VPLP-Verdier sistership IMOCA 60s

Benoit Stichelbaut / Banque Populaire
We look at Banque Populaire and Francois Gabart's new MACIF
Fighting for third place in the Transat Jacques Vabre’s IMOCA 60 class are two VPLP-Verdier design sisterships. Banque Populaire was formerly Foncia, launched last year for Michel Desjoyeaux to compete in the Route du Rhum and then the Barcelona World Race, until she was forced to pull out of the doublehanded non-stop round the world race when the top of her wingmast broke off. Since then the most radical of the new generation 60s has been sold to Banque Populaire (Foncia’s parent company) which has installed as their new skipper Armel le Cleac’h, the double Solitaire du Figaro winner and who, as skipper of BritAir, finished second in the last Vendee Globe. Sailing with le Cleac’h is the British sounding Christopher Pratt (who’s mother is English, but he is French). Pratt is yet another ex-Figaro sailor who has been extremely fortunate over the last few years in winning French versions of the Artemis Offshore Academy, first the Challenge Espoir Credit Agricole, gaining him backing for a two year Figaro campaign, and then, following an arduous nine month trial, in the autumn of 2008 he was announced as the winner of another competition to win a place aboard Marc Thiercelin’s DCNS 1000 IMOCA 60 which he raced in last year’s singlehanded Route du Rhum. Pratt joined up with Le Cleac’h in July this year but their training aboard Banque Populaire was cut short when at the end of the July, while out in 20 knots and a moderate sea, an alarming crack developed across the side deck and down the starboard topside (to around 1m above the water). It was subsequently deemed that having no bulkhead down below between the main bulkhead to half way back along the length of the cockpit was inadequate and so this has since been repaired