That applies as much for skippers from outside of France as well as for those with an IMOCA. And it is also clear that there are no guarantees of a ‘Wild Card’ entry just because, say, a skipper has done the Vendée Globe before and has a boat but cannot find the money to do the requisite Globe Series races.
Alex Thomson in pole position
Alex Thomson and his team are extremely busy. There is no French style summer shut down for Alex. The British solo racer has just sailed Hugo Boss back from New York across the Atlantic with a crew arriving today (Wednesday) back in Gosport. En route it is reported they sailed a 540 nautical miles 24 hour day, so they were not hanging about. Thomson has had the boat on which he finished second to Armel Le Cléac’h in North America, part of a summer tour of Canada and the USA. Most recently, before leaving, Alex was hosted a Q&A with customers and guests of the New York Columbus Circle Hugo Boss store, but over previous weeks he was in Boston, San Francisco and in Canada in Montreal, Toronto and Quebec starting out in early June. The boat has done the full tour including the Saint Lawrence and Lake Ontario to Montreal before moving down the east coast to New York. Although there was some docktalk Alex might attempt a new Transatlantic record with the boat to bring it back to Gosport, AT Racing director Stewart Hosford had refuted such a proposition. That said the crossed in seven days to the Lizard! “Never say never, but Alex is entered for the Route du Rhum for the first time and that is the focus this Autumn, the last thing he will do with the boat before it is sold so we would not want to risk it in any possible way.” Hosford declares.
It is a certain fact that no IMOCA skipper travels more around the globe to deliver for his sponsors but in so doing having a big impact in internationalising IMOCA and the Vendée Globe in many different countries. It’s no surprise that Alex Thomson Racing are pleased to see the Volvo Ocean Race move to IMOCA. “It’s great.” Says Hosford, “There have been a lot of people pushing to get the decision across the line including us and I think it is great for the Volvo and for IMOCA. It gives teams strength in what they can deliver. Alex has always wanted to the do the Volvo and it makes sense. We are super excited. It will allow teams to deliver a more sustainable, ongoing project rather than going from race to race whether that is the Volvo or the Vendée Globe. And I think that racing the boats with four or five crew will be just electric."
Alex’s new VPLP designed boat is under way in England being built by Carrington Boats in Hythe. Jason Carrington has been associated with Alex since building the 2007 Finot Conq. Keeping the build ‘at home’ makes sense. Ross Daniel, Technical Director says, “It will allow us to work in close collaboration from start to finish. We’re also of course proud to be able to support Carrington Boats as a British boat builder.”
Volvo Race winning bowman Jack Bouttell, one of only three Dongfeng crew who completed the whole circumnavigation -along with skipper Charles Caudrelier and Carolijn Brouwer – is moving on apace to get his IMOCA 60 to Europe in readiness for a big refit ready to be on the circuit next year in order to advance his Vendée Globe qualification process. He has the Owen Clarke designed former Spirit of Canada and is presently looking at options to ship or sail the boat back. “Jack is under no illusions about the qualification process required to be in the Vendée Globe at all and wants to get the refit under way as soon as possible.” His spokesman commented.
From Germany to Switzerland
Meanwhile Germany’s Boris Herrmann has just completed an Atlantic race to his own home port on Melizia-Yacht Club de Monaco, taking line honours in the Atlantic Anniversary Regatta from Bermuda to Hamburg. He is sailing with a crew of five in what might be an interesting insight into the Volvo Ocean Race 2021 configuration. After the Monaco Globe Series Boris had only a short pitstop in Portimao, Portugal before he sailed solo to Bermuda for solo training and to qualify for the Route du Rhum. « I learned a lot. Mainly I’m even more convinced that the ‘Malizia Yacht Club de Monaco’ is the right boat for 2020. In example we almost capsized three times during the AAR, when we were 90 degrees flat down with the mast on the water for a couple of seconds after a Chinese gybe with too much sail area up and pushing too hard. But nothing broken onboard, all still good to go afterwards!” Jorg Riechers and Offshore Team Germany are completing a massive refit to the Owen-Clarke 2012-13 entry Acciona at Trimarine in Lisbon which includes a ballast tank reconfiguration ahead of fitting foils in 2019.
Switzerland’s Alan Roura has launched his reconfigured boat after five months of hard work. The boat, which is the Finot-Conq 2007 former MACSF of Bertrand de Broc was stripped right back and substantially re-engineered to save weight. They have foils which are optimised for every wind angle and so, the team say, the foils look very different to the 2015 generation foils. He is presently competing in the Drheam Cup as is Sam Davies on Initiatives Coeur.
There is considerable activity in Ireland where two groups are working to establish Irish entries in the next race and to build a sustainable future for ocean racing in Ireland. Ireland Ocean Racing was formed last August by 5 Degrees West, Sir Keith Mills’ company which has Hosford as the Managing Director and Thomson as Director. “The objective is for Ireland and for Irish sailing. At the moment it does not matter who it is who starts the Vendée Globe or races as long as it good for Ireland there is funding and it is sustainable, whether that is Joan Mulloy, Nin O’Leary, Conor Fogerty or whoever. Alex and our team have always done as much as we can to help other international teams, whether that is Kojiro Shiraishi, Ari Huusela, or Gutek the Polish skipper in 2012. I am based in Ireland and we are all so conscious that here we are on a seafaring island which is essentially in the middle of most of the IMOCA race courses and we cannot yet deliver a sustainable programme for a competitive challenge. But it is hard. Sponsorshp here goes to rugby, to football and to the Gaelic sports. This costs millions but we know a lot of people and how to go about it and I figure that if we keep knocking on the right doors something will drop. It is a tough sell, but we need to go about properly and slowly and not fall over in the early days.”
Joan Mulloy is making waves in Irish colours and will this summer compete on La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro before racing La Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe. She worked extensively with Enda O’Coineen in New Zealand finalising the fit out of Le Souffle du Nord Team Ireland before O’Coineen sailed the boat back solo to Ireland to complete ‘his’ circumnavigation. Mulloy from County Mayo in the west of Ireland has a father who is a mussel farmer. She has been training out of Lorient with Tanguy Leglatin and previously worked with the Artemis Academy on their Beneteau Figaro fleet and so knows the boats well. She has recently qualified for the Route du Rhum on the former Le Souffle du Nord which O’Coineen owns. A qualified engineer she started out working in engineering but could not stand office work. Most recently she raced two up on the Monaco Globe series with Thomas Ruyant before completing her Rhum qualification passage from Portimao home to Ireland where IMOCA has been involved in promotional work are food and cultural festivals in Ireland for her sponsors, such as BIM the Irish Seafood Development Agency, Taste the Atlantic which is a seafood culinary trail on the west of Ireland. She and the Teamireland.ie organisation are also still looking to finalise her budget for the Route du Rhum but she intends to be ready to complete the Globe Series races to make sure she is on the Vendée Globe 2020 start line. “I realise fully it will be about having competitive miles on my clock and there will be no easy way into the Vendée Globe. But my attitude is very much to give it everything I have to just work as hard as I can whether that is sailing or in the search for money. It is about getting the right number of points on the board to be there. I want to be there on merit, having done the miles. I certainly don’t expect allowances to be made because I am a girl and the race wants girls or because I am Irish.” Says Mulloy.