Round Spain race IMOCA 60 fleet gathers
Two of the top French IMOCA Open 60 skippers, their respective teams and their boats have been the first to arrive in Hondarribia ready for the inaugural Vuelta España a Vela, a race over the 1730 miles, with six stages around the coast of Spain for the IMOCA 60s, starting on 12 June.
Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou is to race aboard his new PRB with Jean Le Cam, whom he rescued from his capsized Open 60 off Cape Horn during the last solo non-stop round the world race.
Riou is Spain, just across the border from France with his new VPLP/Verdier design and while Guillemot is racing with his recently updated, lightened Safran. Both French skippers have chosen to come to Spain to compete against the best of the fast improving, ever growing Spanish IMOCA fleet.
For the Spanish crews the French will be a benchmark in every respect, not just in boat speed and handling but seeing up close how they work over a prolonged, demanding race comprising short sprint legs as well as longer offshore legs.
The two French skippers, Riou and Guillemot are proven as among the best in the world. Riou won the 2004-5 Vendée Globe and was among the frontrunners in the subsequent race until he was dismasted after rescuing Jean Le Cam off Cape Horn.
Safran has been refitted since taking winning in last year's extremely tough Transat Jacques Vabre. He teams back up with his TJV co-skipper and Solitaire du Figaro winner, Charles Caudrelier-Bénac.
The two French designs are hull-sisterships but Riou has opted for a steel fabricated keel foil instead of the carbon one which Safran uses. While Guillemot’s rig on Safran is a classic low profile light-weight section, Riou has stuck by the deck spreader wing rig he had on his previous PRB and has a different deck profile.
“We wanted to join the Spanish boats in this new race,” confirms Guillemot “There were two main reasons behind this decision: the first because it allows us to face up to a top class line-up over the 1700 miles and six legs of the race, particularly taking into account the presence of the latest 60’ IMOCA to be launched, PRB, which came out of the same mould as Safran. The second reason is linked to our preparation for the Route du Rhum, which begins on 30 October.”
But not all of the French elite will be sizing themselves up against the Spanish IMOCA Open 60 armada. Some from the other side of the border will be helping. Double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux has played a vital role in the training of the Movistar team of double Olympic medalists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez while North Sails’ Bruno Dubois will sail aboard GAES along with Britain’s Dee Caffari and Spain’s Anna Corbella.