Global Ocean Race has 19 teams who have entered so far in the double-handed and Class40, the campaign of the Franco-British duo, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, is one of the most ambitious. In late September last year, the Finot-Conq Design Pogo 40S² hull #101 – the fifth, new generation Pogo - left Christian Bouroullec’s Structures Chantier Naval yard in Brittany and was transported 330 miles on a low-loader to Mabire and Merron’s boatyard-base in Barneville, Normandy. Since the yacht’s arrival, work has rarely ceased in the duo’s immaculate boatshed.
One of the first, major tasks, undertaken in mid-November, was installing the Lombardini engine: although slightly heavier and more compact than a French, back-row, international rugby player, Mabire compared this complex operation with manoeuvring the inert form of Sébastien Chabal through the companionway hatch and into the bilge. Once the L’homme des Cavernes (Caveman) was bolted in place, the duo focused on the ballast system: 'The ballast tanks were built and fitted at Structures,' explains Mabire. 'But we had to design and fit the plumbing, scoops and pump.' Recently, the duo has been concentrating on the deck layout: 'It’s complicated to design a really efficient deck plan that suits us both,' he continues.
While Mabire’s professional background has been divided between racing and boatbuilding, the shed-environment is relatively new territory for Miranda Merron. 'Halvard’s the expert here and I’m the apprentice,' she admits. 'But I am learning many of the essential skills and can complete a number of the jobs myself,' Merron continues. 'Right now we’re building the mainsheet track support.' However, Mabire is fully involved with the design process and this vital element eats into each day: 'There really aren’t enough hours in a day to complete manual work on the boat and spend time developing the drawings for the mast, keel and so on,' says Mabire. The boat’s mast is currently under construction at Eric Duchemin and Philippe Boclet’s Axxon Composites facility in Romania, but this has barely reduced the workload: 'It’s seven, long days a week, pretty much every week, just working on the boat and the project,' adds Merron.
While the duo was concentrating on their boat and campaign, four Pogo 40S²’s raced in the 44-strong, Class40 Route du Rhum fleet and Merron was following the competition. 'I did manage to follow the race as I had a number of friends competing,' she says. Three of the latest Pogo’s were in the top ten finishers - Nicolas Troussel in second with Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne; Damien Grimont in fifth on Monbana and GOR entry Jean-Edouard Criquioche in seventh with Groupe Picoty – and while this result is impressive, Mabire is pragmatic: 'It is good, but they certainly had the right people driving those boats!'
The Franco-British boat’s launch is scheduled for the spring and both skippers are optimistic that the deadline is achievable. 'The only thing holding us back is sponsorship,' Mabire confirms. 'It is vital, but it takes so much time out of the project.' For Merron, the task is relentless: 'I spend a lot of time on the phone and sending emails,' she explains. 'Chasing leads and making new contacts every day. It is really important, but it does take us both away from the boat.' With the potential April launch in Cherbourg, Mabire and Merron’s Class40 will undertake the mandatory 180 degree inversion test required by the GOR before sea trials and racing commences. 'We’re aiming to compete in the Normandy Channel Race,' says Merron. 'This is a Normandy-based team and Halvard is a native of Normandy, so it’s very important that we’re part of the race,' she continues.
Josh Hall, Race Director of the GOR, has immense respect for Mabire and Merron’s campaign: 'Miranda and Halvard epitomise the spirit of short-handed racing, Class40 and the GOR,' says Hall. 'I have nothing but the utmost admiration for what they are achieving. With a pot of resin in one hand and a computer mouse in the other, their complimentary talents are being stretched to the maximum as they concurrently build their race machine and seek sponsorship for their campaign,' he continues. 'We are sure they will succeed. What is certain is that when they do hit the race track they will be formidable competition for the others with a highly personalised machine under their seaboots.'
With the Normandy Channel Race just under four months away at the end of May and the GOR start in Palma, Mallorca, just over 220 days in the future, the next two months at the team’s Barneville HQ will be crucial.