In about three months, the IMOCAs embark on what is their last stretch before the before the Vendée Globe. First is the Transat CIC which races from Brest to Charleston before the New York Vendée which races back across the Atlantic to Les Sables d'Olonne in June. So there are two major solo transatlantic races on which to validate (or not) the major changes made this winter, and only the summer to make any very late changes.
As they prep for the Vendée Globe the teams are hard at in the yards all over France and northern Europe, looking to make as many changes as their budgets stretch too and the design of their IMOCAs allow.
A protected cockpit becomes more and more necessary
As the new generation of foiling IMOCAs will average much higher speeds the days are long gone from when the intrepid solo skipper could steer at the helm of his or her monohull for hours in the big South. The faster the boat goes, the more important the protection of the skipper is.
The ultimate solution so far is to fully enclose the cockpit, as initiated for this Vendée Globe 2020 by Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Charlie Dalin (APIVIA). Now several teams are following this initiative Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest Art et Fenetres), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), Jérémie Beyou (Charal) have all now opted for complete or almost completely enclosed cockpits.
Others have chosen to better protect themselves: lowering the floor and extending the cockpit are among the solutions of Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Alexia Barrier (4myPlanet), Damien Seguin (Apicil Group) and even Thomas Ruyant wih his new boat (Advens for Cybersecurity) and Sam Davies (Heart Initiatives) have chosen what they think represents the best possible compromise between effective protection of the skipper but still true to their desire to stay in direct touch with the elements.
For some these winter refits are an opportunity to carry out important modifications to allow them to improve their performance significantly. That is the case for Stéphane Le Diraison (Time for Oceans) who has decided to fit foils to his monohull, Boris Herrmann (Malizia 2 – Yacht Club de Monaco) who has not only come up with a new pair of foils also chose to modify the bow to get closer to the models inspired by scows.
For Sébastien Destremau (Face Ocean), the change is even more radical, as the skipper from the Mediterranean decided to change boats. He now needs to get to know his new machine.
Some modifications may not look that spectacular, but they can nevertheless change the whole character of the boat. Romain Attanasio (Pure) decided to do without a number of elements offering comfort to make his monohull lighter. He hopes to save several hundred kilos. Jérémie Beyou has embarked on an important programme to use reneweable energy, which can also offer weight savings by seriously reducing the quantity of fuel required aboard the boat. Maxime Sorel (V and B – Mayenne) is modifying the position of his fuel tanks, while trying to find an improved stacking system.
Kevin Escoffier (PRB) is working on new foils and a modification to the cockpit. Finally, in addition to daggerboards, Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam) is developing new autopilots, which are going to be important in the Southern Ocean.
Meanwhile, Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) took advantage of the month of December to repair her keel system that was seriously damaged in the Transat Jacques Vabre and making layout changes to adapt to the solo sailing that lies ahead. To make up for being behind schedule in terms of sailing, the skipper set off sailing solo in mid-January for a voyage lasting more than twenty days across the Atlantic in order to prepare for the next two transatlantic races.
Cosmetic changes or stand-by
For others, major work will wait until the summer after they have seen what happens in the first two races of the season. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2), Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori), Erik Nigon (Vers un Monde sans SIDA), Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group), Miranda Merron (Campagne de France), Benjamin Dutreux (Water Family), Manuel Cousin (Groupe Sétin), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline – Artisans Artipôle) and Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) are attempting to fine tune what they have already set up: overall service, replacement of worn parts, new sets of sails, changes to the autopilot jacks, etc.
Others are having to wait due to a lack of funds before spending huge sums. That is the case for Conrad Colman (Ethical Racing), Didac Costa, Ari Huusela (Ariel 2) and Pip Hare (Pip Hare Ocean Racing). For them, the first battle is to make it to the start line.
The discreet favourites
As you might imagine, the teams working with the favourites are busy trying to find that extra tenth of a knot which could make all the difference in the Vendée Globe. Jérémie Beyou is the sailor who has said the most. Charlie Dalin has talked too about his sails and deck hardware, while Sébastien Simon (Arkea Paprec) has mentioned new foils for Vendée Globe and some change in ergonomy. For Nicolas Troussel (Corum L’Épargne) and Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence), the situation is rather different, as their monohulls are out sailing for the first time. It goes without saying that all these teams will not just be making a few tiny modifications… We will have to see them out on the water to find out more. Keeping a secret is a useful weapon in this fight