What is IMOCA?
Picture this: the place is Les Sables d'Olonne, the date is November 26, 1989 and thirteen skippers are getting ready for a performance no one before them has ever accomplished : single-handedly sailing around the world non-stop and without assistance. Titouan Lamazou will be the first to finish this 24,000-nautical mile race after 109 days at sea. Just before the start of the second edition, several skippers - including Isabelle Autissier, Alain Gautier and Jean-Luc Van Den Heede – decided to found a new offshore racing yacht class as the capsising of Philippe Poupon’s Fleury Michon X in the first edition had raised many questions regarding the skippers’ safety. Since 1991, the IMOCA class (IMOCA stands for International Monohull Open Class Association) has been focusing on the prestigious category of the 60-foot monohulls. The design and construction of these 18.28-metre yachts are regulated by a series of rules called measurement protocol (The Open 60’ measurement protocol, managed by the IMOCA) that gives all monohulls quite similar looks and performances. The measurement is an « open » one, meaning riggings, sails and keels can be chosen freely. The IMOCA is bringing together skippers, organisers, yacht designers and all the other protagonists of the sailing world involved in the development of the class while offering the skippers an attractive schedule.
The IMOCA class is a reference international organisation that was recognized « international class » by the International Sailing Federation in 1998. Its main role has always been to establish races’ rules leading to sports and safety improvement. As a strong supporter of a more and more internationally-oriented offshore racing, the IMOCA has another major objective: promote the greatest and most prestigious ocean races that developed in the wake of the Vendée Globe. The Transat Jacques Vabre, the BtoB Transat, the Barcelona World Race and many others are single or double-handed races for IMOCA yachts. With two round-the-world and one round-Europe races as well as many transatlantic competitions crowning the greatest skippers on the most demanding seas in the world, the IMOCA deals with the notions of competitiveness, innovation, human adventures and safety on a daily basis. In addition to these dingle and double-handed races, the IMOCA class also organises its yearly World Championships based on a system of points won throughout the international schedule.
Yet beyond its own development and its projects, the IMOCA’s priority is the technological improvement of the monohulls. The class sees the 60-foot yachts as amazing innovation-oriented laboratories that can help find new solutions for the nautical industry. As an example, changes in the measurement protocol has led to a significant progression of on-board safety (capsising and stability tests, reinforcement of passive safety, safety trapdoors…). In an effort to get strongly involved in the research and development of reasonable and sustainable solutions to the climat changes, the IMOCA class always keeps in mind how important the environment protection and the use of renewable energy are, both as a ressource and a factor of performance. Every day, IMOCA skippers therefore contribute to the development and creation of alternative types of energy production (hydro-generators, wind turbines, solar, fuel cells…)