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Tip & Shaft: 15 -22 entries expected in two fleets for "The Ocean Race"

by Tip & Shaft 15 Dec 2018 00:56 PST 15 December 2018
The complex stern of an IMOCA60 - Hugo Boss - Rolex Middle Sea Race © Joe Watson/ Alex Thomson Racing

In the Espace 2000 at Paris' annual Salon Nautic it was standing room only on Tuesday when further details about The Ocean Race, the son and heir of the Volvo Ocean Race, were announced by co-owners Richard Brisius and Johan Salén long time partners in Atlant Racing, who were supported by key members of their embryonic team.

French sailing newsletter, Tip & Shaft.com were on hand to quiz some of the assembled congregation which, predictably, included a host of IMOCA skippers and ex Volvo sailors, team managers and sponsors.

A new name. A new visual identity soon.

The Volvo Ocean Race is consigned to history. Now it the crewed race around the world will be known simply as The Ocean Race. Even if the Swedish car manufacturer remains the main sponsor of the race around the world for the next edition, Volvo are no longer the title partner. But could they be be replaced by another brand that might be a naming partner? "Our wish is to keep the name as neutral as possible. But at the same time, we don't want to completely close the door to a title sponsor. So the idea would be more to maybe use a formula like The Ocean Race presented by ...", responds Johan Salén who confirmed the visual identity of the race will be revealed soon.

One rule, provision for accommodation for the crew

In the morning before the presentation of The Ocean Race, the General Assembly of Imoca voted almost unanimously (71 for, 4 abstentions, 0 against) in favour of the new version of the rule developed by the president of the class, Antoine Mermod, and the technical committee. "Basically, nothing changes, but the rule is written much simpler, explanatory and informative way so that is easier for people coming into the class for the first time and for those who arbitrate to make clearer decisions." explains Antoine Mermod.

Initially the plan was for a version of the rule specific to The Ocean Race. Now that will not be the case. The measurement rule will be much the same, save for a few adjustments - the main one being the reduction of ballast on the crewed version to take into account the extra weight. "There was a debate between having two documents or just one, but as we want the same boats to compete in all races open to Imoca, it was more consistent to make a single rule covering the two modes. It will make it easier to convert the boats between the two different modes and we see at as more likely to be able to better bring the two worlds together ", continues Mermod.

Past Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou has been involved in the discussions. He says "It was not easy to get everyone together on to the same page on this project, but this way allows dual purpose boats which will costs less money and be more adaptable." Does this mean that a typical Vendée Globe boat will be able to win The Ocean Race? "Winning the race, no, a boat built for the Volvo will maintain an advantage, but podiums or even stage wins, yes," says designer Juan Kouymoudjian.

A course with more downwind and fewer stops

But the thorny question, one which they have been working on since September - is the actual course for the 2021-2022 race. It should be unveiled "before the second quarter of 2019," according to Johan Salén, who continues, "By the end of March we should know the regions we are going to and the order of the stages, then we will have to finalise the contracts with the cities in the knowledge that as it stands today, 45 have expressed their interest."

Salén believes "It is important to uphold the concept of the race going to all the continents". But the course will be in tune with the traditional Imoca designs, "There will be less upwind, more downwind and more in the South. It is always very important to go to Asia, but we want to go there in a less painful way than last time, it took a lot of time to go from Melbourne to Hongkong so we want to find a simpler way. There are other bits of the course where you can also avoid upwind stuff and light winds".

Race Director Phil Lawrence adds, "We are trying design the course with a lot of downwind sailing, evern more than in the traditional course. Asia is important to the sponsors, Asia will be in I think. We are modelling some scenarios with some longer Southern Ocean legs for the downwind element. But it is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We have the weather constraints, the Atlantic hurricane season, the cyclone season in the Pacific, we have to round Cape Horn before the end of March, it can cold on the east coast of North America. China and the Far East the further you go north you have the north east monsoon, it is freezing and horrible."

One of the options is a first leg between Alicante and Brazil, then a second between Brazil and Australia, the stop in South Africa coming after the passage of the Horn detouring to Asia - before the fleet goes to the United States. One certainty is a reduction in the number of legs. Lawrence says, "We have to find a balance. The IMOCA teams would prefer less crew and fewer legs and the traditional 'Volvo' crews 'get' the commercial value and prefer more stops." The result "There will be seven or eight stages", answers Johan Salén. Will there be one in France? Salén responds: "We know it's important for the French teams, so it's an ambition for us," According to our sources one hypotheses on the table is for a prologue in Marseille, before the fleet heads to Alicante for the October start.

10-15 IMOCA teams expected and 5-7 VO 65

Tuesday's presentation featured a Who's Who of French and international sailing: Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier, Alain Gautier, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou, Fabrice Amedeo, Stewart Hosford and Ross Daniel for Hugo Boss, Sam Davies, Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier, Eric Péron, Boris Herrmann, Conrad Colman, Marcus Hutchinson, Romain Attanasio, Alan Roura, Pierre-François Dargnies for Team Charal, representatives of Offshore Team Germany but also teams from the last Volvo (Dongfeng Race Team, Mapfre, Brunel, AkzoNobel) and Charlie Enright, former skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing ...

How many will actually make it to Alicante in October 2021? Johan Salén hopes for "10-15 Imoca and 5-7 VO65 [the latter being only for young crews, Ed], He says, "Right now, today, no one has a funded project, but we have good levels of interest from the teams who participated in the last Volvo, from completely new teams and we try to work as much as possible with the current Imoca teams ".

For the rest of this story and a round up off the week's news click here for Tip& Shaft Edition 9

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