Sir Keith Mills does 'an Ecclestone'

James Boyd Photography /
We learn more about the OSM-IMOCA deal and look at the problems it will face
With a surprisingly strong turn-out of 20 boats for the present Vendee Globe, all might appear rosy with the IMOCA 60 class, but this sadly is not the case looking closer. Campaign costs are going up while sponsorship is well down. Mark Turner believes that team sponsor spend for the present Vendee Globe represents only around 20% of the equivalent figure for the 2008 race, with for example six new boats built compared to 18 four years ago. While the economic crisis is certainly a contributing factor, the class has not helped itself. In particular, races in which IMOCA 60s can compete are few and far between - prior to the Vendee Globe this year there was just one IMOCA event, the Europa Warm-Up and only seven boats entered that. The circuit also continues to be too ‘French’ with most events emanating from France and French boats still comprising the majority of the fleet. While the class’ ‘other’ round the world event, the Barcelona World Race, has gained perhaps unnatural traction thanks to the tax breaks the Spanish government have been willing to provide teams and the event itself (something we understand will thankfully also be available for the next race in 2014-15), the Vendee Globe remains the stand-out event, alongside other long-standing French multi-class races such as the Route du Rhum and the Transat Jacques Vabre. All of the above makes it very difficult to sell an IMOCA 60 campaign to a sponsor, particularly one outside of France, and it is with this in mind that the IMOCA class has recently signed an agreement with a company set up by Sir Keith Mills, called Open Sports Management (OSM). Aside from his TeamOrigin venture and more recently the Olympic Games, Sir Keith Mills has been a patron of Alex Thomson since he sailed part of