At a little less than 1000 days until the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe, these projects are starting to come together. But for others the issue of finding money is still decisive. Some have the funding and know they will be on the start line but for the majority the search goes on.
Their budget is fixed in place and their boats are on the water or being built. These are the fortunate ones who have confidence right now that, all things being equal, they will be on the start line when the gun goes.
So Jérémie Beyou (Charal) can continue to build sea miles racing on the Volvo Ocean Race while his team is busy building Charal which should be the first new generation IMOCA to hit the water. Launching in July 2018, the first major competitive outing will be the Route du Rhum.
Sebastien Simon (Arkema - Paprec) will have to wait until his new Kouyoumdjian design is launched to experience his first real taste of racing his own IMOCA. In the meantime, he has a season planned on the Figaro to contend with and his goal is winning the champion of France title.
This is also the target for Charlie Dalin (Apivia Mutuelle) who will be able to benefit from the expertise and advice of François Gabart in the development of his new Verdier plan.
Fabrice Amedeo has also finalised his budget with the arrival of a new partner, Newrest - Arts et Fenêtres. His boat is the old No Way Back. Amedeo's objective is to participate in as many races as possible. On his calendar are Douarnenez - Cascais, the Monaco Globe Series before going on to the Drheam Cup and the Route du Rhum.
Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) will also head to the Mediterranean after having contested the Douarnenez - Cascais. Then he will be sailing from his home port, Saint-Malo, when he starts the Route du Rhum in November. Burton's boat (formerly Banque Populaire VIII) will be relaunched in mid-April after a refit which is mainly about maintenance. Burton says: « With this boat, we have entered another technological dimension. We need to relearn everything. »
Arnaud Boissières will be present in Douarnenez aboard La Mie Câline - Artipôle which is the former Gamesa of Mike Golding which has gone to the Mer Agitée stable of Michel Desjoyeaux for a makeover and the addition of foils. Boissières old boat has gone to Manu Cousin (Group Setin) who has several years of Class40 under his belt.
Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary – Etamine du Lys), will compete on the Transat AG2R before his boat go back to water in the middle of may. Further programm Drheam Cup and Route du Rhum.
Sam Davies has elected to stay in the Atlantic as she takes on Initiatives Coeur.
So also will Alan Roura who is fitting foils to the Finot design of Bertrand de Broc. Roura will probably start the Drheam Cup before going on to the Route du Rhum.
Evolution Stéphane Le Diraison is currently working on what is considered an evolving project. He has the boat on which he raced the last Vendée Globe and retired into Australia, the Finot design which was Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss for the 2008 race. Le Diraison has had a new mast built and made some modifications that saves him some 700 kilos. As he increases his budget - he hopes -, there can be three scenarios: stay with the same boat to which he would add foils in 2019, buy a boat of the 2016 generation or build a new boat. « This last case is, I have to say, is least likely. A new boat might be more realistic for 2024. »
The Rhum and hopefully more
These skippers have embarked on their programme and have seedcorn funding which allows them to be up and running but there are no guarantees. For them, the Route du Rhum may yet prove the decisive catalyst. November will be a big month for them.
Isabelle Joschke has decided to go to the Monaco Globe Series then to the Drheam Cup and perhaps the Round Britain and Ireland before the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe. The sailor has already put together a chunk of her budget but is still looking for more support to make it to the Vendée Globe. « The primary goal is to really be at one with the boat, to build the miles. That is some kind of guarantee for additional partner in order to support the programme. "
Alexia Barrier, who bought Attanasio's previous boat, has gathered a group of partners that should allow her to take part in the Monaco Globe Series and the Route du Rhum.
Meantime at the moment, Paul Meilhat (SMA) can still count on the support of the insurance group until the Route du Rhum which marks the end of his agreement with them. His boat will be relaunched in April after a general overhaul, a bowsprit change and a lot of work to the navigation and pilot systems. He plans to do all the races from the Grand Prix Guyader - Douarnenez to the Monaco Globe Series before returning to the start of the Drheam Cup.
Other skippers who have already announced their intention to be at the start of the Route du Rhum include the redoubtable Éric Nigon (Un Monde sans Sida), Sébastien Destremau (Face Océan), Edouard Golbery and maybe even Vincent Riou (PRB).
Yann Eliès has Jean-Pierre Dick's boat but is still waiting for full sponsorship to get all the way to prepare properly for the Vendée Globe 2020.
They live with high hopes
There are others for whom the prospects are a little more up in the air. Thomas Ruyant, Christopher Pratt, Benjamin Dutreux, Morgan Lagravière or Yoann Richomme are on the dock waiting for a partner. Rather than stay static on land, they will all do the next Transat AG2R Concarneau - Saint-Barth where they will encounter Vendée Globe hopefuls Isabelle Joschke, Sébastien Simon and Romain Attanasio.
Nicolas Lunven, who is involved in the Volvo Ocean Race as a navigator, still hopes to be on the next Vendée Globe despite starting pretty much from scratch for 2020, but as he says himself, it is difficult being fully commited to a competitive Volvo Ocean Race programme and at the same time trying to search for a Vendée Globe partner.
Either Jean Le Cam is still owner of his boat but need to find sponsors to race.
Dream big some seem more driven by lofty ambitions but theirs is an ambition which many have pursued from the same position and got there. Jean-Gabriel Chelala, a young entrepreneur, is following in the wake of Conrad Colman and intends to be present at the beginning of the Route du Rhum en route to prepare a Vendée Globe on a positive energy boat. He has Colman's old Foresight Natural Energy.
The dream is bigger for Gwénolé Gahinet who harbours the aim to be at the start of the Vendée Globe 2020 on a new boat. « My training as an engineer and naval architect drives me on this path. I would like to demonstrate that I am able to complete a project from the first drafts of the boat to the start line and to the finish line. The ideal would be to be able to start the project before the end of summer 2018. » But in the meantime, Gahinet will be at the side of Francis Joyon on the Ultime before doing the Monaco Globe Series with Paul Meilhat on SMA.
This year 2018 is up and running. After the Route du Rhum, it all become more pressing, harder still to make it start of the Vendée Globe 2020. But six months is a long time in this game and all it ever takes is to meet and inspire one key sponsor or backer and the dream becomes some kind of reality.