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News Around the World 


Eight months before the start of the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe 27 skippers are registered, one more has entered at the last minute and three others were pre-registered but have still to complete their entry! Also, no fewer than nine nations may be represented this year (France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, the United States, New Zealand, Switzerland, Hungary and the Netherlands). This will be an event record, confirming the expanding global reach of this race. In fact, the maximum number of entries allowed is 27, mainly because the race pontoon at Port Olona cannot fit any more. So right now there are more entries than vacancies, but sadly for some skippers the obstacles between entering and the startline will always prove insurmountable. For example, Jean Le Cam, one of the most frequent competitors in the only solo round-the-world race (until the Maxi100s arrive), has recently had to borrow funds to buy the Farr-designed former Fonciathat won the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe and is now chasing a further 2million euros to allow him to take part.

Looking at the favourites for this tough race, the skippers with the latest-generation Imoca 60s equipped with foils are of course at the top of the list. Or at least they should be. But though there were numerous retirements in the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre last winter, only a few of the failures directly concerned the new fins. All the new boats will still be foil-equipped on 6 November in Les Sable d’Olonne, but most, if not all, will feature the second-generation foils that are currently under development. ‘To win the Vendée Globe you need a foiling 60 footer’ is now a common mantra among the solo skippers. A great deal of work has been carried out during the winter to optimise foil performance and of course to increase the reliability of the new boats. To win you must still cross the finishing line. The question is how many boats from the previous generation of Imoca 60 will also be equipped with these complex lift foils? The answer appears to be only one.


Vincent Riou, past VG winner and the man to beat after his winning season last year with his 2010-built PRB, responds rather lacon- ically: ‘We are still studying a wide range of options,’ but as far as I know no more radical work has been started on his well-proven 60-footer. Vincent is racing the Transat in May and after that the New-York-Les Sables return race. It is looking very unlikely that PRB will receive foils before the start of the Vendée Globe. The same question was also in the air regarding SMA, the ex-Macif, winner of the last VG and still managed by Michel Desjoyeaux. With François Gabart moving on to the Maxi100 multi - hull class, Desjoyeaux’s new skipper Paul Meilhat had to abandon SMAwhile racing solo across the Atlantic last winter after being badly injured during a headsail change.

The 60-footer drifted for three weeks after being abandoned, from the Azores very nearly onto the southern Irish coast. Just in time, and after several failed salvage attempts, the boat was secured and towed back to Port La Forêt. The damage was not extensive but it will take time to bring the boat back to full potential before considering a switch of foils. By then time will be tight. Today the only ‘ancien’ to be refreshed with foils is Maître Coq,

the ex-Banque Populaire (a VPLP/Verdier design, of course), purchased by Jérémie Beyou shortly after her second place in the last VG when helmed by Armel Le Cléac’h.

We talked to Jérémie and his team at their base in Lorient. Thirty- nine years old and a native of Morlaix, in Brittany, Jérémie has the sea in his blood and a real determination to win. He proved that by three times winning the tough Figaro race – a hugely impressive achievement.

But Jérémie has been very unlucky in his two previous attempts at the Vendée Globe. He retired in the 2008 edition after breaking a spreader off Brazil and retired again early in the last edition with severe damage to his canting-keel installation. For this third time Jérémie is still focused on a win despite what happened before – but he is convinced that a foiling Imoca will win the race. So the decision was made to give extra legs to his well

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