Pace accelerates for Global Ocean Race
With five months remaining until the start of the double-handed Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 on 25 September from Palma, Mallorca, the GOR teams are increasing activity dramatically. Qualifying passages are being completed, 180° inversion tests occur on a weekly basis, new and existing Class40s are being relaunched and crew members and their boats are heading to Europe for the pre-race, build-up period.
Following Lionel Regnier and Pierre-Yves Cavan’s recent 180° test and the inversion tests undertaken last year by GOR entries Jacques Fournier and Jean-Edouard Criquioche on their new Pogo 40S² Groupe Picoty and the Auckland inversion test by Francesco Piva’s Kiwi 40FC, Peráspera, the fourth GOR entry to undertake the test will be London-based Italian skipper, Marco Nannini, with his 2007 Akilaria in Lorient, France, on 27 April.
Following the Route du Rhum last year, Nannini shipped his Class40 from Guadeloupe to Lorient and has completed a comprehensive refit while the Italian skipper remains in London with his job in finance and continues searching for GOR sponsorship. “There is still a long list of purchases, but for now we are still within our comfort zone and are not cutting any corners,” he confirms. “But as time ticks by, we will have to secure additional funding for my yet-unsponsored and nameless boat, or we'll expose the project to the risk of grinding to a halt,” admits Nannini, who visits the boat in Lorient whenever possible. “For now it's a case of rolling up our sleeves and pressing on with a touch of the British stiff upper lip.”
Having recently taken delivery of a new carbon fibre mast, Nannini, with invaluable help from Paul Peggs, is keen to fulfil the GOR 180 requirements before stepping the new rig in early May. Despite the expense and time involved in a self-righting test, the operation required by the Class40 Association and the GOR is valid: “Such is the attention to safety of these major ocean races that nothing is left to chance,” Nannini adds. While Nannini and Peggs fulfil the 180 test requirements, Jacques Fournier and Jean-Edouard Criquioche will also be in Lorient to re-launch Groupe Picoty.
Meanwhile, 150 miles northeast of Lorient, progress for the Franco-English GOR entry of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron continues rapidly in the duo’s boatyard in Barneville-Carteret just south of Cherbourg. Construction of the Team Mabire-Merron Pogo 40S² is a full-time task, coupled with the ceaseless hunt for sponsorship: “We are still without a title sponsor which means that we are having to cover all areas,” reports Miranda Merron. “It is quite a challenge to juggle the boat build; the intricate design of certain pieces; decisions on equipment choices; the daily management of the yard - including ordering supplies - as well as devoting time to the search for a title sponsor for the campaign to see the light of day,” she continues. The latest development for the team is the construction of their keel at the DCNS submarine-building facility in Cherbourg. “This is crucial item, both in terms of performance and safety, and will be built in high-strength steel,” confirms Halvard Mabire. “DCNS’s expertise with this material guarantees that the keel will be perfectly built with impeccable workmanship,” he adds.
South of the Equator, in Cape Town and busy working on their GOR campaign, the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire will soon be back in the UK at their base in Hamble on the English South Coast to re-launch the 2006 Akilaria Class40 Phesheya-Racing in preparation for the double-handed Class40 Normandy Channel Race. Leggatt and Hutton-Squire will join six other GOR teams in the 1,000 mile race across the English Channel, through the Solent and the Celtic Sea. The duo will complete their mandatory GOR qualifier during the Normandy Channel Race and will have a perfect opportunity to assess the other GOR teams competing.
“We will obviously be keeping a close eye on the other boats that have entered for the GOR,” confirms Hutton-Squire. “Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken will be sailing the Owen-Clarke designed Jaz 40, 40 Degrees. This boat came second in last year’s Normandy Channel Race, so it is certainly a fast boat, but this is going to be the first time we race against this all-female team,” she explains. “Francesco Piva and Luca Zoccoli will be sailing the brand new Farr Design Peráspera, build in New Zealand. This boat has never raced in the class, so will also be an interesting boat to watch.”
Jean-Edouard Criquioche and Jacques Fournier will be sailing Groupe Picoty in the Normandy Channel Race and the South Africans will keep a close eye on the French duo: “We have already raced against them in the past and they are certainly tough contenders,” says Leggatt. “They have a good boat and loads of experience – one to watch carefully!” he predicts. “There’s also Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron sailing another Pogo 40 S²,” adds Hutton-Squire. “Halvard sailed 40 Degrees into second place in last year’s Normandy race and between them they also have a huge amount of experience, so another team to watch closely.”
Late March and early April was a busy period for GOR qualifying passages with two teams delivering boats to Europe via the Azores. The Anglo-German, all-girl team of Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken confirmed their charter of Peter Harding’s 40 Degrees and joined the boat in Guadeloupe, setting-off double-handed for their 2,000 mile qualifier and arrived in Horta, Azores, after two eventful weeks at sea and covering 2,300 miles. As Jenner and Renken made landfall in the middle of the North Atlantic, fulfilling their GOR qualifier, the Italian team entry on the Farr Design – Cookson Boats-built Kiwi 40FC Peráspera set off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, following the yacht’s delivery from Auckland, New Zealand, by floating-dock transport.
The boat’s owner, Francesco Piva, and his three crew of Luca Zoccoli, Ramon Sant Hill and Isidoro Santececca, completed their GOR qualifier in Horta on Sunday 10 April, six hours before Jenner and Renken and 40 Degrees reached their UK base at Haslar Marina, Gosport, with Jenner logging her 11th transatlantic crossing. Shortly after arriving in the Azores, Peráspera co-skipper, Luca Zoccoli, made a qualifier comparison: “So, the girls on 40 Degrees covered 2,300 miles in two weeks,” commented Zoccoli. “My sincere compliments to Hannah and Anna!” Piva’s Kiwi 40FC completed a longer voyage to Horta, sailing 400 miles further than Jenner and Renken and taking 13 days: a point that is not lost on Zoccoli. “It’s very satisfying that we covered 2,700 miles faster than 40 Degrees, although, sailing four-up is more efficient for performance, but considerably more weight to carry.”
While the all-girl team encountered continuous headwinds for the early stages of their qualifier, the Italian team’s more northerly track proved highly favourable: “We really had very good performance choosing a northern route with strong winds from the WSW and we averaged over nine knots for the 2,700 miles. It was very strong sailing, but very fast and good training for the race,” Zoccoli concludes. Peráspera is now the first GOR team to pass the 180 test and fulfil the qualifying voyage. Having completed the qualifier, the favourable weather disappeared, trapping Peráspera in Horta with strong north-easterly breeze and delaying the final leg of the journey to Endeavour Quay in Portsmouth.
While Peráspera and 40 Degrees chased each other across the Atlantic, two Class40s were heading for Europe as deck cargo. Ross and Campbell Field are shipping their Verdier Design Class40 ex-Desafio Cabo de Hornos from San Antonio, Chile, to Rotterdam. The Fields' boat is currently en route to Europe via the Panama Canal, averaging an impressive 16.8 knots, and will be transported by truck and ferry from the Netherlands to the UK, scheduled to arrive at Berthon Boatyard, Lymington, on England’s South Coast on 9 May. The New Zealand duo will refit their Class40 before a very busy training programme. Meanwhile, Michel Kleinjans is awaiting the arrival of his new Kiwi 40 FC – the second Class40 from the BT Boats company following hull #1, Francesco Piva’s Peráspera. The Belgian skipper’s Class40 left the Cookson Boats yard in New Zealand in early April and is scheduled to arrive in Holland on 6 May.