Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, President of Clipper Ventures who organised the 5 Oceans, confirmed that the ninth edition in 2014-15 will welcome not only the successful Eco 60 Class, which has shown its durability during the 2010-11 race, but will also welcome the SolOceans One Design Class. It will allow sailors, both men and women, to race solo around the world on a level playing field. Thanks to its reasonable and controlled budgets, a good number of skippers and sponsors of all nationalities will therefore be able to take each other on using the same weapons in this unique adventure around the world.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the British sailing legend, remains without doubt the great pioneer of international offshore racing. He was the first man to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation (1968-69). 42 years later, innovating once again, Sir Robin continues his work as a pioneer and leaves his indelible mark in the history of international offshore racing. In 1982, 13 years after his unbelievable exploits on his 32 foot boat, Sir Robin created the first true solo race around the world (the BOC Challenge which has now become the 5 Oceans) and competed on Open 40, 50 and 60 foot monohulls, which gave birth to the IMOCA 60, 50 and the Class 40.
Chris Stanmore-Major onboard Spartan - Velux 5 Oceans 2011 - Ainhoa Sanchez/Velux 5 Oceans
Four years ago, Sir Robin created the Eco 60 Class in response to the difficulties encountered by international skippers faced with budget restrictions with sponsors. It gave a new lease of life to the old, but reliable and proven, prototypes. It is a novel concept of sustainable development in the world of ocean sailing. And despite a small field of entries, the 2010-11 5 Oceans has proven that the Eco 60 Class can produce exciting and fast top-level racing.
Today, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston goes even further in his efforts to open up racing solo around the world to aspiring solo skippers. He welcomes the SolOceans One Design Class on the start line of the 5 Oceans 2014-15 alongside the Eco 60 Class, believing the lighter, smaller 52.5-foot machines will complement the larger Eco 60s.
The SolOceans Class is a 52.5 foot high-tech carbon one-design yacht (16 meters), which has been designed by Jean-Marie Finot and Pascal Conq, with Michel Desjoyeaux as Technical Consultant of the Class. This monohull, imagined by Yvan Griboval (SailingOne), was conceived and developed between 2006 and 2010, thanks to the feedback provided by 25 leading offshore skippers who sailed onboard the first boat during the course of the 30,000 nautical miles covered in its test circumnavigation of the planet.
'The 5 Oceans has an incredible 29 year heritage. It is the oldest solo race around the world still in existence today' said Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. 'Like the America's Cup and the Whitbread (which became the Volvo Ocean Race), we are adapting to the global economic environment in evolving the type of boat we accept to compete. In the America's Cup, the J Class took the place of the 12M JI, which then became the America Class and now the AC72 catamarans. The Whitbread-Volvo Ocean Race also adapted itself in changing its classes over time. From our side, we innovated with the Eco 60 Class. We started this approach to favour more modest budgets from 2005, even before the financial crisis hit in the summer of 2008. We are now taking this strategy even further in launching this new category of high tech round the world boats in collaboration with Yvan Griboval (SailingOne) and Jean-Pierre Champion (FFVoile).'
'The SolOceans One Design Class will offer skippers and their sponsors a fantastic opportunity to race around the world on an equal footing, increasing further the emotional intensity of the adventure to the benefit of the general public.' explains Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.
Jean-Pierre Champion, President of the French Sailing Federation (FFVoile) has achieved one of his major objectives for international offshore racing: 'I am delighted that the 5 Oceans is opening its start line to the SolOceans One Design Class. It will offer young skippers coming out of our centres of excellence of training for solo offshore racing a future thanks to a series of high tech, one design boats which are financially, technically and competitively accessible.'
'One design racing allows costs to be controlled. The Figaro Class has shown this each season. It is a philosophy that our federation encourages. It allows not only young racers to build their sporting career, but equally for small-medium size companies to engage sustainably in our sport with a real visibility on budget. In these times of economic crisis, this element takes on even more significance. The 5 Oceans therefore has the support of the FFVoile in this approach which marks a major evolution in oceanic racing.'
Yvan Griboval, President of SailingOne, creator of the SolOceans Class, has also achieved an important objective: 'After five years of hard work and more than €4.5 million invested, the integration of the SolOceans One Design Class to the prestigious 5 Oceans is a recognition which opens a new page in international offshore sailing, in the tradition of great maritime adventures which Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has maintained since his first circumnavigation in 1968. We are proud to participate in this new approach for the future. It is the culmination of an immense amount of work.'
'The offshore sailor I was and the businessman that I have become can only rejoice that today there is the possibility to offer young skippers and small companies the opportunity to access the highest sporting level: competition on a level playing field on the one hand and one of the hardest ocean routes in the world on the other. Three boats of the SolOceans One Design Class are already built. Construction will recommence again at the start of next year to ensure that five to eight boats are on the start line of the 5 Oceans 2014-15.'
In its 29-year history the 5 Oceans race has given rise to some of the world's most respected solo sailors including Philippe Jeantot, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Isabelle Autissier, Christophe Auguin, Giovanni Soldini, Mike Golding and Bernard Stamm, as well as welcoming international skippers from all corners of the globe. Highlights of the 2010-11 edition include the closest ever finish in solo ocean racing history, with just 40 seconds separating Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski and Chris Stanmore-Major at the end of 7,000 miles of racing through the Southern Ocean from Wellington (New Zealand) to Punta del Este (Uruguay). Brad Van Liew became the first American to race round Cape Horn solo three times and the first non-European to win the class for 60 footers, while Gutek became the first Pole to race solo around the world.
In total, of the 128 people who have set off on this solo circumnavigation of the world, only 77 finished and two who never returned. During the eighth edition, which just finished, 80% of the competitors finished the route - a record for solo round the world racing.
The route and the host ports for the 2014 edition of the 5 Oceans, formerly the Velux 5 Oceans, will be announced at a later date. 5 Oceans website