At exactly two years before the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe, November’s Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race represents a perfect time to measure the strength and depth of activity within the IMOCA class of 60 foot monohulls.
A record fleet of 20 IMOCA boats lined up in Saint Malo. And in total, across the world there are reckoned to be 24 active projects, that is campaigns with boats and operational budgets.
With a maximum of 30 spaces on the race dock in Les Sables d’Olonne, an entry quota which we are lead to believe will be strictly enforced and managed by a qualification procedure – other than two wild card entries – that suggests there might be only six more places up for grabs.
Of course, history has shown that some projects will fall by the wayside through lack of funding or other reasons, and others will materialise, but the bottom line is that the levels of activity are extremely high and it will be even more of an achievement to simply get across the start line with a decent chance of finishing.
Here we take stock of who is doing what and where….
Route du Rhum IMOCA entrants who are also on course to be on the start in Les Sables d’Olonne in 2020
Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest Art & Fenêtres) is on track for his second Vendée Globe. He sails the former No Way Back, a fast well set up boat which did not reach its full potential in the hands of Pieter Heerema in 2016-2017 race, the boat was designed by VPLP-Verdier, built by the Italian shipyard Persico and was the last in this generation series to be launched.
Romain Attanasio (Pure Famille Mary) is currently racing on this 2007 Farr design which was designed and built as Gitana Eighty, for Loïck Peyron and the 2008 Vendée Globe (dismasted). The boat then completed the Vendée Globe with Jean le Cam in 2012-2013, then with Fabrice Amedeo in 2016
Alexia Barrier (4myPlanet) sailed the Monaco Globe Series and is now racing across the Atlantic. In her native south of France, Alexia is battling had to get her low budget project to Port Olona. But she is sailing the hard miles her 20 year old Lombard plan design which was Catherine Chabaud's former Whirlpool Europe 2, then becoming Initiatives Coeur of Tanguy de Lamotte (2012) before be ing raken round the world as Famille Mary - Etamine du Lys of Romain Attanasio (2016).
Yannick Bestaven (Maître-CoQ) is on course for the Vendée Globe with a well known, committed Vendée partner which will be celebrating its 50th birthday. This Farr boat started life as PRB for Vincent Riou (2008), then sailed around the world by Arnaud Boissières (2012) and again Tanguy de Lamotte in (2016, dismasted), the boss of Watt & Sea, makers of hydrogenerators is in good shape.
Jérémie Beyou (Charal) caused a sensation in Saint-Malo, where he was able to present his brand new foiler. Insufficiently reliable, the last born of the fleet suffered on the water, but this is only an episode: it is to be able to win in 2020 that the child of Landivisiau attacked so early his project .
Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline - Artipole) is progressing with the Owen Clarke designed former Gamesa Mike Golding. Mer Agitée, the team of Michel Desjoyeaux brought the boat back from New Zealand after it was dismasted as Enda O’Coineen’s Kilcullen Voyager, and have refitted her with a replacement mast and foils. Boissières is aiming for his fourth consecutive Vendée Globe and with this boat which has significant potential will be looking to buck his downwards trend 7th in 2008, 8th in 2012, 10th in 2016.
Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) has long time sponsor and a good boat. His boat is former Banque Populaire winner of the 2016 edition. The skipper from Saint Malo is learning the foiling set ups and but that process is somewhat compromised as he had to abandon the Route du Rhum. But after his good, consistent seventh on the last Vendée Globe in 2016 Burton is firmly on course for the start line.
Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin) is a newcomer to the Imoca class. He is very enthusiastic about his boat which was built for Jean-Pierre Dick in 2007 more recently raced by Arnaud Boissières. Cousin’s programme is based in Les Sables d’Olonne alongside local favourite Boissières.
Sam Davies (Initiatives Couer) races a well set up, well optimised boat and has had a good season until she was forced out of the Route du Rhum with structural damage. Her boat started life as Michel Desjoyeaux’s Foncia, Armel le Cléac'h second placed finisher in 2012, and Jérémie Beyou’s third in 2016.
The VPLP-Verdier design has been fitted with foils and Davies has scored two podium places in early season races.
Boris Herrmann (Malizia II, Monaco Yacht Club) sails the former Edmond-de-Rothschild of Sébastien Josse (2016-2017), one of the first foilers to be launched. Germany’s Herrmann has just finished fifth in his first solo IMOCA transatlantic and sailed an accomplished, solid race. As things stand right now he could be one of two Germans to compete in 2020.
Ari Pekka Huusela (Ariel II) is the airline pilot who will take time out from his career with Finnair to compete in the Vendée Globe! Huusela has sailed the hard yards in two Mini Transat races and is now on his second Route du Rhum. He is competing on the former Aviva of Dee Caffari.
Isabelle Joschke (Monin) is one of three women who entered the Route du Rhum in the Imoca category. Her dismasting early in the race does now change her desire to race Vendée Globe on the boat which Yann Eliès finished fourth on in the last race.
Stéphane le Diraison (Time for Oceans) has strengthened his group of partners, now including the town of the city of Boulogne-Billancourt, Suez and Bouygues Construction. They appear as sponsors alongside his environmental message Time for Oceans. The boat was built as Hugo Boss (2008), Gutek’s Energa (2012) and then became le Diraison’s La Compagnie du Lit which he had to take in to Australia after being dismasted.
Alan Roura (La Fabrique) is on the ex BritAir of Armel Le Cléac'h (2nd in 2008) a boat which became Bertrand de Broc’s MACSF. Through the winter his team added foils. He has been having a great Rhum along with the two other Finot Conq designs and so the young Swiss skipper is on a good course to 2020.
Damien Seguin (Apicil Group) is well set to achieve his dream putting all the elements together to race in the Vendée Globe 2020. He has sponsors, he is an excellent racer who has had successes offshore in the Class 40 and inshore in the Paralympics as well as the Tour Voile. His boat is one of the three Finot Conqs, Seguin’s starting out as Marc Thiercelin’s DCNS which was then sailed by Christopher Pratt. It was sailed by Eric Bellion to ninth place in 2016-17. Seguin’s Route du Rhum has gone well and he looks set to be on the start line in 2020.
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) sailed an extraordinary Route du Rhum and was leading until he hit rocks on the approach to Guadeloupe. He had to use the engine to get off and so was given a 24 hours penalty which dropped him to third. This was his last race with the Hugo Boss on which he finished second in the last Vendée Globe as he has a new boat in build, due for a spring launch. It is a VPLP design being built by Carrington Boats in Hythe.
Not on the Rhum but in a good place
Sebastien Simon (Arkea Paprec) is the highly talented young winner of La Solitaire du Figaro who is in the fortunate position of having a brand new Imoca60 in build, which affords him an advantage in the race to register for the Vendée Globe. The new boat is the first IMOCA for a while for Juan Kouyoumdjian and is being built at CDK in Port-la-Forêt. Technical director is Vincent Riou so it is a very solid project.
Charlie Dalin (Apivia Group) still has the support of the Macif group who are keen to expand their global sailing portfolio. Four times La Solitaire du Figaro finisher Dalin, from Le Havre, will sail in the colours of Group Apivia a Macif subsidiary. Management of the project is with Jean-Bernard Leboucher, the director of marine sport activities at Macif Sea. The design and management of the boat is by FG Mer Concept, the racing team of François Gabart and Charlie Dalin, both well known Macif skippers. The designer is Guillaume Verdier, the boatyard is CDK and the launch is scheduled for June 2019. Dalin, as the skipper of a brand new boat, gets a preferential registration for the Vendée Globe 2020, but needs to qualify the boat as other new boats also need to be.
Armel Tripon won the Multi50 class and took third overall in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe on board his Multi50 Réauté Chocolat. Now the skipper from Nantes will move to his IMOCA project. He goes with a different design option, that of Sam Manuard. He is building at Black Pepper a yard better known for meticulous classic and modern classic yachts.
Maxime Sorel (VandB) The Class40 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe race came to a premature end in the Bay of Biscay when his VandB was dismasted. He has a loyal sponsor in VandB and a co-partner which is not revealed. He has just bought the former Souffle du Nord from Enda O’Coineen who sailed the rebuilt IMOCA back from New Zealand. The boat proved competitive in the hands of Thomas Ruyant before the memorable structural problems forced him in to New Zealand.
Kojiro Shiraishi, like Sorel, chose to make his big announcement just before the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe starts. The popular Japanese skipper will return to the Vendée Globe is building from the moulds of Charal, a replica of a beast which will be a big learning curve for the experienced Asian skipper who was dismasted and had to retire into Cape Town in 2016-17.
PROJECTS AIMED AT 2020
Jörg Riechers (Offshore Team Germany) now has an exciting project which has real impetus and is now looking good for 2020. In the colours of Offshore Team Germany, his backers have bought the hull of the former Acciona 100% Eco-Powered which was sailed by Spanish skipper Javier Sanso (2012). The Owen Clark design is scheduled to have foils designed by Martin Fischer.
Yann Eliès (Ucar Saint-Michel) made it to second on the Route du Rhum, his last adventure with the boat which is owned by Jean-Pierre Dick who raced to fifth in the last Vendée Globe. Eliès, triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, is said to be in very advanced negotiations with a possible future sponsor but needs to land this big ticket support to move forwards at the level he wants. It is a stressful situation for one of the great figures of offshore racing.
Paul Meilhat (SMA) won the IMOCA class on the Rhum but it is his final race with SMA afer four years. The skipper achieves an absolutely remarkable Route du Rhum on the former Macif which also won the IMOCA fleet in 2014. Meilhat is looking for partners to move forwards with towards 2020. The boat is owned by Mer Agitée who, it is reported, intend to hold on to her.
Eric Nigon (Vers un monde sans Sida) is a passionate amateur who is aiming for the Vendée Globe. He has climbed through an apprenticeship in the Figaro, Class40 and Multi50 fleets and is now stepping up the ultimate dream, the Vendée Globe. Self financed on a modest budget, but looking for partners, Nigon has a 2006 Farr design which was Bureau Vallée.
Morgan Lagravière. The talented ex Figariste who originates in Reunion Island did not start the Route du Rhum. Although he has the former Safran which is owned by Roland Jourdain's Kairos they could not get a budget together for the transatlantic race but the quest continues for 2020.
Giancarlo Pedote. An experienced, charismatic Italian offshore racer now has a proven boat after the purchase of Jean-Pierre Dick's former StMichel - Virbac from JP’s Absolute Dreamer company. Pedote’s long time sponsor, Prysmian Group, are providing seedcorn, operational funding as he looks to enhance his sponsor support.
Pip Hare (Piphareoceanracing.com) is chartering the legendary Super Bigou, the Rolland design built by Bernard Stamm and friends and launched in 2000. The British sailor and writer for Yachting World aims to tell the full story of her adventure. Her boat was raced by Alan Roura to 12th in 2016-17.
Denis Van Weynbergh (EyeSea) has bought the Spirit of Hungary (2014) which Nandor Fà designed himself with Attila Déry and largely built himself. As a businessman, the 50-year-old Belgian has always dreamed of the Vendée Globe, He has been a sailing and cruising instructor. At the heart if his programme is a collaborative and participative communication initiative he is calling EyeSea. He carry the image of the iris of his partners on the mainsail.
AWAITING THEIR NEWS, HOPEFULLY GOOD.
Anglo-Australian Volvo Ocean Race winner with Dongfeng Jack Bouttell is starting work with his recently acquired Spirit of Canada with the counsel of Bruno Dubois. Enda O'Coineen and the Irish projects around Joan Mulloy; Thomas Ruyant, more than an outsider; Conrad Colman, the most Frenchy of New Zealanders says he is due to announce soon; Alex Pella, the super fast Spaniard born to fight; Sam Goodchild; Kito de Pavant; Jean Le Cam; Yoann Richomme; Aurélien Ducroz; Didac Costa, the Catalan who would complete a third round of the world and second Vendée Globe; Gwénolé Gahinet is looking for a performance focused project, he wants to be competitive.
Vincent Riou (PRB), will review his fourth place performance on the Route du Rhum before he decides if he has the appetite for another go, but, meanwhile, is technical director of the project of Sebastien Simon.
BOAT FOR SALE
The current Hugo Boss (2015), the former Safran now Kairos (2015), Vivo a Beira (formerly Savéol) (2004), the former Kingfisher (2000), Great America (2006), are for sale. 100% Natural Energy (2005), souffle du nord is sold according to text above!
The change to the IMOCA rules has, on the one hand improved the handling and high average speeds of the foiling yachts but has also now allowed the previous generations to have foils but to vary from the one design keels and masts. Hence these older generation boats are given a chance to be more competitive.
"The boats of the previous generations can improve their performance with foils and have less weight to carry, explains IMOCA’s Antoine Mermod. “ Even if the design of their hulls is are more displacement the foils will really reduce drag and these boats can be quite competitive.