For those who wish to test the potential of their new machine after months of preparation and for those making their debut in IMOCA racing, this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be a chance to see how they measure up and it will probably confirm some of our expectations.
Their major debut
Finally, they will start to clock up the miles on the path to qualifying. For some, this has taken some time because they needed to find the necessary funding, while for others their schedule meant they could not race before this summer. They are finally ready and would like to prove that their place is indeed up there with the other contenders.
Four women will be setting off this year for their first Fastnet on an IMOCA, one from France and three from Britain. Aboard Banque Populaire X, Clarisse Crémer is about to take up the baton and will be benefitting from the advice of an experienced skipper, Armel Le Cléac’h. The two british skippers have finished the Bermudes 1000 Race and want to confirm their place. Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) will be joining her partner, Halvard Mabire on a race course that she knows like the back of her hand, while Pip Hare (Pip Hare Ocean Racing) has called on the Australian Paul Larsen to accompany her.
Two other sailors will be taking advantage of this opportunity to show what they can do as they compete with those wishing to be selected. British sailor, Richard Tolkien will be joined by Norwegian sailor, Rune Aasberg (Rosalba). Will he be hoping to launch another campaign for the Vendée Globe or is he just there to enjoy sailing an IMOCA? We shall probably find out at the end of the race. Kevin Escoffier (PRB) does not have that to worry about. He is finally able to race aboard Vincent Riou’s former monohull on which Sébastien Simon was able to train before launching his new boat. Escoffier, from Saint-Malo, will be aided and assisted this time by Nicolas Lunven.
First battle between new generation boats
For the first time, the Fastnet Race will offer us a duel between two IMOCAs designed for the 2020 Vendée Globe. The race will be on between Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on Charal designed by the VPLP team and Sébastien Simon accompanied by Vincent Riou imaginé on Arkéa Paprec designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian. There are some similarities between the two boats, but also some huge differences. While both were designed with the idea that foils are a must, Charal took a revolutionary turn with a hull designed to be out of the water for as much as possible. Arkéa Paprec seems to be less extreme, favouring all-round ability. While these’ first 600 miles will not be the decider, they will give us an inkling of what to expect from the battle between these two new prototypes… and we must not forget the boats from previous generations, which have been updated with the installation of foils.
Two competitors will be watching this Fastnet Race closely and will have to wait until the Transat Jacques Vabre to show what they can do. For Charlie Dalin (Apivia), it is a matter of days, as his new monohull is due to be launched on Monday 5th August, as the leading IMOCAs make their way to Plymouth and the finish line of the Fastnet. Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) planned to line up for this classic British race, but delays at the yard meant she has been forced to stand down. We are going to have to wait until October in Le Havre to judge the potential of the Verdier – VPLP designed boat, which was the precursor for many others in their approach and which has now been equipped with foils.