IMOCA looks to the future

IMOCA considering going one design

Tuesday October 25th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

With the Transat Jacques Vabre setting sail this weekend, with 13 boats in the IMOCA fleet, including five of the latest generation, so the Class held a General Meeting in Le Havre to examine what lies ahead after the next Vendée Globe. The goal is to ensure a lively future heading for the 2014 Barcelona World Race and the 2016 Vendée Globe.

This General Meeting, chaired by Luc Talbourdet was arranged by the Board of the IMOCA Class and brought together racers and owners with everyone able to discuss future prospects.

The first conclusion was that the IMOCA class is going well. Despite of the unfavourable economic climate, it is continuing to attract new projects, and remains one of the most attractive offshore classes with a clear programme: a round the world race every two years and a few major races alternating double-handed and solo races with crewed races.

Nevertheless, as is the case for other sportsmen, racers in the IMOCA class are facing increasing difficulties finding the funding to get projects up and running. Today, several exceptional sailors, including Jean Le Cam, Sam Davies and Yann Eliès are still looking for a partner with just one year to go until the start of the 2012 Vendée Globe.

That is why, led by racers like Jean Le Cam, Dominique Wavre, Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson, the Board has decided to work towards changing the IMOCA class rules, with the aim of making the boats more reliable and less expensive.

Luc Talbourdet reminded everyone that the future of the Class will depend on its commercial development and on stabilising its programme and that it is necessary to take into account current economic conditions, which are affecting everyone, whatever their activity and wherever they are. Today the IMOCA class is well established and everyone fully understands that these problems need to be tackled in a global way: from technical aspects to the reliability of the boats and safety of their crew, but also the return on the investment for sponsors, with communications and marketing seen as vital components that need to be given equal importance.

The Board presented the work it has done and the Meeting enabled members, skippers and owners to have their say.

The Class also heard from the leading race organisers, such as the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race, who were both in favour of finding a solution to make it easier for racers, businesses and particularly smaller businesses to become involved in the class.

The IMOCA class has been thinking about further changes to its rules. Antoine Mermod, a member of the Board, presented some measures to simplify the rules, significantly reducing the cost of boats while ensuring greater reliability. Having listened to these arguments, it became increasingly clear that by keeping Open rules, the Class continues to promote development of the boats. But experience in other classes shows that progress costs a lot, with real gains often minute.

That is why the Board has come up with the idea of looking at a one-design alternative. This solution would certainly have an effect on costs, reliability and, of course, competitiveness. The goal that is being put forward is to cut costs by 30% a year without any loss in performance and competitiveness. The Open rules enable some great innovation, but today to win, it is not enough to be a talented skipper, as you also need an exceptional technical team bringing together specialists and engineers every day.

Such a change cannot be adopted in any case without taking into account the lifespan of the current fleet, which includes six new boats bound for the start line of the next Vendée Globe. That is why the IMOCA Class has decided to give everyone, racers and owners, time to think about these changes. The first decisions are due to be taken in January 2012 with the aim of ensuring the best possible future for the class.

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