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SailGP news, 2024 Vendee Globe updates, One Ocean Summit

by David Schmidt 15 Feb 08:00 PST February 15, 2022
Fred Pye, owners of the Canada SailGP Team franchise © SailGP

Winter may only be about halfway over (ugh), but there's plenty of exciting news coming out of the sailing world. While most sailors are looking forward to SailGP's Mubadala United States Sail Grand Prix (March 26-27, 2022), which will determine Season 2's championship title and a $1M cash purse, SailGP is already creating headlines for their Season 3, which is slated to begin on the waters off of Bermuda from May 13-14.

Last fall, word broke that two new teams - Switzerland and Canada - were joining the foiling circuit. While both teams are exciting, Canada SailGP Team, founded by Fred Pye, a Canadian entrepreneur and sailor, is perhaps a bit more geographically relevant to the North American audience.

As with many good announcements, SailGP released just enough information to about these teams last fall to spark the imagination. Now, word has hit the street that the Canada SailGP Team will be led by CEO Jean-Sébastien Chénier Proteau (CAN) and will be helmed by driver Phil Robertson (NZL). Both bring a wealth of experience to the table.

Proteau's C.V. includes time spent with the China SailGP Team, Dongfeng Racing (Volvo Ocean Race), and the Spindrift Ultim program. Robertson's resume also includes time spent with the China SailGP Team, who he led to a third-place finish in SailGP's inaugural season of racing.

Even with these achievements and accolades, Proteau and Robertson understand the slope angle of the mountain that they need to climb to realize a Season 3 podium finish.

"We not only have the ambitious task of building a team from scratch, with little to no experience of this kind in Canada, but we also have the goal to be competitive against the best teams in the world," said Robertson in a Sail-GP release. "The first step for us is to build a solid sailing squad; from there we will develop everyone's knowledge of foiling and then start to work on the specific skills required to sail an F50. Broad sailing experience is key however, there is nothing out there that can truly prepare you to race an F50. So that is what we'll be focusing on in the coming months."

Critically, Pye also understands the challenge at hand, and the timeframes involved to become competitive.

"With Jean-Sébastien and Phil onboard, the team has strong leadership on and off the water," said Pye in an official statement. "It's one of the first key steps of our multi-year plan which aims to inspire a whole new generation of sailors across the country."

Meanwhile, in offshore news, the application process for the 2024 Vendee Globe opened yesterday (February 14) and will remain open until October 2, 2023. Not surprisingly, given the command that this race holds over the imagination of the French public and dreams of many international sailors, the event is expecting plenty of interest.

"I am so happy with the tremendous enthusiasm of the skippers and their sponsors for the Vendée Globe," said Alain Leboeuf, President of SAEM Vendée and President of the Department of Vendée, in an article on the event's webpage. "More and more of them are wanting to take the start. From this point forwards we need to provide visibility and transparency on the rules of participation for this 10th edition. That is now done, with the publication of the Notice of Race more than three years from the Start.

"In order to anticipate and support the commitment of many projects, we have decided to increase the maximum number of starters to 40, i.e. six more places than in 2020," continued Leboeuf. "Nevertheless, our primary duty, as an organizer, is to ensure their safety, which is why we have decided to strengthen the qualification process."

The good news for interested skippers is that there are six more slots available and still around 1,000 days to go until the start of this grueling singlehanded, non-stop-around-the-world sailboat race; the less-than-great news, however, is that there's only about 1,000 days left to get organized.

And, as they say in serious offshore racing circles, 90 percent of the race is won before the boats even enter the starting-line area.

Speaking of offshore sailing, the One Ocean Summit (February 9-11, 2022) recently took place in Brest, France, and drew many luminaries, both from within the marine world and from the greater political world (the event was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and the United Nations).

On the sailing side, Charlie Enright, skipper of the U.S.-flagged 11th Hour Racing Team, joined other thought leaders in urging the world to carefully consider ocean health. He also pushed the marine industry to focus on sustainability, using the team's newly built IMOCA 60 as an example of how to help lower the industry's environmental wake.

"Across the marine industry, we have to reduce our footprint by 50 percent by the year 2030 to align with the Paris Agreement," said Enright. "Within our sport, for too long we have chased performance over a responsibility for the environment and people. We must work together to reduce the impact of boat builds, adopt the use of alternative materials like bio-resins and recycled carbon, lobby for a change to class and event rules to reward sustainable innovations, and support races and events that are managed with a positive impact on our planet and people."

"Not one person here alone, not one single government, nor one organization can protect our ocean on their own," continued Enright. "It is only through collaboration can we make the radical changes that are required for positive ocean health."

Enright, it should be noted, was joined at the summit by other top sailors, including François Gabart (FRA), Pip Hare (GBR), Yves Parlier (FRA), Alan Roura (SUI), and Charlie Dalin (FRA), all of whom signed the "Seafarer's Appeal for the Ocean", which pushes governments to act now, before the planet edges any closer to a point of vanishing stability.

We at Sail-World could not agree more, and we sincerely hope that the words shared at the One Ocean Summit will materialize into serious global efforts aimed at preserving one of the planet's most important—and magnificent—natural resources.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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