Just to back track slightly, I am racing this season onboard the new-Rogers designed Class 40, built in Thailand by Pom Green and his team at CMI. The owner of the boat is a close friend of mine, Tanguy de Lamotte, and he along with his French sponsors, Novedia Group and Set Environment, have kindly asked me to be co-skipper for the 2007 season. Tanguy, who was involved in the design with Simon Rogers and his team, has also been out in Thailand managing the build of the boat and on the eve of her first race, is like a proud father. There is some slightly disappointing news however, as we will not be receiving an official classification (i.e. can't take home the chocolates) in the Brittany Ferries 1000. This is due to the boat not quite measuring on the maximum righting moment test. Currently we are 5% over so we will have to remove a little lead from the bulb after this race and re-measure. Although slightly annoying, it is always hard to get to the favourable limits of all the rules first time and we are pleased to know that after this slight modication we will be one of the lightest and most powerful bosts in the fleet, a good combination!
The major focus of our season is the Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV) which over 30 teams, from all over the world, have already entered. The Class 40 fleet will be over double the size of the other classes and includes veterans from all of sailing's most famous events, such as the: Vendee Globe, Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup, Olympic classes, Figaro, round the world maxi-cat races, Route du Rhum, Mini Transat... It is certainly going to be the toughest and most hard fought event in the Class 40's short history. In the Route du Rhum last year, the vast majority of the fleet were very under prepared and it showed as the fleet suffered numerous breakages and eventually finished very spread out. This season, with the majority of the boats having raced the Rhum, the fleet is a lot more prepared. As far as I know, the Rogers boat is one of the few new designs to hit the water and no doubt we will have a few teething problems but at least we have over two months, before the start, to get them sorted!
The Brittany Ferries 1000, our first race this season starts tomorrow (Sunday August 26th), at 1100 BST from St Malo. Tanguy and I will race to Plymouth, Santander and then back to St Malo, a total of just over 1000 miles. A unique feature of this race are the compulsory six hour pit stops in Plymouth and Santander. These could be especially useful to us as we try to keep on top of the inevitable long job list that accompanies a new boat.
One of the race favourites has to be Dominic Vittet ( ATAO Audio), the current class 'world' champion and former winner of the legendary Solitaire in the Figaro class. By his standards, Dominic came a disappointing 8th in the Route du Rhum and he'll be looking to make amends. Other top skippers include: Yvon Noblet (Appart City) who earlier this year won the Azores race, Benoit Parnaudeau ( Jardin Bio) who is a relative veteran of the class and Vendee Globe hero and Miranda Merron on 40 Degrees who has competed in most of offshore racings top events and along with co skipper Peter Harding, has got some good miles under her belt already this season.
On paper Tanguy and I match up with all the top crews and we certainly have a boat which offers a lot of potential, whether this race is a little too early in her development or not, we will have to wait and see. The main focus of the race is to complete the 1000 mile course which is also our qualifying passage for the TJV. I should tell you that we will be taking it easy and slowly pushing harder as we get to know the boat. However, experience tells me that this will not be the case and we will end up giving it everything from the off! With a relative short run up to the TJV, we need to learn as much about the boat as we can in the short time we have available.
Our Sat C system will be regularly providing the organisers with an update of our position but as yet it is unclear what they'll be doing with this information. The event website is www.snbsm.com , it is all in French but I'm sure you'll understand the results section. We are unsure whether we will feature in the results as unclassified or not but our actual latitude and longitude will be reported along with everyone else, so with a little maths you can see how we are doing! I will send out updates from each pit stop and, if I get a chance during the quieter moments, from onboard.
After two great class wins in the two RORC offshore events that I've sailed this season, I am extremely excited about getting involved with the Class 40s again and turning all the hard work that has gone into this project (and those before it!) into some top results. We will be in touch.