Open 50s left out

A palace revolution is about to take place among disgruntled Open 50 owners.

Monday July 8th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
While the focus in French offshore racing is usually confined to the Open 60 and 60ft trimaran classes, so the increased number of 50footers have been feeling a little left out in the cold, no more so than when the Notice of Race recently published for the 2004 Vendee Globe indicated that Philippe Jeantot's non-stop around the world race would only be open to 60 footers.

This has presented some major headaches, not to mention a fair amount of anger on the part of several skippers who are mid-way through having brand new Open 50s built, as a cheaper way into the Vendee rather than go the 60footer route.

Owen Clarke Design Group, featured recently on madfor sailing as the firm behind Graham Dalton's new Open 60 Hexagon currently have two such boats on the stocks. Russian sailor Viktor Yazykov, a former Fasizi crewman who four years ago put in a fine performance sailing an Open 40 in Around Alone, currently has an OCDG 50 in build in Italy. This was destined for Around Alone and ultimately the Vendee, but Viktor now hopes to race her in the Route du Rhum. Meanwhile American Kip Stone has another OCDG design in build at John McConaghy's yard in Sydney.

Designers Groupe Finot in Paris and Berret/Racoupeau in La Rochelle are in a similar position with some of their clients.

"We're talking with Finot and Berret/Racoupeau and a number of other people to put some pressure on Jeantot," Merfyn Owen told madfor sailing. "The other designers think the same as I do that a good 50 in capable hands is a better prospect than an old 60 in non-capable hands."

However for 50ft mono and multihull owners there may be a small respite. The first ever fully-crewed race open exclusively to Open 50 multihulls and monohulls (...and, ho ho, not Open 60s or 60ft tris) will be held in 2003. This transatlantic will part of the FICO (Forum International de la Course Oceanique) calendar.

The new event has come about through co-operation between Challenge Saguenay, the town of Les Sables d'Olonne and the French Vendee department, who put together an event for the Mini class in in 2000. Gerard Petipas and Pierre Bojic's race organisation company Pen Duick are involved and came up with the idea of limiting the race to the 50ft class. Pen Duick feel that the race should allow younger sailors to step up into the 60-foot monohull and multihull classes.

The start will be on 15 June in Saguenay (in the mouth of the St Lawrence river, Canada) with the finish in les Sables d'Olonne on the French Biscay coast in early July, a total distance of 2,817 nautical miles with a stop in the remote St Pierre and Miquelon islands off Newfoundland.

1. Saguenay, host town for the start, located on the Saguenay fjord.
2. Saint Pierre et Miquelon, 1st leg in this archipelago in the North Atlantic. The crews will have 4 days' rest before heading out to sea again, during which they will take part in a regatta in the archipelago.
3. Les Sables d¹Olonne, host town for the finish, an appetizer just a few months before the Vendée Globe.

Like the Quebec-St Malo race, this west-east transatlantic will see the yachts enjoying a fast passage in following winds all the way to les Sables d'Olonne.

Several 50 footers are currently entered in the Route du Rhum and the plan is for them to winter in the Caribbean before heading north to Canada.

Several skippers have already announced their intention to take part in this event. They include:

Simone Accati (mono)
Anne Cazeneuve (multi)
Hervé Cléris (multi)
Pierre Duprez (multi)
Jean-François Durand (mono)
Bob Escoffier (mono)
Franck-Yves Escoffier (multi)
Duncan Gladman (mono)
Roger Langevin (mono)
Renaud Le Youdec (mono)
Pascal Quintin (multi).

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