Europa race will go ahead
The IMOCA 60 Class' Europa Race will indeed set sail from Istanbul on 5 May 2012. Under threat for a while, in the face of the Franco-Turk diplomatic controversy, the race is finally going ahead thanks to the combined willingness of the organiser, Olay Nautic, and IMOCA who have made sure that everything is in place so that this essential meeting is honoured in the event schedule.
On 16 February, Cumali Varer (Olay Nautic) confirmed that he was having difficulty guaranteeing the organisation of the Europa Race, following the Franco-Turk controversy relating to the matter in Armenia. With the Constitutional Council declaring the bill inadmissible, Cumali Varer got back in touch with the IMOCA class at the end of February, stating that he was once more in a position to organise this tour of Europe.
In the meantime, the IMOCA class didn’t stand idle. Indeed, convinced of the need to maintain this event, the class’ committee got in touch with all the different teams so as to offer them an alternative scheme. Sticking with the race was an obvious step forward on a sporting level, added to which it was important to respect the commitments made with the racers’ partners. The aim of providing a solution which was as close as possible to the initial dates is what drove the thinking within the IMOCA class.
A Europa Race with two formats
In the end there will be three legs on the programme for the Europa Race. The first, from Istanbul to Barcelona, will see the crews adapting to what are always changeable conditions in the Mediterranean. After that, the fleet will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar bound for Portugal. At that stage there will be a switch in format for the final leg, which will be run in solo configuration as far as La Rochelle, a course spanning some 2,500 miles or so. This objective fulfils all the criteria for both the class and the organiser: enabling the sailors to get the measure of each other in race mode and single-handed configuration, prior to the start of the next Vendée Globe.
An international vocation
The Europa Race is a fantastic opportunity to confirm the IMOCA class’ willingness for internationalisation. Setting out from Istanbul, which sits astride Europe and Asia, the race will stop off in Barcelona, which is the major pole of development for offshore racing in Spain. The start and finish venue for the Barcelona World Race, the Catalan capital has been on a real drive for several years to encourage a sizeable contingent of Iberian sailors to take up single-handed racing. Meantime Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, is steeped in the history of the discovery of unknown lands, whilst La Rochelle remains one of the major hubs for offshore racing in France.
Seven crews have confirmed their desire to be at the start in Istanbul: Acciona, Banque Populaire, Cheminées Poujoulat, Groupe Bel, MACIF, Safran and Virbac-Paprec 3. Two other teams could join them. After a few jolts, the Europa Race will demonstrate the true extent of its appeal in a few weeks’ time.