Rubicon fleet in for Pasting
Tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon a brand new race for the Open 60 class will kick off from the French port of St Nazaire on the mouth of the Loire river.
Eight Open 60s will be taking part in the Regata Rubicon, a fully crewed offshore race that runs 1,280 miles to Yaiza on the Canary Island of Lanzarote and then restarts on 20 May bound for Santa Margherita-Ligure in Italy.
At present there is slight concern among the fleet because an intense depression is expected to pass to their north over Sunday-Monday, bringing with it severe winds as the fleet round the potentially treacherous waters off Cape Finistere. "We're expecting 40 knot headwinds," commented Kingfisher's Mark Turner. "The most our new rigging has seen is 10 knots!" During Kingfisher's refit over the winter her rod rigging was replaced with some of Tom Hutchinson's lightweight PBO rigging, losing 70-80kg aloft as a result. In total modifications to the boat during her refit have removed 300kg of weight from on board.
After the dismasting of Mike Golding's Ecover at the Larmor Plage Grand Prix a week ago and of Josh Hall's Gartmore before that, Britain's sole representative in this race is Kingfisher and Ellen MacArthur. Ellen is rearing to go (as usual), particularly so as she has spent the last few days at her computer writing the last few 1000s of words for her forthcoming book.
Of the eight boats Roland Jourdain's Sill is favourite. Sill won the Transat Jacques Vabre last year and would have won the EDS Atlantic Challenge too had it not been for a dismasting. She will face stiff competition from the newly lightened Kingfisher and Bernard Stamm's Open 60. Also to be watched closely is Jean-Pierre Dick's Virbac. This boat was Michel Desjoyeaux's Vendee Globe winner and Dick has equally impressive form - he won last year's Tour Voile and now has his sites set on the next Vendee.
Skipper: Bob Escoffier
Crew: Roland Le Gall, Gerard Faye, Arnaud Trebule, Herve Gillet
Notes: the only Open 50 in the race. Took part in the Transat Jacques Vabre
Bobst Group-Armor Lux
Skipper: Bernard Stamm
Crew: Christophe Lebas, Benoit Lequin, Sebastien Magnen, Ollivier Bordeau (leg 1) Jean-Christophe Caso (leg 2)
Notes: current monohull holder of the W-E Transat record and until recently 24 hour monohull world record holder
Skipper: Antoine Koch
Crew: Pierre Yves Horel, Loic Goepfert, Tanguy Delomotte, Francois Robert
Notes: originally Giovanni Soldini's Around Alone winner Fila. Koch is a 23 year old former Figaro sailor
Skipper: Ellen MacArthur (leg 1), Nick Moloney (leg 2)
Crew: Kiny Parade, Bruno Dubois, Andrew Hendersen, Jonny Malbon
Notes: erm. Little need to introduce this one...
Sill Plein Fruit
Skipper: Roland Jourdain
Crew: Gael Le Creac'h, Philippe Legros, Bruno Behuret (leg 1) Francois Scheeck (leg 2), Christophe Cudennec (leg 1), Jean-Baptisite Epron (leg 2)
Notes: Winner of Transat Jacques Vabre. The scratch boat at present
Skipper: Dominique Wavre
Crew: Michele Paret, Damien Durchon, Philippe Echassoux, Nicholas Troussel
Notes: Wavre is a Whitbread veteran and the boat has one of the largest sailplans, but has to date failed to perform
Tiscale Global Challege
Skipper: Simone Bianchetti
Crew: Mauro Piani, Laurent Cordelle, Yannick Bestaven, Stefano Raspadori
Notes: this boat was formerly Catherine Chabaud's Whirlpool. Italian Bianchetti took part in the last Vendee Globe
Skipper: Jean-Pierre Dick
Crew: Laurent Delage, Pierre Alexis Ponsot, Erick Ferran, Nicolas Abiven (leg 1), Vincent Riou (leg 2)
Notes: this is Michel Desjoyeaux's Vendee winner, PRB. Dick won the Tour Voile last year and is a previous J-24 French champion