make the most of this time to hone and optimise my preparation regarding my race performance.” The entries for the ArMen Race 2019 in IMOCA: - Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) - Romain Attanasio (Pure) - Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) - Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) - Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) - Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) - Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) Link to follow the race :[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA class signs up to the "NO PLASTIC CHALLENGE"]]> Thu, 23 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT The second edition of the No Plastic Challenge will start tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd May). Set up by the No Plastic in My Sea association, this national campaign aims to fight against plastic pollution, encouraging everyone to cut the production and consumption of this non-biodegradable product. What this means in real terms is that until 5th June, goals will be determined each day to offer a challenge and make everyone aware of a   particular aspect of the problem. Led by the skipper, Stéphane Le Diraison, the IMOCA class calls for everyone to support the No Plastic Challenge. Use a reusable flask and shopping bag, opt for bar soap, avoid ordering products online, ban plastic bags and individual doses, get rid of plastic drinking straws… These are just a few of the measures suggested during the NO PLASTIC CHALLENGE. This campaign from 22nd May to 5th June will enable everyone to become aware of how they personally use plastic and more importantly will offer them alternative solutions enabling them to reduce their plastic footprint. Each day, a particular measure will be suggested to consumers, local bodies, schools and colleges, sports clubs and businesses. An alarming report The data concerning plastic is very worrying. Its production has been multiplied by 20 in 50 years and now globally reaches 350 million tonnes a year. Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea and it is thought that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Another alarming figure: according to the U.N., 100,000 marine mammals and one million birds are killed each year by plastic. In spite of the general public becoming much more aware of the problem in France, the production of plastic increased by 7.8 % in 2017 in a country which recycles merely 21 %... Many other figures have been drawn up, showing that we must all act together to deal with this plague of plastic, as the impact on our health is well known.   Stéphane Le Diraison’s appeal With his project, “Time For Oceans,” the IMOCA skipper, Stéphane Le Diraison wants everyone to get involved in this mission to preserve our oceans, stressing that it it down to each and every one of us to do something, as it is because of what we do ashore that this pollution arises. That is why he quite naturally supports the No Plastic Challenge. “As a skipper, I have seen for myself a lot of pollution, including that caused by plastic. It really pains me to see how much we throw into the oceans,” (editor’s note: essentially indirectly), he said. “The No Plastic Challenge is a campaign aimed at making people aware of this pollution and it is vital that as many people take part as possible and talk about it with their friends and family, explaining what measures can be taken. I want to do something and encourage others to do the same, in particular my fellow skippers. I make this appeal to them. We are ambassadors for this campaign. Take part in the No Plastic Challenge and spread the word so that it has the maximum impact.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[What we have learnt from the Bermudes 1000 Race]]> Tue, 21 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT There is still one competitor still at sea in the second edition of the Bermudes 1000 Race, the Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh, who is expected to finish on Thursday afternoon in Brest. The race was won on Friday by Sébastien Simon (in 7 days, 17 hours and 34 minutes) ahead of Yannick Bestaven and Giancarlo Pedote. This 2000-mile race which is on the IMOCA Globe Series calendar with a weighting of two, was very instructive for the 17 solo sailors competing, none of whom were forced to retire. We look back at the major lessons from this race, which took the skippers from Douarnenez to Brest via the Fastnet Rock and a virtual mark off the Azores. Light airs, strong winds… conditions that were tactical at times and tough at others with transition zones, periods when they had to search hard to find the slightest puff of air, while at others they were drenched with water out on deck… The 2000 miles of the Bermudes 1000 Race were certainly extremely varied, which allowed the 17 competitors to learn a lot about solo sailing, and that was particularly the case for the six sailors, who were discovering what that is like aboard an IMOCA for the first time.The favourites lived up to expectationsSébastien Simon, who was one of the rookies gave a strong impression, leading the race from start to finish and finishing first in Brest more than three hours ahead of his nearest rivals. “It wasn’t all perfect, but in any case, we found the right trajectories,” commented Sébastien at the finish. “I did lose control a few times and I used up a lot of energy. It was a great experience. I’m not afraid of carrying out manoeuvres or trying to be a bit ambitious. This was my first and last race sailing solo on this boat. I think now I deserve my brand new IMOCA!”   Behind him, the battle was on for the other places on the podium, but the favourites were there. After more than a week of racing, the four skippers chasing Sébastien Simon completed the course with just six minutes between them. A nail-biting finish, which pleased Yannick Bestaven, who came second: “It was an incredible finish. Last night, there were lights everywhere and boats moving in from every direction. I was pulling my hair out! It was a pity we lost sight of Seb Simon, who quickly made his getaway. Behind him, however, we really had to fight it out.” Giancarlo Pedote took the remaining place on the podium, 2 minutes and 37 seconds ahead of Sam Davies. For a long time, Boris Herrmann looked like making it to the podium, but something hit his boat 24 hours from the finish damaging his hull and leading to an ingress of water. It was therefore at slow speed that the German skipper completed the course in sixth place. These racers took advantage of all their hard work during the preparation, having sailed a lot before the start of the Bermudes 1000 Race. Sam Davies was the exception, as she relaunched her IMOCA late, after her new foils were fitted. But the British sailor made up for that with the wealth of experience that she had already acquired.Maxime Sorel and Clément Giraud: the two surprises in the raceMaxime Sorel and Clément Giraud both newcomers to the IMOCA class, performed exceptionally well. Finishing fifth, just 4 minutes off the podium, Maxime held out against the best foilers in his IMOCA with straight daggerboards. “I settled in quietly. Gradually, I put my foot down on the pedal. I soon found myself trying to compete. At the end, I even thought I might get third place. In any case, I never imagined I’d finish in the first five, so that is a nice surprise,” declared Maxime. As for Clément, he finished in a fine eighth place and felt at one with his IMOCA: “Whether in light airs or in stronger conditions, she behaves well. We have covered 7000 miles together in two and a half months, which is quite a lot, and I’m starting to appreciate when I’m pushing her too hard. It’s great to finish feeling in harmony with the boat.” Everyone in their own battleApart from the incredible fight for those ranked between second and fifth place, there were tight battles throughout the fleet with the gaps down to a few minutes for some. Fabrice Amedeo (7th) finished two minutes ahead of Clément Giraud (8th). The two sailors were neck and neck when they rounded the Fastnet. The duel between Arnaud Boissières (9e) and Stéphane Le Diraison (10e) finished with just 35 minutes between them, while Damien Seguin (11th) finished just eleven minutes ahead of Manuel Cousin (12th). Damien Seguin’s climb up his mast after damage to his mainsail will remain one of the lasting memories of this race.100 % of the competitors at the finish?Out of the seventeen competitors that set sail, none have retired. Apart from the skippers already mentioned, three women and one other man have also completed the demanding Bermudes 1000 Race: Miranda Merron (13th), Alexia Barrier (14th), Pip Hare (15th) and Ari Huusela (16th). Having been very unlucky with the weather, Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh has been struggling in light winds since rounding the Azores waypoint. Based on the latest routing, he is expected to finish in Brest on Thursday. If he does manage to finish, all of the competitors will have completed the race. Things are looking very positive for the IMOCA class in terms of reliability, as all of those registered for the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre (13/13) completed that race and that was also the case for the Monaco Globe Series in 2018 (9/9), while 75 % made it all the way in the 2018 Route du Rhum (15/20), in spite of some very tricky weather conditions.Major changes in the Globe Series rankingsWinner of the 2018 Route du Rhum, Paul Meilhat remains at the top of the Globe Series, even though he did not take part in the Bermudes 1000 Race. But Boris Herrmann is now just four points behind him. Consistency is important, as Stéphane Le Diraison (5th in the Monaco Globe Series, 8th in the Route du Rhum and 10th in the Bermudes 1000 Race) is in third place in the provisional rankings in the championship. We can see too that Damien Seguin (5th) and Fabrice Amedeo (6th) have leapt up the rankings, which remain close, as there are only 14 points between third-placed Stéphane Le Diraison and tenth-placed Alan Roura. The next event in the Globe Series will be the Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts on 3rd August. Twenty-five double-handed IMOCA crews are due to compete in this event. Rankings in the Bermudes 1000 Race:1. Sébastien Simon (Arkéa Paprec) in 7 days 17 hrs 34 mins2. Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) 3 hrs 13 mins and 20 secs after the winner3. Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) 3 hrs 15 mins and 45 secs after the winner4. Samantha Davies (Initiatives Cœur) 3 hrs 18 mins and 22 secs after the winner5. Maxime Sorel (VandB-Sailing Together) 3 hrs 19 mins and 45 secs after the winner’6. Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Yacht Club de Monaco) 3 hrs 54 mins and 15 secs after the winner7. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) 7 hrs 29 mins and 9 secs after the winner8. Clément Giraud (Envol by Fortil) 7 hrs 31 mins and 36 secs after the winner9. Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) 8 hrs 38 mins and 49 secs after the winner10. Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) 9 hrs 13 mins and 11 secs after the winner11. Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) 14 hrs 48 mins after the winner12. Manuel Cousin (Groupe Sétin) 14 hrs 59 mins and 37 secs after the winner13. Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) 1 day 5 hrs 31 mins and 47 secs after the winner14. Alexia Barrier (4myplanet) 1 day 10 hrs 19 mins and 24 secs after the winner15. Pip Hare (Superbigou) 1 day 22 hrs 13 mins and 48 secs after the winner16. Ari Huusela (Ariel 2) 2 days 9 hrs 32 mins and 32 secs after the winner17. Denis Van Weynbergh (, still racingThe top 10 in the Globe Series:1. Paul Meilhat : 98 points2. Boris Herrmann : 94 points3. Stéphane Le Diraison : 78 points4. Yann Eliès : 76 points5. Damien Seguin : 74 points6. Fabrice Amedeo : 72 points7. Alex Thomson : 72 points8. Vincent Riou : 68 points9. Arnaud Boissières : 66 points10. Alan Roura : 64 points[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Bermudes 1000 Race: Sébastien Simon in the lead at the Azores waypoint. Romain Attanasio’s analysis]]> Wed, 15 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT At 1245hrs UTC on Tuesday 14th May, Sébastien Simon was the first to round the Azores waypoint, the second major course mark in the Bermudes 1000 Race. The skipper of ARKEA PAPREC is now on the final leg of the course on his way to Brest. There is still everything to play for with a very tightly packed group just behind him, comprising Yannick Bestaven, Sam Davies, Boris Herrmann, Maxime Sorel and Giancarlo Pedote.A skilled observer of this first event in the IMOCA Globe Series in which he was unable to take part due to the timing, Romain Attanasio gives us his analysis of the first five days of racing. 870 miles. That is the distance between the Azores waypoint set up by the Race Directors and the finish line of the Bermudes 1000 Race in Brest. The frontrunners are now tackling this final phase of the course. The leader Sébastien Simon rounded the virtual mark at 1245hrs UTC today (Tuesday) and around two hours after him, Yannick Bestaven was expected to do the same followed by Sam Davies, Boris Herrmann, Maxime Sorel and Giancarlo Pedote. In the 1400hrs UTC rankings, only ten miles or so separated the five members of this group. The climb back up towards Brest is starting with the wind on the beam. But gradually, it will swing around and the skippers will be heading for Brest sailing close-hauled on a long port tack. The wind is not set to pose too many problems until they arrive off the coast of Brittany, which the leaders should reach on Friday afternoon. At 1400hrs today (Tuesday), all seventeen competitors were still racing. Damien Seguin and Denis Van Weynbergh suffered the same fate today. A lashing gave out and the mainsail fell down onto the deck. However, both are continuing on their way and trying to find the best solution to complete the race. Fabrice Amedeo suffered damage to the tack on his J3, but he too is continuing in spite of this handicap.   Romain Attanasio’s analysis “I wanted to take part in the Bermudes 1000 Race, as it is a good way to train and I would have liked to compete in all the races in the IMOCA class. But work on my boat lasted longer than planned and the timing was too tight, so reluctantly I withdrew.Conditions have been extremely varied since the start. All of the sailors must be tired. The climb up to the Fastnet in light winds was exhausting. The racers rounded the rock as if sailing a Figaro, all bunched up. It looked like August with some incredible weather and light airs from the north. Sébastien Simon came out on top of this phase at the Fastnet. In just a few hours, he added thirty miles to his lead. After those light conditions, on the way down to the Azores, conditions were as wet as they get for the IMOCAs, reaching in 30-35 knots of wind. When it is like that, the boat is often under the water and you hide out inside. In general, this Bermudes 1000 Race is one where those behind have been able to narrow the gap and now they are close to each other again, in spite of the the big differences between the boats in the fleet. Between Alexia Barrier’s IMOCA and Sébastien Simon’s, the difference in speed in the same conditions can be doubled. However, in spite of that, no one has been really left alone. All of the skippers have to work hard to maintain their positioning. That’s a good thing, as it is always more motivating when you are close rather than 500 miles behind the others.   The order has been respected. In front, we can see sailors who are well prepared and skilful on these very fast boats. Sébastien (Simon) sailed across the Atlantic twice this year. Sam took part in the Sardinha Cup on a Figaro. Even if the boat is somewhat different, it gets you used to sailing. Yannick (Bestaven) and Boris (Herrmann) also have a lot of experience at sea. I’m not surprised to see sailors like Damien Seguin (before his problem with the mainsail), Maxime Sorel and Giancarlo Pedote up with the frontrunners. They are not adventurers, but do everything to be competitive.   In spite of the tricky conditions, everyone is still out there racing for the moment. That shows that the boats have been well prepared. Sébastien Simon was automatically selected for the Vendée Globe (as he will have a brand new IMOCA), and he is attacking more than most of those chasing him, who are holding back. For many of them, the priority is to clock up 2000 miles. They have to finish the race even if their tyres are flat!” View the rankings here: [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[First idea of the pecking order at the Fastnet Roc]]> Mon, 13 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT At 0715hrs (UTC) on Saturday 11th May, Sébastien Simon was the first to round the Fastnet rock to the south of Ireland, the first waymark in the Bermudes 1000 Race between Douarnenez and Brest. Sam Davies, Boris Herrmann, Yannick Bestaven and Maxime Sorel followed him. On Saturday at noon, all seventeen solo sailors that set off in this first event of the IMOCA Globe Series were still racing with some significant gaps after less than two days of racing. There is still a long way to go, as the competitors have to round a virtual mark off the Azores before heading back up to Brest and the finish of this very tactical 2000-mile race. The first leg of the Bermudes 1000 Race, between Douarnenez and the Fastnet rock (290 miles) was demanding for the 17 sailors, with several transition phases to deal with. However, the 14 men and three women were able to find their feet without pushing too hard. That is good news as the event is taking place fairly early in the season, and some of the IMOCA boats were relaunched late with six sailors discovering solo sailing in this maiden event in the 2019 Globe Series.   Four foilers leading the way and Sorel surprising everyoneSince the start in Douarnenez on Thursday at 1500hrs UTC, the competitors have had a lot of manoeuvres to carry out and have not had much sleep. Rounding the Fastnet Rock to port has given them an idea of the pecking order and the difference s between the boats. Sébastien Simon was the first to round the rock at 0715hrs UTC. Just an hour later at 0815hrs Sam Davies was next followed by Boris Herrmann (at 0900hrs) and Yannick Bestaven (at 0915hrs). Conditions remain perfect with the sun out, ten knots of wind and some nice photos. The favourites are performing well but the big surprise is Maxime Sorel who in his first IMOCA solo race rounded the Fastnet in fifth place at 0930hrs.A tightly packed group and some big gapsAt noon today (Saturday), Damien Seguin was approaching the Rock followed by a tightly packed group including Stéphane Le Diraison, Fabrice Amedeo and Clément Giraud. The fleet of 17 IMOCAs is stretching out with at noon, 84 miles between Sébastien Simon and Alexia Barrier, bringing up the rear.   The next waypoint off the AzoresAfter rounding the Fastnet, the skippers are heading for a waypoint 820 miles off the Azores. For the leaders, there is a patch of light airs to deal with, before the wind builds from the SE and strengthens further tomorrow. The skippers should achieve some good speed sailing upwind. Based on the latest simulations by the Race Directors, the leaders should reach this waypoint off the Azores on Tuesday evening. That is when we’ll see the state of play again.   Order of rounding the Fastnet Rock (in UTC):1. Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC): at 0715hrs 2. Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur): at 0815hrs 3. Boris Herrmann (Malizia Yacht Club de Monaco): at 0900hrs 4. Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ): at 0915hrs 5. Maxime Sorel (V&B-Sailing Together): at 0930hrs   The next competitors expected at the Fastnet:6. Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) 7. Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) 8. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) 9. Clément Giraud (Envol by Fortil)… [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Bermudes 1000 Race: they’re off!]]> Thu, 09 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT It was at 1700hrs local time on Thursday 9th May that the start was given for the Bermudes 1000 Race, the first event in the 2019 Globe Series. Conditions were ideal for the seventeen sailors competing (13 men and 4 women), with a twelve-knot westerly wind. Ahead of them, 2000 miles of sailing to Brest after rounding the Fastnet Rock to the south of Ireland and a waypoint off the Azores. The weather in this race looks like being a mixture, so could be fairly complicated with the first boats expected to finish in just over a week from now. A 12-knot wind and a residual swell of less than a metre with sunny periods. They were the ideal conditions for the seventeen skippers in the IMOCA class on Thursday in Douarnenez for the start of the second edition of the Bermudes 1000 Race. Some skippers like Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ), Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur), Sébastien Simon (Arkea Paprec) and Maxime Sorel (V&B-Sailing Together) were a little aggressive as they crossed the line. Others were more cautious, not wishing to take any risks at the start of the race. The sailors made their way out of Douarnenez Bay sailing close-hauled and carrying out several tacks. At the buoy indicating the shallow waters around Basse Vieille off Cape de la Chèvre (in the Crozon peninsula), British sailor, Sam Davies was leading the fleet. “Unpredictable weather with a lot of surprises in store”Once they had passed the Cape off Crozon at the tip of Brittany, the sailors were able to point their bows towards Ushant and open up the sails. The wind is set to drop off during the night and they will have a strategic choice to make – whether to go east or west of the Ushant TSS. This is just the first of a series of hurdles, as conditions look varied and complicated throughout the race. “The unpredictable weather means there will be plenty of surprises in store,” explained Sébastien Simon shortly before the start of the Bermudes 1000 Race. “We’ll be scratching our heads trying to make the right choices,” added Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil), while Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) pointed out, “I’m expecting a lot of manoeuvres and sail changes. It looks like we’ll be going through all the sails.”   The sailors’ impressions before the start of the Bermudes 1000 Race: Sébastien Simon (Arkea Paprec): “I feel at ease aboard this boat after sailing across the Atlantic as if I had been alone on her. But psychologically, it’s always different when you are really alone… I am used to sailing solo, but not on an IMOCA. I have a lot of progress to make, but I am competitive and will be trying to win.” Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ): “Sailing solo is something I’m about to discover on my new foiler, which seems to be highly competitive. We are setting off in fine conditions, which will allow everyone to build up their confidence. My main goal is obviously to complete the race. But knowing me, I’m sure I’ll get caught up in the race aspect too. Getting to the podium would be a great result, the icing on the cake.”Denis Van Weynbergh ( “This is my first major solo attempt aboard an IMOCA. It feels like playing a match in the Champions’ League. The boat is ready and my little team of volunteers has been working hard. I’m tackling this race feeling very happy with the aim of finishing and learning from the experience.”   The 17 skippers registered for the Bermuda 1000 Race: • Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) • Alexia Barrier (4myplanet) • Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) • Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) • Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) • Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) • Clément Giraud (Envol) • Pip Hare (Superbigou) • Boris Herrmann (Malizia Yacht Club de Monaco) • Ari Huusela (Ariel 2) • Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) • Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) • Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) • Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) • Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec) • Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together) • Denis Van Weynbergh ( [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[What is at stake in the Bermuda 1000 Race]]> Wed, 08 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT It will be at 1700hrs tomorrow (Thursday 9th May) that the Bermuda 1000 Race will start from Douarnenez. This is the first event on the Globe Series calendar in 2019. Postponed because of a violent low-pressure area, the start gun for this 2000 mile race will send the 17 solo sailors on their way to achieve their various ambitions.   Initially scheduled for 1300hrs on Wednesday 8th May, the start of the Bermuda 1000 Race was postponed by 28 hours. “Our idea is to send the racers on their way in quieter conditions, after the violent low-pressure system which is reaching Brittany, has passed,” explained Jacques Caraës, the Race Director. “The Bermuda 1000 Race from Douarnenez-Brest is the first race of the season in the IMOCA circuit. Some of the boats were only recently relaunched and for seven sailors, this is going to be their first solo IMOCA race.”  Sam Davies, Boris Herrmann, Sébastien Simon and Yannick Bestaven rightly have high ambitions On paper, four sailors appear to have what it takes to be referred to as the favourite. In the Guyader Grand Prix over the past few days, British sailor, Sam Davies was successfully able to try out her huge foils with a crew. If she manages to make good use of them when sailing solo, she will be a very serious contender. Currently fourth in the Globe Series, Boris Herrmann can hope to take the lead in the championship in the absence of the three sailors ahead of him in the rankings (Paul Meilhat, Yann Eliès and Alex Thomson). The German skipper has sailed a lot on his foiler. Confident and methodical, he is certainly one to watch in this race.   Sébastien Simon is taking part in his very first solo IMOCA race with the Bermuda 1000 Race. However, he recently completed two transatlantic crossings (one sailing double-handed and one as if sailing alone), before winning the Guyader Grand Prix. Is he about to confirm his full potential in this race?   As for the experienced sailor, Yannick Bestaven, 2nd in the Guyader Grand Prix with his crew, he is also on the way up and really wants to perform well on his first solo race aboard his foiler. The “outsiders” Currently 9th in the Globe Series rankings, Fabrice Amedeo has had a wealth of experience in the IMOCA class and his boat should allow him to raise his sights. Also well placed in the Top 10 in the Globe Series, Stéphane Le Diraison, Damien Seguin and Arnaud Boissières have a lot going for them and they have the means to do well. If they perform particularly well, they may indeed move up the rankings in the IMOCA World Championship.  Everything is looking very positive for Ari Huusela, 11th in the 2018 Route du Rhum. If he achieves what he has already shown he is capable of doing and completes the Bermuda 1000 Race, he will be taking another step forward on his journey towards his main goal. In 2020, he wants to become the first Finnish sailor in the history of the Vendée Globe.   With her emblematic IMOCA, which was first launched in 1998, Alexia Barrier (15th in the 2018 Route du Rhum) will be fighting hard with what she has available to her and will be able to count on her very reliable boat during the long, demanding Bermuda 1000 Race.  Clocking up their first miles Six sailors have not yet started clocking up the miles on their way to the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe: Maxime Sorel, Giancarlo Pedote, Clément Giraud, Miranda Merron, Denis Van Weynbergh and Pip Hare. All of them with the exception of Miranda Merron are sailing solo for the first time in the IMOCA circuit. For each of these competitors, the main goal will clearly be to find their feet and to complete the course. But as they are all keen racers, they will almost certainly get caught up in the competition itself…   The 17 skippers registered for the Bermuda 1000 Race: • Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) • Alexia Barrier (4myplanet) • Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) • Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) • Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) • Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) • Clément Giraud (Envol) • Pip Hare (Superbigou) • Boris Herrmann (Malizia Yacht Club de Monaco) • Ari Huusela (Ariel 2) • Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) • Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) • Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) • Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) • Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec) • Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together) • Denis Van Weynbergh (  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[How do the IMOCA measurement checks work? ]]> Tue, 07 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT The IMOCA class has laid down many different precise criteria (which can evolve) in order to improve the safety of the sailors and to ensure that the contest is fair. While some data is relatively simple to check, such as the length, beam, weight and number of sails, others are much more complicated to deal with, in particular those concerning stability and power. Carried out by René Boulaire, the chief measurer and Manu Guedon, in close contact with the IMOCA teams, this work around the rules is essential, as we see today with those concerned.   There are various phases to the process of checking whether an IMOCA conforms to class rules. The first takes place during the construction. Working closely with the team, the architect and builder, the chief measurer, René Boulaire, assisted by Manu Guedon, checks the techniques used to manufacture the boat, the materials used and the size and characteristics (length, beam, draught, air draught).   Once the boat leaves the yard, the boat and her foils and mast are weighed and the keel is checked to make sure it conforms to the specifications, alongside many other checks. Then, the boat undergoes the spectacular 90 degree test, which involves putting the boat over on her side on the water to determine the centre of gravity. This test is carried out for brand new IMOCAs, but also when important modifications are made, such as a change of mast, keel and appendages…                                                        Stability and power, the two major criteria in the IMOCA rules   Once the weight and centre of gravity have been determined, they can move on to the next phase of checks, which involve stability and power criteria. Réné Boulaire and Manu Guedon’s work involves carrying out the most accurate physical measurements possible so that the calculators have the right data to check the stability criteria. For each boat, these calculations are carried out digitally at least once a year, thanks to some very advanced digital simulation. “For new IMOCA boats, the RM (righting moment) for the boat must be less than or equal to 25.5 tonnes/metre at 25 degrees of heel,” indicated René Boulaire for example. A 180 degree test is also simulated. The boat is turned completely over and must be capable of righting herself when the canting keel is shifted. Other tests ensure the boat does not capsize before a heel of 110°. “We want the IMOCA boats to be as seaworthy as possible and capable of sailing around the world in total safety. We have to do our utmost to ensure they do not capsize and stay upside down,” explainedAntoine Mermod, President of the class.   Regular checks on the sensitive areas and the safety gear Each year, the teams have to carry out other checks to obtain their class certificate, which is a vital document if they want to take part in races on the IMOCA calendar. The mast has to be checked with the help of ultrasound technology. As for one-design keels, they have to be inspected once every four years.   René Boulaire and Manu Guédon regularly step aboard IMOCAs to check all the safety gear. At the start of some races, such as the Bermuda 1000 Race, which is taking place early in the season, they work in close collaboration with the FFVoile (French Sailing Federation) staff carrying out official ocean racing equipment checks. “We go right around the boat to check all the different elements, such as the lifelines, the guard rails, stanchions, pulpits, beacons, life rafts, etc. All of these parts of the boat need to conform to IMOCA class rules, as they are written down,” addedManu Guedon. “We also need to check the paperwork for the boat, and see whether the registration documents are up to date and everything is declared correctly and that the boat is fit to sail.” The measurer at the heart of the design of the boat and changes that are made René Boulaire and Manu Guedon are in regular discussions with the teams to work with them and define clear limits concerning class rules. There are many rules that need to be respected and they are all very precise. Throughout every phase of the project, the various measurement checks take time and are complicated, and admittedly impose a burden on the sailors. But they are absolutely vital when we look at the Vendée Globe. “Our aim is not one of repression but on the contrary to be constructive,” stressed René Boulaire. “We answer any queries from the competitors and offer our assistance, helping them to respect the various class rules.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[8 days to go to the Bermuda 1000 Race: 17 solo sailors lining up]]> Tue, 30 Apr 2019 00:00:00 GMT It is in a week from now on Wednesday 8th May that the Bermuda 1000 race will start from Douarnenez (Brittany). It is the first event in the 2019 IMOCA Globe Series and the only solo race of the season. Seventeen sailors representing six nationalities are expected to take part, including three women and seven solo sailing rookies. They will be facing 2000 miles of racing back to Brest, via the emblematic Fastnet lighthouse and the Azores. We take a look today at the line-up. As in all of the events in the IMOCA class, the Bermuda 1000 Race will be bringing together a large and eclectic fleet with sailors competing on boats launched between 1998 (Alexia Barrier) and 2015 (Fabrice Amedeo and Giancarlo Pedote). While there are huge differences in terms of the technology, we shall also see skippers coming from a wide range of backgrounds with different experiences and various goals. Seven solo rookies Among the seventeen registered, seven will be taking part in their first solo IMOCA race. Sébastien Simon (Arkea Paprec) will be advancing once again on the former PRB. He has just spent 35 days aboard her and sailed twice across the Atlantic: firstly between Cadiz and San Salvador (Columbus Route) sailing double-handed with Vincent Riou, and then secondly, between Miami and Port-la-Forêt as if he was sailing alone. Also competing on a foiling IMOCA, the Italian, Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) has been sailing for two months on his new boat and will be taking advantage of this new 2000-mile race to boost his confidence and see how he measures up against his rivals.   Three other rookies will be setting sail aboard IMOCAs built for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe: Miranda Merron (Campagne de France), Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together) and Clément Giraud (Envol). By competing in the Bermuda 1000 Race, they will learn a lot and will certainly enjoy the competitive aspect too, even if their prime goal is to finish the race and grab some precious miles to be selected for the 2020 Vendée Globe. Also discovering his boat, the Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh ( will be taking part with the same aims aboard Nandor Fa’s former IMOCA. The countdown has begun too for British sailor, Pip Hare, who has been able to sail on her IMOCA (the legendary Superbigou), but is counting more on the wealth of experience she has acquired sailing solo on other types of boat over the years. First time on a foiler for Yannick Bestaven and huge appendages for Sam DaviesYannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) has moved up a step by swapping his Farr designed boat from 2006 (now in the hands of Clément Giraud) for a much more recent IMOCA with foils, the former Safran. After a good trial period in Cascais (Portugal) with Roland Jourdain, Yannick will be racing for the first time with this boat, which should allow him to fully express himself. After a long refit, Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) relaunched her IMOCA last week and unveiled some new foils, which are impressive in terms of their size. The Bermuda 1000 Race will be a good first test, even if she has not had much time to get to grips with the new foils. We should add that last year, Sam came close to victory, finishing just twelve minutes behind Paul Meilhat.   Aiming to confirm their position after the Route du Rhum Six competitors who completed the 2018 Route du Rhum will be attempting to continue along the same lines and clock up more miles again. Currently fourth in the IMOCA Globe Series, the German sailor, Boris Herrmann (Malizia Yacht Club de Monaco) intends to take advantage of the Bermuda 1000 Race to move up a few places, as the three competitors ahead of him are absent from this event. Both competing on boats designed by Finot-Conq, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) and Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) have the means to finish among the frontrunners in the boats with straight daggerboards, and maybe even leave a few foilers behind them... After his eleventh place in the Route du Rhum on what was his first major experience in the IMOCA class, Ari Huusela (Ariel 2) hopes to do equally well in the Bermuda 1000 Race and remain on schedule to become the first Finnish sailor to take part in the Vendée Globe in 2020. Respectively 14th and 15th in the Route du Rhum, Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) and Alexia Barrier (4myplanet) are aiming to continue their methodical progression and take advantage of this race to check out the work done during the winter.   Two skippers who completed the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe We will also be seeing two sailors, who completed the last edition of the non-stop solo round the world race. Automatically selected for the next edition, they nevertheless wish to compete in all of the events in the Globe Series. The only sailor to have completed three Vendée Globe races in a row, along with Armel Le Cléac’h, Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) wants to tackle the 2019 season to step up his performance aboard his IMOCA, which was equipped with foils last season. As for Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres), who relaunched his boat on Monday 29th April, he will be entering a key phase. “I shall be tackling the Bermuda 1000 Race remaining modest in terms of my ambitions, but it is important to take part. It’s a way to prepare and more importantly, the only solo race of the season,” he explained.   The 17 skippers registered for the Bermuda 1000 Race:• Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres)• Alexia Barrier (4myplanet)• Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ)• Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle)• Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin)• Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur)• Clément Giraud (Envol)• Pip Hare (Superbigou)• Boris Herrmann (Malizia Yacht Club de Monaco)• Ari Huusela (Ariel 2)• Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans)• Miranda Merron (Campagne de France)• Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group)• Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil)• Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec)• Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together)• Denis Van Weynbergh ( The programme for the Bermuda 1000 Race:- Monday 6th May: Course to be announced- Tuesday 7th May, 1730hrs (Douarnenez): Race briefing- Wednesday 8th May, 1300hrs (Douarnenez): Start of the Bermuda 1000 Race- Wednesday 15th May (Brest): First competitors expected to finish- Saturday 18th May, 1800hrs (Brest): Prize-giving ceremony   More information about the Bermuda 1000 Race  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Giancarlo Pedote taking the logical next step]]> Mon, 29 Apr 2019 00:00:00 GMT Giancarlo, when did you first think about joining the IMOCA class?  “It was something I thought of when I first sailed solo offshore in the Mini circuit. But when I moved to France in 2009, that prospect seemed a long way off. I remained focused on what was going on then and my first attempt at the Mini Transat aboard a series boat, in which I finished in fourth place. Four years later, I grabbed second place in this race in the prototypes. I moved into the Figaro class for a while and took part in the 2014 Route du Rhum on a Class40, before sailing with Erwan Le Roux on a Multi 50 (with a win in the Transat Jacques Vabre). I took it step by step, as I wanted to have a decent background before entering the IMOCA class.”   What was the deciding point for you? “The 2014 Route du Rhum. At the end of that race, I started to work hard to see my dream come true. I was very motivated by the idea of launching my project, as IMOCAs are incredible machines with a lot of technical possibilities to work on. For someone who loves offshore racing, the Vendée Globe is the Holy Grail, and that is a challenge, which spices up a project.” “I was chatting on the beach in my wet suit with Jean-Pierre Dick”Why did you decide to buy Jean-Pierre Dick’s former StMichel-Virbac, a foiler from 2015 designed by VPLP-Verdier?  “I know Jean-Pierre well and we often came across each other, as we live in the same area. He knew I was looking for an IMOCA. One day I stumbled upon him after going for a swim. I was down there on the beach chatting to him and he told me is boat was going to be put up for sale. I grabbed the opportunity and got in contact with his team, Absolute Dreamer. The deal was signed in April 2018 and I reserved the boat for March 2019, as Yann Eliès was using her for the 2018 Route du Rhum before she went into the yard. She is the ideal boat, as my sponsor refused to allow me to compete with an older IMOCA. Having a boat to allow me to express my ability is something that suits me fine.”      How did the handover of the foiler go? “Well! I got used to carrying out manoeuvres and sailing her at high speed in a methodical fashion. Everything felt good and I felt at ease. I always try to plan ahead to avoid getting ahead of myself. IMOCAs are very demanding boats and much more complex than Class40 boats for example. Physically, they require a lot of hard work, even if you are just talking about stacking.”The IMOCA world isn’t entirely new, as you were Fabrice Amedeo’s co-skipper in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre which you finished in twelfth place…“Yes, indeed. That was my first significant experience in the class. It was interesting at sea, but also ashore, as I was able to see how an IMOCA team is run. It confirmed my desire to launch my very own project.” “We have to finish the races and not be too greedy” Your sponsor, Prysmian Group has been exceptionally loyal, as they have been following you with your projects since 2007. Will you need any extra funding for the 2020 Vendée Globe?“I’m proud to be trusted by a sponsor for all these years, as it proves we have been working well. However, I’m not content with just that and am heavily involved ensuring that everything goes well. The support of the Prysmian Group guarantees the running of the project until the Vendée Globe, unless there is some major damage. There is still room on the boat for any other partners wishing to join us. That would allow us to carry out more work on the boat.” On 8th May, you will be setting sail from Douarnenez at the start of the Bermuda 1000 Race, your first major solo IMOCA race. How do you feel about that prospect? “I’m not planning for any particular result, as I have never seen how I measure up against others in the IMOCA class and the timing is tight with just two months to prepare before setting off on a 2000 mile course alone. The aim will be to sail safely and to make the most of the skills I have so far acquired.”  Will you be taking part in all the races in the Globe Series before the Vendée Globe?“Yes! To qualify for the Vendée Globe, I have to complete these races and not be too greedy. It is vital to clock up the miles, even if that means easing off at times.” On 8th November 2020 in Les Sables d’Olonne, you will become the fifth Italian to cross the start line in the Vendée Globe after Vittorio Mallingri, Simone Bianchetti, Pasquale de Gregorio and Alessandro di Benedetto. Is that an important aspect for you?“Of course! I am proud to be flying the Italian flag on my IMOCA. My country has an important sailing tradition and is well placed in the America’s Cup with the Luna Rossa team. Even if we don’t have the ocean along our coasts, we have to show Italy what we can do in offshore sailing.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA annual general meeting: a thriving class with a sustainable future]]> Thu, 18 Apr 2019 00:00:00 GMT The IMOCA class annual general meeting was held in Lorient on Tuesday 16th April in the presence of the skippers and their representatives. It was an opportunity to look at the measures that have been taken and to talk about current matters and also to look ahead. Time for a summary of what went on during the afternoon. The IMOCA class annual general meeting is always a key moment, where a wide range of subjects are discussed and the class is able to look at the current state of play, and determine what direction to take while sharing more technical details. A three-part summary of the last two yearsAntoine Mermod, in place now for two years, was reappointed as President of the IMOCA until 2021. He summarised the work done by his team over the latest period. “We are putting in place measures in three areas. The first involves establishing a positive and constructive relationship with the members. We work with the aim of always being available, listening and sharing ideas. Everyone needs to be involved in the discussion process. We apply the same approach with our external partners, starting with race organisers. The second area we are working on concerns how to develop the programme with the creation of the IMOCA Globe Series, the new world championship, which adds value to the races that take place between two editions of the Vendée Globe and to ensure large fleets set off in each of them. The class proposes two or three major events each year. This busy schedule offers our partners more regular and stronger feedback. The third area we are working on concerns the internationalisation of the class. Getting close to The Ocean Race throws the spotlight on the IMOCA class internationally. New projects are being launched outside of France and we are in the process of developing something with a huge potential.” The race calender: five races in the Globe Series before the 2020 Vendée Globe and a rough idea for the 2021-2024 periodAs planned, there are five races scheduled in the Globe Series between now and the next Vendée Globe. In 2019, there will be the Bermuda 1000 Race (which starts on 8thMay), the Rolex Fastnet Race (3rdAugust) and the Transat Jacques Vabre (27thOctober). 2020 will be a busy year with two solo transatlantic races (The Transat and the New York-Vendée) before the big event, the Vendée Globe, which starts from Les Sables d'Olonne on 8thNovember.Always wishing to plan ahead, the IMOCA class is already thinking about ideas for the calendar for the 2021-2024 period. Antoine Mermod: “Within the next year, we will have defined the races in the circuit up to 2024. That will enable the racers to get organised and offer their sponsors the opportunity to continue their partnership after the solo round the world race.”   The IMOCA skippers, ambassadors for sustainable developmentLast year, the IMOCA class decided to support the appeal driven by the sailor, Catherine Chabaud, to promote the Ocean as a common good for mankind ( In 2019, the class is continuing its support and shifting up a gear by offering a programme based around sustainable development. Wishing to preserve the natural environment in which they sail and directly witnessing the worsening situation for the oceans, the sailors are getting involved, as we see with Paul Meilhat. “We must be exemplary and lead the way in this major debate about the future of our planet, without preaching in a patronising way,” he explained. “Firms increasingly wish to represent this change, and we must work with them in this movement. Many IMOCA skippers are already committed with educational and scientific programmes. Facing this challenge that concerns us all, we need to act together, discuss what to do with each other and with organisers. We will be putting in place some concrete measures to limit the environmental impact and make people who follow us aware of the problem.” Antoine Mermod added that the class wishes to move quickly towards zero emission boats, which are self sufficient in their energy production. “It may even become a rule in2021 for The Ocean Race. The technical committee is seriously thinking about that,” he revealed.   More than thirty IMOCAs at the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe?There was a lot of fruitful discussion about the selection system for the next Vendée Globe at the annual general meeting. We should add that according to the Notice of Race, if more than thirty candidates fulfil the conditions for registering for the solo round the world race, the skippers that are chosen will be those who have sailed the biggest number of miles in races included in the Globe Series calendar.Based on current predictions, there could be between 30 and 35 candidates hoping to compete in the 2020 Vendée Globe. Because some teams fear that they will not be chosen to be there at the start, Antoine Mermod and Jacques Caraës, the Vendée Globe Race Director, say they are monitoring the situation closely with the SAEM Vendée.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[25 IMOCAs competing in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race 2019: a record number of entrants]]> Thu, 11 Apr 2019 00:00:00 GMT On Saturday 3rd August, 25 double-handed crews will set sail from Cowes (Isle of Wight) aboard IMOCAs for the start of the 48th Rolex Fastnet Race, an ocean racing classic which sees hundreds of boats competing every other year. There has never been such a huge number of IMOCAs sailing this 608-mile course to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock. Included in the Globe Series, the Rolex Fastnet Race will enable sailors to earn points in the championship and to clock up more miles to be selected for the Vendée Globe. We can look forward to some closely fought battles throughout the fleet. Who will follow in the footsteps of Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet, the winners back in 2017? We’ll find out in early August. 4 minutes and 37 seconds. That was how long it took on 7th January to fill up all 340 places available in the IRC fleet in the famous Rolex Fastnet Race. This number proves just how attractive this biennial event created in 1925 really is. The IMOCA class negotiated with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) to obtain twenty places with the possibility for skippers to sign up until 15th February. There will in fact be 25 double-handed crews setting sail from Cowes on Saturday 3rd August. To ensure a fair playing field within the framework of the Globe Series, the boats will be measured and given a weighting and checks will be carried out on their safety gear. To avoid any risk of collision, these boats, which accelerate away so incredibly quickly, will have their own start time, setting sail before most of the fleet.   50 sailors with some top class duos and two brand new IMOCAs… Practically all of the IMOCAs competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre will be competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race. In short, only a few brand new boats will be missing. The number of IMOCAs registered for the British classic is quite impressive. In comparison, there were nine in the previous edition in 2017. The fact that the event is part of the Globe Series, the class’s world championship, has a lot to do with this enthusiasm. The winner of this race given a weighting of two will earn themselves a precious 50 points. Sailors who are involved in the selection process for the Vendée Globe will want to complete the race to clock up some valuable qualifying miles for the Vendée Globe.   Everyone will be closely watching the performance of two brand new IMOCAs from the latest generation, as they will be taking part in their first race. Alex Thomson will be trying out his new Hugo Boss, which we imagine will be absolutely incredible, while the duo formed by Sébastien Simon/Vincent Riou will be competing aboard the brand new Arkea-Paprec. The Rolex Fastnet Race will also offer a baptism of fire in the IMOCA class to Kevin Escoffier (PRB) and Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire), who will be able to count on some precious support from Armel Le Cléac’h. We won’t give you the names of everyone registered here, but there are certainlysome top class duos competing: Sam Davies/Paul Meilhat (Initiatives-Cœur), Jérémie Beyou/Christopher Pratt (Charal), Yannick Bestaven/Roland Jourdain (Maître CoQ), Isabelle Joschke/Morgan Lagravière (MACSF), Alan Roura/Sébastien Audigane (La Fabrique), Fabrice Amedeo/Eric Péron (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres)...  Just to mention a few.   Getting used to double-handed sailing on a demanding course In this closely fought contest, the outcome will be down to details. This strategic race means they have to deal well with the currents and local effects along the south coast of Britain. There is also an offshore phase, as they head up to the emblematic Fastnet Rock off the south of Ireland, where the wind and sea conditions can be quite nasty. This ocean sprint will offer no respite to the competitors. Two years ago, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet won the race after 2 days, 16 hours and 14 minutes after a hard fought battle.   With the solo Bermuda 1000 Race taking place in early May, the Rolex Fastnet Race will be the major double-handed event before the Transat Jacques Vabre. That is why Sylvie Viant, the Race Director for the transatlantic race between Le Havre and Salvador da Bahia, will be closely watching the British race: “We know that the sailors competing have a lot of experience, but the double-handed crews need to work well together and put up with each other. The Transat Jacques Vabre is a long and complicated race. We have already seen some pairs that just don’t get on and have thrown in the towel in Brest. It is very important that they have already sailed together before on shorter yet demanding courses. For some crews, the Rolex Fastnet Race will be their first reference race. This will be an important event for them, as will the Azimut Challenge in September. The more the double-handed crews sail before the Transat Jacques Vabre, the more likely they will do well and the better the race.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Alan Roura and La Fabrique, the fabric of success]]> Thu, 04 Apr 2019 00:00:00 GMT Alan Roura’s second campaign for the Vendée Globe is characterised by a huge leap forward. Twelfth in the 2016-2017 race aboard one of the oldest IMOCAs in the fleet, the Swiss sailor has been sailing since then with a foiler allowing him to develop his skills and improve his performance. After finishing seventh in the 2018 Route du Rhum, Alan has chosen Sébastien Audigane as his co-skipper for the 2019 season, which includes a lot of double-handed sailing. The skipper of La Fabrique is expecting a lot from this joint effort.   A winter refit in the spring is not that common. But that is what Alan Roura and his team have chosen to do, going about things in a different order from the others in the IMOCA class. On Tuesday 19th March, La Fabrique was taken out of the water to spend two and a half months in the yard in Lorient. “Since finishing the Route du Rhum (19th November), we have spent all our time sailing and the boat has certainly covered a lot of miles,” Alan was pleased to tell us. “Firstly, we delivered her back home from Guadeloupe with my little team. The Rhum was the first major offshore test with the foils and in spite of that, my IMOCA arrived in Lorient in very good condition. We then took advantage of the winter weather and some rough conditions off Brittany to test her, pushing her hard and carrying out various trials. We don’t have any regrets about the schedule.”   “La Fabrique will come out of the yard in her Vendée Globe version” Clearly thrilled by what he learnt during these winter trips, Alan Roura does not want to say too much about the work they are currently undertaking aboard La Fabrique, apart from telling us that the ballast tanks have been modified and the sail plan optimised. “We’re doing a lot of top secret stuff!,” smiled Alan. “With the naked eye, the changes may not be that obvious, but they will enhance the performance of the boat. You never finish preparing such a boat, but at the end of this refit, we will have completed all of the modifications we intended to carry out on this IMOCA. She is due to be relaunched on 3rd June. The goal is for La Fabrique to come out of the yard in her Vendée Globe version.”   Last year, five and a half months of work were carried out to fit foils to this 2007 Finot-Conq designed boat (the former BritAir aboard which Armel Le Cléac'h finished in second place in the 2008 Vendée Globe). “The boat’s evolution has been incredible and she is not the same boat any more,” explained Alan. “There have been huge gains in performance and stability. We acquired this IMOCA with the aim of fitting her with foils to get some good results.” Very pleased about the way his boat behaves, Alan is not planning to change her foils. “In any case, that would cost a fortune. We have a limited budget and have to adapt to that,” he added. “Delighted and honoured to be sailing with Sébastien Audigane” One of the consequences of this late refit is that Alan Roura will not be able to take part in the Bermuda 1000 Race (start on 8th May), the only solo race in the Globe Series in 2019. The Swiss sailor is therefore staking everything on double-handed racing, which makes it all the more important to sail with a good co-skipper. He quite naturally chose a sailor, who is 25 years older than him with some exceptional experience under his belt, Sébastien Audigane. Twice holder of the Jules Verne Trophy and the North Atlantic record, Audigane has rounded Cape Horn six times – among other feats. His experience in IMOCA sailing is significant, having taken part twice in the Barcelona World Race (the double-handed round the world race) and finishing ninth in the 2007 Transat Jacques Vabre with Yann Eliès. “My goal is to improve as I prepare for the Vendée Globe and Sébastien is keen to pass on his knowledge, so that works out well!” stressed Alan Roura. “Seb knows the boat well (he finished in sixth place in the 2014-2015 Barcelona World Race aboard her with Jörg Riechers) and knows some of the team. I love him as a person, as he remains calm and is kind. We are on the same wavelength and have the same way of sailing, listening to the boat. In terms of racing, I have so much to learn from him. He doesn’t just have a lot of experience of sailing IMOCAs, but a good all-round vision of ocean-racing boats. I’m delighted and honoured to be sailing with such a sailor and a good teacher. I’ll be making the most of him being alongside me.”   Alan and Sébastien will take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Azimut Challenge and the Transat Jacques Vabre, which is the climax of the season. “We are aiming for the top ten in this race. It’s not going to be easy, as there is a top quality line-up with in particular, some brand new boats arriving, and others that have been thoroughly modified,” said Alan. “We would like to be the first boat to finish from the 2008 Vendée Globe. La Fabrique also has the potential to do well against some more recent IMOCAs.”     “Be careful not to go too far in 2020” Everything will happen very quickly after the Transat Jacques Vabre. 2020 looks like being a busy year coming to a climax with the start of the Vendée Globe on 8th November. “The calendar is packed with in particular two solo transatlantic races close to each other, The Transat and the New York-Vendée,” explained Alan Roura. “We will sail between ten and fifteen thousand miles before the Vendée Globe. We’re going to have to be careful not to push the boat too far before the round the world race.”    The Ocean Race on the back of his mind... It is hard to look further ahead and the period after the Vendée Globe, as this race is so big. Alan does however have one thing on the back of his mind and that is the possibility of launching a project for The Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race with stopovers, which will begin in October 2021. “That is not our priority for now, but it is very tempting, of course,” he admitted.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Boris Herrmann’s sporting and environmental ambitions]]> Thu, 28 Mar 2019 00:00:00 GMT In 2020, Boris Herrmann will become the first German to compete in the Vendée Globe, which he is preparing for, feeling full of confidence, while remaining methodical. After earning fifth place in the Route du Rhum, Boris may take the lead in the IMOCA Globe Series if he gets a good result in the Bermuda 1000 Race, where he will be one of the eighteen skippers lining up on 8th May. He will then follow a double-handed programme with Pierre Casiraghi, leading up to the Transat Jacques Vabre. We met up with a skipper who has raced on all sorts of boats and is committed to campaigning to protect the environment.   At the start of the next Vendée Globe, on 8th November 2020, Boris Herrmann will probably be the competitor who has clocked up the most miles on his IMOCA. Last year, the German skipper covered almost 25,000 aboard Malizia II, a foiler from 2015 designed byVPLP-Verdier, which was Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild in the 2016 Vendée Globe. 2019 looks like being a busy season with three Globe Series races to compete in (Bermuda 1000 Race, Rolex Fastnet Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre) as well as the Rolex Giraglia and the Azimut Challenge. “The boat is based in Monaco and for each event, we will have to do a return delivery trip. That means we will clock up a lot of miles in varied conditions; which is bound to be interesting,” explained Boris. “I intend to work hard and sail as much as I can. I’ll bring the boat back alone from the Transat Jacques Vabre. My IMOCA won’t be the best performer at the start of the Vendée Globe, but I would like her to be the most reliable.”   Boris, future leader in the Globe Series? Currently in fourth place in the new IMOCA Globe Series World Championship, Boris Herrmann wants to take advantage of the Bermuda 1000 Race to move up a few places. In fact, the three competitors who are ahead of him in the overall rankings (Paul Meilhat, Yann Eliès and Alex Thomson) will not be competing in this 2000 mile solo race between Douarnenez and Brest, via the Fastnet and the Azores. “I’m really hopeful about this race, even if it is only my second big solo experience on an IMOCA, after the 2018 Route du Rhum,” addedBoris. “We won’t yet be seeing the new fleet of IMOCAs, but the Bermuda 1000 Race will be the first real test in 2019. I’ll be able to see how I measure up against some excellent competitors like Sam Davies, with her new foils, or Sébastien Simon, on his first solo IMOCA race.”   “I felt confident in this boat from the first day” Boris Herrmann is well placed, as his project is a solid one, which has taken off, in spite of having only limited means. “The support of the Monaco Yacht Club is valuable, but we are looking for partners to complete the funding and to allow us to perform even better.  The name of the boat remains up for grabs. There was never any question of Monaco taking on the project alone,” confirmed Boris. In spite of the current budgetary constraints, the German skipper has managed to work efficiently and performs well.  “We owe a lot to Gitana who sold us an IMOCA that had been completely developed and was a very good base. I felt confident in this boat from the very first day. That meant we found ourselves in a good position. My little team has gradually expanded and everyone works well together.”   To raise his competitiveness, the German has been training in the Finistère Course au Large training centre in Port-la-Forêt since last year, where the last five winners of the Vendée Globe trained and sixteen winners of the Solitaire du Figaro. “I am in charge of an international, project that is an outsider, and it’s a huge honour to be able to train at this centre,” he smiled. “Having such a gathering of professional sailors working together and sharing information to advance together, is something unique in the world. It is very helpful talking to others. Yann Eliès for example in particular gave me some very useful advice.”   A princely co-skipper for the Transat Jacques Vabre With the 2019 sailing season dominated by double-handed sailing, Boris Herrmann chose as his co-skipper, Pierre Casiraghi, a member of the Monaco royal family and founder of Team Malizia. “Pierre has a very busy schedule and is unable to come and train in Port-la-Forêt,” explainedBoris. “Fortunately, he already knows the boat well. Together we finished on the podium in the of the 2017 Fastnet Race, before taking part in the Monaco Globe Series. Before the Transat Jacques Vabre, we will take part in the Rolex Giraglia and the Azimut Challenge. Pierre is not a pro sailor, but has a lot of experience and has a good outlook. I’m proud of the project we set up together and can’t wait to get back out there sailing with him. In the Jacques Vabre, we’ll be aiming to finish in the top third of the fleet.” Next year, Boris will compete in all the races in the Globe Series, as he makes his way towards the Vendée Globe. Looking further ahead, he admits he is interested in the Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race with stopovers. “For me, it is as if this race was part of the Globe Series. It’s only natural that I want to take part in this adventure that so complements the Vendée Globe.” Towards a boat with zero-emission boat  While he waits for these races, the boat is spending five months in the shed in Lorient (she is due to be relaunched on 5th April) where every element is being carefully examined and some improvements are being made. “For example, we set up a second tack fitting on the bow sprit, as they have on Hugo Boss. The idea is that when conditions are very variable you can hoist a small and large gennaker  and furl one up and unfurl the other quickly,” explainedBoris. Another new feature is the solar panels that have been carefully studied and optimised. Boris Herrmann: “We hope these panels, which weigh less than 30 kg will perform as well as we expect. With their installation and the hydrogenerators, which work really well in most situations, we hope to supply 100% of the energy required without having to use the engine. I don’t want to do the Vendée Globe with 250 or 300 litres of diesel. I’m looking at taking 40-50 litres aboard in case there is a problem. I hope to free myself from that energy constraint. It is part of my quest for performance and a great symbol, as I shall be attempting to sail all the way around the world without using a drop of diesel. IMOCAs require a lot of energy and we simply cannot take more and more diesel aboard. We need to have amore intelligent and cleaner approach. That is why it is so interesting to have some efficient alternative energy supplies.” A skipper shaping opinions Boris Herrmann is clearly the latest in a line of influential skippers who are in favour of moving to greener energy and environmental protection. Aboard his IMOCA, he has set up a mini ocean lab. “During all our trips, this equipment pumps sea water all the time and measures some data which is useful for scientists, in particular measuring the level of CO2 on the surface. That’s very important when you see that the ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by man.” Boris also offers a vast educational programme, “My Ocean Challenge;” for children between eight and twelve.  “By sharing our adventures out at sea, we can explain to them the fundamental role that the ocean has in regulating our climate, how that is threatened and what we can do to protect it. We believe it is vital to educate youngsters so that the situation will change,” he concluded.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[18 IMOCAS to compete in the Bermuda 1000 Race Time to clock up the miles again]]> Fri, 22 Mar 2019 00:00:00 GMT The first event on the IMOCA Globe Series calendar for 2019, the Bermuda 1000 Race, will set sail from Douarnenez (Brittany) at 1300 hrs local time on Wednesday 8th May. On the programme, a 2000-mile solo race course finishing in Brest, via the Fastnet and the Azores. Eighteen sailors representing six nationalities will be lining up, including a number of rookies, who will be making the most of the event to gain their first important solo experience aboard an IMOCA. Whatever their ambitions in the event, all of the competitors will be attempting to complete the race to clock up some precious miles in order to be selected for the 2020 Vendée Globe.   Few sporting events can boast that the number of entrants has tripled from one year to the next. That is however the case for the Bermuda 1000 Race, which last year attracted six IMOCAs for its maiden edition (five of which were sailed solo and one double-handed). Organised within the framework of the Douarnenez Grand Prix by the Sea to See company in collaboration with the IMOCA class, this year, the event will bring together eighteen boats, or in other words almost as many as for the last Route du Rhum. Ten of them will before that have taken part in the Pom’Potes Challenge, speed runs organised off Douarnenez from 4th to 6th May.   18 sailors, 7 rookies, 6 nationalities, 4 women: an eclectic line-upAmong the eighteen registered for the Bermuda 1000 Race, seven sailors will be taking part in their very first IMOCA solo race, including two who will be on very good performing foilers, Sébastien Simon and Giancarlo Pedote. Three other newcomers will be setting sail on IMOCAs built for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe: Maxime Sorel, Clément Giraud and Miranda Merron. The Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh will also be discovering his boat, which is none other than Nandor Fa’s old monohull. That will also be the case for the British sailor, Pip Hare, the new owner of the legendary Superbigou. “We are pleased to be welcoming these new projects,” declared Gwen Chapalain, organiser of the Bermuda 1000 Race. “It is going to be interesting to see what these sailors can do in the race, as they lay down the first foundation stone for their Vendée Globe campaign. Tomorrow, it will be these men and women, who will be writing the latest pages in the history of solo round the world sailing.” Jacques Caraës, the race director for the Bermuda 1000 Race and the next Vendée Globe, is also pleased to see these newcomers arriving. “The race is going to be very important for them, but also for the Race Directors. We will be able to see how far they have come, how they behave and if they are in with a chance,” explained Jacques, who will be assisted in his work by Hubert Lemonnier and Guillaume Evrard. Apart from Miranda Merron and Pip Hare, two other women will be competing in the Bermuda 1000 Race, Sam Davies and Alexia Barrier. We will therefore be able to see four of the six women currently preparing for the 2020 Vendée Globe. Only Clarisse Crémer and Isabelle Joschke will be missing. We will also see four competitors who took part in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe (Fabrice Amedeo, Romain Attanasio, Arnaud Boissières, Stéphane Le Diraison) and five others who raced in the 2018 Route du Rhum (Yannick Bestaven, Manuel Cousin, Boris Herrmann, Ari Huusela and Damien Seguin).   Six nations representedThe Bermuda 1000 Race will bring together an international line-up with six nationalities represented: 11 French sailors, three British women (Sam Davies, Pip Hare, Miranda Merron), one from Belgium (Denis Van Weynbergh), a German (Boris Herrmann), an Italian (Giancarlo Pedote) and a Finn (Ari Huusela). This is all very pleasing for the IMOCA class for whom internationalisation is one of the priorities. A varied race course, a pit stop allowed, a time limit in placeThe eighteen sailors will do battle on a 2000-mile race course, which will be announced before 2000hrs on Monday 6thMay at the latest, depending on the forecast weather conditions. The race will start from Douarnenez Bay at 1300hrs CET on Wednesday 8th May with the boats finishing in Brest around a week later. Several options are possible as far as the course is concerned. The most likely course will be a loop around the Fastnet and a waypoint off the Azores, before they make their way back to the finish. The Race Directors have given themselves the possibility of sending the boats off in one direction or the other. It may also be the case that the waypoint be moved away from the Azores, or that there will be two loops forming a sort of triangle between the Fastnet and la Coruna. Whatever happens, we can expect a varied race course with plenty of manoeuvres to carry out.   To offer the competitors every chance of completing this course, the boats will be allowed to carry out a pit stop or moor up and receive assistance. “We have taken into account that this is the first race of the season, and that the boats still need to be fine-tuned. We don’t want to ruin the chances of any competitor when only minor repairs are necessary,” added Jacques Caraës. The Notice of Race states that any pit stop must be declared to the Race Directors and may not last les than four hours or more than 24. In addition to that, a time limit has been determined based around the time of the first boat. “That will force the competitors to keep up a certain pace and get into race mode and not continue as if this was a delivery trip to clock up the miles with less sail up,” stressed Jacques Caraës.   An important event to clock up the milesThe Bermuda 1000 Race is one of the big three races in the 2019 Globe Series along with the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre, but it is the only one to be raced solo. We should add that this IMOCA World Championship has been set up around a programme of solo and double-handed races, which are also being used as a way to select sailors for the 2020 Vendée Globe. If more than thirty competitors complete the registration requirements for the solo round the world race, which is likely to be the case according to Jacques Caraës, the skippers finally selected will be those who have clocked up the most miles in races on the Globe Series calendar. That is the case for the Bermuda 1000 Race, with 2000 miles to be added. These are very precious miles, particularly for those who did not compete in the Route du Rhum or who did not complete the race. This is the case for nine sailors in the Bermuda 1000 Race (Sébastien Simon has however been automatically selected for the next Vendée Globe, as he will be sailing a brand new IMOCA in this race). The selection process, where clocking up the miles is so important, partly explains the success of this event. “The class’s decision to set up this system was a good one, as it helps strengthen the circuit and bring together a lot of competitors in the different races, including the Bermuda 1000 Race,” confirmed Gwen Chapalain. Whether we are looking at rookies or more experienced sailors from the circuit, the eighteen racers are bound to learn a lot during this race which has been given a weighting of 2 in the Globe Series. We can look forward to an exciting battle. To finish, we should say that after his great performance in the Route du Rhum (5th place), if he wins, Boris Herrmann could take the lead in the championship.   The sailors registered for the Bermuda 1000 Race: Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) Romain Attanasio (Pure) Alexia Barrier (4myplanet) Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) Clément Giraud (Envol) Pip Hare (Superbigou) Boris Herrmann (Yacht Club de Monaco) Ari Huusela (Ariel 2) Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) Miranda Merron (NC) Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec) Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together) Denis Van Weynbergh ( Programme for the Bermuda 1000 Race:- Friday 5th April: Publication of the Race Instructions- Monday 6th May: The course announced- Tuesday 7th May, 1730hrs CET (Douarnenez): Race briefing- Wednesday 8th May, 1300hrs CET (Douarnenez): Start of the Bermuda 1000 Race- Wednesday 15th May (Brest): The first boats expected to finish- Saturday 18th May, 1800hrs CET (Brest): Prize-giving ceremony. +info:[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Maxime Sorel and Clément Giraud: two sailors in their thirties to tackle the round the world race]]> Thu, 14 Mar 2019 00:00:00 GMT They are among the newcomers to the IMOCA class. Maxime Sorel, 32, and Clément Giraud, 38, come from different backgrounds, but share the same dream. They wish to take part in the 2020 Vendée Globe. We find out more about their two projects.    The Vendée Globe, a childhood dream and the gateway to the IMOCA class It was the  prospect of competing in the Vendée Globe that attracted Maxime Sorel and Clément Giraud to the IMOCA circuit. For Maxime, victory in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre in Class40 with Antoine Carpentier was the turning point, which led him to take this leap. “Unlike in Class40, it was not financially possible for my partner V and B to build a brand new IMOCA,” explained Maxime. “That suited me as I want to move forward slowly but surely in the class, even if we just look at the logistics and organisational aspects, which are complicated with these boats. Even with an IMOCA from a previous generation, the budgets are huge and there is no room for any mistakes. But it is all worth the effort, as there is greater exposure, which is vital for a sponsor. In the next Transat Jacques Vabre, the IMOCAs will be the biggest boats in the dock. This class attracts people because of its professionalism and the fact that it is thriving.”   For Clément Giraud, the Vendée Globe is also a childhood dream. He has come a long way to get here. Until he was eighteen, Clément lived in the Caribbean and although he did a lot of sailing, he never signed up to a sailing club. When he came to Mandelieu in France, he worked for a sail-maker, obtained his official sailing certificate and then became a semi-professional sailor, taking part four times in the Tour de France Sailing Race. After his maiden adventure in the 2005 Mini Transat, he turned to crewed sailing (Farr40, TP52, 15 mJI, VOR70, etc). After all this experience, he wanted to try his hand again sailing solo with everything that entailed and so quite naturally Clément turned to IMOCAs. “I did a lot sailing on big boats out on the foredeck,” he explained. “On those boats, being a bowman is physically and psychologically demanding. Dealing with huge amounts of sail doesn’t scare me and I feel at home on an IMOCA.”  IMOCAs from the 2008 generation In a tricky second-hand market, our two contenders opted for IMOCAs built for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, which are financially attractive, while still performing well for their age. Maxime bought Thomas Ruyant’s former boat, a VPLP-Verdier design from 2007. “She was one of the only good performing boats available and could easily be adapted. But it was worrying that she had broken up after a violent collision in the last Vendée Globe,” admitted Maxime. “In late 2018 in Port-La-Forêt, we took her out of the water to have her inspected by two marine experts. It would appear that the IMOCA was well repaired and remains solid, so there is no need to worry. With her powerful hull, this great boat remains a good performer.” Joan Mulloy and Thomas Ruyant proved that last year, when they finished in fourth place in the Monaco Globe Series. Since early January, the boat has been in Roland Jourdain’s Kaïros yard in Concarneau, where she is being optimised. “Everything was looked at and some parts were changed. This week we will be refitting all the equipment. The aim is to set off with a boat that is safe and sound, which will allow me to finish all of the races, which is vital to obtain my qualification for the Vendée Globe.” As for Clément, he opted for the Farr design launched in 2006 by Vincent Riou in the colours of PRB. Since then, the boat has passed through the hands of Arnaud Boissières, Tanguy de Lamotte and Yannick Bestaven. “She is a boat that is well suited for a maiden adventure in the IMOCA class. During a recent eight-day trip between La Rochelle and Toulon, I could see that she was absolutely fantastic,” Clément told us. “She is pleasant to be on, well prepared and safe and copes well with small mistakes. It’s really enjoyable sailing her. My IMOCA has a strong history and that is important for me. I am very sentimental about the boats I sail on. I hope that we can have some great times together.”   Funding to be completed…While both projects are well underway, both sailors are busy looking for the funding to be more at ease when working and with the aim of enhanced performance. Already backed by a group of companies, Clément Giraud is now looking for one or more headline partners: “I want to set up a human, collective and meaningful project. Today, the sails and hull on my boat are all white. That is a way to tell any potential sponsors: "Come and join us in this great adventure." Maxime Sorel has the same problem with the boat initially taking the name V and B - Sailing Together. His loyal partner for five seasons in Class40, V and B has come up with 55 % of the budget for the campaign leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe. “We are looking for a joint partner and we hope to show her off in early April, which will encourage firms to join us,” stressed Maxime.  … and many miles to sail Getting used to an IMOCA requires a lot of time out on the water to ensure that everything comes naturally, and that you fully understand the qualities of the boat and her little weaknesses. Already this year, Clément Giraud and Maxime Sorel have packed sailing programmes. Well aware that to do well in the Vendée Globe, you have to know every little detail about your boat, Clément will be taking advantage of being based in Toulon to clock up the miles. “My goal is to sail more than 10,000 before the Transat Jacques Vabre,” he said. “I’ll be taking part in the Saint-Tropez 900 mile solo race. Then, I’ll head up to Douarnenez for the Guyader Grand Prix and the Bermuda 1000. After that, there is the Rolex Giraglia in the Mediterranean and the Azimut Challenge in Lorient. In the Jacques Vabre, I’ll be racing and not just taking part and I want to be up with the other boats from the same generation.”   Highly experienced in Class40, with in particular a win and a second place in the Transat Jacques Vabre, as well as two attempts at the Route du Rhum under his belt, Maxime Sorel will also be discovering what it is like to sail on an IMOCA. His IMOCA is due to be relaunched in early April. The boat will stay in Concarneau to prepare for the Guyader Grand Prix and the Bermuda 1000. She will then head for her home port of Lorient. From late May to mid-July, Maxime will be down in the Mediterranean for a PR operation with his partner. That will be followed by attempts at the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Azimut Challenge and of course, the Transat Jacques Vabre (start on 27th October).  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[No plan B for Thomas Ruyant: “I will be there at the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe"]]> Fri, 08 Mar 2019 00:00:00 GMT Early this week, Thomas Ruyant visited the Persico yard in Bergamo (Italy) to see how work was going on his future IMOCA, a Verdier designed boat that is due to be transferred to Lorient in June before she is launched in late July. At the same time, the skipper from the North of France continues to search for more or one headline partners to accompany him during his second attempt at the Vendée Globe   Winner of major events in Class40 (2010 Route du Rhum), in Figaro racing (2018 Transat AG2R with Adrien Hardy) and in Mini 6.50 races (2009 Mini Transat), Thomas is also very experienced in the IMOCA class and is developing a very strong project. He has a lot going for him. We met up with the skipper to find out more.   Last Monday, in the Persico yard, you saw for the first time the hull and deck of your future IMOCA. What were your impressions? “Fantastic! We’ve been thinking about this boat with the designer Guillaume Verdier for a year. It was great to compare what she really looks like with what we saw in the designs months ago and to be able to share that with my team and the workers in the yard. I am not a specialist in composite materials, but I could see that the quality was remarkable. The level of expertise and technical know-how is extremely high and everything has gone to schedule. This visit confirmed that Persico leaves nothing to chance. Everything is perfectly clean and tidy in the yard and when you enter, it feels like a laboratory. That is very reassuring when you know what this boat will be going through. Persico is one of the best composite yards in the world, so it is logical that today they are building one of the world’s fastest monohulls!”   However, this yard has so far only ever built one IMOCA before – Pieter Heerema’s former No Way Back (which was later bought by Fabrice Amedeo)… “That’s true, but they have made boats for the America’s Cup, the Volvo and big monohulls like the TP 52s. The expertise in this yard is well-known. They aren’t used to building round the world boats, but we asked them to work on a composite ‘box’ with deck and structure. For the rest, our team will take over.” “We’re pushing the designers to the limit”   Can you tell us about how work is progressing? “The hull has been finished and that will shortly be the case for the internal structure of the boat. Meanwhile, the deck is currently being finished. The foils are being built by Persico. I saw the moulds and it was quite impressive. The keel and mast, one-design parts, are being manufactured in France. We are working with a lot of different suppliers: North for the sails, Karver for the deck hardware, Mad Intec for the electronics and autopilots… All of the parts are ready or under construction and the pieces of the puzzle will shortly all come together. Fitting the systems and deck hardware will partly be done at the Persico yard to save time. During the month of June, the boat will be transferred to Lorient. It will then take a month or so to fit the keel, mast and the final details before her launch, which is planned for late July or early August at the latest.”   What can you tell us about the architectural choices for this IMOCA? “It’s not surprising, but she was designed around the foils. We designed a sturdy boat with a strong structure. The goal is not to be the fastest in the currents off the island of Groix, but to have a good all-rounder to keep up a good average speed around the world. What I can say is that the hull has tighter lines than the IMOCA from the previous generation and that the foils are aimed at getting a good VMG downwind.”   Stability has become a crucial component on these boats built around the foils… “Yes indeed. The boat needs to be stable to ensure you can bear living on her. You can see that in the design of the hull Guillaume Verdier came up with. IMOCAs have become extreme and can be violent. The skipper is the weakest link. You have to increase their ability to get the most out of this type of boat. You have to look after the sailor and that’s why we worked on the ease of sailing her in the cockpit and inside the boat.”   For the moment, only one new generation IMOCA has been launched - Jérémie Beyou’s Charal. Based on what you are saying, your boat appears to be quite different... “Yes, there are huge differences in terms of the shape of the hull and foils, since the philosophy behind the boats is different. In the last Vendée Globe, all of the new IMOCAs were designed by the same combination of architects (VPLP-Verdier). The boats were of course not identical, but there were obvious similarities. It is going to be a very different situation in 2020, as four designers are working on new prototypes. They have been giving a lot of thought to the design of the future IMOCAs and they have been pushed to the limit. There are going to be some real differences between the boats, so each launch is going to be a surprise.”   Particularly as you’re not giving much away and everyone has their own little secrets... “That’s true. We are not going to reveal everything about our prototypes, as there is a lot at stake in terms of the competition, the technology and the financing. We have an idea of the way these boats will work with Charal and we can see how tricky they are going to be to sail. What is certain is that everyone will have large foils. The closest IMOCA to mine is likely to be Charlie Dalin’s Apivia, which was designed by the same architect, using the same basic drawing.”   “Sailing is no longer the boss’s little pet hobby”   For the moment, you are busy looking for partners and that takes up a lot of your time… “Yes. That is the main thing for me at the moment. We have changed the order of tackling this problem by starting work on the construction of the boat (thanks to some investors) before finding the headline partner or partners. We didn’t have the choice, if we wanted to get a good performing boat from the latest generation. We can offer a unique turnkey project which has a huge potential. The team is already together and we have a superb boat. You just need to push the button to join us in this adventure. Everyone knows how much feedback is possible with the IMOCA circuit and the Vendée Globe. The return on investment for a firm no longer needs to be explained. Sailing used to be seen as the boss’s little pet hobby, but that is no longer the case. There are some real strategic projects behind this now. To accompany us right up to the 2020 Vendée Globe, we need 4 or 5 million euros spread over three years.”   Will we be seeing you in all of the events in the IMOCA Globe Series? “Looking at the timing, it is going to be very tough to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race (start on 3rd August). But there’s no way I’m going to miss out on the Transat Jacques Vabre. There is going to be an incredible line-up. It will be the ideal opportunity to get to know the boat and fine tune her sailing double-handed, but also a chance to qualify for the Vendée Globe. I shall also be lining up in the two transatlantic races in 2020, The Transat and the New York-Vendée.”   What deadline have you given yourself to find a headline partner? “I haven’t given myself a firm date, as I’m confident it will happen. There is no plan B, just plan A. I will be there at the start of the next Vendée Globe!”           Press contact : Mer & Media agency -[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[PRB relaunched in the colours of Arkéa-Paprec: Sébastien Simon in the transition phase of the handover]]> Thu, 28 Feb 2019 00:00:00 GMT Things are starting to move for Sébastien Simon. On Tuesday 26th February, the IMOCA, PRB, was relaunched displaying the colours of her sponsors, Arkéa and Paprec. It is on this foiler the the winner of the last Solitaire du Figaro will be training, while he awaits the delivery from the yard in late June - early July of his brand new Kouyoumdjian designed boat. Sébastien Simon and Vincent Riou, the technical director for the project, will shortly be attempting to smash the record for the Columbus Route (Cadiz/San Salvador). In April, Sébastien will be returning home, sailing as if he was alone, before setting off on 8th May at the start of the Bermuda 1000 race. We met up with him to find out more.   Getting used to sailing Vincent Riou’s IMOCA, while you wait for your future IMOCA, Arkéa-Paprec, to be completed, is a luxury… “It’s the ideal situation being able to sail on an IMOCA immediately. Otherwise, we would have had to wait until July. The Vendée Globe is a big race, which requires a lot of preparation. I still don’t have much experience of IMOCAs and none at all sailing solo. Thanks to these couple of months training on the former PRB, when Arkéa-Paprec is launched, I won’t be in the learning phase, but rather aiming for performance.”   This transition isn’t happening on any old boat. PRB is one of the references in the IMOCA class and since last season, she has been fitted with foils… “PRB is now around ten years old, but she was ahead of her time. She was upgraded last season with the installation of foils. I have already had an opportunity to sail on her. In particular after the last Route du Rhum, and she feels great. To start off with, she was awe inspiring, then she was amazing and you end up getting used to her. You can get used to anything. She’s a magnificent boat to train on, but also as a sort of lab to test things before my new boat is launched, so that we can run through certain elements, such as the autopilots and sails for example.”   “Getting one step ahead”   The former skipper of PRB, Vincent Riou, is also your technical director for the Arkéa-Paprec project. That all seems to come together well… “I have no regrets about my choice. We get on very well together and Vincent is being very kind to me. He is there to help me build a great boat, ensure I get the full potential out of her and to train me. He has taken part in the Vendée Globe four times and won once. He has an exceptional experience and I can learn a lot from him. It’s reassuring to have him alongside me. He supports me, guides me, while leaving me a certain amount of freedom and independence to work on my project.”    Until when will you be training on PRB in the colours of Arkéa-Paprec and what is your programme with this boat? “We hope to have our first trips this week, on Thursday and Friday. In the initial programme, we had planned to compete in the Barcelona World Race with Vincent Riou. But since the race was cancelled, we needed to come up with an alternative. In March, we will be attempting the Columbus Route record between Cadiz (Spain) and San Salvador (Bahamas). In April, I’ll be sailing her back home as if alone, but with Guillaume Le Brec, who is in charge of performance in the team and Yann Riou, who will take on the role of media man to start to get some pictures. I alone will be in charge on board. Then, there is the Guyader Grand Prix with a crew and I shall be taking part in the Bermuda 1000, sailing 2000 miles alone. That will be my first truly solo experience on an IMOCA. I’ll make the most of that to build up my confidence. The aim will be to complete the race without tripping up and hoping that we’ll get a good result after that. Arkéa-Paprec will be launched in late June or early July. By then, I will in theory have sailed two transatlantic races. I’ll be one step ahead of the other sailors who are currently having IMOCA boats built. PRB will return to her original colours and be handed over to her new skipper, Kévin Escoffier, in early August. That means that in July we will in fact have two IMOCAs in the water.”   “Aiming to win the Transat Jacques Vabre” How far have you got with the construction of your new IMOCA? “Things are advancing and the boat is starting to take shape, which is encouraging. In late December, the hull was transported to our premises in Port-la-Forêt. Since then, it has been taken out of the mould and the bulkhead compartments are currently being assembled. The deck is being built at the CDK Technologies yard and we’ll shortly be getting our hands on it. This is a brand new way of doing things. It is the first time that an IMOCA has been entirely assembled within a team. It’s a huge responsibility, but it means you know exactly what is going on and can follow everything closely and make sure it is all going to schedule. Currently, we have 28 people working on the boat.” The first major event for the new boat will be the Transat Jacques Vabre, which you are going to race with Vincent Riou. What is your goal? “Winning, of course. We’ll be sailing double-handed on a boat from the latest generation. Even if before that we will have taken part in the Fastnet Race and the Azimut Challenge, the boat won’t be completely set up as we would like. We’ll do what we can in the time we have at our disposal. There is a lot of competition with probably 32 IMOCAs taking part. But winning is possible and we believe it can be done.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Ocean Race: how sailors and organisers are preparing ]]> Thu, 21 Feb 2019 00:00:00 GMT The Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race with stopovers raced for the first time on IMOCAs with foils, will start in Alicante in October 2021. With just over two and a half years to go to the start, the organisers and sailors are already busy preparing behind the scenes for this new event on the IMOCA calendar. We look at the state of play with Johan Salén, co-President of The Ocean Race, and with three IMOCA skippers, who are very tempted to take part in this adventure…   The race is still a long way off, but the clock is certainly ticking. In October 2021, or in other words eight months after the first Vendée Globe competitors finish one round the world IMOCA race, it will be time to set sail from Alicante (Spain),this time with a crew for The Ocean Race (ex Volvo Ocean Race). The race is due to include between seven and nine legs on a course that will be revealed next summer. The Ocean Race will feature two classes: the IMOCAs with foils (launched after 2010 and sailed by five people + 1 media man) for the overall title and the VO65 one-design boats for a trophy rewarding the best young competitors. While it is still too early to give precise details about the line-up, the organisers would like to see between ten and fifteen IMOCAs at the start of this maiden edition.   Highly professional international projects “We are talking to everyone and the potential teams can be divided into three major groups,” explained Johan Salén, co-President of The Ocean Race. “We are in contact with existing IMOCA teams, a majority of which are French, but also with teams from the last Volvo and some other teams that are completely new. The teams that are interested come from France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the United States, Brazil, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, China, South Africa… And we have some other important countries we need to get involved. The goal is to bring together highly professional international teams that are well organised and structured with active sponsors.” For Johan Salén, it is clear that bringing together the ex-Volvo Ocean Race and the IMOCA class is very welcome. “Working with a class that has shown what it can do helps our sport to be less fragmented. It means we can look forward to more feedback with the same platform,” he said. What do the sailors already involved in the IMOCA class think about this? We talked to three of them.   Boris Herrmann: “An adventure that complements the Vendée Globe” In 2020, Boris Herrmann, skipper of Malizia 2, is set to become the first German to take part in the Vendée Globe, but Boris is already looking further ahead. “The Ocean Race interests me a lot,” he told us. “The idea is to ensure our project continues with the same boat (a VPLP-Verdier design from 2015, ex Edmond de Rothschild). This crewed adventure complements perfectly the Vendée Globe. In my opinion, there are four big dreams for sailors: the Olympic Games, the America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race and the Vendée Globe. Now, two of these four events are raced on the same boat. That is very inspiring.” Already supported by the Monaco Yacht Club, Boris Herrmann is confident he will be able to attract German firms to complete his budget for The Ocean Race. “The crewed round the world race means a lot to Germans. In 2001-2002, a German crew won the Volvo Ocean Race, Illbruck Challenge. There was a huge event organised at the finish in Kiel, which was absolutely incredible. Since then, no major projects have appeared in Germany. This is a great opportunity to get one going again.” If he manages to find the required funding, Boris believes that he will set off with an eclectic crew: “The idea isn’t to set up a team that is 100% German. In my team at the moment there are as many different nationalities as there are people involved! I love that diversity.”   Louis Burton: “I’m waiting to see the course to position myself” Skipper of Bureau Vallée 2, another VPLP-Verdier design launched in 2015, Louis Burton is also very interested in the idea of taking part in The Ocean Race. “I’m entirely in favour of bringing the two elements together. It’s fantastic that the IMOCA class is at the centre of ocean racing. It’s a chance to ensure our boats have a good life and to diversify our projects. We can now look forward to taking people with whom we work around the world with us,” he stressed. “The race is all the more interesting as my partner is starting to develop abroad. The only drawback is that we don’t yet have the race and so it is hard to plan for, as we don’t yet know where the stopovers will be held. What sort of budget will be necessary? Will the countries involved interest our partners? I’m waiting to see the race course before positioning myself. We already have the sponsor, the boat and the team. However, to perform well, we will have to come to a decision this summer. After the Vendée Globe, a lot of work will need to be done on the boat to adapt her to ensure she can be sailed well and is comfortable for six people.” If he decides to jump in, Louis will set sail with an experienced co-skipper, “to have two pillars.” Very keen on the training aspect, he would like to complete the crew with youngsters from the six years of the “Youth Selection” created in Saint-Malo in 2013, with the aim of introducing one young talent each year to the world of ocean racing.   Paul Meilhat: “Wider communications for a budget which is not that much higher” Winner of the 2018 Route du Rhum and currently looking for partners, Paul Meilhat is planning to start work in the coming months on the construction of an IMOCA to take part in the 2020 Vendée Globe, The 2021 Ocean Race and the 2022 Route du Rhum. “I always loved sailing with a crew,” he told us. “To start off with, I was probably more interested in the Volvo Ocean Race than in the Vendée Globe. The fact that the crewed round the world race now takes place aboard IMOCAs has opened up more doors for me. I believe I have what it takes to run a project. I know this kind of boat and sail them well.” In terms of money, Paul Meilhat is convinced that it is a good idea to have the solo round the world race followed by the crewed race: “By talking part in The Ocean Race, we add in an international dimension and wider communications with a budget that is not that much higher than if we simply took part in the Vendée Globe. We can therefore offer a wide ranging programme.” Paul recently visited Alicante to meet the organisers and confirm his pre-registration. He is currently in talks with potential partners. The timing is getting tight to get his hand on a brand new IMOCA, but this is the vital element to ensure the project lives up to his ambitions. “I am convinced that with the same boat, we can take part in both events. In my crew, I’ll include sailors with a wide range of backgrounds from Figaro and IMOCA racing.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Kojiro Shiraishi wants to finish the job in 2020]]> Fri, 15 Feb 2019 00:00:00 GMT He was one of the stand-out figures in the 2016 Vendée Globe. The first Asian competitor to take part in the headline event in the IMOCA circuit, Kojiro Shiraishi was forced to retire after dismasting. The Japanese sailor would like to finish the job and will be trying his luck again in 2020 with a brand new boat, DMG Mori, a VPLP designed boat, which is due to leave the Multiplast yard in September. Meanwhile, Kojiro is learning about foilers by following a training programme organised by Roland Jourdain for two months aboard Morgan Lagravière’s former Safran.     What led you to return to the IMOCA circuit and in particular the 2020 Vendée Globe? “Because I was forced to retire from the 2016 Vendée Globe 2016 and I want to finish what I started. It was a huge honour to be the first Asian to compete in the Vendée Globe. Now, I want to become the first to finish it. It’s the only race that strengthens my resolve and pushes back my limits.” What are your memories of your first attempt at the Vendée Globe in 2016? “They are fantastic, even if I was forced to retire after dismasting. It was a challenge taking part in the Vendée Globe with such little preparation. This experience has enabled me to progress. I made lots of great friends and I really loved the way that all my fellow sailors welcomed me in the IMOCA circuit.”   “Let’s hope that other Asians will join the IMOCA class” What impact did your project have in Japan, where ocean racing has not yet really developed? “Before competing in the Vendée Globe,few people knew this type of race existed. I managed to spotlight this fantastic event and more generally the world of ocean racing. That enabled me to find a new sponsor, DMG Mori, but also to build up a new team of youngsters with Simon Suzuki and Federico Sampe, who were part of Kaijin Team Japan in the campaign for the Youth America’s Cup. They are very young and really want to work on my project.”  “Building a powerful, simple and reliable IMOCA” Why did you decide to build a sistership to Jérémie Beyou’s Charal?“Charal’s moulds were available at the moment when we started work on the construction and we had the possibility of hiring them. In our opinion, that was the best solution to stick to our training schedule leading up to the next Vendée Globe.”We have seen that Charal is an extreme boat. How will you prepare yourself for this new way of sailing at high speed?“Since early February, we have been training in Cascais in Portugal on the former Safran with Roland Jourdain. This training will continue until late March and we will try to continue to sail in France. This is a great opportunity to find out about foilers and the way to sail them. It’s useful so that things will start to fall in place automatically on such a powerful boat and it is a huge honour to work with a sailor with such a global reputation. On my new boat, the foils will be different, but the mast and keel system the same, as they are one-design elements. We want to build a powerful IMOCA, but above all we want her to be simple and reliable.”How far have you got with the construction of your new IMOCA? “Things are advancing. This is the first time I have built a boat from scratch. It’s fascinating to watch her take shape. The boat is due to be launched in September.”“Competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre, "The Transat" and the New York-Vendée transat”. What is your programme going to be between the launch and the 2020 Vendée Globe?“We will be attempting to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre at the end of the year, then in 2020 in The Transat and the New York-Vendée. There will be a lot of training on her to get to know the boat and test her as we move towards the Vendée Globe.”  Do you know with whom you will be competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre? What will you be aiming for in this race?“I’m still thinking about my choice ofco-skipper. The aim won’t be to push the boat hard, but to sail her safely to the finish. Particularly as to qualify for the Vendée Globe, I need to finish the race. That will therefore be the main goal in the Transat Jacques Vabre.”What has happened to the boat on which you took part in the 2016 Vendée Globe? Has she been sold?“Spirit of Yukoh has been up for sale for several months. We have been in serious talks with a skipper whose name I cannot reveal. I hope to be able to sell the boat rapidly and then focus entirely on the next Vendée Globe.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Five contenders for the 2020 Vendée Globe: that crucial diversity]]> Fri, 08 Feb 2019 00:00:00 GMT With the announcement that Banque Populaire is working alongside Clarisse Crémer, there are now five women hoping to take part in the next Vendée Globe, as she will be joining Sam Davies, Isabelle Joschke, Alexia Barrier and the British sailor, Pip Hare. Such a female line-up would be an outright record in the history of the race, which has seen seven women compete in eight editions. They have been fairly successful, as six of them completed the race.   Women competing in the Vendée Globe always attract a lot of admiration and interest from the general public. While not many of them have taken part, those that have entered the event have always left their mark. We look back at their achievements.   Six out of seven made it In the first two editions of the Vendée Globe in 1989-1990 and 1992-1993, there were respectively 13 and 14 sailors, but no women. We had to wait until the 1996-1997 race to see two of them setting sail from Les Sables d’Olonne: Isabelle Autissier (ranked among the favourites) and Catherine Chabaud were the pioneers and led the way to diversity. Autissier finished outside of the race after carrying out a pit stop in Cape Town, while Chabaud became the first woman to complete a non-stop solo round the world race (in 6th place), after 140 days, 4 hours and 38 minutes at sea.Four years later, we saw the arrival of Ellen MacArthur. The 24-year old British sailor was a sensation finishing second in the 2000 Vendée Globe, just 24 hours after the winner, Michel Desjoyeaux. On the other hand, on her second attempt, Catherine Chabaud was less successful, as her boat was dismasted.In 2004-2005, one again, two women lined up and both completed the solo round the world voyage: Anne Liardet 11th and Karen Leibovici 13th. In 2008-2009, two more British women stood out, Sam Davies and Dee Caffari (finishing fourth and sixth). Sam returned in 2012, but her adventure came to a sudden end, when her boat was dismasted.Among the seven women that have so far taken part in the Vendée Globe, six therefore completed the race, while the seventh, (Isabelle Autissier) crossed the finish line, but was not ranked. So we are close to a 100 % success rate for women.   The anomaly of the 2016 Vendée Globe On 6th November 2016, for the first time in twenty years, there were no women lining up at the start of the Vendée Globe. An anomaly, which surprised the public and did not reflect the reality of ocean racing, as women are present in many different circuits: Figaro, Mini 6.50, Class40 and the Volvo Ocean Race. For the crewed round the world race with stopovers, there was even an all women crew (Team SCA, skippered by Sam Davies) in the 2014-2015 race. There was no way we would see a second Vendée Globe in a row without that essential female touch and very quickly projects began to take shape for 2020.   Davies, Joschke, Hare, Barrier, Crémer: a variety of backgrounds Among the five women currently involved in IMOCA projects, only one has already taken part in the Vendée Globe (twice), Sam Davies ( Highly experienced, determined and with a solid shore team, she will be setting off in 2020 aboard the foiler, Initiatives-Cœur, with some high ambitions and rightly so.Present in the IMOCA circuit since 2017, Isabelle Joschke is already a pair of safe hands in the class ( She finished in eighth place in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre, 2nd in the Monaco Globe Series and then the 2018 Dhream Cup with her VPLP-Verdier designed boat from 2007 (ex Safran). Now racing in the colours of MACSF, this skipper is committed to equality in ocean racing and more generally in every area of society.A journalist and sailor, with in particular experience in Class40, the British skipper, Pip Hare ( bought the former Superbigou, an IMOCA with a long history that was built by Bernard Stamm and initially launched almost twenty years ago. Pip Hare had her first trips on her new boat in January.Alexia Barrier ( also sails aboard a famous, vintage IMOCA, a Lombard design from 1998 built by Catherine Chabaud with the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe in mind. Methodically getting to grips with her boat, Alexia completed the Route du Rhum in 15th position.The most recent candidate to be announced is Clarisse Crémer (, who will be racing in the colours of Banque Populaire. The young skipper finished 2nd in the 2017 Mini Transat and 14th in the 2018 Transat AG2R and is going to have to learn all about the former SMA, aboard which Paul Meilhat recently won the Route du Rhum. A huge challenge for Clarisse, who is being helped by Armel Le Cléac’h with whom she will compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre at the end of the year.   The achievements of women in the Vendée Globe:   1996-1997. Catherine Chabaud: 6th (in 140 days). Isabelle Autissier: finished unranked (pit stop in South Africa) after 109 days at sea2000-2001. Ellen Mac Arthur: 2nd (in 94 days). Catherine Chabaud: retired after dismasting2004- 2005. Anne Liardet: 11th (in 119 days). Karen Leibovici: 13th (in 126 days)2008-2009. Sam Davies: 4th (in 95 days). Dee Caffari: 6th (in 99 days)2012-2013. Sam Davies: retired after dismasting------------------------------The five contenders for the 2020 Vendée Globe: . Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur): 2 attempts. Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire): newcomer. Isabelle Joschke (MACSF): newcomer. Alexia Barrier (4myplanet): newcomer. Pip Hare: newcomer[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Kaïros, the new stronghold for IMOCA projects]]> Tue, 29 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT Roland Jourdain, twice winner of the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA category and third placed skipper in the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe, is certainly being kept busy. Based in Concarneau, his firm, Kaïros using its refit yards and coaching services, is involved with the IMOCA projects skippered by Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ), Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori) and Maxime Sorel (V&B). We met up with Bilou, who is keen to pass on his skills and know-how.   Jourdain bounces back A well known figure in the world of IMOCA sailing, Roland Jourdain through his Kaïros business, got his hands on the former Safran, a foiler first launched in 2015. The goal was to find partners to get another Vendée Globe project up and running for Morgan Lagravière. Unfortunately, the project did not come about.  “We gave ourselves the deadline of the end of 2018. After that, it would have been too risky financially for Kaïros to keep the boat without any guarantee for the future,” explained Roland Jourdain. “The project had everything going for it. We were well advanced in moving forward and were close to getting a signature. We got everything in place and kept at it, but we all know how haphazard it can be at times when you are looking for sponsors, and this is one of the great uncertainties in our sport. We had to abandon the idea of taking part in the Route du Rhum and then had to put the boat up for sale.” Three serious candidates to buy the former Safran expressed their interest and in the end it was Yannick Bestaven, who was the quickest at getting out his cheque book. While the VPLP-Verdier designed boat is no longer the property of Kaïros, the business remains deeply involved in managing the boat…   Coaching shared out between Yannick Bestaven and Kojiro Shiraishi  Before the IMOCA was sold, the Japanese skipper, Kojiro Shiraishi, who is currently having a VPLP designed boat built at Multiplast, had already signed up for a two month long training programmes with Kaïros. “We were clear about the fact that the boat could be sold by then. Indeed that turned out to be the case and the boat is now in the colours of Maître CoQ. Koji, who doesn’t yet know about sailing on IMOCAs with foils, needs to train on this type of boat. While waiting for his boat to be built, he is going to be able to get used to things, so that it all comes automatically after building on a solid base, so that he can perform that much better on his new boat.” What about the new owner, Yannick Bestaven? He too will be training for two months under the watchful eye of Roland Jourdain and the boat captain Stan Delbarre. What this really means is that Maître CoQ will be in Cascais (Portugal) in February and March, where a part-time coaching programme will be set up. “Everyone’s a winner,” added Roland Jourdain. “That will allow the boat to be fine tuned that much more quickly. Knowing Yannick and Kojiro, they will get on well together. To start off with, we’ll do separate sessions, but we’re not excluding the idea of joint training after a while. Like Kojiro, Yannick needs to move forward and gradually discover this complicated boat and we’ll support him in getting used to her and handing her over to his shore team.” Refit in the yard and first trip for Maxime Sorel Another IMOCA is currently in the shed at Kaïros in Concarneau: V & B, skippered by Maxime Sorel, a newcomer to the IMOCA class. This is the boat aboard which Thomas Ruyant took part in the last Vendée Globe (a VPLP-Verdier design from 2007). “After being forced to retire from the Route du Rhum in Class40, Maxime contacted me to find out whether we could work together,” explained Roland Jourdain. “We are currently carrying out a refit, giving the boat a thorough going over before she is relaunched in March. Maxime is due to stay with us in April to sail her for the first time. I’m pleased to be able to accompany him, as he’s a great guy, is intelligent and is investing heavily in his project.” Roland Jourdain: “I enjoy this role of handing things over” Kaïros is a business that is working at full pelt, with Tom Dolan and Gildas Mahé’s Figaro 3 boats also present. There are projects linked to biocomposites and it is home to the Explore endowment fund. “The hive is full and there’s a lot going on,” added Roland Jourdain. “Our nice new pontoons are being set up, which will allow us to work on various projects in the best conditions.” This support role is something that suits Roland, who loves the idea of spending two months sailing on an IMOCA with Yannick Bestaven and Kojiro Shiraishi. “I started out at a sailing school, so maybe I have gone full circle,” he smiled. “I like this role of passing on know-how. I can offer my vision of the overall management of a project, which does not just involve performance out on the water. The way to aim for the final goal starts with life in your little business. You have to make the right choices, avoid getting bogged down with things that aren’t important for performance, while putting to one side things that are not so obvious, but which are essential.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Major manoeuvres in the IMOCA class]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT On Tuesday 22nd January, Banque Populaire announced its return to the IMOCA circuit by handing over the helm of Paul Meilhat’s former SMA to the young skipper, Clarisse Crémer with the 2020 Vendée Globe in mind. To get used to her 60-foot boat, Clarisse will be able to count on advice from Armel Le Cléac’h with whom she will compete in the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre. A few days earlier, Yannick Bestaven made the purchase of Morgan Lagravière’s former Safran official. The boat will now display the colours of Maître CoQ. In these exciting times, the IMOCA also announced the return of a race for the 2019 calendar – the Bermuda 1000, a 2000-mile solo race which will set sail on 8th May from Douarnenez in Brittany.    Banque Populaire gambles on Clarisse Cremer The rumours have been doing the rounds for a while, so Banque Populaire’s return to the IMOCA circuit was not really a mystery. We still needed to find out who would be taking the helm of Paul Meilhat’s former SMA. The lucky skipper to be chosen is Clarisse Crémer, 2nd in the 2016 Mini Transat. She will be getting her hands on Banque Populaire X in July after the conclusion of the Solitaire URGO - Le Figaro in which she is racing with a different partner. For her major new challenge, the young woman will be able to rely on the expertise of the Banque Populaire team and the support of Armel Le Cléac’h, the last winner of the Vendée Globe, with whom she will at the end of the year be competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre. “My role in Clarisse’s Vendée Globe project is to offer her some of my experience of the race after sailing for ten years on IMOCAs. Your first Vendée Globe is always a moment when you feel apprehension of the unknown. I shall be trying to give her as much help as possible to allow her to line up at the start of this race in the best condition,” explainedArmel. A determined competitor and excellent communicator, Clarisse Crémer is well aware of the enormity of the task ahead and realises how lucky she is to be so well supported: “This project is both full of excitement and a certain amount of apprehension, as there are so many unknown factors.I have never been in such a big team as this and have a lot to learn. I am tackling this project aware of where I am. It is also going to be part of the challenge to go through an accelerated learning process. I told myself that by joining the Banque Populaire team, I was at the best school with the best people around me that I could find to tackle an adventure like this. I will do my best to live up to that and keep up the pace set by Armel when we are on board. I am very pleased to be able to learn alongside him, but I feel slightly intimidated too.”    Yannick Bestaven moves up a gear Yannick Bestaven is another happy sailor, as he will have the privilege of sailing on a foiler, Morgan Lagravière’s former Safran, a VPLP-Verdier designed boat launched in 2015. The skipper from La Rochelle is moving up a gear and will be able to compete in races in the IMOCA Globe Series while aiming much higher. “I’m really pleased, as after a learning phase, I am going to have the opportunity of aiming for the podium on a boat that performs well,” declared a pleased Bestaven.Meanwhile, he is going to have to get used to his new boat now in the colours of Maître CoQ, which is highly technical, fast but demanding. With this in mind, the skipper from La Rochelle will be saving a lot of precious time, as he will have the support of Kaïros, the company owned by Roland Jourdain, who previously owned this IMOCA. This will mean a lot of time will be saved for Yannick. “The programme ahead is packed with the final adjustments and a delivery trip soon to Cascais in Portugal for some busy training sessions over the next two months,” he added. “The foiling IMOCAs are very complicated,” stressed Roland Jourdain. “There are a lot of details to get to know and it is always interesting to rely on those who know about these things.” The former Maître CoQ (a Farr design from 2006) has been purchased by Clément Giraud, a 38-year old, who has previously clocked up experience in the mini circuit. He is due to relaunch the boat some time in February and will shortly reveal the name of his partner. The BERMUDA 1000 returns to the 2019 calendar This solo IMOCA race, the BERMUDA 1000, will be on the 2019 Globe Series calendar this year with a coefficient of 2. The race offers a 2000-mile race course starting from Douarnenez, going via the Fastnet Rock and then the Azores before heading for a major port in Brittany, which will be announced shortly by the organiser. So far, around fifteen skippers have expressed their interest. This race will be the first major solo test for some like the Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh, the Italian, Giancarlo Pedote and the skipper from Saint-Malo Maxime Sorel. For others, like Samantha Davies, Yannick Bestaven, Manu Cousin and Damien Seguin, it will be an opportunity to clock up the miles and to fine tune their boats. We should add that after his fine performance in the Route du Rhum, Destination Guadeloupe, Boris Herrmann, if he wins, may take the lead in the IMOCA Globe Series World Championship. For Gwen Chapalain, the organiser of the BERMUDA 1000, "This race will be a special addition to the Guyader Grand Prix event in Douarnenez, which will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. For fifteen years now, Douarnenez has been host to the IMOCAs. This race will be a fantastic event in the spring illustrating our continued interest in and close links with the IMOCA class.” Provisional list of entrants: Fabrice AMEDEO, Romain ATTANASIO, Yannick BESTAVEN, Arnaud BOISSIÈRES, Manuel COUSIN, Sam DAVIES, Boris HERRMANN, Ari HUUSELA, Stéphane LE DIRAISON Giancarlo PEDOTE, Damien SEGUIN, Sébastien SIMON, Maxime SOREL, Denis VAN WEYNBERGH, and a few other names to be announced.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[An eighth new IMOCA being built: some great news from Nicolas Troussel]]> Wed, 16 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT There will be at least eight new generation IMOCAs lining up at the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe. The latest announcement comes from Nicolas Troussel, who in a year from now will be launching his Corum l’Epargne, a  Kouyoumdjian designed boat fitted with foils. Twice winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and the Transat AG2R sailing double-handed with Armel Le Cléac’h, the skipper from Morlaix is turning a dream he has had for a long time into reality by joining the IMOCA circuit and competing in the non-stop solo round the world race. We met up with him to find out more.   When you were young, you used to sail with Armel Le Cléac’h and Jérémie Beyou in Morlaix Bay. Since then, your two old friends have each taken part three times in the Vendée Globe. You have been dreaming of joining them for quite some time… “Yes I had to wait a while to get there. I was quite close to Armel and Jérémie in terms of how we were progressing. Then we started to advance at different speeds as we moved ahead. I’m well aware now that I’m joining them in that small group of sailors that is lucky enough to compete in the next Vendée Globe. My desire to take part in this race has been with me for some time. I really felt I was capable after winning the Solitaire du Figaro (in 2006 and 2008). I intended to take part as a competitor that would be a serious contender and not just take part to complete the round the world voyage.” Last year, Corum was your partner in Class40. How did you manage to convince your sponsor to take part with you in the IMOCA circuit, after you were forced to retire from the Route du Rhum? “The heads of Corum wanted to make sure that sailing was a good means of communication to build up their reputation. The Class40 project enabled them to see how much media feedback there was in such a sailing project. The 2018 season was positive with successful PR operations and good results in the preparatory races. Unfortunately the Route du Rhum ended earlier than planned, but they understood that sailing was a mechanical sport and that damage is part of the game. They also understood that if you want to make a name for yourself in the world of ocean racing, you have to look at the long term. The IMOCA project was set up very quickly between the end of the Route du Rhum and the festive season.”   You’ll be getting a brand new IMOCA. For the 2020 Vendée Globe, four designers are involved. Why did you choose Juan Kouyoumdjian? “We studied all the options, including the purchase of a good performing second-hand boat. Safran and Hugo Boss were still on the market. We wanted a boat that would be competitive right up until the end of the project in 2022. That’s why we decided to build a brand new IMOCA, which also means our selection for the Vendée Globe is secure. We studied the various possibilities and in the end decided to work with Juan Kouyoumdjian. I had already been in contact with him and we got on well together. He is ready to give it his all to win the Vendée Globe.”     The management of the project has been awarded to Mer Agitée, Michel Desjoyeaux’s technical team. Why did you choose them? “To take advantage of Michel’s experience, as he has taken part twice in the Vendée Globe… and has won twice. He also worked with François Gabart when he won the 2012-2013 race. He knows all the problems in this race, both in terms of the technology and the sailor. It’s a real bonus having him in this project. He will in particular be helping us a lot with ensuring the reliability of the boat.”    What experience do you have of IMOCAs? “I did a lot of sailing with Armel Le Cléac’h on Brit Air, in particular taking part on two occasions in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2007 (7th) and 2009 (retired). I also went out with Jérémie Beyou and was able to see just how physically demanding these boats are. I know what I’m in for, but I’m not making a mountain of it, even if the foils change things a lot. I’m going to have to learn how to sail at very high speed. That’s probably going to be the hardest part.”   Your boat will be launched between December 2019 and January 2020, or in other words less than a year before the start of the Vendée Globe. Is getting the timing right going to be key? “Ideally we’d like to launch the boat as early as possible. But we will have the advantage of getting some feedback from the other new IMOCAs and the problems they have encountered. We will try to plan ahead as much as we can to avoid as many problems as possible after the launch.”   On what boats will you be sailing this year as you wait for your new boat to be launched? “I’m currently planning my race programme and will be announcing it shortly. I can’t say any more for the moment, apart from the fact that the Transat Jacques Vabre is one of my goals...”      [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[2019: an unprecedented boom for the IMOCA class]]> Tue, 08 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT The IMOCA class has never experienced such enthusiasm and as 2019 gets underway, it looks like being a very exciting year. At least six new generation IMOCAs will be launched in 2019 and more than thirty boats will be out there racing with in particular the Transat Jacques Vabre (start on 27th October from Le Havre) bringing together a record line-up. Various new projects were recently unveiled and others will follow shortly. It is time for us to take a quick look at the fleet through the expert eyes of Jacques Caraës, the Race Director for the last Route du Rhum and the next Vendée Globe.   Things are really moving in the IMOCA class. The 2018 Route du Rhum saw an unprecedented line-up and it will be the same for the next Transat Jacques Vabre with no fewer than 25 to 30 double-handed crews expected. “The current boom in the class is something that is totally unprecedented,” stressed Jacques Caraës. So far, around ten sailors have obtained their selection for the Vendée Globe, but around 35 projects will be up and running in 2019, while the Notice of Race for the 2020 Vendée Globe limits the number of entrants to just thirty. “This is the first time there has been so much demand for the Vendée Globe,” explained Jacques Caraës. “Qualifying will be down to the number of miles raced, so there is going to be a real competition to get to the start line. The sailors who didn’t complete the Route du Rhum, no longer have a joker to play. As is the case too for those getting their projects going later.”   Solid projects, new entrants, boats still available Out of the twenty sailors, who took part in theRoute du Rhum, eighteen are continuing with their project as they make their way towards the Vendée Globe. The only exceptions are Erik Nigon, who is looking for funding and has put his boat up for sale, and Vincent Riou, who has handed over the helm of his PRB to Kevin Escoffier (see below). Other projects are currently being built, some of which will be sailed by sailors from outside of France. The British sailors, Pip Hare and Richard Tolkien have respectively bought the former Superbigou and Pindar, the Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh is now the owner of the former Spirit of Hungary, while the Italian, Giancarlo Pedote will be taking the helm of Yann Eliès’s IMOCA, Ucar-StMichel. Saint-Malo based Maxime Sorel will be entering the circuit too in 2019 with the former Le Souffle du Nord/Team Ireland. As for Jean Le Cam and Sébastien Destremau, they may well return to the IMOCA class this year… We can see that between eight and ten IMOCAs remain available in the second-hand market, including some that are attracting a lot of attention, like the sought after former Safran and Hugo Boss...   2019, the year of new boats For themoment, only one new generation IMOCA has been launched, Jérémie Beyou’s Charal. But later this year, at least six other new boats will be launched for Alex Thomson, Charlie Dalin, Sébastien Simon, Armel Tripon, Kojiro Shiraishi and Thomas Ruyant. These IMOCA were designed by four different architects: Juan Kouyoumdjian, Guillaume Verdier, Sam Manuard and the VPLP team. We should add that an eighth brand new boat may see the light of day, using the moulds of an IMOCA that is currently being built… “This is a very interesting boom period, probably down to the new relationship with The Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race (ex Volvo Ocean Race), which will spread out the cost of the boats,” said Jacques Caraës. “The skippers competing on brand new IMOCAs automatically qualify for the Vendée Globe, once they have sailed at least 2000 miles. The Transat Jacques Vabre will be a great test, in particular concerning the reliability of these very powerful boats.”    New projects for Isabelle Joschke and Kevin Escoffier Two bits of good news were recently announced. The first concerns Isabelle Joschke, who now benefits from the support of MACSF, which is returning to the IMOCA class. Jacques Caraës: “It’s great to see this enterprising and enthusiastic partner bouncing back with a new project. Isabelle Joschke, who was chosen as the skipper, is a pair of safe hands in the class. The boat being worked on by some very good technicians will be fine tuned in the coming months. There weren’t any women in the last Vendée Globe, but in 2020, we may see four lining up (Sam Davies, Alexia Barrier, Pip Hare and Isabelle Joschke).”   Riou hands over the helm to Escoffier Other big news from late 2018: Vincent Riou will not be lining up for his fifth Vendée Globe and will be handing over the helm of his PRB to Kevin Escoffier. Winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race with Dongfeng, the head of the Banque Populaire research team, Escoffier certainly has a lot of technical knowledge and is a very skilled racer. After specialising in crewed racing, he is making the switch to solo sailing, which according to Jacques Caraës will not pose any problem for him. “He will quickly adapt. He has an exceptional experience of offshore racing and with the support of Vincent Riou, he has a great teacher. He will have a boat that has been well adapted with huge potential in terms of speed thanks to her new foils. This is an ambitious project and Kevin will certainly be one to watch.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA class continues to push forward]]> Wed, 12 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT The IMOCA class held its annual general meeting on Tuesday 11th December in Paris. This gathering enabled the class to present its appraisal of what was a very positive 2018 season coming to a climax with an outstanding edition of the Route du Rhum, destination Guadeloupe. In fine fettle, the IMOCA has now included both of the emblematic round the world races in its race calendar: the 2020 Vendée Globe and the 2021-2022 Ocean Race (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race), which the organisers presented in Paris yesterday. 2019 looks like being an exciting, action-packed year with six races on the programme including the Transat Jacques Vabre, which is expected to bring together between 25 and 30 IMOCAs, including at least six monohulls with foils from the latest generation. An attractive, dynamic class, where everyone pulls together The IMOCA class brought together some fine fleets in all of the events in the 2018 season with between ten and twenty boats competing with a record number lining up for the Route du Rhum with 20 IMOCAs on the start line, which was twice as many as in the previous edition, (nine registered in 2014). “The class has a good image with the public and media. Positive and constructive relationships are being drawn up with partners (organisers, federations, insurers),” declared a pleasedAntoine Mermod, the class President, for whom the unity of the class is one of the main concerns. “The IMOCA brings together sailors from a wide range of backgrounds and with various ambitions. But in spite of that, we have managed to adopt a calm approach together. We talk things over throughout the year and the decisions are taken at the General Meeting. We do what we can to ensure everyone can get involved and feel their voice is being heard. Being part of a strong, professional class, where everyone comes together is positive for all of us.” Clarification of the 2019 rules During the General Meeting on 11th December in Paris, the rules for 2019 were presented. Antoine Mermod: “A lot of detailed work was done by the IMOCA technical committee. All of the boats must fit in with the rules of the class. The limits to the rules may not have been that clear, so we had to make them more precise. That is all the more important as in 2019 there will be at least six new boats designed by four different architects. The measurers now have a solid tool to ensure an even playing field. We have planned an extension to these rules for crewed sailing, as we look ahead to the round the world race scheduled for 2021-2022.” “The Ocean Race,” the new crewed round the world race aboard IMOCAs It’s now clear to all. The two most emblematic round the world races are now in the IMOCA class programme. There will of course be the Vendée Globe sailed solo, which is due to start on 8th November 2020. In addition to that, we now have “The Ocean Race,” a crewed round the world race with stopovers, which will also be raced aboard IMOCAs. The main features of this race were presented in Paris on 11th December. The Ocean Race will start from Alicante in October 2021. The selection of the other stopover hosts is currently being carried out by the organisers. “We hope to see between ten and fifteen IMOCAs taking part,” explained Antoine Mermod. “The fleet will include boats that have historically competed in the Volvo Ocean Race and boats that have taken part in the Vendée Globe. We are looking forward to a highly international line-up. The French and English speaking worlds of ocean racing, which for many years went their own way are now converging. We are advancing together intelligently and learning a lot from each other with the shared desire to build a solid project for the future.” The time gap between the finish of the Vendée Globe and the start of The Ocean Race is relatively short and therefore the crewed version of the IMOCA will be very similar to the solo version. The rules make it possible to transform the boat easily with only marginal changes to the rules. Six races in 2019, including three which will count towards the IMOCA Globe Series  In 2019, the race calendar is tightly packed for the IMOCA skippers. Three events should feature in the schedule for the Globe Series, the new class world championship: the Valencia Globe Series in July (the final approval for this solo and double-handed event should be made on 18th December), the Rolex Fastnet Race in August and the Transat Jacques Vabre in late October. The latter event raced double-handed is expected to bring together an exceptional line-up of between 25 and 30 IMOCAs, or in other words practically all of the competitors that will take part in the 2020 Vendée Globe. There will be at least six boats from the latest generation skippered by Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori) and Armel Tripon. The 2019 calendar will also include some other races that the IMOCA class feels cannot be missed: the Guyader Grand Prix, the ArMen Race Uship and the Azimut Challenge. Sustainable development, a major concern Until the 2020 Vendée Globe,the IMOCA class will be supporting “Ocean As Common,” an appeal for the Ocean to be considered as a common good  (, an initiative launched by Catherine Chabaud and which echoes one of the main concerns of the sailors. Measures will be put in place to continue to develop this partnership in favour of sustainable development and more specifically the protection of the oceans. ----------- The IMOCA calendar for 2019: - From 3rd to 6th May: Guyader Grand Prix - From 30th May to 2nd June: ArMen Race Uship - July: Valencia Globe Series - 3rd August: Start of the Rolex Fastnet Race - 18th – 22nd September: Azimut Challenge - 27th October: Start of the Transat Jacques Vabre  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA class offers a very positive appraisal of the Route du Rhum ]]> Wed, 05 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT  The twenty sailors competing in the eleventh edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe put on a remarkable show, at the end of which Paul Meilhat (SMA) came out on top ahead of Yann Eliès (Ucar-StMichel)  and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss). Out of the twenty sailors that set sail from Saint-Malo, fifteen made it to Pointe-à-Pitre. Antoine Mermod, President of the class and Guillaume Evrard, delegate general and assistant Race Director  for the Route du Rhum give us their appraisal of the event in terms of the outcome and the technical aspects. The picture they paint indicates we can look forward to an exceptional 2019 season with a new race on the programme and between 25 and 30 IMOCAs expected to compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre next November. Looking beyond the race itself, the Route du Rhum is also a very popular, festive event. “The enthusiasm of the public was incredible, both in Saint-Malo and in Pointe-à-Pitre,” declared a pleased Antoine Mermod. “It was an exceptional welcome and the cities lived up to the event. This edition of the Route du Rhum confirmed that this ocean racing event is one we really have to take part in. We can only be pleased to be involved in such an event.” Once the race was underway, the IMOCA skippers enthusiastically shared their adventures with no fewer than 115 videos being made available during the race. A retirement rate of 25 %, no rescue operations Out of the twenty skippers that set off from Saint-Malo, five were unfortunately forced to retire (Jérémie Beyou, Sam Davies, Isabelle Joschke, Louis Burton and Yannick Bestaven), while eleven completed the race without stopping and four others carried out pit stops. Fifteen sailors made it to Pointe-à-Pitre. “The retirement rate for this edition of the Route du Rhum comes to 30 % overall and 25 % for the IMOCAs,” explained Guillaume Evrard. “Last year in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the percentage of boats finishing was 100 % for the IMOCAs, with thirteen out of thirteen making it to Brazil. We would have liked to have repeated that performance in the Route du Rhum, but we can be pleased that in spite of the very tricky weather conditions, all of the sailors returned through their own means and we didn’t have to launch any rescue operations. That proves how well prepared the boats are and how professional the racers are, as they all acted wisely and never put themselves in danger.” Among the fifteen sailors that completed the 2018 Route du Rhum, fourteen have taken a step forward on their way to the Vendée Globe. Apart fromAlex Thomson, who already has his admission ticket, the others managed to obtain their qualification for the next solo round the world race.  Unprecedented excitement during the race  All of the skippers stressed at the finish in Pointe-à-Pitre that the 2018 Rhum was raced at fever pitch. “The racers, particularly the frontrunners, never got a moment of rest,” confirmed Antoine Mermod. “It required total commitment from the start. Then, they had to deal with a series of fronts with winds and sea states that were often difficult. The trade winds were complicated with lots of squalls and a wind that was up and down between 18 and 22 knots. In that strength of wind, you are between two sail configurations and it is not easy to find the best solution, so you have to keep at it.” The unprecedented level of commitment that was required was also something that Guillaume Evrard noticed: “There was an unprecedented degree of excitement throughout the race. The sailors forced themselves to keep up a mind-blowing pace and gave it their all. During the first eight days, the fight was never-ending.” Alex Thomson dominating, Paul Meilhat winning The race was characterised by the clear domination by Alex Thomson, and the incredible upset when he ran aground just before the finish. Alex looked like he was going to win the race, but exhausted, he made one simple mistake, falling asleep at the worst moment as he approached Guadeloupe, and found himself with a 24 –hour time penalty putting his dreams of winning beyond reach. Antoine Mermod: “Alex proved that he was the best during 99% of the race. He was much faster, kept up a quicker pace and found better settings than his rivals. His performance, in terms of both the sport and the technology, was absolutely exceptional. He is way ahead of the others and is now the man to beat.” He avoided the worst looking after himself and keeping the boat safe, as Guillaume Evrard explained. “As he decided to use his engine to extricate himself from that situation, the jury was forced to decide. In the chart listing the penalties, it states that in such a case, the outcome can vary from 24 hours to disqualification. In the end, the jury gave him the smallest penalty possible.”   Finishing twelve hours after Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat therefore won the 2018 Route du Rhum, which was quite an achievement for an IMOCA without foils. “Paul was a fantastic winner,” stressed Antoine Mermod. “While the performance of the boat is important, it is the sailor that makes all the difference in solo ocean racing. After finishing second in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year (with Gwénolé Gahinet) and after winning the Monaco Globe Series in the spring (once again with Gwénolé), Paul continues his ascension. He is clearly one of the best IMOCA racers.” A high calibre top five After his win last year in the Transat Jacques Vabre (with Jean-Pierre Dick), Yann Eliès only just missed out on victory, taking second place just over two hours after Paul Meilhat. “He did a good job and confirmed that he is one to watch,” added Antoine Mermod. “Paul and him are both looking for funding. So if there are any potential sponsors out there, please note that two of the best IMOCA skippers are available and they are bound to have great stories to tell.” In spite of his 24-hour penalty, Alex Thomson made it to the podium, ahead of Vincent Riou, who had a tough race, as he was handicapped by the loss of his wind instruments relatively early on in the race. “He was unable to do what he what he would have liked, but it was nevertheless a great job. His ability to deal with every aspect is amazing,” commented Antoine Mermod. We should add that completing the top five, we find the German sailor, Boris Herrmann, who achieved a magnificent performance, as Guillaume Evrard explains: “Boris was competing in his first solo transatlantic race on an IMOCA. He went for a different option, gave it his all and in the end only finished three hours behind Vincent Riou. He fought it out with three excellent sailors and is now well placed for the 2020 Vendée Globe.” A crazy pace for those chasing the frontrunenrs The Route du Rhum will also be remembered for the race between three skippers aboard Finot-Conq designed boats first launched in 2007 and 2008: Damien Seguin, Alan Roura and Stéphane Le Diraison. They too never eased off. Antoine Mermod: “It was an interesting battle, as the boats behaved differently and were all skippered by very good outsiders on their way up, who have found their place in the class. We should give a special mention to Damien Seguin, the least experienced of the three in IMOCA, who managed to get ahead of his two rivals in spite of his handicap (Damien was born without a left hand). It is very encouraging. He should be proud of himself. Behind these three sailors, Arnaud Boissières was unable to keep up with the action, but he made it to the finish and sailed cleanly. He still has the ability to make progress with his IMOCA fitted with foils. He will be one to keep an eye on next year in the Transat Jacques Vabre.”   Very respectable performances from the amateurs Two other newcomers to the IMOCA class deserve our full respect. Erik Nigon and the Finnish sailor, Ari Huusela had cautious races, but sailed well, while enjoying their adventure. “Erik and Ari are amateurs and both work at the same time as being involved with their IMOCA projects,” Guillaume Evrard reminded us. “They finished respectively tenth and eleventh out of the twenty boats that set sail and did not stop, which is a very respectable outcome.” “Precious miles” Four sailors (three men and one woman) were determined to complete the race after pit stops: Fabrice Amedeo, Romain Attanasio, Manuel Cousin and Alexia Barrier. In order to finish what they had started, their new race was very different without any hope of a good result, but they were able to learn a lot. “They have clocked up some valuable miles for what lies ahead for their qualification for the Vendée Globe and to gain some more experience,” added Antoine Mermod. “With two years to go to the Vendée Globe, there is no better way to prepare than by completing a solo transatlantic crossing. That enables you to advance, make sure your boat is in good shape and to get a better understanding.” A promising 2019 season The next date for theIMOCAs will be in July 2019 with the Valencia Globe Series, a new double-handed event (1000 miles) and solo  race (3000 miles). In November there will be the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the climax of the season, where we can reasonably hope to see a line-up of between 25 and 30 IMOCAs, including seven from the latest generation.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ Paul Meilhat looks back at the IMOCA contest]]> Fri, 23 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT At the end of a breathtaking Route du Rhum which was full of twists and turns, Paul Meilhat achieved his first major solo victory. After a short rest, he analysed his race for us commenting on the performance of his rivals, before talking about his future prospects in the IMOCA class. “Paul felt completely at one with his boat,” said Gwénolé Gahinet in his article on the IMOCA class. Can you confirm that? “Yes. I have sailed a lot on SMA, the equivalent of sailing around the world twice. She’s a boat that I can listen to, which is just as well, as she is very delicate in terms of her set-up. You just have to deal with the twists in the sail and she will accelerate straightaway. I was out of action for three months before the Route du Rhum, because of an injury, but when I stepped aboard, it all come back to me immediately. Everything I learnt sailing double-handed, I managed to carry out sailing solo and soon, it all came naturally to me. Sometimes I even surprised myself. At the end of the Route du Rhum, I was so at one with the boat that I was able to carry out the gybes at night without a headlamp with the impression that the lines automatically fed back to my hand. I am really confident in this IMOCA and in my capacity to carry out manoeuvres in tough conditions. When there were 45 knot winds in the Rhum, I managed to sleep without any problem. The risk of damage never entered my mind. And in the end, I didn’t suffer any major damage, just a few little things as in every race.” Let’s look back at your race. The first hours were key… “Yes, indeed. From the first night, we had to get through an extremely complicated low-pressure system. Before the start, we may have underestimated it. With Vincent Riou we did well in that phase. We stayed on the starboard tack and were a bit lucky, as we were the first to get the new wind, which enabled us to get a long way ahead of Yann Eliès in particular. At the same time, Alex Thomson took an option out to the west, which was very interesting, but not at all suited to my boat’s polars.” It was then a question of speed racing against Vincent Riou to the latitude of Madeira. Were you surprised he didn’t get ahead with his foiler? “Yes. In those points of sail his boat was favoured, but we stayed at more or less the same speed overtaking each other again and again. In the beginning, I thought he was taking it calmly with his foils, as the seas were heavy. After passing through the second low, Vincent continued to sail at speeds which weren’t that high. I thought he must have had a technical problem, without knowing it was his wind instruments. Just before Madeira, we had to deal with a ridge of high pressure before picking up the trade winds. I was one of the first to run into that. Yann was catching up quickly and Alex was ahead.” “We played around with fire” It was the start of a battle between the four of us in the trade winds… “Yes, it was the start of the second part of the race. I was up with the frontrunners, but I thought that it would be tricky for me to keep up the pace, if the trade winds were strong. We ended up with twenty knots and a huge northerly swell making it complicated to sail under spinnaker. Alex was beyond reach, as this point of sail was extremely favourable for him. In general, he was 15 % quicker than me in VMG downwind. I knew however that the difference in speed with Yann was not so great and Vincent was not up to 100% because of his technical problems. Yann moved off to the south. For me, it was more interesting to stay on the inside around the curve of the high. I decided to sail lower as my boat requested, while taking advantage of the wind shifts. Each day, Vincent and Yann got that bit closer, but sometimes they lost ground too. What scared me was finding myself too far off and having to tack back up. If we sail at 140 degrees to the wind, I know that the foilers perform better. In the end we stayed on VMG until the end, which really helped me out.” Alex was a long way ahead, so were you aiming for second place? “Yes! Already when I saw that there were four of us fighting it out in the trade winds, my goal was to make it to the podium. At the end of the race, Alex was on his way to victory and I could see Vincent giving up. He revealed his wind instrument problems. He seemed extremely tire and needed to sleep, so was not as fast. It was getting very complicated for him. That was when I thought I could get second place, even if Yann was piling on the pressure. I knew that the race around the island could decide everything, so I told myself I had to give it my all, believing that a few hundred yards gained here could be very useful in the end.” How did you find out about what happened to Alex Thomson and what was your reaction? “I could see early on that there was a problem, as I looked at the positions of my rivals every hour on the tracker. I could see from his track that he had run into Guadeloupe, and then set off again. I must say that I think it is a pity that the rankings were updated every hour in the Route du Rhum. It may not seem that important, but that removes a lot of the strategy, as we want to keep the others in check. I think it would be good to return to rankings being issued every four hours. When Alex hit the cliff, that changed everything. I didn’t look at the list of penalties, but I imagined that the Jury couldn’t let Alex win the race after using his engine. In my mind, it was clear. With Yann, we were now fighting for victory. That added a lot of stress. Alex’s bad luck calmed us down a bit. We realised we had been pushing too hard and had been playing with fire.” With Yann Eliès just behind you, it wasn’t a comfortable position to be in when sailing around Guadeloupe… “That’s true. If there is one person capable of piling on the pressure it’s Yann Eliès. I knew that he wouldn’t give an inch away. He never sets off intending to finish second in a race. This final part of the course was very physical and stressful with a lot of manoeuvres and strategic choices to make. Fortunately we arrived at a good time and the wind was blowing. I got slowed down downwind of the island, but Yann was too. I remained concentrated and kept calm trying not to make any mistakes.” How do you feel about winning the race after a jury decision? “On the last tack, I knew that the race was won. The tension dropped. I picked up the phone and had a look at what people were saying on social networks to know how to react at the finish. I saw that Alex had made some extraordinary declarations and was brilliant. He shut down the arguments immediately. I was reassured about what would happen at the finish. In any case, I wasn’t going to boast about this. That’s not my style.”   Have you spoken to Alex since the finish? “He didn’t want to come to the finish, which was the right decision. The third placed skipper welcoming home the winner didn’t make any sense. Since then, we have talked a lot, yes. He has said to me several times that this was the biggest foul-up in his life and that he didn’t deserve to win the race after such a mistake.” “It’s great seeing people give so much” You all finished in Guadeloupe completely worn out. There were even a few tears on Vincent Riou’s face… “We took it a long way. The start of the race was complicated. It is rare to find four boats so close together in the trade winds. There was no time to rest. We were all well prepared. We are all able to take it a long way into the tiredness, as we let things come naturally. Considering the quality of my opponents, I knew that I would have to give it my all to be in with a chance of winning. It was like in Figaro mode. It’s great seeing people give so much. Boris also had a fantastic Route du Rhum on what was his first major solo race. He clocked up a few points in his head for the Vendée Globe.”   Did you follow what happened to those further back? “Yes, I closely watched the incredible battle between three competitors, Damien Seguin, Alan Roura and Stéphane Le Diraison. They are three really nice guys that I love. I was pleased to be there for their finish. They have similar projects in terms of their boats and budgets. They fought with the arms at their disposal with the same energy as us. I could see too that some competitors really suffered and had to carry out pit stops. All of those who could set off again, even if they knew they had no chance in the race. It’s a fine lesson, which highlights the quality of the sailors. I was sad to see Sam Davies retire as she should have been up with us at the front.”   Your partnership with SMA is coming to an end, so you are looking for new partners to launch an IMOCA project. What can you offer potential sponsors? “I am proposing two things, starting with the construction of a brand new IMOCA. In my opinion, with two years to go to the Vendée Globe, we still have time. I have done a lot of sailing and gained a lot of experience of IMOCAs and above all I have a technical team in place who are highly skilled. We can once again do something extraordinary. The other idea is to keep the present boat and modify her, in particular adding foils. We know that we have to go down that road and we know too that it works. But we’re taking one step at a time, and firstly, we need to find the funding.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum of the Imoca Class]]> Sat, 17 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT When he crossed the finish line in Pointe-à-Pitre at 0023hrs UTC last night, Paul Meilhat won the the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA category, taking into account the 24-hour penalty given to Alex Thomson for starting his engine after running aground. Paul’s win remains an incredible achievement aboard a boat (SMA) that was launched eight years ago and is still fitted with straight daggerboards. Two hours and fifteen minutes after the winner, Yann Eliès took second place. As we write this, Vincent Riou and Boris Herrmann are sailing around Guadeloupe. In our final feature on the race in the IMOCA class, we hear from Gwénolé Gahinet, a big friend of Paul Meilhat with whom he has often sailed on SMA and in the Figaro class.    When he crossed the finish line in Pointe-à-Pitre at 0023hrs UTC last night, Paul Meilhat won the the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA category, taking into account the 24-hour penalty given to Alex Thomson for starting his engine after running aground. Paul’s win remains an incredible achievement aboard a boat (SMA) that was launched eight years ago and is still fitted with straight daggerboards. Two hours and fifteen minutes after the winner, Yann Eliès took second place. As we write this, Vincent Riou and Boris Herrmann are sailing around Guadeloupe. In our final feature on the race in the IMOCA class, we hear from Gwénolé Gahinet, a big friend of Paul Meilhat with whom he has often sailed on SMA and in the Figaro class.   “I’m delighted for Paul. He had a magnificent race. He really got the most out of his boat. It was not easy, because as soon as they left the English Channel, the reaching conditions favoured the foilers. But Paul managed to play his cards right in the first low-pressure system. Then, he succeeded in keeping up with the pace set by Yann Eliès and Vincent Riou, who were sailing on IMOCAs with foils. He achieved all that with a boat launched eight years ago. “In the Route du Rhum, having a real sense of the sea is vital” Because they set off in November, the Route du Rhum is extremely difficult, but that is also what makes this race so special. The conditions can be tricky, but you have to take risks, as it is a short race. These risks need to be measured and you need to know how hard to push. In the Route du Rhum, having a real sense of the sea is vital. Paul Meilhat clearly has that. He felt perfectly at one with his boat. He said before the start that he loved his SMA. Yet, it’s never easy to feel good aboard an IMOCA. It’s all the more exciting when things work out. You need to spend a lot of time at sea with your boat and take part in a lot of long races to appreciate that. Based on my understanding, Paul is really hooked on it. Paul Meilhat, just like Yann Eliès in fact, is looking for sponsors for the 2020 Vendée Globe. Given that, he knew that the best thing to do was to win the race and that certainly motivated him. Paul and Yann should not have any regrets and should be able to move onto the next chapter.” “Alex Thomson, an extremely classy reaction” Hats off to Paul’s rivals, who put up a good fight. They gave it their all keeping up a pace similar to the Solitaire du Figaro. I’m impressed. Alex Thomson has an incredible race by taking more risks. That is what in fact caused his accident. He placed the bar very high and wore himself out by the finish. Alex had a fantastic reaction after his penalty was announced and was very classy. Looking around the Route du Rhum website, I found a chart detailing the penalties. In that document, it is clearly stated that in such circumstances the penalty should be 24 hours. So, the punishment fits in with what is stipulated in the rules. But at the same time, it is hard as in the Route du Rhum, stopovers are allowed. In the case of a pit stop, you can use your engine without getting a penalty… Some work needs to be done to make the rules clearer about stopovers and removing the engine seal, so that the general public can better understand what is happening in our sport. “When you have confidence in your boat and yourself, you can prove the forecasts wrong” Paul Meilhat’s win was always a possibility, but it wasn’t the most likely outcome. I have been watching this race closely, in particular following Francis Joyon on IDEC Sport in the Ultime category. It’s funny because these projects are in some ways similar. In both cases, the odds were not in their favour and yet they won. When you really believe and have confidence in your boat and yourself, you can prove the forecasts wrong. In a race like this year’s, it is the sailors that make all the difference. We must not forget that the more recent boats have not been completely set up, and in some cases the skippers have not had enough time to train on their boats. “A great message about the value of perseverance” I also know Boris Herrmann well having sailed around the world with him on IDEC Sport. This was his first major solo race on an IMOCA and he has had a great race, taking an intermediate route between Alex’s and that chosen by the group including Paul, Yann and Vincent. We wondered for a long time whether he would manage to get back with them. Getting around the high was quite tricky for Boris, and in the end he got back too far behind the four leaders. Further back, there is a great battle raging between the 2008 generation boats skippered by Damien Seguin, Alan Roura and Stéphane Le Diraison. I can also see that two non-professional skippers, Erik Nigon and Ari Huusela, are still in the race. Finishing the Route du Rhum is already an achievement in itself. IMOCAs are hard boats to sail alone. It just takes one small mistake to have a huge problem. Finally, I would like to add that the sailors who carried out pit stops before setting off again offer us a great message about the value of perseverance.”   Gwénolé Gahinet     Some of Gwénolé Gahinet’s achievements - Holder of the Jules Verne Trophy on IDEC Sport - 2nd in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre in the IMOCA category (on SMA with Paul Meilhat) - Winner of the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race in the IMOCA category (on SMA with Paul Meilhat) - Winner of the 2014 Transat AG2R (with Paul Meilhat) - First rookie in the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro - 5th in the 2015 Solitaire du Figaro - Winner of the 2011 Mini Transat [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum of the Imoca Class]]> Fri, 16 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT There has been a huge upset in the race between the IMOCAs. Comfortably leading the Route du Rhum and on his way to a clear victory, British sailor, Alex Thomson ran aground last night at the foot of a cliff in the north of Grande-Terre (Guadeloupe), just 75 miles from the finish. To get his Hugo Boss out of this predicament and away from the rocks, the British skipper was forced to use his engine. While he was the first to cross the finish line at 1210hrs UTC this afternoon in Pointe-à-Pitre, Thomson then had to wait for the decision of the international jury, who gave him a penalty of 24 hours. This judgement cannot be appealed. Consequently, the closely fought duel between Paul Meilhat and Yann Eliès has probably turned into a race for victory. Earlier today, one of the giants of the IMOCA class, Jean-Pierre Dick gives us his comments on everything that has been happening.   Text dating from before the jury's decision.   “Alex Thomson sailing at full speed into a cliff… what an incredible incident in the race! He was probably suffering from something that hits all exhausted solo sailors at some point. They drift off a bit and fall asleep without being able to do anything about it. Maybe he fell asleep with the autopilot in real wind mode. If the wind shifted a little, it would have taken Hugo Boss towards the coast. It must be difficult for him to come to terms with that. We can but feel sympathy and regrets for Alex. The good news is that he is not injured and that Hugo Boss can be repaired. Such a collision can do serious damage to the man and the boat. The bowsprit must have absorbed the shock acting like a safety fuse. The crash box (the forward section of the bow) fulfilled its role. The boat was able to complete the race in decent conditions. Alex was in fact quite lucky in this unfortunate incident. “Even Hitchcock couldn’t have imagined such an ending” Alex Thomson has a black cloud over his head. Whenever he is well placed to win a race, a major upset prevents him from doing so. He is having a hard time trying to win a major IMOCA race. Technically, he may yet be crowned. Alex crossed the finish line in first position and the jury will have to decide. It is the jury who will determine the outcome of this race. There are penalty scales, but it is bound to be hard to come to a decision in such a context. The skipper made a mistake, but then you might say he acted as a good sailor by trying to get his boat away from the coast. I don’t want to come up with all sorts of theories, and the final decision will be down to the members of the jury. I would not like to be in their place. Even Hitchcock couldn’t have imagined such a plot! “Winning is everything” It’s particularly strange as behind Alex, Paul Meilhat and Yann Eliès, who thought they were fight for second place, may be battling it out for victory. This changes the situation, as our dearly departed Michel Malinovsky said, “Winning is everything”. You can say whatever you like, but winning is what we are all aiming for. I am of course closely watching Yann’s race aboard my former IMOCA. Yann made some good choices in the trade winds. He was particularly smart and managed to pick up winds that were a little stronger when he was close to the Canaries. After that he weaved his way up and down. But obviously one of the key factors was the speed of the boat, which has been able to express herself throughout the voyage down to Guadeloupe. Yann overtook Vincent Riou, who has been handicapped by problems with his wind instruments. And he is catching up Paul Meilhat, who is sailing at slightly lower angles , but also with slightly less speed. Yann appears to have found a good compromise. The deciding factor now will be the stretch leeward of Basse-Terre and the passage through the Saintes Channel. “Battle of nerves between Paul Meilhat and Yann Eliès” It is often believed that it all happens to the leeward side of the island. It is true that it is complicated to pass the Basse-Terre buoy. But that is not the end of the matter. There can be major upsets in the final stretch, as we saw with François Gabart and Francis Joyon. They need to watch out for the many fishing nets in the area. Each time I was in that area, I got something caught up in the rudders and keel. This is going to be an incredible battle. Paul has a boat from a generation allowing him to have a slightly taller mast, so potentially should be more at ease in lighter conditions. But it may all be down to that extra puff of air, so Yann is in with every chance still. There is nothing certain about the outcome of this duel. Both of these lads know all about close contact sailing. They need to give it their all now, while keeping a clear head to be able to take the right decisions and avoid having any regrets. They need to believe in it right up until the end. It’s a battle of nerves!” Jean-Pierre Dick     Some of Jean-Pierre Dick’s achievements in the IMOCA class: - Twice winner of the Barcelona World Race (in 2008 and 2011) - Four times winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre (in 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2017) - Four attempts at the Vendée Globe (4th in 2013 and 2017, 6th in 2005) - Two attempts at the Route du Rhum (3rd in 2006, 4th in 2010)     Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Thu, 15 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT It is shortly after midnight in Europe that Alex Thomson is expected off Tête à l’Anglais island to the north of Basse-Terre. He will then have the tricky task of sailing around Guadeloupe. The skipper of Hugo Boss appears to have a lead over his rivals that is comfortable enough to deal calmly with this final hurdle. He can look forward to his finest victory ever, unless there is some major upset. The battle for the remaining places on the podium looks like being closely fought between Paul Meilhat and Yann Eliès, who should be rounding the island tomorrow afternoon. Vincent Riou and Boris Herrmann are lying in wait ready to pounce. On the eve of the outcome of the Route du Rhum for the leading IMOCAs, Sébastien Simon, a rising star in the class who next year will have a new boat at his disposal, gives us his viewpoint today. “Alex Thomson is having an incredible race. He is the fastest and no one comes close. In the trade winds, he found the perfect straight trajectory. With the squalls and shifts in the trade winds, those chasing him were forced to gybe many times. That is something I have already seen before in the Transat AG2R: just a few miles apart, some skippers manage to find perfect trajectories, while others suffer in the squalls. To win a race takes a variety of ingredients: good preparation, speed, luck… If any of these ingredients is missing, it doesn’t work out. Alex is sailing his boat well. We can see that he knows her like the back of his hand. Hugo Boss has been made more reliable. Alex was the sailor who slowed down the least in the huge area of low pressure to the west of Portugal. He knows his boat’s limits. He trains off by himself. He carries out PR operations everywhere. In the end, that means he gets in a lot of sailing and knows what he is doing. If he achieves a win here, it is something that he really deserves. “Alex Thomson has it within his sights”  From now on, Alex Thomson just has to look after his lead to the finish. Unless there is some serious damage, he has it in the bag. He will be tackling the final lap around Guadeloupe tonight. At night, the winds don’t get across to the other side of the island, as we saw with the Ultimes. The only way to keep going is to pick up some air coming down off the cliffs. So he really needs to hug the coast. Alex will have to remain patient, but considering the lead he now has, he can tackle this relatively calmly. He has it within his sights. The IMOCAs are very fast, but they aren’t boats that accelerate to thirty knots either. It’s not like the Ultimes, where your lead can vanish in an hour or two. “Nothing yet decided for the podium places” The situation between Paul Meilhat and Yann Eliès is much more uncertain. Nothing has been decided. I can see them finishing tomorrow afternoon (Guadeloupe time). I think that in the wind around the island, Paul should be more at ease aboard his IMOCA with straight daggerboards. But it will only take Yann getting a bit more wind, like Joyon did against Gabart, for the situation to change. We also need to consider how tired the sailors are and how clear-headed they are. Vincent Riou could claw his way back onto the podium, but that is going to be hard. He has not had any wind instruments since practically the start of the race, so in autopilot mode, it’s not working properly. Aboard an IMOCA, an efficient autopilot is a real advantage, as the boat can follow the wind precisely and surf along the waves. That is no longer the case for Vincent’s autopliot, as it is lacking the wind data. When Vincent goes to sleep, the boat goes straight ahead, while the wind continues to shift. Yesterday, some huge squalls passed over and Vincent got caught out with the wind full astern and the spinnaker wrapped around the stay. That would not have happened if his autopilot had been working correctly, as he would have luffed up slightly with the wind. In that incident, Vincent lost his spinnaker, a sail that is useful when you want to sail downwind in 18-20 knots of wind with a good VMG. “I would love to be in their place” I admire the way the leaders have sailed. They have kept up an incredible pace without really getting any rest. They had to deal with the low-pressure systems, then get around the ridge of high pressure and then pick up the trade winds, which have not been that stable. It is a sprint for them. The Route du Rhum remains an offshore race of course, but it is a race where the pace is similar to what you find in some legs of the Solitaire du Figaro. You need to be constantly trimming, carrying out manoeuvres, analysing the weather… I can’t wait to see what they look like at the finish. In my opinion, they will be exhausted. Their performance reminds me that I still have a lot to learn. I’d love to be in their place rather than on the other side of the barrier. It is an enriching experience for me however, as I am contact with the PRB team. I would have liked to see Charal go all the way. I know Jérémie Beyou very well. He is an extraordinary sailor, who has won the Solitaire three times. I am disappointed for him, but everyone knows that setting up a new IMOCA takes a lot of time. I’m confident that Jérémie will bounce back fairly quickly, as he is so tenacious.”   Sébastien Simon --------------------------- Some of Sébastien Simon’s achievements - Winner of the 2018 Solitaire du Figaro - French solo offshore racing champion in 2018 - 5 attempts at the Solitaire du Figaro - 2nd in the 2018 Transat AG2R La Mondiale (with Morgan Lagravière) - 3rd in the French solo offshore championship in 2017 - Winner of the Brittany - Crédit Mutuel talent challenge in 2013 Forthcoming dates with the IMOCA skippers: - Friday 16th November: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17th November: Gwénolé Gahinet  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT It will soon be coming to an end for the leading IMOCA. Ruling supreme, Alex Thomson has kept a good lead over his closest rivals. Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès are fighting it out to make it to the podium, while aiming to be ready to pounce should the British leader show the slightest weakness. On the tenth day of the Route du Rhum, sixteen IMOCAs out of the twenty that set sail are still at sea, although Jérémie Beyou is heading back to Lorient after his electrical power system failed aboard Charal. Today, a previous winner of the Vendée Globe, Alain Gautier, gives us his expert view of the race. “It’s fascinating to watch the battle that is raging between the first four boats. There are two IMOCAs from the 2016 Vendée Globe generation with foils that cannot be adjusted (Hugo Boss and Ucar-StMichel), one equipped with the new generation of adjustable foils (PRB) and one with straight daggerboards (SMA). Quite naturally, we are wondering about the condition of each of these boats. Who is at 100 %? Who is not? We can see that Hugo Boss in general appears to be showing her full potential. On the other hand, there are a lot of questions still about PRB. We’re wondering too which sails each skipper is using. Alex Thomson is still very fast with angles that are not that much worse than his rivals. That raises some questions. What sail configuration is he using to get such a good VMG (compromise between bearing and speed)? “It’s amazing that Alex managed to make his getaway like that”  Alex Thomson’s option to the north of the Ushant TSS early in the race gave him a small advantage, but not that much in the end. This year, the gateway to the trade winds was a long way south. Alex nevertheless managed to get back in contact with Paul Meilhat and Vincent Riou and pass in front of them at the latitude of the Canaries. He then got away from them very quickly and has continued to increase his lead. It’s amazing that Alex managed to make his getaway like that. His trajectory has been straighter than his rivals, who have had to carry out more gybes. But above all, it is how he is sailing his boat that has made all the difference. We know that Alex’s foils are especially designed for downwind sailing, but his performance remains remarkable. “SMA will almost certainly be the fastest of the four around Guadeloupe” As we saw with the Ultimes, and more recently with the capsize of the Multi 50, Arkema, you need to remain very vigilant, as there are some violent squalls. As for the race around Guadeloupe, we may be in for some surprises and it is going to be interesting to watch the IMOCAs. Hugo Boss clearly does not appreciate light conditions. Alex Thomson needs therefore to reach the top of the island with as strong a lead as possible. If he manages to keep his current lead (160 miles ahead of Paul Meilhat at noon today), he will be able to relax. Aboard an IMOCA, the gaps do not shrink as fast as with the Ultimes, quite simply because the boats are not as fast and there is a less of a speed difference. The fight for the podium is going to be riveting. SMA will almost certainly be the fastest of the four around Guadeloupe, as straight daggerboards are an advantage in light airs. “Victory by a foreign skipper would benefit the IMOCA class” Alex Thomson may repeat Ellen MacArthur’s achievement of finishing second in the Vendée Globe and winning the following Route du Rhum.Victory by a foreign skipper would benefit the IMOCA class, even if that might not go down as well in Port-la-Forêt! I can see that this year the Figaro racers haven’t been lucky. François Gabart was beaten by Francis Joyon in the Ultime category and for the moment, it is not a Figaro racer that is best placed in the IMOCA class. That is sufficiently rare to be noted. “Seguin, Roura, Le Diraison: a great pack of solid sailors” Boris Herrmann is also having a good race, and is not far behind the leaders. He stuck with his option which allowed him to overtake and then leave the group of Finot-Conq designed boats skippered by Damien Seguin, Alan Roura and Stéphane Le Diraison way behind. These solid sailors form a great pack. They knew they could not aim to win with their older IMOCAs. But in the fight for sixth place, they can push hard aboard their boats which are very similar. Life is good for them. I can’t see Arnaud Boissières catching them, so the three of them will be battling it out to the end.   Well done to Erik Nigon and the Finnish sailor, Ari Huusela, who are sailing well. Completing a Route du Rhum is an achievement, as this is a difficult race. That must be what those sailors who carried out pit stops and set off again must be telling themselves. When you take part in a race like the Route du Rhum, you really have to do your utmost to finish, even if you are way down in the rankings. Clocking up the miles sailing solo is always useful. I’m deeply disappointed for the two female skippers who were forced to retire, Isabelle Joschke and Sam Davies, as both of them have had a good season and were unable to show what they can do in the most important race of the year. They miss out on a great experience. But they need to look forward now. They are both strong and talented, so I’m not that worried about them.”   Alain Gautier ----------------- Some of Alain Gautier’s achievements - Winner of the 1992-1993 Vendée Globe - Winner of the 1989 Solitaire du Figaro - Winner of the Transat AG2R in 1996 (with Jimmy Pahun) - 2nd in the 1998 Route du Rhum - 2nd in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 1993 and 2001 Forthcoming dates with the IMOCA skippers: - Thursday 15th November: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16th November: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17th November: Gwénolé Gahinet  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Tue, 13 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT Alex Thomson continues to extend his lead in the trade winds. Now less than 1000 miles from the finish in Pointe-à-Pitre, the British skipper seems well placed, even if Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès will remain a threat until the end, while Boris Herrmann is also lying in wait. The first boat to finish in the IMOCA class is expected in Guadeloupe on Thursday night (European time). More than 700 miles behind Thomson, we are also closely watching the fascinating contest between three Finot-Conq designed boats skippered by Stéphane Le Diraison, Alan Roura and Damien Seguin. Today’s expert analysis comes from Nicolas Lunven, who gives us his personal view on the exciting Route du Rhum in the IMOCA class. “I’m surprised by the lead that Alex Thomson now has. Yesterday at noon, he was 105 miles ahead of the second-placed skipper. Today at the same time, the gap has been extended to more than 180. Paul Meilhat, Yann Eliès and Vincent Riou have had to carry out gybes under spinnaker, while Alex has been able to continue straight on. He is fast and increasing his lead, while getting well-placed strategically between the finish and his rivals. His position is looking increasingly comfortable. “Alex Thomson has had the perfect race” From the outset, Alex Thomson took up an attacking position with no compromises. He is well-known for being an attacker and that has been confirmed in this Route du Rhum. In theory, he still has an IMOCA which can more or less express her full potential. It’s not really a surprise finding him there. He is a very good sailor, has a fantastic boat aboard which he finished as runner-up in the Vendée Globe. For the moment, Alex has had the perfect race and we can be certain he will continue to attack until the end. Until now, the leading skippers have experienced squalls, which can modify the wind considerably and over long periods. According to weather charts and satellite imagery, they look like entering an area that is drier with fewer clouds and probably more stable winds, even if there will always be disturbances. In theory, Alex should be getting the same sort of conditions as those chasing him, which is good news for him. “Meilhat, Riou, Eliès: three different boat designs, but tiny gaps between them” Paul Meilhat is sailing really well, which just goes to show that straight daggerboards are not yet ready to be pensioned off. I think that he is pushing hard. We can see that in his videos and audio links. Vincent Riou dropped off for a while after the middle of last week. He seems to be up and running again now, but hasn’t managed to be faster than Paul in conditions where he ought to have been. Yann Eliès has done well to get back in the game. By positioning himself further south, when he entered the trade winds, he must have picked up more wind. It’s interesting as these three sailors are aboard three different boat designs, and yet the gap between them remains tiny. They are having a great battle. Everyone has probably had to deal with technical hitches that we don’t know about for now, but will find out about at the finish. We can then look back on the race and better understand what has been going on. “A final stretch that is like a coastal race” At the end of the race, there is the lap around Guadeloupe, which can always upset everything, as we saw with the Ultimes. If Alex Thomson manages to keep his current lead, he should be able to complete that lap without any worries. Behind him, it is likely that Paul, Vincent and Yann will continue to battle it out like that until they reach the north of the island. The final stretch along the coast of Guadeloupe to determine the podium places will be just like a coastal race. Watch out for Boris Herrmann, who is lying in wait. The four frontrunners need to avoid making any silly mistakes. Boris is having a great race for what is his first solo race in the IMOCA class. It is to his honour that he has managed to rival the leading group. “I just love Damien Seguin” I am pleasantly surprised by Damien Seguin. I love what he is doing. We must not forget that he only has one hand and is doing remarkably well against Stéphane Le Diraison and Alan Roura, competitors who are sailing IMOCAS with similar potential. They are having a great fight between each other. When you see how difficult it is to sail an IMOCA alone, I’m amazed by Damien, who is doing so well in spite of his handicap. I raise my hat to him. He has already proven in Class40 that he is a very good ocean racer. In the IMOCA class, he is going to be one to keep an eye on in the future. I’m a bit surprised that aboard a boat fitted with foils Arnaud Boissières isn’t up with the three boats ahead of him. Maybe he has some technical problems. I know Erik Nigon a bit as we sailed in the Figaro class together. He is having a nice Route du Rhum. It’s very ambitious to sail an IMOCA when you are not a professional. Four competitors set sail again yesterday and are sailing in the Bay of Biscay. I don’t know if there was some sort of agreement between them, but it’s a pretty good idea to set off again together. It means you can push hard and can be motivated. Let’s not forget either that there is in any case the matter of qualifying for the Vendée Globe, training, making progress and preparing the boat.” Nicolas Lunven ------------------------ Some of Nicolas Lunven’s achievements: - Twice winner of the Solitaire du Figaro (in 2009 and 2017) - French solo offshore champion in 2017 - 3rd in the Solitaire du Figaro in 2012 and 2016 - 2nd in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale in 2016 (with Gildas Mahé) - 3rd in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race on the Safran IMOCA (with Morgan Lagravière) - Took part in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre on the Safran IMOCA (with Morgan Lagravière) - Took part in the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race Forthcoming dates with the IMOCA skippers: - Wednesday 14th November: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15th November: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16th November: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17th November: Gwénolé Gahinet[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum of the Imoca Class]]> Mon, 12 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT After Francis Joyon’s victory in the Ultime category, the battle between the IMOCAs is in the spotlight. For behind Alex Thomson, the clear leader, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès have shown once again that in the Route du Rhum absolutely nothing is certain until the finish line is crossed. On Monday, three competitors, who were in for pit stops (Jérémie Beyou, Manuel Cousin and Romain Attanasio), set sail again and they are likely to be joined by Alexia Barrier. Out of the twenty competitors that left Saint-Malo eight days ago, sixteen are therefore racing. Today, the twice winner of the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA class, Roland Jourdain, gives us his expert analysis of the 2018 race in the same category, as well as sending his thoughts out to Francis Joyon and François Gabart… “It was a short night with the incredible show that Francis and François put on for us. I like both these sailors, although each of them has their own style. They had an amazing race. With the boat and the man himself, Francis is an example of sustainable development. That’s something that interests me, as I have been working on those matters alongside my ocean racing career. As spectators, we are also being spoilt in the IMOCA class. There is a great line-up of foilers (from various generations) and non-foilers. It’s a fascinating contest to watch. We can more or less follow what is happening live with the tracker updated every hour. The problem is that it can take up your whole day. “The leaders must be working flat out” Looking at the trade winds on the weather charts from ashore always gives the impression that it is easy sailing. That is however far from being the case, as the wind is rarely stable in strength and direction. It is often very hot, which drains your energy. The point of sail the leading boats are currently in is far from simple. Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou, Yann Eliès and indeed Boris Herrmann are sailing downwind trying to find the best VMG (Velocity Made Good, the perfect compromise between bearing and speed). This is a point of sail we don’t look forward to, particularly as you have to spend hours at the helm. Autopilots may be excellent, but they don’t offer their best performance in these conditions. You also have to plan gybes. The lads must be working flat out. Under gennaker, the boat stays on course more than under spinnaker downwind, where it can be quite scary. The rule is that the more sail you have up front, the worse you sleep. There are still a number of hurdles to avoid before the finish: the squalls as they approach the islands with all the seaweed, crab pots, and anything else that you cannot foresee in our line of work. You have to remain fully alert. “Sailing around Guadeloupe is like Chinese water torture” For the moment, Alex Thomson appears to be in control of the situation. It is true that he is unable to keep his opponents in the south and north in check at the same time. But when it is like that, you keep an eye on those that are closest, which in this case means Paul, Vincent and Yann. Alex has a strong lead, but he is going to feel the pressure on him from behind right up to the finish. As we saw with the Ultime boats, potentially everything can change. You really have to think twice before making any forecasts or saying what you think is going to happen. The more miles Alex puts between himself and his rivals by the Tête à l’Anglais island (located to the north of Basse-Terre), the better it will be for him, as sailing downwind of Guadeloupe is like the famous Chinese water torture. In 2006, when I won in the IMOCA class for the first time, I had a lead of at least 120 miles over Jean Le Cam at Tête à l’Anglais island. But with the wind shadow from the main island and the trade winds disappearing, I found myself becalmed. The wind strengthened from behind, which allowed Jean to catch up. In the end, I reached Pointe-à-Pitre just twenty minutes before him. When I crossed the line, I could already see his mast lights arriving… This year, if the same thing happens to the IMOCAs that we saw with the Ultimes last night, our blood pressure will be rising to very high levels. Until the finish, there is going to be something to keep us enthralled in terms of who wins and who makes it to the podium. “Wherever I look on the tracker, there are things to learn” It’s no surprise that we find Alex, Paul, Vincent and Yann in front. They are after all the star pupils. We would have liked to have seen Charal up with them to compare the speeds. The little group further back is logical too. It’s nice to see Alan Roura, Damien Seguin and Stéphane Le Diraison fighting it out. It’s interesting to compare three similar boats, remembering that Alan has added foils, unlike Damien and Stéphane. We’ll also see whether Arnaud Boissières with an updated boat will shine and catch them up. I don’t know Erik Nigon and Ari Huusela, so they’re a bit of surprise for me. It’s great to see them keeping up with the others like that. The wide range of backgrounds is one of the nice things about the IMOCA class. Wherever you look on the tracker, there are battles going on and there is plenty to learn. It is hard even from ashore to be detached from the Route du Rhum. From time to time, I imagine myself out there with them. It really makes me want to be out there.” Roland Jourdain -------------- Some of Roland Jourdain’s achievements in the IMOCA class - Twice winner of the Route du Rhum (in 2006 and 2010) - Three attempts at the Vendée Globe (3rd in 2000-2001) - Winner of the 2001 Transat Jacques Vabre (with Gaël Le Cléac’h) - 2nd in the 2005 Transat Jacques Vabre (with Ellen MacArthur) - 2nd in the 2003 Transat Jacques Vabre (with Alex Thomson) Forthcoming dates with the IMOCA skippers: - Tuesday 13th November: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14th November: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15th November: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16th November: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17th November: Gwénolé Gahinet    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum of the Imoca Class]]> Sun, 11 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT With the final outcome being decided in the Ultime category tonight, the leading IMOCAs are about to cross the halfway point in the Route du Rhum. Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès may finish in Pointe-à-Pitre before next weekend. The battle is raging and while the British sailor will be difficult to beat, everything is still to play for. With Fabrice Amedeo setting sail again after his pit stop, there are now twelve IMOCAs on their way towards Guadeloupe. However, Isabelle Joschke has unfortunately officially announced her retirement. Today (Sunday), Charlie Dalin offers us his expert analysis and gives us his personal take on the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA class. “The first four are today the only ones sailing downwind to the south of the high. It looks like they are experiencing lots of squalls. We can see that in their videos and in the satellite images, but also if we look at their trajectories, which are not very even. As is often the case, the trade winds seem irregular in strength and direction. Alex, Paul, Vincent and Yann have lots of work to do aboard. This is far from smooth sailing. They have to keep changing their trajectory and have to keep trimming. “Finding the perfect compromise between the spinnaker and gennaker” It’s not that simple, as they are sailing in wind strengths, where on paper they could be using the spinnaker, but where they could make do with thegennaker, if they luff up a little. They have to find the perfect compromise between those two. The spinnaker is a vital sail, which allows you to sail fairly low and reduce the number of changes of tack. But it is also a fragile sail, which is fairly easy to tear. When you are under spinnaker in an IMOCA, you have to spend a lot of time at the helm to ride the surf and get the boat moving again. Under gennaker, the boat doesn’t slow down and stays on track and the autopilot does its job. You can be fast, while enjoying some rest. But the angle is tighter. In the coming days, the trade winds are going to strengthen and I think that the leaders will no longer be asking that question and will sail under gennaker, as when the wind gets above 22 knots, you furl up the spinnaker. “Alex Thomson is ideally placed for what lies ahead” Alex Thomson is often quicker than those chasing him. Hugo Boss really accelerates away while keeping an angle away from the wind. Alex is ideally placed for what lies ahead. Between now and the finish in Guadeloupe, the wind will swing around between 30 and 40 degrees towards the right. Alex is well placed for that wind shift. Even if in theory, he is making the most of lighter and more irregular winds than his rivals further south, it is going to be hard to overtake him. He appears to have the situation under control. He will be trying to maintain his position and gybe at the same time as the others. The first boats are due to finish between 15th and 16th November. So, they have four or five days of sailing left and the battle will continue to rage. “The first 48 hours of a race are key, even when you are talking about a transatlantic race” Once again, we saw that the first 48 hours of racing were key. That is the case even when we are talking about a transatlantic race, as those in front often make their getaway. The low–pressure area they experienced on the first night really sorted them out. Paul Meilhat dealt perfectly with this first hurdle and today, he is up there among the frontrunners. Paul has sailed really well since the start. His boat is a good all-rounder, which seems to be useful in the Route du Rhum. It’s really surprising that Vincent Riou, in conditions where on paper he was faster than Paul, got left behind. We’ll have to wait until the finish for him to reveal what was going on. Either he has broken something, or he had to slow down to carry out repairs and has now regained his full potential. For the rest of the race, there won’t be any reaching (wind on the beam). The leaders are sailing in a point of sail, where it is harder to tell the difference between a foiler and non foiler. “Boris Herrmann made the right choice” Seeing that he was positioned way off to the west and the ridge of high pressure was expanding, Boris Herrmann’s way through to the trade winds was blocked off. Even if psychologically, it wasn’t easy for him, he had no other real option but to tack back up to the NW and sail upwind in strong winds. If he had continued towards the south, he would have run into the wall. He made the right choice. Shortly, he should find himself on the correct side of the high and will get back in line behind the four frontrunners, but in front of the boats off to the east. Boris is doing well in his first solo transatlantic race. According to my route planner, I see him finishing a little under 24 hours after the first group. “Sailing out at sea for a long time is the best way to get to grips with an IMOCA” For the group further east, the door slammed in their face after Yann Eliès made it through. The group led by Stéphane Le Diraison and Alan Roura have been battling it out in the ridge of high pressure since the latitude of Madeira. Stéphane and Alan are still north of the ridge of high pressure and have yet to reach the “windward mark.” They are a long way back now in comparison to the leaders and the gap will continue to widen. But gradually, the ridge will shrink away and this evening they should pick up a 15-20 knot northerly wind and their speed should climb. The competitors who stopped to carry out repairs are gradually setting off again. It can’t be easy getting back in a race so far behind the others. But those who are able to do so are right to be setting sail again. The Route du Rhum is the most important race of the year in the IMOCA circuit. They will be able to make the most of some fine days of downwind sailing. On these boats, it is vital to clock up the miles. Sailing out at sea for a long time is the best way to get to grips with an IMOCA.” Charlie Dalin --------------------- Charlie Dalin’s achievements - 3rd in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre in the IMOCA category (with Yann Eliès) - 4 times on the podium of the Solitaire du Figaro (2nd in 2014, 2015, 2016; 3rd in 2017) - French elite solo offshore racing champion in 2014 and 2016 - Winner of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale in 2012 (with Gildas Morvan) - Sailing and work with the technical team on the Brit Air IMOCA (Armel Le Cléac’h) in 2010 - 2nd in the Transat 6.50 la Rochelle – Salvador da Bahia in 2009 Forthcoming dates with the IMOCA skippers: - Monday 12th November: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13th November: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14th November: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15th November: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16th November: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17th November: Gwénolé Gahinet  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum of the Imoca Class]]> Sat, 10 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT On the sixth day of racing in the Route du Rhum, British skipper Alex Thomson is still leading the fleet of IMOCAs. In the trade winds, he is being chased by three skippers, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès. It looks like being a fascinating battle right up to the finish in Pointe-à-Pitre. For the moment, there are still 2000 miles left to sail and we may not have heard the last from Boris Herrmann, who chose a northerly option. Further back, a contest between three skippers sailing Finot-Conq designed baots from the 2008 generation is equally exciting with a possible top five place for Stéphane Le Diraison, Alan Roura or Damien Seguin... Today, it’s twice winner of the Vendée Globe, Michel Desjoyeaux, who gives us his expert analysis of the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA class. “At the start, there was a choice that was not easy to make between an option close to the Great Circle route in strong winds and heavy seas or a longer route offering greater certainty about the pace it would be able to keep up. Alex Thomson went for the first option and was successful. At one point, his lead became considerable when we looked at the theoretical route planners without taking into account the sea state. But in practice, when Alex was in the north in heavier seas, he didn’t manage to keep up the pace indicated on the route planner. That was when we saw that the southerly option was a wise one. “It’s going to be hard to catch Alex Thomson” However, Alex coped very well and was a bit lucky when passing through the ridge of high pressure, which enabled him to position himself in front of Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès. I think that Alex is the one who is really on the attack in the trade winds. He is pushing hard. Now that he is in front he wants to increase his lead. I sometimes ask myself how he manages to speed along like that. He is managing to keep up high speeds without losing in terms of VMG (Velocity Made Good, the compromise between bearing and speed),which is astonishing, as his boat is a bit heavier than the others. It’s going to be hard to catch him. Before the start he talked about the Bretons being the best in the world and is probably determined to try to do better than them… If the trade winds aren’t too strong, we’ll be seeing a race where speed is everything between the first three (Thomson, Meilhat, Riou). Yann Eliès is a bit further back and it will probably be difficult for him to catch up in conditions where his boat does not have a greater potential than the others. “I think that PRB has a problem on the starboard tack” I think that PRB has a problem on the starboard tack, maybe a damaged foil or maybe it cannot be pushed out. Or maybe Vincent cannot adjust it as he would like. It could also be a problem with the keel. In several phases, Vincent was unable to keep up the pace on the starboard tack racing against Paul, in conditions where he didn’t need to ease off on the gas. I would not be surprised at the finish in Guadeloupe to discover that something is wrong aboard PRB. When that happens, there are two schools of thought in terms of communication. There is the school of thought we saw with Ellen MacArthur, who only talked when something was broken and never when she was carrying out repairs. Then, there is the school of thought that prefers to be more discreet and even keep everything hidden. I know something about that way of doing things, as you may have seen… “A faultless performance from Paul Meilhat” Paul Meilhat is having a fantastic crossing. I haven’t seen him make any mistakes. In strong winds, he coped with the conditions and kept up the pace. As far as I know, he doesn’t have any major problems, maybe a few minor worries like everyone, but nothing serious. Physically, he is far from being exhausted and remains clear-headed, which is very promising for what lies ahead. It was important to reach this point in the race while remaining in relatively good shape, as you have to spend a lot of time at the helm in the trade winds, which are far from offering smooth sailing and require a careful approach. For Paul, this Route du Rhum offers a great opportunity to show what he can do and to show off his skill, especially as he is getting to the end of his contract with SMA, and this may encourage a sponsor to look more closely at him. “We need to keep an eye on Boris Herrmann” There is still a great deal of uncertainty about Boris Herrmann up north, who defiantly remains close to the Great Circle route. If he manages to get across the ridge of high pressure which is blocking his path, he may well upset things for the four racing in the south. It would be very surprising, as his option is not what we usually see, but why not? We need to keep an eye on him. For Alex, Paul, Vincent and Yann, there is little they can do before Boris gets down with them sometime on Sunday night. “Crossing the Atlantic has not become a routine trip” Further back, Stéphane Le Diraison, Alan Roura and Damien Seguin are suffering more with the ridge of high pressure, which is tending to move down with them. They are doing what they can and having a fine race. Alan got off to a very good start early in the race. Since he has been downwind in light winds, he is probably suffering more with his foils. Stéphane has done well to look after the gear in the strong winds. What an incredible performance from Damien! Holding on in such nasty conditions where really you need two hands to hold on tight, when you only have one, is incredible. Well done! We knew that he was someone who shows determination and is full of energy. Arnaud Boissières is doing what we have come to expect from him. He isn’t really going on the attack much, but he is still sailing. It’s going to be tough to catch the three ahead of him. But as Morgan Lagravière said yesterday, it’s already an achievement to be out there sailing still. They should enjoy themselves. People tend to think that crossing the Atlantic has become routine, but it is still far from that. I should add that so far there have only been three boats retiring in the IMOCA class (Sam Davies, Louis Burton and Yannick Bestaven), and probably a fourth shortly with Isabelle Joschke, who dismasted. That’s a very reasonable figure out of the twenty boats at the start. Five competitors are due to set sail again shortly after their pit stops. We sailors always show determination.” Michel Desjoyeaux     Michel Desjoyeaux’s achievements in the IMOCA class - Twice winner of the Vendée Globe (in 2000-2001 and 2008-2009) - Winner of the 2007 Transat Jacques Vabre (with Emmanuel Le Borgne) - Winner of the Istanbul Europe Race in 2009 - 6th in the 2010 Route du Rhum - Took part in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race (with François Gabart)     Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum of the Imoca Class]]> Fri, 09 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT On Friday, eleven IMOCAs are continuing to race towards Guadeloupe. While Yannick Bestaven has unfortunately been forced to retire, Jérémie Beyou, Alexia Barrier, Fabrice Amedeo, Manuel Cousin and Romain Attanasio intend to set sail again after carrying out pit stops. At the front of the fleet, four skippers are sailing in the trade winds and are now battling it out to win this race. Unless there are some major upsets, Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès are in contention for victory. Behind them, other battles are raging for places further down the rankings. Today, Morgan Lagravière gives us his expert analysis of the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA class. “As we might have expected, Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès have managed to weave their way to the south of the ridge of high pressure, which will block the path for those following them. The leaders are about to enter the real trade NE’ly winds and so will be making their getaway. For the sailors who are furthest south, conditions on board their boats have markedly improved. They must be feeling a real sense of relief. But even in the trade winds, you need to keep your wits about you to avoid any incidents. The race can always come to an end as fast as you can snap your fingers. It just takes one case of rounding up or broaching. In terms of the race itself, there are still some important elements to deal with, and all four frontrunners will be piling the pressure on each other. They will be pushing their boats hard and right to their own personal limits. They really need to be careful, as the first part of the race has left its mark on the boats and the men. “Paul Meilhat, far from being an outsider” I’m not surprised at all about Paul Meilhat’s performance. Since the start of the Route du Rhum, the competitors have often been sailing in conditions tending to favour an IMOCA with straight daggerboards. There has been a lot of upwind sailing and for a short while now, the leaders have cranked up their VMG (a compromise between bearing and speed) sailing downwind. This is once again a configuration that is favourable for a boat with daggerboards. It’s somewhat surprising even that the IMOCAs with foils, particularly Alex’s which is not designed for upwind racing, have managed to do so well. Paul knows the way, as he won the Transat AG2R on his Figaro (sailing between Concarneau in Brittany and Saint-Barth). He is also one of the IMOCA skippers who have sailed the most miles over the past few years. So it is quite normal that he has ended up in this position. He is well placed to do well in the trade winds and win the Route du Rhum. Paul is far from being an outsider. Everything still remains wide open and hopes remain high for Alex Thomson, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès. All about compromising The strategy for what lies ahead is going to be interesting to watch. The route to Pointe-à-Pitre has them with the wind directly astern, so they are going to have to plan their gybes. In general, the further south you are, the further you are from the influence of the high and the more stable the trade wind. Various routes are possible. To sum up, either they can choose to dive further south, which means sailing further, but in stronger trade winds. Or they can attempt to cut across higher up, but where there is not so much wind. The cogs in their heads must be whirring, as the leaders are going to have to take a decision shortly. It’s all about compromising. Paul’s trajectory may well differ from the three competitors chasing him. Having a foil is not always a bonus. In some conditions, it acts as a brake more than anything. To be efficient and accelerate away, the foilers have to have a wider angle to their trajectory. It’s a matter of determining whether the gain in speed can compensate for the longer route… That will largely depend on the strength of the trade wind. If the wind strengthens a lot, the IMOCAs with foils will be able to fly and will be in with a good chance. It’s very interesting, as each boat is different and they don’t have the same ideal performance range. So, each sailor will have to decide how to sail with what they have at their disposal, while taking into account the technical specifics of their boat. “If you’re still in the race, it’s already an achievement” Further back, Boris Herrmann attempted a bold option, but I can’t see how he can benefit from it, as the ridge of high pressure is blocking his path and is wider out west. I can’t see any alternative for him. Having said that, he is still racing, which is already quite an achievement. Lots of very good sailors have had to stop and those who withstood such tough conditions deserve our respect, whether they are first or last. A nice little group has formed with Stéphane Le Diraison, Alan Roura, Damien Seguin and Arnaud Boissières. The leaders in this group will shortly run into the ridge of high pressure and slow down, which should allow Arnaud to narrow the gap. They will probably be all bunched up together when they pick up the trade winds. This is going to be a great contest to watch further back in the race. For them, it must be quite stimulating to be sailing so close together. Being near other boats is reassuring and allows you to push harder. They are clocking up useful experience and enjoying themselves. And they are fighting it out for fifth place in the Route du Rhum, which is quite something in any case. They are having a fine race. “The variety within the IMOCA class is one of its strengths” I’m also watching Erik Nigon and Ari Huusela. I don’t know them personally, but I can see that for rookies in the IMOCA class, they are certainly putting on a good show. This first solo transatlantic race will probably be something that stays with them. The variety of backgrounds, racing careers and generations is one of the strong features of the IMOCA class. The competitors may not have the same standard out on the water, but they are each involved in their own race and have a great story to tell. That variety is one of its strengths.” Morgan Lagravière     Morgan Lagravière’s achievements in the IMOCA class - Took part in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe - 2 attempts at the Transat Jacques Vabre (3rd in 2017 with Eric Péron) - 9th in the 2016 Transat New York/Vendée - 4th in the 2015 Transat Saint-Barth/Port-la-Forêt - 3rd in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race     Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Saturday 10thNovember: Michel Desjoyeaux - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Thu, 08 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT Out of the twenty IMOCA skippers who set sail four days ago from Saint-Malo, twelve are continuing on their way towards Pointe-à-Pitre after Yannick Bestaven set off again today from Cascais.While only two competitors have officially retired (Louis Burton and Sam Davies), five others are carrying out pit stops, while Isabelle Joschke is aiming to return to Brittany after dismasting. A group of four are out in front comprising Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès, while Boris Herrmann is attempting a more extreme option. Today, it is Jean Le Cam’s turn to give us his view of the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA class. “In the next few hours, Alex Thomson, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès will have to deal with a ridge of high pressure before picking up the trade winds. They should make it across to the south of this ridge without having too many problems. It is going to be more complicated for those chasing them, as the way through is about to close… “Very little between them when they get out of the ridge” Alex Thomson is still benefiting from his westerly option and is galloping away in the lead. He has always gone for extreme options and in this Route du Rhum was the only skipper to pass the Ushant TSS via the north, even though that meant even more unpleasant and demanding wind and sea conditions. He has clocked up some incredible speeds and managed to head back south at the right moment. He has repositioned himself, as he now needs to get below the area of high pressure. It is logical that the gap from east to west between him and his rivals has narrowed. Alex, Paul, Vincent and Yann will be getting plenty of wind and taking advantage of downwind conditions today. The wind will slowly come around and those who are further south may well gain a small advantage. But I think that in the end, there won’t be much between them when they leave the ridge of high pressure behind them. In my opinion, three of these four sailors will make it to the podium at the finish. “Four skippers in great form, a fantastic match” Once they have passed the ridge of high pressure, it will be all about speed between these skippers, who appear in great form. Yann Eliès is very consistent. He is always fast and knows his boat well. The same goes for Vincent Riou, even if he does not have quite as much experience of his PRB as a foiler. In any case, it is clear that he is able to sail quickly. What more can I say about Alex Thomson? Paul Meilhat is performing very well with his boat equipped with straight daggerboards. In the trade winds, it will logically be harder for him and he is likely to lose ground to the IMOCAs fitted with foils. But having seen what he has already achieved, we may well be in for another surprise. It will also depend on whether the other boats are still fully capable or not. It may well be that some have problems they are not talking about… In any case, we’re in for a fantastic match. As they get further south, the sailors will be able to enjoy themselves more. It is really a weight off your shoulders when you have more decent conditions and downwind sailing. You can breathe again, get everything dry, get some rest, look around the boat and repair what needs to be repaired. On these boats, there’s always something to be done. Having said that, you mustn’t run away with the idea that the trade winds are always steady, as there can be squalls. It is more relaxed, but it is not really smooth sailing either. “Proud of backing Damien Seguin” For the moment, Boris Herrmann is still in second place in the rankings, as he is close to the direct route, but in theory, that will change in the next 24 hours. In my opinion, heading off west was a good option early in the race, but it is less interesting now. Boris is still a long way north. He will have strong winds until he slams into the ridge of high pressure. Over the next 24 hours, this ridge will become settled blocking the path. The first four will manage to make their getaway, but it will be harder for the little group chasing after them comprising Stéphane Le Diraison, Alan Roura and Damien Seguin. All three have had a very nice race. I’m particularly pleased with Damien Seguin’s position, as I’ve been supporting him. His performance is remarkable, particularly when you see that he is sailing with sails that were used in the last Vendée Globe. It looks like he hasn’t had too many problems aboard, and he is doing well for his first transatlantic race on an IMOCA. I’m proud of him.” Jean Le Cam ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some ofJean Le Cam’s achievements in the IMOCA class: . 4 attempts at the Vendée Globe (2ndin 2004-2005, 5thin 2012-2013, 6thin 2016-2017) . Winner of the 2014-2015 Barcelona World Race (with Bernard Stamm) . Winner of the 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre (with Vincent Riou) . 2nd in the 2006 Route du Rhum   Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Friday 9thNovember: Morgan Lagravière - Saturday 10thNovember: Michel Desjoyeaux - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Wed, 07 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT Early on, two major options became possible, as they left the English Channel behind them. Alex Thomson set off on a northerly route straight into the heavy weather. The others chose a route further south with Vincent Riou and Paul Meilhat leading the way. They wanted to avoid the worst of the low-pressure system. When the cold front passed over, the competitors encountered some tough conditions with strong winds and chaotic seas. Even though the wind angle should have enabled them to sail at speed, the sea state led them to be more cautious and apply the brakes. The weather on their side The sailors have had three very hard days. Now, they must really want the weather to be on their side as quickly as possible to be able to enjoy some more pleasant sailing conditions. What they have to do now is deal with the area of high pressure which is stretching out in front of them. The leaders of the group that took the southern option (Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès) have left the really bad weather behind them. From this evening, the wind will gradually swing around and they should be able to round the high via the east during the night or tomorrow morning. Very soon, they will be able to hoist the downwind sails and start to speed along. They need to plan a gybe at some point and they will zig-zag around the high to pick up stronger trade winds probably on Friday morning. “Alex Thomson’s brain must be working overtime” The situation is different for Alex Thomson. He still has winds that are stronger than his rivals. In the coming hours, he will have to make a very important decision about how to proceed in the race. In fact, it will all be down to the position of the high. If he sees he can get through straight ahead, if the angle leaves him enough wind, he can maintain the gap he has from Vincent and Paul, who are further south-east. In that case, he won’t suffer too much, but the closer you are to the high, the lighter the wind. If the high prevents him from continuing straight ahead and the route gets blocked, he will have gone a long way north for nothing. He will then have to head back north again or get in line behind his main rivals. Alex’s brain must be working overtime, as it’s not an easy choice to make. At the moment, he is probably spending a lot of time at the nav desk. In any case, all that is fascinating to watch from ashore. There are bound to be a lot of details we’re missing here sitting at our desk. We’ll only find them out at the end of the race. Not surprised by the damage” The first three days of racing sorted out the fleet, as is often the case in this sort of race. We knew it was going to be tough on the boats and the sailors. I’m not surprised that there was damage in these wind conditions and on such nasty seas. There has been a wide range of technical problems, which have been more or less serious. I’m sorry for Louis Burton, who had a great start to the race, but was unable to keep going. As for Charal, she’s a brand new boat and some elements couldn’t have been tested before the race due to the lack of time. When that is the case, you find things out, when you start to push hard. The IMOCAs have had problems, but one thing stands out. Even after suffering such damage, the sailors are able to make their own way home with their boats. A lot of work was done by the class to ensure they were safer. “The surprises for me: Paul Meilhat, Alan Roura and Ari Huusela” Paul Meilhat is keeping up with the IMOCAs fitted with foils. Well done! He is an incredible racer and his boat was well built. Alan Roura has also had a fantastic start to the race and is well placed. He is someone who hangs on in there and finds what it takes to do well. Another surprise for me comes from a sailor I didn’t know at all beforehand, the Finnish skipper Ari Huusela. I am discovering him in this Route du Rhum. The race doesn’t look easy for him, but he seems to be able to cope. Not all of the skippers have left the problems of the heavy weather behind them. My thoughts go out to them. They need to remain focused and sail cautiously.” Bernard Stamm --------------------------------------------------------------------------------   Some of Bernard Stamm’s achievements in the IMOCA class - Winner of two solo round the world races with stopovers (Around Alone in 2002-2003 and the Velux 5 Oceans in 2006-2007) - Winner of the 2014-2015 Barcelona World Race with Jean Le Cam - 3 attempts at the Vendée Globe - 3rdin the 2007 Transat Jacques Vabre     Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Thursday 8th November: Jean Le Cam - Friday 9thNovember: Morgan Lagravière - Saturday 10thNovember: Michel Desjoyeaux - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Tue, 06 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT After Isabelle Joschke’s boat was dismasted during the night, Romain Attanasio announced this lunchtime that he was turning back, as his sails have suffered a lot of damage. Still led by British stalwart, Alex Thomson, fourteen IMOCAs are continuing on their way to Pointe-à-Pitre in chaotic and testing conditions. Today, it is Thomas Ruyant’s turn to give us his personal analysis of what is happening in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in the IMOCA class. “As sailors, we never like to get hit hard from the outset of a race with such tough conditions. Unfortunately, this leads to a sort of natural selection. We know that in this type of transatlantic race, a lot is decided in the first three days of racing, as that is when the major strategic options are taken. The first hurdle was dealing with a trough extending from an area of low pressure 24 hours after the start. Those who kept going straight ahead made it through, like Vincent (Riou), Paul Meilhat and Alan Roura. Those who changed tack lost some ground, like Yann Eliès, Boris Herrmann and Sam Davies. With his option outside of the Ushant Traffic Separation Scheme, Alex Thomson was already way out west and suffered less in this complex weather system. “Alex Thomson going wherever the will takes him and is going all out with his options” Alex Thomson’s position now seems to be very interesting. He sought out the wind shift. That doesn’t surprise me. Alex sails like that wherever the will takes him and goes all out with his options. I find it very interesting to watch such strategies as they appeal to me. In a transatlantic race, you can benefit a lot by making gains westward early in the race. They are easy miles after that. One degree of longitude at the latitude of Ushant is equivalent to 40 miles. The same degree of longitude at the latitude of the Cape Verde Islands represents fifty miles… The key for Alex in the next 24 hours will involve stepping up the pace in cross seas behind the front. If he manages that, I can imagine that in two days from now he will be around forty miles ahead lined up in front of his the two chasing boats skippered by Vincent Riou and Paul Meilhat, who both went for a more southerly option. The three leaders should in fact start to come together on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. We’ll then see which of them between Alex on the one hand and Vincent and Paul had the best strategy. “With each wave, we feel for the boat” Conditions are currently tricky for the IMOCAs. The wind can be dealt with fairly well, but the manoeuvres to reduce the sail are complicated, even if experienced sailors know how to deal with that. It is really the sea state that is the hardest thing to cope with. Behind the front, the seas are boiling. The seas are boat-breaking and all over the place. With Boris Herrmann, I faced similar conditions last year in the Transat Jacques Vabre. You’re slamming with each wave and it’s very wet. You get the impression that the boat is going to split in half and you really feel for her… When that happens, you need to turn off your brain and go for it. What really matters is managing to continue to have a more or less normal life aboard, eating, taking some naps, listening to what the boat is telling you. That is what the sailors are currently going through. They all have their foot on the brake and the foils are certainly retracted. “Favourable weather conditions for the three leaders” During the evening, the swell will build again reaching seven or eight metres, but it will be more regular. Conditions should allow high speed sailing. From the middle of the night and especially tomorrow morning, the wind should start to ease, but the seas will remain heavy. The three frontrunners should be getting away from the low-pressure system and entering an area of high pressure. The situation appears to be very favourable for the three leaders. A ridge of high pressure is currently building. They are likely just about to make it through with a bit of wind. This ridge of high pressure will be much harder to cross for those chasing them. The frontrunners should extend their lead with the gaps widening. I’m also keeping an eye on what is happening behind them. I’m pleasantly surprised by Alan Roura, who is having a great race with an older IMOCA. I’m also closely watching my old friend, Boris Herrmann, who found it hard to get across the trough, but he seems to be sailing quite fast. He will soon be able to make the most of more favourable conditions for his foiler. I was very saddened to hear about Isabelle Joschke dismasting. I have seen that Romain too is turning back. Like everyone, I would have loved to have seen Charal go all the way. But I’m not really surprised as that IMOCA was only recently launched. Ocean racing is a mechanical sport and the boats require a lot of adjustments. However, I remain convinced that having launched his boat a year before all the other new IMOCAs, Jérémie Beyou will in the end have a huge advantage in terms of reliability.” Thomas Ruyant --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thomas Ruyant’s achievements in the IMOCA class :  . Took part in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe . Two attempts at the Transat Jacques Vabre (4th in 2015, 4th in 2017) . 4th in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race . Took part in the Saint-Barth/Port-La-Forêt Transatlantic Race ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Wednesday 7thNovember: Bernard Stamm - Thursday 8th November: Jean Le Cam - Friday 9thNovember: Morgan Lagravière - Saturday 10thNovember: Michel Desjoyeaux - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Route du Rhum in the Imoca Class]]> Mon, 05 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT With Alex Thomson leading the way and Jérémie Beyou suffering from some worrying steering damage, Marc Guillemot offers us his look as a specialist and gives us his personal analysis of the first day  “The sailors are experiencing a rough start to the race. It’s not easy for anyone. They have been kept busy for the last ten days in Saint-Malo. Even if from time to time, they manage to get away from all that, tiredness takes its toll and some were not at 100% of their capacity when they set sail. That can cost them dearly at the start of the race, seeing there are complicated weather conditions. Since yesterday, I have been closely following Alex Thomson’s trajectory. He was the only one to go to the north of the traffic separation scheme off Ushant. Other skippers may well have considered that option. They needed to take a decision once they had reached Bréhat. Aiming for the north of the TSS involved hoisting the spinnaker instead of the gennaker, and forcing them to carry out extra manoeuvres. With the worry of having to bring down the sail quickly if the wind got up and the danger of finding themselves entering the TSS… I put myself in the position of Alex’s rivals. We are sailing well. We can luff up with the sail we have and instead of heading to the north of the TSS, we’re tempted to go south. I cannot judge their choices, as it is far too easy to do that from ashore with your feet up. Everyone follows their route depending on how they are feeling, how the boat is and how well prepared they are. Alex Thomson’s fine strategic play​ In any case, Alex pulled off a good strategic stroke. He took a risk by moving away from the direct route, went on the attack and kept going all the way. Today, he is reaping the benefits of his investment. Hugo Boss was the first to pass to the north of the current low-pressure system, and in particular, he is well placed to deal with the next. Before the day is out, he’ll pick up a SW’ly wind and shift to the port tack, which will mean that he is ahead of the big low. He will be able to make headway southwards and westwards and in his choice of route will have more freedom than his rivals, who are sailing further east. If he needs to come around slightly in the heavy weather, he will have plenty of room without having to worry about getting too close to the coast of Spain. To sum up, the further east you are, the less favourable the position to deal with the low. As a sailor stuck in front of my computer screen, I’m watching this Route du Rhum with a great deal of interest. I’m watching in particular the close fight that is going between Vincent Riou and Paul Meilhat for second place. I can see too that Alan Roura has had a fantastic start to his race. It’s nice to see that the older boats with some determined and hard-working sailors can keep up with the best in these tough conditions. "Fighting against mountains of water" Conditions are tougher for the leaders, starting with Alex Thomson. Sailing at twenty knots in such heavy seas is no easy matter. I can imagine that Hugo Boss is under the water with Alex inside in his foulies, ready to leap outside if necessary. Given the conditions, he is probably sailing with two reefs in the mainsail and the J3 headsail. Sailing like this requires you to keep cool and remain focused. In the coming hours, conditions will be getting more complicated for everyone. Until they cross the line from the Azores-Lisbon, the sailors will be at war fighting against mountains of water. They are going to have to do their best with the boat and look after themselves, putting the rankings to one side until the race can get going again. The important thing here is getting out of the area of low pressure with a boat that can still perform well. It’s going to be hard, but they need to hold on in there. In the IMOCA class, we’re looking at professionals, who know how to deal with these conditions. But they nevertheless need to pay attention...” Marc Guillemot --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some of Marc Guillemot’s achievements in the IMOCA class: . 2 attempts at the Vendée Globe (3rd in 2008-2009) . 3 attempts at the Route du Rhum (3rd in 2010 and 2014) . 5 attempts at the Transat Jacques Vabre (winner in 2009, 2ndin 2007 and 2013) . Round Britain and Ireland crewed record (2011) . North Atlantic crossing solo record (2013) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Tuesday 6thNovember: Thomas Ruyant - Wednesday 7thNovember: Bernard Stamm - Thursday 8th November: Jean Le Cam - Friday 9thNovember: Morgan Lagravière - Saturday 10thNovember: Michel Desjoyeaux - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA skippers giving us their take on the Route Du Rhum -Destination Guadeloupe]]> Sat, 03 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT For once, as they are not competing in this edition of the Route du Rhum - destination Guadeloupe, some of the skippers in the IMOCA class will be offering their personal outlook on the race and analysing each day the race aboard the IMOCA boats. Whether they are former winners of the Route du Rhum or the Vendée Globe, like Michel Desjoyeaux or Alain Gautier, leading figures in the IMOCA class such as Jean Le Cam and Jean-Pierre Dick, or the new generation of rising stars like Thomas Ruyant, Charlie Dalin and Gwénolé Gahinet, … they have all agreed to join in and in turn offer a daily analysis of the Route du Rhum which their fellow racers in the IMOCA class will be starting on Sunday. Each day from Monday 5thNovember at around five in the afternoon, the following skippers will give us their personal take on the race, offering their comments, impressions, expressing their surprise, talking about revelations or disappointments,… with the aim of explaining and revealing the race strategy adopted by each skipper. Schedule for the involvement of IMOCA skippers: - Monday 5thNovember: Marc Guillemot - Tuesday 6thNovember: Thomas Ruyant - Wednesday 7thNovember: Bernard Stamm - Thursday 8th November: Jean Le Cam - Friday 9thNovember: Morgan Lagravière - Saturday 10thNovember: Michel Desjoyeaux - Sunday 11thNovember: Charlie Dalin - Monday 12thNovember: Roland Jourdain - Tuesday 13thNovember: Nicolas Lunven - Wednesday 14thNovember: Alain Gautier - Thursday 15thNovember: Sébastien Simon - Friday 16thNovember: Jean-Pierre Dick - Saturday 17thNovember: Gwénolé Gahinet[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[20 IMOCAs competing in the Route du Rhum: a class that is rapidly expanding]]> Wed, 31 Oct 2018 00:00:00 GMT On Sunday 4th November in Saint-Malo, 20 monohulls from the Imoca Class will be lining up at the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, the first solo event in the IMOCA Globe Series, the class’s new world championship. A record number of entrants and an exceptional and varied line-up confirm that the class is thriving and continually developing.  More good news: at least seven new boats will be lining up in the next Vendée Globe with the latest announcement coming from the Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi. 2018 Route du Rhum: the second event in the IMOCA Globe Series, the first sailed solo The Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is going to be very competitive and interesting to follow, as it is the first solo event in the IMOCA Globe Series. The IMOCA class world championship includes eight events with various weightings over the period 2018-2021. The winning skipper of the IMOCA Globe Series will be crowned world champion in 2021. Before the Route du Rhum, one double-handed race has taken place: the Monaco Globe Series, which was won by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet. This IMOCA Globe Series world championship aims to satisfy the enthusiasm of the sailors on their way to the 2020 Vendée Globe. It was necessary to offer a strong race programme to the class and maintain the interest between two editions of the solo round the world race, which marks the pinnacle of the IMOCA calendar. The events in the IMOCA Globe Series are also identified in the Notice of Race for the Vendée Globe as qualifiers and will be used to select competitors for the 2020 race. What this really means is that those sailors who qualify and cover the greatest distance in races on the official calendar will obtain their ticket for the Vendée Globe. An exceptional line-up for the Route du Rhum This is the seventh time that theIMOCA fleet has taken part in the Route du Rhum. With twenty sailors competing in the 11th edition, there have never been so many of these monohulls since they first took part back in 1994. As a comparison, there were nine IMOCAs in the previous edition in 2014.The line-up is extremely varied with in particular three women setting off and five European nationalities represented (France, Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Finland). Among the twenty skippers competing in the 2018 Route du Rhum, ten were at the start of the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. The ten others are new projects, which proves how there is a strong replenishment rate in the IMOCA class. Another fact that stands out with this edition of the Route du Rhum is the presence of ten IMOCAs fitted with foils, which represents exactly half of the fleet.  Already seven brand new boats aiming for the 2020 Vendée Globe Only one IMOCA boat from the latest generation is registered for the Route du Rhum, Jérémie Beyou’s Charal, which was launched on 21st August. But for the 2020 Vendée Globe, at least six other new monohulls will be lining up. Four skippers have already made their project official: Charlie Dalin, Sébastien Simon, Alex Thomson and Armel Tripon. The Japanese skipper, Kojiro Shiraishi will also be present in 2020 with a new generation IMOCA. He will be setting sail around the world aboard a sistership to Jérémie Beyou’s Charal. [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Another dose of R(h)um for Louis Burton]]> Wed, 24 Oct 2018 00:00:00 GMT With ten days to go to the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, twenty IMOCAs are moored up in Saint-Malo in the Duguay-Trouin dock. Among them, the local contender, Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée 2. At the age of 33, the sailor, who now lives in Saint-Malo, is getting ready to set sail in the Route du Rhum for the third time, his second on an IMOCA. Previously an outsider, Louis now has a lot of experience and a boat that allows him to be up there with the leaders. We met up with him to find out more. Louis, how do you feel about the final ten days of preparation on your home turf? “It’s very encouraging to see all the Route du Rhum competitors coming here to Saint-Malo. We feel like we’re in the middle of the celebrations. The fact that we’re right by our premises is a real advantage in terms of logistics. It is easy for us to complete the preparation of the boat and we really feel at home here. I’m going to be able to stay at home until the day of the start. That is an ideal way to get some rest and calmly finish my physical and mental preparation.” The delivery trip to the Route du Rhum pontoon wasn’t that long… “You’re right. It was pretty simple! We are based in the same dock, so we didn’t even need to worry about going through the harbour gates.” Why is this event so special for you? “My first attempt at the Route du Rhum in Class40 in 2010, was the trigger to my life changing. That was my first transatlantic crossing, and indeed my first solo race. I didn’t have any sponsor, and the project was set up very quickly with the support of those my around me. I finally met my sponsor, Bureau Vallée, a month before the start, so it was at the last minute. It was the start of a fantastic story…That was also when I first met the lady who would become my wife...” “I feel I am in control of the boat when alone” You’ve been sailing on Bureau Vallée 2 (the boat that won the last Vendée Globe) for a year and a half. How far advanced are you with the preparation? “I have done a lot of sailing on her and I really feel I am in control when sailing her alone. I must admit it still feels a bit daunting when the boat is at full speed at night. I don’t know if I‘ll ever get used to that… We have made some sensible changes to Bureau Vallée 2 and she is now where I expected her to be in terms of preparation. She’s an excellent boat. Ideally, it would have been nice to have been able to work on her to be able to adjust the rake of the foils (the angle of incidence forwards and backwards). I still find it a bit hard sailing the boat upwind and that new adjustment would really help in that point of sail. But that change is going to have to wait.” Why did you postpone that work? “Our budget is a reasonable one and spread over four years, which means we are able to carry out work gradually. Next winter, we’ll do the work to be able to adjust the rake. Then, the following winter, we’ll build and install a new pair of foils, which will probably be bigger than our current appendages. That schedule is interesting, as it will enable us to have time to observe the shape of the new foils chosen by some of our competitors. We’ll be able to analyse the solutions that really work and then, make the right technical choices at the right moment. The idea is that we’ll have a boat in the best of shape for the 2020 Vendée Globe with the aim of making it to the top five.” “I intend to push hard and give it my all” You have three new sails for the Route du Rhum: a mainsail, a J2 and a big spinnaker. Why did you go for those sails in particular? “Up until now, I have been sailing with the sails used in the Vendée Globe by Armel Le Cléac’h. They more or less had the equivalent of two round the world voyages under their belt. Some had started to get a bit tired, in particular the mainsail. The standard is so high in the IMOCA class that you just can’t set off with sails which are not in the best of shape. They are a key element in terms of performance, and are the boat’s engine. It was obvious we needed to change the mainsail. The J2 is one of the headsails most frequently used on an IMOCA. As for the big spinnaker, that is a sail that is very important in the Route du Rhum, a race, which is largely sailed downwind. Next year, we’ll renew the other sails. Then, we’ll get a completely new set before the Vendée Globe.” The line-up for the Route du Rhum is exceptional. What will your ambitions be when you set sail from Saint-Malo? “Four years ago, I finished fifth, and I’d like to do as well as that. This time the competition is tougher (Twenty skippers are lining up, as opposed to nine four years ago – editor’s note) but I have an IMOCA that is really much better. This will be my second transatlantic crossing on this boat, but the first sailing solo. I intend to push hard and give it my all to try to finish well placed in Pointe-à-Pitre, and maybe even make it to the podium. The first three or four days will be key. It’s going to be important to be in the leading group, as it will not be possible to catch up. The start of the race is going to be vital. We’re going to have to make sure we’re in good shape when we set off.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The skippers are all heart]]> Thu, 18 Oct 2018 00:00:00 GMT The sailors in the IMOCA class are men and women who are committed to various causes with messages they wish to convey and charities they wish to support to give a meaning to their projects. Various themes can be found: protecting the environment, encouraging the integration of people with handicaps, saving sick children and offering them dream opportunities, fighting against AIDS, working to ensure greater diversity and equal opportunities at school… Concerned about safeguarding the natural environment in which they work, as they can see for themselves the damage being done to the oceans, the skippers are also personally involved adopting measures at their level to help things change.   Curing and helping people deal in a better way with illness For the general public, the clearest commitment is probably what Sam Davies is doing with the Initiatives Cœur project, which supports the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque (Heart surgery) charity ( This enables children suffering from heart defects to come to France to be operated on, when they cannot be looked after in their own country. This noble cause has brought together a lot of people and attracted a great deal of support. More than 600,000 people have liked the Initiatives Cœur Facebook page. Sam Davies’s partner in life, Romain Attanasio is also supporting a charity aiming to help seriously ill children: the Rêves charity ( enables them to see their dreams come true and allows them to get away from their illness for a while, offering them encouragement and giving them the strength to fight. As for Erik Nigon, he is a loyal defender of the fight against AIDS. “I took the AIDES charity aboard my Figaro boat back in 2005 ( This is the main charity that has been fighting against AIDS,” the skipper of the IMOCA ‘Vers un monde sans Sida’ told us. Erik is backing this major charity, offering support and hope “looking forward to theelimination of the virus by 2030.”   Encouraging diversity and equal opportunities Other sailors are supporting charities concerned by wider social causes. That is the case for Manuel Cousin, who is working alongside the Coup de Pouce charity ( They work towards equal opportunities for everyone at school, whatever their social, background and the situation of their family. The basic principle behind their action is that everyone should have the right to succeed at school. Damien Seguin is a patron of the Des pieds et des mains charity (, which encourages the integration of the handicapped through sailing. Concrete measures have been put in place to convince everyone that having a handicap should not be a hurdle when entering sporting events alongside the able-bodied. In 2012, Isabelle Joschke created her own charity, Horizon mixité (, the ambition of which is to encourage diversity in sport, but also in other areas within our society. This involves ending prejudices, which unfortunately remain with us today. “As someone involved in sport, it is vital for us to tackle this subject,” stressed the sailor. “The glass ceiling for women in sailing can be found in other areas. With my career, I want to prove that it is possible to be a woman and see my dreams come true.” Environmental projects Theprotection of the oceans is at the heart of the project of five IMOCA skippers. Vincent Riou will be the ambassador for the WWF (France) ( alongside Isabelle Autissier. The bow and mainsail of his PRB are decorated with the famous panda symbolising the charity. “For some time now, I have wanted to show my commitment to the environment,” explained Vincent. “I want to spend as much time on that as possible and I hope that my modest contribution will help society to change, so that we can preserve our planet and our oceans. Protecting the oceans means protecting the whole of the planet and mankind.” Stéphane Le Diraison is conveying the message ‘Time For Oceans’ ( which is an important idea: preserving the oceans involves many different people and the commitment of institutions, firms and individual citizens. Each of us can act at our own level to contribute to the protection of the environment. “We want to take advantage of major ocean races to underline these matters get people to sign up and offer support to the message we are conveying,” declared Stéphane. As for Paul Meilhat, he is an ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation Europe ( and more particularly the Ocean Initiative project ( “Ocean initiatives involves joining together with our neighbours and friends and family to clean a lake, river or beach. It’s one moment in the year. In the spring, we all do our spring-cleaning in our homes, but we also need to do it where there is water,” explained the skipper of SMA.  The German sailor, Boris Herrmann has also come up with a programme to protect the oceans, “Ocean Challenge,” which in particular involves educating the younger generations. A very complete educational and play kit has been made available ( As for Alexia Barrier, she has set up a huge project, 4myplanet (, around four major themes: sport, education, science and technology. “During my sailing trips, I shall be collecting scientific data such as the salinity and temperature of the water on the surface. I shall be monitoring the wildlife and the presence of waste and plastics,” she explained a few weeks ago (  Small measures, major consequences? “It is high time we changed our way of doing things, but it is not merely by saying that we need to change things that this will happen. We change things by working from the inside, with an upbeat tone and with our own personal involvement.” Like Paul Meilhat, the other skippers in the IMOCA class act in their daily life adopting simple but effective measures. Alan Roura and Sam Davies told us that they no longer drink from single-use plastic containers, preferring stainless steel beakers. “It’s hard as I travel around a lot, but it is possible if we make the effort,” explained Sam. Damien Seguin also acts in favour of sustainable development. When a piece of his equipment no longer works, he checks first to make sure it cannot be repaired rather than buying new gear. In that way, he avoids unnecessary expense and at the same time produces less waste. Regularly, Romain Attanasio sets off with his son, Ruben, to clean up a beach. Erik Nigon goes to work on his bike, a 45-minute journey, which offers him some physical exercise, while carrying out a useful measure for the planet. Stéphane Le Diraison has adopted a strict approach to dealing with waste and buys loose products without packaging. He also tries to reduce the time he spends in the shower. All of these individual cases may seem banal, but if they were adopted by the whole of the population, there would be a vast improvement. Each of us can on a personal level play our part in protecting the environment. The IMOCA supports “Ocean As Common”, an appeal for the ocean to be seen as a common good for mankind Launched byCatherine Chabaud, the first woman to complete the solo round the world voyage in a race in the 1996 Vendée Globe, the appeal for the ocean to be seen as a common good for mankind ( ), echoes the concerns of the sailors. That is the reason why the IMOCA class  decided to support the appeal launched on 8th June in Monaco during World Ocean Day and within the context of the launch of the IMOCA Globe Series.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[In 2020, Yannick Bestaven will return to the Vendée Globe with Maître CoQ ]]> Wed, 10 Oct 2018 00:00:00 GMT Unlucky in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, when he was forced to retire early in the race, Yannick Bestaven will have another chance to complete the solo round the world voyage in 2020. Thanks to the support of Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou’s former sponsor, the experienced skipper from La Rochelle will take part in the races in the calendar for the IMOCA Globe Series. In Saint-Malo on 4th November, he will line up at the start of his third Route du Rhum, his first on an IMOCA, aboard the 2006 Farr-designed boat on which he finished fifth in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year with Kito de Pavant. We met up with him to find out more.   Yannick, how does it feel to have a new headline sponsor for your project? “It feels great, of course. I haven’t had the opportunity to prepare for a Vendée Globe since 2008 with (Yves Parlier’s former Aquitaine Innovations, editor’s note). It’s been quite some time now that I have wanted to return to this race. But we all know how hard it is to set up these projects. I fully appreciate now how lucky I am to be able to benefit from this partnership, as this allows me to look ahead, compete on a reliable boat that I have already got to grips with and with such a huge partner as Maître CoQ, who knows the score. It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ sponsored Jérémie in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, editor’s note).”   Unlike for the 2008-2009 edition of the Vendée Globe, this time you will have plenty of time to prepare… “Exactly. In 2008, I set off with few means and a project that was put together at the last moment. On top of that, a major sponsor dropped me three months before the start. I fought hard to be able to line up in Les Sables-d’Olonne, but by then, I was already exhausted. Being forced to retire in 2008 so early on was a failure that kept nagging at me and I still think about it today (Yannick’s boat was dismasted in the Bay of Biscay, just thirty hours into the race). I certainly don’t want to have to go through all that again. For the 2020 race, I have the funding and the time to do things well. Preparing is going to feel much more relaxed this time.”   “I won’t be fitting foils on my current boat” You know your IMOCA well – a Farr design built by Vincent Riou (PRB) for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, which then passed into the hands of Arnaud Boissières in 2012 and Tanguy de Lamotte in 2016. Is that a major advantage? “Yes, of course. Thanks to the support of a group of investors, I bought this boat from Tanguy de Lamotte at the end of the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe and I have been sailing on her for a year and a half. This IMOCA was well thought out by Vincent Riou. I love being on board her, as she feels great. To start off with, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but I soon got to grips with her and found my feet. With Kito de Pavant, we took advantage of the experience of the Transat Jacques Vabre last year to do some real work on her and remove everything that was not necessary to save weight and to adapt the  IMOCA to my requirements.” Do you intend to follow your rivals and carry out work to replace the straight daggerboards with foils? “Ultimately, I’d love to sail aboard a boat withfoils, but I won’t be fitting them to my current boat. It takes around 500,000 euros to carry out that huge modification, but that doesn’t mean I would win races... I don’t think it is interesting to spend so much money to move up a couple places in the Vendée Globe. I prefer to sail my boat as she is, as she is already great. In the Transat Jacques Vabre with Kito, we managed to finish in the Top 5 leaving two foilers behind us (Initiatives-Cœur and Bureau Vallée 2).” Is it still possible to think about buying a foiler from the last but one generation? “If the opportunity arises and the sponsor agrees, I would not hesitate. I am a keen competitor and it would of course please me no end to be up there with the frontrunners.” “I really have to get to know the Southern Ocean” What are your goals as you prepare for the Route du Rhum? “My first goal is to make it to Guadeloupe with a lot done to qualify for the Vendée Globe. A lot of sailors would like to compete in the 2020 race and there will only be thirty places. Finishing in the top half of the rankings would be a pleasing outcome. Now, we can more or less confirm that there are two types of IMOCA: the foilers and the ‘vintage’ boats. I will be doing my utmost to make sure there aren’t any boats with straight daggerboards ahead of me, apart from Paul Meilhat, who really stands head and shoulders above the rest, and I’d like to see a few foilers finish after me.” Taking into account your retirement early on in the 2008 race, do you think you’ll feel like a rookie when you take part in the Vendée Globe? “Yes. I don’t really feel that I have taken part in the Vendée Globe. I just lined up at the start. I was dismasted much too early on, so I didn’t see anything in this solo round the world voyage, apart from the pre-race atmosphere. I have already completed a lot of solo Atlantic crossings, but I have never sailed in the Southern Ocean. I don’t know that part of the world and I really need to discover what it’s like. The 2008 race stayed with me for a long time. I had made so many personal and financial sacrifices that I really believed dismasting was profoundly unjust. But I’ll be getting another chance in 2020…“  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Details revealed about the crewed round the world race aboard IMOCAs]]> Fri, 05 Oct 2018 00:00:00 GMT Accessible to interested teams since 1st October, the preliminary version of the Sailing Instructions for the next crewed round the world race with stopovers (previously known as the Volvo Ocean Race) has given us an insight into this event, which will take place in 2021-2022. The race will include two types of boat: IMOCAs with foils (launched after 2010 and which will be sailed by five or six people) for the overall title and one-design VO65s competing for the Youth Challenge Trophy, which will reward the top youngsters.   “The Fully Crewed Around the World Race (FCAWR) is the working name for the event, which will take over from the Volvo Ocean Race (the former Whitbread Round the World Race).” This is how the preliminary version of the Sailing Instructions begins for the next crewed round the world race with stopovers, which will be raced both on IMOCAs with foils and one-design VO65s. “This draft document marks the first stage of many. It will allow us to open discussions with the interested teams,” explained Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA class. ”We can’t wait to continue our work with the organisers of the race to create a fantastic event. In the coming weeks and months, we will in particular be working on controlling costs, which is a key problem that needs to be discussed,” A general idea of the calendar and the course have been revealed While we are going to have to wait a while to find out all the details concerning the dates of the various legs and where the stopovers will take place, the preliminary Notice of Race presents the general outline. The first thing we learn is that registrations open on 11th December 2018. As for the race calendar itself, we have learnt that the first in-port races and the start of the first leg will take place in Alicante (Spain) in late autumn 2021. The race will include a maximum of nine legs. Up to eight intermediate stopovers may be organised with at least one stopover in the following countries: South America, Australia/New Zealand, Asia, the United States and Europe (where the event will finish early in the autumn of 2022). IMOCAs launched since 2010 and fitted with foils with crews of five or six people The teams racing aboard the IMOCAs will be competing for the overall title. Only boats launched after 2010 will be admitted and they will have to be fitted with foils and a standard wing mast. “In a race with stopovers, because of the constraints imposed by the schedule, it is necessary to ensure the boats in the fleet are similar to each other to avoid large gaps developing at the finish. That is why we have published this rule concerning the launch date On top of that, thanks to that limit, all of the teams will be in with a chance of performing well,”explained Antoine Mermod. For the in-port races, as for the offshore legs, the crew (excluding the media man) will be comprised of five people, including at least one woman. It will be possible to take six aboard, as long as there are at least four women on board. “Here too, we had to find the right balance,” stressed Antoine Mermod. “Sailors from the Volvo Ocean Race wanted larger crews, while those from IMOCA racing would have liked to see fewer people on board. We think we have found the perfect compromise.” 16 to 18 IMOCAs eligible, 10 to 15 hopefully at the start Looking at the existing IMOCAs and those currently being built, between sixteen and eighteen boats will meet the conditions to be able to compete in the 2021-2022 edition of the crewed race around the world. “Our aim is to bring together a fleet of between ten and fifteen IMOCAs for this event,” announced Antoine Mermod. “We are working hand in hand with the various teams. Everyone is getting very excited and that should pay off.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Gildas Morvan takes a look at the IMOCA class]]> Tue, 25 Sep 2018 00:00:00 GMT An experienced sailor having in particular taken part 21 times in the demanding Solitaire du Figaro, Gildas Morvan was assistant to the race director, Jacques Caraës at the Azimut Challenge last weekend in Lorient. He was able to take a close look at the performance of the various IMOCAs taking part. He gives us his analysis of the event and more generally look at the class as an expert and outsider.  Gildas Morvan has an exceptional experience of Figaro racing, having taken part 21 times in the Solitaire du Figaro (second in 2008, third in 1999, 2000, 2001), four times French offshore solo racing champion (2000, 2008, 2009, 2013), and winner of the Transat AG2R (with Charlie Dalin in 2012). He also shone on other boats in particular on IMOCAs with Roland Jourdain and Jean Le Cam (4th in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2007).  As a keen observer of racing, he was able to watch the sailors and their boats to see how they performed. Here is his analysis.    A lively class “The IMOCA class is doing well and is very lively. It always brings together a great fleet of boats at each event on its calendar. We saw that at the Azimut Challenge where there were 15 boats and there will be around twenty for the Route du Rhum. Theprogramme is developing and the new class world championship (the IMOCA Globe Series) is interesting, as it encourages the sailors to sail more between two editions of the Vendée Globe. It’s interesting in terms of racing, but also in terms of safety, as the skippers will be able to compete in the solo round the world race having gained a lot of experience.” The foils proved how efficient they were in the Vendée Globe “When Safran, the first IMOCA with foils, was launched in 2015, there were people who remained sceptical. Everyone believed that these appendages would be a bonus in terms of performance, but there were doubts about their reliability and their ability to withstand a round the world race. In the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, four foilers took the top four spots. And Alex Thomson even finished second after breaking a foil fairly early on in the race. The Vendée Globe set the tone. The foils proved they were efficient.”    Big foils versus little foils “In the Azimut Challenge, we were able to see the latest changes to foils on PRB and Charal, which have bigger and longer foils, which raise the boats up even more enabling them even to take off. It’s not down to chance if in the strong winds, these IMOCAs won the two events in the Azimut Challenge: PRB dominated the 24-Hour race and Charal was the fastest in the speed runs. In the big race, PRB was around 6 miles behind Initiatives-Cœur (Sam Davies) before the final 100-mile downwind run in strong winds and the former finished two miles ahead, so in other words was on average 8 % faster than Sam over this stretch. The fact that he has larger foils was clearly an advantage for Vincent. Sam Davies and Yann Eliès, who finished second and third in the big race in the Azimut Challenge, have boats that are fitted with foils  from the previous generation and which are smaller.  Increasing the surface of the foils seems to be the solution for the future, and is a logical development. In fact, Sam Davies plans to fit bigger appendages next season. For the others, it will be a question of their budget, as larger foils are bound to cost more.” Impressive Charal “Like everyone else, I was impressed by Charal during the Azimut Challenge. The pictures speak for themselves. The boat really takes off. She stays up there flying for seconds and reaches speeds close to multihulls. It’s been said that with foils on the rudders, she could really fly, just like the new monohulls in the next America’s Cup (This is not allowed by IMOCA rules, editor’s note). Charal tends to rear up when fully powered, but Jérémie Beyou will gradually find the right adjustments to stabilise the boat’s trim when flying. Charal has placed the bar very high up and it’s going to be very interesting to see the other new generation IMOCAs appear.” A huge gap between foilers and non foilers “The negative point about this rapid progress with the appendages is that the gap between foilers and non-foilers is growing. Paul Meilhat sailed really well in the Azimut Challenge, but could not hold on towards the end of the race, when the conditions favoured the IMOCAs with foils. If we’re looking at a transatlantic or round the world race, it is becoming very hard or even impossible for the IMOCAs with straight daggerboards to win.” [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[8th Azimut Challenge and final test before the Route du Rhum ]]> Thu, 20 Sep 2018 00:00:00 GMT From 21st to 23rd September, the eighth Azimut Challenge will bring together in Lorient La Base, an eclectic line-up with a record-breaking 15 IMOCAs taking part. This event has become one not to miss on the race calendar for the IMOCA class, even if it does not count towards the Globe Series. With a month and a half to go to the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, this will be a final opportunity for the sailors to see how they measure up against each other. On Friday at five in the afternoon, they will set off at the start of an intense 24-hour solo race. On Sunday, they will take part in speed runs, before  a crewed race around the island of Groix. Out of the 22 sailors registered for the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in the IMOCA category, no fewer than fifteen will take part in the Azimut Challenge. This goes to show how important this event has become for the class. “For the IMOCA, now based in Lorient, the Challenge is a great opportunity to meet up with the skippers, teams and their partners,” explained Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA.   A valuable opportunity to do battle The event will begin with a 24-hour solo race (starting at 1700hrs on Friday), which will enable the sailors to see how they are doing in comparison to their rivals, but it is also a chance to identify what work needs to be done in the final weeks of preparation. “At this time of year, the boats are ready inRoute du Rhum mode and this top class race is a valuable opportunity,” explained Louis Burton, perfectly summing up the general attitude shared by the racers, who enjoy what is always a friendly occasion, where they are able to share ideas. Battle between foilers Almost two-thirds of the fleet registered for this eighth Azimut Challenge are foilers. Nine of the fifteen IMOCAs taking part are fitted with these appendages. Everyone is looking forward to watching the first battle fought by Jérémie Beyou’s magnificent Charal. He is currently getting used to his new boat and has just completed his qualifier for the Route du Rhum (1200 miles sailed solo). “I m here without any clear race goals, which is unusual for me,” declared Jérémie. “With the team, I’m still finding out about the boat and ensuring the reliability of this highly complicated IMOCA. It’s going to take some time to get used to her and get the most out of her. The Azimut Challenge will enable me to settle in in race mode and continue to work on the boat.” The winner of the last IMOCA race, the Dhream Cup, British sailor, Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) is setting off with some high ambitions: “The level will be a notch higher in theAzimut Challenge with more competitors, and more foilers. It’s going to be more complicated getting onto the podium. I’d like to sail cleanly and make the right choices to keep up with the other foilers, and in particular, the IMOCAs from the 2016 generation.” Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art et Fenêtres) will also be watching closely the performance of the other IMOCAs with foils: “It’s going to be interesting to watch Vincent Riou and PRB – she’s a boat from 2010 to which he has fitted foils, but they are lighter than those in the 2016 generation. As for Ucar-St Michel, we know the boat has a lot of potential as shown by Jean-Pierre Dick, and more recently Yann Eliès, who has got his hands on a tried and tested boat. I’ll be watching in particular to see how Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline – Artipôle) and Alan Roura (La Fabrique) do after fighting it out with them in the Vendée Globe, as they too have decided to fit foils on their boats.” The Azimut Challenge will be the first solo race for Boris Herrmann aboard Malizia 2-Yacht Club de Monaco. “I’d like to finish well placed, let’s say in the first part of the fleet. I’ll be pushing hard all the time, as will my rivals,” the German skipper told us. The only sailor to have taken part in every edition of the Azimut Challenge since it was launched in 2011, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2), intends to make the most of his eighth attempt: “As my project is based in Saint-Malo, I don’t very often get the opportunity to see how I measure up against the competition. It’s also for that reason that the Azimut Challenge is an important event for me.”   Everyone in with a chance The Race Director of theAzimut Challenge, Jacques Caraës will have to come up with a made-to-measure course lasting 24 hours, taking into account the weather conditions that are forecast, but he will also wish to ensure that it is a fair contest. “We’ll come up with a course that offers equal opportunities to foilers and non-foilers, so that everyone can find what they are looking for,” confirmed Jacques Caraës, who will be aided in this task by Guillaume Evrard, general secretary of the IMOCA. Last year, it was in fact Paul Meilhat (SMA) who won the race sailing double-handed with Gwénolé Gahinet. Out of action for several weeks due to an injury, Paul will be hoping that this will be a successful return to racing. Five other skippers are competing on IMOCAs with straight daggerboards. After a good second place in the Dhream Cup in late July, Isabelle Joschke (Monin) will be tackling the Azimut Challenge well aware of her limits. “I haven’t given myself a clear goal in terms of the result,” explained the sailor. “The Azimut Challenge will only be my second solo race on an IMOCA, after the Dhream Cup. My goals are more personal. I want to sail in a way that matches my project and mindset, get the timing right and in particular avoid any big mistakes.” Competing aboard his 2007 Finot-Conq designed boat, Stéphane Le Diraison will be taking part in his first race in the framework of his new sporting and societal project, Time For Oceans. In the Top 5 in the Drheam Cup, Romain Attanasio (Pure-Famille Mary) wants to maintain this impetus and keep up with the big names. At the end of a very busy summer during which he did a lot of sailing, Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) will find out whether all the hard work has paid off. Erik Nigon (Vers un monde sans sida) will be competing in the big race in the Azimut Challenge for the first time. He too will have a lot of lessons to learn from this intense and hard fought race. The schedule After the solo race on Friday and Saturday, the sailors will be back again on Sunday for two events with a crew: firstly speed runs and then a race around the island of Groix. For this final race, weather conditions permitting, they will be attempting to smash the record set in 2015 by Vincent Riou and his crew: 1 hour 8 minutes and 10 seconds.  The line-up for the 2018 Azimut Challenge Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art et Fenêtres) - Foiler Romain Attanasio (Pure-Famille Mary) Jérémie Beyou (Charal) - Foiler Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artipôle) - Foiler Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) - Foiler Manuel Cousin (Groupe Sétin) Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) - Foiler Yann Eliès (Ucar-StMichel) - Foiler Boris Herrmann (Malizia 2-Yacht Club de Monaco) - Foiler Isabelle Joschke (Monin) Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans) Paul Meilhat (SMA) Erik Nigon (Vers un monde sans SIDA) Vincent Riou (PRB) - Foiler Alan Roura (La Fabrique) - Foiler The schedule for the eighth Azimut Challenge Friday 21st September: - 1700hrs: start of the 24-hour solo race Saturday 22nd September: - Finish of the 24-hour race in the afternoon Sunday 23rd September: - Speed runs with a crew - Crewed race around the island of Groix[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Belgian skipper Denis Van Weynbergh aiming for the 2020 Vendée Globe ]]> Thu, 13 Sep 2018 00:00:00 GMT The new owner of Nandor Fa’s IMOCA, the Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh hopes to be able to compete in the Globe Series and reach a climax by taking part in the 2020 Vendée Globe. While for a long time, he has divided up his life between being head of a company and ocean racing, he is now dedicating all his time to his IMOCA project with the aim of becoming the first Belgian sailor to complete the Vendée Globe. He recently launched a highly original, artistic crowd-funding campaign. We met up with him to find out more. Denis, when did you first feel that you wanted to take part in the Vendée Globe? “It suddenly came to me in 2001, when I was preparing for the Mini Transat. During a delivery trip, I moored up in Bénodet alongside Michel Desjoyeaux’s PRB, which had just won the Vendée Globe. My Pogo 6.50 looked a bit like that IMOCA, but on a much smaller scale of course. That’s when I started to imagine competing in the Vendée Globe. At the same time, it seemed to me to be a crazy idea and beyond my reach. Before thinking seriously about it, I needed to complete my first solo offshore race, the Mini Transat. I managed to do that. That race was a milestone for me and the Vendée Globe remained in the back of my mind. I then continued to gain experience on various types of boat, in particular on Class40s. I completed the Route du Rhum in 2010, the Quebec Saint-Malo in 2012, the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2013, the Fastnet Race in 2015…” What really led you to move to the IMOCA class? “In Belgium, ocean racing is not as popular as in France. We only have 40 miles of coast and no real sailing culture. I tried to find some help in the market in Belgium for the 2016 Vendée Globe, but firms were not that keen. In fact, I understood that I needed to find a strong concept, an original idea, something creative. Last year, I met the photographer, Edouard Janssens, who has specialised in the creation of works of art based on photos of the iris, the coloured part of the eye. One thing led to another and the project, ‘Eye Sea’ was born? The aim is to offer partners the opportunity to acquire one of the 250 personalised iris photos that will form one single giant iris on the sails of my IMOCA. We’ll therefore be creating a work of art while working together in this crowd-funding project. A work of art that will go all the way around the world.” Once you had defined the concept and set up the crowd-funding campaign, you had to find an IMOCA that was available. Why did you choose Nandor Fa’s former Spirit of Hungary? “In late2017, I was strolling around Les Sables d’Olonne on the Vendée Globe pontoon and I noticed that boat. From the outset, she seemed to me to be simple, solid and reliable. Exactly what I was looking for in my project, she suits my personality and my goals. I wanted a boat that had already completed the Vendée Globe without any major problems and that was the case for Nandor Fa’s boat, which finished in an honourable eighth place in the last race. I quickly got in contact with the boat captain, then Nandor. The deal was signed last June.” Did your first sailing trips on her live up to your expectations? “Yes. I had never sailed an IMOCA, but I knew everything was huge on these boats. That was confirmed during the first trips I was able to carry out. Everything is faster and is more physical on an IMOCA. You can’t carry out the slightest manoeuvre without planning ahead. You have to be methodical. Nandor Fa really thought about this boat with details that simplify life aboard her.”     For a long time, you managed to reconcile your professional life and ocean racing. Was that too complicated when dealing with a project as big as an IMOCA? “Exactly. Preparing for the Vendée Globe is a full time job, when you look for the funding and do all the preparation on land and out at sea… particularly as for the moment, I’m taking care of the project alone. To dedicate myself entirely to the IMOCA project, I sold my delivery business PN Express World, in November 2017.” What is your programme for the months ahead? Do you intend to compete in all of the races in the IMOCA Globe Series? “Yes. The boat will be going into the yard in early November and is due to be realunched in late January. In 2019 and 2020, I want to clock up as many miles of racing as I can. I can’t see myself taking part in the Vendée Globe and sailing in the Roaring Forties without having sailed fifteen to twenty thousand miles on my IMOCA. On the other hand, I won’t be competing in the Route du Rhum this year. My job for the moment is to find sponsors.” So where are you in terms of the funding?   “My first partner has entered the adventure, the Belgian company, Pranarôm (which specialises in essential oils). They have brought around 15 % of the total budget that I estimate to be 2.5 million euros. The goal now is to start to sell the iris photos to individuals and companies. Ideally, I should have a headline partner, who would give their name to the boat, associating it with the name of the concept: ‘Eye-Sea... X or Y’.” You can find out more about Denis Van Weynbergh’s project here:    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Ari Huusela: the long voyage to the Vendée Globe]]> Fri, 07 Sep 2018 00:00:00 GMT Ari Huusela has a dream. In 2020, he hopes to become the first Finnish sailor to compete in the Vendée Globe. A pilot working for the airline, Finnair, he is the proud owner of an Owen - Clarke designed boat based in Helsinki, which was formerly Dee Caffari’s Aviva. While there is still a long way to go and many hurdles to overcome to get to the non-stop, solo round the world race, Huusela will be taking a huge step forward when he lines up at the start of his first major IMOCA race, the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, in two months from now. A pilot for the airline, Finnair, Ari Huusela spends a lot of his time up in the air, but whenever he manages to find the opportunity, the 56-year old Finnish sailor takes to the sea. He has already completed three transatlantic races: the Mini Transat in 1996 and again in 2007 and the Route du Rhum in 2014 (in the Rhum class on a Pogo 40). The Vendée Globe, a dream dating back to 1996 The idea of joining the IMOCA class was something that Ari Huusela spent a long time thinking about. The desire to compete in the Vendée Globe has been on his mind since 1996. That was the year when he travelled to Les Sables d’Olonne to take possession of a Mini 6.50. “Since then, I haven’t missed the start of a single Vendée Globe, so have attended the last five editions. I’m impressed by the incredible atmosphere, which surrounds this race. It’s completely crazy,” explained the keen sailor and airline pilot. In 2016, Huusela decided to enter the IMOCA circuit by chartering the 60-foot boat that belonged to the British skipper, Richard Tolkien (a legendary Finot-Conq design from 1998) to take part in the Transat New York-Vendée. Unfortunately in the transatlantic race from Britain to America, Tolkien was forced to abandon his boat. Ari Huusela had no choice but to forget his New York-Vendée race.    That was merely a temporary setback. When visiting the Start Village for the 2016 Vendée Globe, the Finnish sailor caught sight of the former Aviva that was on display in the main exhibition hall. He found out that thisIMOCA, an Owen-Clarke design from 2007, was up for sale. She was the good performing 60-foot boat aboard which Dee Caffari completed the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, before finishing sixth in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race (sailing double-handed with Anna Corbella). Ari seized the opportunity and managed to acquire her. The Route du Rhum, his first giant leap Since he got his hands on his new boat, Huusela has sailed more than 5000 miles aboard her. Last June, he obtained his qualification for the Route du Rhum, sailing 1400 miles solo in the Baltic Sea. “Those six days of sailing taught me a lot,” he explained. “As the conditions were very varied, I had to do a lot of sail changes. There was a lot of work to do and I learnt a lot during my first major solo trip aboard an IMOCA. I now feel much more relaxed aboard the the boat and I really appreciate her.” For Ari Huusela, getting to the start of the Route du Rhum is in itself a first major victory. Completing the course would be a magnificent achievement, but he is not taking part just to do that, as he has some clear goals in the race too. “My aim is to line up at the start with a boat that has been prepared as well as possible. If weather conditions allow, I would like to get to Guadeloupe in around 14 days.” A long way to go Ari Huusela is being kept busy. Apart from preparing his boat and getting in some training on her, he is still working for Finnair flying on long-haul flights to Asia four times a month, as that is what he refers to as his “real job.” “Flying is relaxing. It allows me to get away from my IMOCA project for a while, see something different and gives me time to thinks things over,” he added. Ari Huusela also needs to work hard to complete his budget. While he will now definitely be at the start of the Route du Rhum, he still does not have the funding to be able to do as he would like and take part in all of the races in the IMOCA Globe Series. “I’m looking for a headline partner, as the name of the boat is still up for grabs,” he explained. “I remain optimistic, as I can see that my boat and my project interest the public and media in Finland. The country’s economy is in good shape. There is a long way to go and it’s going to be hard, but I really believe that there is a great story to tell here. Representing Finland for the first time in the Vendée Globe in 2020 would make me extremely proud.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Alexia Barrier on the way to her dream]]> Mon, 03 Sep 2018 00:00:00 GMT One of the three women competing in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in the IMOCA category, Alexia Barrier will not be forgetting her competitive nature, even if she is racing on the oldest boat in the fleet, the legendary Pingouin (a Lombard designed boat from 1998 renamed 4myplanet2). Based in Antibes in the Mediterranean, Alexia is continuing her preparation and recently obtained her qualification. We met up with a sailor, who is gradually edging towards the dream she has had since she was a child, the Vendée Globe.  Alexia, how did your 1200-mile qualifier for the Route du Rhum go? “The weather was rough, but it all went well. I set off from Antibes on 22nd August and came back almost six days later after sailing in the Gulf of Lion, around Corsica and Sardinia, then close to Italy. I managed to check that my IMOCA was solid in these tricky conditions in amongst a lot of shipping. She’s a very physical boat. I took my time carrying out manoeuvres not to wear myself out. I wanted to remain cautious to ensure I got my qualification and made this big step forward towards the Route du Rhum.” Previously, we saw you in the Monaco Globe Series, but you didn’t take part in the Dhream Cup. Why was that? “I don’t have the budget to be able to compete in all the races, so I favour those in the IMOCA Globe Series calendar, the new world championship for the class, which brings together the major races in the circuit for the period from 2018-2021 (editor’s note). That was the case for the new event in Monaco, which taught me a lot, as I had only just got my hands on the boat. With my co-skipper Pierre Quiroga, we were only just getting to know her. Aboard our old boat, we managed to sail cleanly and for three-quarters of the race were up with the other competitors, who had much better performing boats.” How do you feel about the Route du Rhum? What are you aiming for on what is after all the oldest boat in the IMOCA fleet? “TheRoute du Rhum will be something new for me, but also for the boat, as strangely, she has set off six times around the world (including four times in the Vendée Globe), but she has never taken part in the Route du Rhum. It’s going to be hard to keep up with the other competitors. I’ll be looking for other ways to work and giving it my all in any case, as I am a very competitive person. I’m lucky to be able to compete in this race, which is also a great opportunity to practice as we look forward to the 2020 Vendée Globe, which is the ultimate challenge for me.” Going beyond the sporting performance, your project conveys a strong message… “Yes, the boat is a tool serving other challenges. My project has been developing since 2009 on various boats around four themes: sport, education, science and technology. During my sailing trips, I shall for example be collecting scientific data, such as the salinity and temperature of the water on the surface. I shall also be observing giant mammals and watching out for rubbish and plastic. We shall also be producing an educational kit about the oceans for schools and colleges. Around fifty classes across France will be following the project.” To find out more:  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA class get back to work ]]> Fri, 24 Aug 2018 00:00:00 GMT There is a lot going on in the IMOCA class as the summer holidays come to an end. Jérémie Beyou’s brand new 60-foot IMOCA, Charal, has been launched. Vincent Riou has had his first sail aboard his PRB, which is now equipped with foils. Five boats came together at the Finistère Offshore Racing training Centre. Time for us to take a look at what has been going on this week.    Charal takes off On Tuesday 21st August, the first new generation IMOCA came out of the CDK yard in Port-la-Forêt. A magnificent boat, Jérémie Beyou’s Charal has shown us her aggressive looking hull, based around her foils, which are huge on this new boat. “The foils stretch right out and with such appendages, sailing will be more a question of driving the boat than ever, almost like on a multihull,” confirmed Jérémie Beyou, who was very pleased that his team has completed the first stage of work after thirteen months in the yard: “It was well worth the wait and the boat looks great. She now has an incredible standard of finishing, was built to schedule and weighs in as expected. The first trips are coming up shortly.” But between the launch and the first sail, it will take a good week to step the mast, carry out static tests and the compulsory measurements and install all the gear (including the sails) and the final bits of deck hardware etc. Charal is based in Lorient and her first sail is scheduled for next Wednesday. “We have set up a clear protocol for each trip. We are going to respect the plan, as this is the only way to work with such a boat. We have to tick all the boxes,” added Jérémie Beyou.   PRB in foiling mode Another boat that is well known in the IMOCA class has been carrying out her first trips with foils over the past week. Vincent Riou’s PRB underwent a major transformation in the yard to be able to be competitive alongside the newer boats. The modification to class rules that now allow the angle of incidence to be adjusted while sailing finally convinced Riou to go down this road. “It’s as if I was discovering the boat all over again, as she feels brand new,” he explained. “Today, thesefoils are promising. All lights are green. There are still some odd jobs to do, but the concept is working really well.” PRB’s appendages were designed with the goal of remaining as competitive as possible whatever the conditions and in all points of sail. Vincent Riou: “I want to have a boat that is a good all-rounder. These are not foils that are designed for very high speeds. They are designed to do better in all sorts of conditions unlike those that were designed for boats in the last Vendée Globe. They were based around one idea and that is not something I was aiming for.” Before the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Vincent intends to do as much sailing as he can to get to grips with his new look PRB. He therefore took part in the training session at the Finistère Ocean Racing training centre this week.   Three days to see how they measure up in Port-la-Forêt Five boats took part this week in the latest course organised at the French training centre, including four foilers: Initiatives-Coeur (Sam Davies), Ucar-StMichel (Yann Eliès), Malizia 2-Yacht Club de Monaco (Boris Herrmann) and PRB (Vincent Riou). Romain Attanasio’s Pure-Famille Mary was the other boat in the line-up. Christian Le Pape, Director of the Finistère Offshore Racing Training Centre summarised what happened during this training course. “There were two major sequences. On Tuesday, the boats raced against each other during speed tests. Then on Wednesday, they set off on a course of around 250 miles for 24 hours of sailing. In what were rather light conditions, the sailors nevertheless managed to sail in all the different points of sail. This sailing kept them busy and enabled them to experience what it is like in the first 24 hours of a race like the Route du Rhum. They faced some excellent competitors, which is something that is particularly useful in these training sessions.” There are three more training courses left before the start of theRoute du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe on 4th November. The next one will take place between 4th and 6th September.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[A female double for IMOCA in the DRHEAM CUP ]]> Tue, 31 Jul 2018 00:00:00 GMT We were expecting conditions to be tough during the second edition of the DRHEAM CUP Destination Cotentin, which rounded off this weekend in Cherbourg. This turned out to be the case and it came with the added bonus of a female double, which is a first in IMOCA’s long history. Ultimately, the final podium rewarded the tenacity of sailors, the quality of their options and their solid pre-season preparation. As such, Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur), Isabelle Joschke(Monin) and Yann Eliès (Ucar-StMichel) secured a fine podium where the lack of parity came as a rather nice surprise... Conditions were tough, due to a frequent absence of breeze at the start and end of the race, though conditions were also more boisterous at times, particularly as the fleet rounded Fastnet in 25 knots of wind. As a result, the sailors had to play around with whatever wind they had, contend with seas that were sometimes rough and keep an eye on any shipping, which is always a threat in this zone. In the end, it was Sam Davies who secured her first fine victory in IMOCA, a result which augurs well for her participation in the Route du Rhum, Destination Guadeloupe. It’s a victory to be applauded and noted in IMOCA’s archives since solely Ellen MacArthur had won a singlehanded IMOCAevent up to that point. That was some 16 years ago during the Route du Rhum 2002. Watch out though as Sam has warned that this female double “is a first and not the last!”   A windless naval battle After a great battle in the climb up to Fastnet, Sam Davies and Isabelle Joschke had to contend with calm conditions in the English Channel and were virtually neck and neck as they closed on the finish line. Ultimately, it was Sam who took the win, crossing the line after 3 days 20 hours and 14 minutes of racing, just 13 minutes ahead of Isabelle Joschke. Sam Davies: “I’m very proud. It’s the first singlehanded IMOCA race I’ve won. I led the way for most of the race and I won the prologue too so I couldn’t have hoped for better! At the end, negotiating the calms, I wasn’t frightened. I remained fairly relaxed and I’d mentally prepared myself”. It came as a great satisfaction for Sam, who has been rewarded for her efforts during her major winter refit, which has visibly taken her boat to a whole new level in terms of performance. For her part, Isabelle Joschke was competing in her first singlehanded race on this boat and she was delighted by her performance and proved that she is a force to be reckoned with: “I was slightly apprehensive about setting sail in this competition and I just had to hope that I was able to manage everything all on my own. All in all, everything went well and I’m pleased with the way I manoeuvred. I’ve really turned a corner by competing in this race and taking second place as it confirms the fact that I’m more than capable of manoeuvring an IMOCAon my own in what were pretty calm weather conditions.” For Yann Eliès, who rounds off the podium: “The light airs proved to be more complicated, as this type of weather is not by boat’s strong point. I’m happy with this exercise and it was good to tick this race off the list in my preparation for the Route du Rhum. It’s great news to have these two women giving the guys a thrashing. It’s sometimes said that sailing is a ‘male’ sport and we suffer from this image. Samantha Davies and Isabelle Joschke have proven that the reverse is true, so congratulations girls!”   Damien, Romain and Alan For Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil), for whom the DRHEAM CUP was his first singlehanded IMOCA race, the results have been positive on the whole: “I’m happy with my race and I feel like I’ve done a good job. It wasn’t easy. Conditions were extremely varied. Above all though, I felt comfortable on the boat”. Damien finished 4th ahead of Romain Attanasio and Alan Roura, who was just finding his feet on his boat after she was recently equipped with her first foil. Alan was able to test La Fabrique’s new level of performance, which appears to be running very well and posting good speed on her foil.  The last third of the fleet to make the finish in Cherbourg comprised Stéphane Le Diraison (Boulogne Billancourt),Manuel Cousin (Groupe SETIN) and Erik Nigon (Vers un monde sans SIDA). The first two, whose tough negotiation of the Raz Blanchard cost them dearly,ended up being outpaced by their predecessors. As for Erik Nigon, for whom this was his first singlehanded IMOCA race, he’s happy to have been able to trial the boat and get a handle on what a race of this kind entails, particularly in the breeze, where he correctly anticipated the situation and manoeuvred in line with normal procedures. A very successful Seconde edition, gathering 76 boat in total and who pleased the IMOCA skipper as they both enjoyed the race and achieve their goals ! Next meet: the Trophée Azimut on 23 September in Lorient The fleet of IMOCAs present in Normandy have since set a course for Brittany, save for Manu Cousin who is staying behind for a few extra days to carry out some PR operations for his sponsor. The next IMOCA event will take place in Lorient on 23 September 2018 and this will be an important final test match prior to the Route du Rhum, Destination Guadeloupe.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Departure imminent for the Dhream Cup: a pre-Rhum snifter ]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 00:00:00 GMT It is a race that stows rather neatly into the event schedule! After a prologue this Saturday 21 July in La Trinité, the whole fleet will set sail on Monday 23 July. It’s the perfect opportunity for the freshly relaunched boats to validate their entry ticket for the Route du Rhum, which is the season’s main event and sets sail from Saint Malo on 4 November 2018. Of the eleven boats participating in the DRHEAM CUP, five are not yet qualified for the Rhum (Stéphane le Diraison’s Boulogne-Billancourt, Alan Roura’s La Fabrique, Arnaud Boissières’ La Mie Câline-Artipôle, Romain Attanasio’s Pure-Famille Mary and Erik Nigon’s Vers un Monde sans Sida). A generational clash: foilers vs classic daggerboards Five foilers will be at the start, including two recently modified boats: Arnaud Boissières’ La Mie Câline-Artipôle and Alan Roura’s La Fabrique, which will sail with solely her port foil. Among those boats with classic daggerboards, one of the favourites, Paul Meilhat, has withdrawn due to injury after dislocating his shoulder. Paul and his boat will still be present in La Trinité-sur-Mer, but they won’t take the start of the event. With a course spanning nearly 750 nautical miles, it provides a variety of tactical options on a race zone renowned for its heavy shipping and its strong currents. In Arnaud Boissières’ opinion, “the conditions expected at the start seem fairly light, but the important thing for me is battling it out with the others. Since the boat was launched with her foils, we’ve already covered 4,000 miles, particularly in the Mediterranean, for a series of partner operations. I’m very happy with the boat, which gets up on her foils and is fairly easy to manoeuvre. She already feels great at the helm and she’s quick. I can’t wait now to be able to get amongst it with the other boats”. For Sam Davies, clearly a pretender to victory on the Cotentin peninsula, “It’s going to be a very interesting race with a course that is sufficiently long to really vie with the others. This race reminds me of a Solitaire de Figaro leg. I love the format over two-three days. There’s a lot of navigation involved, as well as a series of hazards related to the shipping, the coastline and the other boats, so we’ll certainly have a bit on”.   Great training for the Route du Rhum Guillaume Evrard, Chief Representative of the IMOCA Class, highlights the appeal of this singlehanded event: “After a double-handed race during the Monaco Globe Series, it’s good to be sailing singlehanded again with a view to the start of the Route du Rhum, destination Guadeloupe. The boats competing in the DRHEAM CUP roughly equate to 50% of the fleet, which will be at the start of the Rhum in a little over three months”. Those who can’t make this meeting have very solid arguments to support their absence, as is the case for Jérémie Beyou, whose new foiler CHARAL hasn’t yet been launched. The German sailor has just won the transatlantic race between Bermuda and Hamburg aboard his IMOCA Malizia. Finally, Alex Thomson and his Hugo Boss left New York yesterday to join their base in Gosport (UK).[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ The IMOCAs around the world with a crew in 2021]]> Tue, 03 Jul 2018 00:00:00 GMT It is a major development for the IMOCA, which after French solo races like the Vendée Globe and the Route du Rhum, will be widening its horizons abroad with crewed races, like the Volvo Ocean Race, the biggest crewed round the world race with stopovers, the most recent edition of which has just ended in The Hague. Antoine Mermod, the President of the IMOCA class, declared that “as we work together to bring the most important offshore races in the world – short-handed and fully crewed – to the IMOCA class boats, it will allow us to grow the class internationally and offer more value to our stakeholders. This partnership should allow us to accelerate the development of some of the teams involved in the IMOCA.”During the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race last week in The Hague, a meeting was held with organisers, sailors and designers like Guillaume Verdier, Juan Kouyoumdjian, Vincent Lauriot-Prévost and Sam Manuard. Vincent Riou, who for a long time was in charge of the technical committee within the IMOCA, was also present: "I was asked to share my experience. The aim was to determine together whether the signed agreements made sense and to come up with some technical solutions." Johan Salen, co-president of the VOR, declared: “Moving the race into foiling monohulls under the IMOCA class will motivate more sailors, teams and the wider marine industry to prepare for the next edition. Partnering with the existing IMOCA infrastructure means the professional offshore sailing calendar becomes more unified and efficient, this helps the sport as a whole and helps to build a sustainable business model for teams and sailors.”   _________________Quotes: Charles Caudrelier: “This change is very exciting. The Open 60s are just amazing boats. I really enjoy sailing on these boats and I think when people see it, they will enjoy it. If the two best offshore races in the world are going to join the same class, to me it’s good news.”Jérémie Beyou, recent winner of the Volvo Ocean Race with Dongfeng: “Our race team and technicians who are developing a new Imoca will have the possibility of working on a crewed version IMOCA. We have the know-how, a design team that fully understands the rules and how to develop these boats. So why not work for a team?”Bouwe Bekking, who has taken part in eight Volvo Ocean Races and Whitbread round the world races: “I think as a sailor, this is very exciting. For the younger generation of sailors, they’re all about foiling and surfing and going fast and you have to get the best sailors involved in the race. With the Open 60s, they’ve nailed it, because this is what the sailors want.”Torben Grael, Olympic champion, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race and Vice-President of World Sailing: “Of course there are some hurdles to negotiate. But if we manage to join the two worlds together then it will be positive as it opens the race to many new sailors to join and creates a much bigger calendar of events for the teams.”Juan Kouyoumdjian, designer of three boats that have won the Volvo Ocean Race: “Yachting is a sport that isn’t only about the crew, but it’s also about the equipment, so combining the two elements is what allows you to say you are at the pinnacle of offshore racing."Guillaume Verdier, designer of many IMOCA monohulls and prototypes for the America’s Cup: “We’re trying to make a boat for the future that is capable of doing both short-handed and fully-crewed races. My opinion is that it is doable with a bit of compromise from both worlds to meet in the middle.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The preparation for the Route du Rhum is in full swing]]> Mon, 25 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT With fewer than 150 days to go to the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, which begins on 4th November in Saint-Malo, time is slipping by for the twenty or so IMOCA skippers lining up for this prestigious transatlantic race. So far, nine sailors have already obtained their qualification for the Rhum. The others will be tackling that important matter very shortly. Some will be taking advantage of the Dhream Cup (which starts from La Trinité sur mer in Brittany on 23rd July) to get their entry sorted out. In the coming weeks, we can also look forward to seeing some boats launched, in particular Jérémie Beyou’s Charal, the very first new generation IMOCA.   Nine IMOCA skippers qualified for the Route du Rhum   The Notice of Race for the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe makes it very clear that any sailor wishing to compete must complete a 1200-mile solo sail on their boat (whether racing or not). In the IMOCA class, nine skippers have so far obtained their qualification, four of whom did so  by completing the Bermuda 1000 Race between Douarnenez (Brittany) and Cascais (Portugal) : Paul Meilhat (SMA), Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art et Fenêtres) and Manu Cousin (Groupe Setin). Others sailed the qualifying distance outside of a race - Yann Eliès (Ucar-StMichel), Ari Huusela (Ariel 2), Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and more recently, Isabelle Joschke (Monin), who set sail alone from Cadiz on Saturday 16th June and reached the coast of Brittany six days later. Some sailors are about to set off sailing solo to complete their qualification for the Route du Rhum, while others are looking forward to the Dhream Cup to get that magic ticket…   Twelve skippers competing in the Dhream Cup   After Douarnenez-Cascais and the Monaco Globe Series, the next major sporting event for the IMOCA sailors will be the Dhream Cup, raced between la Trinité-sur-Mer in Brittany and Cherbourg (via the Fastnet Rock), which starts on 23rd July. Twelve IMOCAs are registered for this race, which counts as a qualifier for the Route du Rhum. Among them, five have not yet obtained their precious ticket for the Rhum: Alan Roura, Romain Attanasio, Stéphane Le Diraison, Arnaud Boissières and Erik Nigon. We should add that Alex Thomson will not be competing in the Dhream Cup, but in the coming weeks, he is planning to attempt to smash the North Atlantic record.   Long awaited (re)launches   Some of the most famous IMOCAs are still in the yard, but are due to be put in the water shortly. The launch of Jérémie Beyou’s Charal is imminent. This is one we have all been looking forward to, as she is the first of the new generation of IMOCAs. Everyone will certainly be keeping a close eye on her… As Arnaud Boissières did before them, Vincent Riou and Alan Roura are preparing to relaunch their IMOCAs, which although from a previous generation, have now been boosted with the addition of foils.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA class supports the campaign to protect our oceans for the common good of mankind]]> Thu, 14 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT IMOCA skippers express themselves on the world’s oceans during their races across the seas. Today, they are suffering from what man has been doing and protecting the oceans is a major concern demanding greater shared responsibility and sailors by their very nature are well aware of these problems. Initially launched by Catherine Chabaud, the first woman to complete a round the world race during the 1996 Vendée Globe, the appeal on behalf of the oceans as a genuine common good, is something that echoes what sailors feel. With each passing day, their actions are increasingly taken after a lot of thought has been given to their responsibility, as they are aware of the fundamental ecological role that the oceans play on our planet. That is the reason why the IMOCA class has decided to support the appeal launched on 8th June in Monaco on World Oceans Day and in the context of the launch of the IMOCA Globe Series.    Please find below the full text for the appeal for the oceans.   LAUNCH OF AN APPEAL ON BEHALF OF THE OCEANS, A COMMON GOOD FOR MANKIND As talks get underway about the open seas at the United Nations, an appeal has been launched for the oceans to be recognised as a common good for mankind. This appeal was started by Catherine Chabaud, a committed sailor with her ‘Innovations bleues’ charity, Françoise Gaill, oceanographer and leading research director at the CNRS, Eudes Riblier and Jean-Louis Fillon, President and General Delegate of the French Ocean Institute and Rachel Moreau from the O2ceans programme. Already showing their individual commitment  to various charities working to protect the world’s oceans, the ocean racers in the IMOCA class wish to come together to support this appeal, which will be officially launched on Friday 8th June 2018, World Oceans Day, at the prize-giving ceremony for the Monaco Globe Series at the Monaco Yacht Club. They will thus become the first ambassadors. Other movements have joined them, starting with the Ocean-Climate Platform, which brings together many organisations working to protect the oceans and the Longitude 181 association, which is working on the idea of a common good. With the United States pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and with talks getting underway at the United Nations on the protection and use of the open seas, new measures are required to protect the oceans, so that they are a source of wealth, exchange and life, rather than confrontation, asphyxia and death, and so they may contribute to easing international tensions. The oceans are a fragile climate regulator. They enable the globalisation of trade and feed many people. The waters and the life contained within do not know any boundaries: they therefore require an active multilateral approach to govern them and to prevent them from becoming a source of major tension between nations. Following a lot of reflection by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council and by the French Ocean Institute, those launching this appeal believe it is vital for the oceans to be considered as common property and not individual property or something belonging to a few, as they should be seen as the property of mankind with everyone responsible: a common good for mankind. This approach does not throw into question international maritime law or the ideas of freedom, sovereignty and sharing. But it places common responsibility above these principles. Therefore, the matter of freedom and the sea needs to be placed within a framework, so that tests are carried out everywhere and permanently coordinated, and that the sovereign rights granted to states with a shoreline are met in return with work done to understand and preserve the marine environment and for repairs to be made whenever necessary. The global community is finally starting to grasp the importance of the oceans, as it has finally done in terms of the climate: we are entering an era with this new vision, where there needs to be collective responsibility accepted by everyone for our oceans. Involved in civil society and convinced of the importance of these principles, those launching this appeal for the oceans to be seen as a common good for mankind, invite men and women from around the world to support them in this cause.    @OceanAsCommon   Contact: [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ Successful launch for the IMOCA Globe Series]]> Thu, 07 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT On crossing the line at 0817hrs this morning (Thursday) after 3 days, 19 hours and 17 minutes of racing, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA) won the Monaco Globe Series, the first leg of the new IMOCA world championship. Less than two hours later, the mixed pairing of Isabelle Joschke and Alain Gautier (Monin) did well to take second place, finishing just ahead of Fabrice Amedeo and Eric Péron on Newrest-Art & Fenêtres. The double-handed crews formed by Joan Mulloy/Thomas Ruyant (Kilcullen Team Ireland) and Stéphane Le Diraison/Stan Maslard (Boulogne-Billancourt) completed the top five in what was a breathtaking and instructive race for everyone.   An exciting and hard fought new race, the first event in the Globe Series, the new IMOCA world championship for the 2018-2021 period, lived up to its promise. In conditions that can only be described as typical of the Mediterranean, as the weather was unreliable and demanded a lot of the sailors, the nine pairs competing went through nine technical and stressful days. After setting sail from Monaco last Sunday, the IMOCAs raced in a magnificent setting and everyone enjoyed themselves out on the water. They headed towards the Strait of Bonifacio before rounding Sardinia from east to west and then headed back up to the Golden Isles, returning to the Principality in a long Mediterranean coastal race.Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet winners of this “crazy race”They were the favourites in the Monaco Globe Series and managed to confirm those predictions. Aboard SMA, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet warded off the attacks from the determined crews behind them, starting with Fabrice Amedeo and Eric Péron, who remained very threatening on their foiler, Newrest – Art & Fenêtres. “It was extremely physical and tough on the nerves,” explained Meilhat, who won the Bermuda 1000 Race just a few weeks ago. “It reminded me of what I experienced racing on a Figaro in the Mediterranean. In terms of the race, it was crazy with a lot of action. Whether you were ahead or behind, it was never over. But there’s nothing more interesting in terms of adrenaline. You feel alive when you race in the Med!”Still in with a chance of winning last night, Fabrice Amedeo and Eric Péron had a great race, but in the end had to make do with third place. Fabrice Amedeo: "We may be a bit disappointed, as we almost made it to second place. But upwind, in five knots of wind and with no daggerboard, it wasn’t going to be easy to keep with boats like SMA and Monin. What we will remember however is that we were up with the frontrunners in this battle from start to finish and we were the first foiler to cross the line.”The mixed pairings in the best of shapeIsabelle Joschke and Alain Gautier (Monin) never eased off and in fact overtook their rivals just a few miles from the finish in Monaco to take second place. A strong performance rewarding a well-managed race. Another mixed double pairing also did particularly well in the Monaco Globe Series. Aboard Kilcullen Team Ireland, the Irish skipper, Joan Mulloy took fourth place along with Thomas Ruyant, who was back on the IMOCA, aboard which he took part in the last Vendée Globe.Contests at every level with nine boats safely homeFurther back, two double-handed crews fought it out like cat and dog to make it to the top five. Respectively seventh and eighth yesterday evening, Boulogne Billancourt (Stéphane Le Diraison/Stan Maslard) and Groupe Setin (Manu Cousin/Alan Roura) clawed their way back during what was a decisive final night to finish fifth and sixth in Monaco. “This was a useful experience for the future of Groupe Setin, as I’ll know better now how to get the most out of the boat. I’ve been throwing everything at this project and that will be continuing in the future,” said a smiling Manu Cousin at the finish.Two crews sailing IMOCAs with foils suffered in the Mediterranean weather and have to make do with a result that is probably below what they were hoping for. Malizia II (Boris Herrmann/Pierre Casiraghi) and Bureau Vallée 2 (Louis Burton/Arthur Hubert) crossed the finishing line in seventh and eighth place. Pierre Casiraghi: “It was really a fantastic race with lots of ups and downs. It was tough once we’d passed the Strait and we really had to fight hard to climb back up towards Port-Cros with the gaps narrowing within the fleet. The Mediterranean lived up to its promise with a wide range of extremely varied conditions. It was a race that was exciting and an incredible experience.”Alexia Barrier and Pierre Quiroga brought up the rear this afternoon (Thursday) in spite of their brave efforts on 4MyPlanet2, the oldest boat in the fleet (launched back in 1998). All of the boats competing in the Monaco Globe Series are now safely back in port.Monaco Globe Series final rankings :1. Paul Meilhat/Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA)2. Isabelle Joschke/Alain Gautier (Monin)3. Fabrice Amedeo/Eric Péron (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres)4. Joan Mulloy/Thomas Ruyant (Kilcullen Team Ireland)5. Stéphane Le Diraison/Stan Maslard (Boulogne-Billancourt)6. Manu Cousin/Alan Roura (Groupe Setin)7. Boris Herrmann/Pierre Casiraghi (Malizia II)8. Louis Burton/Arthur Hubert (Bureau Vallée 2)9. Alexia Barrier/Pierre Quiroga (4MyPlanet2)[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[1st Monaco Globe Series - All to play for]]> Thu, 07 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT Monaco 6th June 2018. There is everything to play for in this Monaco Globe Series, a double-hander, non-stop, unassisted offshore race organised by the Yacht Club de Monaco. This stage, which kicks off the new 2018-2020 IMOCA world championship, has been full of surprises for the nine boats in competition.   Steady as she goes The return leg up the coast of Sardinia promised changes to the ranking given the two weather systems. The forecasts proved right during Tuesday-Wednesday night as the fleet regrouped. Indeed, 600nm after the start they were in a regular regatta configuration, “almost unheard of in the IMOCAs,” reckons Race Director Guillaume Rottee. “The wind was pretty steady during the night, then they crossed a light-wind zone and on Wednesday morning hit wind again, a south-south-westerly flow”.   Although the top trio comprising Monin, SMA and Kilcullen Team Ireland set the tone from the start, the pace then picked up with the return of Newrest-Art & Fenêtres, Malizia II, and Bureau Vallée 2 who made a superb come-back to get back in contact with the leading pack. The Monegasque 60-footer covered 223 nautical miles in 24 hours and registered speeds of 17 knots.   While most boats decided to remain off the Sardinian coast to get closer to the wind, others like Isabelle Joschke and Alain Gautier (Monin) took a punt on going further west of the fleet. It was a choice that did not really pay off as they were forced to gybe at first light to avoid distancing themselves any further.   No let-up The tempo did not slow-down as they approached Port-Cros in the Var, with SMA and Newrest-Art & Fenêtre taking their war of nerves into extra time. Sailing fans were able to watch this match racing lesson live on a tracking system broadcast on screens at the YCM and also available on the website .  “We are hanging in there!” said a tense Fabrice Amedeo paired with Eric Peron (Newrest-Art & Fenêtre) sailing a few hundred metres from Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on SMA.   Behind them, the pressure has not dropped one iota between Boulogne Billancourt, Groupe Setin and 4MyPlanet2 who at the end of the day moved up a gear, averaging 15 knots to try and close the gap.   An unstable weather system makes it difficult to forecast wind intensity or direction, an uncertainty that will keep the suspense going to the finish for the first group. Estimated time of arrival is any time between 5.00am and mid-afternoon on Thursday 7th June.   Note: the positions of all the boats are tracked every 30 minutes and published on a map of the course:   Rankings as of 06/06/2018 at 5.00pm: SMA – Paul Meilhat / Gwénolé Gahinet Newrest Art & Fenêtres – Fabrice Amedeo / Eric Peron Kilcullen Team Ireland – Joan Mulloy / Thomas Ruyant Malizia II -Yacht Club de Monaco – Pierre Casiraghi / Boris Herrmann Monin – Isabelle Joschke / Alain Gautier Bureau Vallée 2 – Louis Burton / Arthur Hubert Boulogne Billancourt - Stéphane Le Diraison / Stan Maslard Groupe Setin – Manuel Cousin / Alan Roura 4myplanet2 – Alexia Barrier / Pierre Quirogea   Programme Friday 8th June 2018 6.00pm: Prize-giving ceremony [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[1st Monaco Globe Series - Excellent start for Monaco Globe Series]]> Sun, 03 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT Monaco 3rd June 2018. At precisely 1.00pm today the gun was fired for the first Monaco Globe Series by Yacht Club de Monaco President, HSH Prince Albert II, from the elegant motor-yacht M/Y Pacha III (1936), on which were members of the royal family there to support Pierre Casiraghi competing with Boris Herrmann on Malizia II.   Earlier, the Yacht Club de Monaco President greeted skippers at a brunch in honour of Irishman Enda O’Coineen, who competed in the last Vendée Globe, here in the Principality to support his compatriot Joan Mulloy paired with Thomas Ruyant at the helm of Kilcullen Team Ireland.   The nine 60-footers are off on a double-hander, unassisted non-stop race, the first stage of the new IMOCA 2018-2020 world championship. Organised by the Yacht Club de Monaco, the meeting is a chance for participants to gain the maximum number of points towards qualifying for the Vendée Globe 2020.   A breezy start An east-south-easterly breeze filled the mainsails providing a unique spectacle at the start. As they sped away at nearly 12 knots heeling on a port tack, the whole fleet set the tone in the first few minutes of racing. Leeward of most of the competitors, SMA skippered by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet were in the lead closely followed by the Monegasque boat Malizia II.   Isabelle Joschke and Alain Gautier on Monin also played a winning hand, bearing away to leeward at the start. A good decision allowing them to get up speed and take the lead.  But it’s too early to make any predictions at this point. One thing is certain, what comes next promises to be fast-paced as the fleet attacks the windiest section during the night, with a storm forecast for Corsica with gusts and possibly hail. “The conditions forecast will require many manoeuvres, so it’s going to be physically tough,” commented Pierre Casiraghi. Note: the positions of all the boats are tracked every 30 minutes and published on a map of the course:   Course change In permanent contact with competitors, Race Director Guillaume Rottee will adapt the almost 1,000nm course as required depending on the weather conditions.  Currently, the fleet will head for the Strait of Bonifacio down Corsica’s west coast, a zone they should reach around 5.00am early Monday morning. Then there is a long descent to the Gulf of Mondello in Sicily, passing in front of Circolo della Vela Sicilia, Challenger of Record of the 36th America’s Cup and organiser of the Palermo-Montecarlo. The 18 sailors then set course for south Sardinia and not Mahon in the Balearics. After an ascent toward Cagliari they then head back to the Principality to the finish expected sometime in the morning  on Friday 8th June.   Behind the scenes on the pontoon Shortly before the start, skippers were busy fine-tuning their rigs and taking time out to talk about their expectations. “I really couldn’t wait to get here,” said Stéphane Le Diraison, at the helm of Boulogne Billancourt, “It’s looking good. We know the strengths of the other competitors, and the Mediterranean is a playing field that gives everyone a chance – the race is really open.”   While some pairs are well-oiled machines, it is not the case for everyone, like Manuel Cousin sailing with Alan Roura: “We’ll find out during this race, but we know each other having sailed against each other and I have total confidence in our potential.”   Just arrived on the circuit, Joan Mulloy is sailing here with Thomas Ruyant on Kilcullen Team Ireland. “Thomas is an excellent sailor and I am going to learn a huge amount from him. I am super-happy to be here on the start!”   List of competing boats: Malizia-Yacht Club de Monaco – Pierre Casiraghi / Boris Herrmann SMA – Paul Meilhat / Gwénolé Gahinet Newrest Art & Fenêtres – Fabrice Amedeo / Eric Peron Bureau Vallée 2 – Louis Burton / Arthur Hubert Monin – Isabelle Joschke / Alain Gautier 4myplanet2 – Alexia Barrier / Pierre Quirogea Groupe Setin – Manuel Cousin / Alan Roura Kilcullen Team Ireland – Joan Mulloy / Thomas Ruyant Boulogne Billancourt - Stéphane Le Diraison / Stan Maslard   Friday 8th June 2018 6.00pm: Prize-giving ceremony     Results: Press contacts: Tel: +377 93 10 64 09 - Email: Copyright-free photos and video footage available on request.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[2018-2021 IMOCA GLOBE SERIES The new IMOCA World Championship is launched]]> Sat, 02 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT The Monaco Globe Series will start on Sunday (3rd June). This event is the first in the new IMOCA GLOBE SERIES world championship, which is the result of a shared desire and a lot of work done over the past few months, spearheaded by the IMOCA Class and the organisers, OC Sport and the Saem Vendée. This is in fact the first time that the IMOCA class has joined up with race organisers to manage and jointly run the new class world championship. Six iconic ocean races (solo and double-handed) feature in the 2018-2021 calendar, with the possibility of an additional event being added in the spring of 2019. The cycle will of course come to a climax with the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe, at the end of which the IMOCA GLOBE SERIES world championship title will be awarded.   Joining together to develop synergiesFor the IMOCA class, it was vital that race organisers, in particular the SAEM Vendée and OC Sport, came together with the class to manage, develop and promote its championship. “The Vendée Globe is a legendary race, the success of which was confirmed once again with the last edition. But between each Vendée Globe it is important that racers can offer their sponsors a set of top quality races that are clearly understood by the general public. That means allowing skippers racing in the Globe Series events to qualify and be selected for the next Vendée Globe,” explained Yves Auvinet, President of the SAEM Vendée.“This synergy between the organisers and the IMOCA class is a first in the history of offshore sailing and shows a real desire to offer greater clarity to ocean racing. The IMOCA Globe Series will be an opportunity for the public to follow the skippers from the class over a 4-year cycle with major events each year. With this underlying theme, it should be possible to develop the reputation of both skippers and events,” explainedHervé Favre, joint CEO of OC Sport, the organiser of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe and The Transat. Following in the footsteps of the Monaco Yacht Club, other organisers are likely to join in with the IMOCA GLOBE SERIES Championship. Sharing the same mindset, the same desire and being ready to work together should ensure that they will soon be able to make a very innovative commercial offer to enable this new championship to find a headline partner. Better promotion of the events and making them more attractiveThis new championship aims to create a link between a set of attractive races in order to encourage sailors to race more often. As Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA class explains, “For us, it is important to extract more value from the calendar around our headline event, the Vendée Globe. That should help the skippers and their partners get a better return on their investment, while guaranteeing very high quality races for the sportsmen, media and the general public.”Qualifying races for the Vendée GlobeThe events in the IMOCA GLOBE SERIES are presented in the Notice of Race for the Vendée Globe as qualifiers and as a method of selection for the 2020 edition. In practice this means that qualified sailors who clock up the most miles in the races included in this championship will earn their entry ticket for the non-stop solo round the world race.Two major races scheduled each yearThe 18 sailors competing in the Monaco Globe Series, a brand new 1300-mile race around the Mediterranean, will be launching the new IMOCA GLOBE SERIES world championship. Two events sailed solo or double-handed will be counted each year until the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe. On the 2018 calendar, there is the new event in Monaco, then the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. The 2019 season will start with a first race in the spring, which will be announced shortly, then the Transat Jacques Vabre in November. Finally, in 2020, the skippers will compete in The Transat and then the New York-Vendée transatlantic race before lining up for the Vendée Globe at the end of which we will discover the name of the IMOCA world champion for the 2018-2021 period. The IMOCA GLOBE SERIES rankings will be based on a points system with races each given a certain weighting.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Nine IMOCAs lining up at the start of the Monaco Globe Series]]> Thu, 24 May 2018 00:00:00 GMT On Sunday 3rd June, nine double-handed crews will set sail at the start of the Monaco Globe Series, a brand new 1300-mile race in the Mediterranean. In this magnificent setting, the battle looks like being exciting and instructive with a lot to play for. This new event will be the first leg of the Globe Series, the new IMOCA world championship for the 2018-2020 period.   It all begins on Sunday 3rd June at 1 p.m. It’s been six years since the skippers in the IMOCA class last took part in a race in the Mediterranean with the 2012 Europa Warm Up. With the Monaco Globe Series, they will be competing in a non-stop double-handed for the first time in these fantastic waters, which often prove to be complicated. After two days of exhibition races on Friday 1st June and Saturday 2nd June, the duos will set sail from Monaco at the start of the 1300 mile race at 1p.m. precisely on Sunday 3rd June. The fleet will sail along the Western coast of Corsica before entering the Strait of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia to head for Sicily. The fleet will then point their bows towards the Balearics before sailing back to the Principality of Monaco. “On one of the world’s most beautiful seas, the IMOCA skippers will certainly enjoy themselves and we will be seeing some great pictures. They will be able to make the most of an enthusiastic welcome at the Monaco Yacht Club, whose know-how is well established,” declared Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA class. It is HRH Prince Albert II who will signal the start of the Monaco Globe Series. A nod to the fact that he also launched the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe.   A mixed line-up with some women and sailors from abroad The first edition of theMonaco Globe Series will bring together some of the best performing IMOCAs and some top class sailors. Out of the nine boats lining up, three will be magnificent foilers: Bureau Vallée 2 (Louis Burton/Anna-Maria Renken), Newrest-Art & Fenêtres (Fabrice Amedeo/Eric Péron) and the local IMOCA, supported by the Monaco Yacht Club, Malizia II (Boris Herrmann/Pierre Casiraghi). Without foils, but with a strong crew, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on SMA will be serious contenders for victory. Three IMOCAs will be sailed by women. Aboard Monin, Isabelle Joschke will be taking a preestigious sailor with her, Alain Gautier, the winner of the 1992-1993 Vendée Globe. On Kilcullen Team Ireland, Joan Mulloy will have a lot of help from Thomas Ruyant, who will be back on the boat aboard which he took part in the last Vendée Globe. For her first IMOCA race, Alexia Barrier will be joined by Pierre Quiroga on 4MyPlanet2. Manu Cousin, another newcomer to the IMOCA class, is continuing to get to grips with Groupe Setin. He will compete in the Monaco Globe Series with a sailor who is now well known in the class, Alan Roura. For his return to IMOCA racing, Stéphane Le Diraison has chosen Stan Maslard to sail with him on a boat decked out in the colours of Boulogne-Billancourt.  “The line-up for the Monaco Globe Series is very interesting with women being well represented and sailors from four countries (France, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland),” declared Antoine Mermod. “This event will be an opportunity to se some old names, but also to discover some new talent, who will give us  a lot of excitement in the  new period taking us up to the 2020 Vendée Globe 2020.”   The first race in the IMOCA world championship This new event will count a lot, as it is the first race on the calendar in the new IMOCA world championship, the Globe Series. Leading up to the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe (at the end of which we will discover the name of the IMOCA world champion), two races will take place each year with solo racing and double-handed racing. For 2018, the second race in the Globe Series will be the prestigious Route du Rhum. In 2019, there will be one event in the spring (which will be announced shortly) and then the Transat Jacques Vabre. In 2020, the skippers will take part in The Transat and then in the New York-Vendée. We should add that these events in the Globe Series will also count as qualifiers for the Vendée Globe, taking into account the number of miles raced by the skippers.   The line-up for the 2018 Monaco Globe Series   - 4MyPlanet2 : Alexia Barrier/Pierre Quiroga - Boulogne-Billancourt : Stéphane Le Diraison/Stan Maslard - Bureau Vallée 2 : Louis Burton/Anna-Maria Renken - Groupe Setin : Manu Cousin/Alan Roura - Kilcullen Team Ireland : Joan Mulloy/Thomas Ruyant - Malizia II : Boris Herrmann/Pierre Casiraghi - Monin : Isabelle Joschke/Alain Gautier - Newrest-Art & Fenêtres : Fabrice Amedeo/Eric Péron - SMA : Paul Meilhat/Gwénolé Gahinet  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The 2018 season is up and running in IMOCA!]]> Tue, 15 May 2018 00:00:00 GMT The Grand Prix Guyader and the Bermudes 1000 Race, the two inaugural events of the 2018 season, have provided a backdrop for some great clashes between the IMOCA skippers. In the colours of his new sponsor UCAR, Yann Eliès dominated play in the Grand Prix Guyader in Douarnenez, NW Brittany. In the Bermudes 1000 Race (between Douarnenez and Cascais), a new offshore qualifier for the Route du Rhum, it was Paul Meilhat who secured the win, just 12 minutes ahead of Sam Davies. The next major rendez-vous is the "Monaco Globe Series", where ten boats are expected to take the start in early June.   Grand Prix Guyader: Yann Eliès draws first blood in his new colours! Six crewed IMOCAs took the start of the 19th Grand Prix Guyader, organised on the superb race zone of Douarnenez, as it is every year. Following a breathtaking battle against Jean Le Cam, Yann Eliès ended up taking victory on the final leg of the final race. “We finished the race with a fantastic leg making 25 knots, foiling the whole way. That’s what enabled us to make the difference. We’re happy as we didn’t think we’d manage to pull off the win. From the start, Jean sailed a majestic race”, explains Yann, who was contesting his first race with his new partner, Ucar. “We really enjoyed ourselves. It was terrific, especially with the fine weather. We’re happy to have been part of it, together with the shore crew and the new sponsor!” Behind Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, it was Paul Meilhat who completed the podium on SMA, ahead of Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur), Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) and Manu Cousin (Groupe Setin). Bermudes 1000 Race: Paul Meilhat confirms, his rivals assert themselves Hot on the heels of the Grand Prix Guyader, a new singlehanded event set sail from Douarnenez on Wednesday 9 May. The competing sailors set a course for Cascais in Portugal. Despite what were favourable conditions for foilers, Paul Meilhat used his extensive knowledge of his boat with classic daggerboards to great effect, outpacing his rivals and going on to take victory in the event in a time of 3 days, 8 hours and 34 minutes of racing. However, it was a very close call as Sam Davies proved to be very insistent and finally finished the race in 2nd place, just 12 minutes behind Paul. It was a fantastic performance for the British sailor, who was competing in her first singlehanded race since the Vendée Globe 2012! “I was a bit stressed before setting sail”, Sam admits. “However, my automatic reflexes soon kicked in as I’ve done a lot of double-handed sailing on this IMOCA with Tanguy de Lamotte. I pushed the boat and the envelope so to speak during this instructive race. I’m very happy with my IMOCA, which is very, very quick. The changes she’s undergone during the winter refit are taking things in the right direction. She’s a different boat! We’ve made the right choices and I’m proud of myself and my team. It’s all good for the next stage.” The third boat to cross the finish line was helmed by a duo. Indeed, on his IMOCA Groupe Apicil, Damien Seguin opted to team up with a certain Jean Le Cam for his first major IMOCA immersion. “The boat had only been relaunched very recently and there were a lot of things to check”, Damien explains. “I’m approaching the IMOCA circuit with a great deal of humility and Jean’s expertise was highly informative. I felt good aboard the boat, which was a great satisfaction. This experience of double-handed racing has reassured me and enabled me to familiarise myself with the scale of the boat and the degree of difficulty involved in manoeuvring her. I’m heading off from Cascais now with the aim of making the climb up towards Brittany singlehanded to qualify for the Route du Rhum.”   The third solo sailor to make Cascais was Fabrice Amedeo, he too competing in his first event aboard his foiler Newrest-Art & Fenêtres. And finally, it was IMOCA ‘rookie’, Manu Cousin on Groupe Setin who brought up the rear. By completing the Bermudes 1000 Race, Paul Meilhat, Sam Davies, Fabrice Amedeo and Manu Cousin have all qualified for the Route du Rhum. However, Louis Burton will have to wait a little while longer for his ticket. Indeed, whilst lying in 2nd place in the event, he decided to turn back after noticing a persistent noise below the hull of his IMOCA Bureau Vallée 2. Rendez-vous in Monaco on 1 June The next event of the 2018 season will be a double-handed race in the Mediterranean from 1 June. Ten IMOCAs are expected to take the start of the "Monaco Globe Series". This is an eagerly awaited meet as it will comprise the first stage of the Globe Series, the results of which will count towards the IMOCA world championship.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[A brand new IMOCA for Armel Tripon]]> Fri, 04 May 2018 00:00:00 GMT There will be at least five new boats lining up at the start at the 2020 Vendée Globe. After Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec) and Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Armel Tripon has announced the construction of a new generation IMOCA. Sam Manuard will be the the designer of this boat built at the Black Pepper Yacht yard in Nantes. She is due to be launched in the summer of 2019.   Winner of the Transat 6.50 in 2003, and having gone through the Figaro and Class40 circuits, Armel Tripon made a remarkable entry into the IMOCA circuit finishing the 2014 Route du Rhum in fourth place. In November 2016, he acquired a Multi50 aboard which he finished on the podium in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre. His next big challenge on this boat will be the 2018 Route du Rhum. He will then focus entirely on his IMOCA project. “It is a great adventure, which is starting for me. It will be in fact the first time I have sailed on a brand new boat,” explained Armel.   “An innovative project” Armel Tripon has made an unusual choice for his IMOCA by choosing Sam Manuard as the designer and Black Pepper Yachts as the builder. “We are working on a very innovative project,” confirmed the skipper. “Sam Manuard will be designing his first IMOCA. We want to work with someone who has a new way of looking at the IMOCA rules. Sam was really keen and was motivated to work on this project. For Black Pepper, this is also a first. They have already built a big 18m cruiser, the Code 2, but never a monohull for the Vendée Globe. The yard is going to have to extend their team and find people with other skills, but the boat is to be built entirely in their premises.”   A boat designed around the foils to be launched in the summer of 2019 It is not a surprise, but Armel’s future IMOCA will be fitted with foils. “She will be innovative and designed around these appendages with a hull that is very different from the last generation of IMOCAs,” he added. “Work is due to begin on the boat in July with her launch scheduled for July 2019.”    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA skippers going back to their roots in the Figaro circuit]]> Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:00:00 GMT On Sunday 22nd April, 19 double-handed crews will set sail at the start of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale between Concarneau and St-Barts. Among the 38 sailors competing in this race on Figaros, some are well known figures from the IMOCA class, like Romain Attanasio, Morgan Lagravière and Thomas Ruyant, who are all looking forward to a top class fight in this tough circuit before their next contest on their 60-foot monohulls.   It is a well-known fact that the Figaro circuit is a fantastic school for ocean racers, and is often considered to be the way into IMOCA racing. The last three winners of theVendée Globe (Michel Desjoyeaux, François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h) all performed exceptionally well on Figaros, before winning the solo round the world race. While this class is often seen as a springboard, it is not uncommon to see IMOCA skippers returning to their first love, as we can see with the line-up for the 14th edition of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale, which starts from Concarneau in Southern Brittany on Sunday.   A comeback for Attanasio, a discovery for Lagravière and Ruyant Three skippers who took part in the last Vendée Globe will be lining up at the start of the Transat AG2R. One of them is a regular competitor in this race, Romain Attanasio, as this will be his fifth attempt. This time, he will be racing with the young sailor, Pierre Rhimbault. “The Transat AG2R is a fantastic race and I always enjoy taking part in it. When Pierre contacted me, I was in the process of buying my new 60-foot IMOCA, but it didn’t take me long to decide to come back to this transatlantic race,” explained Romain. Another IMOCA skipper, who is now well known, Thomas Ruyant, is forming  a solid pairing with Adrien Hardy for his first go at the event. “Adrien and I have similar backgrounds and have sailed in all sorts of classes: Mini 6.50, Figaro, Class40, 60-foot IMOCAs… It’s not often you find such all-round ability!” Thomas told us, before adding, “We also raced against each other in the Figaro circuit a few years ago and we know each other well. It’s important to know who you are setting off with. We mustn’t forget that the Figaro class has the highest standard of ocean racing today.” Morgan Lagravière is returning after being absent from the Figaro circuit for a few years, but he has a good excuse, as he has been spending all his time on his IMOCA project with the foiler, Safran. For his return to Figaro racing, and his first attempt at the Transat AG2R, he will be one of the favourites with Sébastien Simon, who is also about to join the IMOCA class… A few new IMOCA skippers lining up A few weeks ago, Sébastien Simon did indeed announce that he will be building a brand new IMOCA (designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian) in order to compete for the first time in 2020 in the Vendée Globe. Obviously a double-handed transatlantic race with Morgan Lagravière on a Figaro will prove to be a useful experience. Sébastien Simon: “I decided to do the race with Morgan as in my opinion he is one of the most talented Figaro racers. He knows how to sail his boat well. And as a person, he is open and a really nice guy. We’re in it to win it or at least make it to the podium.” Among the other IMOCA skippers taking part in the Transat AG2R, we find Isabelle Joschke, who will be forming a 100% female crew with the Swiss sailor, Justine Mettraux. Eric Péron will also be taking part in the Transat AG2R alongside Miguel Danet. Yoann Richomme will be taking up the challenge of racing across the Atlantic sailing double-handed with Martin Le Pape. The duets integrating an IMOCA skipper, at the start of the Transat AG2R   Justine Mettraux / Isabelle Joschke : Sébastien Simon / Morgan Lagravière : Bretagne CMB Performance Martin Le Pape / Yoan Richomme : MACIF Adrien Hardy / Thomas Ruyant : AGIR Recouvrement Pierre Rhimbault / Romain Attanasio : Bretagne CMB Espoir Eric Peron / Miguel Danet : Le Macaron French Pastries Benjamen Dutreux / Frederic Denis : Satecom Team Vendée    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA GENERAL MEETING Three major decisions approved]]> Tue, 10 Apr 2018 00:00:00 GMT This week was a busy and useful week for the IMOCA class. After the safety course organised in La Trinité-sur-Mer in Brittany on Wednesday 4th April, those involved in the class got together again on the following day in Lorient for the 2018 Annual General Meeting. Encouragement to use renewable energy on board the boats, agreement to continue talks with the Volvo Ocean Race, a new rule concerning radars… three major decisions were voted on and approved by a large majority.   It was in the premises of the Lorient Football Club that the Annual General Meeting of the IMOCA class was held on Thursday 5th April to determine the direction taken by the IMOCA class. Around sixty people attended, including skippers and team managers. Several decisions were approved with an acceptance rate of between 85 and 90 %.Encouraging the use of renewable energy on IMOCAsThose attending the AGM agreed on a new rule, which should encourage the use of renewable energy aboard the boats to stop them using diesel. Some skippers have already announced their desire to modify their boats going from a combustion engine to an electric motor. This move towards eliminating fossil fuel use is certainly in keeping with the times and corresponds to the fact that skippers are more and more aware of the need for boats to be increasingly optimised in terms of their sustainability.Continuing the ongoing discussions with the Volvo Ocean RaceThe IMOCA skippers voted in favour of the possible addition of the Volvo Ocean Race to the IMOCA race calendar. Those involved in the class have agreed in principle to allowing the next crewed round the world race with stopovers to be raced aboard 60-foot IMOCAs. It is now up to the Board to continue talks with the Volvo Ocean Race.Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA class: "In general, the skippers voted massively in favour of bringing these competitions together. Discussions will now continue in the weeks ahead between the IMOCA class and the VOR, so the basic concept can be drawn up for this partnership. The skippers really want to move in that direction and we are ready. The ball is now in the court of the VOR..."More efficient radars to cut the risk of collisionsImproving the safety of the boats is a major concern for the IMOCA class. A new rule has been put in place to install more efficient radar systems on board from the start of the 2018 Route du Rhum. The aim is to give solo sailors a better watch system to reduce as much as possible any risk of collision.An international boardApart from these three major decisions, the Annual General Meeting also saw the election of two new board members: the Swiss sailor, Alan Roura and the German, Boris Herrmann. They will be joining Louis Burton, Paul Meilhat and the New Zealander, Conrad Colman. Antoine Mermod remains president with British sailor, Alex Thomson vice-president and Charles Euverte treasurer. Among the eight members of the board, four come from outside of France, which reflects the desire to internationalise the IMOCA class.   Reaction of the skipper, Boris Herrmann after the IMOCA AGM:“This annual general meeting was a huge success. All of the proposals concerning rule changes were accepted. Continuing to establish links with the Volvo Ocean Race is excellent news. If the two most prestigious offshore races (Vendée Globe and Volvo) are raced on IMOCAs, it will be a major help in increasing the popularity of the class internationally and setting up new projects will be even more attractive to sponsors. As for the decision concerning renewable energy, it is taking things in the right direction. Saying that it is possible to complete a round the world race producing one’s own energy without diesel is very inspiring. By encouraging clean energy, we are contributing in our own little way to solving a much bigger problem, which affects all of our societies. It is in the spirit of the IMOCA class to search for innovation all the time in every area. Personally, I have a partnership with the BMW brand and they are doing lots of research into batteries for hybrid and electric cars. We are working on the installation of these batteries on my IMOCA and the decision taken about renewable energy at the annual general meeting will help me a lot. We hope to have the system up and running for the 2019 season.”Paul Meilhat talking about getting closer to the VOR: “I am really pleased and extremely enthusiastic about this project aimed at drawing up an agreement, as the Volvo Ocean Race is a race I have been dreaming of doing for several reasons. Firstly, the race itself, as the VOR is without doubt the toughest race, which allows you to compete against the best sailors and it brings together a truly international line-up. For someone in charge of a project like me, it is something extra being able to offer the VOR, as its international dimension means you can attract the world’s leading global brands. And for those who do not have a boat, it enables them to make the most of their know-how to get aboard. So it is all very positive..."  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Safety, a major concern for the IMOCA class]]> Fri, 06 Apr 2018 00:00:00 GMT This week in La Trinité-sur-Mer in Brittany, around fifteen IMOCA skippers had a special safety training course day with theoretical and practical units. There was a lot of discussion and feedback, so this compulsory course allowed them to refresh their knowledge and was also an opportunity to tackle important subjects that are too often neglected due to a lack of time to deal with them. We look back at this useful day during which safety was examined in a convivial atmosphere.    There was a lot of useful discussion around the table and everyone brought along their experience, told stories and offered occasional tips.  No fewer than sixteen IMOCA skippers attended. Some were old hands in the class like Vincent Riou and Samantha Davies, while, others were newcomers like Alexia Barrier, Edouard Golbery, Manu Cousin, the Finnish sailor, Ari Huusela, the German, Anna-Maria Renken… Louis Burton, Stéphane Le Diraison, Alan Roura, Giancarlo Pedote, Fabrice Amedeo, Yannick Bestaven, Paul Meilhat, Romain Attanasio and Boris Herrmann were also present. A top class line-up for this safety training day organised in La Trinité.    A different way of looking at safety in the IMOCA class  All ocean racers must attend a World Sailing survival course proposed by the International Sailing Federation. But IMOCA class sailors require more detailed information on their boats and way to do things. That is why a compulsory course dedicated especially to them was set up offering a different way of looking at safety. This rule was proposed and voted for at the IMOCA General Meeting.   It was the CEPIM (European Marine Incident Prevention Centre) that worked on the schedule for the day. “In the morning, we ran through the theory with various themes being dealt with,” explained Manuel Guedon, instructor at the CEPIM. “IMOCA skippers are business managers. We explained to them the risks they need to think about and the measures they need to adopt. We then talked about rules at sea and what attitude to have when encountering a cargo vessel, oil tanker or trawler…  Then we looked at the means of identification and details about boats using the AIS and radar. We also made the most of all the feedback, in particular looking at the accidents that recently occurred in the Volvo Ocean Race.”   A desire to share ideas The sailors were invited to talk about all these matters and to make the most of their own experiences, discuss their ideas and when possible present any new systems they may have tested. These discussions were very much appreciated, as Sam Davies tells us. “It is interesting to work in a group with people with a wide range of experiences. Some learnt a lot, while for others like Vincent Riou, who is the most experienced among us, it was a revision exercise. What he has to say is always useful for the newcomers. It is in the spirit of the class with everyone playing trhe game, particularly when we are talking about safety matters.” We should remember that time is always tight for IMOCA skippers. “We always have thousands of things to do, so it is important to set one day aside to look at safety,” explained Stéphane Le Diraison. “That enables us to go through various situations and look at how to tackle the risks that we may encounter on a boat. We also talked about details, which can make all the difference in terms of planning ahead and being well prepared. I took down some notes with various points to work on later, particularly concerning the use of the radar.” For those discovering the IMOCA class, looking at how others prepare and seeing which techniques they have been able to develop was very useful. “This day opened up my eyes to things I don’t yet master and I am going to be able to work on all the safety gear on my 60-foot boat,” confirmed Alexia Barrier for example. “We had a special time together. It is great to be able to talk things through together without having to deal with partners and the stress of the start of a race.” Consequently, throughout the day, there was a very friendly atmosphere amongst the sailors, who were pleased to be able to get together and find out more about each other.  Climbing the mast alone, exercises on diving in a survival suit: getting into real situations After all the discussion during the morning in the classroom, the sixteen skippers attending spent the afternoon carrying out practical exercises concerned with safety. There were two workshops on the programme, starting with climbing the mast alone. “I have never had to do that out at sea. It’s a bit of a nightmare. A situation you don’t want to find yourself in. But you need to prepare for that,” explained Boris Herrmann. By training how to climb the mast, everyone was able to adjust their climbing gear and look at the latest equipment available. When they have to climb up out at sea, they will probably all be pleased to have gone through this full rehearsal in La Trinité-sur-Mer… The second exercise in the afternoon involved the use of “spare-air,” the portable air bottles for diving, which can be used when the boat capsizes and fills with water. So far, no IMOCA skipper has had to do that and we hope that will continue to be the case. But it is something once again they need to prepare for, just in case… Fitted out in their survival suits, those taking part in the course threw themselves one by one into the water and were able to test the spare air with a professional diver. That brought this safety training day which is compulsory for all of the IMOCA skippers to an end. Another session is scheduled for September for those who were unable to attend this week. Once again, there will be people from a wide range of backgrounds and sharing their experiences is bound to be enriching. [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Barcelona World Race cancelled: the IMOCA class looking for a replacement race]]> Thu, 29 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT Taking into account the political and administrative situation in Catalonia, the organiser of the Barcelona World Race (the FNOB) has taken the decision to cancel the fourth edition of the double-handed round the world race on IMOCAs, which was due to start on 12th January 2019. Eight teams had already announced their intention of taking part in this race and others were thinking about joining them. In order not to disappoint these teams and to avoid leaving a big gap in the 2019 calendar, the IMOCA class is already thinking about the possibility of creating a major new international ocean race.    “The unstable institutional climate that we have seen over the past year and the lack of political stability nationally (…) means we are not able to organise this fourth edition of the Barcelona World Race.” That is how the FNOB (Barcelona Ocean Racing Federation) justified cancelling the double-handed round the world race. Taking into account the tense situation, the City of Barcelona, the headline partner for the race, no longer wants to finance the next edition. Consequently, the private partners have followed their decision and have also stood down. The FNOB has no other choice than simply to cancel this major race on the IMOCA calendar, which was due to start on 12th January 2019.   It looked like being a promising fourth edition It was only late last week that the IMOCA class was informed of this bad news. It was a massive blow, as the IMOCA class has been working hard for more than ten years to develop this race and make it a fantastic sporting event. The disappointment is that much bigger, because this fourth edition of the Barcelona World Race looked extremely promising. Eight crews were already interested in competing and others were seriously considering that. For the first time, a stopover was scheduled in Sydney, with the possibility for the skippers to change their crewman. This stopover in Australia would have been a huge benefit in terms of the internationalisation of the IMOCA class. And for the racers, it would have been a great opportunity to race double-handed in the Southern Ocean and to prepare in the best way possible for the 2020 Vendée Globe.   Plan B However, the class is not going to be discouraged and wishes to push ahead looking at setting up a plan B, that is to say, a top class ocean race with a global reach, just like the other events organised by the IMOCA class. The teams hoping to take part in the Barcelona World Race, some of which had already spent money planning for this, must not feel they have been dealt  a blow. In order not to affect their sporting schedule, it is going to be necessary to come up with a replacement race. This is a major challenge, as the timing is tight. In consultation with the various teams, the IMOCA class will be doing its utmost to achieve this and fill the gap in the race calendar between the 2018 Route du Rhum and the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Charlie Dalin will race in IMOCA]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT Charlie Dalin: “I was made for the Vendée Globe” With four podium places in a row in the Solitaire, twice French elite solo offshore racing champion, Charlie Dalin has certainly shown what he can do on a Figaro. At the age of 33, he is about to step up a level and join the IMOCA circuit, thanks to the support of his new sponsor, Apivia. He will take the helm of a brand new 60-foot boat designed by Guillaume Verdier, which is set to be launched in June 2019. His goal is clear. He wants to win the 2020 Vendée Globe.    Charlie, when did you first start thinking about competing in the Vendée Globe? “I have had the Vendée Globe in the back of my mind since I first started solo long distance racing. I love being alone at sea in a sporting competition. I am not at all worried about spending 70 days alone on my boat. On the contrary, that is something that attracts me. The longer the race, the better I feel. I am a trained naval architect and I feel at home with the technical aspects, which is vital on an IMOCA, especially with a brand new boat. The Vendée Globe brings together everything I love, so I was made for this race. I started actively looking for sponsors in late 2016 during the last edition. My first discussions with Apivia took place last autumn. I am racing with Macif on the Figaro and Apivia is in fact the health insurance arm of the Macif Group. So everything fell into place quite naturally.”   So, you’ll be competing with a brand new boat, when you join the IMOCA circuit. Why did you choose Guillaume Verdier to design her and the CDK Technologies yard to build her? “With Mer Concept (the company run by François Gabart, who will be the project manager, editor’s note), we met up with several architects. They all came up with some interesting things and it wasn’t easy to come to a decision. But we were won over by Guillaume’s way of thinking and the means at his disposal. He also has a lot of experience of IMOCAs, which was something that we were looking for. He won the last America’s Cup with Team New Zealand, and is one of the top architects in the world. It all went smoothly with him and his team and we got on well. We could talk about designs for hours without being aware of time slipping by. As for the construction, we chose CDK Technologies, which is also a safe pair of hands. This yard has worked a lot with Mer Concept and their relationship has been built on their mutual trust.”   “I was fully immersed in the 2016 Vendée Globe”   You already have a lot of experience of IMOCAs having worked with Armel Le Cléac’h and then Yann Eliès… “I did in fact join the design team for Armel Le Cléac’h’s Brit Air IMOCA for six months in 2010. I was in charge of fine-tuning the boat to make her perform better. I did quite a bit of sailing with Armel and I soon got hooked, as these machines are magical. After that, I did some trips out with Bernard Stamm, Vincent Riou and François Gabart. But it was particularly working with Yann Eliès that I really acquired a great experience of IMOCAs. I took part in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre with him on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir and we finished third. At that time, the race finished in Itajaí (in Brazil) and resembled the first fortnight of the Vendée Globe. I was able to look ahead and that confirmed my desire to set off alone around the world.”   You stayed with Yann Eliès’s team until the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe… “Yes, I was in charge of taking care of performance and Yann appointed me substitute skipper. So I was at the heart of a team setting sail in the last Vendée Globe and really immersed myself in it. In Les Sables d’Olonne, I attended all the briefings and we worked on the weather together with Yann. I could see what sort of effect there is on your mental approach at the start of such a long and difficult race. It’s still quite something to cast off to set sail around the world. I was at the helm in the entrance channel and was able to experience that emotionally charged moment. That is going to be very useful for me in 2020.”   “Ideal timing”   What is your programme going to be leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe? “The boat is due to be launched in June 2019, in other words almost eighteen months before the start of the Vendée Globe. That is ideal timing, as it is not too early or too late. You have to get it just right between having time to sail and make the boat reliable and setting off with a boat equipped with all the latest technological innovations. The 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre will be the first big event. Then, there will be the solo transatlantic race to come home. And in 2020, I’ll take part in the Transat from Britain and the New York-Vendée. I’ll therefore have sailed in four transatlantic races before the Vendée Globe. The partnership with Apivia is a long term plan leading up to the 2022 Route du Rhum. So we will have the time to write some great chapters together.   Are you aiming to win the 2020 Vendée Globe? “Yes, it’s the battle to try to win, which interests me in ocean racing. But I am well aware that there are lots of unknowns when you are looking at a race the scale of the Vendée Globe. In any case, this edition looks fascinating, in particular as the new boats will be designed by different architects: Guillaume Verdier, the VPLP team, Juan Kouyoumdjian and maybe others… These will also be the first IMOCAs really designed around the foils with all the feedback that experience has offered. The designs will probably be fairly different depending on what the various architects and sailors believe in.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Juan Kouyoumdjian: “The IMOCAs are fantastic laboratories to try out innovations”]]> Wed, 28 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT The Franco-Argentinean designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian, recently chosen to design Sébastien Simon’s future Arkea-Paprec, is making a return to the IMOCA circuit. After Pindar (2008) and Cheminées Poujoulat (2012), the very famous architect known as Juan K is now looking at his third 60-foot IMOCA with the aim of designing and fine-tuning a boat to win the next Vendée Globe. We met up with him to find out more.   Juan, how do you feel about returning to the IMOCA circuit and the Vendée Globe in particular? “It’s a huge satisfaction. I’m very lucky to be able to work with a highly professional team, who have the means to succeed. My past experience in the Vendée Globe is interesting. The first IMOCA I came up with, Pindar, was definitely not designed for the solo round the world race. Her owner did not want to sail single-handed or even double-handed, so the boat was meant for a crew. However, the 60-foot boat finished the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe in fifth place (in the hands of the British sailor, Brian Thompson, editor’s note). The second IMOCA on which I worked, Cheminées Poujoulat, was special, as her skipper, Bernard Stamm had some very special requests. The specifications were very personal, yet she did well in the races she took part in. For a long time, Bernard was one of the three frontrunners in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe, before encountering some electrical difficulties. This new project in collaboration with Sébastien Simon and his technical director, Vincent Riou, is going to allow me to turn the page with a top class team.”   It seems that there is a lot going on between Sébastien Simon and Vincent Riou. Is that going to be key to the successful design of a winning boat? “When Sébastien and Vincent came to see me in Valencia, I did indeed see that there was a strong understanding between them. That is vital, especially in the context of the Vendée Globe, which is truly a solo race. The target is to come up with something specifically for the sailor. It’s down to him to draw up the specifications and determine the way in which he is going to use his boat. That has a strong influence on the design process.  I’ve known Vincent for a long time and we have already worked together. As for Sébastien, I was impressed by his ability to come up with the right questions. Thanks to his engineering background, he has a clear vision of where he wants to go. His youthfulness, his desire and talent, coupled with my experience and Vincent’s, should allow us to work well together.”   “The architect’s work doesn’t end with the design phase” For a naval architect, an IMOCA and the Vendée Globe are a great opportunity to allow you to express yourself… “Yes, it’s fantastic. In the world of monohull sailing today, the Vendée Globe is a unique opportunity to innovate and freely express one’s potential. Working on the development of an Open 60 project is intellectually fascinating. The IMOCAs are incredible laboratories, and we can continue to push back the frontiers in terms of research.”   You are not only involved in the design of the boat, but also in its development until 2020. That is not very common in the IMOCA context… “That’s true, the IMOCA circuit is increasingly professional and once the boat is in the water, the teams take over. Those in the “premiership” can do well and know where they can make gains in terms of performance. But Sébastien Simon and Vincent Riou laid down their conditions: they wanted the designer to stay with them during the fine-tuning process. That is something I am looking forward to. An architect’s work doesn’t end with the design phase, as there is a lot to gain once the boat has been launched.”   “Finding the right configuration to win the Vendée Globe” Have you signed an exclusivity clause with Sébastien Simon for the next Vendée Globe ? “Not in the true sense. Having said that, if another sailor asked me to work on a new IMOCA, Sébastien could oppose his veto, if he sees them as a close rival. For me, it seems normal to work on one project with the aim of winning the Vendée Globe. We did well to put that clause in place, as last month two racers came to see me about a new boat. Sébastien thought they were very serious and so I turned them down... ”   What can you tell us today about the possible design features of the future Arkea-Paprec? “I can see the boat in my mind. Intuitively, I know what we are aiming for, but we have to keep an open mind and analyse all the possibilities. We are trying to examine all the choices that remain open in the class rules. In an Open class, there are an infinite number of possibilities. It is impossible to design an IMOCA, which sails well in every condition and point of sail. We have to make compromises to find the right combination to win the Vendée Globe. From that point of view, working with Vincent Riou is a huge advantage. He gives us a lot of help in determining that configuration. His involvement is priceless. This period in which we are looking at all the different possibilities will soon be over and then we’ll be in the construction and fine-tuning phases. But in reality, the design work never ends. On the eve of the start of the Vendée Globe, we will still be getting ideas. That’s what happens in this job and what makes it so fantastic.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Back to solo racing]]> Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT Because this is a Route du Rhum year, the skippers in the IMOCA class have to get ready to sail alone. Fabrice Amedeo, Arnaud Boissières and Manuel Cousin tell us what they are going to do to get to know more about their new boats by sailing alone. They each have their own challenge ahead – learning about a very efficient foiler, the technical difficulty of fitting new appendages and a baptism of fire on an IMOCA.   Fabrice Amedeo: “a very serious preparation” Since Newrest – Art & Fenêtres (the former foiler, No Way Back) was relaunched on 7th February, Fabrice Amedeo has been out sailing on day trips from la Trinité with a short-handed crew. “For each trip, we have a clearly defined programme,” explained Fabrice. “Until the end of March, we’ll continue to train to get to know the boat and make some minor improvements. But by early April, I shall be going on stand-by to sail 2500 miles from Brittany to the Azores and back. As we look ahead, our team and I are feeling very upbeat and positive. This first big trip out to sea will be good for my confidence and I’ll make the most of it to qualify for the Route du Rhum.” Fabrice Amedeo will then take part in various events on the IMOCA calendar: the Guyader Grand Prix, a solo race from Douarnenez to Cascais, the Drheam Cup, the Azimut Challenge in Lorient… By the start of the Route du Rhum, he will have already clocked up 6000 miles solo on his new boat. “This is an incredible machine and with the foils, we really start speeding up. I can go 2, 3 or 4 knots faster than on my old IMOCA,“ saidFabrice. “Sailing  well on such a boat is a crazy challenge. It’s down to me to do what it takes. That’s why I don’t have any other choice than to go through a very serious preparation phase. It would be a pity to have such a great boat and not get the full potential out of her.”   Arnaud Boissières: “Not sailing solo at any cost for the moment” By fitting his 2008 IMOCA with foils, Arnaud Boissières is taking up a huge technical challenge. After an initial phase of work on her in the Mer Agitée premises in Port-la-Forêt, Arnaud’s IMOCA headed to les Sables d’Olonne for the next stage of work. While all the structural work was completed, all the different parts of the puzzle now have to be assembled. “Mast, foils, boom, outriggers, electronics, rudders… It’s all in kit form,” explained Boissières. “She is due to be relaunched in early April. The aim is to get out there sailing as quickly as possible, as we have a lot of work to do to get to grips with her and carry out technical trials. Initially, I won’t be sailing solo at any cost. I prefer to go for trips with short-handed crews to check that everything is working well and to look at everything… Michel Desjoyeaux will be coming out with us and the priority is to approve the latest technical choices. I’ll switch to solo sailing once the boat is more or less expressing her full potential.” As for racing, Arnaud will take part in the Guyader Grand Prix then in the Douarnenez-Cascais to qualify for the Route du Rhum. He will then go down to the Mediterranean for some PR operations with his sponsor (but he won’t be competing in the Monaco Globe Series), then the Azimut Challenege and possibly the Dhream Cup in July, if the boat isn’t in the yard. “We have a lot of sailing to do before the Route du Rhum,” said Arnaud. “This race is an important event and will happen very quickly for us. We have to get it right.” Manu Cousin: “A different scale” After four seasons competing on a Class40, Manuel Cousin is stepping up with the support of his loyal partner, the Setin Group, for an IMOCA programme taking him to the end of 2021. “This is a different scale,” admitted Manu. “In Class40, I was able to keep my sales job at the same time, but in the IMOCA class, that isn’t possible as I need to give it my all.” To get to know his new boat, Manu Cousin was able to rely on the help of her former owner, Arnaud Boissières. “Since July 2017, I have been lucky to be able to sail double-handed with Arnaud on this boat, which is a luxury. I was able to find out everything about this IMOCA, especially during the Transat Jacques Vabre. At the end of that race, I brought the boat back to France with two members of my team. I tried to sail in solo mode as much as possible during that trip to get to know the boat better.” The boat is currently in the yard in Les Sables d’Olonne for a check-up and overhaul. She is due to be relaunched on 12th April. “I have a lot of experience of offshore sailing and I have done a lot of solo sailing in my life in IRC and Class40. But not very much on an IMOCA. I’ll quickly do that once the boat has been relaunched. That’s going to be important with the Route du Rhum coming up.” Manu Cousin is giving himself two opportunities to qualify for the Rhum:Douarnenez/Cascais and the Dhream Cup.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Lady luck shines on Sébastien Simon ]]> Thu, 08 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT After gaining a wealth of experience racing on a Figaro, Sébastien Simon, aged 27, has moved to the IMOCA circuit with a dream project. In 2020, he will line up at the start of the Vendée Globe aboard a brand new 60-foot boat, Arkea-Paprec, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian and built by CDK Technologies. Work will begin in September with her launch scheduled for the spring of 2019. Moreover, Sébastien will be able to take advantage of all the expertise acquired by Vincent Riou, who is taking on the role of technical director. We met up with the young skipper, whose future is certainly looking bright… Sébastien, could you have imagined things working out like this a few months ago? “With great difficulty. What has happened is simply incredible and I could not have hoped for anything better. Lady luck has certainly shone on me. I have always dreamed of the Vendée Globe. I wanted to take part in this race with a project that would get me a good result, but for a long time, that was something that I could only imagine. In 2015, I won a leg in the Solitaire du Figaro and I could feel that I was getting somewhere. I talked things over with Vincent Riou and we got on well together. We said to each other that if I managed to find some partners, he would help me run the project and take care of the technical aspects. And that is what happened. So, I’ll be doing my first Vendée Globe with a brand new boat, a solid team and two great partners, Arkea and Paprec. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it and grab this opportunity to gain some more experience. I won’t just be at the helm, but also fully involved in the project.”  Why did you choose Juan Kouyoumdjian as the designer of your future IMOCA? “With Vincent Riou, we met the VPLP team, Guillaume Verdier and Juan Kouyoumdjian. We set out a number of criteria, and it soon became clear that we should go with Juan. He’s someone that is extremely friendly and that is vital for me. He is brilliant, pays careful attention to every little detail, and never leaves anything to chance. He showed he was fully motivated about getting involved with us and ready to join in with us on everything. He won’t just be dealing with the design of the boat. He will be involved in her development until 2020, which is not very common for a designer. But there is as much to gain in the development phase as in the design itself.”  Finishing high up in the Vendée Globe rankings Can you tell us at this point what the main ideas will be about the boat? “It is still too early to talk about it for the moment, as it is still very much in the early stages of the design. We are currently in the research phase and checking out the various shapes. The IMOCAs from the last but one generation were very much hybrids, while my boat will be based around the foils. In the end, the limiting factor will be the man, rather than the machine. We may have to put our foot on the brake and come up with something simpler and more reliable. In any case, all of this design and construction phase interests me as much as the Vendée Globe race itself. One thing can’t happen without the other.” What experience have you had of IMOCAs? “I sailed with Vincent Riou during his preparation for the 2016 Vendée Globe, during the training sessions at the Finistère Offshore Racing Centre. IMOCAs aren’t like other types of boat. They are powerful and you become addicted. I am going to continue to sail on Vincent’s boat in the coming months. I have a lot to learn and I’m going to be able to count on Vincent’s experience, which strengthens my project and raises my ambitions. It is an honour to have him as technical director and coach until 2020.”  What will be your programme between now and the 2020 Vendée Globe? “Work will begin on the boat in September at the CDK yard. She is due to be launched in the spring of 2019, or in other words eighteen months before the start of the Vendée Globe. The timing is looking good. We have set up a race programme that we will announce shortly.” What sort of result are you aiming for in your first round the world voyage? “I hope to finish high up in the rankings, among the favourites. But I’m keeping my feet firmly on the ground and remain humble…”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Enda O’Coineen around the world and back]]> Fri, 26 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT The Irish skipper, Enda O’Coineen will be setting out to sea tomorrow (Friday) from Dunedin in New Zealand aboard the IMOCA, Le Souffle du Nord, which for this voyage has been renamed “Le Souffle du Nord-Team Ireland.” Ahead of him, 13,000 miles of solo sailing to reach Les Sables d’Olonne. This is a way for Enda to complete his Vendée Globe, which was interrupted when his boat was dismasted. It is also a way to bring home the boat skippered previously by Thomas Ruyant, who was also forced to retire from what was his first solo round the world voyage.   For Enda O’Coineen, skipper of the Le Souffle du Nord – Team Ireland monohull, “This is a lifetime ambition that I am trying to complete. In November 2016, I was one of the dreamers in the Vendée Globe, one of the non-professional racers, who grabbed this opportunity to fulfil their dreams. Mine came to an end when the boat was dismasted in the Indian Ocean. I refused help and made my way to New Zealand by my own means. I found myself alongside the boat, “Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine”, which was skippered by Thomas Ruyant. It was love at first sight. After talking things over, we came to an agreement thanks to which I shall be setting sail on Friday on this great boat, which is half-French and half-Irish. This time I’ll be racing against myself and will give myself daily goals to complete the 13,000 miles separating me from Les Sables d’Olonne while racing as quickly as possible.” As for Thomas Ruyant, he is delighted that his boat has been repaired and will be setting sail again. “I think that is fantastic. I didn’t take her to New Zealand for no reason. Enda is someone who gives so much especially to youngsters. I wish him all the best. He is facing a huge challenge with some tricky sailing ahead in the Pacific and Atlantic. I hope to be able to welcome him home to Les Sables d’Olonne when he finishes.” Programme - 26th January 2018: start from Dunedin of the solo return voyage and (if possible) without any stopovers, -      Early April: due to finish back in Les Sables d’Olonne -      Mid-April: celebrations after arrival back in Dunkirk, the home port for the association from the North of France Follow the adventure of Le Souffle du Nord – Team Ireland at[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Romain Attanasio: “A more competitive project” ]]> Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT After finishing fifteenth in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe aboard a legendary IMOCA launched back in 1998, Romain Attanasio has since then acquired a more modern boat, Fabrice Amedeo’s former Newrest-Matmut, a Farr design from 2007. So, now he’s begun a new IMOCA cycle leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe. On his new boat, Romain will be able once again to make the most of his racing instinct.   Romain, your new boat has now been handed over in Port-la-Forêt. This one is ten years younger than Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys, your previous IMOCA. We can imagine that changes  a lot of things for you… “They’re reallylike chalk and cheese. The rules and standards of performance moved so fast over that ten year period. I know what this type of boat is like having taken part in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre sailing double-handed with Louis Burton on another Farr design from the same generation (the pair finished in ninth place, editor’s note). My current boat performs much better and is lighter, but the basic philosophy is the same as on Louis’s old boat, so I know what to expect when sailing on her. She will be going into the yard next week. The two major goals will be to look at all the systems and to slim the boat down as much as possible. We won’t be doing any major work on her this year. She is due to be relaunched in April.” So the goal for you is to be that much more competitive? “Exactly. I completed my first Vendée Globe aboard an older boat where my main aim was to make it all the way around the world. I deliberately went for reliability. I knew that if I completed that race, it would open doors for me to return in 2020 with a boat that would perform better and that is exactly what has happened. I’m always aiming to move forward, but remain humble. I don’t have a brand new boat, but nevertheless one that should allow me to go on the attack more. Whether when I’m out training in Port-la-Forêt or racing, I should be able to fight it out with boats from the same generation as mine.”   “It may be possible one day to fit foils”   Arnaud Boissières and Alan Roura have taken the decision to fit foils to their IMOCAs from the 2008 generation. Would you be tempted to do that too? “It’s a possibility I’m seriously looking at. Having said that, I’d like to wait and see what happens on Arnaud’s and Alan’s boats. It’s really interesting to see what they are doing, but I remain cautious. Apart from the financial aspect, I’m not convinced that the gains in performance are that clear on a boat dating back to 2007. Will the gains in performance offered by the foils when reaching make up for the boat being heavier and the losses when sailing upwind? So, I’m not rushing into that. If we do go down that road, it will be next winter.” While your IMOCA is being worked on, you will be competing in the Transat AG2R with Pierre Rhimbault. Why have you decided to return to the Figaro class? “It’s because I love theAG2R race. I’ve taken part four times and have often got a good result. I learnt everything on a Figaro and it’s really enjoyable to be able to return to that circuit. It’s also an opportunity to continue my quest for performance and be competitive, which I was used to doing before. This race will allow me to feel some excitement, while I wait for my IMOCA to be relaunched.”   “My first Route du Rhum” What is your IMOCA race programme in 2018? “I’ll be taking part in theDrheam Cup, then the Azimut Challenge. They are going to be a good way to train in race mode before the Route du Rhum, which is of course the big event this season. That is why I am going to favour solo and short-handed racing in order to prepare as best I can for that race. It’s going to be my first Route du Rhum and I really intend to be up there with the other boats from the 2008 generation and maybe some of the foilers that are still being run in… I’m setting off with the aim of getting a good result.”   What has become of your previous boat, Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys, which was a legend in the IMOCA class? “She is up for sale for 275,000 Euros. Some Italians were planning to buy her, but they changed their mind at the final moment. Several other people are interested, including some who would like to take part in the Route du Rhum and / or the Vendée Globe. My greatest sailing memories come from this legendary boat and I’d like to see her in good hands.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Looking ahead to 2018, a very busy season for the IMOCAs]]> Fri, 12 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT The skippers in the IMOCA class will be seeing a lot of different places in 2018, as we can see if we look at all the different events on the calendar and in particular the fine programme scheduled in the Mediterranean. The pinnacle event in 2018 will be the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe, which starts from St. Malo on 4th November. With ten months to go to the big day, this headline event, which will be celebrating its fortieth birthday, is already attracting a lot of interest. With the cargo ship Kingfisher arriving in Lorient with seven of the thirteen IMOCAs, which took part in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre, all of the competitors are now back in their respective home ports. The boats are now entering the yard to prepare for the 2018 season, which looks like being very busy, which is something that can only delight the skippers. The season to open in Douarnenez It will be in early May inDouarnenez in Brittany that the IMOCAs will begin this new race season, when they take part in the Guyader Grand Prix. Just two days after this event ends, those skippers who so wish can line up on 9th May for the start of a solo race between Douarnenez and Cascais (Portugal), which will be a qualifier for the Route du Rhum. This will be a good opportunity to get hold of the precious ticket early in the season. This race course will also be a literary voyage. An author will be paired up with each of the skippers taking part, which should mean that there will be some fantastic tales about this maritime adventure. A rich programme in the Mediterranean In the first week of June, the IMOCA skippers will be back together again for another long-awaited event, this time in Monaco, details of which are due to be presented later this month. The idea is to come up with a genuine Mediterranean race programme with the 60-foot monohulls lining up after that in the Giraglia Rolex Cup between St. Tropez and Genoa, via the Giraglia Rock. In between, there will be stand-by periods scheduled in Toulon or La Ciotat and then in Cannes. The locals down there in the Mediterranean will therefore have an opportunity to meet the sailors and admire their boats on their home ground. Back in the Atlantic and the English Channel The next events will take place further north. The start will be organised on 23rd July of the Dhream Cup between La Trinité-sur-Mer and Cherbourg with a rounding of the famous Fastnet Rock, offering a 736-mile race course to the IMOCAs. This race will also be a qualifier for the Route du Rhum. That will be followed by Cowes Week and the Round Britain and Ireland Race. Then from 20th to 23rd September, the Azimut Challenge will take place in Lorient (Brittany) offering a full dress rehearsal before the major event on the 2018 calendar. It all comes to a climax with the Route du Rhum To round off the busy 2018 season in the best way possible, the IMOCAs will be setting sail in the legendary Route du Rhum, Destination Guadeloupe. The starting gun will be fired off St. Malo on 4th November with the finish in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe). Twenty places have been reserved for the IMOCAs, fifteen of which have already been taken up. This confirms the enthusiasm surrounding this event, where the standard looks likely to be very high for those wishing to follow in the footsteps of François Gabart, the winner of the last edition in 2014. A year to go to the Barcelona World Race In just a year from now, on 12th January 2019, the IMOCAs will set off in the Barcelona World Race, the double-handed round the world race. A new Notice of Race has been published confirming the new race format with two legs: Barcelona-Sydney and Sydney-Barcelona, with the possibility of changing co-skippers in Australia. ---------------------------------------- 2018 IMOCA calendar - 4th April: Safety week for the IMOCA skippers - 5th to 7th May: Guyader Grand Prix - 9th May: start of the Douarnenez-Cascais race (qualifier for the Route du Rhum) - 20th to 31st May: stand-by in Toulon or La Ciotat - 1st to 8th June: Monaco Globe Series - 9th to 12th June: stand-by in Cannes - 13th June: start of the Giraglia Rolex Cup - 23rd July: start of the Drheam Cup: La Trinité Sur Mer (Brittany) – Cherbourg at the tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula (qualifier for the Route du Rhum) - 6th to 9th August: Cowes Week - 12th to 18th August: Round Britain and Ireland Race - 20th to 23rd September: Azimut Challenge - 26th October to 3rd November: Boats will be present in St. Malo - 4th November: Start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Foils for Alan Roura’s IMOCA]]> Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT The youngest member of the IMOCA class, who finished twelfth in the 2016-2016 Vendée Globe aboard one of the oldest boats in the fleet, Alan Roura, is moving up a step. Now at the helm of the second La Fabrique, the Swiss skipper took advantage of the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre to see what changes could possibly be made to his 2007 Finot-Conq designed boat (Armel Le Cléac’h’s former Brit Air, which became Bertrand de Broc’s MACSF). The most striking change will involve the fitting of foils. We met up with him to find out more.   Why did you choose to fit foils to La Fabrique? Can the boat cope with this change? “Firstly there were financial reasons. After my first Vendée Globe, I wanted to get a better performing IMOCA, but things spun out of control in the second-hand market. We didn’t have the means to buy a foiler from the latest generation. We therefore looked for an older boat with an interesting shape to transform her with foils. Not all of the older generation IMOCAs could be fitted with foils. Ours could. It would be a shame to miss out on that. This Finot-Conq designed boat is not very wide, which makes her good. There are straight lines and she has a big chine at the stern. On the other hand, the way she cuts through the water is very narrow, but that problem should be resolved with the foils. On top of that, I believe it is interesting not to have boats that are seen as throwaway items. There are some good boats there? Getting hold of them, modifying them and advancing is a great challenge.”   Four or five months of work   What is the schedule for this big refit? “The boat will be entering the yard in January. We are looking at four or five months of work, with her relaunch planned for May or June. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the work. I’ll also be out there keeping my hand in, sailing smaller boats. I’d like to finds someone to sail with on a Figaro in the Transat AG2R. I’m open to offers (laughs). Once the boat is back in the water, we’ll be out there sailing and training to get the boat fine tuned in her new configuration. The main goal this season (2018) is the Route du Rhum. I was forced to retire from this race in 2014 (in Class40, editor’s note) and that is something I can’t put out of my mind. If my IMOCA is well tuned, I could pull off a great result.”   The decision to fit foils came fairly quickly after you bought the boat... “Originally, we were thinking about this modification for after the Route du Rhum, in early 2019. But it would have been a pity to wait, as the aim of the project is to ensure the boat is 100% ready by the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe, so as to get the most out of her. The Transat Jacques Vabre enabled me to get to know the boat, see what possible changes were possible and they were obvious to see.”   A gain of between 2 and 4 knots when reaching   What gains are you hoping for in terms of performance by adding foils? “My IMOCA is already fast when reaching (with the wind on the beam) in her current configuration. With the foils, her performance will be even better and we hope to gain between two and four knots in this point of sail. We also hope to make gains sailing downwind at around 130° to the wind. Upwind sailing on the other hand will be affected, so we have a lot of work to do on that. We’ll lose out in terms of performance in comparison to traditional daggerboards. That is unavoidable, but we are trying to reduce that to a minimum.”   What has happened to your former La Fabrique, a legendary boat in the IMOCA class? “She has been acquired by Edouard Golbery, a former member of the Mini class, who has also sailed on Class40s. The boat is in Lorient and she may well be lining up in the next Route du Rhum. This very sturdy old IMOCA can still achieve a lot. I admit that I feel the butterflies in my stomach leaving this boat behind after completely refitting her. At the same time, I’m pleased that the story is continuing. Superbigou has spent enough time in the yard or on the hard during her life, so she needs to get out there sailing.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Back from the Transat...]]> Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT After they all completed the Transat Jacques Vabre between Le Havre and Salvador da Bahia, the 13 IMOCAs that took part began heading home, some on cargo ships, while others returned under sail. This second option, which is less expensive, enabled some skippers and their teams to do some more sailing and gain from the experience. Over the past few days, news of the IMOCA class has focused on the press conference for the next Barcelona World Race, at which some important announcements were made.  After taking advantage for a while of the atmosphere in Salvador da Bahia, the IMOCA skippers and their teams organised the return trip for their monohulls to get them back to France. Out of the thirteen boats that took part in the Transat Jacques Vabre, seven are returning on a cargo vessel, the Kingfisher, which set sail on Friday 15th December and is due to arrive in Lorient on 28th December. Aboard this ship we can see StMichel-Virbac, SMA, Malizia II, Bureau Vallée 2, Initiatives-Cœur, Generali and Vivo A Beira.    Others chose to sail home. That was the case for Manuel Cousin, the new owner of the Farr-designed boat from 2007, aboard which he competed in the Transat with Arnaud Boissières. With some members of his team, he completed his return voyage and moored his IMOCA up in Les Sables d’Olonne. Kito de Pavant is also back after sailing his Bastide-Otio to La Rochelle, where she will remain in the hands of Yannick Bestaven. Skippered by Roland Jourdain and a few members of the Kaïros team, Des Voiles Et Vous has also arrived back in her home port of Concarneau in Brittany. As for Newrest-Brioche Pasquier, Fabrice Amedeo’s former IMOCA, she is now in Port-la-Forêt. Romain Attanasio, her new skipper, can start to get to grips with her. Two other IMOCAs are currently on their way home, La Fabrique and Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys.    A new format for the Barcelona While the voyage home from the Transat Jacques Vabre was being organised, those involved in the IMOCA class are already thinking about the next big races, of which the 2019 Barcelona World Race will be one of the most important (start on 12th January 2019). For the fourth edition, the double-handed round the world race has come up with a new format, the main features of which were presented on Wednesday at a presentation at the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona (FNOB). For the first time, after leaving Spain there will be a stopover in Australia, meaning there will be two legs, Barcelona-Sydney and Sydney-Barcelona, with the possibility of changing co-skippers. This stopover in Australia will allow the race to become more international, which is always very interesting for the class and the sailors involved.  “For us, it will be a success if we get ten or eleven boats on the start line for the next edition,” explained Xosé-Carlos Fernández, general director of the FNOB. Sailors like Alex Thomson, Arnaud Boissières, Samantha Davies, Kito de Pavant and Alan Roura have already expressed their interest in taking part in the next race. The race director, Jacques Caraës pointed out how important this race is in the IMOCA calendar: “The Barcelona World Race will have a weighting of 9 in the Globe Series, the IMOCA world championship. One of the legs will be a qualifier for the 2020 Vendée Globe. We have done our utmost to ensure as many teams as possible complete the race. One pit stop per leg will also be allowed, each lasting a minimum of 48 hours.”   Paul Meilhat looking for partners at the end of the 2018 Route du Rhum In spite of his great performance in the last Transat Jacques Vabre, Paul Meilhat will see his partnership with SMA come to an end at the finish of the 2018 Route du Rhum. So, he will now be looking for sponsors to accompany him in the 2020 Vendée Globe campaign.  We raise out hats to François Gabart Finally, we could not finish this article without mentioning the incredible result obtained by François Gabart, a former member of the IMOCA class, who won the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe. Aboard his maxi-trimaran, Macif, François shattered the solo round the world record on Sunday 17thDecember with an unbelievable time: 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds. Congratulations, François.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The IMOCA General Meeting has determined the direction the class will be going in until 2020]]> Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT   The IMOCA General Meeting was held last week in Paris in the framework of the Paris Boat Show (the Nautic). The 2018-2020 calendar was confirmed and a Global Series created. Antoine Mermod, the President of the class looks back at the major decisions taken at this General Meeting. Did the IMOCA General Meeting have the full support of the members of the class? “Yes, it clearly did. All of the projects that are currently up and running were represented by the skippers, team managers or sponsors. In all, there were around 65 people. All of the members feel concerned by what is going on in the class. For us, it was interesting to organise a General Meeting in December, as that enables us to look back at the season that has just ended and to look forward to next year.” The post of president and the board of the IMOCA class were decided at the previous General Meeting on 26th April. What have been the major changes in the way the class has been run since then? “The main change is to try to get more people involved in thinking things over and taking decisions. The IMOCA is an association, so the goal is to bring everyone together. We set up a race committee bringing together skippers and race directors. The aim of this committee is to settle purely race matters concerning the qualifying rules for races, for example. It is important to discuss these matters beforehand. That relieves the board, who can instead work on other subjects.”   Création of the Globe Series There was a lot of talk about the calendar during the last General Meeting. What are the main features going to be? “We fully understand that the Vendée Globe is our most popular event for the public and media. To mark a certain continuity, we need to create more links between races to build things up as we move towards the pinnacle event. That is why we have decided to reorganise out championship, which will be renamed the Globe Series, with a system of points and weightings over a four-year period. Details will follow. The idea is to organise two big events each year bringing together large fleets, along with other events, called exhibition races. In 2018, the two big events will include a new race organised in Monaco in early June (the name of which will be revealed early next year), then there will be the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe in November. In 2019, there will be the Barcelona World Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre. Then in 2020, a Vendée Globe year, the skippers in the class will take part in The Transat and the New York-Vendée. It is not impossible that other races will be added to this calendar. But we have already put in place a solid backbone, as it is vital to come up with a top class calendar to attract sailors and sponsors.”   You mentioned the brand new event to be organised in Monaco. More generally, the Mediterranean will have a place of honour in the spring of 2018… “Seeing we are talking about taking an IMOCA fleet down to the Mediterranean, we wanted to come up with a complete programme. After the Guyader Grand Prix in Douarnenez, we will be organising a solo race to Cascais (Portugal), which will be a qualifier for the Route du Rhum. After the event in Monaco where we are expecting between ten and fifteen boats, we will be proposing that the organisers of the Giraglia (between Saint Tropez and Genoa) allow the IMOCA class to register. In our opinion, it is vital to throw the spotlight on the Mediterranean coast, as it offers exceptional sailing conditions in the spring. On top of that, the Mediterranean is an interesting market for the IMOCA class and race projects are being set up there.”   How are things looking for the next Barcelona World Race, which will start on 12th January 2019? “A press conference is taking place in Barcelona today to present the outline of the next race. The political situation is complicated in Barcelona and it is a huge challenge for the FNOB to organise such a race. But the latest news is looking good. Some teams are really interested and we hope that ten or so IMOCAs will be lining up together.”      [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Arnaud Boissières raises his sights ]]> Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT   The latest big project that Arnaud Boissières is developing involves a new IMOCA campaign leading up to his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe in 2020. After completing the handover of his previous boat to Manuel Cousin in the Transat Jacques Vabre (11th), Arnaud will soon be getting his hands on a new one, Mike Golding’s former Ecover. Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée team has been entrusted with fitting foils and is set to carry out some other major structural modifications. This should give a boost to the performance capabilities of the 2007 Owen-Clarke designed boat. We met up with her new skipper to find out more.   Arnaud, how do you feel about the outcome of the Transat Jacques Vabre you raced with Manuel Cousin, who is now the new owner of your old boat? “Great! The main goal was to ensure that everything went smoothly between us and also technically. It’s mission accomplished on that score, as we completed the course. We remained cautious in this race, maybe a bit too cautious at times. My only regret is that we weren’t able to hang on for longer with La Fabrique and Vivo a Beira. But we had a nice fight with Fabrice (Amedeo, sailing with Giancarlo Pedote, editor’s note). Everything went smoothly in the handover with Manuel Cousin. Manu is a skilled amateur, who is becoming a pro. He needed my help to get to grips more quickly with the boat. I am attached to this Farr designed boat and would like to see her continue to have a good life and that is certainly going to be the case with Manu and his team. They are in love with this IMOCA and will take good care of her. She will be moored up on the same pontoon in Les Sables d’Olonne as my new boat and our workshops are side by side. So there will be two great IMOCA projects in Les Sables, which is very exciting.”   Why did you decide to get rid of your Farr design to acquire Mike Golding’s former Ecover, an IMOCA which dates back to the same generation? “It was a question of weight and keel. The Owen Clarke designs are more tolerant and can be modified more easily to be equipped with foils and therefore to enhance their performance. On top of that, setting off on a different boat means I’ll have a different story to tell. Looking for performance on an old boat is an intellectually stimulating project from a technical perspective.”“A boat that can perform as well as the former Maître CoQ”   A major refit is being carried out at the Mer Agitée premises in Port-la-Forêt, and fitting foils is not the only improvement being made to her… “That’s true. The foils are the most visible change. But we’re also fitting a mast with outriggers, moving back the foot of the mast by three feet, equipping her with kick-up rudders. We’re also working on the ballast tanks cutting them from ten to four… We want to launch a boat that has been customised and can perform as well as the former Maître CoQ (aboard which Jérémie Beyou finished third in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe – editor’s note) which has now become Initiatives-Cœur. She is a reference for us, as so far, she is the only boat from a previous generation to have been fitted with foils.”  When do you plan to get her back in the water? “Work began early in July and the boat is due to come out of the Mer Agitée yard in mid-January. Most of the work will then have been done. The structural work wil have been completed, but there will be a lot of stuff to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne: deck hardware, hydraulics, electronics, decoration. The real relaunch is scheduled for mid-March. The aim is to get back out there sailing quickly, as it is going to take a lot of time to get used to her and carry out technical trials. That is even more so because adjusting the rake of the new foils is allowed when sailing (the angle of incidence from front to back and vice versa – editor’s note).”   “Going from the Route du Rhum straight to the Barcelona World Race”   How will you be preparing for the major race of the 2018 season, the Route du Rhum? “The first date on the calendar will be the Guyader Grand Prix in Douarnenez. Then, there will probably be a solo race to deliver the boat between Douarnenez and Cascais (Portugal), as a qualifier for the Route du Rhum. The Rhum is a legendary race, an event we could not miss and around twenty IMOCAs are expected to line up. For my first transatlantic race with this new boat, it is going to be a huge challenge and I’ll really want to do well. So that adds quite a lot of pressure.”   Do you intend to compete in the Barcelona World Race, the double-handed round the world race, which starts on 12th January 2019? “Yes, I’ll be going straight from the Route du Rhum to the Barcelona World Race. It’s going to be a busy schedule, but I want to prepare for the 2020 Vendée Globe as best I can. This double-handed round the world race is an interesting formula, as it enables you to sail around the world more safely. For the second leg between Sydney and Barcelona I’ll be bringing Etienne Carra aboard. I haven’t yet chosen my crewman for the first leg.”   The boat will be fine tuned and you should be well prepared… Are you looking forward to taking part in the 2020 Vendée Globe with a project that should see you get a better result? “Yes. Everything is in place for me to make progress. If I have any regrets about the 2015-2017 cycle, it is that I didn’t have the financial means to make the most of my IMOCA. I wanted to set off again for a fourth Vendée Globe in 2020, but aboard a different boat fitted with the latest technology. In 2012-2013, Mike Golding completed the Vendée Globe in 88 days. In 2020, aboard this very same IMOCA, which will then have been updated, I should be able to do better than that.”   [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Mediterranean, the other playground for IMOCA skippers]]> Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT Far from the busy pontoons of Brittany, several skippers belonging to the IMOCA class are preparing in the Mediterranean. These include Kito de Pavant, Sébastien Destremau and Boris Herrmann (respectively 4th and fifth in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre). Other sailors from the South of France intend to set up projects, such as Alexia Barrier and some Spaniards, who are dreaming of the 2018 Route du Rhum, the 2019 Barcelona World Race and the 2020 Vendée Globe… These skippers and others will be getting together next week for the IMOCA AGM, where the topic will be the main features for 2018.   At the start of the eighth Vendée Globe, just a year ago, there were three skippers, who had prepared in the Mediterranean: Kito de Pavant, Sébastien Destremau and Didac Costa. Kito was forced to retire in the Indian Ocean, while Didac and Sébastien managed to complete the course respectively finishing in fourteenth and eighteenth place. There was also Jean-Pierre Dick (4th), whose project was based in Lorient, but he originates from Nice.  Two of them, who recently took part in the Transat Jacques, obtained an excellent result. Along with Yann Eliès, Jean-Pierre Dick won the race, while Kito de Pavant and his partner, Yannick Bestaven took a fine fifth place aboard an IMOCA launched in 2006 (Bastide Otio).     Training in the Mediterranean has its advantages and disadvantages Based for many years now in the South of France, Kito de Pavant is well placed to tell us about what it is like to train in the Mediterranean. “We’re lucky to get some good conditions with plenty of wind, probably more than in the Atlantic, contrary to what people might think,” he said. “The weather is very varied, with powerful conditions with the Mistral wind blowing once a week. And it is very practical to enter and leave the harbour when you want, without having to worry about the tide and harbour gates. The major drawback is that we don’t get to see how we match up against our rivals. We are world champion in Aigues Mortes Bay with Bastide Otio. Whatever training we do, we don’t see much competition. Having said that, our frriends are welcome to come down from Brittany. They can come and train here when they want.” A message that is loud and clear…   The importance of being organised In 2003, Kito gave a boost to the creation of the Mediterranean Training Centre (the CEM), which prepares and trains professional ocean racers in la Grande-Motte. The CEM has grown rapidly in importance. Sébastien Destremau also understood that it was vital to be well organised and to be able to compete. He is behind another ocean racing preparation centre in Toulon. “We were inspired by the CEM, but also by what we see in Brittany with the Finistère Centre, where the cream of French sailing has been based now for 25 years. There are some excellent facilities now available in the waters off Toulon. This ocean racing preparation centre aims to bring together all the individual initiatives developing in Toulon, by pooling resources and partners.” In any case, Mediterranean projects are being set up, as sailors look forward to the 2018 Route du Rhum, the 2019 Barcelona World Race and the 2020 Vendée Globe. With the backing of the Monaco Yacht Club, the German sailor, Boris Herrmann has based his foiler project in the Principality (Sébastien Josse’s former Edmond de Rothschild). He too took part in the Transat Jacques Vabre, with Thomas Ruyant on the foiler Malizia II. The two ended up just missing out on the podium, an excellent result for their first major race together aboard an IMOCA.  A member of the CEM, Alexia Barrier has said that her project for the 2020 Vendée Globe is now well advanced. There are also some Spaniards getting ready to compete in the next big events in the IMOCA circuit. We are thinking in particular of Alex Pella, joint holder of the Jules Verne Trophy, who certainly has a lot going for him…   Mer & Media[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Transat Jacques Vabre: A totally successful outcome for the IMOCAs]]> Fri, 24 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT With Romain Attanasio and Aurélien Ducroz finishing on Wednesday 22nd November, the thirteenth Transat Jacques Vabre came to an end for the IMOCAs. This year’s race was won by Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès on StMichel-Virbac. There was a very positive outcome for the IMOCA class, as all thirteen boats that lined up for the start in Le Havre made it to the finish in Salvador da Bahia. While the boats were shown to be reliable, the high standard of racing also stood out. This is all very promising for the next events on the IMOCA calendar...   Thirteen boats out of thirteen at the finish: an exceptional resultThe 2016-2017 Vendée Globe gave us the lowest retirement rate in the history of the event with 18 skippers out of 29 making it to the finish. The 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre has done even better with a 100% success rate. A very pleasing outcome for Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA class: “It is exceptional to see all the boats at the finish in a major ocean race with such a line-up. This result is all the more pleasing, as it was a very demanding race where everyone pushed hard. This success rate is down to the quality of the skippers and the preparation of their boats. In a post-Vendée Globe year, the boats have been tried and tested and have shown what they can do around the world. They were also well taken care of afterwards by the teams. We’re not in a development phase with the risk of breakage that that entails. Having said that, a lot of boats changed hands after the Vendée Globe and we might have feared that some weren’t ready for their first major race, but that wasn’t the case. By completing the race, the newcomers showed they were able to live up to their ambitions.” This 100% success rate is excellent news for the sailors, who are looking for funding in order to take part in the next big races on the IMOCA calendar, starting with the 2018 Route du Rhum. “This proves we have a reliable fleet and that is something that can be highlighted when in discussions with potential partners,” stressed Antoine Mermod.     A high standard of racing and a top quality competitionIt should be pointed out that the three skippers on the Transat Jacques Vabre podium have been sailing on their boats now for several seasons and they made the most of this knowledge. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Morgan Lagravière (Des Voiles Et Vous!, the former Safran) all managed to find excellent sailors to accompany them, with respectively Yann Eliès, Gwénolé Gahinet and Eric Péron. “These three crews had that little bit extra in their ability to sail the boat and choose the best routes,” explained Antoine Mermod. “But those crews just discovering their boats as they made their way across the Atlantic weren’t that far behind. They have made a lot of progress in getting to grips with their IMOCA and have already shown that they are to be reckoned with. Boris Herrmann and Thomas Ruyant (4th on Malizia II – editor’s note) did a really good job, as did Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier (Bureau Vallée 2), who were in fourth place before the Doldrums, where they had some bad luck. As for Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven, they had a magnificent race on a fine-tuned boat from 2006 that they pushed 120% of the way throughout the crossing. Overall, everyone did a good job and the overall standard was exceptionally high.” We should add that there were three women in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre (Servane Escoffier, Sam Davies, Isabelle Joschke) and they all worked well. Two of them intend to take part in the races leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe. While Sam Davies is already backed by a solid partner (Initiatives Cœur), Isabelle Joschke is looking for new sponsors, after gaining a lot of experience in the 2017 season, where she performed consistently well. “Isabelle has huge potential. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that she will be able to complete her budget and continue her career in the IMOCA class,” declared Antoine Mermod.     “A lot of positive energy” The other good news for the IMOCA class is that the relationship with the skippers, teams and organisers is very good. Antoine Mermod: “Everyone enjoyed themselves during the race, but also in everything to do with the race. We end the enriching 2017 season with a lot of changes and we are getting ready to enter a new cycle leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe. We can feel a lot of positive energy.”     The 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre rankings for the IMOCAs1. Jean-Pierre Dick & Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac)2. Paul Meilhat & Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA)3. Morgan Lagravière & Eric Péron (Des Voiles Et Vous !)4. Boris Herrmann & Thomas Ruyant (Malizia II)5. Kito de Pavant & Yannick Bestaven (Bastide Otio)6. Tanguy De Lamotte & Samantha Davies (Initiatives Cœur)7. Louis Burton & Servane Escoffier (Bureau Vallée 2)8. Isabelle Joschke & Pierre Brasseur (Generali)9. Alan Roura & Frédéric Denis (La Fabrique)10. Yohann Richomme & Pierre Lacaze (Vivo A Beira)11. Arnaud Boissières & Manuel Cousin (La Mie Câline-Artipôle)12. Fabrice Amedeo & Giancarlo Pedote (Newrest-Brioche Pasquier)13. Romain Attanasio & Aurélien Ducroz (Famille Mary-Etamine Du Lys)     A few facts and figures about the IMOCAs in the Transat Jacques Vabre: - 13 days, 7 hours, 36 minutes and 46 seconds: the race time for the winners, Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès- 4: the number of wins achieved by Jean-Pierre Dick in the Transat Jacques Vabre on an IMOCA- 13.63 knots: The average speed set by Dick and Eliès on the Great Circle Route (direct route) - 3 days, 20 hours, 5 minutes, 41 seconds: the gap between the winner, StMichel-Virbac and the final boat home, Famille Mary-Etamine Du Lys- 0: the number of boats that retired [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The outcome of the Transat Jacques Vabre]]> Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT After the amazing victory achieved by Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac) on Saturday 18th November, two more double-handed crews, Paul Meilhat/Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA) and Morgan Lagravière/Eric Péron (Des Voiles et vous) took the remaining podium places in the Transat Jacques Vabre this weekend in Salvador da Bahia (Brazil). On Monday, Boris Herrmann and Thomas Ruyant (Malizia) took fourth place, while Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven (Bastide-Otio) look like grabbing the fifth spot after an intense battle with Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur). It is extremely reassuring and exceptionally good news for the future of the class, but none of the thirteen IMOCAs competing have been forced to retire after setting sail from Le Havre a fortnight ago. They were the favourites and certainly lived up to the hopes. Aboard StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès won the thirteenth Transat Jacques Vabre in fine style after 13 days, 7 hours, 36 minutes and 46 seconds. This was the fourth win on an IMOCA for Jean-Pierre Dick (after 2003, 2005 and 2011), while Yann grabbed his second win (he won aboard a Multi50 in 2013).   A great story Jean-Pierre Dick was happy and highly emotional, when he gave us his first reactions on finishing in Bahia: “With Yann, we were starting to think it was dragging on a bit, as we ripped our big spinnaker before the Doldrums. This is fantastic, as it marks the end of a cycle, which was a bit tough for me after capsizing on a trimaran and losing my keel in the Vendée Globe. It’s looking more positive now once again. We worked well with Yann throughout the year and can be very proud of this result. I had dreamt of this perfect race with Yann. It’s fantastic to get to the finish after so much hard work.” It is with this remarkable performance that Jean-Pierre Dick is hanging up his foulies and handing over the helm of his VPLP-Verdier designed boat to Yann Eliès. “This is a great story, as we have been successful in this race and now there is the project ahead of competing in the Vendée Globe,” said a delighted Yann. “Jean-Pierre has handed me everything on a tray: his boat, his team, his know-how. I am getting ready to give it my all to live up to JP’s and his team’s ambitions.”   Meilhat/Gahinet 2nd, Lagravière/Péron 3rd: the new generation pile on the pressure6 hours and 21 minutes after the winners, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet took second place on SMA. Quite an achievement on this IMOCA fitted with staright daggerboards, which they pushed to the limit to do so well in conditions that favoured the foilers. With his sense of fair play, Paul Meilhat did not want to focus on that: “We’re pleased to finish second behind Jean-Pierre and Yann. They were ahead not because they had foils, but because they sailed so well. Earlier in the year, I would have done anything to get this result. We gave up on the foils and preferred to set off on a boat we knew well, but this confirms that foils are what it is about now. Even if there are times when they don’t perform as well. We’re going to have to go there...” Paul and Gwénolé were paid homage by Yann Eliès: “The younger generation pushed us hard. Especially SMA, with a boat that didn’t allow them to get the same speeds as the foilers when reaching. If the boat had been in the same playing field, it’s clear we would have suffered even more.” Two other young sailors took the remaining place on the podium aboard the foiler Des Voiles Et Vous! (the former Safran). A pleasing outcome for Morgan Lagravière: “It’s great to finish in third place, particularly as we started preparing for the Transat Jacques Vabre late in the game. Making it to the finish is already an achievement. Experiencing such an exciting transatlantic race is another, and may even be a bigger reason to be cheerful.” Both sailors are looking for sponsors to be able to compete in the next races on the IMOCA calendar. Morgan and Eric have certainly left their mark.   Boris Herrmann and Thomas Ruyant 4th with nine crews still racingOn Monday morning, Boris Herrmann and Thomas Ruyant also completed the race just missing out on the podium. After a good start from Le Havre, the duo on Malizia II were among the three frontrunners in the first few days of the race. Boris and Thomas then encountered some technical problems and dropped back to eighth place. But they managed to claw their way back and catch their rivals after the Cape Verde Islands. Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven are expected on Monday evening in Bahia and should take fifth place after their closely fought contest with Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies, 6th. For a long time in fourth place, Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier had a difficult time in the Doldrums and will probably have to make do with seventh place. Behind them, Generali (Isabelle Joschke/Pierre Brasseur) and La Fabrique (Alan Roura/Frédéric Denis) are fighting hard with Vivo A Beira still ready to pounce. We should congratulate Yoann Richomme and Pierre Lacaze, who aboard an IMOCA from 2004, are managing to keep up the pace set by the two boats from the 2007 generation. Arnaud Boissières and Fabrice Amedeo seem to be stuck together. In the last Vendée Globe, the two of them sailed close to one another for quite some time and saw their friendship develop out at sea. Respectively sailing with Manuel Cousin and Giancarlo Pedote, they are once again close to each other in this Transat Jacques Vabre. Romain Attanasio and Aurélien Ducroz are bringing up the rear. On Monday morning, they were 600 miles from the finish. It should be noted that no IMOCA has retired from this year’s race for the time being. If all of the boats make it to the finish, it will be a historic result.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Dick and Eliès beautiful winners in Bahia!]]> Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac) have crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2017, this Saturday, November 18 at 21h, 11mn and 46s, after 13 days, 07h, 36 minutes and 46 seconds race. A fourth victory for Jean-Pierre on the Transat Jacques Vabre and a great race against the twelve other crews including SMA led by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet constantly on the attack and only sixty miles of the leaders. Great favorites from the start in Le Havre, we will remember the beautiful trajectory left on the Atlantic by the foil orange and blue. A spectacular control of the weather traps and a real symbiosis between the two skippers will have made a difference on this 13th edition of the coffee route![Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The state of play after a week of racing]]> Mon, 13 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT While the final outcome is now known for the Ultime class in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Sodebo winning on Monday 13th November, finishing ahead the Edmond de Rothschild Maxi, the suspense is still at its peak in the IMOCA category after just over a week of racing. Holding on out in front, Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès are keeping up some impressive average speeds. In second place, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet are putting up a strong fight aboard their IMOCA, which is not fitted with foils. Further back, other battles are raging, starting with one for the final place on the podium. For the moment, the duo formed by Morgan Lagravière/Eric Péron is just ahead in this contest.   All of the IMOCAs still racing In spite of a very tough first week with some hellish conditions at times, all of the IMOCAs that were there at the start are still racing. However, on all of the boats, there is probably some minor damage, but nothing too serious. Two years ago, in the same event, over 50 % of the boats had to throw in the towel (9 boats finished out of the 21 starters)…   Dick/Eliès at high speed Since the start in Le Havre on Sunday 5th November, Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès have been pushing hard aboard StMichel-Virbac. After eight days of racing, they have kept up a high average speed of 14.60 knots on the Great Circle route (the direct route). Just to compare things, two years ago, Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam won the Transat Jacques Vabre at an average speed of 14.12 knots. Highly experienced and with a thorough understanding of their boat, it will be hard to catch Dick and Eliès, even if the Doldrums may stir things up…   SMA holding up well against the foilers Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet are showing some remarkable resistance. The only boat without foils in the Top 5, SMA is solidly entrenched in second place with average speeds not far below those of Dick and Eliès (14.30 knots since the start). In spite of the weather favouring the boats with foils, Paul and Gwénolé are hanging on in there right behind the leaders and warding off the attacks from three VPLP-Verdier designed boats from the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe generation: Des Voiles Et Vous (ex Safran), Bureau Vallée 2 (ex Banque Populaire VIII, the winner of the last Vendée Globe) and Malizia II (ex Edmond de Rothschild).    Battles throughout the fleet Several fights are going on as they approach the Doldrums, starting with one to grab the final place on the podium. With StMichel-Virbac, SMA, Des Voiles Et Vous maintaining their places practically since the start, the three frontrunners seem well placed. But several boats behind them are still aiming to upset things, while ensuring they remain in the Top 5. Back in fourth place, we find Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier, who have clearly got to grips with their Bureau Vallée 2. Further back, three IMOCAs are bunched together (with just a dozen miles or so between them on Monday morning): Malizia II (Boris Herrmann/Thomas Ruyant), Initiatives-Cœur (Tanguy de Lamotte/Sam Davies) and Isabelle Joschke / Pierre Brasseur’s Generali, another IMOCA with straight daggerboards that is being well sailed. Let’s not rule out Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven (Bastide-Otio), who are still within shooting distance of this tightly-packed group. Further back still, three other double-handed crews are fighting hard. For his first race aboard La Fabrique number two, Alan Roura sailing with Frédéric Denis is in tenth place ahead of Vivo a Beira (Yoann Richomme/Pierre Lacaze) and La Mie Câline-Artipole (Arnaud Boissières/Manuel Cousin). The two final duos have been left some way behind. After ripping their big spinnaker, Fabrice Amedeo and Giancarlo Pedote have been heavily penalised in terms of their performance, but they are still holding on and seem upbeat. Finally, aboard the oldest boat in the fleet of IMOCAs (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys, launched in 1998), Romain Attanasio and Aurélien Ducroz know full well that they cannot keep up the pace of the newer boats. But they are getting the most out of their venerable old IMOCA, sailing close to the leading Class40s.   Mer & Media  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Suspense and speed on the menu this morning in the Transat Jacques Vabre]]> Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT After setting sail on Sunday 5th November from Le Havre in strong winds, the thirteen IMOCAs taking part in the Transat Jacques Vabre are already engaged in a fascinating battle. It is no surprise that the foilers are performing particularly well, starting with "Des Voiles et Vous!" StMichel-Virbac and Malizia II. But two boats with straight daggerboards are putting up a good fight -  SMA and Generali. Will they be able to keep up when sailing in the downwind conditions that prevail in the first part of the course to Salvador da Bahia? We’ll be watching closely over the next fortnight...      The menu for this year’s Transat Jacques Vabre was as forecast beginning with a lively start with a fast, yet tricky passage down the English Channel in strong winds, rough seas and fast currents. In this initial phase, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA) quickly got out in front, rounding the buoy anchored off the cliffs of Etretat and then the Cape de la Hague at the tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula in the lead. They were closely followed by three IMOCAs with foils sailed by Boris Herrmann/Thomas Ruyant (Malizia II), Morgan Lagravière/Eric Péron (Des Voiles Et Vous!) and Jean-Pierre Dick/Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac).   Already into the swing of things “It was quite impressive rounding the tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula during the night. The seas were breaking over the boat and there was a lively 8-knot tidal current added to the wind, which was up and down, making it a bit stressful. There was no time to take it easy, as we needed to be on the attack all the time,” Jean-Pierre Dick explained this morning (Monday). After the NW tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet were unable to ward off the attacks from the foilers during the long reaching tack, which allowed the fleet to make their exit from the English Channel. The double-handed crews taking part in the Transat Jacques Vabre therefore had a busy start to the race in rough and wet conditions, meaning they soon got into the swing of things. The calm before the storm The atmosphere had changed on Monday morning, as the crews went through a ridge extending from an area of high pressure and the wind dropped off. The sailors were able to take advantage of a well earned rest, as they await the arrival of a very powerful front with some demanding upwind sailing ahead, before the wind swings quickly around to the NW. If you enjoy suspense, you’ll like this… Before dealing with thissudden change, the four frontrunners were led by "Des Voiles et Vous!", closely followed by SMA, StMichel-Virbac and Malizia II. These were the competitors that were expected to do well and they are living up to expectations in this early part of the race. It is going to be interesting to see how they deal with the front that is coming up and that should enable us to see whether SMA can keep up the pace set by the IMOCAs with foils, when they open up their sails. We should add that three of the “mixed doubles” got off to a good start in the race: Louis Burton/Servane Escoffier (Bureau Vallée), Isabelle Joschke/Pierre Brasseur (Generali) and Tanguy de Lamotte/Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) were all ready to pounce before having to deal with the front, as were Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven on Bastide-Otio. The suspense is likely to continue during this voyage to Brazil and we can look forward to a very fast race, as the trade winds appear to be well established.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ARMEL LE CLÉAC'H CROWNED IMOCA CHAMPION]]> Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT The winner of the Vendée Globe has had a double success taking the title of IMOCA world champion for the second time, for the period 2015-2016, which ended with the Vendée Globe. This is the second time Armel Le Cléac'h has been crowned champion after his first win in 2008. The skipper of Banque Populaire follows in the footsteps of Jean Le Cam and can now happily move towards new horizons with the feeling that he has accomplished all he set out to do. Proving that the standard in this IMOCA championship is very high, Armel ended up ahead of Alex Thomson, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès and Jean-Pierre Dick in the rankings…   In 2015-2016, the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship included five races – three in 2015 (Rolex Fastnet Race, Transat Jacques Vabre, Transat Saint-Barth/Port-la-Forêt) and two in 2016 (Transat New York-Vendée and the Vendée Globe). Each race was awarded a certain weighting, from 1 (for the Fastnet Race) to 10 (for the Vendée Globe). It is chiefly down to his second place in the Transat Jacques Vabre (with a weighting of three) with Erwan Tabarly and his amazing win in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, that Armel Le Cléac'h finished at the top of the rankings in the World Championship.   Armel Le Cléac'h: “A great way to leave the IMOCA circuit”“I’m very pleased with this second world championship title, which has rewarded my consistency and is a great acknowledgment of what we have achieved,” said the overjoyed skipper of Banque Populaire. “I’d like to share this award with the whole of my team, who worked so hard to get here. We adopted a method, which involved pacing ourselves to achieve our goal, which was to have a fantastic Vendée Globe and win it. The Banque Populaire IMOCA project began back in 2011 and everything worked well throughout that time with two great boats, including one we built ourselves. We have left our mark coming second and then winning the Vendée Globe. This World Championship title is a nice way to leave the IMOCA circuit, before we take up new challenges in the Ultime class, where we hope to do just as well.”   Some safe bets and surprises in the top tenWith a total of 351 points, Armel Le Cléac'h finished some twenty points ahead of the runner-up, British sailor, Alex Thomson (331 points), who really put the pressure on him during the Vendée Globe. Just two points behind Alex, we find Jérémie Beyou (329 points), who made it to the podium with a single point more than fourth-placed Yann Eliès (328 points). While the usual suspects in the IMOCA circuit were there in the top ten in the 2015-2016 World Championship (like Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Nandor Fa), there were some pleasant surprises, such as sixth place going to Fabrice Amedeo, followed by Louis Burton (7th) and Eric Bellion (8th).   Antoine Mermod: “The Championship shows its worth and this is reflected in the high quality of the skippers making up the podium”President of the IMOCA class, Antoine Mermod is very enthusiastic about the names of the sailors making up the podium in the 2015-2016 Championship: “Armel Le Cléac'h had a great championship over the past two years, always up there at the front showing remarkable consistency. The 2015-2016 championship has crowned one of the biggest names in the history of the IMOCA class, who was runner-up twice and winner of the Vendée Globe. The IMOCA class is very proud that Armel is its World Champion. The Championship shows its worth and this is reflected in the high quality of the skippers making up the podium. The class would also like to congratulate Alex Thomson and Jérémie Beyou on their performance. Alex is one of the most experienced IMOCA skippers and maybe next time he will make it to the top of the championship… As for Jérémie, he made it to the podium of the major races aboard a boat that didn’t belong to the latest generation. His new boat has to make him one of the favourites for the next title.”The top ten in the 2015-2016 IMOCA World Championship1. Armel Le Cléac'h: 351 points2. Alex Thomson: 331 points3. Jérémie Beyou: 329 points4. Yann Eliès: 328 points5. Jean-Pierre Dick: 283 points6. Fabrice Amedeo: 281 points7. Louis Burton: 266 points8. Eric Bellion: 255 points9. Jean Le Cam: 240 points10. Nandor Fa: 223 pointsThe events that counted in the IMOCA Championship2015 (total weighting: 8)- Rolex Fastnet Race: weighting of 1- 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre: weighting of 3- Transat Saint-Barth/Port-la-Forêt: weighting of 42016 (total weighting: 14)- Transat New York-Vendée: weighting of 4- 2016 Vendée Globe: weighting of 10   Source: Mer et Média[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA skippers competing in the Volvo Ocean Race]]> Thu, 19 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT At two in the afternoon on Sunday 22nd October, seven boats will set sail from Alicante to head for Lisbon at the start of the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Among the sailors competing in the crewed round the world race with stopovers, three are well known faces from the IMOCA race circuit.  Third in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe and already certain of taking part in 2020 aboard a brand new 60-foot boat in the colours of Charal, Jérémie Beyou is taking advantage of the Volvo to warm up aboard Dongfeng. Skipper of the Volvo Ocean 65, Turn the Tide on Plastic, the British sailor, Dee Caffari has sailed around the world three times aboard an IMOCA (in the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race). In her crew, we can also see the highly experienced Brit, Brian Thompson, who finished fifth in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe. Other sailors taking part in this race also regularly sails in the IMOCA class and are hoping one day to compete in the Vendée Globe…     Eight months of racing, twelve stopovers, six continents, 45,000 miles around the world on four oceans: the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race looks very exciting and has once again attracted some of the top names of ocean racing from around the world. On Sunday 22nd October, seven crews will set sail from Alicante in Spain. Their voyage will finish in late July 2018 in The Hague (Netherlands). Before that, they will have had stopovers in Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaì, Newport, Cardiff and Gothenburg.   Jérémie Beyou aiming to win with Dongfeng While the construction of his 60-foot IMOCA Charal continues (the hull mould recently arrived at the CDK Technologies yard in Port-la-Forêt in Brittany), Jérémie Beyou is preparing for another round the world experience. He will be setting sail in the Volvo just nine months after finishing the Vendée Globe. With the dream team on Dongfeng led by Charles Caudrelier, who finished third in the last Volvo Ocean Race, Jérémie is aiming to win, as we have come to expect from him. He will be taking advantage of the race to clock up some more experience. Out of the 45,000 miles of racing, there will be 12,500 in the Southern Ocean. “I’m going to have to get used to being part of a crew,” explained Jérémie. “But this is a very exciting challenge. We are aiming high and we have what it takes to succeed. Dongfeng Race Team is an interesting team, as it comprises a wide range of people of different ages and backgrounds and nationalities. There are sailors, who have come from solo racing, from dinghy sailing, as well as veterans from the Volvo Ocean Race. There is a great team spirit with everyone helping each other on board.” We should add that the skipper of Dongfeng, Charles Caudrelier, knows the IMOCA circuit very well, in particular having won the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre with Marc Guillemot, and he hopes to take part one day in the Vendée Globe… The same goes for another sailor on Dongfeng, Pascal Bidégorry, who sailed a lot with Marc Guillemot on his IMOCA in addition to gaining many other experiences.   Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson: British experience aboard Turn the Tide on Plastic Aboard Turn the Tide on Plastic, we can see two other sailors, who have featured heavily in the IMOCA circuit.In 2009, Dee Caffari finished the Vendée Globe in sixth place after 99 days of racing.In 2006, Dee completed a round the world voyage sailing “the wrong way” on an IMOCA. She became the only woman to have completed this voyage around the world in both directions. We can add to her extraordinary list of successes her sixth place in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race, the double-handed round the world race, on an IMOCA, and her attempt at the Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-2015 with the all-woman crew, Team SCA. With the Turn the Tide on Plastic team, Dee Caffari is conveying an eco-friendly message about how we need to look after the oceans. But she has not forgotten the race aspect and intends to surprise everyone. She has carefully chosen those accompanying her, choosing experienced sailors like her fellow Brit, Brian Thompson. He also completed the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, finishing in fifth place. Winner of the 2005-2006  Volvo Ocean Race, Brian has also set many records such as the round the world record in 2004 with Steve Fossett on Cheyenne, and the Jules Verne Trophy in 2012 on the Maxi, Banque Populaire V. “I’m really pleased that Brian has joined our team,” said a proud Dee Caffari. “He has set more records than anyone else in the world of sailing and having experienced sailing alongside him, I’m sure he will bring our team his knowledge and confidence.” Brian Thompson, who injured his leg, will not be up and running before the start of 2018. However, he will be training with Nicolas Lunven, another 2020 Vendée Globe hopeful, who has already sailed on an IMOCA, in particular he went aboard Safran with Morgan Lagravière in 2015. We should add to complete the picture that the skipper of the Volvo Ocean 65, Mapfre is none other than the Spaniard, Xabi Fernandez, who finished second in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race…[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Kojiro Shiraishi, ambassador for the IMOCA class in Japan]]> Fri, 13 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT The first Japanese skipper in the history of the Vendée Globe, Kojiro Shiraishi was unable to finish the last edition due to his boat dismasting. Since then, Kojiro and his Spirit of Yukoh have been based in the land of the Rising Sun, which has enabled the Japanese people to understand what exactly a solo round the world voyage on an IMOCA entails. Kojiro Shiraishi now wishes to take part in the 2018 Route du Rhum, as well as some of the other races in the IMOCA calendar, and hopes to become the first Asian to complete the Vendée Globe in 2020-2021…   - Hi Kojiro, can you tell us what you have been up to and give us some news about your Spirit of Yukoh? As far as I’m concerned, the news is very good. Just after losing my mast in the Vendée Globe, I was very worried that my sponsors would think again after seeing me retire, but the opposite happened. They were of course disappointed, but practically all of my sponsors reassured me that they wished to repeat the experience and sponsor me over the coming years. That is why it was so important for me to bring the boat home to Japan to show her to those who had backed me. We loaded the boat up for a voyage between South Africa and Japan soon after I retired. We brought out to Japan an old mast from Southampton, as well as a container that our project leader, Charles brought from France to Japan. The whole team got together again in Japan for the arrival of the container in May - June in order to step the mast and fit the keel, etc.   Have you been doing any sailing in Japan? I did a lot of sailing this summer in Japan for PR operations and in races. More importantly, each time we had open days to present the boat, more than 300 people came to take a look at her. She is the first IMOCA in Japan, so there was a lot of interest in her. For the races, there were problems, as the mast was too big to go under the bridges in Japan. This hadn’t been a problem before. I set sail, but then had to retire from the races. It was tough for the race directors.   How do the Japanese feel about your boat and the Vendée Globe? The first reaction we tend to see with the Japanese is that they find it hard to understand how I can possibly sail this boat alone. They are impressed by the height of the mast and by the speed of the boat. My Vendée Globe was a great opportunity to publicise this race in my country. During the race, I did one live broadcast a week with a major TV channel (TV Asahi) on prime time TV, and the national broadcaster (NHK) came up with an hour-long documentary about everything involved in the Vendée Globe. It is partly down to them that I was able to find some new sponsors and talks are still ongoing to allow me to continue this experience after it all ended so soon before.   - What are your plans now for sailing? We’re thinking about how to bring the boat back to France from Japan in March next year. We intend to carry out a major refit, bringing her up to date and fitting a new mast, etc. I’m hoping to compete in the 2018 Route du Rhum. It is important for me to become the first Japanese entrant in this legendary race. And then, there are other IMOCA races to gain as much experience as possible.   - Would you like to return to the Vendée Globe in 2020? Of course! I was the first Japanese competitor to take part in the race. I now want to be the first one to finish.   Source: Mer et Média[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Three of the Transat Jacques Vabre favourites training in Port-la-Forêt]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT With a month to go to the start of the 13th Transat Jacques Vabre, which will see thirteen IMOCAs taking part, the double-handed crews are putting the final touches to their preparation for the 4350 mile course between Le Havre (Normandy) and Salvador da Bahia (Brazil). Three of them, including some of the biggest names, are busy this week at a training  course at the Finistère ocean racing centre in Port-la-Forêt (Brittany) - Jean-Pierre Dick/Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac), Paul Meilhat/Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA) and Tanguy de Lamotte/Samantha Davies (Initiatives Cœur). The method used at these courses, run since 2000 for the IMOCA skippers, has certainly paid off, as the Finistère Centre has given a helping hand to the last five winners of the Vendée Globe…   There are some similarities between running and ocean racing. Going through a training course at the Finistère Centre is rather like an interval training workout when preparing for a marathon. “The programme is intensive, demanding and requires a lot of effort, as the aim is to push the boats and men as hard as possible and get them to work to ensure everything comes naturally,” explained Christian Le Pape, director of the Centre. “Each training session involves bringing together in a short session everything you encounter when racing out on the ocean, where there are all sorts of difficulties to deal with: performance, looking after the gear, being competitive. We do some sterling work here with sailors, who are all very committed and that we know well.”   “Preparing for the first 24 hours of the Transat Jacques Vabre” Four of the thirteen double-handed crews competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre attended the first three courses run in August and September. They are all top guns in the IMOCA circuit: Jean-Pierre Dick/Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac), Paul Meilhat/Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA), Tanguy de Lamotte/Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) and Morgan Lagravière/Eric Péron (Des Voiles et Vous!). Back from their qualifier for the Transat Jacques Vabre, the latter crew did not take part in the fourth training course this week. However, the three others attended, so there were two foilers (StMichel-Virbac and Initiatives Cœur) and one IMOCA with highly optimised straight daggerboards (SMA). “With a month to go to the start in Le Havre, the main goal of this course was to prepare everyone for the first 24 hours of racing, which is becoming increasingly important. Races can be won or lost in this initial stage. So, it is vital to get into the swing of things and be out there in front,” stressed Christian Le Pape.That is why after the first day of training on Tuesday, which was already physically very demanding, the three double-handed crews involved ran through a night-time exercise. On Wednesday at four in the afternoon, they set off to sail a very complete 195-mile course enabling them to deal with all the different points of sail, with a lot of time focusing on  reaching (with the wind on the beam).   How did SMA cope with the foilers? They had to deal with a range of situations, sail changes, manoeuvres, and wind shifts. Once again, the three crews worked to ensure everything fell into place in moderate winds. Christian Le Pape: “On this race course, which should have suited the foilers, we saw how SMA made up for her speed disadvantage in some points of sail. We’ll run through that at a debriefing on Friday to analyse the data we have obtained. In any case, thanks to these training courses, Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet have been able to get some useful information about their potential and that of their opponents.” Between now and the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre on 5th November, StMichel-Virbac, SMA, Initiatives Cœur and Des Voiles et Vous! will attend one final course in Port-la-Forêt, during the week of the 16th October. These three busy days of sailing around the Glénan Islands will offer them a final rehearsal before the big event.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[2017 Transat Jacques Vabre: 13 top class duos]]> Mon, 25 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT The line-up for the 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, which starts from Le Havre on 5th November, is now complete. In the IMOCA category, 13 pairs will be heading for Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, to attempt to follow in the footsteps of Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col, who won the race in 2015. The standard looks very high and there is not much to choose between the crews, as we saw at the Azimut Challenge, a final rehearsal, which took place in Lorient this weekend.   With forty days to go to the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the double-handed crews taking part seem to be in good shape and are all raring to set sail. The line-up for the famous Coffee Race was revealed at a press conference in Paris on Wednesday 20th September. No fewer than thirteen IMOCA monohulls will be lining up, including five of the seven foilers that are currently sailing. Time for us to take a look at those competing.   Three mixed crews One of the best bits of news about the line-up is that there will be three women taking part. On Bureau Vallée 2 (Armel Le Cléac’h’s former Banque Populaire VIII), Servane Escoffier will be sailing alongside her partner, Louis Burton. Aboard the boat that won the last Vendée Globe, this pair will be closely watched. On Generali, Isabelle Joschke and Pierre Brasseur, both newcomers to the IMOCA class, did well in the last Rolex Fastnet Race (5th) and in the Azimut Challenge (3rd in the 24-Hour race). They will be trying to repeat that performance in the Jacques Vabre. The third mixed crew comprises Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies on Initiatives Cœur. Between the two of them, they have clocked up four attempts at the Vendée Globe, so Tanguy and Sam will be taking advantage of their wealth of experience to get the most out of their IMOCA foiler.     SMA facing up well to the new foilers Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet are now brimming over with confidence. The two that work so well together pulled off three wins in the ArMen Race, the Rolex Fastnet Race, and the Azimut Challenge last weekend. In Lorient, Paul and Gwénolé won the 24-hour race on Saturday and the Round the Isle of Groix race the next day. These successes show just how well prepared they are and how they work well together, as well as confirming the ability of SMA, which appears to be the best IMOCA with straight daggerboards. “We’re starting to get everything straight when carrying out manoeuvres and trimming. On board our routine is getting better and better organised. We are completely focused and serious, while remaining relaxed,” said a very pleasedGwénolé Gahinet. This latest success is a good omen and SMA will certainly be one to watch in the Transat Jacques Vabre, even if the foilers should be able to express themselves much more strongly, as they cross the Atlantic. In spite of not having much time to prepare, Morgan Lagravière and Eric Péron also left us with a very good impression with their IMOCA foiler, "Des Voiles Et Vous"  (the former Safran), finishing second in the Azimut 24-hour race and 3rd in the Round the Isle of Groix race. They will be in strong contention, as will the crew on StMichel-Virbac, made up of Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès. The undisputed master of double-handed sailing (three wins in the Transat Jacques Vabre, two in the Barcelona World Race), Jean-Pierre has once again chosen a very talented co-skipper. Together they will be aiming for victory and nothing less. Last minute entrants for the 2017 Jacques Vabre, Boris Herrmann and Thomas Ruyant will be setting sail on another strong performing foiler, Malizia II (Sébastien Josse’s former Edmond de Rothschild), and they too have a lot going for them.   The outsiders Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven (Bastide Otio) are an experienced pair, who are quite capable of getting a great result. The two have already done well in the Jacques Vabre: Kito finished second in 2009 in the IMOCA category and in 2013 aboard a Multi50, while Yannick won the race in 2015 on a Class40. At the same time as taking his first steps on his new foiler (Pieter Heerema’s former No Way Back), Fabrice Amedeo is preparing aboard his 2007 Farr designed boat, Newrest-Brioche Pasquier, sailing double-handed with the Italian, Giancarlo Pedote. We will also be seeing Arnaud Boissières and Manuel Cousin on la Mie Câline-Artipôle. After this race, Manuel will be going it alone on this boat, while Arnaud will be getting his hands on his new monohull, Mike Golding’s former Ecover. Alan Roura, who was one of the revelations in the last Vendée Globe, is settling in with his new IMOCA in the colours of La Fabrique, alongside Frédéric Denis. While the pair were forced to retire with energy problems in the Azimut 24-hour race, they gained some useful experience and will be fully ready by the start in Le Havre. Even if their boat is not the most modern (2004), Yoann Richomme and Pierre Lacaze hope to do well and whatever happens, a transatlantic crossing on an IMOCA will be good experience for them. Finally, Romain Attanasio and Aurélien Ducroz will be setting sail on the oldest boat in the fleet, Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys, which dates back to 1998. This will be Romain’s final race aboard the venerable old IMOCA, as he is to be the new owner of Fabrice Amedeo’s Newrest-Brioche Pasquier.     The 13 duos competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre - Kito de Pavant & Yannick Bestaven (Bastide Otio / Farr design from 2006) - Louis Burton & Servane Escoffier (Bureau Vallée 2 / VPLP-Verdier design from 2015) - Morgan Lagravière & Eric Péron (Des Voiles Et Vous ! / VPLP-Verdier design from 2015) - Famille Mary-Etamine Du Lys (Romain Attanasio & Aurélien Ducroz / Lombard design from 1998) - Generali (Isabelle Joschke & Pierre Brasseur / VPLP-Verdier design from 2007) - Tanguy De Lamotte & Samantha Davies (Initiatives Cœur / VPLP-Verdier design from 2010) - Alan Roura & Frédéric Denis (La Fabrique / Finot-Conq design from 2007) - Arnaud Boissières & Manuel Cousin (La Mie Câline-Artipôle / Farr design from 2007) - Boris Herrmann & Thomas Ruyant (Malizia II / VPLP-Verdier design from 2015) - Fabrice Amedeo & Giancarlo Pedote (Newrest-Brioche Pasquier / Farr design from 2007) - Paul Meilhat & Gwénolé Gahinet (SMA / VPLP-Verdier design from 2011) - Jean-Pierre Dick & Yann Eliès (StMichel-Virbac / VPLP-Verdier design from 2015) - Yohann Richomme & Pierre Lacaze (Vivo A Beira / Lombard design from 2004)  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Azimut Challenge: final rehearsal before the Transat Jacques Vabre]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT 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 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 BUREAU VALLÉE 2 (Louis Burton & Servane Escoffier) GENERALI (Isabelle Joschke & Pierre Brasseur) DES VOILES ET VOUS ! (Morgan Lagravière & Eric Péron) INITIATIVES CŒUR (Tanguy De Lamotte & Samantha Davies) LA FABRIQUE (Alan Roura & Frédéric Denis) LA MIE CÂLINE – ARTIPÔLE (Arnaud Boissières & Manuel Cousin) NEWREST - BRIOCHE PASQUIER (Fabrice Amedeo & Giancarlo Pedote) StMICHEL-VIRBAC (Jean-Pierre Dick & Yann Eliès) SMA (Paul Meilhat & Gwénolé Gahinet) VIVO A BEIRA (Yohann Richomme & Donatien Carme) [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Eric Péron alongside Morgan Lagravière in the Transat Jacques Vabre]]> Thu, 14 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT There has been some very good news for Eric Péron, who will be racing in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre alongside Morgan Lagravière on the former Safran. Having been through two Olympic preparations, six attempts at the Solitaire du Figaro, and making it to third place in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race and the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre, Eric is one of French sailing’s rising stars. With this new IMOCA challenge, the 36–year-old will be able to gain a lot of useful experience, as he looks forward to competing in the 2020 Vendée Globe. Eric Péron feeling the pressure and excitement Morgan Lagravière and Eric Péron have known each other for around ten years, as they first met back when they were both competing in the 49er class. Then, they bumped into each other again in the Figaro circuit. Eric Péron explains. “We are friends and share the same passions, so it’s great to be able to set off together. I’m very enthusiastic about joining this fantastic team. Racing in the Jacques Vabre with such a talented skipper on a wonderful foiling IMOCA, with the support of Roland Jourdain and his team… It’s hard to imagine anything better.” That said, replacing such a famous sailor as Roland Jourdain (twice winner of the Route du Rhum, two attempts at the Vendée Globe…), is certainly no easy task for Eric Peron. “I can feel the pressure on me, but that is something that encourages me. I don’t want to disappoint anyone,” he added. “Perfect outsiders” The former Safran, a VPLP-Verdier design from 2015, was relaunched last week in Concarneau (Brittany). Morgan and Eric have since then carried out a few trips to get used to her. There will be plenty of sailing to do in the weeks ahead with the two men competing in the Azimut Challenge from 22nd to 24th September in Lorient. They will also have to carry out their qualifying sail for the Transat Jacques Vabre (sailing at least 1500 miles double-handed), remembering that the race starts from Le Havre on 5th November. “We got together fairly late on and we will be busy making up for lost time”, Eric told us. “We really want to do well. We have a great boat and we work well together as a pair. We could in fact be the perfect outsiders.” Morgan Lagravière is equally enthusiastic. “Eric has a wealth of experience of offshore sailing, which is very interesting, while I know my boat well. I’m sure that together we have what it takes to do well in the Transat Jacques Vabre.”   Eric Péron aiming for the 2020 Vendée Globe Eric Péron already has a lot of experience of IMOCAs. In 2006, he sailed alongside a certain Armel Le Cléac’h, aboard Brit Air. In 2015, he took part in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Fabrice Amedeo finishing in eighth place. For the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, he was the substitute skipper for Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Coeur. This position allowed him to sail a lot on Tanguy’s IMOCA. “I have done a lot of exploring of the boat, but I am not yet an expert,” said Eric. With this new experience, the first on a foiler, he will get in some excellent training for the 2020 Vendée Globe, which is his ultimate goal. It will also offer him an opportunity to be seen by possible future partners, who may wish to join him in the solo round the world race. “My dream scenario would be to take part aboard a brand new IMOCA,” he added.   Photo credit: © Sea n'Co - Th.Martinez[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[20 skippers, three women, double and triple winners ...]]> Mon, 04 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT The 7th Défi Azimut will be held from September 22nd to 24th in Lorient La Base, a real antechamber of the great race for the program of each new IMOCA season. As usual, this annual race exclusively reserved for the monohulls of 60 feet (18.28 meters) will bring a first choice fleet. As a prelude to the Transat Jacques Vabre 2017, the Défi Azimut is expecting this year a dozen duos, some 20 skippers bringing together known figures and new faces of the IMOCA circuit. These seasoned sailors all have lists of charts that speak volumes about the level of skills and experience gathered aboard the fleet of this Défi Azimut 2017. Les équipages de cette 7ème édition , où figurent trois doubles mixtes riches de la participation de trois talentueuses navigatrices - Samantha Davies, Isabelle Joschke et Servane Escoffier - réunissent : The crews of this 7th edition, with three mixed double-handed duos rich in the participation of three talented sailors - Samantha Davies, Isabelle Joschke and Servane Escoffier - gather: a triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, Yann Eliès; an undisputed specialist of double-handed in IMOCA, triple winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre and double winner of the Barcelona World Race, Jean-Pierre Dick; two winners of the previous Transat Jacques Vabre 2015, with Pierre Brasseur winning in Class 40, and Giancarlo Pedote in Multi50; a co-holder of the last Jules Verne Trophy, Gwénolé Gahinet, also winner of the 2011 Mini-Transat ... as well as an experienced sailor on all supports, "double-double" winner of the Route du Rhum and the Transat Jacques Vabre, a knowned Roland Jourdain, ... So many skippers to compose favorites duos and promising double-handed crews. For these ten crews out of the twelve declared for the next Transat Jacques Vabre, the 24 Hours Azimut-IMOCA 60 will constitute a last round of observation necessarily rich of teachings. Both to sharpen their own weapons and gain performance, only to measure the forces deployed expected on the next great autumn transat ... List of registered skippers for the 24H AZIMUT - IMOCA60 2017 BUREAU VALLÉE 2 (Louis Burton & Servane Escoffier) GENERALI (Isabelle Joschke & Pierre Brasseur) KAÏROS (Morgan Lagravière & Roland Jourdain) INITIATIVES CŒUR (Tanguy De Lamotte & Samantha Davies) LA FABRIQUE (Alan Roura & Frédéric Denis) LA MIE CÂLINE – ARTIPÔLE (Arnaud Boissières & Manuel Cousin) NEWREST - BRIOCHE PASQUIER (Fabrice Amedeo & Giancarlo Pedote) StMICHEL-VIRBAC (Jean-Pierre Dick & Yann Eliès) SMA (Paul Meilhat & Gwénolé Gahinet) VIVO A BEIRA (Yohann Richomme & Pierre Lacaze) [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[THE DEFI AZIMUT 2017 IN THE STARTING BLOCKS!!!]]> Tue, 29 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT Friday 22 September09.30: Conference, Europace Round Table (Cité de la Voile-Eric Tabarly) / Innovations aboard the IMOCA60 11.15: Testimonies, around passion / Skippers explain their attraction for offshore racing and their commitment to competitive sailing12h15: Inauguration by Lorient Agglomération of the pontoons of the winners on the site of Lorient La Base.14h00: Pre-race briefing (Cité de la Voile-Eric Tabarly), open to the press17h00: Start of the 24H AZIMUT-IMOCA60, double-handed Saturday 23 SeptemberArrival of the 24H AZIMUT-IMOCA60 at the harbour in the afternoon8:00 pm: Azimut-Bretagne evening at the Penduick space of the Cité de la Voile Sunday 24 September11:30: Opening of the runs13h00: Start of the CHRONO AZIMUT-IMOCA60 around the island of Groix, crew (record to beat Vincent Riou on PRB in 1h08 "10 ').17h00: Prize Giving ceremony for the Azimut 2017 Challenge[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[RANKING OF THE ROLEX FASTNET 2017]]> Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT Congratulations to Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on SMA who wins this Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Followed very closely for the second place by Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès on St Michel-Virbac and for the third place by Boris Herrmann and Pierre Casiraghi on Malizia. They followed each other very closely for an exceptional finish. Congratulations to all!! 1 - SMA: 2d 16h 14m 2s2 - St Michel - Virbac: 2d 17h 29m 9s3 - Malizia: 2d 17h 55m 11s4 - Initiatives Coeur: 2d 18h 14m 48s5 - Generali: 2d 18h 27m 36s6 - Bureau Vallée 2: 2d 18h 40m 30s7 - Vivo A Beira: 2d 19h 1m 34s8 - Hugo Boss: 2d 19h 42m 37s9 - La Mie Câline - Artipôle: 2d 23h 38m 27s (C) Olivier Blanchet / AleA / SMAPhoto Credit: David Branigan[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[WATCH THE START OF THE ROLEX FASTNET RACE 2017]]> Sun, 06 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT The race starts from one of world’s most famous yachting locations: the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes on the Isle of Wight this Sunday. Fastnet TV will cover the entire start sequence live. It will be streamed online from and and on RORC Facebook live right through to the fleet leaving the Solent. The start sequence begins at 1100 (BST) for the 48th edition. The multihulls go off first, followed by the IMOCA 60s and Class 40s. 1100 Multihull 1110 IMOCA 60 and Class40 1120 IRC 4 1140 IRC 3 1200 IRC 2 1220 IRC 1 1240 IRC Zero & VO65   The link to all tracking options is:   [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[INTERVIEW: Paul Meilhat VS Gwénolé Gahinet on SMA]]> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT You have already won a double-handed race; does that give you an advantage over others on this race? I think that we already won together does not give us a particular advantage, the fact that we have not sailed a lot together is more important, we know each other well, this is what give us confidence   Paul, following the Vendée Globe, have you rested? Not much, but still a bit. Since the end of my Vendée Globe in January I still took a little holiday. We had a rather heavy pre-season with IMOCA (GP Guyader and the Armen Race) and some training with our foil project, followed by a lot of PR sailing (12 days I think). We made a round trip to Lisbon for activities with the subsidiary of SMA there. Personally I prepared well myself by sailing in Diam 24 and participating in the first 3 stages of the Tour de France too. I return from ten days off to resume the season and to prepare the IMOCA for the Fastnet.   Are you ready to start a new season? New season? It's already been 5 months that we're on the water so it's not really a new season for us. Regarding IMOCA races yes, we just put the right drifters on the boat and we changed our ballast configuration. We'll take a little rest after the Fastnet and go on with training sessions in Port la Forêt, and the Défi Azimut in September, so a rather heavy program.   How did you prepare to sail in double-handed configuration? Sailing, sailing, talking together, working on the boat together, there is not too much recipe apart from that.   Have you made any changes on the boat? Yes we modernized our system of ballasts in order to comply with the new measurement requirements, simpler, more efficient, less heavy.   What is your state of mind? Determination, do things well, not over complicate life neither on board nor on land.   Describe your partner in 3 words Paul about Gwénolé: Fun, hardworking, motivated[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[INTERVIEW: Jean-Pierre Dick VS Yann Eliès on St Michel Virbac]]> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT What are your main reasons for your participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race and what are your expectations? Yann: "It is expected to have low wind conditions which are not very conducive to StMichel-Virbac, more efficient in higher winds. Our goal of result would be rather the podium. We are going to measure the competition that looks quite tough because the boats of older generations are performing in these lights winds. "   JP: "The main objective of this Fastnet is to validate our operation together with Yann, to" break-in our duo "and to set up automatisms. We are aiming for the podium. And after our ambitions will go up on the following races, with in mind this fourth victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre. "   Expectations ? Our joint goal with Yann is to improve our duo to be efficient in double handed race. It’s very important this year for reaching our objective to win the Transat Jacques Vabre.   Which part of the race do you find the most challenging? The start of the race to the Needles is often difficult because you need to adjust a lot the boat. It’s a tiring part. Afterwards in the Irish Sea, we often meet difficult conditions. It’s a big challenge of the race. The famous capes in England are known for their flow, we need to negotiate them.   What particular object or personal stuff will you take for this race? “The Fastnet Rock is a legendary point of the race. When you are in front of this famous lighthouse, it’s a special and emotional moment. The Fastnet Rock is mythical for sailors. I will take also on board my lucky pillow, my “Morrisburg” which did all of my fourth Vendée Globe.”   The course seen by .... Yann Eliès Yann: "It is a course both coastal and deep-sea that brings us to the Fastnet, passing near the Scilly. The exit of the Solent is magic because we cross a variety of boats. Then the fleet crashes, there are several races in the race. The event is played at the Scilly, it is a place where there are many obstacles, TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) which requires taking very decided options and it’s conditioning the placement for the Irish Sea. We will have a good idea in the passage of the Fastnet of the final ranking. "   Anne-Charlotte Meyer / Chargée de Communication[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[INTERVIEW: Tanguy de Lamotte VS Sam Davies on K-Line Initiatives cœur]]> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT 1st race with the foils, how do you feel about the race? Tanguy: Very excited to leave on this new boat with Sam. We sailed well at the beginning of the season and we got used to speed with foils but we discover every day new sensations. Can’t wait to race with others ;-) Sam: I can’t wait, especially since I have not sailed in IMOCA since 2015, and we are "rookies" in foil - we have a lot to discover and learn   Tanguy, following the Vendée Globe, have you rested? Yes, I loaded the batteries while the other competitors were sailing and we quickly resumed at the beginning of the year with the acquisition of the new boat to set everything as smoothly as possible with the team and the partners   Are you ready to start a new season? Tanguy: Yes, the double-handed years are always very different from solo-handed years especially after the Vendée Globe. We know each other well with Sam and we knew before the start of the Vendée Globe that we would do the Transat Jacques Vabre together so we quickly put ourselves in this configuration. Sam: More than ready after a year "on the ground" - I regained the energy to be 100% thoroughly!   How did you prepare to sail in double-handed configuration? Tanguy: Crew training and double-handed sessions in Lorient with Tanguy Leglatin and with Isabelle Joschke then Jean-Pierre Dick Sam: We are not starting from zero, because we have made a lot of progress as a duo during the year 2015 when we sailed together. So, since the launch, we resume with a new boat to discover.   What is your state of mind? Tanguy: Discover the boat and give everything on the water to be at the top since the Fastnet Sam: The discovery, the pleasure of sailing on a boat equipped with foils, the happiness of sailing together with Tanguy - we get along very well on the boat and we are complementary.   Describe your partner in 3 words Tanguy about Sam: Enthusiastic, implemented, high performance Sam about Tanguy: Support, supportive, family   Better quality Tanguy about Sam: The good mood, always willing Sam about Tanguy: Enthusiasm, passion, trusts in us.   Which conditions would be ideal for you on this 2017 edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race? Tanguy: Fast and not too random to be able to race without it being the Russian roulette Sam: Anything or everything I'm too happy about! [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[INTERVIEW: Arnaud Boissières VS Manuel Cousin on La Mîe Caline - Artipôle]]> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT It is the beginning of the passing of the boat in race, who will be the skipper? Arnaud   Arnaud, following the Vendée Globe, have you rested? Yes, because motivation takes precedence over the rest of the warrior.   Are you ready to start a new season? Of course!!   How did you prepare to sail in double-handed configuration? We insisted on the technical preparation of the boat and focused our joint preparation on the future of our two projects.   What is your state of mind? You're tired ... we're not tired...   Describe your partner in 3 words Arnaud about Manu: Motivated, passionate, convivial Manu about Arnaud: Motivated, experienced, funny   Better quality Arnaud about Manu: Tenacity Manu about Arnaud: Pugnacity   Which conditions would be ideal for you on this Rolex Fastnet Race 2017? Girlie weather [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[One, two, three...Go!]]> Tue, 01 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT The Rolex Fastnet Race, the first major double-handed race of the IMOCA season, will start from Cowes on August 6th.IMOCA will sail for 608 miles from Cowes (Isle of Wight, UK) and then go round the Rock of Fastnet for an arrival in Plymouth. This first race of the season is a first major confrontation for our skippers because no fewer than 5 foilers participate as well as SMA and Generali, the most performing IMOCA with drifts. This race allows the skippers to measure each other and to make the boats more reliable. Arnaud Boissières and Manuel Cousin aboard La Mîe Caline Artipole experienced a disappointment with their keel ram last weekend on their way to Cherbourg.They are currently doing everything possible to repair quickly thanks to the responsiveness of HYDROEM and the kindness of Fabrice Amedeo who could lend them a spare rod of keel ram so that they can line up at the start of this mythical race. This year 9 IMOCA will participate in the race: StMichel - Virbac (FRA 06) DICK Jean-Pierre  ELIES Yann  Initiatives Coeur (FRA 109) DE LAMOTTE Tanguy  DAVIES Samantha  LA MIE CÂLINE - ARTIPÔLE (FRA 14) BOISSIERES Arnaud  COUSIN Manuel  Bureau Vallée 2 (FRA 18) BURTON Louis  ESCOFFIER Servane  SMA (FRA 1859) MEILHAT Paul  GAHINET Gwénolé  Vivo A Beira (FRA 20) RICHOMME Yoann  LACAZE Pierre  Générali (FRA 29) JOSCHKE Isabelle  BRASSEUR Pierre  HUGO BOSS (GBR 99) THOMSON Alex  O’ LEARY Nicholas  Malizia (MON 10) HERRMANN Boris  CASIRAGHI Pierre   Please find more informations on :[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[THE CURTAIN COMES DOWN ON THE EIGHTH VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT The closing ceremony for the 8th Vendée Globetook place on Saturday 13th May in Les Sables d'Olonne, in the presence of the 29 skippers that took part. A highly emotional event, this exceptional evening brought this magnificent edition to an end. You can already note down the date for the 9th Vendée Globe, which will begin at 1202 hrs UTC on 8th November 2020.   The eighth Vendée Globe is now officially over. The heroes celebrated together for one last time in les Sables d’Olonne, the start and finish location for the non-stop solo round the world race. Organised by the Vendée Council, the closing ceremony allowed everyone to look back at the great adventure of this solo round the world voyage. Emotions were running high for the 29 Vendée Globe skippers, who were present. “We’re pleased to be back in Les Sables d’Olonne”   The first people to go up on the stage were the eleven skippers forced to retire: Paul Meilhat, Morgan Lagravière, Sébastien Josse, Kojiro Shiraishi, Bertrand de Broc, Stéphane Le Diraison, Vincent Riou, Thomas Ruyant, Enda O’Coineen, Thomas Ruyant and Tanguy de Lamotte. Their respective performances remind us how hard it is to take part in the Vendée Globe, which requires a huge investment and personal sacrifice. The sailors ranked from 11th to 18th were the next to be invited onto the stage. They were Fabrice Amedeo, Alan Roura, Rich Wilson, Didac Costa, Romain Attanasio, Conrad Colman, Pieter Heerema and Sébastien Destremau. “I’m very honoured to be here and we are all delighted to be back in Les Sables d’Olonne. It’s been a while since we last saw each other. This evening the tears welled up,” declared the Swiss sailor Alan Roura, summing up perfectly the general feeling.After that, the skippers ranked from 4th to 10th were presented – Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès, Jean Le Cam, Louis Burton, Nandor Fa, Eric Bellion and Arnaud Boissières. “This ceremony has allowed us to return to those unforgettable moments we experienced last winter. This evening, I am proud to be alongside sailors, who were idols, when I was smal,” declared Louis Burton. “We get a wave of emotions like those we felt during the race and the preparation,” added Yann Eliès. “That gives us the desire to look ahead to the ninth edition.” Eric Bellion, 9th and first rookie in the last Vendée Globe, was awarded a special trophy by Bruno Retailleau, President of the Pays de la Loire Region. “I discovered myself during this Vendée Globe. It’s fabulous to find what you didn’t think you had. You feel bigger and stronger and that’s incredible,” said Bellion.   Podium places   It was then time for Jérémie Beyou, 3rd in the Vendée Globe to say something. “It’s hard to find the words to express what we experienced. You go through all the emotions. But the human mind is great: we only remember the good times. I’ll be back in four years with a new boat, so I’m very lucky.” Next up was Alex Thomson, runner-up after his epic duel with Armel Le Cléac’h. “Are you ready to see a Brit win the race in 2020?” he asked the audience. The final person invited onto the stage was Armel Le Cléac’h. He received the Vendée Globe Trophy from Yves Auvinet, President of the Vendée Globe. He too was very moved, as he looked back at his adventure. “The match with Alex was incredibly tough. After coming second twice, I managed to win this time. I’ll never forget that. You are never the same when you return from a Vendée Globe.” After the traditional family photo, the skippers joined together with the public for one final time during a big parade on the seafront with a huge and enthusiastic crowd attending. See you on 8th November 2020 for the start of the ninth Vendée Globe Yves Auvinet concluded by presenting a very positive report on the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. “I’d like to stress how lucky our department is to have such an event, which everyone is jealous of and rightly so.. I’m pleased that the 29 skippers all made it home safely. Thank you for the pleasure you gave to the public. You give us a great example of humanity. That gives us the motivation to do even better in 2020. I can already tell you that the start of the 9th Vendée Globe will be on 8th November 2020 at 1202hrs UTC.      [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The FNOB publishes the Notice of Race of the Barcelona World Race 2018-2019 in Paris]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT The Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB) published the Notice of Race of the Barcelona World Race 2018- 2019 at the IMOCA General Assembly, held in Paris on April 26th, after agreeing with the IMOCA class the new race format. The Notice of Race of the Barcelona World Race 2018-2019, which will start on January 12th, 2019, was published by Xosé-Carlos Fernandez, FNOB CEO and member of the General Assembly and Board of Directors of the IMOCA Class. The FNOB technical team has worked with the IMOCA class and the Vendée Globe organization for the last six months to agree on the new Barcelona World Race format. The objective of this collaboration work between the organizers is to achieve better coordination between the Barcelona World Race and the Vendée Globe, as well as to gather the suggestions of the IMOCA class team regarding the perfect format for the Spanish race. The FNOB has wanted to meet the market demands, that is, the potential participating teams, in order to get greater participation and reach new sponsorship territories. The Notice has been received positively and, in the coming days, FNOB CEO plans to carry out interviews with those teams that have already expressed their interest. Among the new rules, the fourth edition of the Barcelona World Race will have two parts: Barcelona-Sydney-Barcelona and the sum of times for both legs will establish the final ranking. The Australian city will be a mandatory stopover, where teams will be able to carry out technical repairs and replace the co-skipper if desired. (Subject to amendments on behalf of the RFEV)  Organized by the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB), formed by the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Barcelona Trade Fair and Barcelona Port Authority, the Barcelona World Race, as in the last editions, is an official event of the IMOCA OCEAN MASTERS World Championship and the race have a coefficient 8 for the ISAF Major Event. About The Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB) The Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing is a public institution formed in 2005 with four strategic objectives in mind: Sports, Education, Science and Industry. It is devised to undertake a series of projects geared towards promoting and boosting activities related to top-level ocean sailing. The FNOB is currently working on its four key strategic areas with the support and contribution of universities, institutions and companies in Barcelona. The platform -formed by the Barcelona City Council, Fira de Barcelona (Barcelona Trade Fair), Barcelona Port Authority and Barcelona Chamber of Commerce- has already organized three editions of the Barcelona World Race, the round the world, two-crew sailboat race which has become one of the pillars, together with the Vendée Globe, of the IMOCA OCEAN MASTERS World Championship. The FNOB has also organized The New York -Barcelona Transoceanic Sailing Record, the Sailing Tour of Spain and The Europa Tour- Imoca Warm Up. Media contacts: ARENALIA Comunicación Laia Jardí · + 34 628 673 970 ·   Eguzkiñe Añón · + 34 609 027 747 · Lluis Gubern · +34 699 563 954 ·   FNOB The Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing Carlos Clastre · +34 607 277 341 · Maria Godoy · +34 699 632 742 ·[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA GENERAL ASSEMBLY GIVES THUMBS UP FOR FOILS]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT The IMOCA Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday, 26th April in Paris at theFédération 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.   New faces 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        [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[SÉBASTIEN DESTREMAU TAKES 18TH PLACE TO BRING THE VENDÉE GLOBE TO A CLOSE]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 00:00:00 GMT Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst–faceOcean) crossed the Vendée Globe finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne in eighteenth place at 040hrs UTC on Saturday 11th March 2017 after 124 days, 12 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds of racing since the start on 6th November. The skipper from Toulon is the final competitor to complete this eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race. The curtain falls on the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe fifty days after the winner, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), who finished on 19th January.   Although born in Brittany 52 years ago, Sébastien Destremau is now based in Toulon. After an Olympic preparation in the Flying Dutchman class, he took part in several major crewed races, such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Sydney–Hobart. He later became a consultant, setting up a video magazine covering race news. It was in 2015 that the skipper acquired the Imoca 60 TechnoFirst-faceOcean built in 1998, which had already clocked up two Vendée Globe races – firstly with Josh Hall (9th in 2000-2001) and then with Steve White (8th in 2008-2009). After a delivery trip from Cape Town to Toulon, Sébastien Destremau qualified for the round the world race by competing in the Calero Solo Transat, between Lanzarote and Newport, Rhode Island. Before the start, the French skipper described his boat as being “ultra simple, like a bicycle without gears”. This inability to step up the speed was confirmed very early on in the race, when the skipper, whose only goal was to complete the round the world voyage, found himself at the rear of the fleet. He would attempt to take a short cut close to the coast of Africa, but to no avail. In the third week of racing, his starter motor failed and following in the footsteps of Michel Desjoyeaux, he was forced to come up with an alternative method to start his engine to fill his ballast tanks, using a rope and sail power. Destremau was successful in his makeshift technique, but the method was time consuming.   As he approached the first of the three major capes, Good Hope, the French skipper was joined by Catalan skipper, Didac Costa (OnePlanet- OneOcean). The Spaniard, who had set sail four days after returning to the port of Les Sables d’Olonne after problems with his electronics, soon made his getaway ahead of TechnoFirst-faceOcean, which passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on 11th December. Destremau would set off across the Indian Ocean close to Romain Attanasio, who had been forced to sail to South Africa to carry out repairs. By Cape Leeuwin they were joined by Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema bringing up the rear of the eighth Vendée Globe to the south of Australia. In strong winds, Destremau, who felt no real pressure on him, was quite happy to reduce the sail. “Of course, we’re not as quick, but we may go much further than some.” It was in the Southern Ocean that Destremau fully understood what he was accomplishing. “I can hardly believe it. We are just normal guys, but we’re doing something superhuman.” He was also well aware of the dangers of finding himself alone in the middle of the Pacific and so decided to carry out a thorough check with a pit stop off Tasmania from 3rd to 6th January. When he set sail again, he was almost a thousand miles behind Pieter Heerema.   When Sébastien Destremau finally left the Southern Ocean, rounding Cape Horn on 29th January, the first six boats had already finished the round the world voyage. As he sailed up the coast of Argentina, 17th placed Pieter Heerema was some 1200 miles ahead. The climb back up the South Atlantic would take three weeks with Destremau finally returning to the Northern Hemisphere on 19th February, but the voyage was far from over, as it would take just under three weeks more to sail from the Equator to the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne. During the final fortnight of racing, it was the lack of food that become a worry for the skipper of TechnoFirst-faceOcean. He had to ration himself to one meal a day and his attempts at fishing off the Azores were not enough to provide him with enough food.    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[DUTCH SAILOR PIETER HEEREMA TAKES SEVENTEENTH PLACE]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 00:00:00 GMT Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema brought his No Way Back across the finish line of the Vendée Globe at 2126hrs UTC this evening (Thursday 2nd March) to finish in seventeenth place. Heerema, at 65, completes this epic eighth edition becoming the first skipper from the Netherlands to complete the Vendée Globe. His elapsed time is 116 days 9 hrs, 24 mins and 12 secs. He sailed 29,747 miles at an average speed of 10.65 knots. During his crossing of the Bay of Biscay aboard his brand new foiler, a boat built in Italy for Andrea Mura, based on designs from VPLP-Verdier and launched in the spring of 2015, Heerema faced a few minor technical problems, in particular with his mainsail hook and a rudder that kicked up several times. The Dutch sailor also suffered from back pains for several days at the start of the race. These problems were resolved but he lost miles to most of the fleet and was in 25th place off the coast of Portugal. The list of repair jobs and technical problems continued to grow. Heerema soon vented his frustration openly criticising equipment manufacturers and the way his boat was fitted out. He also realised his sail choices were not suited to the conditions he was facing. By the time he got to the Doldrums he was in a different weather pattern from what those ahead had experienced and the small losses gradually grew in importance. No Way Back crossed the equator at 2000hrs UTC on 19th November after 13 days and 7 hours.   Conditions were much more pleasant as he went down the coast of Brazil, but he knew he needed to prepare his boat fully for the Southern Ocean. However, Heerema soon got used to the big southern swell and higher speeds. In mid-December in the Indian Ocean, Heerema encountered a lot of problems with his autopilot with the instruments malfunctioning, which meant he experienced some very stressful moments. Once again, this led to a lot of frustration for the Dutch skipper, who was unable to get the advice he was looking for about how to set up his autopilot system. As Christmas approached, the weather worsened and Heerema admitted he was no longer in race mode preferring to stay inside his boat. He would spend Christmas and Boxing Day working on his autopilot system trying to find the right set-up mode. Before entering the Pacific, his list of repair jobs continued to grow with a lot of wear to deal with on his mainsail. After 60 days at sea, Pieter Heerema passed the halfway mark of the Vendée Globe. « From a competition point of view, during the 60 days of racing, I have rarely been in contact with my competitors and my various technical concerns have forced me to make major detours and slowdowns. Today I am sailing at 60% of No Way Back’s potential. » After 79 days on 24th January, Heerema rounded Cape Horn, a highly emotional moment for the skipper.   The start of the climb back up the Atlantic was far from comfortable. “The banging and smashing worries me. Not for the fillings that may fall out of my teeth. No,no. Not for the teeth that might fall out of my jaws. No, no. Not for the jawbones that may fall out of my head. No, no. I am worried that my head will fall off my torso.” A few days later in warm sunshine in the Forties, his mood lifted and he was able to enjoy some good sailing conditions. But his wind instruments and the data fed to his autopilot still continued to pose problems. He was unable to sleep for long periods as he could not rely on his autopilot and consequently was close to exhaustion at times. Heerema crossed the Equator at 2258hrs UTC on 10th February after 96 days of racing.   In the Doldrums, conditions were very wet and he suffered from a lack of wind. He compared the conditions to being in a tropical rainforest. For his penultimate week conditions were fine, offering good sailing, but Heerema continued to suffer from his electronic and instrument problems. During his final week at sea, the Dutch skipper was forced to slow down to let a nasty storm go by in the Bay of Biscay where 9m high waves were forecast.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[THE ‘CRAZY KIWI’, CONRAD COLMAN TAKES SIXTEENTH PLACE]]> Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT New Zealander Conrad Colman wrote a new chapter in the storied history of the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line of the eighth edition of the non stop solo round the world race under a makeshift jury rig. He took 16th place when he crossed the finish line at 1400hrs UTC. The elapsed time is 110 days 1 hour 58 minutes and 41 seconds.  H sailed 27,929 miles averaging 10.57 knots. After being dismasted late on the evening of Friday 10th February, when he was in tenth place and some 250 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal, Colman constructed and stepped a remarkable jury rig which has allowed him to sail the final 740 miles of the 27,440 nautical miles race which started from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th 2016. Since he was dismasted in what should have been his last big storm of his race, only three and half days from the finish line where he seemed assured of an impressive 10th place, Colman has run out of food and lasted out his final days on the survival rations from inside his life raft. On Wednesday he confirmed by radio that he had only two biscuits left. Colman, a trained sailmaker and rigger, set one of the most efficient jury rigs seen in the history of ocean racing, working diligently and smartly to the end to improve the sheeting angles and hence efficiency of the rig which is constructed from his boom, part of his mainsail and his storm jib. Only Philippe Poupon and Yves Parlier have previously completed the Vendée Globe under jury rig, while others, like Mike Golding and Loïck Peyron had to set up jury rigs to bring their boats back to shore. He achieves his goal of becoming the first ever skipper to race solo non stop around the world completing the Vendée Globe using no fossil fuels, only renewable energies, his electrical power generated by an innovative electric motor, solar and hydro generated electricity and stored in a bank of high tech batteries. Before leaving Les Sables d’Olonne he explained: “The objective is to have it as a reflection of my philosophies. Growing up in New Zealand I was aware of the hole in the Ozone layer there. I converted to become a vegetarian not especially because I care about cute lambs but because I was more concerned about the global impact of the chain, of food production and consumption. And so the project is a reflection of my ideals.” He also is first New Zealand born skipper to finish the epic solo round the world race, concluding a remarkable storybook adventure which has captivated race watchers from all around the world since long before the start. His finish reflects his incredible tenacity, drive and talent, the culmination of a dream which saw him move from the USA to France over 10 years ago to pursue his goal of competing in the legendary solo round the world race. From pursuing an academic and business career in the USA, where his late father was from, Colman worked different marine related jobs to expand his skillset to a level where he could achieve a competitive finish in the Vendée Globe. Before the start he spoke of how he had staked his financial future in taking part in the race. He found an unloved IMOCA 60 designed by South African Angelo Lavranos which to date had a chequered, limited racing history where he lived in Lorient, where it was being used for day charter hires, and set about refitting and re-optimising the boat in order that he could realise the boat’s true, untapped potential. Even a matter of ten days before the race start Colman did not have the funds to compete at what he considered to be the very minimum level of participation. But he was determined to go anyway. An absolute last minute call found support from the London based Foresight Group. His boat was only branded two days before the Sunday 6th November start. On start day he said:  “I feel great. How could I not. It is the start of the Vendée Globe and it is a sunny day. It is a dream I have been chasing for years and years and I have it here in my grasp. It was hard to say goodbye to my wife. I hang my wedding ring in the cockpit so she is always with me.” His spirit and skills have been tested in equal measure and on many occasions he has overturned situations which would have ended the Vendée Globe of lesser sailors. Even just days into his race he found an innovative way to repair a keel ram problem which jeopardised his race. An electrical fire damaged the wiring on his Foresight Natural Energy which sent his autopilots haywire. In one incredible 12 hour period he climbed his mast three times, spending hours aloft to repair sails. The 33 year old has made mast climbing an almost commonplace skill among his extensive personal armoury of abilities required to compete in the Vendée Globe, despite the fact it was a fall from the top of a mast which took the life of his father whose legacy Colman holds dear. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, near to the most remote point on the race course, Colman was caught in the path of one of the biggest storms of this race. His forestay, which holds up the mast, became detached when a pin failed. His IMOCA was knocked flat and stayed over for some hours in huge seas and winds gusting to 40-45kts. He took four days to recover, replacing the forestay, finally losing touch with Nandor Fa, the Hungarian skipper with whom he raced the 2014-2015 on Fa’s Spirit of Hungary who went on to take eighth place. Quotes The VG is more than ever I could have imagined. The conclusion of a voyage that has lasted ten years. So much harder than I had imagined. An incredible opportunity to find the energy within to fight. To face all these challenges that were thrown my way. It’s a solo race, but this is a team effort. I relied upon all the people here who supported me. That enabled me to cross the finish.  This moment is indescribable. If I tried to put it into words, I would burst into tears. I can’t believe all these people were here for me. Over the past ten years, I have lost sleep. I didn’t think I would ever make it to the start line. But through hard work and good luck this journey became a reality for me. I’m so eager to share it with everybody that came here today and all those who face a challenge in their own lives. Anything is possible, but you need a team around you. Every single day I had to fight. The jury rig is just a manifestation of what I had to do every day.   After so many problems, this is great! We have to open the champagne! I think I have finally arrived here. It was amazing in the channel. A huge present. When the mast came down, I didn’t dare give up. I felt so much energy from all those supporting me. Together we did it. It’s supposed to be a solo race, but it is done by a team and we all do it together. I found what I was looking for. Lots of challenges. I found the strength to take up these challenges. I’m pleased to have taken part. For a moment, I didn’t think it as going to be possible, when the mast came down. I called the Race Directors, but I didn’t want to ask for assistance. I managed top put one foot in front of another, as I did throughout this race. The person who set out at the start would not have been able to do that. I had to find the strength within myself each time. I have changed. That is the case for everyone. I feel nothing can beat me. We’ll be back in four years with my own boat. I’m proud of everything. I’m not ashamed of the dismasting."[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ROMAIN ATTANASIO TAKES 15TH PLACE]]> Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT French skipper Romain Attanasio, sailing Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys, took 15th place in the Vendee Globe non stop solo race around the world this morning (Friday 24th February) when he crossed the finish line at 1006hrs UTC. The elapsed time for the French skipper who raced the 1998 launched IMOCA which was originally Catherine Chabaud's Whirlpool is 109 days 22 hrs 4 minutes. He sailed 28,569 miles at an average speed of 10.83 knots. For the 39 year old solo racer who has a diverse background in offshore and ocean racing, completing his first Vendee Globe is the culmination of a personal goal, stepping up from singlehanded racing in the Mini 6.50 and in the solo one design Figaro class, to take on the pinnacle solo ocean race around the world. Attanasio took over fifteenth place early on the final morning, passing Conrad Colman who had raced the final 715 miles of his Vendee Globe under jury rig. Since repairing his rudders in South Africa Attanasio raced a hard, intense duel with the Spanish skipper Didac Costa, the pair racing older boats which both have storied histories. Ultimately Costa, on the former Kingfisher of Ellen MacArthur managed to escape into better wind pressure on the transition out of the NE'ly trade winds and went on to take 14th place, just over 24 hours ahead of Attanasio. A talented navigator in his own right who sailed on the ORMA multihull circuit with Franck Cammas world championship winning crew and on the Maxi catamaran Gitana XI, Attanasio is best known as a leading Figaro class sailor who twice finished in the top 10 of the French solo offshore championship. He raced twice across the Atlantic with his British partner Sam Davies - who herself has raced two Vendee Globes, finishing fourth in 2008-9 and who has been his project manager. As such he had never sailed more than 21 days solo before he started this race. “It’s a bit worrying, as I don’t know where I’m going. I’m keeping myself busy trying not to think about that too much. Otherwise, it would be terrifying,” he said pre-start. His race was going well, increasing in confidence and among a competitive group of boats, just behind fellow rookie Eric Bellion, when in 18th place he hit an unidentified floating object at around 1130 UTC on Monday 5th December. He was around 470 miles south of Cape Town when his boat, Famille Mary - Etamine du Lys collided with the UFO, which damaged both his rudders. He took the decision to head for Cape Town to attempt to carry out repairs. Two days later on 7th December he reached Simonstown, to the south east of Cape Town at around 1800hrs UTC. After two days of hard work carrying out repairs, the French skipper managed to replace his port rudder and repair his starboard rudder without assistance. “If I’d known it was going to be like this I wouldn’t have come," he laughed. "It was so hard. From detaching the rudders and then dragging them up onto the deck. I repaired one of the rudders and switched the other, which was an operation and a half. Crucially, I suffered delamination on the bottom of the hull over a 2-metre strip at the back. Repairing that took a huge amount of time.” When he set off again Attanasio had to sail upwind in a 25-30 knot breeze to rejoin the fleet in 21st place having lost 1200 miles on Bellion. On January 2nd Attanasio told Race HQ in Paris: “It’s frustrating being at the rear. Those ahead have made their getaway, but at least I’m still racing and my boat is fine. I’m experiencing something incredible. Michel Desjoyeaux said that the Vendée Globe meant one problem each day and he was right. Today, I had a problem with my autopilot. A cable needed changing. Two days ago, it was my wind instruments. Yesterday, I repaired a batten and a halyard. I knew the Vendée Globe was tough, but not that tough." But after the Spanish skipper Costa struggled with a storm and technical problems under Australia, Attanasio and Costa converged under New Zealand and by January 5th the duo were  locked in a battle which was to last weeks, making both of their races. When Attanasio rounded Cape Horn at 2043hrs UTC after 75 days 8 hours and 41 minutes of racing. He was around 100 miles ahead of Didac Costa.  Through late January and early February, Attanasio and Costa continued their duel all the way up from Southern Brazil to the North Atlantic. He re-crossed the Equator at 0409hrs UTC after 92d, 16hrs, 7mins of racing. On 9th February, Attanasio broke his port daggerboard after colliding with an unidentified floating object. He noticed a small ingress of water in the housing and was no longer able to use this daggerboard. A long way west of the Canaries in the middle of the North Atlantic, Costa extended his lead over over Attanasio, who was left 400miles behind in trickier, light winds conditions.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Spanish soloist Didac Costa, the cream of Catalonia, takes 14th in the Vendée Globe]]> Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT Spanish solo ocean racer Didac Costa crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe non stop solo round the world race at 0752hrs UTC this Thursday morning. In taking 14th place, the 36 year old Catalan fireman, an amateur racer who would like to further his career as a professional, fulfills a childhood dream inspired by the pioneering Spanish soloist, the late José Luis de Ugarté, who became the only Spanish sailor ever to finish the Vendée Globe in 1992-3 in 134 days and 5 hrs. His race time for the 24,499 miles course, Les Sables d'Olonne to Les Sables d'Olonne is 108 days, 19 hours, 50 minutes and 45 seconds. He actually sailed 27,964 miles at an average of 10.71 knots. The tenacious, driven Costa has succeeded with one of the smallest budgets of the 29 skippers who started the race on November 6th. Barcelona based Costa completes his second non stop round the world race within the space of three years, again racing the evergreen IMOCA 60 footer which was built in 2000 as Ellen MacArthur's Kingfisher. Along with Aleix Gelabert he finished fourth in the Barcelona World Race in April 2015. He received a huge, passionate welcome back to Les Sables d'Olonne, not least from the Les Sables d'Olonne firemen who stood by him and helped him after he had to return to the start port to make repairs only 90 minutes into his race.  Didac Costa suffered a sudden and significant ingress of water only 90 minutes after the race started and so had to return immediately to Les Sables d'Olonne. With his engine – on which he relies to generate vital electrical energy – jeopardised by the salt water and his recently replaced electronics damaged substantially because his batteries and wiring were under water, when Costa returned to Les Sables d'Olonne it was in no way sure he would be able to re-start the race for which he had staked his future personal financial security. It was in fact only because of the solidarity and initiative of the his Les Sables d'Olonne fire service counterparts that Costa was able to re-start the race. The Spanish skipper's race had many emotional moments, not least one month before the start period when his boat was struck by lightning at home in Barcelona. He owes his race to the intervention in Les Sables d'Olonne of local engineer Joël Aber who alerted him and his team to the urgency of immediately stripping and cleaning his engine to counter the salt water damage. It was the Friday after the start when he could get going again. He restarted with over 700 miles to the next skipper. He started concerned that he might have to complete his whole round the world in isolation with no competition. But in the Indian Ocean he engaged with French skipper Romain Attanasio and their subsequent duel was one of the most prolonged and intense battles of this eighth edition of the race. It was the competitive inspiration that Costa had sought and took him to his limits physically. In the end he has finished about 24 hours ahead of Attanasio.  Costa is a remarkable character, a tough Catalan fighter with a fiery spirit and a huge heart. In 2015 just 48 hours after finishing his 90 day Barcelona World Race he immediately embarked with race winner Jean Le Cam to help deliver the winning boat from Barcelona back to Brittany. And in the latter weeks of this race when he had caught to within 300 miles of Rich Wilson he confessed to Race Direction that he doubted he could pass Wilson because the veteran American ‘is too nice a guy.' All the emotions and drama of the build up to the start, the gun and the lineup were just starting to subside, Costa was slowly finding a rhythm with the boat he knows so well when it became obvious he had a big problem. When he looked below the was water flooding inside and it was already up to the level of the engine. In the stress and excitement he had forgotten to de-activate the ballast scoop and a ballast pipe had blown off at the valve. The batteries and the engine were flooded. He knew immediately there was no alternative but to make the agonising U-Turn just 90 minutes into the race he had fought so hard to make the start line of. Costa arrived back to the pontoon in Port Olona at 1800hrs. As well as his small shore team there were many members of other shore teams there to help, as well as the pompiers, the firemen of Les Sables d'Olonne with whom Costa has built strong bonds with before the start. It was through the quick thinking of the firemen that they called in a mechanical ‘genius', an engineering magician who warned them: ‘If we don't save the engine immediately – and we have less than three hours to do that - the race is over for ever.' He started work immediately and, without any exaggeration saved Costa's race. “Without him, his prompt advice and his intervention Didac would not have left the dock again,” recalls project manager Jordi Griso. The solidarity shown to Costa's Spanish team was extraordinary but very much within the ethos of this edition of the race. It was not just the other teams who mucked in but the Les Sables d'Olonne firemen were totally involved, even if sometimes it was just moral support, tea, coffee and pizzas. The same engineering guru masterminded a change to the charging system, using a double alternator system off the engine rather than the existing generator. Three days after the start the boat was ready to go again. But because there was still more than 40kts in the Bay of Biscay, the anxious Costa almost had to be restrained from leaving for a further 24 hours. When he finally left the dock again on Friday 10th November at 1140hrs UTC he was 1134 miles behind the leader and 770 miles behind the nearest competitor Sébastien Destremau. But Costa was initially blessed with favourable conditions all the way down the Atlantic. In fact he made only one gybe, a pretty unique weather pattern continuing to prevail. He pressed hard. His initial concerns that he would spend the whole race in his own proved unfounded. Even so for the first week and a half Costa did not look at the position reports at all. He bowed to the task of sailing his boat as fast as he could. In the South Atlantic his endeavours were rewarded and on December 7th, 850 miles west of the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope he passed Destremau and was up to 22nd place. Two days later, he also passed Romain Attanasio. The French skipper, a renowned Figaro class solo racer whose Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys is of the same age and speed potential as Costa's 2000 launched former Kingfisher, had to divert to a bay east of Cape Town to make a repair to his rudders. This allowed Costa to pass. Through the Indian Ocean Didac Costa hit a good pace, presses his boat hard and extended from just over 200 miles ahead of Attanasio to be 450 miles ahead at Cape Leeuwin. His average speeds of 16kts over successive 24hr periods were close to those achieved with Aleix Gelabert during the corresponding period two-handed in the Barcelona World Race. But Costa's technical problems really started to bite when he was south of Australia. Because of his very limited budget he had only managed to buy a new mainsail and a new G2 genoa. Otherwise his sails had already been once around the world on the Barcelona World Race. At the Equator on the way down the Atlantic, literally as he crossed the Equator his workhorse G1 genoa blew up. In three brutal days he lost three more sails, the blast reacher, J3, and the Fractional Zero. In fact his morale sank to an all time low, and were it not for the exceptionally close and evenly matched race against Attanasio which ensued, it is sure that Costa's race would not have been as exciting and engaging. The duel which then raged from the south of Australia, through the Pacific, around Cape Horn and all the way up the Atlantic until the final weeks kept the two skippers highly motivated day after day, week after week. The pace was exhausting for both. All the time Costa considered himself the underdog, confiding several times to Griso that he was sure that Attanasio's Figaro racing would prevail. ‘But I am going to make him suffer, to work him so hard to pass me,' he wrote to his shore manager Griso. South of Australia Costa suffered a succession of failures. After a screw in the steering arm failed he had to replace the hydraulic arm and the pilot software did not recognise the new arm and went haywire. He became dangerously tired and demoralised. ‘I have to sleep. I am so tired,' he told Griso. Attanasio got over 100 miles ahead. Under New Zealand Costa's mainsail split and he sailed 48 hours with no main. Attanasio passed several times. At Cape Horn on 20th January Attanasio was 100 miles ahead. But up the South American coast the duel was nip and tuck. At one point at the latitude of Uruguay they were less than half a mile apart and filmed each other and then spoke regularly on the VHF. But the French skipper also suffered more mechanical failures, losing a daggerboard. But in fact ultimately, just as it did for the race winner Armel Le Cléac'h in the duel with Alex Thomson, the advantage always stayed with the leader. Costa was able to make the break from Attanasio at the Canary Islands progressing to be more than 400 miles ahead in the final days. But their duel has been one of the outstanding stories of this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe.  Quotes “I feel very good, very happy to have finished after all the hard work to get here. Being at the start line was already very complicated with the problems we had. The most difficult thing was to manage the problems and damages I had on the boat, the problems with the sails and taking care of the things that we changed at the start. This is a very long race, and it gets really hard.” “Romain has been an incredible motivation for me, to be able to sail neck and neck for more than two months .... It is something that I really appreciate because I have learned a lot. I'm looking forward to seeing him to congratulate him.” “When I left Les Sables for the second time and with 28 boats ahead, finishing 14th was unthinkable. I have finished the race and in a good position, so I am super happy.” “The firemen in Les Sables have been very kind to me. Their help has been vital, as without them we probably could not have started again. They are a very important part of this project. I will always be grateful for their help.” “To be alone for so long becomes difficult sometimes, but I have felt good. It was a new experience for me. It would have been better being alone 80 days than 100 (laughs), but that's fine. I already knew my boat from the Barcelona World Race I did with Aleix, but things are different when you sail alone, perhaps even more than I expected. I had not trained solo and I have been learning a bit on the fly. I would like to be able to continue learning in a safe project with guarantees. It does not make sense to do the same thing again. If there is a chance to do it right, I would like to.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[RICH WILSON TAKES THIRTEENTH PLACE!]]> Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT American skipper Rich Wilson crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race off Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France this afternoon (Tuesday 21/02) at 1250hrs UTC. From the fleet of 29 boats which started the 27,440 miles singlehanded race from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 6th, Wilson and Great American IV secure 13th place in an elapsed time of 107 days 00 hrs 48 mins 18 secs. He actually sailed 27,480 miles at an average speed of 10.70 knots. Wilson, at 66 years old the oldest skipper in the race, successfully completes the pinnacle solo ocean racing event for the second time. He improves his time for the 2008-9 edition of the race, 121 days and 41 minutes by a fortnight, thereby achieving one of the key goals which drew him back to take on the race for a second time. Whilst racing he also delivered a daily, multi faceted educational programme to over 750,000 young people in more than 55 different countries around the world, another of the fundamental reasons Wilson returned to the Vendée Globe. He becomes the fastest American to race solo non stop around the world, beating the 2004-5 record of Bruce Schwab of 109 days 19 hours. The hugely experienced American skipper who is a lifelong mariner and a native of Boston, Massachusetts, adds to a remarkable catalogue of achievements under sail over an extraordinary career spanning nearly 40 years, including three record passages including San Francisco to Boston in 1993, New York to Melbourne in 2001, and in 2003 Hong Kong to New York. Wilson crossed the finish line on a cool February afternoon, emerging from the grey skies of the Bay of Biscay, with scarcely a rope out of place. His Great American IV returned to Les Sables d’Olonne in almost exactly the same, near perfect condition as they left in early November. Wilson has dealt competently with a range of small technical problems, notably gripes with his autopilot system, his hydrogenerator system and some modest sail repairs. To finish two Vendée Globe races with both of his boats in great condition is testament to his impeccable seamanship, his ongoing focus and discipline to stay within the prudent protocols he sets himself, looking to achieve high average speeds and sail very efficiently while keeping the skipper and his boat safe. The efficiency of his actual course, that is how direct a route he sailed, is almost exactly the same as that of race winner Armel Le Cléac’h – sailing around 27,450 miles and is only bettered by the fourth to sixth placed skippers Jéremie Beyou, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam who sailed around 300 miles less. Wilson is in no way a crusader looking to prove a point about the capabilities or achievements of older solo racers or athletes. Suffering from asthma since he was an infant, he has also considered age a mere number but strove to be as fit and strong as he could be prior to both races. ‘I am not ready for the pipe and slippers. Age is just a number.’ Wilson said many times before the start. That said his success today will be a huge inspiration to older people around the world to pursue their dreams and follow their passions. His boat for this edition of the race, an Owen-Clarke design which raced to seventh with Dominique Wavre in 2012-13, is faster but more physical than Great American III. Along the route Wilson has told the story of his race with clarity and passion, his educated and inquisitive mind ensuring topics have remained interesting and informative with a broad appeal to all ages. A former maths teacher he has graduate degrees from Harvard Business School and MIT and a college degree from Harvard. He enjoyed regular communication with many of the other skippers in the race, most of all Alan Roura, the Swiss 23 year old youngest racer who finished yesterday. Rich Wilson – Great American IV : "It’s great to be back. To see France and all the French people here. It was great to see Eric (Bellion) and Alan (Roura) here. They were my brothers in the south. We talked almost every day by e-mail.  In this race I think there was a lot more communication between the skippers than in 2008-2009 – Koji, Fabrice, Nandor, Stéphane and Didac who was chasing me. We talked about everything in the world. It was a little bit harder, because I’m older. The boat was easier because of the ballast tanks. You can use the ballast rather than put in a reef all the time, which is what I had to do on the other boat. What distinguished the race for me was that it was grey all the way. Across the south and then all the way up the Atlantic. Grey. Grey. It was so depressing. Four or five days ago, the sun came out for twenty minutes and I leapt out and stuck my face and hands under the sun. It was grey and just for so long. That was hard." "I found all the calms that exist in the Atlantic. It was never-ending in the Atlantic. Eight years ago, I said never again. But now it’s too difficult. This is the perfect race course. The most stimulating event that exists. My goal was to finish this race and to work for SitesAlive, which has 700,000 young people following. What is fantastic about this race is the support of the public with all the people here. I remember the first time, someone said, if you finish the race, you’re a winner. I think that is correct. I could give you a quotation from Thomas Jefferson. When he was ambassador to France, he said everyone has two countries, their own and France and I think that is true." "The Vendée Globe is two Vendée Globes. It is very long. The oceans, the capes. It’s all very hard. But the other Vendée Globe is the one ashore. The welcome that our team and I have had here. It’s incredible. I felt older. I am 66! My thoughts go out to Nandor who finished two weeks ago at the age of 65. We sent back data each day concerning me and the boat. Each day, I did an average of 12,000 turns on the winch. But it was hard." "The worst thing was it was so grey. I had a map of the stars with me but I couldn’t use it. The best thing was communicating with the others. We’re a real community."   “The boat was more powerful but with the ballast systems was more powerful. I made a record each day of the number of turns on the primary winch coffee grinder and on average it was 1200 revolutions. Sometimes that was 3000 that was very hard.” “I am not sure I was so happy with my routing and my decisions, not in the South Atlantic going south or in the Atlantic coming back north. I seem to find every little bubble high that had no wind in it. In fact I made a video for the schools programme of the Adrena software output of the boat going around in circles. I am surprised that I have sailed so few miles. I did think along the way and in the Atlantic coming north. I thought about the other sailors and you can see the little boat icons on the screen of the other skippers and the number I could get, the speed, was never as good as other boats. I could not understand why the others were going so fast all the time. I do not understand how the sailors at the front of the fleet put up with the stress at the front of the fleet, because I am just scared all the time. All the time. I don’t know how they do it. The French skippers are so good. It is not just my little boat icon is not going as fast as Armel (Le Cléac’h) but it is not going as fast as Fabrice (Amedeo) and Arnaud (Boissières) and Eric (Bellion). They are so good it is incredible.” “I had to live with it. But it was frustrating because even the times that I was try to go past my conservatism – I just put the storm jib away last night – I would just be the same as those in my group. Perhaps it is not necessarily about my age but my generation thing because we grew up sailing heavy wooden boats. We won the Bermuda Race in 1980 and our average speed was 7.3kts. If you were going 7.4kts. So to have boats going more than 20kts is in some ways incomprehensible. When I got the boat from Dominique Wavre we were at dinner and he asked me if I wanted to know how fast the boat had gone. I said no because I did not want it as an objective and I did not want to be scared. But he wrote it on a piece of paper and it was 35.7kts. I said to myself if I ever see a three in the tens column I will be under the chart table and cry. One day we we had the Fractional Gennaker and one reef in the mainsail, the boat took off in 48kts of wind. The boat went under the water, it was a submarine. The next day I looked at the data and it was 31.2kts. I remember something Brian Thompson saying the highest speeds are always under autopilot because the autopilot is never scared.” “Enjoyment in the context of the Vendée Globe must be in some other definition. You enjoy the satisfaction of making a good sail change. I think there is satisfaction. I enjoyed seeing the stars but that was very, very rare. It seemed like, well I talked on the VHF with a Brazilian warship when I was going south, I saw Eric Bellion when he went whooooosh past me. Then I saw a fishing boat off Cape Horn and then I did not see another ship until off Brazil. It was like the world was empty. That was strange.” “It is hard. It is hard work. That part is difficult to describe. The sails are heavy. It is very physical. At home I have a trainer who is an All American Runner and a world champion cyclist and she worked me very, very hard but it was not enough for sailing these boats.” “Sometimes at sea whether it is fatigue, or frustration, when I when I was going around in circles and I was ready to tear my hair out or worse. The frustration leads to anger. You think the gods are against you. King Neptune is against you. Sometimes I tried to cry just to release the tension but it would not come. I could not. Until a few days ago Lauren Zike who is the web programme manager sent out a photo from a school in India of a class holding up their certificates for completing the programme and then I cried, I cried my eyes out at the chart table. That was exactly why I was doing this.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ALAN ROURA TAKES TWELFTH PLACE]]> Mon, 20 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT The 23 year old Swiss sailor who is the youngest of the 29 solo skippers who left Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th, Alan Roura, crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe this Monday morning at 0812hrs UTC to take 12th place. Sailing one of the oldest boats in fleet for this eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, Roura’s finish reflects his exceptional drive and tenacity and belies the very tight budget which the young sailor ran his programme on. The sailor who turns 24 on 26th February is the youngest skipper to finish the race since it was first contested in 1989. Race rookie Roura’s elapsed time for the 27,700 mile course is 105 days, 20 hours 10 mins and 32 seconds.  He actually sailed 28,359 miles at an average speed of 11.16 knots. He may have finished 31 days after race winner Armel Le Cléac’h, but sailing the renowned Superbigou which was built in a garden by compatriot Bernard Stamm – renamed Le Fabrique for the race - he was just under 2 days behind 11th placed Fabrice Amedeo on a faster, newer generation boat. Just before finishing he said: “Twelfth. It's funny because basically I found a racer inside of me. I am more than proud of this position.  With this boat which is now 17 years old I don’t think we could realistically have expected to do much better. To finish as first of the 'older generation' boats that just seems a bit nuts to me, a bit unreal. But really it  feels like a great victory.” Roura’s IMOCA boat is just six years younger than the skipper who brought the Pierre Rolland design non stop around the world for the first time, completing the race that Stamm built the boat for between 1997 and 2000. The young skipper who stopped his formal schooling at the age of 13 to pursue an ocean sailing career has sailed a very impressive first Vendée Globe conquering successive technical problems, making smart, mature routing decisions and constantly improving his performance, from a conservative, safe Indian Ocean to pressing hard and delivering good daily averages in the Pacific, Roura climbed back up the Atlantic well, only struggling in the latter stages with light winds in the final days before finishing. In terms of ocean miles Roura, a native of Geneva, already had the equivalent of a round the world race under his belt before he started the Vendée Globe. He has spent most of his life on boats. As a youngster he lived on a boat on Lake Geneva. He stopped school to work with his father. He sailed tens of thousands of miles on his family’s boat. On the day of his 18th birthday he got his Yachtmaster certificate, the youngest age possible. From 2012 he started out in solo ocean racing, competing in the Mini Transat at 19, in a 1994 boat built of wood and epoxy. The following year, 2014, he took on the Route du Rhum in Class 40 but had to abandon. Roura is the only Swiss skipper in this Vendée Globe and follows in the wake of Dominique Wavre who has finished the race three times, completing his Vendée Globe in fifth place in 2001 in 105 days. He extends the remarkable history of the incredible Superbigou which Stamm sailed to win the solo, with-stops Around Alone and Velux 5 Oceans round the world races. The boat which he built in a garden in Brittany also finished the 2011 Barcelona World Race, a third racing circumnavigation although stopping in Wellington. The non-stop solo round the world race was something that was always in the back of his mind as the ultimate goal, but after his Mini Transat, Roura asked himself “why wait?” He saw himself as a young adventurer rather than a racer, and so did not want to take the usual career path of competing in the Figaro circuit. “People just look at my age, which is not the way to go about it. You can be 40 and have never sailed or 23 and have spent your life sailing. Now, my age is a tool in communicating, but initially, it was a hindrance.” The day before the start he said, “I hadn’t realised how close we were getting to the big day. Yesterday, I went out to get some air. I should not have done that. I started thinking a lot. I feel My stomach feels knotted. My heart is beating faster…” While it took him a while to get over the emotion of the start, Roura soon discovered his competitive spirit. On the way down the North Atlantic, there were some tense moments sailing by cargo vessels and due to the variable winds, little time for rest. He made some gains by taking a westerly option off the Canaries and was able to adopt a point of sail that suited his older boat sailing downwind at around 16 knots with peak speeds approaching 25 knots. Remaining to the west, La Fabrique was chasing Great American IV, Spirit of Yukoh and Famille Mary - Étamine du Lys, as they passed the Cape Verde Islands. The Doldrums were not simple for Roura and at around the same time he lost his broadband connection due to a problem with his Fleet antenna. This not only meant less communications with shore, but also fewer weather files. In order to download the required software, the Swiss sailor sailed close to the coast of Brazil, extending his route. The operation was successful, but Roura dropped back to 24th place, 2500 miles behind the leader. He would continue southwards alone to pick up a low-pressure system moving away from South America. More miles on the clock, but the hope of higher speeds to sail eastwards towards the Cape of Good Hope. For his first time in the southern ocean, the welcome was not very friendly with winds up to 50 knots and a nasty 10m swell. “At least now, I have found my rhythm. If the wind drops to 20-25 knots, it feels like I’m in light airs.” Rudder problem On 4th December, Roura informed his team that there was a problem with his starboard rudder attachment, but once this was resolved, he accelerated gaining ground on the pack ahead of him. Roura rounded the first of the three capes at 1043hrs UTC on 6th December. On the same day he learnt that Kito de Pavant had been forced out. “Touch wood. Luck is being kind to me. I’m now aiming for Cape Leeuwin. The Indian isn’t reassuring, but I’m going to give it my all.” After 44 days and 9 minutes on 20th December Roura crossed the longitude of the Australian cape. “I can’t believe it. I’ve sailed almost halfway around the world!” La Fabrique entered the Pacific on Christmas Day in twelfth place. After his first Christmas alone at sea, he would declare, “We’re on our way home now. I don’t have any choice but to keep going. I’m on the right track.” The New Year’s Eve celebrations were kept to a minimum, because by now Roura was in race mode with several other boats close by and conditions were particularly rough after the passage ahead of them of a deep low-pressure system. On the evening of 2nd January, Roura contacted his shore team to tell them his starboard rudder had broken in a collision with an unidentified floating object and this had led to an ingress of water at the stern of the boat. The rudder was changed the following morning and the flow of water stopped. In light airs, the Swiss skipper carried out a thorough check and was reassured that there was no serious damage. His goal had been to get ahead of Arnaud Boissières, but because of this incident, he found himself 150 miles behind Fabrice Amedeo.  Roura rounded the Horn on 16th January after 71 days 4 hours and 37 minutes. “It was magnificent exactly how I imagined. I’m at the end of the planet, the most southerly point. It’s absolutely incredible. I don’t know what to say.” Due to the ingress of water, Roura lost a lot of his sweets and snacks and was forced to ration himself. He also lost his razor, which led to him growing a bushy beard on the way back up the Atlantic. “I think I have found absolutely everything I was looking for in terms of experience in this adventure. The joy, tears, despair, tiredness, the sheer enjoyment. Everything you can experience in a lifetime condensed into100 days.” While tightening a halyard on 29th January, his winch came away from its base, which required some more ingenuous repair work from the solo sailor. Roura returned to the northern hemisphere on 3rd February after 89 days and 23 minutes. After hearing of Conrad Colman’s dismasting, the young Swiss skipper was made aware that even if he was now close to home, the final stretch could still be tense. The weather was not very helpful either, as the usual series of low-pressure systems in the North Atlantic were not in their usual location and the forecasts were far from clear for the final week. “My mood swings with the weather changes. Someone is playing a joke on me maybe? I think I have reached my limits. I’m disgusted to see the final miles are going to be the hardest. I can’t stand this torture I have been experiencing since Cape Horn. I want to cry or scream. Getting hit so hard so close to the finish, not knowing where to go and when I’m going to finish. I have my ups and downs like everyone, except that some people don’t show it. I’m a bit afraid after completing what has been my biggest project. It’s something I dreamt of as a child. Ashore, I won’t have my boat, or money and I’ll have to start all over again. I’m going to have to get my finger out to set up another project with a more powerful boat and then come back."[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[AMEDEO WRITES HIS OWN VENDÉE GLOBE STORY. 11TH PLACE]]> Mon, 20 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT Journalist and solo ocean race Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place in the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 09 hrs 03 m UTC this morning Saturday 18th February. His excellent finish represents the culmination of a dream to take part in the famous solo ocean race around the world. Sailing Newrest-Matmut Amedeo's elapsed time for the course is 103 d 21h 1 m. He finishes 29 d 17 h 25 m after winner Armel Le Cléac'h and 01d 00hrs 36m after 10th placed Arnaud Boissières. His average speed for the theoretical course is 9,8 kts. In reality Amedeo sailed 27700 miles at an average of 11,1 kts. Two years ago Amedeo had barely set foot on an IMOCA 60 but he set his sights on doing this pinnacle event of solo ocean racing. He found himself a good boat, set in place a comprehensive well funded programme which meant he has had the tools to do a good job. Today, hungry because he has been on limited food rations for more than two weeks, but elated he crossed the finish line to complete his race in perfect sunshine, making more than 10kts of boat speed through the flat seas, amidst an excited spectator fleet including his wife Charlotte and three young daughters Garance, Louise and Josephine. An experienced sailor whose solo career started nearly ten years ago in the Figaro class, graduating through Class 40 to the IMOCA class of the Vendée Globe, race first timer Fabrice Amedeo, 38 years old, has sailed an accomplished measured race, finishing as second rookie some 24 hours after Arnaud Boissières who he raced closely with during the second half of the course and who was completing his third successive Vendée Globe. Amedeo achieved backing from Newrest – an industrial catering giant and French insurance group Matmut – and took two years leave of absence from his job as a writer for Le Figaro national newspaper to train and complete in the Vendée Globe. After completing the solo Transatlantic race the Route du Rhum in Class 40 in at the finish in 2014 Amedeo announced he wanted to do the Vendée Globe. Four years later the sailor whose other passions are politics and political commentary has completed that ambition above and beyond his expectations. A graduate of philosophy and political science, Amedeo started out sailing on his family’s 22 foot Beneteau cruiser and moved through crewed racing at France’s Spi Ouest Regatta and the Tour du France a la Voile into solo and short handed racing, notably in the proving ground of the Figaro class and then Class 40. He has written extensively on the big races, on sailors such profiling Sébastien Josse during the Volvo Ocean Race, as well as political history book. During the three years before he started the Vendée Globe he had sailed more than 20,000 miles including a good ninth place in that 2014 Route du Rhum from 43 starters. He has chronicled his race with great detail, colour and enthusiasm, diligently reporting almost every day with some of the most viewed reportage videos of the race. The Farr designed Newrest-Matmut was originally launched in 2007 for Loick Peyron as Gitana 80. This is the fourth successful racing circumnavigation for the boat which went round the world in the second Barcelona World Race as Renault Captur with Pachi Rivero and Antonio Pires, finished the last Vendée Globe in fifth place as Jean Le Cam’s Synerciel and most recently completed the third Barcelona World Race as GAES Centros Auditivos in the hands of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin. Before the race started Amedeo said: “ I really wanted this Vendée Globe. I started out from scratch to set up this project. This is the start of an adventure, but also the conclusion of two years of hard work. Just 18 months ago, I was taking the metro to get to work and between two stops dreamt of the Vendee Globe.” After the start Amedeo enjoyed lively conditions for the first night at sea, but nothing too tough, so a pleasant way for the Vendée Globe rookie to find his feet in the middle of the fleet, at the head of second pack. When he heard of the damage suffered by Tanguy de Lamotte, he decided to ease off. “What happened to Tanguy shows us that there is a long way to go. This brings us back down to Earth. My aim is to get into the Southern Ocean without breaking anything.” “I’m happy about the start of my race I’m getting used to my boat. The leaders have made their getaway. But strangely enough that doesn’t worry me. They are not in the same race.” Fabrice Amedeo entered the Southern hemisphere in seventeenth place after 12 days  4hrs and 40 mins, 2 days and 21 hrs after the leader. Stepping up the pace initially in the southern hemisphere the skipper of Newrest-Matmut would then have to deal with an area of high pressure with light airs. During one night he only managed to sail ten miles. He was the first of this pack to be held up and was then overtaken by Louis Burton, while the others narrowed the gap.   As he escaped out of this light zone he would find himself in close contact racing with Conrad Colman and Kojiro Shiraishi. Amedeo crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on the evening of 4th December “I’m really pleased to have rounded this first cape. I can see how far I have come on my IMOCA. I saw my first albatross… I’m down where no man goes.” Amedeo was soon to experience his first southern storm. “It was a wild night, so I decided to be prudent. I got caught by the front and for half an hour had forty knot winds and gusts of 44 knots.” After one month in the heart of the pack in 16th place not far from Arnaud Boissières, the skipper of Newrest-Matmut was forced to climb his mast, after his halyards got entangled  around the forestay. In the Indian Ocean to avoid the worst of a big blow, Amedeo decided to head north. But with 45-50 knot winds his mainsail split open with a 3m long tear. Between low-pressure systems, he spent a lot of time repairing his sail. However, because everything was so damp, it was difficult to apply patches. This slow period allowed his rivals to gain an advantage. On 21st December, Alan Roura and Enda O’Coineen got ahead of him. His Christmas present was that he finally managed to repair and re-hoist his mainsail. The Christmas celebrations would not last long. A few days later, he was once again forced to climb his mast, when his gennaker hook looked like breaking and was no longer working properly. The strong winds off New Zealand allowed him to accelerate again and catch the pack. But after the low, he was once again caught in light airs. “For two days now I have been five knots slower than Arnaud Boissières!” 2017 began with a problem with his fleet communication system, meaning he was unable to download the latest weather info. Fortunately as the team had decided to adopt a belt and braces approach in preparing the boat, he was able to reconnect to a second antenna. By 3rd January, he had once again overtaken Alan Roura, but was facing the toughest conditions of his Vendée Globe. After the storm, he found himself practically becalmed at Point Nemo in the middle of the Pacific. On 10th january, he found himself alongside Arnaud Boissières. Approaching the Horn, he was back in gale force winds with 50-knot gusts in spite of heading south after a warning from the Race Directors about the deep low-pressure system. Amedeo rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 16th January. “I just experienced one of the highlights of my life. There was a violet light over the mountains of Patagonia, as the sun went downI was twenty miles from the rock and whaen I suddenly saw the mountains I was stunned. This was my first sight of land since 7th November when I passed Cape Finisterre. I have never been so moved seeing land. It was an incredible moment. Rounding the Horn was a  moment of fulfilment. I was at one with my boat.” After the very strong winds as he approached the Horn, Fabrice Amedeo had to deal with calms on the other side as he passed the Falklands. The transition from the southern ocean to milder climes was very sudden. For Amedeo, this was synonymous with “getting back to the civilised world.” The climb back up the South Atlantic was far from simple. “I came to a standstill in the high.It was long and harsh. The biggest hold-up I have had since the start of the Vendée Globe. Zero knots of wind for hours. I’m pleased now to leave St. Helena behind me. I was warned that getting around Cape Frio would be hard. And it definitely was. It was torture.” Fabrice Amedeo entered the northern hemisphere after 87 days 20 hours and 20 minutes. The duel he had been in with Arnaud Boissières changed at this point. The latter made his getaway, while Amedeo remained in light trade winds. Even if the Doldrums were not that active, they did slow him down considerably and allowed Boissières to build the margin which he increased to the finish line. Fabrice Amedeo – Newrest-Matmut : " It is a great story. I made a good Vendée Globe in 104 days, it is long but to finish in a good place and to have had an incredible adventure. I learned a lot every day. Maybe not so much going down the Atlantic as I knew I bit, but from the Saint Helena high after three weeks I have had things to learn and do. It is incredible. I had to fix the mainsail, I had to climb the mast, it is a hard rhythm. In the south I was more and more into adventure mode. And what a feeling to pass Cape Horn, the modd to have got out of the southern oceans.  To climb back up the Atlantic with the light winds areas to negotiate, to have such a close race with Arnaud Boissières, it is amazing. And to be running out of food for the last 15 days has been hard. I was tired and had no energy but the spirit was there. That is the magic of the Vendée Globe." " To finish on a beautiful Saturday morning, to come back in to this welcome in to the channel, it is amazing. What a reward.
The best memories will be my passage in the south which I did not know. In fact I was expected something more calm, thinking it would be like spending three days or more on the same tack with the long surfs of the Pacific but instead we had zones of calm which slowed us, very brutal transitions, the depressions were hard and active, the transitions were hard, to be having a front of 40-45kts and fifteen minutes earlier you were sitting in sunshine, or to be sailing at night in 15kts with so many stars overhead, that is what really impressed me. We don't have that at home.
I found time to communicate. I wrote a paper every week in Le Figaro. I told the stories for the followers on the internet writing and making videos. And I had a little dictaphone and made many many notes every day as I have so many incredible experiences so I want to put them into words.
I did not have many real moments of doubt. I tore my mainsail and lost 600 miles on the group of boats that I should have been at the front of. But I never thought of abandoning. I reached by objectives, all of them, and fulfilled my dream. I really profited from the finish line. I profited from the last few days. To have passed these difficulties, to have got through everything is big for me. I set my goals high and achieved them. Every day on the Vendée Globe you have to a bit more, I had some moments, so tough moments when I was down, but I never thought to stop. you push through, you always want to keep going, to make good decisions. It is hard. But I learned that." " Arnaud Boissières is a good friend.  In fact we mostly did the round the world together. Down the Atlantic I got away with a bit more wind, he caught up, in the Pacific we were together. We spoke by mail." " Two years ago I was in the Paris offices of Le Figaro in the Boulevard Hausman. Here now  I have completed the Vendée Globe round the world. I measure my race by how much I have improved, each day you have to improve on the Vendée Globe. I had ambitions higher than my technical skills were at, sometimes I had to raise the bar, I was sometimes really frustrated, but I told myself 'Fabrice sort it out, you could be in an office.' On the future: " I made two Route du Rhums  in Class 40. The first one was about discovery. The second one was competition.  I would like to do the same  with the Vendée Globe. So of course I will not go to win nect time because there will always be exceptional people in front of me, but why not be a good outsider?
I will stay at Les Sables until Wednesday. The girls will, on this occasion, miss a bit of school. But next Thursday morning I will take them to school, and I will treasure my luck. In the middle of the Indian Ocean I had doubts and I thought about them and was I doing the right thing. So I will be there to to my children to school. And will squeeze their hands very hard. " I never thought of giving up. Once or twice I thought I had to be careful because the race got away from me a bit escaped me at the Kerguelen when the halyard got entangled in the mast, or when the  mainsail was torn."  " Basically DIY is not my strong point. I discovered myself. I discussed it with the technical team a few days ago. I had to change the mainsail cars for example. An hour and a half later  I called the team and told them it was done. Everyone was surprised, maybe me most of all!  This was a a real learning in this area. Every day I did things I thought were out of my reach. This is also the magic of Vendée, see what can be imposed in adversity.
But it is in the head, mentally, that the Vendée Globe is the hardest. When you're in the middle of the Pacific, 15,000 miles from the finish and for three days your are slowed in a high because you're blocked by the Antarctic Exclusion Zone you have to hold it together. You just cannot crack."  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ARNAUD BOISSIÈRES TAKES TENTH PLACE IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Mon, 20 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT After a slow final night at sea in very light airs as he waited to arrive after sunrise, Arnaud Boissières crossed the Vendée Globe finish line at 0826hrs UTC this Friday morning to take 10th place in the non-stop solo round the world race. It is the third time in a row that the skipper, who has made his home in Vendée Globe’s start and finish port of Les Sables d’Olonne, has completed the race 28 days 16 hours 48 mins 23 secs after the winner. Boissières’ elapsed time for is 102 days 20 hrs 24 minutes and 9 seconds. In reality he sailed 28,155 miles at an average speed of 11.4 knots. The French skipper made it to tenth place in the final stages of his race when he passed the Kiwi competitor Conrad Colman whose mast collapsed last Friday. He completed the 2012-13 race in 91 days 02hrs 09mins in eighth place from 20 starters and 11 finishers and and the 2008-9 Vendée Globe in seventh place in 105 days 2h and 33m from 30 starters and 11 finishers. He joins the winner of this edition of the race Armel Le Cléac’h as the only two solo racers to have finished three successive Vendée Globe races. Le Cléac’h’s record is two second places in 2008-9 and 2012-13 and victory in 2016-17. The Les Sablais skipper enjoyed the warmest of welcomes from his appreciative home crowd who lined the legendary channel only a few hundred metres from where he lives, not long before he docked La Mie Câline in his home marina. At the finish line he was about 170 miles clear of nearest rival Fabrice Amedeo whose Newrest-Matmut is a yacht of the same age, design and speed potential. The duo enjoyed close racing in the Pacific and up the Atlantic until Boissières moved further clear in the last couple of weeks of the race. Boissières, 44 years old, became enchanted by the Vendée Globe when his father brought him to the start of the solo round the world race when the youngster was recovering from leukaemia. The skipper whose childhood nickname ‘Cali’ – because of his diminutive stature and sharp sense of humour – has stuck through his ocean racing career, cut his teeth with three attempts at La Solitaire du Figaro and three Mini Transats (finishing third in 2001) before stepping into the rarefied world of IMOCA ocean racing. Before the last edition of the race he moved his home from Arcachon to Les Sables d’Olonne, where his previous sponsor is based, and has long since become the hometown hero, a regular figure around the marina and the harbour. Before the start he spoke of the genesis of his Vendée Globe dreams: “I was 17; I was suffering from leukaemia and was in the treatment phase. At the last minute, my father secured two tickets on a passenger boat to see the start of the Vendée Globe. In 1989, the event helped me get through my illness. It gave me a way to escape and to dream.” And speaking of how each race is different to the last but how accumulated experience helps he said: “Inevitably, the unknown element becomes a bit less marked but the scenarios are always different from one edition to the next. There’s a very intriguing sporting challenge this year, as a number of skippers are setting off with boats from the same generation as mine. Added to that, I’ve just become a dad and the birth has given me additional motivation.” He was quickly reunited with his infant son Leo who at nearly four months old was only just born weeks before the start of the Vendée Globe. In fact, Boissières followed a similar pattern to his last race. He started modestly and struggled early on to match the early pace of the rivals and his meteo strategy did not really pay off. He got off to a slow start dropping back to twentieth. On the first afternoon, the ballast hatch unexpectedly opened and water poured in and filled the engine bay. There was damage to the starter, keyboard and video equipment. His initial routing was inconclusive, he sailed to the east of Madeira, but then had to head back west to get around the Canaries, trying to keep up with Kito de Pavant, while the leaders had made their getaway.  For his tenth crossing of the Doldrums the conditions were not extreme in any way but he was slowed and made it to the Equator in fifteenth place. After crossing the Equator his starter stopped working due to the ingress of water at the start of the race. After 48 hours in very light airs Boissières chooses a westerly route close to the coast of Brazil, a choice which dropped him back to nineteenth place.  “Last night was Hell. Torrential rain with absolutely no wind for two hours. The boat stopped and even headed north for a while. You start to wonder what you can do… “ As he finally headed eastwards at decent speed towards the Cape of Good Hope, his mainsail car came away from the track. He had to wait for quieter conditions to drop his mainsail and carry out repairs.  La Mie Câline passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on Sunday 4th December after 28 days 4 hrs and 19 minutes, 10 days 5 hrs and 21 minutes after Alex Thomson.  After Kito de Pavant collided with an unidentified floating object and had to be rescued from his boat, Boissières stressed that he was adopting a cautious approach. Conditions in the Indian Ocean near the Kerguelens as well as the pace set by rivals encouraged him to put his foot down. “Sometimes, I feel like trying to do like those ahead but I restrain myself from doing that, as the finish line is not at Cape Leeuwin.” A few days after carrying out repairs to his mainsail cars, the system failed again. Once again, the incident happened at a moment when there were strong winds meaning Boissières had to wait to carry out more repairs. Sailing close to the Antarctic exclusion zone Boissières experienced some very cold weather and discovered he was not far from a zone where icebergs had been spotted. He crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin on 18th December after 42 days, 10 hrs and 35 minutes. This was his fourth passage after two Vendée Globe races and once on the multihull, Geronimo. He said: “How fantastic to be at sea in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, even if it hasn’t been easy.” During the week before Christmas, Boissières had to carry out more repairs to his sail and battens. Although alone in his own race, he found himself in race mode with Enda O Coineen and Alan Roura. As in his previous Vendée Globe races, Boissières celebrated Christmas in his unique way. “Quiet, Father Christmas, the Vendee Globe is supposed to be a solo race! The Race Directors aren’t going to be happy, if they see you…” In tenth place on Christmas Eve he crossed the halfway point in the race after fifty days of sailing. Alongside Rich Wilson, Alan Roura, Eric Bellion and Fabrice Amedeo in the Pacific, Boissières once again stressed how pleased he was to be racing. “I keep telling myself that I am experiencing something incredible every day. I am really privileged to be here.” After a first half of the Pacific with wind conditions allowing good speeds, the second half was slower with light airs at times. “It’s very odd. At 54°S, I am becalmed. No wind, the sails flapping, the brain cells flashing exhausted and tons of coffee and tea. Patience really was required.” His motivation was racing with Roura, Wilson and Amedeo with whom he was in visual contact on 10th January. On 16th January after 70 days of racing Boissières rounded Cape Horn for the third time. Conditions were not helpful around the Falklands with wind shifts and light conditions. “Before my first Vendée Globe, Benoît Parnaudeau warned me ‘You’ll see, after the Horn, it’s is tough.’ That is true, but in comparison to four years ago, it’s all going smoothly.” The battle continued with Fabrice Amedeo – the pair have Farr sisterships that were built in New Zealand built as Paprec Virbac 2 for Jean-Pierre Dick and Gitana 80 for Loïck Peyron. Sailing to the east, Boissières moved into eleventh place ahead of his close rival and would cross back into the northern hemisphere in that position. He regained 10th when he passed the dismasted Colman. Quotes from Arnaud Boissière’s Press Conference :  “This finish was better than my last two because the race was so much harder. Not necessarily because of the conditions, but because I wasn’t as well prepared.  I hadn’t trained as much. Maybe because I wanted it more too. I don’t want to go through all the little bits of damage. I could have avoided some of them. When you have a limited budget, you have to make choices. I took the final decision about the equipment, so I only have myself to blame. All the things that ruin life for you during the Vendée Globe are things that aren’t that expensive.” “I’m not looking for danger in the Vendée Globe. I take part because it offers me things I didn’t feel before. But you must not forget the tough moments. I cried, I screamed, I was desperate. I’m not that keen on doing repair jobs. You need to do stuff all the time though. When you work out why things are going wrong, you can celebrate. After each of these problems, there is a rainbow. Just for that, I want to do it again. I always believed in my dreams and a bit of luck. I want to encourage youngsters. You always have to believe.” “I want to set off again. I want to look ahead and maybe take advantage of a new boat next year or work on this one. Why not improve this one? The foils look promising. The Vendée Globe is changing. When I changed boats between 2008 and 2012, I was lucky to spend a day with Vincent Riou. It doesn’t just take a boat like Thomson’s to be like him. Already, I’m worn out, but the first two home… I was also impressed by Jérémie Beyou. Of course, I’m tempted by a foiler for my next Vendée Globe. Is that going to be possible? I don’t know. Getting one just a year before the start isn’t possible. You have to learn how to sail with foils. You don’t change boats like you change racing cars.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[ERIC BELLION 9TH IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE, FIRST ROOKIE]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT From one of the most prolonged and challenging storms encountered by any of the 29 skippers who left Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 6th last year, French solo skipper Eric Bellion emerged triumphant, securing a remarkable ninth placed in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race when he crossed the finish line at 1658hrs UTC. Bellion took 99 days 4 hrs 56 mins for his actual 28,048 miles route, averaging 11.78 kts. He is the first ‘rookie’ solo skipper – someone who had never before started the Vendée Globe - to complete this eighth edition of the solo round the world race. Although he is a vastly experienced sailor in his own right with a circumnavigation already to his credit, he only raced an IMOCA 60 foot race boat for the first time 15 months ago. For a skipper who set out largely to see if he could complete this race, one of the toughest challenges in global sport, his ninth place is well ahead of all his pre-start hopes and wildest dreams. Bellion’s odyssey is a classic tale, revealing a huge increase in personal confidence and solo racing ability but is a result which comes neither by luck nor by accident. An accomplished and inspirational leader who assembled an excellent support team in cooperation with double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux’s company Mer Agitée, Bellion’s Vendée Globe started relatively slowly but saw him faster and faster during his first time racing in the ‘big south’, dealing strategic and mental challenges of a slow, light wind South Atlantic climb, and the final big hurdle – a vicious four day North Atlantic storm which ripped a section of his mainsail mast track off and which left him racing the final miles upwind across the Bay of Biscay with just his J3 jib and no mainsail. Bellion’s CommeUnSeulHomme (meaning Stand As One) project promotes positive roles for people of diverse abilities, encouraging companies and organisations to embrace less able workers and realise the positive contributions made. Under the banner #appelpourladifference he has mobilised hundreds of thousands of followers to realise his positive messages. Fourteen different companies with more than 80,000 workers have supported his programme. Before the start Bellion said: “I’m approaching it with a real sense of pleasure. Sailing is my passion and I feel at home in the middle of the ocean. Sailing in solo configuration is not something I’ve ever done before so it’s a big challenge. This Vendée Globe is a gift to myself for my fortieth birthday! I position myself among the non-professional sailors and I’m here as an amateur and an adventurer. I’m not putting myself under any pressure. I’m just aiming to sail a clean race and be proud of myself at the end.” Explaining the roots of his passion for diversity and inclusion he explained: “As a child, I was taunted about my father’s stuttering and I didn’t understand. Later on, I sailed with mixed crews of able and less able-bodied sailors and there I understood that difference is a key factor in a team’s happiness and success. Being different is one of the hardest things to live with, but if we want to be happy and grow together, it is the only way forward.” Bellion’s partnership with his boat, the Finot designed former DCNS, grow stronger with every mile. In fact his boat had never finished a major IMOCA race, indeed had never made it across the Equator until he and young British skipper Sam Goodchild raced the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015, as Bellion’s first big race. They finished seventh and the French skipper learned a lot. Goodchild said today: “Eric was clearly a very experienced sailor with many ocean miles under his belt but he knew nothing about an IMOCA or solo racing when he started. But he always made it clear he wanted to learn. It was impressive to see how quickly he learned though. Most of all it was fascinating to work with him, he is incredibly inspirational. Three years ago he basically enough to be safe at sea in any conditions, but now here he is finishing ninth in the Vendée Globe. He had a dream and he set out to achieve it. Behind the scenes he has a very happy, hard working team who have prepared the boat so well and that is an insight as well into how he manages and inspires everyone to do their best work. At first he struggled with the whole thing, how to sleep when your boat is doing 20kts for example, that was one of his biggest hurdles for him initially. But, like he does with everything, he worked at it and found solutions.” The race down the Atlantic Eric Bellion began the race with a lot of questions of himself, sailing at the rear of the fleet. CommeUnSeulHomme went a long way west to get across the Doldrums, where he met Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys), who was to sail alongside him for a long time. They headed south together talking on the VHF. Gradually, the skipper saw that his boat could do better than finish 22nd, but he wondered about his own ability. “It doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for the experienced solo sailors. I’m trying to keep the brakes on, but the boat wants to speed up.” Bellion took his race step by step, building confidence on the way down the Atlantic. His chance came west after he and five other skippers grouped together, holding back to allow a big storm to pass in front of them. When they emerged Bellion sailed steadily in the north of the group but built in confidence in the way he could sail his boat, finally deciding to sail it how he felt he wanted to and not trying just to follow the advice he has been given by Desjoyeaux, Goodchild and others. From that point he sailed faster and faster and was one of the quickest in the fleet mid December and in the Pacific. Discovery of the southern ocean Bellion tested various ways of trimming and got used to his boat. He was following in the wake of Arnaud Boissières, when in a strong gust, his boat was knocked down causing his rudder stock to break. There was a repair session for twelve hours, but in the end he was able to get back in the race, feeling much more confident. At Christmas, in order to avoid a big storm, Bellion slowed and encountered Alan Roura and Enda O’Coineen. He gradually stepped up the pace in the Pacific, and overtook the group formed by Fabrice Amedeo, Arnaud Boissières, Rich Wilson and Conrad Colman. In ninth place at the Horn on 11th January – two days behind Nandor Fa and nineteen after Armel le Cléach – Bellion was enjoying himself. “I’m not the same man. There has been a radical change. The lows used to scare me, but now I love fighting them.” Tiring climb back up the Atlantic Bellion had to remove weed from his keel and avoid the horrible calms and deal with violent gusts, before facing the lows in the North Atlantic. “I am going through hell. This final part of the Vendée Globe is the toughest. I wasn’t expecting that.” During his final week, his engine refused to start and he had to save energy and repair his water-maker. He faced hellish conditions 48 hours from the finish with 70-knot winds. His mast track snapped off on CommeUnSeulHomme, forcing him to finish the race under reduced sail.   Eric Bellion, CommeUnSeulHomme "I have changed. I’m not the same person, but I don’t really know how I have changed. I know myself better now. I discovered I had strengths within I didn’t know I had. In 3 months I experienced 3 or 4 years of normal life. When I was growing up I saw people doing the Vendée Globe and thought they were superhuman. Now I have gone all the way. It’s going to take me time to grasp this. In the past three months, the world has changed. I think we need to react to show that doing things differently can be useful. Unfortunately hatred and fear tend to spread quickly. Love on the other hand… I don’t come from the world of ocean racing, so I didn’t know much about this. In the final low, I felt really alone. Totally alone. When you have overcome that it’s extraordinary. You have finally understood something. The Vendée Globe is something everyone can do, if they really want it. I took it to the limit of fear, suffering, happiness, joy… There is only the Vendée Globe that allows you to do that" "I thought this was something crazy and yes, sailing around the world on these boats is crazy. I wasn’t expecting it to be so difficult. Finding myself alone taking decisions that would affect my life and my boat. Whether it was in the Southern Ocean or off the coast of Portugal. From the start I became someone different. I hadn’t prepared myself for that. It took me three or four days to get over the tart. In the south, there were some difficult choices. I was lucky to get back up with Romain. The difficulties are in the Southern Ocean when you can’t say, I’m turning back. The big change was when I replaced the rudder in a 3-4m swell. But the real moment was when I decided this was my adventure. I started to listen to my boat and be Eric. I met Isabelle in Patagonia with my friends in Patagonia. She has become my mentor, my friend. When Isabelle Autissier says it’s going well, you are telling great stories, that really helped. My boat really has the name of the one, who rules in Polynesia. I should thank the 14 firms. You don’t see them much on the boat, but they understood that difference is a way to perform well and create. You can create something different. You shouldn’t look backwards but to the possibilities of the future. Difference is important. It’s not looking towards fear that you can feel good." "I was scared throughout the Vendée Globe. If you set out on a 60 foot boat, you should be afraid. You have to find solutions. There’s the fear of being afraid. Three years ago, I said I would do the Vendée Globe. I was in the Arctic. You go and see Michel Desjoyeaux because he believes in you. Then you see the tens of thousands of people at the start and you say you must be crazy.  Am I able to go in the Southern Ocean?"[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[HUNGARIAN SOLO SAILOR NANDOR FA, EIGHTH IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT Hungarian solo skipper Nandor Fa brought his Spirit of Hungary across the finish line of the Vendée Globe at 10 hrs 54 m 09 secs UTC this Wednesday morning to earn an excellent eighth place overall. Fa, at 63, completes this epic eighth edition of the legendary solo non stop round the world race 24 years after becoming the first ever non-French skipper to complete the Vendée Globe. His elapsed time on Spirit of Hungary, which he designed himself, is 93 days 22 hrs, 52 mins, and 9 secs. He sailed 27,850 miles at an average speed of 12.35 knots. He enjoyed an emotional reunion with his wife Iren and two daughters Lilli, 27, and Anna, 37, both of whom were tiny when their father first returned triumphant.   Fa finishes 6 days 1 hour 6 minutes and 20 seconds after seventh placed Louis Burton and has held eighth place since Christmas Day. The excellent result for the remarkable, proud Hungarian who started sailing on the lakes in his landlocked country is the product of a sharp, intelligent mind, steely resolve and determination. On the foredeck of the boat he designed himself, his ‘third daughter' he smiled, “It is over. I have done it. It was successful according to my rules, my hopes. This is such beautiful weather to finish, the gods are with me and the people, friends, family, who have come out to greet me, it is so overwhelming. I can't find the right words. It was 92 days of fighting. Sometimes it felt endless. It was really long, really tough, all the time it was really wet. Eighth place is far beyond my dreams. At the start I did not think about placings because this fleet is so strong. The boats are so prepared and good. I thought my place with my boat, my age it might have been 15th to 20th. My performance I just wanted to be better than 100 days. That happened. Eighth is way beyond my imagination.” But the finish line was the final full stop as far as his participation in the Vendée Globe is concerned: “I had great motivation to sail fast. Sometimes I was frustrated I am not fast enough. My new boat would be a flying machine. She is a boat, this one. The next one is a flying machine. It will never be built for me though. The time is gone. I am sorry about that. I don't feel any energy to do it again right now. In four years time I will be 67. I am young in the way of thinking, I am fit but now I see what kind of energy, what kind of motivation second by second, day by day, that you really need and I know my time is gone. I don't have it any more. The future is with my family. It will be difficult to forget.” Asked about the comparisons with his 1992-3 race when he finished fifth, the first international skipper to finish the Vendée Globe, Fa said: “It was so different from the first one. Last time I was fighting the boat and the techniques. This time I was sailing, I can tell you I loved this boat, I am proud about the boat, about the rig, about the rigging. I have to share with you that I was 62 when I designed this boat, by that I mean with all the people who helped when I say me, but I was thinking of a 62 year old man. I built a boat for that. I love my boat and she is fantastic. It is easily able to make less than 90 days. But I was sailing like I was 40 year old but I could not make the speeds. It was frustrating not to be able to do the speeds I wanted to do. In spite of that my speed record was 434 miles in a day. If I would do it again I would build a flying machine. I would like to do a faster boat.” Fa's story is one of the richest and most enchanting of this Vendée Globe. An incredible passion has driven him through sporting careers first in wrestling, canoeing and Olympic Finn class sailing before he took off to sail around the world for the first time in 1985-1987 in a 31 foot GRP cruiser as a silent protest at his nation's exclusion from the 1984 Olympics because of the Russian boycott. During this passage, whilst off Cape Horn, he heard VHF radio traffic from the solo racers of the 1986-1987 BOC Challenge and there and then decided solo racing was for him. He was one of the pioneers in the second edition of the Vendée Globe, finishing fifth in 128 days, to become the first ever non French skipper to finish the race. His 1996, second attempt ended in painful failure after crossing the start three times. The ‘Everest of the Seas' remained unfinished business for Fa. After raising his family and building and selling his successful businesses, Nandor Fa decided to come back to solo racing with a boat he designed himself and which was built ‘hands on' in his native Hungary. Nandor Fa pushed his Spirit of Hungary hard but always knew where the ‘red line' was. Similarly he backed himself when it came to making strategic and tactical choices but seemed to thrive on pressing hard with the group, the peloton going down the South Atlantic and in the early miles of the Indian Ocean. But so too he was adept at the discipline of looking after himself and his boat. In fact his eighth place in the Vendée Globe is notable for the very few technical problems he had and the way he dealt with them, for his and his boat's durability and good average speeds. He passed boats early in the race through good average speeds and strategic choices, and gained places as others had to abandon their races. His first few days were conservative and steady. At Cape Finisterre he voiced his frustration that he felt he had let some boats slip away, passing the NW tip of Spain in 21st place. He sailed east of Madeira in 18th place and, making good speeds in the trade winds, was up to 16th by the Canary Islands. Down the South Atlantic, skirting the west of the Saint Helena high, Fa sailed well as the ‘peloton', what became the second group of boats compacted in the relatively slow going and light winds. Fa was content and confident in the Southern Oceans again. The Cape of Good Hope was a really bittersweet moment. Fa was up to 12th but emotionally he was hit when Kojiro Shiraishi had to retire when the Spirit of Yukoh's mast broke. A contemporary of Shiraishi's late friend and mentor, Yukoh, from the days of the BOC Challenge, Fa told Koji ‘The Spirit of Yukoh goes on with me.' Thereafter he had a close race, dicing with French skipper Stéphane Le Diraison on Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt – for much of the Indian Ocean. Compromised by the loss of his A7 gennaker, Le Diraison was quicker downwind in the strong breeze but Spirit of Hungary was faster when the wind was forward of the beam. The pair saw each other and spoke on the VHF and by email. But for the second time he lost a close running mate. He was upset when Le Diraison lost his mast on December 17th under Australia. Suddenly he was much more alone. Louis Burton 600 miles ahead on Bureau Vallée and Conrad Colman 650 miles behind. Le Diraison's retirement to Melbourne promoted Fa to tenth. The subsequent problems of Thomas Ruyant – whose Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine hit a container and suffered structural damage – and then to SMA, Paul Meilhat whose keel ram cracked, elevated Spirit of Hungary to ninth and then eighth. He has held eighth place since Christmas Day. If his Indian Ocean was relatively quick, the Pacific was slow. Spirit of Hungary spent several days struggling to break through a transition zone and later had a spell in a high pressure system with only light winds. Nandor Fa rounded Cape Horn at 0638hrs on January 9th, his fifth time of passing the legendary great Cape, four days and 23 hours after Louis Burton in seventh, 16 days and 18 hours after Armel Le Cléac'h. But it was in the South Atlantic, a few days after rounding Cape Horn that he had probably his biggest storm, encountering a prolonged and slightly unexpected 50kt with gusts and squalls blowing off the mountains of the South American continent at more than 60 knots. Fa finally profited from the high level of reliability of his boat and his equipment, the very intimate knowledge that comes from having designed and being hands-on through all the build and successive re-fitting of his boat. He sailed very many hard miles on Spirit of Hungary and his very rigorous and careful approach to regular checks and routine maintenance throughout his Vendée Globe ensured he was on very quickly aware of any small problems before they became bigger. And with a very broad based set of skills and experiences gained over 35 years of ocean racing Fa could turn his hand to all kinds of mechanical and soft repairs. In many respects his programme was strengthened by having his problems in the two year build up before his Vendée Globe. He suffered many teething troubles with Spirit of Hungary since it was originally launched in April 2014. During an initial Transatlantic delivery to New York for the New York Vendée race there was substantial delamination. Rather than the essential transatlantic racing miles he had to ship the boat back to Hungary where the hull had to be strengthened and re-laminated. Because of this the boat was only just ready for the 2015 Barcelona World Race which he sailed with Conrad Colman, a late substitute co-skipper. The race proved more of an extended shake down, but they finished seventh with a much better knowledge of the boat. During the Transat Jacques Vabre the following November Spirit of Hungary was dismasted early in the race. The heartache and long, long hours building, refitting, refining the IMOCA he designed himself engenders a unique relationship with his beloved boat that he refers to as his ‘third daughter'. Between these more recent tough experiences and his 1996 Vendée Globe which he started no fewer than three times before being forced to give up on the dock in Les Sables d'Olonne – Fa was hit hard by the damages and empathised with the consequent abandonments of other skippers. “My heart aches for him.” He said when his Japanese friend and rival Kojiro Shiraishi, with whom he had raced many miles down the Atlantic to the Cape of Good Hope, was dismasted. Under Australia he was suddenly alone when Stephane Le Diraison was also dismasted, the running mate he had sailed the Indian Ocean against, sometimes only a few miles apart. When the French skipper lost his rig he was just 70 or so miles ahead. As well as being one of the toughest, hardest and most experienced skippers out on the Vendée Globe race course, the gentleman Fa revealed his caring, human side, often the first to email a skipper or his team when they had to withdraw from the race. He enjoyed email exchanges and spoke with Kojiro, with Le Diraison and with his former co-skipper Conrad Colman. In his first week at sea he had some small problems with his computers and charging systems. On Day 26 he had to repair and reset his autopilot which was causing him to broach out of control. In one of these incidents he lost his favoured A7 gennaker which was to compromise his speed potential downwind in the stronger breezes in the south. He had a subsequent fight to save his J3 which he fortunately won. On Day 38 he believes he hit a UFO and lost the fairing from his keel blade. On Day 45 a chinese gybe was caused by a pilot malfunction and his old reaching kite was finally despatched to the sail locker no longer usable. This was one of his worst days as the engine cooked and he had to repair it before he could finally sleep again. Ten day later he lost his GPS antenna overboard but managed to fashion a replacement. Fa finishes satisfied with his excellent race, a fitting swansong to a remarkable sailing career which has elevated him to become universally known in his native, landlocked Hungary but which has earned him massive recognition and respect around the world for his skill, passion, humanity, humility and fair play. Fa has always fought shy of highlighting his age. “First and foremost I am a competitor. I want to beat everyone. I love to go fast. I don't want to give places away and feel like I did so without fighting. But if someone is better than me and beats me that is fine. If someone beats me just by luck then I would not be happy.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[GOOD LUCK, GOOD JUDGEMENT, GOOD PACE: LOUIS BURTON’S ‘LUCKY’ SEVENTH]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMT Louis Burton secured seventh place in the Vendée Globe this Thursday morning when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 07hrs, 47 mins, 49 seconds UTC. For the young solo skipper who lives in Saint Malo, completing the legendary solo non stop round the world race today represents a major triumph. ‘Get Lucky’ by the Grammy Award winning French dance act Daft Punk was the booming soundtrack to his morning arrival back at the race pontoon in Port Olona. No musical backing to any of the finishes so far in this eighth edition has been more appropriate. Burton did get lucky with a succession of prolonged, beneficial weather systems during his first time in the Southern Ocean and experienced neither big storms nor prolonged calms. But his result is equally the product of steady consistency aboard a boat he knows intimately, that he has had for six years and on which he has completed all of the major French classic ocean races finally including the Vendée Globe. At 31 years of age Burton, who was the youngest skipper to start the last Vendée Globe, sailed a mature and smart race and his team built strength and reliability into the Farr design and have been rewarded today.  His elapsed time is 87 days 19 hrs, 45 mins, 49 secs. He sailed 27,477 miles at an average speed of 13.04 knots. He received an additional 2hr penalty after declaring a broken engine seal. Seventh in this epic Vendée Globe is his swansong with a boat he loves. A clear signal of his aspirations to finish on the podium of the next edition of the Vendée Globe is that his team have already taken delivery of Armel Le Cléac’h’s foiling VPLP-Verdier Banque Populaire VIII, the outright winner of this race. Not only does Burton realise an excellent overall position in the fleet of 29 starters on an ‘older’ 2008 generation boat, but he finally lays to rest memories of his all-too-short 2012-2013 attempt when he was forced to retire after damaging his rigging in a collision with a trawler. The race of the 27 year old ended prematurely, on only the fourth day. Burton’s seventh place comes as the hard earned result of a measured, regular high average paced race around the world by a partnership between skipper and boat that dates back to 2010. No other solo skipper among the 29 who started from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th has raced his boat for longer. It is the first full circumnavigation for the IMOCA which was built and launched as Jérémie Beyou’s Delta Dore but which never finished an IMOCA ocean race before being taken on by Burton and his loyal sponsors, a giant French office furniture and supplies company which has nearly 300 depots. All of the boats which are placed above Burton have a greater performance potential. The only IMOCA of the same vintage is Jean Le Cam’s Finistère Mer Vent, which started life as Michel Desjoyeaux’s winning Foncia, a close Farr designed sister to Burton’s Bureau Vallée, which finished one place ahead this time. The skipper who grew up in Paris and has a Welsh father finishes with the third non-foiling IMOCA. According to Servane Escoffier, who co-manages her partner’s project, the only structural changes have been to remove the original moustache spray rails and build in additional strength and structure. Last winter a substantial sliding coachroof was fitted to improve protection. The keel was replaced and a full new electronics system and wiring change made for this race. Burton sailed many training miles solo prior to his Route du Rhum and before his 2012-13 Vendée Globe. After racing the 2009 Route du Rhum in Class 40 in Bureau Vallée colours, Burton and his brother Nelson debuted in the IMOCA class in the 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre. A dream debut, staying in the top three early in the passage from Le Havre to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, saw them finish seventh. His first solo race was the B2B return back across the Atlantic in which he finished eighth. Louis Burton’s seventh place finish in the Vendée Globe is underpinned by durability, reliability and knowledge of his boat backed up by sailing fast but within his limits in the south. Since stepping clear of the chasing peloton just after the Cape of Good Hope, Burton has raced very much on his own. At the finish line today, Nandor Fa on Spirit of Hungary is about one week behind, while Jean La Cam finished one week ahead of him. He was unfortunate to lose touch with the leading group on the initial descent of the Atlantic and was then slowed by with a posse of eight or ten closely matched soloists when South Atlantic high moved south and east with them. The leaders had jumped on successive low pressure train rides east while Burton was left to lead the chasing group. In the Indian Ocean especially he hooked on to the leading edge of a low pressure system which worked for more than two weeks for him. Once in the top ten he then outlasted the successive retirals in front of him of Sébastien Josse, Thomas Ruyant and Paul Meilhat. Louis Burton’s Vendée Globe Louis Burton started steadily, taking time to find his race rhythm. Mid-fleet at Cape Finisterre he made the same early tactical error as Alex Thomson, routing east towards the Portuguese coast and paying the price by losing two places to 18th. But as the fast trade wind sailing kicked in, Burton showed his pace and mettle gaining at the Canary Islands. By the Cape Verde Islands, Bureau Vallée was racing closely with Bertrand de Broc before he had to retire.  The leading group had a relatively easy Doldrums crossing but Burton and his nearest rivals were slower on approach. By Rio on the southbound descent he was 11th but 550 miles behind Thomas Ruyant. Thereafter, their passage was slower as they tried to exit the South Atlantic high pressure system. But by staying east of the group Burton found a narrow corridor of breeze to wriggle down which was enough to give him a little gain on the acceleration to the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope. Here he was 220 miles ahead of the next skipper Kojiro Shiraishi, the Japanese skipper on the similar Farr designed ex-Hugo Boss. He rose one place to tenth on the distressing, unfortunate demise of Kito de Pavant’s Bastide-Otio west of the Kerguelen Islands. By Campbell Island he was eighth and it was on Christmas Eve he took over seventh place which he has never been challenged for since. He passed Cape Horn on January 4th and enjoyed a relatively direct initial climb of the South Atlantic, one of the few boats to pass west of the Falklands and cut miles. Louis Burton suffered successive small problems, his most significant being a fight with his autopilots. On the third day of racing he fixed ballast and hydro-generator problems, but nothing serious. In the third week of racing he had to slow to make starboard rudder head repairs. They had been making a noise since the start after a collision with a UFO in the first 24h of racing. In the fourth week the autopilot problems peaked. He admitted he was uncertain if they were linked to wind instruments or compass. He suffered a diesel spillage and slipped bruising his elbow and knee. In the second month, around Day 40, he had laminate repairs to do, as the ballast system seemed to be weakened. His port daggerboard housing also weakened and he recalled a slight ingress of water. He also reported two broken stanchions. Twice he was fastest in the fleet, setting his personal best record in the race of 447 miles on 10th December.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[JEAN LE CAM, SIXTH IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Jean Le Cam added to his reputation as one of the most renowned and popular skippers in the history of the Vendée Globe when the 57 year old veteran of four consecutive editions finished in sixth place today off Les Sables d’Olonne. After struggling to find funding, under the strapline ‘Yes We Cam’ his nationwide initiative secured a late funding package, a mix of crowd funding and sponsorships which  ensured he could compete in this eighth edition of the solo non stop round the world race. ‘King Jean’ as he became known when he won La Solitaire du Figaro three times, will be remembered in this race for his incredible duel with Yann Eliès which has rumbled on since they came together early in the Pacific. His familiar unique style of video and his particular turn of phrase have long since become part of the Vendée Globe lore. Finishing his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe at 1643hrs UTC, Jean Le Cam just missed out on the symbolic 80 days, finishing in 80 days 4 hours 41 minutes and 54 seconds, just behind fourth placed Jean-Pierre Dick and fifth placed Yann Eliès. He sailed 27,141 miles at an average speed of 14.1 knots. It is the third time that the Breton sailor from Port-La-Forêt has crossed the finish in the Vendée Globe his best being second place in 2004-2005 and fifth in 2012-2013. In 2008-9 he capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn and was rescued by Vincent Riou. In spite of his amazing list of successes, Jean Le Cam was far from certain of being able to take part, as he found it hard to find sponsors. Thanks in part to a crowdfunding campaign, he was finally able to line up at the start on 6th November. With his Finistère Mer Vent, the Farr designed boat that Michel Desjoyeaux sailed to victory in the 2008-2009 race and which Le Cam won the Barcelona World Race with Bernard Stamm in 2015, he has once again proven a wily, solid competitor whose experience on the race course is second to none in the fleet. In Les Sables d’Olonne before the start he said. “On paper, I should be in the top ten or twelve. I think there will probably be five ahead of me, so I could be in the top six or seven…” While he got off to a steady, unspectacular start, Jean Le Cam kept pushing hard. By the third day of the race, he was already engaged in a duel with Yann Eliès. If the start was difficult, Le Cam had his own solution to feel better. “I’m having a big meal today. Beef and carrots, Haribo sweets, meat paste. And I even found some butter.” Yann Eliès made his getaway, while Jean was doing battle with Jean-Pierre Dick and Thomas Ruyant. Meanwhile, his record to the Equator dating back to 2004 was smashed by Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) after 9 days, 7 hours and 2 minutes of sailing, which meant the British skipper shaved one day and four hours off Le Cam’s record. On the fifteenth day of racing, Le Cam started a trend he would continue throughout the race. In his videos he would move the camera around saying, “Clack, clack, clack.” On social media, the slogan became even more famous than his “Yes We Cam.” Le Cam rounded Cape Horn after 23 days, 10 hours and 21 minutes. The Indian Ocean had its highs and low points. There was some pleasant weather, but then it turned very nasty with winds reaching sixty knots. He crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin after 34 days 7 hours and 28 minutes. On 12th December, off Tasmania, Jean Le Cam had to weather the storm. He slowed down to let a deep low go by with winds forecast to be around sixty knots. It was impossible to avoid it completely, so Jean stayed to the south close to the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. This proved to be a good option, as he got back up with his close rivals (Dick and Eliès). Once the storm was behind him, Finistère Mer Vent faced the mighty Pacific. “Firmin, please don’t take that wave! Firmin is good, but sometimes she does what she wants. I find it hard to get the staff at the moment,” joked Le Cam in his idiosyncratic style, talking about his autopilot which he name Firmin. He had Christmas in the Pacific and rounded the Horn a week later. “This is the only mechanical sport, where 80% of the time, the pilot looks behind him. We look at the helm and the waves. It’s quite surprising. But there are times when it’s not much fun looking ahead.” His sixth Cape Horn Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam became inseparable for the rest of the race regularly changing places with each other. They even sailed within sight of each other and chatted on the VHF. Jean Le Cam rounded Cape Horn for the sixth time: four times in the Vendée Globe (2004-2005, 2008-2009, 2012-2013 and 2016-2017), once in the double-handed Barcelona World Race (2014-2015) and once in the crewed Whitbread with Eric Tabarly. After two months of racing, Yann Eliès was only a dozen miles ahead. After this length of time at sea, most skippers are fed up with their freeze-dried food. But that was not a problem for Le Cam “Freeze-dried stuff is for lazy people, who don’t want to do any stacking. My food comes to 60kg, freeze-dried to 30kg. So to save thirty kilos, they eat crap food.” Last week, Le Cam talked about his duel with Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir. ”I’ve been hanging out with Yann since Tasmania, which means we have spent more than half the trip together! It’s a story within the big story.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[YANN ELIÈS, FIFTH IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT When Yann Eliès crossed the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne at 1513hrs UTC on Wednesday 25th January to take fifth place, the French skipper achieved his primary goal, conquering the solo non stop round the world race which nearly cost him his life during an epic 2008-9 edition. Rescued by the Australian Navy after breaking his leg 800 miles south of Australia, Eliès said before the start that only now did he feel mentally and physically strong enough to compete in the Vendée Globe again. The race time for Eliès is 80 days 3 hours 11 minutes and 9 seconds. Eliès sailed 27,132 miles at an average speed of 14.1 knots. Three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro Eliès believed that if he could complete the race in good shape then he would not be far from the podium. In fifth he is the first skipper to complete this edition of the race using conventional, straight daggerboards, rather than the foils as used by the top four skippers. Winner Armel Le Cléac’h, second placed Alex Thomson, Jérémie Beyou in third and now fourth placed Jean-Pierre Dick all raced IMOCAs fitted with foils. The skipper of Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir has finally exorcised the ghosts of the 2008-9 race with this solid fifth place, and has already stated his desire to compete again in 2020 with a boat and programme capable of winning. He brave return to the Vendée Globe prompted his long time rival Jérémie Beyou to say yesterday how much he admired Eliès. “He wanted a competitive project and it’s incredible that he even returned to this race. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to do that after going through what he went through before. I’ll be there to hear what he has to say, because what he has done is incredible.” Since the start on 6th November, Yann Eliès has shown that he was one to watch because of his competitiveness, experience and skills, having won among other races three editions of the Solitaire du Figaro. Eliès raced what was the first of the VPLP-Verdier designed boats, the former Safran previously skippered by Marc Guillemot, which came third in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe and, ironically, the boat on which Guillemot stood by the injured Eliès for two days before rescue arrived. Off Cape Finisterre, Yann Eliès was in the top ten alongside Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou, and then Sébastien Josse and Vincent Riou. Off the Cape Verde Islands, he was in eighth place, where he remained at the Equator, in spite of a tricky Doldrums passage. Eliès was then sailing ahead of Jean Le Cam and Jean-Pierre Dick, two competitors he would meet up with later in the race. Damage to his mainsail hook led to him lose around fifty miles and this hold-up would cause further losses. On the way down the South Atlantic, he found a good tactical option. On around 20th November, the seven frontrunners made their getaway and would continue to extend their lead. Huge gaps developed as the leaders extended away on a low pressure system. Yann Eliès found himself 300, then 800 and almost 1200 miles behind the leaders and it looked like he would get punished again along with some others, who would find themselves in a completely different race over 3000 miles back from the leaders. Eliès tried a daring option sailing down a narrow a strip of wind to cut across the South Atlantic. It worked out and at the Cape of Good Hope, Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir had managed to limit the damage to a thousand miles. In sixth position in the Indian Ocean ahead of Jean Le Cam and Jean-Pierre Dick, he put his race on hold for 24 hours when he was forced to slow down to let a huge southern storm arriving from Madagascar go by. There he found himself alone in the Indian Ocean, a long way from Jérémie Beyou ahead of him and Jean Le Cam behind. Eliès crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in fifth place after 33 days and 4 hours on 9th December, 24 hours after Jérémie Beyou. Duel in the Pacific The course south of Australia went without hitch for him apart from the gales forcing him to slow down, while those in front got still further ahead. To the south of Australia once more he had to slow down once again as ahead of him winds of between 60 and 80 knots were forecast. Here Jean Le Cam went south while Jean-Pierre Dick headed north to go through the Bass Strait. It was after that that the three would get back together again south of New Zealand… and they would remain together for the second half of the race around the world. In the Pacific, Dick got ahead thanks largely to his foils. But Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam found themselves sailing alongside each other. On 30th December at Cape Horn they went round one after the other, Jean-Pierre Dick went by at 0634hrs, followed by Jean Le Cam at 1548hrs, with Yann Eliès rounding just under an hour later. Emerging safely from the south Eliès was even more determined to complete the circle and complete this Vendée Globe. Dick went for a different option passing through the Le Maire Strait and east of the Falklands around the same time as Eliès tore the leech of his mainsail. But the former sailmaker was able to repair the damage. In the climb back up the Atlantic, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam stuck together, crossing the Equator just half an hour apart after 67 days on 13th January. As they rounded the Azores high, Eliès even had Jean-Pierre Dick in his sights. The two of them attempted to take a shorter route than Dick, but the gap was just too wide and Eliès finishes in fifth place.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[JEAN-PIERRE DICK, FOURTH IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT French skipper Jean-Pierre Dick crossed the finish line of the eighth Vendée Globe at 1347hrs UTC on Wednesday 25th January. The skipper of StMichel Virbac completed his solo round the world voyage in 80 days 1 hour 45 minutes and 45 seconds. Jean-Pierre Dick sailed 27,857 miles at the average speed of 14.5 knots. Dick, who also finished fourth in the last edition of the race in 2012-13, finally held on to win a tense thriller of a three cornered battle for fourth place which peaked early this morning. Pursued by two of the most accomplished French sailors in the race, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, Dick saw the 60 nautical miles lead he had yesterday morning eroded to just six miles early this morning. But the ‘gentleman skipper’ who has won two round the world Barcelona World Races and now completed three Vendée Globes held his nerve. Sixth in 2004-2005, he abandoned into New Zealand in 2008 and finished fourth in 2012-2013, Dick was aiming to win on his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe Jean-Pierre Dick. He built a new, foil equipped VPLP-Verdier designed IMOCA but had to abandon last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre with structural issues. As for some others his boat spent much of last winter and spring in the boatyard being strengthened, losing valuable preparation and training time. A qualified veterinary surgeon who originates from Nice, Dick left the family business and moved to Brittany to become a solo and short handed racer. But a combination of an early tactical error and technical problems saw him lose touch with the early pacemakers. He dropped into different weather systems and, although he made back hundreds of miles at different stages in the race Dick has to settle for fourth place. JP Dick’s race After getting off to a good start, with StMichel-Virbac in second place not far behind the leader, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), JP made a tactical mistake to the south of Madeira and tumbled to twelfth place. The frontrunners were able to make their getaway, not getting stuck in the Doldrums, while Dick’s best hope then was to catch Jean le Cam, then in ninth place. After that the two skippers would remain close together to the point where Le Cam referred to the “duel between King Jean and the Black Knight.” Jean-Pierre Dick was obviously disappointed as his “friends are over a thousand miles ahead of me… I need to stay zen.” Exclusion zone and the Bass Strait In the Indian Ocean, the JP Dick was able to make the most of his foil, surfing in 35 knot winds along the edge of the Antarctic exclusion zone and clawing back miles on Yann Eliès. Unfortunately for Dick, he inadvertently crossed the red line into the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and had to turn back and retrace his course which cost him eight hours. Avoiding a nasty low just to the SE of Australia, Dick took un unusual option, routing 400 miles to the north to become the first Vendée Globe racer ever to pass through the Bass Strait, north of Tasmania. Not only did the route give him the shelter and safety he sought, but it proved a coup against his two adversaries who had slowed and struggled in the south in much stronger winds and big seas. The safe choice also paid off tactically and in the end, the Black Knight got back up with his two rivals, who were halted in a huge southern storm. Jean-Pierre Dick passed Cape Horn at New Year in fourth position, 700 miles behind Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) and 130 miles ahead of Jean le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent). A tricky climb back up the Atlantic In the severe weather in the South Atlantic, the three skippers took it in turns to hold fourth, fifth and sixth place. On 13th January, the skipper of StMichel-Virbac, who was very fast when he could use his foils, set a new reference time between Cape Horn and the Equator with a time of 13 days 3 hours and 59 minutes. But the experience of Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam meant that even his new generation foiler was under threat from their older, convenitionally configured boats. “I really have to work hard, as I’m up against the best Figaro racers on the circuit, who have clocked up six wins in that event between them,” Dick commented during a radio session. The three skippers remained close to each other, getting little sleep, paying attention to their trimming, while keeping an eye out in these waters where there is a lot of shipping. In the final days to the finish JP Dick fell over in his boat and cut his chin. He had to staple the wound back together, not an easy operation with the boat being tossed around at 20 knots. Dick had to fight tooth and nail until the end to stay in fourth place, not the result he was hoping for, but the gentleman sailor - as Loick Peyron, his regular co-skipper whom he won the Transat Jacques Vabre with and the Barcelona World Race - called him has achieved a remarkable performance finishing behind three giants of the race. When Dick finished Elies was around 12 miles behind.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[JÉRÉMIE BEYOU, MAÎTRE COQ TAKES THIRD PLACE IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Breton skipper Jérémie Beyou crossed the finish line of the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world race at 1940hrs UTC this Monday evening 23rd January, four days, three hours, two minutes and 54 seconds after the winner,  Armel Le Cléac’h securing third place. The 40-year old sailor who was forced out of the 2008-9 race and the 2012-13 race during the first weeks of both with different technical problems, completed the non-stop solo round the world race for the first time today after 78 days 6 hrs 38 mins and 40 seconds. Up with the leaders from the start on Sunday 6th November, Jérémie Beyou, who struggled with numerous technical difficulties this time, has shown his considerable skill, determination and stamina. Indeed British skipper Alex Thomson, who finished second, earlier today confirmed he often felt threatened by the talented French sailor who is one of the few skippers to have won La Solitaire du Figaro, the French annual summer solo offshore stage series. Beyou was always there ready to pounce behind the two frontrunners. He showed good all-round speed with his older, 2010 boat which was retro-fitted with foils. The Breton skipper achieved his goal by making it to third place and so all three top places in this race are taken by foil assisted VPLP-Verdier designs. After winning the New York-Vendée transatlantic race last June Jérémie Beyou was tipped pre-start as a serious contender for a place on the podium in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. This boosted the confidence of of the skipper who won La Solitaire du Figaro in 2005, in 2011 and 2014. His resilience and tenacity, honed in Le Solitaire and hard galvanised by his two previous failures in the Vendée Globe equipped him to cope with all technical hitches he would experience in this race. Two of his autopilots failed early on and then his Fleet antenna stopped working depriving him of a means of communication and preventing him from getting regular weather updates. Jérémie Beyou had to dig deep to hang on to the frontrunners. His troubles continued periodically. “When my mainsail hook broke, I almost gave up. It was pitch black and I told myself I would never be able to repair it. Afterwards, I don’t know where I got the energy, but I managed to do it. Each decent manoeuvre is a victory and you have to be pleased about that.”  Around him in the in the group of leaders, attrition struck, several skippers were forced to retire: Vincent Riou (PRB) and Morgan Lagravière (Safran) as they reached the first cape, then Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and his long time rival and running mate Paul Meilhat (SMA) who he sailed alongside for hundreds of miles until he had to retire to Tahiti with keel ram problems. This meant that Maître CoQ found herself rather alone as the boat chasing Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss in the Pacific, then on the way back up the Atlantic. Cape Horn, “about time!” In spite of all the problems, Beyou has held on to the third place all the way to the finish and was never really under threat from the three skippers several hundred miles behind him (Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean le Cam). The skipper of Maître CoQ was fulsome when revealing his pleasure as he rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 27th December after 51 days of racing. Not only had Beyou started two previous Vendée Globes, but also had retired from the Barcelona World Race – the two handed round the world race, as well as an abandoned crewed attempt at the Jules Verne non stop record around the world: “I have set off in lots of round the world races with the Vendée Globe, the Jules Verne Trophy and the Barcelona World Race, but never before have I managed to get past the Horn, so it was about time.” The skipper, who like race winner Armel Le Cléac’h comes from Morlaix Bay, had to fight his way back up the Atlantic dealing with extremely variable winds and frustrating calms. “I am taking it one step at a time, one day after another, as each day spent on the water is another one gained. I am advancing like that, without thinking too far ahead,” regretted the skipper, who was treated badly by the wind gods, as he made his way through the final stretch to the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne. Key facts and figures Jérémie Beyou, the third skipper to reach Les Sables d’Olonne sailed 27,101 nm at an average speed of 14.43 knots. His best average was 21 knots having sailed 504 miles in 24 hours on 21st November. The top three finishers in this edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, have made ten attempts at the Vendée Globe. Armel Le Cléac’h has finished three from three, won one second twice, Alex Thomson started four, one second one third, abandoned twice. And Beyou has started three, one third place. This VPLP Verdier designed boat from 2010 was previously sailed by Armel Le Cléac'h, who took her to second place in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe. Four months of work were carried out on her in early 2016 with a New Zealand team to retrofit her with foils. Quotes from Jérémie Beyou on the finish line: "It’s a race where you have to give it your all. It took me three times. I had to fight hard and push myself and the boat. It’s a huge emotion. It started badly with the electronic problems in the second week, but everyone has their problem. I just kept at it, I never said I just want to finish. I was determined to get a good place. Once Paul wasn’t there, it was easier as I could sail my own race, but in the Indian I stuck with him as I didn’t have the weather info. It’s always better to sail your own race. I’m sorry he had to retire, but that freed me to sail my own race. I kept thinking of the finish. Until the line was crossed… I took advantage and enjoyed myself from this morning. You feel at one with your boat. The boat gave me problems, but it’s because I pushed her too hard, so she reacted, but in general, she reacted well. I didn’t have any problems with appendages or the mast. Just the communication problems. So the boat was good to me and we did this together. I can’t wait to see Armel and Alex now."    “There were moments, when I couldn’t cope. I punched my boat. I wept. But if you want to leave your boat, there’s not much you can do about it, as you are all alone. Trying to make choices without any vision, it’s frustrating. My next boat will be a foiler, easier to sail, more comfortable than this one. One from St. Pol and one from Carantec (towns that are several miles apart in Finistère -editor) on the podium. We’ve known each other since we were kids. I know all of Armel’s team. They are top class. I like Alex’s character. He brings along some fun. He dares to make bold choices. He is good for a race like the Vendee Globe.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[THOMSON CLAIMS SECOND IN HISTORIC VENDÉE GLOBE RACE]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT British yachtsman Alex Thomson today took the runner-up spot in the Vendée Globe to become the solo round-the-world race's second-fastest sailor ever. Thomson, 42, set out to become the first Brit ever to win the Vendée Globe but following an epic battle with French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h missed out on the top spot by just shy of 16 hours. The skipper of Hugo Boss crossed the finish line at 0737 UTC in a time of 74 days, 19 hours, 35 minutes and 15 seconds in one of the closest finishes ever in the race's 27-year history. Le Cléac'h, 39, took the top spot yesterday at 1537 UTC with a time of 74 days, three hours and 35 minutes, setting a new race record by three days, 22 hours and 41 minutes.  Although Thomson had to settle for second place his time also supersedes the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor François Gabart in the 2012-13 edition. It is the second time in four attempts that Thomson has finished on the Vendée Globe podium - he took third place in the 2012-13 edition after being forced to retire from the 2004-05 and 2008-09 races. The result makes him the most successful non-French skipper in the history of the race. In the 2001 race British yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur finished in second place taking 94 days, four hours and 25 minutes to do so. Sixteen years on Thomson was almost 20 days quicker, a feat made all the more impressive given that one of Hugo Boss' foils providing lift and therefore speed was destroyed just two weeks into the race. Thomson arrived in the Vendée Globe's home port of Les Sables d'Olonne in France at sunrise to rapturous applause from thousands of race fans that braved the freezing temperatures to welcome him home. Among the first to congratulate Thomson on his incredible achievement was his wife Kate, their six-year-old son Oscar and two-year-old daughter Georgia who enjoyed an emotional reunion onboard Hugo Boss prior to arriving at Port Olona marina. “It's an amazing feeling to be here – you never really know for sure that it's going to happen until you cross the finish line,” Thomson said. “We've been away a long, long time and it's great to finally be here. I hoped and prayed I could catch Armel but about 24 to 36 hours from the finish I knew that was the end. I've spent the whole race wondering what could have happened if the foil hadn't broken, but it did, and now it's finished. Congratulations to Armel, what a great race he had and he thoroughly deserved to win. I'm very happy with second place. Now I'm looking forward to getting some sleep, seeing my family and having my life back.” Thomson and Le Cléac'h were singled out as the pre-race favourites prior to the start on November 6 and they lived up to their top billing, spending much of the 25,000nm race practically neck and neck. Both sailors topped the leaderboard at various stages of the opening days but it was when Thomson rocketed from eighth to first by taking a shortcut through the Cape Verde Islands that the battle between the pair really began. Thomson led at the Equator but on November 19 he hit a submerged object and the starboard foil was ripped from the boat. Despite this he led round the Cape of Good Hope into the Southern Ocean, but was overhauled by Le Cléac'h on December 3. In a display of sheer skill and talent Thomson, with a little help from the weather gods, turned a 800nm deficit at Cape Horn into a gap of just 50nm as the pair crossed the Equator heading north. He set a new 24-hour distance record on January 16th, sailing 536.81nm at an average speed of 22.4 knots to break Francois Gabart's existing record by two miles. Hearts were in mouths when Thomson got to within 30 miles of Le Cléac'h with just a few hundred miles to the finish line, but just as it looked like he would cause a major upset his French rival accelerated away to build up an unassailable lead. Thomson sailed 27,636nm in the race at an average speed of 15.39 knots, at times hitting more than 30 knots. The fact that Thomson even started the race was an incredible achievement. Exactly one year before the Vendée Globe was due to begin the newly-launched Hugo Boss was dismasted 80nm off the coast of Spain after being smashed side-on by a massive Atlantic wave. Thomson, who had been competing with Spaniard Guillermo Altadill in the Transat Jacques Vabre doubled-handed race across the Atlantic, had to be airlifted off the stricken boat by coastguards. Hugo Boss was badly damaged but recovered and towed to Spain. Amazingly his shore team won the race against time to get her start of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe. Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS): "The last three days have been very, very long, especially when I realised I was not going to beat Armel. It then felt like it took a very long time to get here. You couldn't have a better place to finish here in Les Sables d'Olonne, the weather is fantastic and the welcome is second to none. My biggest battle has been that I've been frustrated that my boat couldn't go as quick as it could've done, but I've dealt with that frustration and I don't really want to talk about it any more. I've been positive and for me finishing in second is better than finishing third like last time, and it leaves room for improvement if I'm allowed to do it again next time. For that you'll have to ask my wife.” “Right now I don't feel tired but I've slept five hours in the last three days and in the last 24 hours I haven't slept at all. I'm running on empty and looking forward to some sleep. There was always a possibility of overtaking Armel but although sometimes he was only 40 miles away it was always very difficult to advance on Armel. It's the Vendee Globe, anything can happen, but I knew it was going to take something quite extraordinary to beat Armel.” “The starboard foil is completely gone. The race would have been very different if it hadn't have broken and I've dealt with that mentally for the last two months. The speed difference was one thing but the feel of the boat was completely different – every time I was on port I hated it, it was horrible. The pleasure of the race was breaking the 24-hour distance record. There was plenty of pain too with this race, but it's amazing how quickly you forget about it after the finish, and very quickly you're up for doing it again.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[LE CLÉAC'H SMASHES VENDÉE GLOBE RACE RECORD IN SPECTACULAR STYLE]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT French sailor Armel Le Cléac'h today won the Vendée Globe in one of the most thrilling finishes the solo round the world race has ever seen. After 74 days and almost 24,500 nautical miles of first-class ocean racing Le Cléac'h was finally crowned victor in the long-running battle with British skipper Alex Thomson for the top spot in the solo round the world race, regarded as one of the toughest sporting challenges known to man. Le Cléac'h, 39, from Brittany, sealed the win – and a place in the Vendée Globe history books – crossing the finish line at 1537 UTC to complete the course in 74 days, three hours and 35 minutes. His time sets a new record for the race, beating the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor François Gabart in the 2012-13 edition by three days, 22 hours and 41 minutes. Dozens of spectator boats took to the water to welcome their new hero back to the French port of Les Sables d'Olonne, from where the race started on November 6 last year. With his shore crew taking control of his 60ft IMOCA race boat Banque Populaire VIII, a tearful Le Cléac'h was left to enjoy an emotional reunion with his son Edgar, 6, and daughter Louise, 9. Thousands more fans lined the walls of the town's famous harbour entrance as Le Cléac'h arrived dockside at Port Olona to a fanfare of fireworks. Le Cléac'h, runner-up in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, said he had now fulfilled a lifelong dream. “This is a dream come true,” he said. “I hoped to win this race 10 years ago but I finished second. Today is a perfect day. I understand that today I have done something big. My team have been amazing they're the dream team, and this is their day too.” Le Cléac'h also paid tribute to Thomson for his skill and tenacity in pushing him right to the finish line. “It has been very difficult with Alex behind me, he gave me a really hard time in this Vendée Globe,” he added. “Each time things went his way and I got nothing. It was stressful because he kept catching me. With a lead of 800 miles off Cape Horn, I didn’t think I’d be facing such pressure. I'm very happy for Alex, it is a great second place.” Le Cléac'h took the lead within 24 hours of the race start but had lost it to Thomson by the time the skippers, both racing on new-generation foiling IMOCA 60s, reached the Equator. After catching Thomson in the Southern Ocean the pair traded places on numerous occasions before Le Cléac'h established a solid lead on December 3. From that point on he refused to relinquish his grip on first place despite a sensational effort from Thomson to reduce an 819nm deficit at Cape Horn to just 50 miles at the Equator. Even when Thomson surged to within 30 miles of Le Cléac'h with a few hundred miles to go the French sailor held strong, defending his position until victory was all but guaranteed. Le Cléac'h averaged an incredible 15.43 knots of boat speed over the 27,455 miles he actually sailed, on occasion hitting speeds in excess of 30 knots. His best 24-hour run came on January 16 when Banque Populaire covered 524.11nm averaging 21.8 knots, surpassed only by Thomson who on the same day sailed 536.81nm averaging 22.4 knots, breaking François Gabart's existing record by two miles. Le Cléac'h held the top spot for 56 of his 74 days at sea, and between him and Thomson they broke every single one of the existing race records. Thomson is expected to cross the line early tomorrow morning and will enter the harbour after 0800hrs UTC. Armel Le Cléac’h’s first words after the finish “In the Pacific, I felt good with the weather that I was getting. A halyard hook broke and that stopped me from using one sail in the Pacific. I was a bit afraid after that that the others would break too. I thought I’d made my getaway at Cape Horn, but everything was against me, the high in the South Atlantic, which blocked my path, then the Doldrums, which weren’t kind to me, followed by the transition zone around the low off the Canaries. It was a bit of a mess. Each time things went his way and I got nothing.” “I’m pleased to win the Vendée Globe. From start to finish it was a fight particularly against Alex Thomson. These past few weeks have been stressful with lots of things going on. Now I’m just so pleased. It was incredible to see all the boats that came out to greet me. Even this morning they were there off the coast. I’m proud to be the first back to Les Sables d’Olonne. I kept believing it was possible in the North Atlantic. I got messages of support and that kept me pushing. I have really been pushing hard. If I look fine now, it’s because I’m happy to have won, but it’s been tiring. There were times when I felt everything was going against me, so it was highly emotional even before I crossed the line. When the wind disappeared I tried to find something to help me. Something lucky. I prayed to the wind gods and that’s when I shaved off my beard. It was when I tacked off the Scillies that I finally was able to enjoy myself. I haven’t had too much work to do and would like to thank my team. It’s down to them that this boat performed so well. That’s three Vendée Globes in a row for me. The dream has come true, so now I’m moving on to something else. I’m pleased to be back with others and to be getting a good meal. It’s a huge change for me.” [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[VENDÉE GLOBE - WEEK 10: AGE NO BARRIER AS ROURA AND WILSON ROUND CAPE HORN]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT The Vendée Globe's youngest and oldest skippers have rounded Cape Horn andpassed into the Atlantic. Swiss sailor Alan Roura, at 23 years old the 'baby' of the Vendée Globe fleet, passed the iconic landmark for the first time at 1639 UTC yesterday in 13th place. Less than 12 hours later the race's elder statesman, 66­year­old American skipper Rich Wilson, followed suit, rounding Cape Horn at 0257 UTC today.   The two sailors, split in age by 43 years, have become close after spending much of the race battling  against  one  another  and  sharing  their  experiences  over  email  and  VHF.  Roura described his first ever rounding of Cape Horn, one of the greatest achievements for a sailor, as “magnificent” as he passed in Force 7 breeze and big waves. “I was closeto it coming within two  miles  in  33  knots  of  wind  in  heavy  seas,”  Roura  said.  “It  was magnificent,  just  as  I imagined. Albatrosseseverywhere, the sea looking black and white, beautiful skies, even if the sun was not out in several shades of grey, with very dark clouds and lots of squalls. I am at the end of the world, the mostsoutherly headland and it’s absolutely incredible. This moment is forever etched on my mind. It is the Holy Grail for sailors and now I’m here. I have succeeded in my Vendée Globe challenge. I have been through the Southern Ocean. I am thinking about all those, who had to stopbefore getting this far. I’m proud of myself and what I have done. I’m so lucky to be here. It’s simply fantastic!”   This morning Roura's yacht La Fabrique was around 110 nautical miles north­east of Wilson's Great American IV. Roura has chosen to take an unconventional route through the Le Maire View the online version   Age no barrier as Roura and Wilson round Cape Horn   Strait, a narrow stretch of water between mainland Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island. Wilson, meanwhile,  opted  to  steer  clear  of  the  biggest  seas  closest  to  land,  passing  Cape  Horn  by some 30nm to the south. “As  the group  of  four  approached  from  the west  in  strong winds  it looked  as  though  the  first  couple  of  boats  would  be  able  to  get  across  the  continental  shelf before  the  strong  winds  came  down  from  Chile,”  Wilson  explained.  “The  water  goes  from 12,000ft to 600ft in a matter of 10 miles or so. If the waves are coming in from the west they can bounce off the coast and ricochet back out to sea with some level of intensity. I just didn't think getting close to that was a wise move.”   Meanwhile  at  the  head  of  the  fleet  Armel  Le  Cléac'h  has  maintained  his  75nm  lead  over second­   placed Alex Thomson overnight with just 600nm left to go. Thomson yesterday reported problems with his steering, due to a certain level of play in the rudders, that he said he would be able to fix once the winds lightened off asthe pair head into high pressure. Le Cléac'h was slightly  quicker  this  morning,  at  the  0400  UTC  report  making  16.9  knots  compared  to Thomson's 16.1. Both skippers are expected to arrive at the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on Thursday.   Highlights from week 10 of the Vendée Globe:    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[VENDÉE GLOBE - WEEK 9: LE CLÉAC’H VENTS FRUSTRATION AT COMPLEX FINAL WEEK]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h today spoke of his frustration as erratic weather in the North Atlantic complicates his path to the finish line. At the latest position update the Frenchman had a narrow lead of 99 miles over British rival Alex Thomson as the pair forged their way north, around 350 miles south west of the Cape Verde Islands. A costly passage through the Doldrums for Le Cléac’h has now been compounded by complex weather uncharacteristic of this part of the ocean. By rights Le Cléac’h should be enjoying fast sailing on Banque Populaire VIII in steady north-easterly trade winds, conditions that could have allowed him to consolidate his lead over Thomson's Hugo Boss. Instead a large depression 1,500 nautical miles to the north is disrupting the trades and playing havoc with Le Cléac’h's bid for a first Vendée Globe title. “The situation isn’t very clear in comparison to the forecasts,” the exasperated Breton skipper said. “For two or three days it’s been hard getting north. It’s been thundery weather since the Equator. The Doldrums travelled up with us with big clouds and heavy squalls. It hasn’t been as thundery since yesterday, but is very cloudy, and we’ve got some more complicated patches ahead. It’s different from the usual scenario and I’m at the limit of my understanding of the weather.” Still hurting from seeing his 500nm lead at Cape Horn reduced to 146nm at the Equator, Le Cléac’h's quest for glory was dealt a further blow when he was snared by the Doldrums. Thomson's passage, by comparison, was much quicker and at one point he came to within 50nm of Le Cléac’h. Now the pair must deal with whatever the weather throws at them as their race for the finish line enters its final week. “We don’t have manoeuvres like we did in the Southern Ocean,” Le Cléac’h added. “It’s just a question of trimming depending on what the wind throws at us. I thought I had got away from the Doldrums but that wasn’t the case. It was more favourable for Alex and that's hard to take. For the moment, we’re in front. We are going to have to see what happens.” Six hundred miles south, third-placed Jérémie Beyou joined Le Cléac’h and Thomson in the northern hemisphere after passing the Equator at 1329 UTC. Beyou is likely to have a much simpler traverse of the Doldrums, which are forecast to shrink in the west in the next 24 hours. That will also be good news for fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick, who has gambled on his route close to the coast of Brazil paying off by allowing him to skirt round the western edge of the Doldrums. French sailor Eric Bellion is set to become the ninth skipper to round Cape Horn tomorrow, followed closely by New Zealander Conrad Colman. Three thousand miles west, Dutch sailor Pieter Heerema was temporarily celebrating after the wind hole that has held him for several days started to relinquish its grip. “The position of the area of no wind was a little different to what I was expecting,” the 65-year-old explained. “I've been locked up and the waves were coming at me from everywhere. It was a bit bouncy without much progress, but in the last two hours a little bit of breeze has started to establish and I think that will build and we'll be on our way again.” No Way Back skipper Heerema, in 17th, said the waves had been so bad that he had not been able to carry out any routine maintenance despite the lack of wind. “The boat was moving so badly there was nothing I could do – I couldn't stand or sit so I was just lying in my bed being bored for a long time,” he added. “They aren't big jobs though, nothing that will hamper my progress. I'm just trying to point the nose east as much as possible in the direction of Cape Horn - I want to get out of the Pacific as quickly as possible.” DELIGHT FOR FA WITH 5TH CAPE HORN ROUNDING Spirit of Hungary skipper Nandor Fa became the eighth Vendee Globe sailor to return to the Atlantic yesterday after passing Cape Horn. In an emotional dispatch from onboard he describes the moments leading up to his fifth Cape Horn rounding. « Woooow! At 23:15 UTC I saw the land appear between two clouds! It’s an island, but it’s part of the continent. I haven’t seen anything like this since the start. It’s about 30 miles away from me. On the left in front of me, I see enormous grey masses of clouds, they are created as the mountains push the air upwards and humidity precipitates. They look scary, although I think they are harmless. We’ll see, I’m going their way. The wind spun up and forced me to gybe again. Now I’m sailing on starboard tack towards SE until it will be worth to gybe back - it depends on the wind and our position to the land. As soon as I was done with the manoeuvre I leaned against the cockpit to watch the cumulus clouds above the Cordilleras. They were enlightened by the beams of the descending sun. Luminous white foams appear then dive under the water, God’s most beautiful creatures the albatross are circling around me like visions of a dream, and I wonder: this is probably the last time I see the rigid wonder this place is. Tears came into my eyes. This is why I came here, to say goodbye to this wild, inscrutable beauty. The lights of the night are wonderful. Ahead of me it’s all greyness, but behind me is the exact opposite: beauty and happiness. On the right I can see the moon in its shiniest glow, the waves below are reflecting it. To the left there’s the blue stripe of the sunset on the horizon, as it looks across above the Antarctic. It doesn’t go darker than this, it goes around and comes back here. Soon it will greet me again from the east. The wind had decreased and slowed me to nine knots. This is perhaps just so that I don’t leave the cape too fast. I’ll gybe in 20 miles, from there I will have 15 miles more to go. I will be over the cape by then, but I will be the closest to it - approx. 8 miles away. The wind is light and the streams are strong. I don’t want to be surprised so I won’t go any closer to the sleeping bear. On 9th January at 05:00 UTC I gybed to port tack. From now I’m on the way home. I have to sail 17 more miles to pass the longitudinal point of the cape. Then I will have rounded Cape Horn officially. I’ve been cooling the champagne for five weeks, it’s ready to be opened. I’ve already had my celebration feast in the evening, I just need a good cup of tea beside the champagne. There is only a little month of sailing left, and we’re finished.» QUOTES : Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “I cannot wait to pass Cape Horn for the third time and head northwards away from the cold, away from the icebergs floating above the exclusion zone, back to temperate climates, sunny skies and eventually, fresh food and the warm embrace of family and friends.  And yet, I love the south. I love the raw power of the waves, the sometime terrifying fury of the wind and the knowledge that it's only thanks to the expertise I have worked so hard to accumulate, and the hard work and ingenuity in the moment, that I am able to survive and thrive in such an environment.”  Eric Bellion, COMMEUNSEULHOMME: “It’s not the same Cape Horn, when you’re sailing solo. I rounded it for the first time when I was 12. I was excited like a kid at Christmas. And it’s the same again this time. I hope to round the Horn tomorrow morning, but I’m going to let the heavy weather go by. I’m sad to leave the Southern Ocean. I feel good here. I don’t know when I’ll be back to see the albatrosses. Until I got to the Southern Ocean, I was quite tensed up. There was a moment with a deep low in the Indian and I decided to go for it, while my rivals moved away to the south I really enjoyed sailing like that. For me, it’s all about hunting down the lows. That’s how the adventure really began. I wanted to enter the unknown and I’m doing it my way.” Highlights from week 9 of the Vendée Globe:    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[VENDÉE GLOB - WEEK 8: LEADERS IN THE TRADES]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT The race leaders, Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) now 136 miles behind, are among the slowest in the fleet this morning making ten and nine knots respectively. Thomson has tacked this morning on to starboard to finally head northwards after getting into the NE'ly trade winds. Though this trade wind will progressively veer to the east and south east as they rise northwards, the trades remain light at only up to 15-18kts. But towards this upper end of this wind range Thomson should be back close to the optimum advantage for his working foil. They should reach the Equator between the seventh and eighth of January and weather routing predictions still has them only seven to eight hours apart on today's models. COLMAN FIXES IN STORMY CONDITIONS From one of the most remote locations of the Vendée Globe race course, 1700 miles west of Cape Horn in the middle of the Pacific some very hostile conditions with winds still between 40 and 50kts, the exhausted Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman has reported that he has managed to make a temporary fix to his forestay on Foresight Natural Energy.  Colman told Race Direction at the Paris HQ that he has managed to secure the forestay to the bow. After working on the bow in horrendous conditions Colman is now exhausted, saying he would rest before continuing eastwards towards the Horn. He still had winds of 40kts and big seas but they should subside progressively today. Jacques Caraës, Race Director said this morning: "Conrad has really been through it. He had to fight hard to lock his stay in place. He is exhausted, but got back racing at 0200 hrs.” In the same area of the Pacific some 340 miles to the East, conditions have already improved for now for Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) who said, after the same storm as Colman: “After a day and a horrible night with winds in excess of forty knots, I suddenly found myself with no wind in 6-8m high waves. It was horrible!”  The heavy weather is now passed for the Hungarian skipper. “The wind is now reasonable again. There is even some sunshine. I’m fine and can start to sail again.” Back marker Sébastien Destremau has now stopped in Esperance Bay, Tasmania at around 0130 UTC to check the rig on his TechnoFirst-faceOcean. And Spanish skipper Didac Costa in 15th place on One Planet One Ocean has had to drop his mainsail to make repairs. Like Colman and Fa, but some 960 miles behind in a different low pressure system, Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) and Eric Bellion have all had some strong winds, as has Rich Wilson (Great American IV). Bellion, the skipper of CommeUnSeulHomme has consolidated his tenth place having been the sailor who sailed the greatest distance in the past 24 hours: 371 miles. Others in this group sailed between 246 and 362 miles. The Pacific is not being kind to Irishman, Enda O’Coineen (retired after dismasting off New Zealand on January 1st), whose speed is very low as he heads for Dunedin and was down to just two knots this morning. Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland will not be able to avoid the gales moving in and will have to weather another storm before finding shelter in New Zealand. ALAN ROURA HAS REPLACED HIS DAMAGED RUDDER Yesterday evening, Alan Roura contacted his shore team to inform them that his starboard rudder had been damaged after a collision with an unidentified floating object, which also led to an ingress of water at the stern of the boat. This morning, the rudder has been replaced, the leak is under control and La Fabrique is back sailing again. Alan was inside his boat at around 2230hrs UTC when he heard a thud, when the boat collided with a UFO. The young skipper immediately saw that his starboard rudder had broken and that the carbon rod holding it in place had snapped. This led to an ingress of water. Alan began by securing the boat and closing the flooded compartment. Hove to and heeled over deliberately at 60° on the starboard tack to stem the ingress of water, Alan did what he could to stem the flow, but by then a large section of the boat had been flooded. There does not appear to be any major structural damage following the collision apart from the bearing on the rudder which ensures that the part is lined up correctly, so Alan was able to think about replacing his rudder. Remaining calm and determined to solve the problem as quickly as possible, the 23-year old Swiss sailor set about doing that. Within two hours, the spare rudder was in place. “The low arrived and the wind just kept on strengthening. There was about 30 knots, when the boat suddenly came to a standstill. I head a big bang, went outside and saw the starboard rudder floating behind the boat. It had obviously been hit by a UFO. I had to inspect the damage. Water started to rise around my feet and then calves. I soon understand that I needed to react quickly. I got the boat heeled over to stop the water from coming in. The wind was up to 40-45 knots with a 6m swell. I did what I could to stem the ingress, but it was impossible, with very heavy seas. Ten minutes later the stern section was flooded. I was gradually sinking. Water was getting in everywhere. The boat was very unstable so I lowered the mainsail with the J3 on the wrong side and the keel to leeward to get her right over. I needed to fit the spare rudder. I threw the rudder in the water and then pulled it up to slot it into its housing. After 30 minutes of a huge struggle with the desire to save my boat, I managed to get it in place." "The water had created a real mess inside and covered all the bags. I don’t have any dry clothes. Everything is soaked. Fortunately the bag with the spare computer was dry, as the onboard computer didn’t like the 50cm of water in the boat. My race against the others is over. I need o take the time to carry out repairs to bring my boat home safely to Les Sables d’Olonne. I’m not giving up. If I managed to get the ruder in place in such conditions, I should be capable of making it all the way around. The weather is not going to help me in the next couple of days. I’m trying to stay north to get the lighter winds as soon as possible. If I can’t manage to carry out repairs there, I’ll shelter near the Horn before climbing back up the Atlantic.” LOUIS BURTON AT THE HORN TOMORROW MORNING Fortunately the Pacific and Atlantic are being kinder to others. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is expected to round Cape Horn on Wednesday morning at around 0400hrs UTC. He has found what he calls exceptional conditions. ”I have 23 knots of wind and calm seas. It’s fantastic! I’m really happy and it feels like one of those incredible, yet stressful moments that are so exciting.” He is making it sound easy but Burton spent the whole day at the helm on New Year’s Day, while repairing his two autopilots. In the Atlantic, it is Yann Eliès who has had the best day on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir. He was the fastest of the six leading boats and has got back to within 45 miles of fourth placed, Jean-Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac who continues to be consistently slower. Eliès is ahead of Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) by around thirty miles. It’s been smooth sailing for Jérémie Beyou in third place with the skipper of Maître Coq gaining 70 miles on Alex Thomson, although the British sailor is still 580 miles ahead. ENDA O’COINEEN’S BOAT DISMASTED In a few unfortunate moments the Vendée Globe solo round the world race came to a premature end for Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen. A sudden, unexpectedly strong gust at 35kts of wind overpowered his autopilot, resulting in two crash gybes leaving no time to get a running backstay on to support the mast.  In seconds the mast of Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland is broken, falling over the side of the boat. Lying in 15th place in the famous round the world race, which represented the pinnacle of his lifetime of sailing and adventuring, O’Coineen had only just completed a series of necessary repairs 24 hours earlier, whilst sheltered in the lee of Stewart Island, at the very southernmost tip of New Zealand. Ironically only two hours previous to his mast crashing down, he had made a New Year’s video, promising to recalibrate his natural affinity for risk.   QUOTES: Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “We are still standing. A very bad night. The violence that the sea can heap on a boat is not describable. It was bad when the front was approaching, we were heading east, going across the seas, with a north wind, and thus a north to south sea train. Then when the front arrived, and the wind started to go from North to North Northwest to Northwest to West Northwest, we followed it around, keeping at right angles to it. The problem then is that we end up sailing directly into the sea that has been built up and the crashing gets much, much, much worse. I’m sitting at the chart table, watching instruments. The boat crashes off of, or gets crushed by, a breaking sea, or whatever, a big crash, and my finger moves off the barograph, across the keel canting control panel, and stabs the Standby button on the autopilot, which is about 8 inches away, which turns off the autopilot, so the boat then crash tacks, everything in the cabin comes flying across the cabin, the boat lays over on the other side, 4 tons of ballast water on the wrong side, 3 tons of keel bulb on the wrong side, the mainsail and boom are held by the preventer, the storm jib is backwinded into the daggerboard, the boat lies at 50 degrees of heel, and sits there, going sideways, making a bow wave with the side of the boat. Eventually crash tacked back and continued. Utterly Exhausted. Sorted the boat, got going where we wanted to go, went into the cabin, closed the door, climbed into the sleeping bag, and left the boat to do hopefully, the right thing.” Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean): “A difficult week comes to an end. The low to the south of Australia put the boat and me to the test. Every nm earned had a high cost, with accumulated fatigue for the equipment and some damage. Apart from the problem I already have with the sails, I have the added one of the autopilots now. You can imagine how important these are to solo sailors. Within the different parts that make up the autopilot, there is one that especially suffers wear after several weeks of sailing: the mechanical arm (piston and motor), that never stops working to maintain the course. Something similar to what happens with the sails on board has happened with them. They have begun to give worrying signs of wear. When I was replacing the original arms for the spare ones, I had an electronic problem that left me without autopilots for a few hours. It happened when I had been two days with any sleep and the solution was not so obvious. The relief was huge when I managed to fix it, because I had quickly found myself in an extreme situation: without autopilots, exhausted... Down here a small problem can quickly become a big problem.” Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel-Virbac: "It’s been complicated over the past 24 hours as I have had winds in excess of 40 knots. I entered an area of low pressure and am trying to cross the centre. I had to take in some reefs. It’s been tiring as there are lots of manoeuvres to do. It’s frustrating to do so much work and not be fast. Yann (Eliès) and Jean (le Cam) have narrowed the gap. The wind is now down to twenty knots, but will gradually strengthen and I’ll be upwind, which means a lot of work out on the deck, trimming and changing the sails. It’s not very easy, although I don’t have any major problems on the boat.” Pieter Heerema (NED) No Way Back: “I am just past the south of Tasmania and it is all going well. As always you prepare a little for the New Year and then the wind got up and I was busy and the boat was bouncing around and so there was no New Year and no party. The last two days have been tough weird winds with gusts, not particularly strong but with big, big winds. I can only sail on compass mode. And so you cannot go too far from the tiller or the push buttons. That keeps you busy all the time. The wind will increase steadily over the next day or day and a half. In a couple of days I will have 30-35 knots behind the front of a depression. I have one of these new fast boats and it is a bit sad I have not been able to let it perform like it should. It has new development foils which are really superb but I have not been able to show that because I have had these problems. Only now can I start to put the foot down and go a little bit faster. I will speed up a bit but mostly I will try to stay wise and prudent.” Highlights from an intense week 8! [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[VENDÉE GLOBE - WEEK 7: HIGH WIRE SOUTH ATLANTIC]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) continues to gain on leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) as the leading duo climb northwards and east, but the British skipper's advance has stabilised at around 435 nautical miles behind the Vendée Globe pacemaker Le Cléac'h.  Both are now on the edge of a the same low pressure system which is travelling east. Thomson has just gybed and is in 25kts of SW'ly breeze on his less favoured foil-less port gybe. Speeds should remain fairly similar today but weather modelling suggests Le Cléac'h should be slowed again with very little wind as of later tonight. Having been 818 miles behind on Friday evening, the race is back on, and - as Thomson said in his Christmas message from Cape Horn - the passage up the south of the South Atlantic can be the most complicated stretch of the Vendée Globe so far. There is little wind for their climb back up with hardly any along the coast of South America, which means they will have to sail further east but this option is contained to the east by the Antarctic Exclusion Zone which goes north for another 550 miles or so to 40°S. Banque Populaire VIII is only just out of the Furious Fifties sailing this morning at 49° S. In third place at 480 miles to Cape Horn, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) does not need to worry about anything much more than going fast on his easterly course, and is expected to pass the Cape tomorrow in the middle of the day more or less two days behind Alex Thomson and four behind Armel Le Cléac’h. He has a relatively comfortable lead over Jean-Pierre Dick. JP DIck (StMichel Virbac) is fast this morning with peak speeds of around 22 knots, but StMichel-Virbac is still 840 miles behind Maître CoQ. Correspondingly Dick has extended his lead over Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent), who are now 250 miles behind him. Now up to seventh place everything is going well for Louis Burton, who is having a remarkable race sailing at fifteen knots in a northerly air stream along the exclusion zone, while the Hungarian, Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary, 8th) is in a SW’ly flow. New Zealander Conrad Colman must keep his foot down on the pedal as a big storm is arriving south of New Zealand, but it looks likely he will manage to avoid it. With the two leaders out of the Pacific, a group of six boats is entering it, passing SE Cape, Tasmania. In the north, Arnaud Boissières has moved up a place and is now tenth, while Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), who is only 100 miles behind him in terms of distance to the finish is “only” fifteenth. The reason for this is that 140 miles to their south, the international brigade comprising Irishman, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Team Ireland, 11th), Frenchman, Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme, 12th), Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique, 13th) and the American, Rich Wilson (Great American IV, 14th) are sailing at slow speed. They should be able to accelerate this morning after slowing down for 48 hours sailing under reduced sail to get the timing right to avoid the worst of the big storm ahead of them. A thousand miles or so behind them, Spaniard Didac Costa (One Planet, One Ocean, 16e) is the fastest of the four at the rear of the fleet, sailing at fifteen knots. Dutchman, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) has lost a lot of ground sailing a long way to the north, as he struggles with his autopilot. He is still trying to find a solution to get back to real racing. Finally, Romain Attanasio, 18th, has had better days. He is sailing in more manageable conditions after three rough days, with the wind down to 25 knots instead of forty knots, but the skipper of Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys has a small technical problem. His masthead unit is not working and so his autopilot is not receiving any wind data, which for a solo sailor is a real problem. Just under 180 miles behind Romain Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is bringing up the rear of the fleet. Quotes Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys): “For two days I have been having problems, because of the storm and I don’t have any masthead unit.I’m not getting any wind data. I have been struggling to repair that. I changed the cable, checked the control unit. I have three units and none of them are working, so it’s a bit hard. I have been spending my time working on that, so I haven’t had time to open my Christmas presents.” Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent): “I got slowed in light airs, so had time to do a video and check out everything on the boat. In my dreams I’d like to complete the race in less than 80 days. It will chiefly depend on what the conditions are like when we sail back up. Conditions there can be very random. As far as the Cape of Good Hope, we can’t complain about what we’re getting. It’s straight ahead, while in front they are likely to get held up a bit. And we may make it through just as things are getting easier. Before we get there it looks like it’s going to be light airs off the cape.  But we’ll see, as the forecasts change very quickly in this zone. I’ll be getting to the Horn on 31st at 21h06 (laughs).”  Didac Costa (One Planet, One Ocean): “The last front has allowed me to sail fast and on course for almost 48 hours, but the Christmas truce is over. The wind has begun to drop and a storm is forming to the south of Australia in the next few hours and will deepen quickly making difficult the path towards the East in the coming days. This area between Australia and New Zealand, in addition to being meteorologically complex due to rapidly developing phenomena, has an added difficulty: the shore to the north and the ice exclusion zone to the south limit the possibilities of "negotiating" or dodging the lows. To avoid sailing upwind -the course that these boats least like- I am trying to go as far south as possible and maybe I will end up waiting for the new favourable wind. I repaired the damage in the J3 some days ago, but after a full check I detected principles of delamination in several areas of the sail. I decided to repair it properly before hoisting it again. So far with the boat’s movement it has been impossible to do this job and I will try to do it when the sea state calms down. I passed the second of the great capes yesterday: Cape Leeuwin. I hope to be halfway soon. From then on, I will stop moving away from Les Sables to approach it...” Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme): “Twelve years ago I crossed the Pacific with a couple of friends on a small 8m boat. It took us 47 days. So crossing the longitude of Auckland it will feel like I’m back somewhere I know. I know the route and that is reassuring.”  Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary: “I ran out of breeze yesterday morning completely. There was nothing. I had to sail 80 miles to the north to find new breeze which is what I now have SW’ly in 20kts, making 12-16kts now which is good but in effect that is half a day which I lost. I wanted to make some maintenance on the boat but sometimes I made only three knots of boat speed. The sea was smooth and the sails flapping. For the next couple of days I can move with this NW’ly wind I will get, and can make eight or nine hundred miles with it. I will need to sail close to the ice border because when a huge anticyclone forms above me then just 50 miles to the north there will be nothing. Before the start I said I did not care about what place I finish in. I still don’t care. To be eighth just now is really nice but it so far from the finish. I am more interested in keeping the boat alive, moving as fast as possible and as safe as possible.” Week 7 Vendée Globe highlights:  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The format for the next edition of the Barcelona World Race is evolving]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMT The Barcelona World Race is the second Round the World race on the IMOCA programme. Indeed, it was back in 2006 that the skippers opted for the race to take this direction and the first edition set sail in December 2007. One of the aims of this race was to facilitate access to singlehanded and double-handed races for sailors who only had experience of fully crewed races. Sailing around the world in double-handed format before taking on the Vendée Globe is certainly a good strategy. It is this methodology that the current IMOCA skippers were keen to reassert when they suggested that the FNOB, organiser of the Barcelona World Race, develop the format of the race to make it more accessible without losing the high quality, competitive element of past editions. In this way, the race will now make a stopover in Australia (Sydney to be confirmed), after leaving the Capes of Good Hope and Leeuwin to port, and then set sail again as a fleet back to Barcelona, this time leaving Antarctica to starboard and Cape Horn to port. This edition offers competitors the opportunity to switch co-skipper during the stopover, with only the skipper compelled to sail the entire Round the World course. Xosé-Carlos Fernandez, CEO of the FNOB, made the most of his trip to Paris during the boat show to participate in a live radio link-up with the three winners of the first three editions of the Barcelona World Race.   Two of these skippers are currently competing in the Vendée Globe: Jean-Pierre Dick, skipper of Saint-Michel-Virbac and winner of the 2007 and 2010 edition and Jean Le Cam, winner of the 2014 edition with Bernard Stamm, Jean aboard Finistère-Mer Vent and Bernard live from the Pays de Loire stand at the boat show. Jean Kerhoas, President of the IMOCA class, was on the set alongside Xosé-Carlos Fernandez, who presented this fourth edition of the Barcelona World Race with a format whose objective is to be more open to the world and to a greater number of skippers.  Quotes: Jean Le Cam: “The Barcelona World Race is an outward-looking race and this new format makes the race more attractive internationally, more accessible and lighter. This race is run in double-handed configuration and that makes it easier for new skippers to enter into it and provides an opportunity to those who wouldn’t have done it had it stuck with its conventional entry format.” Jean Kerhoas: “Together with Jean Le Cam, who’s one of 8 administrators in the IMOCA class, we’ve been working throughout the year on developing the IMOCA class. We’re currently discussing ideas with Xosé-Carlos about the format of the next edition of the Barcelona World Race and we’re in agreement with regards to the objectives: making the race more accessible and contributing to the development of our World IMOCA OCEAN MASTERS Championship.” Xosé-Carlos: “Jean Le Cam is the best possible ambassador for the Barcelona World Race, and through his sensible advice he is also helping to develop this new format Barcelona World Race. In a bid to ensure the coherence of the IMOCA circuit, we’re putting forward a new format for this 4th edition of the Barcelona World Race.” And the final word goes to Jean-Pierre Dick: “Personally I love this race. The Barcelona World Race really is unique so why not do the next edition with Bernard Stamm!!” Over the coming weeks, discussions will continue between IMOCA and the FNOB, who will officially present the race in its new format in Barcelona in February 2017.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[VENDÉE GLOBE - WEEK 6: RIVALRIES AND SOLIDARITY PREVAIL]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMT Twenty one skippers are engaged in their own personal battles with the weather on the 42nd day of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race, but in many cases it is the close rivalries which are, at the same time, additional motivation and a unique source of intense solidarity and camaraderie. It is really these second human facets which make this four yearly non-stop race around the world so entirely singular. A relatively light attrition rate, when compared with the usual 50 per cent drop out rate - 21 from the 29 starters are still racing - means solidarity and close fights between different groups or pairs are more prevalent than previous editions. Two storm sequences are affecting different sections of the fleet and exacting different levels of damage. Third and fourth placed Jérémie Beyou and Paul Meilhat were just six miles apart today. They are training partners from the Pole Finistère Course Au Large school as well as good friends who have now raced as a pair for 22 days of the race. Speaking regularly by VHF they have been able to compare experiences and bolster each other as they deal with the current big blow, 55kt winds and big seas, which has been a very unwelcome surprise. According to both, the weather models did not forecast such strong winds and big seas, and their struggle is likely to continue for at least 36 hours as the low is moving at the same speed as them.  SMA skipper Meilhat told Vendée LIVE yesterday: “We talked a lot after the blow. It doesn’t look like we have had any damage, but it was very hairy. We can’t get around the low, which is moving along with us. Gybing in 50 knots is not something we want to do. We’re going to have to be patient, follow the centre and hope the weather will change. The low needs to accelerate...” Nearly 4000 miles behind, still with some 700 miles to go to Cape Leeuwin, the gang of four have shared similar experiences in a southern ocean low which has also buffeted them with gusts of 50kts and above. Both Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) and Alan Roura (La Fabrique) report being knocked flat by waves. Roura has damaged the mainsheet track and hoop of his IMOCA which started life as Bernard Stamm’s self-built Superbigou. Sounding shaken the young skipper admitted this morning: “A wave as high as the first layer of spreaders swept in front of the boat and the autopilot was unable to cope, which I fully understand. 45 knots of wind, the keel on the wrong side. Then another breaker on the other side, as the seas were cross, got me back on track in a second. But with the strength of the wind on the mainsail with three reefs in, I couldn’t take up the slack on the sheet. The Harken steel eyestrap, which should take 8 tonnes broke. No more mainsail sheet and no more car. For the moment, it’s the backstay that is holding up the boom, so I can’t do anything on this tack, as there is too much wind and it is too dangerous at the stern. I have fitted a temporary sheet, which will last the day. I’m going to have to go up the mast as soon as possible to repair everything. I have a batten that is broken too.” From some 160 miles to the north, O’Coineen, was flattened and is left – once again – questioning his own sanity. His computers are down and he is back to basics on Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland. “My most crucial issue right now is the computers and my navigation. I am back using paper charts and I have a GPS. I am trying to get my back up system working. I had a crash gybe and went on my side and did a lot of damage, nothing I can’t handle. It has been very, very cold and very, very wet. I have a confession to make. I have raided the Christmas chocolates. But this is insanity. A man on his own 500 miles south of Australia, battering 50kt winds. I’d rather be home getting the turkey ready. I feel a bit like a turkey voting for Christmas at the moment.” At the front of the fleet Alex Thomson has largely stabilised his losses against leader Armel Le Cléac’h who is now 393 miles ahead of the British skipper with 2000 miles to sail to Cape Horn. Since the start of the race Thomson has been fastest in the fleet over the 24 hour period midday to midday on 13 days. Paul Meilhat has been quickest on six days, Le Cléac’h on four, Thomas Ruyant, Jéremie Béyou and Louis Burton all fastest of the fleet on three days of their race. Le Diraison heading for Melbourne French skipper Stephane Le Diraison, who was lying in 10th place in the Vendée Globe solo round with world race, is making a course for Melbourne, Australia 950 nautical miles away, after his IMOCA 60 Compagnie du Lit / Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt was dismasted yesterday evening. The solo skipper spoke to Race Direction around midnight last night and explained that he has cut away the damaged rig and rigging, he is in fair spirits, and was working hard to set a jury rig - probably with his boom. He was working as fast as he could while he had daylight until around 0400hrs UTC. Le Diraison had told Race Direction at 1742 UTC last night that his mast had failed when he was sailing in 30-35kts NW'ly winds. This morning he is reported to motoring north for a few hours in 25.30kts of NW'ly wind. He has about 300 nautical miles to make before he can escape the usual zone of the low pressure train. VENDÉE GLOBE HIGLIGHTS FOR WEEK 6: Source: Vendée Globe[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Vendée Globe - Week 5: A Game of Two Halves. Thomson Halves Deficit, Meilhat, Béyou Halfway]]> Tue, 13 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMT The fact that the time and distance that separates Alex Thomson from race leader Armel Le Cléac'h has more than halved in 24 hours is of little real consequence to the British skipper as he sets up for the strong winds brought along by a second successive low pressure system and then a messy area of high pressure thereafter. The track of the depression has altered enough to force the French skipper, who has led the Vendée Globe now for over one week, to gybe and move back to the north-east. As he slants back towards the course of his British rival, Le Cléac'h's margin has reduced again, from a comfortable 195 miles last night to 80 miles this Sunday afternoon.   But Thomson is unmoved by the gains. It is the outcome after this new low, which is of more interest. Speaking as he emerged from a brutal two days in the Tasman Sea and the Pacific, this afternoon, still in a ‘mere' 30kts of breeze, he outlined: “We just have to look and see what the situation is like after this second low. Armel is a little further east than me, so he should cross through it quicker, but then he will be held up in the middle in the light airs like me and then it depends on the wind angle when we all come out. I think where we are at the moment is irrelevant. We have to look further ahead.” Some 1,200 miles behind perennial leader Le Cléac'h, both third placed Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jéremie Beyou passed the theoretical midway point of the course today. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) have crossed Cape Leeuwin. Passing in eighth in 34d 07h 08m Le Cam is exactly three hours faster than the race record pace set by François Gabart in 2012. At 57 years old on the optimised Farr design which won the Vendée Globe as Foncia in 2008 and triumphed in the last Barcelona World Race when he raced with Bernard Stamm the redoubtable, incorrigible Le Cam is four days and 9 hours quicker than his time on Synerciel in 2012. Dick is two days and one hour faster than in 2012. Living the dreamFinishing the Vendée Globe is the universal dream, even if the actual expectations and aspirations among the 22 skippers still racing, are wildly different. At the back of the fleet Sébastien Destremau is back at peace with his own world. After 36 hours trapped in a doldrums-like calm, his ‘office' - as he refers to his 1998 IMOCA, which started life as Josh Hall's Gartmore and went around in 2008-9 as Steve White's Toe in the Water – is trundling along at 10kts in a good NW'ly breeze. Destremau was resplendent in T-shirt and shorts, enjoying regular coffee breaks on his aft ‘patio', despite the fact that he is sailing in the Roaring Forties, in fact at 41 degrees south. Destremau passed the first of the Vendée Globe's three biggest milestones, the Cape of Good Hope, at 1430hrs UTC this afternoon, about 17 hours after Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) who – because he had to return to Simon's Town to repair his rudders – has crossed the Cape of Good Hope twice! It was only in May last year that Eric Bellion, at 39 years old, sailed seriously on his IMOCA 60 for the first time. Helped by Michel Desjoyeaux's Mer Agitée and the young British skipper Sam Goodchild – who joined Bellion on Vendée LIVE today – Bellion took on a tentative Transat Jacques Vabre last autumn in the Finot-Conq designed former DCNS. It is not Bellion's first time around the world though. When he was 26 he sailed around on a tiny 8.6m boat, and has subsequently skippered a number of ocean sailing initiatives which highlight the values of inclusion and diversity. This Vendée Globe started relatively steadily for Bellion but now he is living every element of his dream, even down to an enforced rudder repair. “At the start, I didn't really care about the race itself, I just wanted to be in harmony with the sea and my boat. It was so difficult to find my rhythm and my pace. The Vendee Globe doesn't fit in with my expectations. I knew it was something crazy and I knew it was a long way around the planet… I knew many things. Now though I feel very, very lonely and I've only covered a third of the race with all the rest of the planet to go. It's not something you can imagine unless you experience it and when you're racing in it you feel so vulnerable and weak up against nature and the sea. Anything could happen, you could collide with a whale, have electrical issues… There's always a big depression on its way, the clouds are tricky here and the swell is huge, which tells me I have to be very careful and find a pace that's reasonable for me. The race is something huge and crazy and in other ways it's incredibly beautiful. I am enjoying myself too though.” And veteran Nandor Fa's race goes steadily from strength to strength. He finished fifth in the 1993 edition of the race and retired in 1996 but his dream of a third attempt at the Vendée Globe stayed on hold while he raised his daughters and built a successful marina pontoon construction business. He largely designed his own IMOCA and oversaw the build, doing much of the work himself. But he has had many bumps on the road to the start line, not least having to all but rebuild the hull because of a structural issue with the wrong specification of carbon fibre. Consequently he ran very late with his entry to the last Barcelona World Race. And in the last Transat Jacques Vabre he was dismasted early on.But right now the Spirit of Hungary skipper, 63 years old, is absolutely in his element, seizing every opportunity with both hands. A transient sniff of the top ten, momentarily ranking ahead of French rival and sparring partner, Stephane le Diraison, who is only 14 miles ahead, Fa is pressing hard, averaging 17kts.“I am going out to race. I am a racer. I love speed and going fast,” warned Fa pre-start to anyone who inadvertently mentioned him in the same sentence as other skippers aged north of 60." Week 5 in the Vendée Globe: Highlights [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Leeuwin record for leader Le Cléac'h, damage for Josse and Attanasio]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMT The French skipper Sébastien Josse, who lies in third place in the Vendée Globe, suffered serious damage to the port side foil of the IMOCA Edmond de Rothschild when he ploughed into the trough of a big wave this morning. He had been sailing on starboard gybe contending with difficult conditions, winds of 30-35kts and big, confused seas when the incident happened, some 900 miles to the SW of Cape Leeuwin. Josse reported the damage to his team at 0930hrs UTC this morning and has subsequently put his racing priorities temporarily on hold in order to avoid the worst of the tropical low pressure system which was generated in the notorious area off Mozambique several days ago. The depression was forecasted to hold gusts of 50kts and seas up to ten metres high. He is in regular contact with his team and Race Direction. The safety of the skipper and the IMOCA 60 is his primary priority. He was expected to route to the south-east towards the centre of the low pressure system, seeking lighter winds as he looks to find a solution to his damage. The low pressure centre was forecast to be tracking close to the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. The damage to his port side foil is reported to have happened when the boat stopped suddenly and the appendage crashed downwards into the top of the housing, damaging the control system. Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys), 39, who was lying in 18thplace has been forced to alter course towards Cape Town after suffering damage to both of his rudders. Racing his first Vendée Globe aboard the historic evergreen Lombard design which started out as Catherine Chabaud's Whirlpool and completed the last race as Initiatives Coeur in the hands of Tanguy de Lamotte, Attanasio has expressed his desire to carry out repairs in a sheltered area near Cape Town in accordance with the race's no assistance rules, and aims to continue the race. Attanasio is reported to be in good health and when the incident happened was about 470 miles south of Cape Town where he is expected in around three to four days. “Romain is not giving up and is already feeling more positive. He will be doing his utmost to repair his boat and continue his adventures. I hope he will be encouraged by as many people as possible,” Sam Davies, Attanasio's partner and team manager commented. Armel Le Cléac'h smashed the race reference for the passage from Les Sables d'Olonne to Cape Leeuwin early this morning breaking the mark set by François Gabart in December 2012 by an incredible five days 14 hours and 26 minutes. Banque Populaire VIII skipper Le Cléach took just 28 days 20 hours and 12 minutes to reach the longitude of the SW corner of Australia. A certain symmetry with the 2012-13 race emerged when Briton Alex Thomson crossed the Cape Leeuwin longitude five hours and 16 minutes later in second place. Four years ago during the last edition Le Cléac'h was five hours and 49 minutes behind race winner Gabart. In 2012 Thomson – who went on to finish the race third - was also having a great race on the previous Hugo Boss and crossed Cape Leeuwin in third place one day and three hours behind Gabart. Thomson has lost some miles to Le Cléac'h over the last 36 hours and is 110 miles behind on the 1400hrs Monday rankings. The top duo had been suffering with difficult, more moderate airs during yesterday, but are expecting to get the strong winds from the low which Josse is struggling with, although they have a better orientation relative to its path. Le Cléac'h admitted he did not know his exact elapsed time nor how much he had broken the record by when he spoke to Vendée LIVE today before revealing that he listens to comedy podcasts to relax from the constant stress. “It was nice to pass the second cape in the lead. It wasn't really a key objective, but it's great to be in front at one of the three major capes we have to pass,” he said. “Alex was first at the Cape of Good Hope a few hours ahead of me and this time it was the opposite. I haven't studied the exact time, as I have been busy on Banque Populaire, but I think it was a good time. I don't know what was up with Alex last night. He wasn't very fast. Maybe he had a problem to deal with on his boat. We're in a transition phase between two lows. Conditions are starting to change and the skies are clouding over. The wind is gradually strengthening. We just gybed as the wind shifted to the WNW. It's going to get rougher in the next few hours. We'll be entering the Pacific in just under a week, but the final week in the Indian is going to be complicated. It's not going to be easy with the first deep low moving in this evening and then another one that will be with us south of New Zealand. Yesterday I had a lot of manoeuvres to do, but after that you enjoy a good meal and change your clothes. My little heater allows me to dry my clothes, which is good as after each manoeuvre we are soaked with the sea and with sweat. Then to relax I listen to some comedy podcasts.” Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi, who is heading to Cape Town after being forced to abandon due to a breakage to the top third of his mast on Spirit of Yukoh, was visibly touched by the messages of support when he spoke to Vendée LIVE today. Safran skipper Morgan Lagraviere, who also had to abandon, and got to know Shiraishi well when based at Roland Jourdain's Kairos base, shared a typical sentiment. Shiraishi said: “As the first Japanese sailor to do the Vendée Globe, it was really an honour to be there at the start. It's true that it is a disappointment not to complete this Vendée Globe. I have had lots of messages of support and would like to thank everyone.” Morgan Lagravière responded: “I'm glad to see you smiling as I know how hard it must have been for you not to finish this race. You have made us laugh so far and I'm sure you'll continue to do that. I look forward to having a debriefing with you.”    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[KOJIRO SHIRAISHI ON SPIRIT OF YUKOH FORCED TO RETIRE]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMT At 0240 UTC on Sunday December 4th, Kojiro Shiraishi, Skipper of Spirit of Yukoh contacted his shore team to tell them that he had dismasted. The boat Spirit of Yukoh was sailing in a moderate breeze (20 knots). Kojiro inside of the boat heard the sound of the mast breaking at around 0230 UTC. Kojiro has since then climbed the mast and succesfully removed the broken part of the mast. Kojiro and the team came to the conclusion that it was impossible to repair this damage and there were too many risks to allow him to continue in these conditions. He decided to retire from the race at 0830 UTC. Kojiro is now safely heading for Cape Town. All the sponsors for this project have said that they are relieved that Kojiro was not injured during this incident. They are all looking forward to assisting Kojiro in his future adventures. Kojiro's words :"At 0330 UTC, I heard the mast break from inside of the boat. I quickly went outside to check the damage but the mast had broken in half above the second spreader. I was able to remove the broken piece and I will need to go up again to do some cleaning. The wind was 20 knots at the time I dismasted. I'm okay. I don't need any assistance, and I am heading for Cape Town. I am sorry for everyone who supported me in this journey and would like to particularly thank my sponsors for their kind support."[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[A unique encounter offshore of the TAAF (French Southern and Antarctic Lands)]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMT Unprecedented footage of the Vendée Globe frontrunners smashing through the Southern Ocean has been captured on camera for the first time in the solo round the world yacht race's 27-year history. The stunning images of French sailor Armel Le Cléac'h, Brit Alex Thomsonand French Sébastien Josse as they passed the Kerguelen Islands deep in the southern Indian Ocean were filmed by French television station TF1. The Kerguelens are an archipelago of more than 300 islands that form one of the most remote places on the planet – Africa lies 2,000 miles to the west, Australia is 2,000 miles to the east and Antarctica is 1,000 miles to the south. It is the first time since the Vendée Globe began in 1989 that competitors have been filmed racing so far south. It was made possible thanks to the work of the French navy, TF1 and the Vendée Globe's race directors. All three skippers are sailing cutting-edge 60ft raceboats fitted with special hydrofoils that help lift them partially out of the water to reduce drag and therefore increase speed. Thomson, 42, the only British skipper among a field of 29 starters, suffered damage to one of his two foils earlier in the race when it was broken off in a collision with an unknown object. Speaking to race HQ this Wednesday 30th of November, Thomson said the arrival of the TV crew had been a welcome distraction from racing in such isolation. “I had about 25 – 30 knots, and the sea state was really horrible - very grey, bloody freezing, so it was a nice distraction for the helicopter to come,” Thomson said. “The pilot did a nice bit of backwards flying while he was doing some filming when I had the Union flag out, so I thought it was really cool actually, it was a really nice thing, and to whoever organised that I'd like to say thank you very much, much appreciated. The sails I had up were two reefs [in the mainsail], a staysail, and a fractional zero.  I think I was averaging 21.5 knots, so top speed was possibly 28, and down as low as 17 probably. I was averaging about 21.5, something like that, so not too bad for a non-foiler. It was nice to see people in the helicopter, that was interesting. It was good to have some other people around.” The Vendée Globe began in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on November 6. Competitors race solo around the world via the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn before returning to Les Sables – a journey of around 25,000 miles. The leading pair are neck and neck after more than 10,000 miles of ocean racing. Thomson said he was relishing the battle with Le Cléac'h, but was also pleased to have him nearby should anything go wrong onboard. In 2006 Thomson's life was saved by fellow Brit Mike Golding during a round the world race after the keel on his boat broke off in the Southern Ocean. “It's good to have Armel there as a pacemaker, someone to be able to measure yourself against,” Thomson said. “I think it makes us both faster. As well as that there's the safety, obviously. I was in a similar situation in 2006 with Mike Golding. My keel broke and by the time I needed to abandon the boat he was 100 miles down the track, and all credit to Mike he turned his boat around, put three reefs in and a foresail up and came back and saved my life.”   Sébastien Josse commented this Friday 2, November : « At daybreak this morning, I had the helicopter from the French Navy just 50 metres astern of me! It was rather nice as there's not a lot of entertainment in the vicinity, joked the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild. They stayed with me for around forty minutes or so and we talked about the race and the upcoming strategy It really was a great moment. I admire the quality of the guy piloting the helicopter as he was able to do exactly what he wanted with it. » This operation is a major first in the history of the Vendée Globe and it took many months of organisation as well as the mutual support for the project of the French Navy, TF1 and the Vendée Globe. However, the results speak for themselves. These images are truly fascinating given the remote, hostile filming location as well as the fact that they lift the veil on one of the most mysterious elements of offshore racing: the reality of sailing singlehanded in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In that regard, they're naturally a great success in terms of communication, but it goes far deeper than that as they expand the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people who get a real kick out of following this solo, non-stop, unassisted round the world race on a daily basis.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Vendée Globe -Week 3: Managing the situation]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT The Vendée Globe is not the same thing all the time. They have to put up with light airs and fight back to gain an advantage in stronger winds, which is exactly what the leader Armel Le Cléac’h and a few others are doing this morning. Putting their foot down, stoking up the engine, cracking the whip…These are expressions sometimes used to describe what the sailors are doing, but in reality this job is quite different. It’s a question of managing the situation. When things are tricky or easy. It is even the key to succeeding or failing. Over 80 days of racing, you have to know how to take care of the sailor and the boat (which is no easy task at 20 knots in the deafening IMOCAs). They have to identify any work that has to be done at the best time they can find. They have to avoid pushing the man or the boat too hard. They also need to make the most of their advantages when the opportunity arises. There is no point in taking unnecessary risks. That is exactly what Armel Le Cléac’h is doing and not just since yesterday evening. A few days ago, when he was behind Alex Thomson, he told us, “I’m not going to wear myself out just to be ahead at the Cape of Good Hope.” A wise choice by the Jackal, the skipper of Banque Populaire VIII, who was waiting for his time to come. The first opportunity arose yesterday, when his route at 110 degrees from the wind and the sea state, relatively calm for the Indian Ocean, allowed him to assert himself. Like a good chess player, Armel Le Cléac’h grabbed the advantage. He knows that Hugo Boss has a damaged starboard foil. He knows that at this angle and wind strength, he can make the most of the new technology. He is sailing two knots faster than Alex Thomson, sometimes even three in certain stretches. He is sending a clear message to his opponent: “My dear opponent, when the wind comes around to the left of our boats and when the seas allow, I’m going to be faster than you!” For Alex Thomson, this assertion must be hard to bear. The British sailor can only hope that the route they follow is as much as possible on the starboard tack, so he can use his intact port foil. When the wind comes around to the right, Hugo Boss will be back on equal footing with Banque Populaire VIII, and is probably faster. We should not believe that this is all done and dusted. On Thursday a low from Madagascar will be blocking their path and will probably mean they have to gybe. ‘Wait and see’ is what Alex will be telling himself. All fast in the Top Ten Sébastien Josse is managing things well too. After a tricky weekend, he is still in third place, but now 500 miles behind the two leaders with whom he sailed practically to the Cape of Good Hope. Over the past few hours, he has been back up to speed. The slowdown is behind him and he has been busy getting into a good position carrying out a lot of manoeuvres, to hop onto the next train heading east. He carried out a thorough check of his boat. He told us during the night that he was not going to take any unnecessary risks just to grab a few miles back. It is better to keep up the pace and wait for a good opportunity. If they get held up at the front, there may be an opportunity for him to bounce back. But not for the moment. The same is true for the boats between 4th and 6th place - Jérémie Beyou, Paul Meilhat and Yann Eliès – who are aware they have to adapt their efforts to the moment. In 4th place (the leader is between 800 and 1100 miles ahead of this group) these three members of the Finistère Offshore Training Centre in Brittany are also managing the situation. They are currently clocking up the best average speeds, doing better than Alex Thomson and just behind Armel le Cléac'h. They are well aware that if they manage to complete the Vendée Globe (which none of them have ever done, as Paul is a rookie and Jérémie and Yann were forced to retire before), they will be well placed in the rankings and even very well placed. They know too that while the race has been fast, there is still two thirds of the course left to sail, so anything can still happen to favour them or to harm their position. On the starboard tack on the back of a low, the group formed by Dick-Ruyant-Le Cam (and we could add Kito de Pavant) are also on the attack. Jean-Pierre Dick’s foiler StMichel Virbac is the fastest in the group this morning. Their positions vary in terms of latitude, with Jean Le Cam the furthest south in the Roaring Forties, while Thomas Ruyant is two degrees further north and Jean-Pierre Dick is in the middle in front of these two trajectories. Kito de Pavant managed to slide under the St. Helena high and should be able to sail along the limit to the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, even if the Cape of Good Hope is still a thousand miles ahead. Light conditions in the pack The ten frontrunners are dealing with strong winds, sailing on smooth trajectories at high speeds. But from eleventh place back, it is a very different pace and atmosphere. They are dealing with light conditions. At the latitude of Porto Alegre, they are struggling in light winds sometimes down to below six knots. “I’m fed up with the highs,” said Conrad Colman, who is going to have to wait at least a day and a half to be able to surf the Southern Ocean, some 300 miles lower down on the charts. That is a huge distance, when you’re sailing at between five and eight knots. Between 3000 and 3300 miles back from the leader, this slowdown concerns all the boats between eleventh and nineteenth place. The only exceptions being Alan Roura, Enda O’Coineen and Pieter Heerema. By sailing close to Brazil ahead of the pack, the Swiss, Dutch and Irish sailors have done well getting around the west of the St. Helena high. There is only a small chance that this option will work out in the end and they will have a huge distance to sail eastwards, but who knows, it may just work… They all sailed fifty miles or so more towards the finish than the other boats in the pack over the past 24 hours. One to watch. Tanguy de Lamotte back in Les Sables d'Olonne After Tanguy de Lamotte officially retired during the night, it is now Sébastien Destremau and Didac Costa, who are at the rear of the fleet in 24th and 25th place. The Catalan sailor has regained 80 miles from the Frenchman since yesterday and One Planet One Ocean is only 143 miles back from TechnoFirst-faceOcean. They too are having to manage the situation during this race within the race 4000 miles back from Armel Le Cléac’h. There will be an emotional moment for Tanguy de Lamotte and all those, who want to greet him in the harbour entrance channel in Les Sables d’Olonne later this morning (around 1130 UTC). While they wait for the tide, Tanguy and his team have traced a heart in the water. Tanguy was determined to sail his boat home alone, “to respect the spirit of the Vendée Globe.” If you happen to be in the area, pop along and give him a great welcome. Round-up In the 0800 UTC ranking this Monday 28, November 2016, Armel Le Cléac’h placed himself practically in front of Alex Thomson. Giving up 23.5 miles to do so, he is now 28 miles ahead. The two frontrunners are on the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone 5 miles to their right. They have slowed slightly to around 18 knots before diving down to the Kerguelens. Sébastien Josse in third place has regained ten miles or so. Only four skippers sailed more than 400 miles over the past 24 hours and there were big differences between them with Banque Populaire VIII (Armel Le Cléac'h) sailing 478 miles, Jérémie Beyou 452, Paul Meilhat 444 and Alex Thomson 438 miles. There have been no changes in the rankings with the exception of twelfth place going to Stéphane Le Diraison, who has taken this spot from the Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi. Lagravière and Riou safely on the dock in Cape Town The rookie skipper of Safran was in fourth place when one of his rudders was destroyed by a floating object south west of South Africa three days ago. The collision immediately put an end to Lagravière's dreams of completing his first Vendée Globe, a tough thing to accept given the amount of work over the last four years that went into getting him to the start line.  But the same seas that ended his race dreams delivered a gift of condolence as the 29-year-old yesterday approached Cape Town at sunrise, in the form of a pod of whales. Lagravière said the moment lifted his spirits, which were then raised even higher when he was met on the dock by the PRB shore team waiting for fellow race retiree Vincent Riou. “Ultimately it’s been pretty good to make landfall in Cape Town as it’s an exceptional, magical place,” he said. "As I came in, I had whales all around the boat, together with the beautiful colours as the sun rose with the backdrop of Table Mountain. It was a nice transition from sea to land. The PRB team was there to take the lines so that what great to chat with them and have human contact.  We welcomed Vincent in last night and he has digested things now and has the same mindset as me. Obviously it affects you deeply having to retire and we’re both disappointed, but the Vendée Globe is something else and you can’t control everything, especially the unpredictable. We now have to concentrate on finding solutions and getting the boats home with good humour.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Damage to Safran forces Morgan Lagravière to abandon in the Vendée Globe]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT Following the damage to his rudder in the late morning (Thursday), Morgan Lagravière, the skipper of Safran, has confirmed that he has been forced to abandon the Vendée Globe, after agreement with his team and his sponsors. On a phone call with his team this afternoon, Lagravière explained: "I had a really rough night, with autopilot problems. I had between 20-25 knots of wind and the boat was uncontrollable. I was knocked down 4 or 5 times. While I was taking a nap at midday, I felt the boat broach. While I was righting, I noticed that the leeward rudder had come out of its base and that 2/3 of it was missing. I think this was due to hitting a UFO. Unfortunately, I don't have enough kit to repair the damage, so this is the end for me. I want to keep in mind the positives of this adventure: 18 days of extraordinary racing on a very powerful boat, with which I was always in the hunt. This solo race was also an opportunity for me to learn a little about myself and what's important in life. I want to thank my technical team and all the fans who supported me." Lagravière is currently sailing towards Cape Town (South Africa), where he is expected to arrive within three days. Philippe Petitcolin, managing director of Safran, expressed his support for the young skipper: "It's a huge disappointment for Morgan, the Safran Sailing Team, and for all the Safran employees, who have passionately followed and supported the boat and this adventure. Since the start in Les Sables d'Olonne, the Morgan-Safran duo has shown itself to be more than up to the challenge and has been permanently in the lead group. Morgan has shown his intensely competitive spirit, and represented the values of Safran. I join all Group employees in sending him my support at this difficult time."  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Keel damage on PRB, Vincent Riou forced to retire from the Vendée Globe]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT The skipper of PRB hit a UFO on Sunday morning, while speeding along with the frontrunners in the Vendée Globe on his way towards the Cape of Good Hope (a different incident from yesterday’s, when his rudder kicked up). Following on from this collision, Vincent Riou did not initially notice any damage and was able to continue to sail normally. It was only three hours later that the keel started to vibrate and emit loud noises, indicating there were huge strains on the appendage. These sounds continued to grow during Sunday night. Taking into account the weather conditions (25 to 30 knot winds with average speeds around 19-20 knots), Vincent was unable to go and check the keel housing, but informed his shore team of the incident. The PRB team and the boat’s designers (Guillaume Verdier) and the structural calculations team at HDS GSEA Design (Hervé Devaux and Denis Glehen) began to study all the hypotheses based on what they knew (essentially the type of noise coming from the keel). It was only this morning while sailing in calmer conditions that Vincent was able to carry out the necessary checks. He discovered that the axis of the keel had been damaged in the collision. This titanium part is an essential element on the boat. It allows the keel to be attached to the monohull with a plastic ball joint and it is also this axis that allows the keel to be canted. When the incident occurred, the plastic ball joint broke leading to permanent wear between the keel axis and the ball joint attachment. In the longer term with the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the climb back up the Atlantic ahead, that means that the integrity of the boat is in danger or even that the keel could break away from the 60-foot boat. This is a huge disappointment for the winner of the 2004 Vendée Globe. He saw his dream come to an end four years ago (almost to the day) after a collision with a UFO. He set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on 6th November hoping to keep up with the new boats fitted with foils. This was successful, as PRB has always been up there with the leaders. For a long time neck and neck with Banque Populaire, Vincent was even in second place on several occasions and had an exceptional voyage down the Atlantic aboard his boat fitted with daggerboards. This performance earned him the congratulations of many observers, and gave him hope for the rest of the round the world voyage. The skipper of PRB is currently sailing in decent conditions (14 knots of wind) and Vincent is not in danger. He is in contact with his shore team to decide where he may stop to repair his monohull before heading back to France. This will probably be Cape Town in South Africa. Interview with Vincent Riou: This is a huge disappointment. But as every time, life goes on and for me that means bringing my boat back safely to land somewhere. On Sunday night something hit the bulb. The keel started to vibrate. It then started moving from side to side. That soon stopped. It was not immediate as the boat was going at 25 knots when it happened. I didn’t think much about it. The keel often hits things in ocean races and this bang wasn’t that big. Later that night, I started hearing cracking noises around the keel. The sort of noise I had already heard, as I had already had noises from the carbon rubbing between the keel and the hull. I said to myself that there was some friction, but that it wasn’t serious. But gradually the noise grew louder. I started to ask myself questions, and think about what may have happened. I started to consult others. (…). We weren’t that worried, but not that relaxed either, as it is not an easy place to get to in the boat. Without removing the keel, you can’t really see what has happened. So what I did was to say I would continue. It could have been a small move by the keel and the carbon will be rubbing on the hull, meaning the noise should fade away. Or it was something more serious with damage to the bearings and then the noise would increase. I continued to sail for 24 hours. The noise continued to grow until late yesterday, when I started hearing metallic sounds as well as noises from the carbon. I could se that the bearings were damaged and that it was beginning to affect the housing around the bearings. I contacted the people, who worked on the boat. They tried to figure out what might have happened. They came to the same conclusion: in the short term there was no risk, as these are large parts, but this metal against metal rubbing could lead to more serious damage. It’s hard thinking about sailing around the world with damage like that. This morning, the weather eased after the front went over. I was able to open the keel housing and feel around inside. I could feel that the keel was moving. Around the front bearings, the hole was bigger than the axis of the keel. That only confirmed my fears about damage to the bearings. I don’t know what to think. This damage happened at almost the same point as the damage four years ago. When I passed Salvador a few days ago, I spent the night thinking about that. As I had passed Salvador, I told myself that I had got rid of my demons. And then just as 4 years ago in the same place, 14 days after the start we collided with irreparable damage being done. It’s hard! The simplest thing is to head for South Africa, Cape Town. I’m currently checking to see if they have all I need there. We’re sorting things out with the team. I’m thinking about all those, who have been with me and following me since the start. I know there were a lot of people behind us. I’m really thinking of them. I’m disappointed about what has happened, but I’m disappointed for them in particular.” Jean-Jacques Laurent, President of PRB: “Vincent retiring is a huge disappointment of course. He has had an incredible race since the start in Les Sables d’Olonne racing against boats from the latest generation. He got us dreaming. The whole firm was following him and passionately supporting him. Unfortunately, once again it is a UFO that has blocked him. We went through that 4 years ago. It’s hard accepting that sort of thing over and over again. But we are fully behind Vincent’s decision, as once again, he is reacting as a good sailor. The main thing is making sure he is safe and can bring the boat home safely. That is why he has taken the right decision.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Vendée Globe - Week 2: Le Cléac'h and Josse close in on Thomson]]> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT Chasing pair Armel le Cléac'h and Seb Josse began making inroads into Vendee Globe frontrunner Alex Thomson's lead last night following the news that the British skipper's yacht Hugo Boss had suffered damage to its starboard foil. With Thomson unable to benefit from the lift and speed generated by having the foil in the water, the gap between him and Le Cléac'h, the runner up in the previous two editions of the solo non stop round the world race, shrank from 125 nautical miles to just under 90, with Josse a further 15 miles back. The trio lead a pack of seven boats that were able to hook onto a fast-moving low pressure system, catapulting them towards the Southern Ocean. Despite his setback, at the latest position update at 0400 UTC Thomson was travelling at 20.4 knots, half a knot quicker than Le Cléac'h and more than a knot above Josse, in around 30 knots of breeze from the north. In fact over the 24 hours that preceded the report his was the quickest boat in the fleet, with an average of 20.7 knots. If he can keep his foot on the gas, Thomson may well be able to fend off the attack from from Le Cléac'h's (Banque Populaire VIII) and Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) until he is able to tack onto starboard at the Cape of Good Hope and begin foiling once more. But the big news this morning is that Vincent Riou (PRB) has accelerated and is now managing to keep up the pace. Just ahead of a cold front associated with a Brazilian low, the five frontrunners are tightly packed, but are extending their lead over Paul Meilhat (SMA) and particularly Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who find themselves in different wind conditions – 25-30 knots from the north for the leaders and only around twenty for the chasing boats. Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir) has been unable to follow the same route, because of a massive change in the position of the St.Helena high. He has been attempting to remain ahead of the cold front that is propelling the leaders at high speed, but is so far back that the wind and sea conditions are very different.  He is going to have to turn his route eastwards Towards the tail end of the fleet Dutchman Pieter Heerema's No Way Back and Swiss sailor Alan Roura on La Fabrique notched up major milestones in their races by crossing the Equator overnight. That leaves just three boats still to cross into the Southern Hemisphere – Kilcullen Voyager skippered by Irishman, Enda O'Coineen, Sebastien Destramau's TechnoFirst-face Ocean and One Planet One Ocean with Spain’s Didac Costa at the helm. Irish skipper Enda O Coineen is preparing to cross the Equator later today, but this is rather a special moment for him for another reason too, as there has been a birth in the family. He was proud to announce yesterday that he has a new grand-daughter. This news appears to have compensated for a disappointing day out on the water, as after thinking he was out of the clutches of the Doldrums, he found himself becalmed for several hours, before experiencing some very strong gusts that appeared out of nowhere. Bertrand de Broc, forced to abandon his race yesterday due to structural damage caused by a collision off Portugal, remains anchored off Fernando de Noronha this morning. It is thought he will take his IMOCA 60 MACSF to Recife some 300 miles away on the north eastern corner of Brazil. Quotes Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir): “I’m racing against the front and have a tiny opeing to get through. I hope that this route will work out for the next four or five days. I hope that the front passing around the high won’t swallow me up. In any case, I can’t keep up the pace set by the leaders. The gaps that have developed mean that we are no longer in the same weather system. I’m in my own race now, while attempting not to get too far behind the frontrunners, when they reach the Cape of Good Hope. But I think I’ll be two days behind them. It’s going to be complicated getting closer to them. I simply can’t keep up that pace, but in my opinion, they won’t be able to stay at those speeds for long either. We’ll see what happens when the get to the Indian.” Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “I'm doing very well – I've got a very stable weather pattern. I'm looking forward to crossing the Equator and getting back in the fleet. I went very far east when I should have followed the old rule of staying west. I thought I could get back but it didn't work. But I'm on great form, my daughter delivered my granddaughter, my first granddaughter, yesterday, so that's very good news. I'm not ready to be a parent yet let alone a grandparent so I shudder at the thought! Maybe this will make me a better parent when I get back. I think the emotion is more amplified. You think an awful lot more and it's more intense because of the isolation. You think through life and all the details 24/7, and that's combined with the physical and mental activities. It is more moving – on land you've lots of other things going on so the brain doesn't have the same ability to focus. The emotional part is much deeper. Whether it's driving me harder or not I don't know - in fact, I'm being more careful to tell you the truth. Every time you get up and walk on deck you're putting yourself at risk. These boats are machines and you've got to keep them turning over.” “I'll probably cross the Equator later on this afternoon or tonight. We'll have a little bottle of champagne and a big fat cigar [at the Equator], and I've made special arrangements to have an appointment arranged with King Neptune himself. He's going to come and visit and I'm going to ask him to bless my new granddaughter. “I wouldn't say my spirits are high but I'm on good solid form. You have to manage yourself emotionally through the ups and downs but with this extreme sailing in lovely warm trade winds I'm happy on my boat. I can't complain!” Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean): “After almost 10 days of sailing I have the feeling of finally being in tune with the boat and the ocean. Everything is going reasonably well on board and I'm fixing everything that goes wrong. The boat maintains her potential for now. I follow the evolution of the leaders and their performance is awesome! I play and think about how ‘Kingfisher’ would sail with foils. The temperature in these latitudes even allows me to have a nap on the deck sometimes and, although today it is cloudy and it is drizzling at times, the last few days I have enjoyed under a radiant sun and a starry night sky. The passage by Cape Verde should not be a problem. It seems that the wind, without being strong, will be stable so I have to think about the strategy in the Doldrums and decide what longitude to cross them. “I have eaten the last piece of fruit today. From now on, there will be only freeze-dried food. Although it is not like eating with a plate on a table, the landscape around me makes up for it!” Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “The wind has started to strengthen since this morning. We are not far off thirty knots of wind and the seas are getting rougher. It’s a bit like the conditions we find in the Southern Ocean. It’s a whirlwind taking us in the right direction down towards the Cape of Good Hope. We need to find the right sail configuration, and trim well not to damage everything. I’m doing around 22-23 knots at the moment on average. I am not surprised about Alex Thomson’s speeds. Without a foil, she is as fast as a boat with daggerboards and we can see the speeds achieved by our rivals without foils. The sea state is worsening and with the foils, we’re not necessarily faster. We’re going to have to wait for smoother seas to make the most of these appendages. I’m gradually gaining ground on Alex Thomson, but we need to look after the boat for the rest of the race. I set my pace based on the boat’s polars and the sea state. Occasionally some are faster than others, but the most important thing is keeping up a high average. There’s no point stretching yourself too far just to gain the lead right now.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[BERTRAND DE BROC FORCED TO RETIRE FROM THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT Following on from the collision that his boat experienced early in the race off Portugal, and after sailing to the island of Fernando de Noronha and diving twice to inspect what was happening under his hull, Bertrand de Broc, skipper of the monohull MACSF, after consulting with Marc Guillemot his Team Manager, has taken the decision this evening to retire from the race. Bertrand de Broc decided yesterday evening to head for the island of Fernando de Noronha to inspect the hull of his boat. After consulting his architect, Bertrand has been forced to retire from his fourth Vendée Globe. A large part of the hull has in fact been damaged, making it impossible to continue in the race. The deafening noise that is coming from the damaged hull is very handicapping for the skipper, even if he was wearing noise-cancelling headphones. This was a very difficult decision for the successful skipper and his team, who have done their utmost to enable him to continue this solo race around the world. Tackling the Southern Ocean in these conditions, Bertrand knew would be extremely risky. It was therefore the wise thing to do, even if he is very disappointed. "Having to take this decision is very hard to bear. It is bound to happen some time in a skipper’s career, but it doesn’t make it any easier to bear. I’m disappointed. But it would not be reasonable to face the Southern Ocean in this state,” explained Bertrand de Broc Doctor Philippe Eveilleau, President of the MACSF Group accepts this difficult decision and wanted to offer his full support to the skipper of the boat sponsored by health professionals. “Bertrand de Broc is living up to his legend and has attempted everything to continue. Even if he hasn’t completed the voyage, this has been an extraordinary adventure and we would like to congratulate him on his courage and perseverance. On behalf of everyone at the MACSF, we thank you for taking us aboard for this story with the Vendée Globe.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Alex Thomson first to the Equator breaks a Race Record in the Vendee Globe]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT Tuesday 15th November  19:05 UTC-  British Skipper Alex Thomson onboard HUGO BOSS has crossed the Equator in first place and in the fastest time ever in the Vendee Globe solo, non-stop, round the world race. Having led the fleet since Saturday evening Thomson has set a new race record reaching the Equator in the Vendee Globe. Crossing the Equator in 9 days and  7 hours and 3 minutes.Thomson onboard HUGO BOSS has now entered the South Atlantic Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere.The previous record to the Equator was set in 2004 by French Skipper Jean Le Cam in 10 days and 11 hours. Le Cam is edition currently in 9th position. The Vendée Globe is a single handed non-stop unassisted race around the world. The race takes place every four years and has historically been dominated by the French. This year’s edition sees 29 IMOCA 60’s in the race. The race is renowned for being one of the most gruelling sporting challenges left in the world today. Just 71 of the 138 starters since the race’s inception, back in 1989, have successfully completed the race, and three have lost their lives along the way. Alex Thomson is determined to be the first British Skipper to win the Vendée Globe. It is a race which could take up to 80 days. Thomson is one of the favourites to win and currently has a lead of 56.3 nautical miles ahead of Armel Le Cleac’h onboard Banque Populaire VIII.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[TANGUY DE LAMOTTE HEADS HOME BUT HEARTBEAT CONTINUES]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT The French skipper had to make a tough decision this Tuesday afternoon in Mindelo in the Cabo Verde Islands after a full evaluation of the damage to his masthead and possible solutions which might have allowed him to continue to race. De Lamotte will continue with the adventure, refusing to throw in the towel. Instead he will head north, back to France, carrying on in the spirit of the race, solo and unassisted to make it back home. Tanguy de Lamotte: “I’m not retiring. The damage is too important to imagine continuing to sail around the world, but it is not serious enough to stop me from bringing my boat home. I’m taking her back to Les Sables d’Olonne, withou having been all the way, but I shall be continuing my fight for the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque charity. That’s the way it goes. You have to accept these things. I think I have been very lucky. The mast could have broken and injured me.” De Lamotte, who finished 10th in the last Vendée Globe, was lying in 10th place in the 29 boat fleet on Saturday afternoon – 6 days into the race – when he told his shore team that the top of his mast had come away and was hanging near the deck by the halyards. He had been sailing Initiatives Coeur in 20kts NE’ly breezes when the damage occurred at around 1515hrs UTC. He limped to Mindelo where he arrived Monday afternoon. A full assessment was made today after De Lamotte climbed the mast head. With no masthead sheave box unit and the top of the carbon mast tube effectively open, the structural integrity of the mast tip was considerably compromised.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[One big week in the Vendée Globe]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT One week after last Sunday's start of the eighth Vendee Globe solo race around the world, the British skipper Alex Thomson leads the 29-boat fleet towards a complicated, sticky Doldrums passage. 

Thomson wriggled Hugo Boss through between the Cape Verde Islands of Santo Antao and Sao Vicente during Saturday evening in order to maintain his fast, making gybe southwards. 
"It's a good win for me," said Thomson this afternoon, "I am surprised no one else came with me." 

At the same time, long-time leader Armel Le Cleac'h had to gybe West, to avoid the worst of the wind shadow generated by the high ground of Santo Antao, giving away time and distance to the British skipper. With two deft, well-timed gybes, Thomson emerged into an accelerated breeze with a lead of 17 miles.   By the middle of this Sunday afternoon Hugo Boss was 35 miles ahead of second placed Vincent Riou (PRB). The radical Hugo Boss has proven quickest over recent days but the southwards descent towards the Doldrums is expected to see some compression as the leaders arrive first into lighter winds. 
Weather files suggested more even NE'ly winds of 10-12kts for the leaders, the chasing pack still holding onto winds of 15-18kts. 

But there was no sign of a Sunday afternoon slowdown on the 'Rosbif Rocket'. Thomson was still polled at 22.5kts. He did report a mechanical problem, water ingress to his engine, which would ultimately have compromised his ability to make power. 

But after an afternoon spent up to his bits in engine oil, Thomson had the engine running and was relishing a refreshing shower. Behind him Vincent Riou, in second, and Le Cleac'h, in third, are racing alongside each other, as if speed-testing during a training mission at the French centre of offshore excellence, the Pole Finistere Course au Large, where eight of the top ten skippers train. 

Riou's choice of classical daggerboards rather than lifting hydrofoils, is expected to prove better in the lighter airs. His PRB is certainly proving to be an extremely potent all-round performer, as is the hard-driving skipper who won the 2004-5 Vendee Globe. 

Morgan Lagraviere, the Vendee Globe first-timer, racing in fifth place on the VPLP-Verdier foiler Safran, observed today: "Out on the racetrack Alex’s progress is interesting. He’s either very quick or a bit slow. There’s no compromise. At one point I was close behind him yesterday and then he powered off with the breeze. We’re sailing angles which are too open to really extend our foils and fly. Alex is in prime conditions for his lower foils and for now it’s paying off. We’ll see how things pan out. PRB is much more versatile whereas Alex seems to have a very narrow band of performance.” The leaders are forecast to be dealing with the vagaries of the Doldrums on Monday afternoon. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone has expanded north-south in the last 48 hours, from about 60 miles to 250 miles. There is a passage at about 28˚W, which seems to be a preferred target, but there is a small, active depression embedded at around 30˚W, which is also creating some disturbed air. Routing based on current weather models suggests the equator should be passed during the night of Tuesday into Wednesday, an elapsed time since the start of around 9.5 days. That would better Jean Le Cam's 2004 record by approximately one day. One week into the race, mechanical failures are starting to feature. Worst at the moment is the masthead crane and halyard box on Tanguy de Lamotte's Initiatives Coeur. He reported the unexplained damage to the masthead to his shore team during Saturday afternoon. Images showed the carbon top detached and swinging free at deck level. He also has a sail tangled round the keel.  He was making steady progress at 7kts towards Mindelo or Tarrafal, which are just about 100 miles away. Tarrafal, on the West of Santo Antao, is an option with a good anchorage in the lee of high ground. De Lamotte reported to Race HQ in Paris: "It’s the actual carbon tube, which forms the masthead itself that’s snapped off. All the mechanical pieces around it are intact. It’s not a big piece that’s broken off the masthead, 30cm maybe. I have all the pieces so I’ll try to effect repairs. The aim is to be able to set a halyard for the mainsail so I'll be more manoeuvrable. I won’t be able to set it to the top of the mast, but I have two halyards left, which will allow me to set three headsails. I’ll do everything I can to make it work. I have all the resin aboard that I need. I can’t reattach the carbon tube but I have a spare wand I can attach to the transom so I can get wind mode for my autopilot.  I have the means and the motivation to pull this off."

 Jean Pierre Dick, 11th, spent time battling with his big spinnaker on St Michel-Virbac after the bottom furler unit failed. So too was 17th placed Conrad Colman's Saturday marked by a four-hour fight with an unfurled gennaker. If these two respective sail wars went in the favour of the solo skippers, sadly 22nd placed Koji Shiraishi's Code 7 kite is no more. During a broach on Spirit of Yukoh, the sail dragged in the ocean and was shredded. The sail is reported to have already made two successful circumnavigation racesh - third in the last Vendee Globe with Alex Thomson and second in the Barcelona World Race with Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz. Hungarian skipper Nandor Fa is as tough as any of the 29 skippers racing. He was brought up by his mother and his father who escaped from a Russian Gulag and walked all the way home through a bitter winter of 1945-46. Fa admitted his first thoughts this morning on Spirit of Hungary were not of race startegy, trade winds and the route to Cape Verde, but with the people of Paris, one year on from the terrorist attacks: 
"This is a special day. Before I talk about sailing I want to talk of my absolute solidarity for the victims of what happened in Paris one year ago. I thought about them this morning in spite of being out here sailing on the ocean. All these kinds of actions follow us and it is a shadow on my day and our day. " ONE WEEK IN! [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Vendée Globe: A Perfect Start]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT The huge legions of impassioned spectators, ashore and afloat as well as the 29 intrepid solo skippers who set off from the Les Sables d’Olonne start line at 1302hrs local time today (Sunday) were treated to perfect weather conditions for the start of the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe solo, non stop round the world race. More than 350,000 spectators lined the legendary exit channel and the beaches to bid farewell to the skippers, 1,000 boats of all different sizes – from small inflatable RIBs to 3 masted sailing ships and small passenger ferries carrying hundreds of corporate guests – enjoyed the bright sunshine and moderate NNE’ly reaching breezes, considered to be the best start day conditions ever. HRH Prince Albert of Monaco sent the fleet away with 20 skippers from France and nine from outside the nation which takes this legendary round the globe challenge to its heart, each and every four years. For the first time ever, entrants from New Zealand, Holland, Ireland and Japan are competing. Farewells on the pontoons were extraordinary, immediately highlighting the delightful, diverse range of human characters who are taking on this eighth edition of the race. Even the hardest, steel tempered shells were peeled back by the outpourings of the huge crowds, the emotional farewells to families and friends. The dropping of the mooring lines cut the ties with land for upwards of 75 days. Spain’s Didac Costa, small and dark with fiery, dancing eyes, waits nervously, almost embarrassed to be docking out first. Finally he raised his hands in salute to his passionate supporters from Barcelonaand beyond. Alex Thomson, outwardly the suave Hugo Boss rock god, dancing nervously foot to foot on his menacing IMOCA, his eyes and emotions shielded by the obligatory but necessary sunglasses. Jean-Pierre Dick stoic, solid and forced smiles on the dock before surfing the waves of goodwill during the exit from the canal on his StMichel Virbac. Young rookie Morgan Lagravière broke hearts with his moments of uncontrolled tears, dropping to his knees and clutching the guardwires of his Safran. Conrad Colman on Foresight Natural Energy, outwardly calm and focused, admitted he leaves land already feeling tired after his 11 month battle to be ready. Rich Wilson, 66, the doyen of the fleet first skipper to board this morning, visibly fighting to control the nerves. Arnaud Boissières goes out the channel to huge cheers, passing the family home where he grew up in La Chaume. He seeks to become the first skipper to finish three consecutive Vendée Globes. And Enda O’Coineen, a pocket sized, silver haired, whirling Celtic dervish typically dancing a jig to his own tune in his own time, on the foredeck of Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland, not to mention Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi, elegant, poised but full of energy with his Samurai dress complete with sword. Those with genuine hopes of winning? Jéremie Beyou heading out for his third Vendée Globe start, this time on the immaculate Maître CoQ, smiled wryly knowing he is tipped as a favourite but has yet to make it to the Southern Oceans after abandoning in 2008 and 2012. Armel Le Cléac’h – universally tipped in the French media as most likely to win was confident and rehearsed when he cast off with his Banque Populaire. For all that the pre-start hyperbole has been about the six boats equipped with hydrofoiling daggerboards it was the 29 boat fleet’s only previous Vendée Globe winner, Vincent Riou, on PRB which has conventional daggerboards, who made the best start, opening out a good lead during the first 30 minutes of the course. But as if to immediately launch the real time foilers v non foiling debate, the 12-15kts winds fluctuated in the crossover zone, Riou was nearly half a mile ahead, then as the breeze built slightly Sébastien Josse on the foil assisted Edmond de Rothschild sprinted ahead, accelerating visibly. The breeze died one knot and the fully powered up PRB was quicker again, recovering ground to lead. Briton Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss made a steady start, running a slightly smaller, conservative sail plan and was tenth during the early part of the afternoon, Conrad Coleman 17th, Kojiro Shiraishi 20th. Blessed with a straight line course, heading directly across the Bay of Biscay towards Cape Finisterre on the NW corner of Spain, squeezing maximum speed when fast reaching will be keynote. For the core, middle order part of the fleet there is a distinct urgency to be south when the high pressure ridge spreads east from the Azores to the Portuguese coast, threatening to cut the fleet, late Monday or Tuesday. It is expected to be a classical ‘rich get richer’ picture, the faster boats escaping into the well established , strong NE’ly trade winds of 25kts. If they can get south of Madeira as the weather models suggested today, the Doldrums and then the Equator within a week was widely predicted. The key for the first boats may be staying east, closer to Cape Finisterre where the wind pressure should be strongest. Staying west would, logically, see less wind, closer to the centre of the high. It is very important to be going fast as possible. Cold air from the north may bring unstable, gusty winds overnight which might reach over 30kts. The foilers should have the advantage and stretch away as the winds increase.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[VENDÉE GLOBE: MORE THAN 300,000 VISITORS IN A WEEK]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2016 00:00:00 GMT The Vendée Globe race village remains a popular pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel to Les Sables d’Olonne to see the 29 strong fleet of IMOCA race boats, the skippers and to enjoy the expansive, interactive displays. In the first week since opening (from 15th to 23rd October), more than 300,000 visitors came to Port-Olona. This is more or less the same numbers as visited during the corresponding pre-start week in 2012. The fine weather, school holidays and the fast approaching date of the start means the crowds are increasing by the day.  Yves Auvinet, President of the SAEM Vendée, commented on these numbers: “Eleven days ago on 15th October, the Vendée Globe Village opened its doors in Les Sables d'Olonne for three weeks leading up to the start on 6th November. A place where people come and talk, the 2016 Vendée Globe Village enables visitors to discover the race and those involved with free access to almost all of the areas. The public were quite right to turn out in crowds during this first week to admire the 29 boats setting off around the world, meet the skippers and make the most of all the events and exhibitions in the Village…"[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[LORIMA ACCOMPANYING THE SAILORS IN THE VENDÉE GLOBE]]> Mon, 17 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT The Lorient based firm, Lorima, which is the  global leader in the construction of wing and carbon masts for racing and cruising has invested a lot in the preparation of the IMOCAs about to set off around the world. No fewer than 14 boats will be fitted with carbon masts made by Lorima, the firm being chosen as the official supplier for the one-design masts in the class. In addition to that, Lorima is making available a spare mast in case of damage in the early stages of the race. The 28.5m long tube weighing in at 240 kg will arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne on Monday. When you have 20 years of experience of ocean racing and superyachts, you build up a reputation. Lorima masts made in the former submarine base in the Breton port of Lorient since 2001, have shown how reliable theya re, which is something that Vendée Globe sailors obviously look for, as they tackle 24,000 miles of sailing in some of the world’s most hostile conditions. “We make the masts using a female mould and bake it just once, which guarantees its rigidity and reliability. We have put in place a draconian system of checks. When laying down the fibres, we know exactly where they come from. Then, we use ultrasound tests as well as rigidity checks, remembering that all the masts must weigh the same, that is 240 kg,” explained Vincent Marsaudon, director of Lorima.   The latest generation of foiling monohulls, like Banque Populaire VIII (Armel Le Cléac’h) and Safran (Morgan Lagravière), as well as tried and tested boats such as PRB (Vincent Riou), the 2008 generation IMOCAs like Newrest-Matmut (Fabrice Amedeo), have adopted Lorima, which has been busy making one-design masts for these boats for the past two years. The result is that 50% of the fleet is fitted with masts from this firm. They will also be accompanying the skippers after the start of the Vendée Globe (the Race Instructions indicate that the skippers may return to Les Sables d’Olonne to repair within ten days of the start). “We decided to build a spare mast in case a competitor suffers damage after the start. For us, it’s logical to accompany the skippers even after they have set off around the world,” explained Vincent Marsaudon. This great initiative removes some of the stress for the sailors, who are always frightened of suffering such damage after all these months of preparation…[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Making the start, a first victory...]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT In a fortnight’s time, on Saturday 15 October, the official Vendée Globe race village will open its doors in Les Sables d’Olonne. For three weeks, in the run-up to start day on 6 November, Port Olona will echo to the rhythm of the Vendée Globe as it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors. With some 37 days until the start of the eighth solo round the world race without stopovers, the first three competitors are already alongside the legendary Vendée Globe pontoon. They comprise Rich Wilson (Great American IV), Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). From the South of France, Kito de Pavant, is currently delivering his boat to Les Sables, where he’s set to arrive next week. From then on there will be a steady stream of arrivals as the 29 sailors entered in the race are obliged to tie up their boats to the Port Olona pontoon by 14 October at the latest. The die is cast then after a long phase of preparation. Right now, every minute counts for the solo sailors and their teams. The schedules are tight and it’s imperative to find a balance between the final preparations and the need to conserve oneself before taking the plunge.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Didac Costa, the Vendée Globe’s Spanish competitor and ambassador of the Barcelona World Race ]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT After months of effort, Didac Costa and his team will soon be setting sail for Les Sables d'Olonne where, on 6 November 2016, he will be the only Spanish sailor to take the start of the Vendée Globe 2016. Aboard One Planet, One Ocean he will be the ambassador for the Barcelona World Race 2018/19 and will be perpetuating the race’s scientific projects by virtue of the agreement between UNESCO and the FNOB projects. With its support of the project, the FNOB is reaffirming one of its main objectives: the promotion of offshore sailing in Spain. In a bid to complete this Everest of offshore racing, Barcelona and Didac are taking the baton passed on by the three Spaniards who previously participated the race: Joseluis Ugarte (1993), Unai Basurko (2008) and Bubi Sanso (2012). Xosé-Carlos Fernandez, General Manager of the FNOB, highlighted the importance of Didac’s project and has ensured him of FNOB’s support for this project: "We’ve contributed to Didac’s project in a race like the Vendée Globe because, together with the Barcelona World Race, it is one of the mainstays of the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship. We want other projects to be able to integrate the oceanic circuit. Our aim is to develop the professionalisation of the class and the sailors".   It’s thanks to teamwork that Didac’s boat will be able to take the start of the Vendée Globe 2016, and it’s with this same boat that Didac secured fourth place in the last Barcelona World Race alongside Aleix Gelabert. This boat is one of the most reliable. It is none other than the legendary Kingfisher originally designed for Ellen MacArthur.   Didac and One Planet, will be the ambassadors of the Barcelona World Race, the double-handed race around the world, whose next edition will set off in January 2019. Together with the Vendée Globe, the Barcelona World Race forms the bedrock of the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship. During the race, Didac will continue with the scientific projects by agreement between UNESCO and the FNOB, and in the continuity of what he has done with Aleix Gelabert on the last Barcelona World Race. “This scientific experiment in the Barcelona World Race was a great success and we’re keen to recreate that now. We’re going to measure the salinity, the temperature, the colour and the transparency of the water, as well as the amount of micro-plastics. We’ll be launching an Argo beacon too".[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The curtain falls on the Défi Azimut 2016]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT Top-flight racing at its best   To note • Following a pacy series of speed runs, SAFRAN racks up the best time with an average of 18 knots. • The crew of SMA just snatch victory over PRB in the Chrono Azimut – race against the clock around the island of Groix. • Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) takes the win in the 24hr AZIMUT-IMOCA60. The curtain falls on the 6th Défi Azimut 2016 after a great day of racing embellished by sunshine and a 15 to 18-knot westerly wind.   1 mile at an average speed of 18 knots This Sunday kicked off with the crews on eleven boats taking up the gauntlet in a series of speed runs down a one-mile course. The majority of the teams managed to link together two attempts in a bid to knock precious seconds off their sprint times. One trio – SMA, Edmond de Rothschild and SAFRAN – immediately sent the speedo spinning. However, in the game of speed, Morgan Lagravière and his crew posted the quickest time, securing the best run of the day in 3 minutes 19 seconds, at an average speed of 18 knots aboard SAFRAN, who straight away went off on a flyer on their new foils. Nicely warmed up, the crews linked onto the unmissable race around both the clock and the island of Groix. From the headlands of Pen Men to Les Chats, this 20-mile course proved to be the ideal playing field for a fearsome, action-packed battle royal.   Flat out!  “It was a bit lively. We were careful at the start, then we took the right option, which enabled us to pick off the fleet and move up into the lead at Pen Men. We all made mistakes but Vincent (Riou), who was leading as we closed on the finish, stumbled at the last and we reaped the benefits. Everyone was sailing flat out so we’re all the same the minute a starting gun fires!” Winner of the Chrono Azimut – Round the Island of Groix, Paul Meilhat is the measure of this past day’s racing aboard SMA. The young skipper’s crew really got into this express round the island race, which ended with precious little separating the teams as they made the finish en masse. Ultimately, he snatched victory just a few boat lengths ahead of PRB and SAFRAN, who crossed the finish line less than a minute later. For all that, the westerly chop that picked up as yesterday’s front rolled through meant that, even with a good breeze and pedal to the metal, the race record of 1hr 08mn and 10 secs, set last year by Vincent Riou and his crew, is still standing tonight.   A taste of things to come… With the Vendée Globe imminent, this race against the clock rounded off this 2016 edition in style, with the local crowds treated to a foretaste of the competition in store for the upcoming solo round the world race. With its top-flight line-up making up one of the finest 100% IMOCA fleets ever to gather in Brittany, the Défi Azimut has been a roaring success. Offering the skippers one last chance to size up the competition and their machines, it enabled them to really get a grasp of the human, technical and marine challenge that awaits them all on the mission around the three capes. “It was really nice to compete here in Lorient. It was a great weekend of racing with a relaxed atmosphere in the run-up to the big obstacle that lies in wait for us this winter”, confirms Armel Le Cléac’h, winner of the 24hr solo sprint aboard Banque Populaire VIII.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Back on the AZIMUT 24H - IMOCA 60]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT Armel Le Cléac’h: “I’d never won this race before, so I’m all the happier to win it today!”   Of note: 
 • Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) wins the 24hr Défi Azimut for the first time in his long career • Morgan Lagravière (SAFRAN) secures his first IMOCA podium in this fierce race • See you tomorrow for the speed runs and the crewed Chrono Azimut (race against the clock around the island of Groix)   The smiles and reactions speak volumes at the end of the 24hr Azimut, which was contested in solo configuration with the intensity of a round the cans race, a fact evidenced by the drawn faces and the chatter on the dock. The first event on the Défi Azimut programme certainly lived up to expectations. Indeed, it offered up some breezy conditions along its highly educational 215-mile course, which proved to be the perfect setting for one last dress rehearsal just weeks away from the start of the Vendée Globe.   A podium of foilers Firmly in position at the head of the fleet from the outset, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) held onto his position as favourite throughout the race. Driven by a raging desire to secure the win, as illustrated by his finish, fully powered up under spinnaker, he wasn’t about to let victory slip from his clutches. In his wake, Morgan Lagravière (SAFRAN), right on the pace, has every reason to be happy tonight. The young competitor earned a much deserved second place aboard a monohull that has just been kitted out with new foils. As for Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who posted a thundering comeback at the end of the course, demonstrated by a peak speed of 18-19 knots, he proves, if there were a need, that he’s very much on his game. This triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro completes the podium for this event, which saw three foilers monopolize the prize haul.   24 hours of mano a mano racing These ‘moustached’ wonders, as these boats equipped with lifting surfaces are called, may have hogged the podium in this race, but before we jump to overly hasty conclusions, it’s worth noting that 4th place went to Paul Meilhat (SMA), who was right on their tails after a very creditable performance using classic daggerboards as opposed to foils. What we have learned from this race, is that the ‘foilers’ have clearly made great strides forwards, but the runners-up places in this 24hr Azimut were essentially won and lost in terms of tactics and mano a mano racing, punctuated by sound trajectories and sail choices. One thing for sure is that this result certainly adds to the suspense before the curtain rises on the solo, unassisted, non-stop round the world race, heralded as a major planetary showdown.   Tomorrow… Round the Island… of Groix! 
 After a few hours’ rest and a good night’s sleep, the Défi Azimut will fire up again tomorrow with speed runs and the now traditional Chrono Azimut – a race against the clock around the island of Groix. This crewed race format gives the skippers the opportunity to race with their shore crew and partners. A good fifteen knots or so of westerly wind is forecast and the big question tonight is will this be enough to shatter the race record set last year by the men on  PRB of 1 hour 8 minutes and 10 seconds[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[They’re off on a 215-mile sprint]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT   • Clean start for the 24hr Azimut-IMOCA60 in 8-10 knots of breeze that is set to build over the coming hours as a front rolls through. • 12 skippers have set sail on this race, the final competition before the start of the Vendée Globe 2016. • Le Souffle du Nord, Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir and SMA are the first out of the starting blocks.   Tension fills the air and the water in the rocky shallows off the island of Groix that is under attack from the fleet competing in the 6th edition of the Défi Azimut and is this year taking on the vibe of a Vendée Globe prologue.   A mixture of excitement and trepidation The impressions gleaned on the pontoons of Lorient La Base just hours before the start of the 24hr Azimut-IMOCA 60 are coloured by a mixture of excitement and trepidation. For the competitors, there’s no question of this final dress rehearsal in competition mode being taken lightly. Amidst a desire to capitalize on the confidence and take the competition by the horns and an obligation to avoid tempting fate and suffering damage just weeks before the major meeting in Les Sables d’Olonne, the challenges are numerous. The skippers are unanimous: this 24hr Azimut-IMOCA 60 race is indeed a great dress rehearsal, a final trial run and a major race, which will inevitably offer up a great many lessons for all involved.   A clean and fabulous start in the sunshine At 15:08 GMT, under blue skies and glorious sunshine, 12 boats finally got their teeth into the race in ten knots of southerly breeze, putting on a fantastic display in the process. As the starting gun fired, line honours went to Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord), Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Paul Meilhat (SMA), who were the keenest out of the starting blocks on this large, triangular course spanning some 215 miles, marked out by three virtual Azimut marks to the west-south-west of Groix. Very cautious at the start, Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy), who’s competing in his very first race in contact with his future rivals in the big solo round the world race, is bringing up the rear as they make for the first mark. The front runners are expected to reach it midway through tonight in a wind that is set to build, ultimately reaching 20 knots as the fleet head offshore.   At 16:08pm, one hour after the start, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) had gained the upper hand at the helm of his foiling boat, already racking up 10 knots of boat speed. He’s a few boat lengths ahead of Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur), who has posted a great start to the race. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), also competing aboard monohulls equipped with lifting surfaces, are just shy of the leaders and a sleepless night lies ahead for one and all…[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[24 hours till the 24hr Azimut-IMOCA 60]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT • Tomorrow, Friday, launch of the Défi Azimut 2016 with the start of the 24-hour race for the sizeable 100% IMOCA fleet. 
• Varied and interesting weather conditions across the whole course. 
• 24-hour race can be tracked at the Cité de la Voile Eric-Tabarly, or live on the event website:   It’s tomorrow, Friday, at 15:00 GMT on the dot that the Défi Azimut 2016 will set sail. As tradition dictates in Lorient, the on-the-water competition will kick off with the start of a first race, the 24hr Azimut-IMOCA60 which, given the imminent start of the Vendée Globe race, will this year be contested in solo configuration. Jacques Caraës, Race Director, has traced the contours of a course that guarantees competitors the chance to race in the best possible conditions with the focus on both sport and safety just weeks away from the class’ main event.    20 knots forecast   In terms of weather, though the racing will be coloured by a predominance of light airs, conditions are set to gradually build to 20 knots on Friday night as a front rolls in. As such, competitors are in for a rhythmical and varied race punctuated by these different sequences. “In view of these forecasts and to prevent the competitors making headway too close to the coast with the shipping, I’ve favoured the outside track of a large triangular course down to the west-south-west of the island of Groix”, explains Jacques Caraës, Race Director. “It will initially take the fleet westwards on a long reaching leg, at 90° to the wind. Next up, it will launch onto a beat about as far as the latitude of Les Sables d’Olonne, before running back down towards Groix, where some gybing is sure to be on the cards”.    240 miles in 24 hours   Though this tailored course is likely to evolve, it should nevertheless enable the skippers to size up the competition with a good distance of some 240 miles to be covered over the ground. A great test in real conditions in prospect then, which promises to be action-packed, with those skippers ‘armed’ with a foiler set to be particularly quick in the stronger downwind conditions, and those at the helm of boats with more conventional yet more versatile appendages hoping to be able to hold their own over the course as a whole. Boasting a line-up of supreme quality, gathering together the big favourites for the podium in the upcoming Vendée Globe, this 24hr Azimut-IMOCA promises to be a thrilling spectacle. In any case, we wager that the solo sailors won’t have a moment’s respite, under pressure from start to finish on this race that sets sail from and returns to the rocky shallows between the island of Groix and Lorient.    24 hours of ‘live’ tracking   As per usual, the event organised for the 6th consecutive year by AZIMUT, a company based in the Lorient region that specialises in digital solutions, is taking up quarters in Lorient La Base. The majority of the boats making up this superb fleet are already tied up to the dock, where the shore crews are busy putting the final touches to the oceanic steeds today. Meantime, Race HQ will open its doors from tomorrow at the Cité de la Voile-Eric Tabarly, where touchscreens will mean that visitors won’t miss a beat as they follow the fleet’s progress throughout the race. For those who are not able to make it to the site, a special cartography created in partnership with Dolink and Geovoile, updated every 5 minutes and accessible on the official event website (, will track the trajectories of the competitors from start to finish of this 24hr Azimut-IMOCA 60 with its Vendée Globe vibe.    Quotes from the boats:   Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur): “The Défi Azimut is a meeting I’m really fond of and I like the fact that it’s on home waters: it’s nice and easy to take part in and the atmosphere here is always relaxed. Equally, in the run-up to the season’s main event, it’s an objective for the whole team who must be ready to go on race day. I see it as an excellent opportunity to rehearse, but also we won’t be able to go pedal to the metal or we’d risk extending the jobs list due to material breakage or having an incident just weeks away from the start of the Vendée Globe.”     Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord): “I’m excited about taking the start tomorrow, Friday, of the Défi Azimut, as I’ll get the chance to sail alongside the other IMOCA monohulls that will be at the start of the Vendée Globe, so we can see how we fair against the competition. At the same time, we’re not going to go crazy out on the water! We have to be careful with our machines and not take too many risks. Tomorrow, we’re setting sail on a 24hr race where I’ll be sailing totally singlehanded. I will be accompanied by a sound engineer and someone to keep watch as there’s a lot of shipping over the challenge course. The wind will be light at the start, before it shifts round to the south as it builds. On Sunday we have some speed runs offshore of Lorient and a circumnavigation of the island of Groix… I’ll have guests aboard for that, and it’ll be another opportunity to see how our rivals handle their boats, which will all be in Vendée Globe configuration”.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[A Vendée Globe aroma for the 6th Défi Azimut]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 00:00:00 GMT True to form, the Défi Azimut, an annual celebration of Imoca sailing, is returning to Lorient La Base, at the heart of Brittany’s ‘Sailing Valley’ from 23 to 25 September 2016. In the run-up to the start of the 8th Vendée Globe, the event is especially important for the numerous skippers expected to be on the start line, who are keen to size up the competition one last time prior to the start of the epic solo round the world race.   “This latest edition will be somewhat reminiscent of a Vendée Globe prologue and a genuine dress rehearsal with a race start and nocturnal manœuvres. It’s an opportunity to rack up a few precious miles in race configuration, which we don’t want to miss out on”, confirms Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII). A loyal part of the Défi Azimut line-up, he’s delighted at the prospect of doing battle with the numerous candidates for the top spots that make up this first-class line-up in 2016, including Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), Yann Eliès (Guéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) and also Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss)…   A tailor-made 24-hour course   Once again, on what is a long weekend in France, the event will kick-off on Friday afternoon with the “24HR AZIMUT-IMOCA60”, whose course has been tailor-made by Jacques Caraës, Race Director, in a bid to give the sailors some practice in the run-up to the IMOCA class’ main event of the season. This year, in view of the Vendée Globe, the various protagonists are invited to sail one race in solo configuration, which will call for quick reactions on deck, good tactical nous and brilliant strategy at the chart table. This coastal race features all the ingredients necessary to sharpen their weapons and why not score a few points against the competition.     Time to beat around Groix   Beyond these sporting aspects, everyone will be favouring simplicity and conviviality at this IMOCA family gathering, with Race HQ accommodated at the Eric Tabarly Sailing City. During the AZIMUT-IMOCA60 RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK, round the island of Groix, which will be contested in crewed configuration on Sunday, the skippers will be racing with various members of their team as well as partners in a bid to push their machines to their limits. We wager that, weather permitting, the competitors will be giving their all to beat the current record of 1hr 08mn and 10sec set last year by Vincent Riou and his men aboard PRB. The winner of the Vendée Globe 2004 is also back to defend or improve on the reference time for this Breton race against the clock.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Lagravière wins battle of the damaged three as Eliès seeks revenge]]> Tue, 14 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT After an emotionally exhausting race-within-a-race across the North Atlantic on their three powerful but damaged boats, Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac) and Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) finished within an hour of each other in the small hours of Sunday morning. Lagravière held on to his slender lead across a sympathetic Bay of Biscay, finishing just over 20 minutes ahead of Dick, with Eliès a further 35 minutes back. They finished 9th, 10th and 11th respectively overall in the inaugural 2016 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode, but that had long since stopped being their most important statistic. The three skippers had started as contenders for the podium, but the damage from collisions the morning after the start, meant all three had to head back to Newport. Both Lagravière and Dick damaged port foils on their new generation boats and Eliès damaged the port daggerboard on his older generation boat (the former Safran). There was a more muted atmosphere on the pontoons than usual as all three stood by their boats missing an appendage; glad to be finished, but frustrated at not being able to properly unleash their machines and test them against the others in such a high-level fleet. “This disappointment can be a driver for the Vendée Globe, because I want some revenge now,” Eliès said. “It's good that it hurts, it proves that I’m a competitor at heart. This result is going to stay stuck in my throat until the start of the Vendée Globe, then we’ll be back. The match with the (half) foilers was interesting, it was about sailing intelligently. You have to be better than them to get to finish with them or in front. If you stay with them, they’ll always go faster.” But all were able to take some positives along with the 4,000 hard-earned miles across the North Atlantic (inclusive of their sail back to Newport and the more southerly route that the weather dictated and Dick gambled on, compared to a theoretical course of 3,100 miles). For Eliès it was that he sailed the 1,500 miles he needed to complete his qualification for the Vendée Globe. For Dick it was that: “even without foils, our boats showed how high-performance they are; they have great hulls. Everyone’s focused on the foils so far, but this unfortunate experience has shown that this new generation of boats is not just about the foils.” Dick knows something about good hulls, having nursed his old boat home without a keel over the final 2,650 miles of the last Vendée Globe. Like Eliès, Lagravière, at 29 the youngest skipper in the fleet, was also able to complete a first solo transat race in his boat. “What I learned is that I was able to finish ahead of Quéguiner and StMichel – Virbac, despite re-starting 24 hours after them,” he said. “That’s a big positive. The competition with Yann and Jean-Pierre is what made it a really great transat for me. Our race was electrifying, it was really exciting. That’s what helped me to get over everything else.” For all three there was actually a race-within-a-race-within-a race. “Time is running out,” Dick said, “we’re already in a race to prepare for the Vendée Globe - the race before the race.” The finishing times Morgan Lagravière (Safran), the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, June 12 at 03:39:45 (French time) in 9th place. Lagravière covered the course in 13 days 05 hours 59 minutes and 45 seconds. He finished 3 days 13 hours 01 minute and 53 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 4,043 miles at an average speed of 12.71 knots. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac), the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, June 12 at 04:01:24 in 10th place. Dick covered the course in 13 days 6 hours 21 minutes and 24 seconds. He finished 3 days 13 hours 23 minutes and 32 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 4,319 miles at an average speed of 13.57 knots. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir), the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, June 12 at 04:36:36 (French time) in 11th place. Eliès covered the course in 13 days 6 hours 56 minutes and 36 seconds. He finished 3 days 13 hours 58 minutes and 44 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 3,948 miles at an average speed of 12.38 knots. And then there were two… The American-New Zealander, Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy), should be next home overnight from Sunday to Monday as he leads the Dutch skipper, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) by 50 miles. Colman gybed onto direct finish to Les Sables d’Olonne at midday (French time) and both should have solid westerlies all the way to the line.    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Shiraishi hopes to honour spirit of Yukoh after qualifying for Vendée Globe]]> Sun, 12 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT After sailing the race of his life, Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of Yukoh finished seventh late on Friday night in the inaugural 2016 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. Finishing the race was emotional for many reasons for Shiraishi. It was a great performance in itself, and it meant he had achieved the necessary sailing qualifications for the Vendée Globe. Shiraishi, 49, from Kamakura, a small town by the sea, 40 miles south of Tokyo, would be the first Japanese sailor to compete in the Vendée Globe. But finishing is also the start of carrying a torch lit by his mentor, Yukoh Tada. Shiraishi was his assistant when the 61-year-old Tada committed suicide in 1991 in Sydney after withdrawing from the BOC round-the-world race following a gruelling 50-day voyage to Sydney from Cape Town. It had been Tada’s dream to compete in the Vendée Globe after it was launched in 1989. Shiraishi names all his boats in his honour – this is the fourth Spirit of Yukoh. “I think Yukoh is looking over me tonight and really congratulating me,” Shiraishi said. “Yukoh knew and loved Les Sables (d’Olonne), so, as a finish for this race and for the Vendée Globe, it’s something really special to me.” "I managed to do this transatlantic without breaking anything. That was my priority. I’m very happy and honoured. It was also a pleasure to race alongside all the contenders in the Vendée Globe. If I can be at the start of the Vendée Globe, I’ll be the first Japanese sailor, and I’m  confident. I'm almost ready for the Vendée Globe. My project is not yet 100% completed financially. I’m going back to Japan to find the necessary funds and then it’s up to the organisers here (in the Vendée).” Shiraishi crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Friday, June 10 at 23:01:40 (French time). Shiraishi covered the course in 12 days 01 hour 21 minutes and 40 seconds. He finished 2 days 08 hours 23 minutes and 48 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 3,500 miles at an average speed of 12,10 knots. Though it was all about finishing for Shiraishi, he managed a remarkable race in a boat he is still getting to grips with and considering it was his first major solo IMOCA 60 race for 10 years, since he finished second in the Velux 5 Oceans in 2006. Spirit of Yukoh is a Farr boat launched in 2007 and was Seb Josse’s BT in the 2008-09 Vendée Globe. Roland Jourdain sailed it to victory in the 2010 Route du Rhum and it was Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss in the 2012-13 Vendée Globe, finishing third. “It’s a very special race for me especially in terms of the time I had to prepare for the race,” he said. “It’s only been two months since I had the boat in hand, so it’s almost a miracle to have finished the race. I have been able to get the measure of my boat, I'm in tune with it. This is a very fast boat and I still need to get a handle on it, and with more training, I can go even faster. The goal was to not the break the boat, so I couldn’t take the same routes as the guys who were here to test their boats and try and win. I took the safest route.” And Shiraishi had a first taste of the traditional welcome home as he headed through the Port Olona channel at midnight. “I didn’t think so many people would be out to see me come in because I was only seventh,” he said. “The French have been very welcoming to me, I thank them all. Tonight, there was the first match of the Euros (football); France won and I’m happy because if France had lost, perhaps no one would be here to see me in." Shiraishi held off the Frenchman, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest - Matmut), who crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne almost five hours later on Saturday, June 11 at 04:00:15 (French time). Amedeo covered the course in 12 days 06 hours 20 minutes and 15 seconds. He finished 2 days 13 hours 22 minutes and 23 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 3,525 miles at an average speed of 11,98 knots. And then there were five. Only the Bay of Biscay separates them from the finish and it looks kinder and quicker than for those in front. In the battle of the damaged boats, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) still leads Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) and Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel – Virbac), but the margins have dropped dramatically in the last 24 hours and it promises to be another fascinating three-way finish in solid south-westerliers. They are expected back between 05:00 and 08:00 (French time) on Sunday morning. Lagravière led Eliès by 70 miles and Dick by 130 miles respectively on Friday morning; that gap was down to 20 miles on Saturday afternoon and Dick had almost caught Eliès. 200 miles back and further south, pointing to the north coast of Spain, The Dutch skipper, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) and the American-New Zealander, Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy) have been inseparable. Heerema has slipped back into last place having chosen to complete his three-hour penalty (for transgressing the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) on the way back to Newport). There will be a few gybes to make in a WSW wind that should swing WNW tomorrow during the day. They are expected in late on Sunday.    [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Riou questions foils after finishing fifth]]> Sun, 12 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT Vincent Riou fired a defiant broadside across the bows of the new foiling boats after finishing fifth this morning (Friday) in the inaugural 2016 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. Faced with a an even more complicated Bay of Biscay than welcomed the first three boats home, Riou (PRB) was followed in four and a half hours laterby Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Coeur, the ex-2006 PRB, that Riou took third place on in the 2008-09 Vendée Globe, after the dramatic rescue of Jean Le Cam in the Pacific. For the 44-year-old Riou, winner of the 2004-05 Vendée Globe, and a perennial favourite, the real frustration was that he is not used to coming so far down the fleet. “Along with the Route du Rhum (in 2014) this is my second worst result in an IMOCA race, so I'm not going to jump for joy,” Riou said, “but it was a transat that was full of lessons and gave me a progress report on my programme. It’s satisfying because even if there was a small spanner in the works, overall, both man and machine are ready to face the oceans.” Riou, dubbed “Vincent the Terrible” by Le Cam after his relentless performance when winning the Vendée Globe, remained bullish about his chances against the foiling boats, that occupied all three places on the podium in this race and have won the last three solo IMOCA transats. “They (the leaders) had a great race,” Riou, who is in a non-foiling, previous generation boat, said. “I’m very sorry not to have been one of them. When I had to let go (because of technical problems) I was at the front, so I don’t have many regrets. I don’t know what sea conditions they had, but I don’t think they crossed that section of the North Atlantic very quickly, despite ideal conditions to cut loose. I don’t know why we didn’t see the foilers average 25 knots over 4 days there? We saw them going at 17 to 18 knots, Alex occasionally 20 knots, which is nothing extraordinary in those conditions. My only regret is not knowing why we saw those speeds there.” Riou, the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne in fifth on Friday, June 10 at 08:38:53 (French time). He covered the course in 11 days 10 hrs 58 mins and 53 seconds. He finished 1 day 18 hours 01 minute and 01 second behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ) having sailed 3,690 miles at an average speed of 13,42 knots. Riou had emerged at the front of the lead group that survived the early collisions on Monday, May 30, a day after the start. He led the race for exactly a day until Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) passed him. But remained near the front until four days in another collision and technical difficulties forced him to divert for a 12-hour pit-stop at the port of Horta on Faial in the Azores with his technical team to repair a leak and some power issues. He restarted in seventh and was quickly back in the hunt. Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne in sixth at 13:18:39 (French time), 04h 39min 46s after Riou. De Lamotte covered the course in 11 days 15 hrs 38 mins and 39 seconds. He finished 1 day 22 hours 40 minutes and 47 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ). He sailed 3,791 miles – the furthest distance of the race so far - at an average speed of 13,56 knots. De Lamotte had been in fifth place until Tuesday, June 7 in the night, when Riou caught and passed him as they approached the Bay of Biscay. De Lamotte had his own technical problems too and need all of the skills that saw him nicknamed  Tangyver (after MacGyver – see what they did there?) as he finished tenth on the last Vendée Globe. “I had passed Paul (Meilhat) - I should have arrived yesterday -when the boat crashed,” de Lamotte, who studied naval architecture in Southampton said.  “There was a bit of DIY going on for 24 hours after I passed the Azores, I had a bad gybe after the autopilot got caught in a wave and broke four battens in the mainsail. I had to wait for the sea to calm down to start repairs, which is why we were very slow for 36 hours, and then the repair itself took 7 hours to make three battens out of four broken ones. The last obstacle was the wind hole yesterday. I wanted to control the two boats behind me, it was a bit of a mistake, and Vincent gave a superb demonstration, I wasn’t going to out wrestle him...and he wasn’t going to finish behind his old boat.” For the two behind de Lamotte, the fickle winds continue and Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) is not expected in until tonight at 22:00 (French time) with Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest - Matmut) following around two hours later. Both have been averaging under 5 knots for the last 24 hours. “You can hold the helicopter delivery of the Code 0, I’ve got the A3 (asymmetric spinnaker) up and it’s working and I’ll probably be able to get away from Fabrice.” Shiraishi said in the morning. In the battle of the three damaged boats, the race is far from over. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) has gybed north towards his rivals and still leads, but only by 30 miles from Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) - down from 80 miles earlier today. Lagravière chose this afternoon to complete his three-hour penalty, imposed by the race jury for entering the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) whilst going back to Newport for repairs. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac) completed his penalty earlier today and, benefiting first from the coming south-westerly flow is now only 50 miles behind Eliès.  It could be a tense finish early on Sunday morning. In the battle of the back, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) and Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy) are still sailing in strong southerlies (over 20 knots) and continue to eat up miles. Yesterday morning they were over 300 miles behind Dick, now it is just over 100 miles. The wind is forecast to drop and swing west behind them as they get closer to Les Sables d'Olonne.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Meilhat confirms comeback with 4th placed finish]]> Sat, 11 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT Six months ago Paul Meilhat (SMA) was airlifted off his boat to the Azores and hospitalised after fracturing his pelvis and rib during a sail change in big seas during the Transat St Barth/Port-La-Forêt. Today (Thursday) the 34-year-old Vendée Globe rookie from Brest finished in 4th place in the inaugural 2016 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. Meilhat crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne this morning at 09:59:27 (French time).  He covered the course in 10 days 12 hrs 19 mins and 27 seconds. He finished 19 hours 21 minutes and 35 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ). Meilhat sailed 3,682 miles at an average speed of 14.59 knots. The theoretical racecourse was 3,100 miles, but Meilhat has sailed the furthest of the finishers so far, 220 miles more than Beyou. He has just completed his first two solo Transats in an IMOCA in just over a month - after racing to New York in The Transat – and has finished fourth in both. “We’ve done two transats in just over a month – that’s happiness,” he said. “I still have work to do but I’m starting to have fun. The mid-Atlantic was true to its reputation with strong winds, and having to manage a depression. That was something I hadn’t done before and it will resemble what we’ll be going through in a few months in the South Seas (for the Vendée Globe).” SMA is the former Macif, which smashed the Vendée Globe record in 2012-13. It is the first non-foiling boat home – foilers have won the last three transatlantic races now – and was never quite able to keep pace with the lead group of three, who finished yesterday. But given his relative inexperience, and recent trauma, he sailed his own race impressively. He has been alone, sometimes separated by over 150 miles, since he moved into 4th place on Saturday as Vincent Riou (PRB) and Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) suffered technical problems. The group chasing him have had to take a similarly northern route up to the Brittany coast, in glassy flat seas and erratic winds, before they descend to Les Sables d’Olonne. At the 13:00 UTC ranking, Riou, in 5th, led de Lamotte by 22 miles, with Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) a further 30 miles back. Today’s easterly winds will rotate north in the night and northwest tomorrow and will be fluky to the finish, so nobody will be relaxing quite yet. “It’s amazing, we’re all battling it out together,” de Lamotte said. “Kojiro really surprised me, the way he’s sailed so cleanly, he’s got good speed for not having the boat for so long. It’s a great performance for him. I’m quite used to the light winds – and it is summertime in the Bay of Biscay. I did six tacks yesterday, which was really demanding, but it’s quite fun getting the boat going.” Riou is predicted to arrive anywhere between 04:00 and 10:00 on Friday morning with the other two coming in between 12:00 and 17:00. And Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest - Matmut), in 8th keeps eating up the miles, making another 25 so far today to come within 35 of Shiraishi. “I’ve got 3 knots of south-east wind at the moment and I really, really, really want a Code 0, can you send me one? Will the Race Office allow that?” Shiraishi asked plaintively earlier. “I think it’s the same for everyone out here. If I had a Code 0 maybe I could compete with Tanguy, but I’ve got an A3 up…” 500 miles behind them, in the battle of the wounded boats, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) leads Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) by just 10 miles and has gybed away toward the north coast of Spain. After the gamble of heading deep south of the Azores did not pay out, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac), keeps losing ground and is now almost 90 miles behind Eliès. But the race is not over and the gaps are likely to reduce in the coming days. Their westerly wind is forecast to gradually turn south-west and then ease off for their arrivals, which are now predicted to be overnight on Saturday and into Sunday. Behind them the two backmarkers are finally into a good stride, with south-westerlies driving them up to 18 knots, as they try to stay ahead of a front as long as possible. Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is just 5 miles behind Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy). They are predicted to arrive on Sunday in the late afternoon.      [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Beyou shines in the light to win inaugural New York –Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) Race presented by Currency House & SpaceCode]]> Fri, 10 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT After three days of twists and turns in teasingly light conditions in the Bay of Biscay, Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ won the inaugural New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode at 14:37:52 (French time) today (Wednesday). “This win is super important in itself, because the New York - Vendée is a big ocean race, but it is also important for the Vendée Globe: it's going to be hard for me to hide now.” Beyou said. “I felt I could afford a smile when I realised that I was able to keep Seb (Josse) at bay. I was up to speed with the best, it was a good sign. I really felt that it was possible when we ended up as a trio, and then I realised that it was pretty much done after his gybe yesterday morning towards the north Spain. That didn’t work and I was left out in front. I knew there would still be some soft stuff, but that everyone would suffer.” The race between what is arguably the financial capital of the world to what is indisputably the capital of offshore racing, was won by one of French sailing’s favourite sons. The 39-year-old skipper from Lorient, who learned to sail with his father in the Bay of Morlaix in Brittany, showed why he regards this stretch of water as his playground. With the spotlight on them ahead of the start of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe in November, Beyou held off the challenge from his fellow French sailor, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), who should finish second later today, ahead of British sailor, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss). Beyou covered the course in 9 days 16 hours 57 minutes and 52 seconds. He sailed 3,460 miles at an average speed of 14.85 knots. Except for two brief spells, Beyou has led the race since he deposed Thomson on Saturday afternoon. His advantage was never greater than 30.9 miles, but it was notable that of the three he happily declared that he was used to managing leads of 0.3 of a mile for four days and he relished this close-quarter combat. “I know that there was an abandonment, and some damage [to other boats], but I held out against skippers who are real champions,” Beyou said. “Alex Thomson is reference-point in the IMOCA class, and I’m not even going to try and sum up Sébastien Josse, who has incredible ability.” The 41-year-old Josse led the race for only 15 minutes in total, on Saturday, June 4, and he tracked Beyou across the North Atlantic. The hunt was on, but it was it was Beyou that kept striking. Thomson, 42, rallied from the north to take back the lead for an hour yesterday (Tuesday) morning. But Beyou found the wind as Thomson stalled and from then on he seemed uncatchable. Beyou is already in exalted company as one of the few people to win French solo sailing’s finishing school, La Solitaire du Figaro, three times. But this was his first win in a solo IMOCA race. After being forced to abandon during the last two Vendée Globes, Beyou will hope this bodes well for third time lucky. Victory will be doubly satisfying for Beyou because he has an old generation boat (the former Banque Populaire, which finished second in the last Vendée Globe in 2012-13), which has recently been retrofitted with foils. He was able to beat Josse and Thomson, both of whom have new boats designed with foils. Leaving Manhattan’s spectacular skyline behind on Sunday, May 29, Beyou needed his share of luck as he, Josse and Thomson avoided the damage at the start which saw five boats - Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir), Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel – Virbac), Morgan Lagravière (Safran) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) - head back to port for repairs on Monday, May 30. That narrowed the odds for Beyou because the last four of those were potential winners, with the last three on new generation foiling boats. In a fantastic downwind opening phase to the race, Thomson set the pace in a 20-25 westerly wind, but the leading trio had already emerged from the reduced fleet by Wednesday, June 1 as they all posted big 24-hour runs. Thomson’s 487 miles at an average speed of 20.3 knots remains the best run of the race, but Beyou managed 467 miles at 19.5 during the same period. The trio asserted their domination as they gybed north on Wednesday away from the rest. Thomson continued north on Thursday skirting the ice exclusion zone and  opening a lead over Beyou that was 102 miles at one point. With a cold front descending from the north and bringing 35-40 knot winds, Beyou and Josse were angling more directly to Les Sables d’Olonnes while Thomson was dicing with getting caught in storm forces winds. Beyou and Josse made 80 miles back quickly on Thomson after his crash tack and recovery on Thursday night, and Beyou gradually edged past into a more favourable and ultimately winning position as they headed towards the slowdown. Thomson “perhaps went a little too far north,” Beyou said on Sunday.  The trio had managed around 3,000 miles at an average speed of 16 knots in a week by the end of Sunday, June 5, as they approached the Bay of Biscay. The last 450-odd miles have taken two and a half days, with average speeds over 24 hours plunging down to 5 knots. Beyou proved himself the shining star of the Vendée Waltz.  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Why a Media Man?]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT That is exactly what the IMOCA skippers have been wondering since their arrival in New York. First of all, it’s an idea voiced by both, the skippers running IMOCA and OSM, the organiser of the New York – Vendée. It’s a desire to share a vision of the life of a skipper, whose adventures we’ll be following in the upcoming Vendée Globe, with a wider public. It’s a means of getting a better understanding of the race so we can better track how things are developing. It’s also a first in solo racing. Its implementation is tricky and every team has its own vision on how to best fulfil the media objective without compromising the performance of its skipper and without putting the media crew at risk. It’s a difficult equation and more time will be needed to resolve it. Serious thoughts should also be given on the relevance of a media man on a single handed race. We need to take into account the fact that life aboard the IMOCA 60 is particularly tough and the dangers are omnipresent. The faster the boat goes, the more intense the competition and the greater the risk. One can well understand the choice made by certain skippers to limit the risk as much as possible by selecting hardened sailors to fulfil this role. Rather than focusing on improving their performance, their main concern is that it won’t have a negative influence on performance, which is totally legitimate. As such, selecting a media person becomes a strategic choice, which can have repercussions on the skipper’s performance, one way or another. Herein lies the difficulty with this idea. OSM has enabled IMOCA to make progress, giving it a better insight into the difficulties of securing media coverage in our sport, namely solo offshore racing. A mirror image of crewed racing is not possible. It was important to give it a go in order to find that out. Ultimately, our skippers will be setting sail alone, save for three skippers who are embarking media professionals, none of whom are seasoned sailors in offshore events. It’s a mighty challenge, which will enable the inside story on the race to be told, without compromising the sporting values. It was also a mighty challenge to come to this conclusion, where everyone defended their sport and their values passionately and with conviction.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Foiler versus non-foiler]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss and Yann Eliès’ Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir emerged from beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the entrance to New York Harbour early this morning, the latest two arrivals in the Big Apple for next Sunday’s start of the New York Vendee Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. The two IMOCA 60s spent Saturday and Saturday night match racing down from Newport, Rhode Island, on a 150 mile long passage that took then along the south side of Long Island. The British and French crews were exceedingly lucky with the weather – while this passage is typically upwind, they enjoyed building downwind conditions thanks to a depression easing out into the Atlantic from Virginia. Both boats spent the last few days moored at the famous Newport Shipyard in Newport, Rhode Island, one of the top yachting hubs of the US east coast. Normally the largest and most expensive grand prix yachts in most ports they visit, the IMOCA 60s were on this occasion alongside ship-sized superyachts and some of the world’s largest racing yachts. “Newport really is the Mecca of sailing,” enthused Eliès. “It is ideal for boat maintenance, everyone there is ready to help and it has an amazing maritime culture. The yachts there are majesty. They dwarfed us!” Five other IMOCA 60s, including the non-French entries No Way Back, skippered by the Netherlands Pieter Heerema, Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of Yukoh and US/New Zealand skipper Conrad Colman on 100% Natural Energy, will be delivered from Newport down to New York this week ready for Friday’s Currency House New York-Vendee Charity Race and Sunday’s start of the 3100 mile New York Vendee Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. Hugo Boss and Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir set sail from Newport at 1000 yesterday (Saturday) and reached New York at 0545 local time this morning. While they were part racing, in fact these two top IMOCA 60s were using the opportunity principally to do some two boat testing, especially interesting as Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir is a ‘conventional’ IMOCA 60 with daggerboards whereas Hugo Boss is a latest generation design with state of the art foils. “It was nice for us because except for the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre we’ve never sailed against another boat!” admitted Thompson, words reiterated by Eliès: “Since we were leaving from the same place to go to the same place and we had the same objective – to do some testing on the way, we decided to leave together. I haven’t lined up with another IMOCA 60 since the boat was put back in the water. I also wanted to get back into sailing her singlehanded, even though I had crew on board with me. Alex more wanted to test the performance of his boat.” On the way they saw up to 16 knots of wind and both skippers were pleased with the experience. However they weren’t being drawn on which boat was the faster. As Eliès observed: “The differences weren’t that obvious. In terms of speeds, sometimes he was faster, sometimes me. I have never sailed side by side with a foiling IMOCA 60 with the new generation foil. I didn’t see a big difference between them and last year’s foils. “When we arrived in New York early in the morning was absolutely magical. It was completely deserted, with a light breeze, we were able to sail all the way up to the Verrazano bridge and beyond to the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[DELMA ANNOUNCED AS OFFICIAL TIMEKEEPER FOR OCEAN MASTERS NEW YORK - VENDEE RACE PRESENTED BY CURRENCY HOUSE & SPACECODE]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT IMOCA Ocean Masters is pleased to announce Swiss watch brand Delma as Official Timekeeper for the New York Vendee Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. Founded in 1924, Delma has been manufacturing high-quality, mechanical ladies’ and gents’ timepieces in Lengnau, Switzerland for ninety-two years. As one of the last independent Swiss watch manufacturers specializing in chronographs and diver’s watches, Delma is committed to blending traditional craftsmanship, contemporary design and functional complications.   In 1975 Delma elevated its collection to new heights with the introduction of the Delma Shell Star, its first professional diver’s watch.The Shell Star proved to be a landmark for the company and a legacy for diver’s watches produced to date, brought to culmination with the Delma Santiago Blue Shark that features a water-resistance to 3000 meters. The 2016 collection pays tribute to the heritage of the original Shell Star and Delma’s diver’s watch tradition with the relaunch of the Delma Shell Star and the Santiago Blue Shark II. Andreas Leibundgut, Delma Head of Marketing commented: “We are proud to partner with the IMOCA Ocean Masters as the Official Timekeeper for the New York Vendee Race. Offshore sailing is adventurous and a true test for man and material, an undertaking where great skill, precision and robustness are the essentials for success. These attributes perfectly embody the spirit of the Delma brand and its watch models.”     Unique IMOCA Ocean Masters branded Delma Shell Star Automatic watches will be presented to the podium finishers, as well as the winner of the Delma 24hrs Speed Record for the race. For more information about the Delma brand and collection visit:  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA OCEAN MASTERS ANNOUNCE TWO NEW RACE PARTNERS: NEW YORK - VENDEE RACE PRESENTED BY CURRENCY HOUSE & SPACECODE]]> Wed, 18 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT Following the recent UNESCO-IOC partnership announcement, IMOCA Ocean Masters is pleased to confirm innovative Forex trading platform Currency House and intelligent asset management experts SpaceCode as presenting partners for the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York - Vendee Race. Starting on 29th May from Downtown New York, this single-handed sprint across the Atlantic to Les Sables D’Olonne, promises to be an exciting warm-up ahead of the 2016 Vendee Globe.     A final line-up of 17 skippers is registered to compete in the New York - Vendee Race presented by Currency House & SpaceCode. Starting 6 months before the 2016 Vendee Globe, the race has attracted all of the major competitors in the IMOCA Ocean Masters fleet. With seven IMOCA60s fitted with innovative foil technology the race is eagerly anticipated by yacht racing fans around the world. Commenting on the partnership Michael Stark, CEO of Currency House, said: “The New York - Vendee Race presented by Currency House & SpaceCode represents a fantastic opportunity for us to be associated with world class international sport. The IMOCA Ocean Masters skippers share the same ambition and commitment that Currency House has within the Forex market and we wish them all luck and fair winds as they embark on this exciting new race.” Chairman & CEO of SpaceCode, Pavlo Protopapa, added: “The IMOCA Ocean Masters fleet is on the cutting edge of technical innovation in the sport of sailing and it is because of this that SpaceCode is proud to become a partner. Innovation is a key to our business, so it is fitting to see our brand represented along side these amazing boats and inspirational sailors.” The race boats will arrive in IGY North Cove Marina at Brookfield Place, Downtown Manhattan from Sunday 22nd May, having raced overnight from Newport, RI as part of the SpaceCode Newport to New York prologue race. On Friday 27th May, the fleet will compete in the Currency House New York - Vendee Charity Race on the Hudson River, with the winning boat receiving a $5,000 USD cheque to be donated to the charity of their choice. 11am (EST) on Sunday 29th May will see the start of the New York Vendee - Race presented by Currency House & SpaceCode, the 4th leg of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship 2015-2016.   Note to Editors:Currency House is looking to redefine and reshape what it means to make money in the online trading community. We provide both private and institutional clients with effective, multi-asset trading through the modernized and user-friendly xStation trading platform offering a wide range of asset classes such as Forex, CFDs, Binary Options, Stocks and other derivatives. Private clients can take advantage of an extensive list of services designed to help them profit in the online trading community - weekly webinars, online trading courses, one-on-one mentoring programs, a Demo Account with $100,000 in practice funds and a mobile-friendly App enabling them to trade anywhere on any device. As an outsourcing leader for white labelling, we aid and encourage our institutional clients to be innovative by expanding their trading offering and offer business consulting services to help clients stay ahead in today’s competitive international markets. Currency House's global team of trading experts are constantly adding cutting-edge technology and services that help clients get the most out of the online trading community. Join the online trading revolution with Currency House and see what it means to truly have Wall Street at your fingertips. SpaceCode: The assurance of total inventory control  SpaceCode delivers a user-friendly and super-functional RFID platform that has satisfied a range of customers in the healthcare industry, helping them track their assets in real time with unwavering accuracy, visibility and scalability. The innovative readers, chips, tags, refrigerators, cabinets and software support our customers in all the critical phases of their business: identifying and locating their inventory; authenticating and verifying every individual item; tracking and tracing their movement and processing; and managing inventory in real time 24/7/365. We put our customers’ financial and workforce resources to more effective use, helping them to reduce their costs, maximize their revenue, make smarter business decisions ‒ and improve their profitability. SpaceCode’s performance over the past 10 years demonstrates our consistent expertise in the design and manufacture of quality products. Our ISO 9001:2008 certification in quality management confirms our strong results in customer satisfaction, interdepartmental communications, work processes, and customer/supplier partnerships.     For more information visit: [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[IMOCA OCEAN MASTERS REINFORCES ENGAGEMENT WITH IOC-UNESCO IN THE NEW-YORK – VENDÉE (LES SABLES D’OLONNE)]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT With a few weeks to go before the start of the New York – Vendee (Les Sables d’Olonne) transatlantic race, IMOCA Ocean Masters is pleased to unveil a new co-branded race logo with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO). The partnership is founded on a shared interest in better understanding the effects of the ocean on the overall health of our planet. The New York-Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) is a unique opportunity to promote this strategic partnership internationally and the development of this co-branded logo confirms IMOCA Ocean Masters support of IOC-UNESCO’s objectives. In December 2015, along COP21 events, IOC-UNESCO and IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship confirmed a formal partnership with the aim to gather climate data in remote oceans, and particularly in the Southern Ocean.The ultimate goal of this partnership is to test new sub-surface micro profiling floats, (ALAMO floats equipped with Seabird and RBR CTDs technologies, designed and manufactured by MRV Systems in USA) which IMOCA Ocean Masters skippers would be able to deploy during the round-the-world races, including the Vendée Globe. Adding to a global network of almost 4,000 drifting Argo floats, the new technology will allow scientists to record data including salinity, pressure and temperature, at multiple depths down to 1,200 meters. Their compact design allows for a more practical deployment method, critically required on sailing yachts. These data, crucial for the scientific research, will allow contributing to the prediction of the earth’s climate evolution and to the better understanding of the ocean-climate interactions.It is believed that the Southern Ocean not only represents Eldorado for world class offshore sailors, it also plays an essential role in global warming. Acting like a giant lung, the Southern Ocean absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), heat and freshwater, playing a key role in regulating the earth’s climate.Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the IOC-UNESCO commented during the signature of the cooperation letter:“The implementation of a sustained and balanced observing system in the Southern Ocean is an objective which seemed not too long ago almost unachievable. Research cruises cannot be established frequently enough, and we were lacking opportunities to deploy autonomous instruments or gather data from volunteer vessels, simply because there are no regular shipping lines. Contributions from the IMOCA racing yachts will help us filling up gaps in areas of highest importance for climate research, and without carbon emission. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is delighted to coordinate these operations, in particular through its field office JCOMMOPS.”Mathieu Belbeoch, Head of the joint IOC-WMO Observations Programme Support centre in Brest/France commented: ”This ambitious cooperation between oceanographers and skippers, tested successfully during the Barcelona World Race 2014, is a new step forward to optimize and modernize the global ocean observing system elements. JCOMMOPS is proud to foster such cooperation with civil society and sailing world, and to enable scientific, operational, promotional and educational outcomes. IMOCA Ocean Masters skippers will be our ambassadors to highlight the importance of ocean observations. We thank them to take up the challenge to release robotic instruments within a racing context and extreme environment, and look forward together with IMOCA60 Class partners to build up a solid and sustained cooperation.”Jean Kerhoas, Chairman of the IMOCA60 Class commented: “We are tremendously excited to kick off our partnership with IOC-UNESCO with co-branded race logos on the mainsails of all IMOCA60s competing in the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) race. The ocean is our field of play and we are fully committed with IOC-UNESCO to doing our bit to help the world’s leading scientist understand them better. Together with OSM, we look forward to making further announcements around this partnership over the coming months.” The official website of the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York-Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) race is live! ! Find out more about the race, the skippers, weather analysis, photos and videos, and take on the Virtual Regatta challenge!  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Heading west]]> Tue, 10 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT With less than a month to go until the start of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) on May 29th, getting to the Big Apple is the priority for the competitors. To reach the United States, each of the 17 skippers has decided on a method that works for them: a race through the tradewinds, setting sail from the Canary Islands; a transatlantic slog, the ‘hard way’ reminiscent of the classic races of old; or a straight forward delivery trip. Via the north face Meanwhile, the six competitors in The Transat bakerly have chosen the hardest passage. The race from Plymouth across the North Atlantic, one that is traditionally against the prevailing winds and weather systems, is no picnic. Forced to drop south almost to the Azores, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), Vincent Riou (PRB), Jean-Pierre Dick (St-Michel Virbac), Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Richard Tolkien (44) are set to face several deep depressions and gale force winds. The sixth competitor, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), had to retire after suffering mainsail damage. The incident did not affect the boat’s integrity, but it did prevent Josse from continuing to compete. While the top trio are giving themselves a severe shakedown prior to the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne), the objective is a little different for Paul Meilhat, who is counting on the race to qualify him for the main event in the autumn, also allowing him to compete in the New York – Vendée, without this requirement hanging over him. Three other skippers have already finished their respective training periods during the Calero Solo Transat and have arrived in the USA. Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Sébastien Destrémau (Face Ocean) and Alan Roura (Un Vendée pour la Suisse) headed for the USA via this long route from Lanzarote to Newport, RI, initially in the northeasterly tradewinds. Though Sébastien Destrémau was first to finish, this result is really just a detail, the primary objective of all three competitors being to qualify for November’s Vendée Globe.   Salt sea scribes For some of the others, the delivery trip to New York will be accompanied by an email conversation with a writer who is passionate about the sea… This initiative, sponsored by Gallimard publications following a proposal by the organisers of the Grand Prix Guyader, aims to record the sailors’ thoughts while they’re at sea. The idea is to lift the veil on the daily lives of IMOCA Ocean Masters sailors as they cross an ocean: Their concerns, their joys and the issues they experience along the way. Through these revelations, each writer will have to react and develop their imagination through striking up a genuine dialogue with each skipper. The ultimate goal is to compile this material into a book, which will be published prior to the start of the Vendée Globe. Of the eight sailors delivering their boats to New York, five are involved with this: Yann Elies (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir), Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut), Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) and Stéphane Le Diraison. [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[MAINSAIL DAMAGE, END OF THE RACE FOR SEBASTIEN JOSSE AND IMOCA60 EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD]]> Mon, 09 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT This Wednesday 4 May, Sebastian Josse suffered a violent gybe due to unexpected failure of the boat tiller. This happened off Cape Finisterre in 25 to 30 knots of north-easterly wind and in relatively manageable seas. As a result, IMOCA60 Edmond De Rothschild's 160m2-mainsail was seriously damaged. Both solo sailor Seb Josse and his boat are safe, but no longer in a position to be competitive in The Transat bakerly. Sebastien Josse has decided to retire from the race and is headed for Vigo in Galicia where he will be joined by Gitana Team's shore crew. Leaving Plymouth on Monday 2 May at 14:30GMT+1, Sebastien Josse raced well and was able to exploit the full potential of his latest generation foiler to twice take the lead in the IMOCA fleet ahead of Vincent Riou (PRB) and Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII). The pace was set and the top three made the most of wonderful weather conditions on the initial part of the transatlantic race and make fast progress towards Cape Finisterre. It is at this point, well known for frequently having strong winds and rough seas, that the incident took place. When contacted by the shore crew, Sebastien Josse struggled to hide both his disappointment at having to retire from this wonderful transatlantic race and his frustration at not being able to continue the battle he had been embroiled in since the start with both Vincent Riou and Armel Le Cléac'h. "Sail battens and the top of the mainsail have broken following a violent gybe as a result of the tiller being released suddenly. Despite every precaution it is something that can happen at these key pressure points. It all happened so quickly, in just 10 seconds perhaps. There is no major damage but the sentence is final. Without a mainsail it is impossible to race and undeniably there is a lot of disappointment. It is always quite complicated when things come to an end so suddenly. I was very much in the race, sailing in contact with Vincent and Armel. The boat was throughly prepared and was really showing just what she is capable of... It is even harder because I think the first part, which is the toughest part, was already behind us. We had strong wind all afternoon, over 30 knots, and things were calming down progressively and were due to ease even more over the following three hours. I dumped all the sails and am now making headway to Vigo which is roughly 80 miles away. Without a mainsail it is hard to make more than 8 to 10 knots, so I won't make landfall until tomorrow afternoon," explained the Gitana Team skipper. Abandoning after just 30 hours of racing whilst fighting it out in the lead... Sadly appears to be a repeat of 6 months ago. The similarities end here though. In the Transat Jacques Vabre, the latest Gitana boat had just been launched two months earlier (in August) and had not been fully prepared due to teething issues. The team, led by Cyril Dardashti, had immediately set to work on getting the boat prepared for the Sebastien Josse to be able to set sail again in optimal conditions. The hard work paid off since the solo sailor would go on to dominate the return transatlantic race from St Barth's to Lorient and thus gain the all-important qualification for the Vendée Globe. Following work over the course of the winter that focused on optimisation the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild would finally be ready to show what she was made of. However, breakage is inevitable in what is becoming an increasingly mechanical sport in offshore racing and with the technological advances on these kinds of boats. Like last November, true to the sailor and Gitana Team, spirits will not be dampened and there will be no giving up. The objective is to repair the damaged sail as swiftly as possible so that Sebastien can set sail for North America. The Transat bakerly may now be behind him but he has the New York - Vendée (Sables d'Olonne) race ahead. He will maintain his racing schedule for 2016. The eastbound transatlantic race sets off on 29 May.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The race committee – guardians of the IMOCA fleet]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 00:00:00 GMT While the solo skippers battling it out in the North Atlantic will be centre stage during next month’s New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne), there is a group that has already been diligently working on the event behind the scenes for months. After the start gun fires on 29th May 2016, this group - all experts in singlehanded offshore racing, many even past competitors - will be on call 24/7 to ensure the event’s smooth running. They are, of course, the race management team: The highly experienced Jacques Caraës, supported by Guillaume Evrard and Hubert Lemonnier. The first job for Caraës and his team was to define the rules and lay them down in the Notice of Race and the Sailing Instructions for this key Open Sports Management-organised IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship event. To do this, they had to balance the requirements of the competitors and the race organisers, anticipate the likely weather for the race, and assess the logistics and all potential risks. While the race is on, the race management team will remain on call around the clock, watching over the race like guardian angels, closely monitoring the safety of competitors, while also ensuring all the rules are observed. Prelude to the main event As a taste of what lies ahead in the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne), there will be a prologue race, starting from Newport, Rhode Island on 21st May. This 150 mile long warm-up will provide a unique opportunity for guests and media to experience first hand what it is like to race on board the ocean-going thoroughbreds. The prologue takes the IMOCA 60s along the south coast of Long Island, arriving around 24 hours later at the finish off the Statue of Liberty, in the heart of New York Harbour. The IMOCA 60s will then be tied up at Manhattan’s North Cove close to Ground Zero, where they will be berthed for the next week. A media crewman onboard (or not) While it represents the perfect training for the Vendée Globe, the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) will also provide an opportunity to stockpile valuable media material, photos and video, prior to this winter’s singlehanded round the world race. The race management has proposed to the teams that they each take a media crewman on board for the race itself. Before the start, both skippers and media crewmen will sign a sworn declaration in which they will agree that the media crewman be in no way involved with the running of the boat. However those using the event as a qualifier for the Vendée Globe will be required to race alone. These include: -          Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Stéphane Le Diraison (NC) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) -          Sébastien Destremau (FACE OCEAN) and Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) if they do not qualify on the Calero Marinas Solo Transat, -          Paul Meilhat (SMA), if he does not qualify during The Transat -          Yann Elies (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) if he has not managed to sail 1500 miles singlehanded before the race -          Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) if he enters the Vendée Globe. High voltage start in the heart of the Big Apple The New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) start line will be on the Hudson River, immediately off North Cove Marina, in the shadow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Given the large amount of maritime traffic on the Hudson River and in New York Harbour, the race management reserves the right, dependent upon conditions, to allow competitors to take a crew on board for safety reasons, to help them with manoeuvres etc, as far as the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, 2.5 nautical miles from the start. Ice limit One of the principle risks in races across the North Atlantic is competing yachts colliding with icebergs. The great circle route for the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) takes the boats straight through the middle of ‘iceberg alley’ to the east of Newfoundland. To ensure the fleet completely avoids this area, the race management will set an ice exclusion zone, which competitors are prohibited from entering. Initially this has been set so that competitors will not be allowed further north than 42°N around the Grand Banks area, but Jacques Caraës and the race management team will be monitoring this constantly and reserve the right to amend this closer to the time. 24/7 The race management team will monitor the New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) round the clock in two hours shifts for the entire duration of the race. Skippers may call them at any time of the day or night. Otherwise the race management team constantly monitors the fleet tracking, as the course and speed of each boat are the prime indicators any problems that may be occurring on board. Each day they are provided with a weather forecast from Christian Dumard and Bernard Sacré’s company Great Circle. _______________________________________________ Schedule: Prologue: Start 21 May 2016 at 1600 local (2000 UTC) from Newport, Rhode Island. Arriving on 22 May at approximately midday in New York Harbour. Two courses are possible, of 150 or 220 miles, depending upon weather conditions. Charity Race: on New York Harbour on 27 May followed by the official start party at the New York Yacht Club. New York-Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) start: On 29 May at 1100 local (1500 UTC), on the Hudson River off North Cove Marina. Position updates during the race: Every 15 minutes, with a blackout between 2200 and 0300 UTC Arrivals: from 5 June on the Vendée Globe finish line, between Nouch Sud cardinal mark and a committee boat, moored to the south of it. _______________________________________________ Entry list for the New York- Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) (18 registered) Fabrice Amedeo - NEWREST Matmut (France) Jeremie Beyou - MAITRE COQ (France) Conrad Colman - NC (New Zealand/USA) Bertrand de Broc - MACSF (France) Tanguy de Lamotte - INITIATIVES COEUR (France) Sébastien Destremau - FACE OCEAN (France) Jean-Pierre Dick - StMICHEL VIRBAC (France) Yann Eliès - QUEGUINER-LEUCEMIE ESPOIR (France) Nandor Fa - SPIRIT OF HUNGARY (Hungary) Pieter Heerema - NO WAY BACK (Netherlands) Ari Huusela – FLYING WITH FINNAIR (Finland) Morgan Lagravière - SAFRAN (France) Armel Le Cléac'h - BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII (France) Stéphane Le Diraison - NC (France) Paul Meilhat - SMA (France) Vincent Riou - PRB (France) Kojiro Shiraishi - Spirit of Yukoh (Japan) Alex Thomson - HUGO BOSS (Great Britain)[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[New York–Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne), a breath of fresh air]]> Wed, 13 Apr 2016 00:00:00 GMT Less than seven weeks from the start of the New York–Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne), the solo skippers are working hard with their weather advisors to analyse thoroughly the course and the anticipated weather conditions expected for this unique eastbound transatlantic race. Of course, part of the appeal of this race is the chance to train and qualify for the Vendée Globe while having to go back to basics and shake up the old routines on what, for most, is an unfamiliar course. Two years ago, the New York – Barcelona race was a prelude to the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship and was sailed on a similar course. That race served as a warm-up to the Barcelona World Race running from the foot of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean concluding in one of Spain’s major ports, the capital of Catalonia. Like the Barcelona World Race, it was sailed doublehanded, enabling the crews to train for their upcoming voyage around the world. In the event, the race proved to have a few surprises in store for competitors, the course revealing itself to be more complex than it had first appeared. Two sailors who competed in the New York–Barcelona were Spain’s Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos and Morgan Lagravière who was sailing his first major IMOCA race with Marc Guillemot aboard Safran. Anna Corbella Following from her third place in the 2015 Barcelona World Race with co-skipper, Gerard Marin, Anna Corbella has become one of the darlings of Spanish offshore racing. Still hopingto mount an 11th hour campaign for this autumn’s Vendée Globe, she continues to be very active in promoting offshore racing and the IMOCA class in Catalonia. She recalls the New York to Barcelona Race: “First up we had the start in New York. Setting sail from there, it felt like we were acting in a film - it was incredible. Following that, amid the shipping and in the Gulf Stream, the navigation wasn’t easy, particularly as we were initially punching upwind. Next you have to get used to the new situation: We’re unfamiliar with racing across the Atlantic from west to east. For us, the worst moment involved negotiating a trough where we ended up without any breeze. The rest of the fleet continued to make headway but we were becalmed, even though the GRIB files were showing that there should have been wind. That’s where we lost contact with the leaders. “Having position reports every quarter of an hour makes for a frantic pace. It quickly becomes exhausting, especially if you’re sailing with the fronts - you find yourself trying to stick with them for as long as possible… That’s etched on my mind because as the first front rolled through, I felt seasick, which wasn’t a great way to start a race.” Morgan Lagravière The New York–Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) will be Morgan Lagravière’s first singlehanded race aboard his new Safran IMOCA 60. For the young French skipper it will be the culmination of an apprenticeship that began two years ago racing in the New York – Barcelona with Marc Guillemot. “I obviously remember the start in New York very clearly: It was both magical and complicated, with a combination of wind shifts, current and heavy shipping in the harbour. “The first few hours of racing required a lot of energy. You had to be constantly on watch for other boats, as well as the numerous navigation marks. After that, there were a lot of serious choices to be made about what course to take and you were torn between the temptation to hunt down the lows to the north and the desire to take the shortest route. What surprised me was that ultimately conditions were a lot more varied than I’d imagined. If the Azores high climbed north, everything could be decided in the last few miles. There wass no single point during the race where you could safely say that victory was in the bag. It was a good test of motivation.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[To foil or not to foil? IMOCA Ocean Masters teams have made their decisions]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 00:00:00 GMT As their winter refits come to a close, the IMOCA teams have made their main technical choices ahead of a season that culminates in the pinnacle event of the class’ four year cycle: The Vendée Globe. For the next refit, which teams have scheduled for this summer, there will only be time for less significant adjustments ready for each skipper to spend three months sailing their respective yachts singlehanded non-stop around the world. In terms of ‘big ticket items’, such as the foils, there is now no going back. With the introduction of one design masts and keels in the IMOCA fleet, teams and their designers have acknowledged that there are few gains to be made over the best boats from the previous generations. Instead, they have opened up a new avenue of development with complex-shaped foils, designed not only to prevent leeway (like conventional daggerboards) but also to improve righting moment (ie adding stability and power) and creating vertical lift to reduce wetted surface area and drag. The latest generation foil-assisted IMOCA 60s don’t fly, but they are certainly less immersed than boats not fitted with these foils. With these developments, so the trend, inspired by the flying America’s Cup catamarans and the popular Moth dinghies, is now extending across to monohulls with the latest IMOCA designs. Similar new generation foils have also been permitted to be used on Proto Minis in the Classe 6.50. With the exception of Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary, a classic design where budgetary constraints have been a decisive factor, all the latest generation IMOCA60s are equipped with these new generation foils. However among teams with previous generation boats, opinion is a lot more divided about whether such foils should or should not be retrofitted to their tried and tested machines. Maître CoQ’s refit Jérémie Beyou, skipper of Maître CoQ, has fought a long battle within the IMOCA class against allowing the new generation foils. His reasoning was not so much against the march of progress, rather he considered that these new appendages would incur substantial extra cost (in the order of €300,000 to retrofit them). However, from the moment the decision was made by the IMOCA class to permit the new foils, Beyou has been constantly monitoring how they have performed. “As with any innovation of this kind, progress was very slow initially,” Beyou observes. “Some were sceptical: Could the gains provided by the foils on certain points of sail offset the losses close-hauled with a much less efficient surface to prevent leeway than the ‘classic’ daggerboard configuration? In reality, we were quickly able to see that the potential for improvement was huge. Banque Populaire VIII’s performance in the Transat Jacques Vabre convinced me that sooner or later this will be the way forward…” In addition, Maître CoQ’s retirement from that race enabled Beyou and the Maître CoQ shore crew to begin tackling the major retrofit work sufficiently early in order to finish ready to train with the other boats this spring. The Transat New York-Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) will provide Beyou and the Maître CoQ team with the opportunity to trial their newly equipped boat as well as to qualify for the Vendée Globe. A classic configuration for PRB, SMA and Groupe Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir The other teams with competitive 2008 or 2012 generation IMOCA60s, have chosen not to fit the new foils, albeit for a variety of differing reasons. On the 2012 Vendée Globe winner, now Paul Meilhat’s SMA, the repairwork required after she was abandoned during the IMOCA Ocean Masters’ Transat Saint-Barth – Port la Forêt race and subsequently left to drift has put the retrofitting of new generation foils out of the question. For Yann Elies, skipper of Groupe Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir (formerly Marc Guillemot’s 2008 generation Safran) the problem is slightly different: “It’s clear that the foils provide a significant amount of added speed. Like everyone else, we questioned whether we should embark on this route. We gave up for several reasons: first of all, our refit started late and there was a risk we would miss out on essential sailing time. “Next, we must not forget that the addition of foils must be considered in the wider context: Introducing foils considerably modifies the role of the rudders, which have to take on a greater role in preventing leeway. Finally, to bring this operation to a successful conclusion requires both investment, both financially and in time, neither of which we have. Given all these factors, we’ve instead opted for reliability by improving on the existing boat.” Meanwhile PRB’s performancehasboosted by other modifications and skipper Vincent Riou knows that he already has one of the fastest boats in the fleet. In his more controversial view, an IMOCA60 with a more classic foil configuration still has every chance of winning the Vendée Globe: “We haven’t found any reasons to fit PRB with [new generation] foils as they don’t improve our winning potential… The foilers would have to make a huge amount of progress to stand a greater chance of winning the Vendée Globe than us.” Riou is setting the cat among the pigeons here by countering the general trend, but the first real indication of which have made the right decision will occur during the Transat New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) on what should be a downwind course, in theory more favourable to the new generation foilers. In the end, everyone seems convinced that foils, in some form or other, represent the future of IMOCA 60 design. However, this winter’s Vendée Globe will mark a transition and as yet no-one is in a position to say how the foilers will behave, in terms of their performance or reliability, over several months of racing on the most challenging of race courses. Computer VPP calculations indicate that an IMOCA60 equipped with new generation foils should be three to four days faster over the whole Vendée Globe course given ‘typical’ weather scenarios. But putting the theory into practice is another thing entirely. However whoever is right, such technological advancements are all vital parts of the rich tapestry that forms the IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[The Skywalk by Alex Thomson Racing]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 00:00:00 GMT Daring Stunt by British Yachtsman Alex Thomson #skywalk British round-the-world sailor, Alex Thomson, has unveiled yet another death-defying stunt. Having established himself as a daredevil of the sport of sailing, this latest stunt involves Thomson, on a kiteboard, chasing his IMOCA open 60 HUGO BOSS boat upwind and attaching himself via a rope to the top of the boat’s mast. Daring Stunt by British Yachtsman Alex Thomson #skywalk British round-the-world sailor, Alex Thomson, has unveiled yet another death-defying stunt. Having established himself as a daredevil of the sport of sailing, this latest stunt involves Thomson, on a kiteboard, chasing his IMOCA open 60 HUGO BOSS boat upwind and attaching himself via a rope to the top of the boat’s mast. The skipper then utilises the speed of the race boat to propel himself 280ft into the air, sending him surfing above the vast HUGO BOSS yacht. When Thomson reaches the peak of his flight, he detaches himself from the boat and expertly controls his descent back down, landing the kiteboard on the water in true Alex Thomson style, all whilst wearing a stylish BOSS suit. Thomson is captured during the feat in a series of remarkable still images, as he kitesurfs more than twice the height of his HUGO BOSS mast, a height equivalent to a 25 story building. With a passion for pushing himself to the limit – and having previously executed two other death-defying challenges out on the water - solo skipper Thomson was keen to complete the trilogy of stunts. The Skywalk was carried out by Alex Thomson Racing, in partnership with sponsors HUGO BOSS and Mercedes-Benz. In total, 35 people were involved in the planning, co-ordination and execution of the stunt, including Alex Thomson Racing Operations Manager Ross Daniel, professional kite-surfer Susie Mai and kite-surfing coach Ray Kasper. Having safely returned to dry land Thomson commented: “The previous two stunts that we carried out - The Mastwalk and The Keelwalk - were so successful that, as a team, we just knew we couldn’t stop there. We were all in agreement; we wanted to do something even bigger and better. “I’ve always had a love for all things wind-powered so naturally a stunt which involved kite surfing was the next step. The idea of combining two of my favourite sports and executing something which, to our knowledge, had never been done before was really exciting. “The team and I have been planning the stunt for a long time. There were lots of things that could have gone wrong. Perhaps most concerning for the team; was the prospect of an uncontrolled descent, causing me to come back down too fast. Water can be as hard as concrete if hit with enough velocity, so this was one of the most dangerous aspects of the stunt. But I had a brilliant team around me and, with their help; we managed to pull it off.” “What’s next? Who knows?” This is the third daring stunt to be unveiled by the 41-year-old yachtsman and his team. Videos of The Keelwalk – a challenge which involved Thomson walking along the orange keel of his racing yacht, whilst heeled over and sailing at high speed – and The Mastwalk – which saw the skipper climb the 30 metre mast of HUGO BOSS and dive from the very top into the water – have now been viewed by more than 4.5m people around the world. Thomson will compete in the pinnacle event of the Ocean Masters race calendar – the Vendée Globe - later this year, a race which begins on November 6th. The non-stop, solo, unassisted, round the world race takes approximately 80 days to complete. In the last edition of the race, back in 2013, Thomson finished in third place. This time around he is determined to be the first Brit to win the prestigious title.[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[First-timer and already an international success]]> Mon, 22 Feb 2016 00:00:00 GMT 17 skippers at the start of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) on 29 May. They will be heading off downwind from the Big Apple, surfing as if they were on the Southern Oceans towards the famous channel of the Sables d’Olonne. No less than 17 solo sailors from 7 different nationalities have signed up for the new Transat New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne). Five months before their round-the-world and in Vendée Globe configuration, they will be taking full advantage of this 4th leg of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship to ratify the latest optimisations carried out on their Formula Ones of the seas, but also to observe with each other closely. This first ever edition of the Transat New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) – a real warm-up for the Vendée Globe – has caught the skippers’ inspiration. And a chance for the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship to shine well beyond the North Atlantic Ocean. Start date 29 May. In 100 days exactly. The teams had until last Monday 15 February to sign up for the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne). Now, D-Day minus 100 we’re looking at a high-level and variety of fleet for this Vendée Globe warm-up. 17 solo riders for a first edition is a very good score, especially when you consider the range of competitors: 6 – 7 foilers (IMOCA60s equipped with latest generation foils), and solid challengers... Starting from the foot of Freedom Tower, this new Transat takes the IMOCA Ocean Masters to an international public. On top of what is already an incredible race from a sporting point of view, the skippers are unanimous in saying that this international dimension of the New York - Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) is a huge plus. Downwind sailing – advantage for the foilers? Or not… The racecourse from New York will have the skippers doing their homework. The key will be to get into the downwind depressions that cross the Atlantic at the right place and at the right time, and to ride on their back towards the East. Next winter between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn – about 2/3 of their round-the-world – the conditions will be the same. These 3050 miles will then be mostly downwind – the chance for the foilers to show their full potential after their recent trip to the workshed for final optimisation? “Anything is possible. It’s hard to say if the weather will favour the foilers. If it’s the case it will be a great occasion to see their real advantage.” Vincent Riou (PRB) “We’ve been waiting for this race impatiently. It will be a key moment to test the reliability and integrity of our choices.” Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel – Virbac). Full Fleet The IMOCA60s will all be in Vendée Globe mode during the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne). So potentially all the machines (and skippers) competing will be the same as those leaving les Sables d’Olonne on 6 November. The seeded players will take the time during the 8 or 9 days of Transatlantic sailing to take the temperature and check out their competitors.  “This race is a perfect opportunity to take stock of the various forces.” Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). “It will be interesting to go looking for confrontation, and to see how each one manages to push his boat during the 8 or 9 days of racing.” Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie espoir). From the Statue of Liberty to the Chaume Channel. Stuff of myths and dreams Last but not least, this west-east race course is a party in itself. It’s not every day you get to moor your boat at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. “It’s incredible, once-in-a-lifetime!” All those who have been there remember it forever. Conrad Coman – the only American skipper (of New Zealand birth) can’t wait for this “home-start” to show his compatriots how fabulous ocean racing is and why not to attract partners from that side of the Atlantic! Many of the skippers have already sailed up the famous Sables d’Olonne channel, but to do it in an IMOCA at the end of a race and 5 months prior to the Vendée Globe is really something else. “Sailing up the channel to meet the fans – That’s about as good as a finish can get!” Paul Meilhat (SMA). “Arriving in les Sables d’Olonne just makes sense.” Sébastien Destremau (Face Ocean). “The finish in Vendée is perfect for us, for our partners for the Vendée people. And the timing just ahead of the Vendée Globe is ideal.” Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ). Jean Kerhoas (IMOCA President) « This new race will be the dress rehearsal for the Vendée Globe and the impressive fleet of 17 skippers shows how much the skippers have welcomed it. Of course, some of the skippers are looking to qualify for the solo round-the-world, but many of the competitors are favourites for the up-coming Vendée Globe. The new IMOCA rookies will be rubbing shoulders with the more experienced skippers, while the new foilers – which are still in the development stages – will be up against boats that have already proven their worth. We’re looking at some very exciting sport after a week spent in Manhattan, which I’m delighted to see as a sign of the international development of the race. » Yves Auvinet (President of the French Department of Vendée) « The Vendée region will do everything in its power to ensure that the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) will be a big public party. I know the people of Vendée will come out in crowds to welcome the skippers just a few months ahead of the Vendée Globe. » Didier Gallot (Sables d’Olonne Mayor) « Beautiful race start, great race finish! » All of us here in the town of the Sables d’Olonne are preparing to welcome the skippers of the Transat New York – Vendée and their incredible boats from 6 June. »   Transat New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Entry List
(17 entries) Fabrice Amedeo - NEWREST MATMUT (France) Jérémie Beyou - MAITRE COQ (France) Conrad Colman - NC (New Zealand – USA) Bertrand de Broc - MACSF (France) Tanguy de Lamotte - INITIATIVES CŒUR (France) Sébastien Destremau - FACE OCEAN (France) Jean-Pierre Dick - STMICHEL VIRBAC (France) Yann Eliès - QUEGUINER-LEUCEMIE ESPOIR (France) Nandor Fa - SPIRIT OF HUNGARY (Hungary) Pieter Heerema - NO WAY BACK (Netherlands) Morgan Lagravière - SAFRAN (France) Armel Le Cléac’h - BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII (France) Stéphane Le Diraison - NC (France) Paul Meilhat - SMA (France) Vincent Riou - PRB (France) Alex Thomson - HUGO BOSS (United Kingdom) Ari Huusela - NC (Finland)   Facts and figures 1st edition 17 entries (7 nationalities represented) 3050 nautical miles 4th leg of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship Program Transat New York – Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) 17 May : Arrival at the Newport Shipyard - Newport, RI 21-22 May : Prologue race from Newport to New York (North Cove Marina, Brookfield Place, NY) 27 May: Pro-am Charity Race in New York 29 May : Race Start 5/6 June : First arrivals in Les Sables d'Olonne, France 11 June : Pro-am race / Prize-Giving and Closing Ceremony [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Sport meets Science: World´s best skippers help observing the Ocean down south]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:00:00 GMT The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) and IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship team up to gather climate data in remote oceans, and particularly the Southern Ocean The IMOCA Ocean Masters skippers, such as defending World Champion Jean Le Cam, go where only few people dare to go: to the very remote oceanic areas of the Southern hemisphere below 45°S and down to 55°S as they pass Cape Horn, where some of the world´s most extreme climactic conditions, the strongest winds and most massive waves await skippers like Le Cam and his fellow skippers on their IMOCA class 60ft sailing yachts on their non-stop single- or double-handed races around the globe. Next time Jean Le Cam goes there, he will make a contribution to helping scientists better understand climate. The Southern Ocean not only represents Eldorado for world class offshore sailors, it also plays an essential role in global warming. Acting like a giant lung, the Southern Ocean seasonally absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and heat, playing a key role in regulating the earth’s climate. To conduct their studies, scientists analyse measurements of essential climate variables such as CO₂ concentration, sea water temperature and salinity. This data is collected by autonomous instruments, research vessels or by specially equipped merchant ships as they travel along the major trade routes. The analysis is internationally coordinated, but coverage is limited geographically to each ship’s actual itinerary. As a result, on trade routes the waters are very well observed, whereas in other areas, such as the Southern Ocean, few observations exist. Skippers sailing around Antarctica thus represent an ideal opportunity to gather important data through buoy deployments or via instruments installed onboard their yachts. As future trends in carbon uptake by the Southern Ocean is very difficult to be predicted reliably, it is therefore critical to continue recording data in this area of the ocean. That´s were Jean Le Cam and his fellow skippers from IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship come in: To form a unique partnership with UNESCO´s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the UN´s governing body when it comes to promoting international cooperation and to coordinating programmes in research, services and capacity-building, in order to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of the protection of the marine environment, and the decision-making processes of its Member States. What started with a cooperation between IOC UNESCO and the Barcelona World Race in 2010 resulting in a minilab being fitted on one of the participating yachts, was extended in 2014 to eight vessels dropping Argo beacons in the South Atlantic to send back temperature and salinity data from this remote and infrequently visited part of the ocean. With the signing of a cooperation agreement between IOC-UNESCO and the class during the 21st edition of the United Nations Conference on climate change (COP21), all 30 IMOCA skippers have decided that they will participate with their boats in the data-gathering project in the five races of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship. Every IMOCA 60 will eventually be equipped with a standard environmental pack, which will serve the needs of scientific research and operational oceanography without compromising the performance of these state of the art racing machines. The IMOCA Class is working together with experts from JCOMMOPS, joint coordination centre for ocean observing platforms of IOC-UNESCO and World Meteorological Organization (WMO). JCOMMOPS provides coordination at an international level for drifting buoys, moored buoys in the high seas, research vessels, ships of opportunity and sub-surface profiling floats. Quotes: Vladimir Ryabinin (Executive Secretary of the IOC-UNESCO) “The implementation of a sustained and balanced observing system in the Southern Ocean is an objective which seemed not too long ago almost unachievable. Research cruises cannot be established frequently enough, and we were lacking opportunities to deploy autonomous instruments or gather data from volunteer vessels, simply because there are no regular shipping lines. Contributions from the IMOCA racing yachts will help us filling up gaps in areas of highest importance for climate research, and without carbon emission. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is delighted to coordinate these operations, in particular through its field office JCOMMOPS. The fact that we were able to sign this letter of cooperation at Le Bourget, during the COP21 is the best beginning for this cooperation considering the results of the Conference!” Jean Kerhoas (President of IMOCA) “The signing of this agreement with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) comes as a great satisfaction for the class I preside over, as it’s the culmination of a year of work that was first initiated with the FNOB during the last Barcelona World Race. IMOCA feels a real sense of pride at actively participating in the preservation of the oceans during our next races, through our skippers, who are virtually the only people to visit these most remote oceans.” Jean Le Cam (IMOCA Ocean Masters Champion 2013-2014) “I’m very eager to be moving forward with UNESCO’s IOC and getting down to the practicalities of setting up this partnership, as well as discovering the possible equipment available for the Vendée Globe. I’m very motivated by the prospect of passing on the message to the members of IMOCA so each skipper can do their bit and make their contribution to this scientific work.” Sir Keith Mills (President of OSM, Open Sports Management) “OSM, as promoter of the IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship, warmly welcomes this excellent initiative. Our approach isn’t just commercial, as we must play a lead role in this environmental and socially responsible campaign. The oceans are the playing field for our Championship, but they are also key to our planet’s environmental well being.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Transat Saint-Barth / Port-la-Forêt: Hats off]]> Wed, 23 Dec 2015 00:00:00 GMT The Transat Saint-Barth / Port-la-Forêt rounded off this Wednesday 23 December with the arrival of Morgan Lagravière (Safran), who completes his transatlantic race and secures his ticket for the next Vendée Globe. Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord), who was ultimately unable to bring the repair work on his keel bearing to a successful conclusion will, once he has officially declared his retirement, await a favourable weather window to deliver his IMOCA60 back to Lorient. Linking together two back-to-back transatlantic races, particularly in such tough conditions, has been far from easy. For those who took this option, it translated as a significant amount of extra work for the shore crew, a race against the clock to have a boat ready to face up to a winter transatlantic race and some particularly harsh weather conditions. For all those who took the start in St Barths, making the start line was already a victory in itself. Victory for the shore crews who worked relentlessly and victory for the sailors, who had to find the right balance between getting the necessary rest and a need to stay on their game so as not to drop out of the competitive bubble. Battle mode For the majority of the competitors at the start in St Barths, this event had double the appeal. On the one hand, it was the first full-scale test for sailing an IMOCA60 singlehanded (solely Sébastien Josse could boast such experience), on the other it was an opportunity to qualify for the Vendée Globe in late 2015. To achieve this though, they had to give their all. Indeed, the Newrest-Matmut and Le Souffle du Nord team had just a matter of days, after completing the delivery trip from Itajai, to get their machine up and running again. Sébastien Josse and the entire Gitana Team had to really step things up a gear to get the boat back in the water following the retirement in the Transat Jacques Vabre and then get back across the Atlantic. The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild had barely two days in St Barths before heading back out to sea singlehanded. Further evidence of the class’ fighting spirit came with Morgan Lagravière, who managed to come to an agreement with Nicolas Boidevézi to take over for the race and then got the boat from Lorient to the race start. This dogged determination to win never failed once the starting gun had sounded. Straightaway, Sébastien Josse and Paul Meilhat (SMA) took the reins at the front of the fleet; whilst behind them Morgan Lagravière and Thomas Ruyant became embroiled in a fierce battle for third place. Crucial positioning Though the race start proved to be pleasant, very soon the fleet had to front up to the arrival of two successive lows, which would change the tone dramatically. The first generated a fairly strong south-westerly wind, that only Sébastien Josse and Paul Meilhat were able to catch onto thanks to their position as leaders. Astern, Thomas Ruyant, Fabrice Amedeo, Eric Holden (O Canada) and Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) chose to adopt for a more southerly trajectory so as to position themselves favourably in relation to this second low. Morgan Lagravière, who initially thought he’d be able to escape on the tail of the first low, was not able to keep pace, he too compelled to head southwards to avoid ending up to the north of this second, particularly active low and having to deal with headwinds. Further down the line, Paul Meilhat was also forced to mirror this move, leaving Sébastien Josse to make good his escape on his own. Rough weather pummels the fleet This second low proved to be particularly vicious. On the approach to the Azores, it scoops up the fleet, dishing out winds in excess of 50 knots at times, making the seas particularly tough to negotiate. In these Dantean conditions, breakage quickly gatecrashes proceedings. The first to be affected are Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière who, struggling with keel issues, opt to make a pit stop to effect repairs. The former heads to Ponta Delgada, the second to Horta. Next, it’s the turn of Fabrice Amedeo, who spots damage to his starboard rudder. Finally, Eric Holden, struggling with various technical issues (torn sails, electronics issues), also decides to make a pit stop in Horta. Without a shadow of doubt, the most serious incident relates to Paul Meilhat, victim of a bad fall aboard SMA. Whilst making headway in over 50 knots of breeze, Paul had to go up forward to go and reinforce an element on one of his stays that had come apart. Whilst making his way across the deck, a wave swept him up and threw him against the coachroof, leading to several fractures to the ribs and pelvis. Incapable of manoeuvring his monohull in these conditions, Paul had to resort to requesting assistance and he was airlifted by helicopter from the immediate north of the island of Sao Miguel. The SMA team are still rallied together in a bid to recover the boat, which is drifting between the Azores and the north-west tip of Spain. Solely Enda O’Coineen, who decided to let the rough weather roll through under very reduced sail, was able to negotiate the conditions without too much damage, aside from some very battered sails. A record crossing, an open championship By completing the course in 10d 05h 18mn, at an average speed over the ground in excess of 15 knots, Sébastien Josse really showed what his monohull Edmond de Rothschild could do. Convinced of the appeal of the foils, notably on a reach, the skipper of Gitana Team did acknowledge that life aboard was particularly difficult. Tossed around in these monastic hulls, void of all but the bare essentials in a bid to save weight, the sailors struggle to move around their increasingly violent boats. Simply being able to take the pounding becomes a challenge and some teams are wondering about the benefits of fitting out the cabins to allow the sailors a minimum of handholds when they’re full powered up on a bumpy road. Bolstered by his second place in the Transat Saint-Barth / Port-la-Forêt, Fabrice Amedeo has made substantial inroads into Vincent Riou (PRB) in the provisional ranking for the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship, proof that consistency pays. Behind them, there is precious little separating the sailors with just twelve points between the leader and Armel le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), fifth in the provisional ranking. The New York / Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) may prove decisive in the final championship ranking. Last minute: arrival of Morgan Lagravière (Safran) By crossing the finish line this Wednesday 23 December at 04h 32mn 02s GMT, the skipper of Safran finishes fourth in the Transat Saint-Barth / Port-la-Forêt. In so doing he qualifies for the next Vendée Globe. His race time is 16d 13h 32mn 02s, at an average speed of 8.49 knots along the great circle route. His distance over the ground was 4002.94 miles at an average speed of 10.07 knots. Morgan Lagravière: “This second part of the race, since leaving the Azores, has been a different ball game. First off, you know that you’re alone on the water; the stimulus of competition is no longer there, but at the same time you can choose your own pace and you’re no longer compelled to constantly hunt down your limits. This transatlantic race has enabled me to learn a great deal, from the incident that affected my keel, through to the experience of the bad weather. It was powerful, violent at times. I will have to digest all that now. I know I’m qualified for the Vendée Globe and that will enable me to take a step back and assimilate everything I’ve experienced over these past few days of racing. In any case, it’s a real pleasure to be able to share what we’re going through on the water. Without these exchanges, the race wouldn’t have had the same flavour.”[Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Podium position for Ireland’s Enda O’Coineen]]> Sun, 20 Dec 2015 00:00:00 GMT In an exceptional performance, Ireland’s Enda O’Coineen aboard his IMOCA 60 Currency House Kilcullen completed the podium in the IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt, the third event of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship 2015-2016. Currency House Kilcullen crossed the finish line off the Breton harbour at 13:19:55 today (Sunday, 20th December), with a race time for the 3375 mile course of 13d 22h 19min 55s. In fact O’Coineen was forced to start the race just over a day later than the rest of his competitors after his boat experienced problems with her engine’s saildrive unit. As a result the actual elapsed time for Currency House Kilcullen’s passage across the North Atlantic was 12d 21h 49m and 55s, less than the 12d 23h 57m and 42s time of second placed Fabrice Amédéo who arrived yesterday on Newrest–Matmut. “My hair is wet from a magnum of champagne - it was a great arrival,” said Currency House Kilcullen’s jubilant 60-year-old skipper after he’d docked in Port la Forêt. “I could have got here sooner, but when I realised I was under no pressure I took the last two days easy, rather than trying to catch the other boat.” While there were seven starters, the race has been a war of attrition thanks to the severe winter gales, which have frequently brought storm force gusts to the fleet over the last week. At present only one boat is left on the race course – Morgan Lagravière’s Safran which was around 870 miles astern when Currency House Kilcullen finished this afternoon. During one gale early last week, O’Coineen said he saw 46 knots of wind and he experienced similar gusts once past the Azores islands on Thursday night. “You are humbled by that ocean out there. It is an animal! I don’t think the storms are getting any easier with globe warming - some of those storms were outrageous. You got used to the wind being ‘only 30 knots’, all the time,” recounted O’Coineen. He paid tribute to the boat that British round the world veteran Mike Golding sailed to sixth place in the 2012-3 Vendée Globe: “She is a great boat - very well thought out. I think she is easier to sail than some of the other boats. The keel and self-steering are all in great shape.” The only issue were some sails, which O’Coineen admitted were destroyed due to him pushing too hard early on. “I sailed the boat quite aggressively, because I really wanted to catch up, but probably too aggressively because after four or five days in fairly quick succession, I blew out the A7 and the J2 sails.” He expended a lot of energy recovering and dropping the broken sails forcing him to have a quiet day to recuperate. “I got back into the race again and got a bit more confident. All I wanted to do was finish, so to be in a podium position is a fantastic result for me, who is a gifted amateur with a day job. I think age does add a certain factor - you have the benefit of experience…and then there’s luck.” The result of having taken it relatively easy over the last couple of days while the wind has been ‘only 20 knots’, O’Coineen was in good shape when he arrived in Port la Forêt. In completing this race, O’Coineen and Currency House Kilcullen have now qualified themselves for the 2016-7 Vendée Globe, but O’Coineen says he hasn’t made up his mind if he is doing the famous singlehanded non-stop around the world race which leaves next autumn from Les Sables d’Olonne, France: “I am taking it in stages and this is the first stage. I am having serious meetings with myself and myself! It is a very personal thing, another stage in life. But now it is nice to know it is an option.” If he did do the Vendée Globe, O’Coineen would be Ireland’s first ever entry in the race which over the years in the UK has made sailing stars out of Ellen MacArthur, Sam Davies, Alex Thomson and Brian Thompson among others. [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[Transat Saint-Barth / Port-la-Forêt Fabrice Amedeo second!]]> Sun, 20 Dec 2015 00:00:00 GMT Fabrice Amedeo, skipper of the IMOCA60 Newrest – Matmut, finishes 2nd in the Transat St-Barth / Port-la-Forêt, the 3rd event of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship 2015-2016, crossing the finish line this Saturday 19 December, at 14h 57mins 42secs GMT. Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) is due to complete the podium tomorrow morning. In the Azores, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) left Horta mid-morning, Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) is obliged to wait until Monday to effect repairs, whilst Eric Holden (O Canada) has just announced his withdrawal.  It was his first ever solo transatlantic race in IMOCA60. When he left St Barths some 14 days ago, Fabrice Amedeo knew he wouldn’t be able to play the same strategic cards as Sébastien Josse, Paul Meilhat, Morgan Lagravière or Thomas Ruyant. Deprived of a large gennaker (headsail) he had to very quickly opt for a southerly course, which meant he was unable to hook onto the first low in the North Atlantic. In so doing, he managed to successfully make the most of what his trajectory had to offer. In the gales of the second week of racing, and again after his rudder damage, he valiantly fronted up to the situation. He tackled this initiatory transatlantic with both enthusiasm and pragmatism, a fact that augurs very well for the next stage of his programme.  Croissant time for Enda The podium for this transatlantic race is due to be completed tomorrow before dawn for the Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen). He’s the least experienced offshore racing skipper in this fleet and engine issues forced him to set sail 24hrs after everyone else, and yet here we are… Bringing a whole new meaning to the expression ‘blowing one’s own trumpet’, this pure adventurer opted for a fairly direct trajectory, tracing his route through the heart of the Atlantic with delight, lyricism even, hunkering down in the big blows and regaining his good humour just afterwards. He’s expected in the Vallée des Fous around 04:00GMT tomorrow, which he’s sure to be thrilled about.  Morgan is off again Morgan Lagravière (Safran) got back onto the racetrack bound for Britain this morning at 09:15GMT. Conditions remain boisterous but manageable with 25-30 knots of north-westerly, building temporarily tomorrow to 28-35 knots. The seas remain heavy with 6 to 7-metre waves, which equates to nearly half the size of yesterday, when waves in the Azores bordered on 10-11 metres. Morgan has a little over 1,000 miles to go to finish his race and qualify for the Vendée Globe. Thomas bides his time in the Azores Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) and his team will have to wait until Monday morning before they can lift their boat out of the water and change the faulty part, which has created play in his keel. If  Thomas manages to get back on the racetrack on Monday evening, he’ll stand a chance of making the finish before the line closes next Friday night. Eric throws in the towel There is no chance of revenge for Eric Holden (O Canada). This morning the Canadian skipper announced that he was throwing in the towel. His keel issues are too complicated to be repaired over a weekend and thus complete the race ranked. “It’s a serious issue. I’m going to give my all to sort these problems out as soon as possible so I can continue with my preparations and my qualification for the Vendée Globe.”  [Read more]]]> <![CDATA[At sea, on shore]]> Sat, 19 Dec 2015 00:00:00 GMT Right now, the race is being played out as much on land as it is at sea for the end of the Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt course. At sea, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut) is expected to reach Brittany tomorrow, while Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) is racking up some very fine average speeds at the leading edge of the front making a 15 – 17-knot VMG. In the Azores, solo sailors and teams are either busying themselves or champing at the bit, all with the same objective: to cross the finish line before Christmas. The days pass by, but the gales continue to colour proceedings. Today, like yesterday, the sailing conditions are boisterous in the Bay of Biscay and rather impracticable offshore of the Azores. Staying ahead of the front Respectively 24 and 36hrs from the finish line, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut) and Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) are swallowing up the miles: 370 in 24 hours for the Irish skipper yesterday and some 325 for the Parisian sailor. At the leading edge of the front, in 40 to 45 knots, increasing to 50 over the course of the day for Enda O’Coineen, and in 30 to 35 knots for Fabrice Amedeo, they’re getting the most out of their machines, despite the accumulation of fatigue and equipment that is a long way from being 100% operational. They have no other choice than to go fast: the aim being not to get caught up by the low. The skipper of Newrest – Matmut is expected to make landfall in Port-la-Forêt on Saturday afternoon. Stand-by in the tempest Horta, 17 December 2015: the seas are raging, 40 – 45 knots of wind is blowing and the Venturi effect between these volcanic islands is further accentuating the Dantean character of this infuriated nature. “It’s a fabulous spectacle”, say the shore crews of the skippers on stand-by, “but we’re very happy to be on shore…” Morgan Lagravière (Safran) is technically ready to go. A weather window is shaping up for tomorrow afternoon, but it is yet to be confirmed. The seas are extremely heavy with 10-metre waves in the thick of the front and it isn’t about to calm down any time soon. For Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord), it’s a different problem. The storm and the harbour infrastructure in Ponta Delgada mean that it’s neither quick nor easy to lift the IMOCA60 out of the water. In fact, he will have to wait until 08:00 hours on Monday morning. The team from Lorient is intending to remove the keel, replace the bearing and reattach the keel over the course of the day in order to relaunch her at around 16:00 hours the same day and, if possible, enable Thomas to immediately get back out on the racetrack. Such a timeframe should enable him to make the finish before 21hrs 18min 17s on 25 December and be ranked in this 3rd race of the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship. There is not a complete diagnosis yet on the condition of boat skippered by Eric Holden (O Canada). Beyond the keel bearing issue, he has lost or ripped several sails and his radar is damaged… After a good and much needed night of sleep, the Canadian skipper will take the necessary steps to move forward. To achieve this, he, like the Safran team, are enjoying the very efficient support of the team led by Armando Castro, who is in charge of the port of Horta. It’s all part and parcel of offshore racing. You have to learn to compromise with the means you have aboard, alone, whatever the weather conditions. Needless to say perhaps, everyone agrees that this return transatlantic sprint has been hard and mentally, physically and technically demanding, and it isn’t over yet… Morgan Lagravière (Safran), contacted by telephone this morning. “Things are better, but we’re not yet in fighting form as we’re stuck here. There is still another third of the way to go. It’s frustrating to be remaining here now that the boat is operational again. I’m going to analyse the grib files to find a favourable window, but however things pan out, the end of the course is going to be boisterous. The trains of lows have generated a huge swell, which isn’t about to calm down any time soon. We’ll just have to make do, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be a picnic however you look at it. That’s why I’m going to really study the situation before I leave so as to avoid taking any unnecessary risks. All in all, it’s a pretty tough time right now: it was a project which was mounted quickly with this boat, my first transatlantic in solo configuration, in some very strong conditions, damage and now this stand-by period… It’s intense, a very steep learning curve, but not very pleasant frankly.” Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) – today’s message “AS PROMIED from yesterday, I can now disclose the great secret . It was given to me by an old Master Mariner , Captain Wholley, in the Galway sea scouts as a child. “Me boy” says he “The secret to all good navigation is to steer around the rocks” That advice is a metaphor for live itself. So the only rocks I had to steer around, after leaving St. Barts were the Azores and next are the ones at FERET LAND to finish – and that’s it – my reason for having survived, so far…. Meanwhile, all is well after an uneventful day on CURRENCY House Kilcullen -though I did practice my trumpet again. The wind keeps honking at 30 knots plus and we keep surfing over, under and through - the majestic Atlantic rolling waves - maintained so well by the Atlantic Residents Association. Through Night and Day Through Wind and Storm Through Hail and Fog Remember the Great Secret “