The IMOCA General Meeting took place in Nantes on Wednesday 15th October. Two important decisions were taken: foils were allowed and the rule won’t be changed before the end of the next Vendée Globe. So there will be foils on the latest boats. We interviewed the class President, Jean Kerhoas to find out more.
Mr Kerhoas, could you sum up the decision taken at the IMOCA General Meeting?
"Firstly, we should stress that the General Meeting went smoothly with 69 attending out of the 77 registered and the discussions were very thorough, constructive and polite with no animosity. SConcerning the matter of whether or not to ban foils, everyone was able to express what they thought – both for and against – and once again, we voted with a very big majority in favour of not changing the rule. That means that there is still freedom to do what you want with the appendages. We also did what was required to ensure that the rules can never change again between two Vendée Globe races. Any modifications to class rules will only be possible at the Meeting following on from the end of each race."
To help us understand, can you explain the context behind this important decision?
"The rules voted in April 2013 were set up following a long debate between those in favour of a move towards a one-design boat (identical boats – editor’s note) and those, who wanted to keep the Open aspect (open rules) in the IMOCA class. It was decided that masts and keeels would be standardised, but that the hulls and appendages would remain open to allow room for innovation and research. We have just confirmed this principle. A very large majority understood that it was in the general interest.”
How many boats are being built today?
"Today, there are six new boats being built. The designers and the teams obviously looked at where the rules allow innovation, that is to say the hulls and appendages. Some members of the IMOCA were worried by this prospect – which is why this meeting took place and led to this decision. The teams building these new boats are already well down that road, so it was not reasonable for us to tell them that the rule was about to change again. This was a wise decision and once again taken in a calm atmosphere by a very large majority: 53 in favour of not changing the rule, 15 against, 1 abstention.”
So there will be foils on the Vendée Globe boats, but they won’t be flying?
"No, of course not. We’re looking here at ballasted monohulls, not at America Cup multihulls. We can say they are lifted, are lighter and for the moment, no one can say exactly what the gains will be in terms of performances thanks to these new appendages. We’re going to have to wait for the new boats to be launched from early 2015 onwards. We do know that it represents an additional cost (of around 200,000 to 300,000 euros), but that is reasonable in this series and far removed from the sums around four or five times that that we have heard being banded about."
One final point: the rules haven’t been modified, but rewritten to simplify matters, if we understand you correctly?
"Exactly. The basic ideas have not been modified at all. We had to express the rules clearly to ensure they could be understood and adapted to the ISAF (International Federation) framework. A lot of work has been done over the past year concerning this matter, and it’s really pleasing to see that that the new text corresponds to the specifications. It’s easier to understand and clearer. The previous ruls dated back to 1991 so they needed to be tidied up, but there were no real modifications made to them."