IMOCA 60 class update
The IMOCA fleet reconvenes in St Malo on 31 October for the Route du Rhum-la Banque Postale and in Barcelona on 31 December for the Barcelona World Race. Nine boats are set to compete in the Rhum and at least ten for the Barcelona event.
At the present time, some skippers are finishing off their projects in order to make it to the start line, while others are adding the final touches to their brand new prototypes.
The new projects
Four major projects are under way at the moment. The most advanced of these belongs to Vincent Riou (PRB), whose new boat has been on the water since the spring, and Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac–Paprec 3), who recently moored up in Lorient at the end of a long delivery trip from New Zealand via the Panama canal. Meanwhile, Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) is completing a race against the clock so as to make the start of the Route du Rhum, before gearing up for the Barcelona World Race. The three sailors have all opted for a Verdier–VPLP design, acknowledging the respective performances of the 2008 generation Safran and Groupe Bel. Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) is continuing with the construction of his Juan K-designed boat at the Decision yard in Switzerland.
Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) has traded in his Lombard design, which was beginning to get a bit dated, for the Farr designed boat previously skippered by Sébastien Josse during the last Vendée Globe. Bilou’s aim is to defend his title during the next Route du Rhum. He will once again be competing against Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel), who is continuing to optimise his monohull, as well as Marc Guillemot (Safran), who is keen to repeat his performance from the last Transat Jacques Vabre.
For this year’s Route du Rhum, Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) is now in possession of a boat which once belonged to Vincent Riou, while Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air), winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, will be racing on his Finot-designed boat again.
Looking ahead to Barcelona, Dominique Wavre and his new partner Mirabaud will be at the start of the next Barcelona World Race; while Dee Caffari will be teaming up with Anna Corbella (GAES Centros Auditivos).
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) will also be at the start of the race, aboard the former Bahrain Team Pindar. Alex is gambling on the boat’s power in comparison to the older boats.
The Spanish are also intending to be out in force on the IMOCA circuit as several crews are actively preparing for the Barcelona World Race. Alex Pella is teaming up with Pepe Ribes (Estrella Damm) on Loïck Peyron’s former Farr design; Pachi Rivero is partnering Tonio Piris (W Hotels Nova Bocana) on Jean-Pierre Dick’s former boat, while Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez (Movistar) are benefiting from the advice of Michel Desjoyeaux after purchasing the winning boat from the last Vendée Globe.
A few other projects will also be taking part in the next Barcelona World Race and they are discreetly being finalised.
Strategic choices for the future
By opting to register the next three editions of the Barcelona World Race in its schedule, IMOCA had gambled on its internationalisation and the complementary nature of single and double-handed races. The 2010 Imoca season will comprise over 20 entries in its World Championship. There were 30 competitors in the 2008 Vendée Globe compared to the 18 that lined up for the 2004 race and 2012 should be just as exceptional. Between these two round the world races, the Europa Race will go around Europe, starting from Istanbul on 2 July 2011.
An action-packed season
As they all prepare for the two major events, namely the Route du Rhum and the Barcelona World Race, a number of races have welcomed the 60ft monohulls, enabling a series of often highly instructive confrontations between boats from different generations.
As usual, the Douarnenez Grand Prix welcomed the IMOCA boats for an event which brilliantly combined speed runs and offshore courses. It proved to be a great opportunity for Vincent Riou to try out his brand new PRB and for Marc Guillemot to check the latest modifications carried out on Safran. The Spaniards on Movistar, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, benefited from a prestigious guest in the shape of Michel Desjoyeaux, who was able to pass on a few of the secrets to powering up his former boat. Brit Air, skippered by Armel Le Cléac’h, and Veolia Environnement skippered by Roland Jourdain, completed the line-up. Ultimately the Spaniards took victory just a whisker ahead of PRB and Safran.
Estrella Damm and W Hotels Nova Bocana battled it out on an original double-handed course between New York and Barcelona with a view to achieving a new record.
Meanwhile this year's SNSM Record saw the victory go to Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) ahead of Akena Vérandas skippered by Arnaud Boissières.
At the same, the Vuelta Espana a Vela played host to eight IMOCA crews for a race around Spain from Hondarribia to Barcelona, via Santander, Gijon, Sanxenxo, Calpe and Palma de Majorca. Given the results of the first two stages, we could have imagined the race would be completely dominated by the two Verdier VPLP designs skippered by Marc Guillemot (Safran) and Vincent Riou (PRB). However, with every leg, the Spanish crews got stronger and stronger, to the extent that they were a regular source of worry for the two leaders of the fleet, twice just missing out on a leg victory that went right down to the wire. It is clear that the emergence of some top level Iberian crews is excellent news for the internationalisation of the class.
Finally, the Artemis Challenge around the Isle of Wight, an event reserved for IMOCA 60s, took place during Cowes Week with Mike Golding (MGYR), Roland Jourdain (Véolia Environnement), Dee Caffari (GAES), Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann (VE1), Steve White (Toe in the water) and the Artemis team vying for the top spot. Golding, outright winner of the event, was able to hand over a cheque for £10,000 to the RNLI.
- From 3-5 September, the Happy Baie, a new nautical event in La Trinité sur Mer in Brittany, is inviting the IMOCA 60s to join in their races and festivities.
- As has become the custom before big races, the IMOCA 60 skippers will be in Port-la-Forêt, over the end of September and beginning of October, for some training sessions in preparation for the Route du Rhum. It will be an opportunity for the new projects to measure up against the tried and tested boats, which were extensively optimised over the winter.
Some of the IMOCA sailors themselves have been subject to some rigorous on-the-water training this summer, albeit on the smaller craft of the Figaro circuit. Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) showed he has lost nothing of his clairvoyance by winning the Transat AG2R La Mondiale in association with Fabien Delahaye, before totally dominating the Solitaire du Figaro.
Le Cleac'h was not the only IMOCA skipper to compete in the Solitaire. Others included Jérémie Beyou (BPI), Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel), Yann Eliès (Generali), Sébastien Josse (Vendée), Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) and Jonny Malbon (Artemis) also took part in this great summer classic.
Those taking part in the Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale
Arnaud Boissières - Akena Vérandas
Armel Le Cléac’h - Brit Air
Christopher Pratt - DCNS 1000
Michel Desjoyeaux - FONCIA
Kito de Pavant - Groupe Bel
Vincent Riou - PRB
Marc Guillemot - Safran
Roland Jourdain - Veolia Environnement
Jean-Pierre Dick - Virbac Paprec 3
Those taking part in the Barcelona World Race
Jean-Pierre Dick – Loïck Peyron, Virbac – Paprec 3
Michel Desjoyeaux – François Gabart, Foncia
Dominique Wavre – Michèle Paret, Mirabaud
Anna Corbella – Dee Caffari, GAES Centros Auditivos
Alex Pella – Pepe Ribes, Estrella Damm
Pachi Ribero – Tonio Piris, W Hotels Nova Bocana
Iker Martinez – Xabi Fernandez, Movistar
Alex Thomson – ?, Hugo Boss
Juan Mederiz – Fran Palacio, Central Lechera Asturiana
Boris Herman – Ryan Breymaier – (VE1)