In America's Cup circles, with Oracle Team USA back in the shed pondering their immediate future and ETNZ putting on some important trial miles on their yacht, the Italians have launched the AC 72 Luna Rossa catamaran. Sporting the Prada colors, this is the fourth America's Cup attempt for Luna Rossa Challenge; skipper Max Sirena was on hand in Auckland, NZ for the launch amidst much fanfare and celebration.
Speaking of celebration, the race village has been abuzz with activities in Les Sables d'Olonne; Vendée Globe skippers have been busy with official photos, interviews and autograph sessions when they are not putting final touches to the yachts or dealing with safety reviews. For many of them, this is old hat but for newcomers Burton, de Lamotte, di Benedetto, Gabart and Gutkowski, this is a new experience at the top level of competition. Interestingly, very different paths have led them to the Everest of sailing. Louis Burton is the youngest skipper in the race and is achieving his dream following a Class 40 participation in the 2010 Route du Rhum; Tanguy de Lamotte studied naval architecture in Britain and helped many UK sailors with their Mini preparations before building his own Mini for the 2005 Mini Transat. He went on to build and compete in a Class 40 yacht before joining the IMOCA circuit.
It was a solo circumnavigation in a 6.50 meter yacht that put Alessandro di Benedetto on the map; suffering a dismasting in the Southern Oceans, Alessandro caught the attention of the offshore world by completing his round the world trip under jury rig. François Gabart combined studies with a successful small boat racing career before joining the popular Figaro class where he gained experience in solo offshore racing. He raced with Michel Desjoyeaux in the 2011 Barcelona World Race. Zbigniew Gutkowski finished 2nd in the 2011 Velux 5 Oceans after various round the world record attempts and a successful Olympic class career in Poland in 49er and 470.
With less than two weeks before the start, anticipation is building. I have signed up again to race alongside the real skippers in the Vendée Globe Virtual Regatta; I find there is no better way to appreciate the conditions and challenges the skippers are facing in real life. Drop me a line if you are a virtual racer; I'll be racing as WildThing. See you on the virtual start line on November 10th!
Finally, the Canadian Yachting Association is changing its name to SAIL Canada. More details from the Annual General Meeting over the next few days.
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