13 Open 60s, 12 Class40s
The Artemis Transat 2008 - Key figures
13 IMOCA Open 60s
More than 270 Atlantic crossings between them
6 Vendée Globe participations
2 Vendée Globe winners
16 Transat* participations
5 Transat* victories between them (overall or class victories)
(*OSTAR, Europe 1 Star, Europe 1 New Man Star, The Transat)
The Artemis Transat, creating legends since 1960
If, unfortunately, defending IMOCA winner Mike Golding will not be fighting to retain his crown due to keel problems, this year's fleet includes the 2004 overall winner, making his big comeback on the monohull scene. Michel Desjoyeaux, skippering his latest generation IMOCA 60, Foncia is undoubtedly the king of solo sailors, being the only man to have won the three most prestigious single-handed events: The Vendée Globe, the Route du Rhum and The Transat.
Coming back to Plymouth wearing a double crown is multihull legend Loïck Peyron, whose name is very closely associated with The Artemis Transat. Having won the 1992 and the 1996 races, Loïck equalled Eric Tabarly's record (winner in 1964 and 1976) and recently proved he has lost none of his potential when he won last winter's solo Transat Ecover B2B from Brazil to Brittany.
Also coming from the world of multihulls is Marc Guillemot, former holder of the North Atlantic record (crewed) on Jet Services V, on his new generation IMOCA 60 Safran.
The second Vendée Globe winner of this line-up is Vincent Riou, whose new PRB IMOCA 60 has proved successful straight out of the yard, winning an impressive number of events in 2007. Having been forced to retire from the Barcelona World Race due to mast breakage, Riou will be up against his former co-skipper Sébastien Josse in The Artemis Transat. Skippering the BT IMOCA 60, Josse has three circumnavigations under his belt and was part of Bruno Peyron's Orange II crew that currently hold the famous Jules Verne Trophy.
Coming from the same "school" - the Figaro Class - as Josse, Riou and Desjoyeaux - are the very talented 'young guns' new to the IMOCA class - Yann Eliès and Armel Le Cléac'h, who have both held the title of Offshore Single-handed Champion of France, and who are known for their experience and mental strength in close-combat racing.
The French contingent will have British opposition in the form of Jonny Malbon and Dee Caffari, both skippering brand new boats, plus Sam Davies, who has been adopted by the Breton single-handers following very creditable results on the tough Figaro circuit. Davies is at the helm of Roxy, ex- PRB winner of the last two Vendée Globes.
Completing the IMOCA line-up are former Mini class team mates Arnaud Boissières and Yannick Bestaven (winner of the 2001 Mini Transat) plus Spain's Unai Basurko, who completed in in the Velux 5 Oceans in 2006-7 aboard his IMOCA Open 60 Pakea Bizkaïa 2009.
The Class40 line-up is a subtle mix of seasoned professional racers, rising talents and enlightened amateurs. Having competed in three Vendée Globes including the first one in 1989-90, sailor and leading French journalist Patrice Carpentier won in the Open 50 class in 2001. Carpentier's incredible CV includes having taken part in the first Whitbread Round the World Race, the Mini Transat, and the 1984 OSTAR!
Halvard Mabire, who has also been on the international ocean racing scene for almost 30 years, has a staggering total of 28 Atlantic crossings under his belt, and his experience will undoubtedly be a major asset. Another Vendée Globe 'veteran' is Benoît Parnaudeau. Italian skipper Giovanni Soldini, is probably race favourite having won the class in the Transat Jacques Vabre also has a formidable race pedigree having sailed around the world singlehanded twice including a win in the 1998 Around Alone. The Artemis Transat 2008 will mark his fifth participation in the event.
Miranda Merron, well known on the IMOCA and Class40 circuits, arguably represents one of the best British hopes in this category, and is joined on the starting line by fellow Brits Simon Clarke, who competed in the TJV last year and Alex Bennett, aboard Fujifilm.
That line-up would not be complete without the aspiring pros such as Yvan Noblet, Christophe Coatnoan, Louis Duc or Boris Hermann . a new generation for whom the Class40 is a logical stepping stone and enlightened amateur Thierry Bouchard.