ORMA changes its stripes

At last - a revoluation in French 60ft multihull class

Saturday December 10th 2005, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
At a press conference at the Salon Nautique in Paris yesterday some major changes affecting the French 60ft trimaran circuit were announced. This obviously follows on from the disastrous 2002 Route du Rhum and most recently the Transat Jacques Vabre, at the same time as cost are dramatically escalating in the class and media and sponsor return appears to be plummeting.

The move has been pushed by Benjamin de Rothschild, owner of the Gitana X and Gitana 11 trimarans, but fortunately comes with the blessing of ORMA, the 60ft trimaran class assocation and the French Sailing Federation, the FFV. The latter two organisations were represented by Gilles Cambournac, ORMA Chairman, and the venerable Jean-Pierre Champion, the long term Chairman of the FFV.

For starters the ORMA title is to be dropped in favour of the Multi Cup 60', indicating the fresh start the class are taking. The main points the new class want to achieve is:

- a consistent circuit
- a secure future for four years
- an increased international dimension
- crewed racing
- compatible with and complementary to the big double or single-handed oceanic races
- improved safety
- better geared towards entertaining the general public

The secure, four year format will be guaranteed by the arrival of a new partner, to be announced at the season's start, and who will finance all of the Multi Cup 60' events. The new format will improve sponsor/owner benefits by increasing visibility both in France and aboard. All these aspects are aimed at maximising return on investment for the professional teams.

The four year circuit will comprise six events per year and will be more international with the aim of making the Multi Cup 60' one of the world's pinnacle grand prix sailing series globally.

For this reason the circuit will remain consistent over three of the four seasons (2006, 2007 and 2009) sailed from April to October in traditional sailing venues such as Marseilles, Fécamp, Cowes, Porto Cervo, Palma, Cascais, etc, with a format including five coastal events and one oceanic event. The Grand Prix format will be developed in order to improve the ability of the general public to follow the racing in order to show case the class. Where Grand Prix will be hosted will be dictated by a desire to forge strong links between the Multi Cup 60’ and sailing’s key venues or events.

While the classic races such as the Route du Rhum and Transat Jacques Vavre are not part of the Multi Cup 60', the new circuit will fit them around the new schedule.

In 2008 the circuit will leave Europe and will visit the American, African and Asian continents for further crewed racing. Venues will be selected on the basis of the quality of reception, logistical and promotional services placed at the organisation’s disposal. To support this local and regional investment, a complementary media plan will be set up systematically at each of the venues concerned.

The 2006 schedule is to be announced before 31 January 2006. Going on, on 30 June each year, the programme for the following year will be unveiled. A limit of 12 teams must commit to taking part in the Multi Cup 60'.

In terms of the boats, the new circuit want to revisit the class rule to improve safety. A reliability study is currently underway by an independent panel of experts whose conclusions will be made known on 31 January 2006. In addition to improving safety the rule changes will address controlling costs. The class are also looking to bring more unity between the teams for example in common investment to develop spare part, pooling of technical expertise and specialists.

Meanwhile as a class association, ORMA is going to have its statutes rewritten. The ORMA Executive Council currently includes three groups comprising of three skippers, three owners and three 'founder members' and the Chairman of the FFV, Jean-Pierre Champion. Proposed changes include a revision of the status of its 'founder members' who will now be elected by the ORMA General Assembly. A post of ORMA General Secretary is also to be created.

ORMA will delegate the implementation of the Multi Cup 60’ to a new organisation who's job it will be to bring together the main partner and all of the owners. This body will conclude the agreements with the towns and will rely on recognised services, the sporting organisation part of which will be supplied by Royale Production.

Benjamin de Rothschild, owner of the Gitana X and Gitana 11 trimarans, has been one of the chief architects of this change: “As the owner of 60ft ORMAs for seven years, I have acquired the profound conviction that this class possesses exceptional sporting, media and popular potential. Unfortunately, this potential has far from been able to develop over recent years and many of us have endured great frustration and legitimate questions from partner companies in response to the insufficient benefits and a highly uncertain future.

"I have been vocal about these problems, but I have more importantly instigated expert diagnosis in order to propose a credible relaunch of the discipline.

"We have listened carefully to the different players on the circuit: the sailors, sponsors, organisers and media and we have arrived at a solution. This solution, which moves things forward significantly, is supported by two legitimate institutions: ORMA and the French Sailing Federation (FFV). It also permits the exploitation of the wealth of experience of the circuit’s historic players and I am delighted with it. I am also delighted to be able to announce the arrival of a future partner who will assure the financing of the new 60 ft Multi Cup for the next four seasons.

"On a personal level, what will my role be? It consists strictly of maintaining my place among the owners and in no case applying for any position at organisational level for an event in which I fully intend to continue taking part over the coming years”

Gilles Cambournac, ORMA Chairman gave his view: “Our championship has been in crisis for too long now. The passion that drives us all has at times incited lively and committed debate, but allthat has in the end brought about this relaunch which, I am sure I am correct in saying, represents the wishes of us all.

"I would especially like to thank Benjamin de Rothschild, not only for having known which questions to ask, but also for having been able to very quickly deploy the resources needed to provide constructive and coherent answers.

"In order for these boats to continue to make us dream, we now need to work together on their reliability and to find the means to extend and share our passion with as many people as possible, both in France and internationally."

Jean-Pierre Champion, Chairman FFV added his ha'penth: “The championship and the ORMA class have made a large contribution to sailing, thanks mainly to a new form of media coverage and some exceptional images. As the sporting seasons have passed, the championship has seen significant growth, before suffering the difficult times we are currently experiencing.

"I am a firm believer in the new format proposed, which favours crewed races for this Multi Cup 60’, while at the same time offering our sailors and their owners the opportunity to take part in the major historic events on the calendar.

ORMA can count on the French Sailing Federation, which is totally convinced about participating in the redeployment of this competition and thereby promoting a French cultural discipline with an international dimension.”

We will be looking at these changes to what we consider the most exciting of Grand Prix class in more depth next week.

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