Monday, 1 April 2013

Vendée Globe : Change to Multihulls!

Race for Water, MOD70 #1. Image copyright Christophe Launay/ @SeaLaunay

by SailRaceWin

In a surprise move, the IMOCA class today announced that, in place of altering the existing class rule, the Vendée Globe and Barcelona World Race will, in future, be sailed in modified MOD70s, set up for short-handed sailing. VPLP are under instruction to come up with a suitable strict one design modification to the existing MOD70 for this purpose. It is probable that the MOD70s will also be fitted with bikes to aid single-handed winching, following the example of Groupama 3 in the Route du Rhum.

Luc Talbourdet, President of IMOCA, enthused about the changes. “Along the lines of the America’s Cup, multihulls provide a far greater challenge to the best sailors racing alone around the world. Costs to competitors will be reduced with the strict one design, as well as less food and other supplies being needed for the shorter race duration than with the existing monohulls.”

MOD70 #1. Image copyright Christophe Launay/ @SeaLaunay

On behalf of the Multi-One Design Foundation, Steve Ravussin also expressed his delight, saying “One design racing around the world was our aim with the MOD70. That this will be initiated with the changes to the Vendée Globe race is part-way towards our dream of having non-stop crewed multihull racing around the world with the standard MOD70s. Maybe the Volvo Ocean Race will switch to multihulls and the MOD70 too, in the future, given the cost savings and additional excitement that spectacular multihull racing brings to public viewing of sailing, as first exemplified by the ORMA 60s and Extreme 40s, and now also by the America’s Cup.”

Extreme 40s enjoying close racing. Image copyright Anne Hinton. All Rights reserved.

The mention of the Extreme 40 circuit by Ravussin is ironic, since the start and finish location for the Vendée Globe is also now up for tender, as with future Extreme 40 event locations. The aim of this is to further internationalize the race, and encourage as many competitors from outside France as possible, to add to the existing large French participation in the race. To date, Sanya, in the Hainan province of China, with experience of hosting the Volvo Ocean Race stopover, and Cardiff, Wales, a recent venue on the Extreme 40 circuit, have both expressed a desire to host the Vendée Globe. Bids are also anticipated from Galway, Ireland, the end port of the last Volvo Ocean Race, and New Zealand’s harbour capital city, Wellington.

Jo Aleh (right) and Polly Powrie, Gold medal winners in the 470 class at the London 2012 Olympics. Image copyright onEdition.

International sailor interest for participation in the next Vendée Globe, solo-racing MOD70s around the world, has so far been received from previous participants Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson (both from the UK), Chinese solo sailor Chuan Guo (currently completing a single-handed global voyage on a Class 40 back to Qingdao), two Kiwi sailors (Jo Aleh, 470 Olympic Gold medallist, and Conrad Colman, winner of the double-handed Global Ocean Race, held in Class 40s), Cam Lewis (USA) who is currently leading a new MOD70 team, and a possible entry from Oman Sail (who already own and race a crewed MOD70, Musandam). 

Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough win the 2011-12 Global Ocean Race on board Cessna Citation. Image copyright Global Ocean Race.

The Barcelona World Race is also likely to be run from a different location in future. While the Vendée Globe will maintain its race name for historic reasons, the Barcelona World Race is likely to take on a new name; that of the new start/finish port for this double-handed race. 

Both the Vendée Globe and the former Barcelona World Race will, in future, be run by Mark Turner’s Offshore Challenges team, whose experience with the Vendée dates back to Dame Ellen MacArthur’s participation. The crewed MOD70s are participating in Offshore Challenges’ Route des Princes race tour around Europe this summer. 

Franck Cammas on board Groupama 3 at the start of the Route du Rhum 2010, showing the bike on board. Image copyright Route du Rhum.

Mark Turner commented “As with the Extreme Sailing Series, we would hope to attract top sailors, such as the 2010 Route du Rhum winner (in Groupama 3, sailed solo) Franck Cammas, who is also the winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race and a former holder of the Jules Verne Trophy. Although Cammas is already occupied with the Tour de France à la Voile this summer, an Olympic campaign in the Nacra 17, and the C Class heading towards the Little America’s Cup, busy people have a way of finding time for doing yet more, as they tend to be very well organized. Maybe Michel Desjoyeaux and Loїck Peyron will return with the new format of the race. The interest expressed already indicates that participation will be from many more countries in the future. It would also be particularly good to see more women competing in the Vendée Globe.”

On behalf of the sailors, Bernard Stamm (Switzerland) expressed his considerable enthusiasm for the strict one design multihull sailing, noting that this is much more environmentally friendly than the longer monohull around-the-world race duration, and that MOD70s are required to have wind generators installed while racing. Jean-Pierre Dick (France), winner of the last Barcelona World Race with Loїck Peyron, recently took delivery of an MOD70 for crewed racing, following his 2,650km without keel for the last part of the last Vendée Globe under the old IMOCA monohull rule, so is already getting used to these large multihulls and keel-less racing. 

Jean Le Cam and Bruno Garcia competing in the Barcelona World Race on board an IMOCA60. Image © Benoît Stichelbaut / Président.

Jean Le Cam (France), however, gave notice of his retirement from the Vendée Globe with the change to a multihull, noting the danger of capsizing in multihulls, after which “all is lost” as far as the race is concerned, whereas the existing IMOCA monohulls are designed to be self-righting. Le Cam re-stated his preference for the existing IMOCA monohulls with a modified keel rule, which would have enabled him to sail in the next Vendée Globe.

Steve Ravussin and crew on board the MOD70 Race for Water. Image copyright Christophe Launay/ @SeaLaunay

Today’s announcement came as a shock to the international sailing community, not only due to the change from monohulls to multihulls, and race start/finish location, but also because a decision concerning the future of the IMOCA class had not been due on 1st April, but, instead, on 19th April 2013...