St Michel - Virbac Skipper Jean-Pierre Dick

St Michel – Virbac Skipper Jean-Pierre Dick

Friday the 13th might be unlucky for some, but not for British skipper Alex Thomson who has pulled back 85 crucial miles on Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h in the last 24 hours.

Thomson revealed yesterday that in order to stand a chance of overhauling French skipper Le Cléac’h before the finish of the solo round the world race he must get to within 50 miles of him in the next few days. At the 1400 UTC position report yesterday Thomson’s Hugo Boss was 216 miles adrift of Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII as the pair passed to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. At the same time today that deficit was down to 131 miles as light winds forced Le Cléac’h to slow to just one knot compared to Thomson’s eight knots. Thomson too will see speeds drop as he hits the dead spot but with several days of light-wind sailing ahead before stronger south-easterlies fill in near the Azores even the smallest of gains were welcome.

Photo sent from the boat St Michel - Virbac, on January 12th, 2017 - Photo Jean-Pierre Dick

Photo sent from the boat St Michel – Virbac, on January 12th, 2017 – Photo Jean-Pierre Dick

Thomson was not the only one with reason to celebrate. Crossing the Equator yesterday 13 days, three hours and 59 minutes after rounding Cape Horn, Jean-Pierre Dick set a new race record for the passage. Incredibly he shaved almost 16 hours off the reference time of Vendée 2012-13 winner François Gabart of 13 days, 19 hours and 29 minutes. In fact, Dick was just the first of four skippers to beat Gabart’s time. Thomson posted a time of 13 days, five hours and 30 minutes, Yann Eliès took 13 days, seven hours and 20 minutes while Jean Le Cam was just 37 minutes behind. In stark comparison, race leader le Cléac’h was almost 32 hours slower than Dick over the same distance, but his woes did not stop there. His losses caused by a painful crossing of the Doldrums were today laid bare. Fifteen of the race’s remaining 18 skippers made gains on Banque Populaire over the past seven days. Frenchman Eric Bellion has been by far the biggest winner in the last week, pulling back 641nm on Le Cléac’h, with Jean-Pierre Dick was next in line making back 388nm. Only Thomson and 17th-placed Pieter Heerema lost ground on Le Cléac’h, Thomson dropping 26nm to the leader and Heerema losing 10nm.

The Vendée Globe finish line is now within 1,800 miles of Le Cléac’h, and his ETA in Les Sables remains Thursday January 19th. Race HQ has now moved from Paris and is set up in Les Sables ready for the opening of the race village tomorrow. Doors to the village, at Port Olona, open to the public at 10am local time and visitors can enjoy an exhibition on the race, shop for official Vendée Globe merchandise or relax in the race’s legendary bar and restaurant, the VOG. A huge screen will show the arrivals live from the finish line to the pontoon, and skippers will then be interviewed on the main stage.

Tune in to the Vendée Live show tomorrow on the race website at 1200 UTC for the latest news from the Vendée Globe.

RANKINGS TODAY 

(Photo by Rolex/Kurt Arrigo )

(Photo by Rolex/Kurt Arrigo )

© Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on October 12 off La Trinite-sur-Mer in western France

© Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on October 12 off La Trinite-sur-Mer in western France

New Record : 49 days 3 hours 7 minutes and 38 seconds!

France’s Thomas Coville set a new round-the-world solo sailing record of just 49 days on Sunday, beating the previous world record by more than eight days.

Coville arrived at the finish line in Ushant, an island in the southwestern English Channel, at 5:57pm local time after a solo round-the-world trip that took just 49 days, 3 hours, 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

Coville slashed eight days off the world record when he ended his astonishing non-stop journey aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on Christmas Day. The previous record of 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds was established by another Frenchman, Francis Joyon, in 2008.

 Colville, who was sailing a 31-metre maxi trimaran, would rarely have slept for more than 30 minutes at a time during the race, remaining on constant alert for danger and changing conditions.

Coville set off from Brest on the Brittany coast on November 6. He needed to make it back by January 3 to set a new record.

In 2008, Joyon broke British sailor Ellen MacArthur’s previous record of 71 days, 14 hours and 18 minutes of February 2005. Her Australian-constructed, 23-metre trimaran had been specifically designed to accommodate her diminutive stature of 5 feet, 2 inches (1.57 metres).

Maxi Trimaran Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville ( Photo © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Sodebo )

Maxi Trimaran Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville ( Photo © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Sodebo )

the-bridge
On Friday, 2nd December, the press conference for the official launch of THE BRIDGE was held in the prestigious setting of the Salle Turenne at the Hôtel des Invalides. THE BRIDGE, a unique, festive, maritime, cultural and popular event, will take place from June 15th until the beginning of July 2017, in Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and New York. Supported by the Centennial Mission 14-18, THE BRIDGE pays tribute to the arrival on the French coasts of the first US troops to defend Liberty alongside the Allies and to put an end to the First World War. THE BRIDGE places this historical event, which has nourished a hundred years of Franco-American friendship, at the centre of its festivities.

François Gabart (MACIF), Damien Grimont (THE BRIDGE organiser) and et Yves Le Blevec (ACTUAL) © Th.Martinez

The Centennial Transat, an unprecedented and historic race
“1917, the Americans came ashore… 2017, THE BRIDGE brings us on board”.

Based on this idea, THE BRIDGE has invited the Queen Mary 2 to take part in an ocean challenge in a race against a fleet of giant trimarans following the route of the first landing of 1917. This will be an unprecedented maritime contest between the famous steel giant specially chartered for the occasion and the fabulous racing multihulls skippered by top offshore racers and their crews, THE BRIDGE will be the theatre of the Centennial Transat, a thrilling race between the bridge of Saint-Nazaire and the Verrazano Bridge in New York. Don’t miss it!

Departure on June 25th, 2017 under the bridge of Saint-Nazaire

It is highly symbolic,” said François Gabart, one of the first four contenders of the Queen Mary 2, about his favourite challenge: a Northern Atlantic crossing from East to West. Departing on June 25th, 2017 and heading to New York where the prestigious liner, which will be cruising at 25 knots over the 3,150 miles (5,800 km) of the direct route, is expected to arrive in the early hours of the morning of July 1st, to be saluted according to tradition, by the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

Download the official poster of THE BRIDGE

Basketball and jazz on centre stage
Conceived and envisioned as a bridge of friendship, THE BRIDGE also gives pride of place to jazz and to basketball. These two symbols of American culture will be at the heart of the three weeks of festivities on the programme celebrating a hundred years of friendship between France and the United States. Tony Parker, who epitomises the exchanges and bonds that have been strengthened over the past century by two countries separated by an ocean but united by loyal ties, sponsors this France-USA event.

France and the United States together: this project speaks to me. It is also a little nod to history to say thank you for everything that happened before. It makes sense for me to join THE BRIDGE; it stirs something in me. It is a big project and is growing bigger, and I am looking forward to seeing the event”, says Tony Parker.

Nantes to host the 4th 3×3 Basketball World Cup

In Nantes, the hub of basketball, THE BRIDGE has organised three weeks of symbolic events. In partnership with the FFBB (French Basketball Federation) and Nantes Métropole, the event will host the 4th 3X3 Basketball World Cup from 17th to 21st June 2017. A great first in France on the iconic site of the Park des Chantiers of the island of Nantes for this discipline, born on the streets and taking off all around the world. 20 women’s teams and 20 men’s teams from thirty countries will share the infectious spirit of 3X3 basketball, which pits two teams of three players against each other. It is a fine way to echo the spirit of freedom and fraternity intrinsic to basketball, a century after the first demonstrations of the art of dribbling on European soil.

The grand return of the Queen Mary 2 to Saint-Nazaire…
After Nantes, THE BRIDGE will continue in Saint-Nazaire with the return of the Queen Mary 2 to its port of construction. This will be an important event in itself for the City of Liners, whose history, culture, and economy are intimately linked to the sea and its industries. This exceptional charter, the fruit of efforts by THE BRIDGE Association to bring together a large family of public and private partners, was also made possible thanks to the mobilisation of the companies in the region. Driven by a strong entrepreneurial vision, the event expects 2,640 passengers, individuals and financial decision-makers to embark on the famous liner to follow the Centennial Transat live from front row seats. A historic adventure!

… Under multinational escort

The Queen Mary 2 is expected on Saturday June 24th in Saint-Nazaire, escorted by the Centennial Armada, an exceptional fleet bringing together ships from twelve countries out of the fifty involved in the First World War. On the following day, Sunday 25th June, the 345-metre-long steamer and the maxi-trimarans will set sail to the estuary of the Loire and the starting area of the Centennial Transat.

IDEC SPORT, a new contestant for the Queen Mary 2
Four talented and experienced offshore racing skippers have already responded to the call of THE BRIDGE and will be there with five crew on the start line. François Gabart (MACIF), Yves Le Blévec (ACTUAL) and Thomas Coville (Sodebo) of the group Ultim are amongst the first candidates for this unusual historic race. Most recently joining them is Francis Joyon (IDEC SPORT) and his crew, the latest entry for this maritime challenge, currently competing on the Jules Verne Trophy alongside the most serious contenders of the Queen Mary 2. Together with a further crew of five, these great offshore sailors will have to race at the top of they abilities across the 3,150 mile course (5,800 km approximately) against a cruise ship who will cross the ocean at full steam regardless of the weather conditions.

@ JM Liot / DPPI / IDEC SPORT

They said during the press conference:


Francis Joyon (IDEC SPORT):The IDEC SPORT trimaran, because of the absolute use of wind and ocean to move, represents the ideal link and symbolises the friendship between France and the United States . With the IDEC SPORT team, we are proud to participate in this premiere of THE BRIDGE.

Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim’):Being a pioneer is the DNA of the Ultim’ collective which brings together the owners of the biggest multihulls. Today, with THE BRIDGE, we have a meeting with history, with this new race, with this new concept and with the Queen Mary 2 … “

Yves Le Blévec (ACTUAL):“A start in Saint-Nazaire, a finish in New York, it is a mythical journey that takes us back to the era of passenger ships and steamships. The race format, which brings together for the first time all Ultim’, suits perfectly. “

François Gabart (MACIF):“It really resonates. One hundred years after the landing of the Americans in Europe, THE BRIDGE gives us the chance to do the return trip, to go to the United States to create the link to sailing and beyond. What is interesting about it is that there is a slightly different way of approaching the race, potentially bringing the media and the public closer to our boats and enabling us to run the race from the inside and give those privileged cruise passengers an amazing opportunity to experience it first hand.”

The main dates of THE BRIDGE:

Nantes:
Thursday 15th June: Arrival of the multihulls
Friday 17th – Wednesday 21st June: 4th FIBA 3X3 World Cup
Tuesday 21st June: Music Festival
Thursday 22nd June: Descent from the Loire between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire

Saint Nazaire:
Thursday 22nd June: Arrival of the maxi-trimarans in the Port of Saint-Nazaire – Opening of the event village
Friday 23rd June: Arrival of the military ships coming from the Atlantic coast
Saturday 24th June: Event village – Arrival of the Queen Mary 2 and entry in the Louis Joubert Lock (port of Saint-Nazaire)
Concert, sound and light show for the general public
Sunday 25th June: Start of THE BRIDGE 2017

New York:
1st July: Arrival of QM2
Between 2nd and 4th July: Estimated arrivals of the first boats

The Queen Mary 2 will also host independent travellers.
During the Nautic, THE BRIDGE organisers open up the sale of cabins on board the Queen Mary 2 giving those interest the option to follow the event all the way to New York.

Meet at THE BRIDGE area – HALL 1/J8.

The 100 Club: a unique entrepreneurial dynamic
Nearly 80 companies have signed up to the adventure. They have reserved the first cabins on board the Queen Mary 2 which has allowed for the charter of the prestigious steamship for the event. The business impetus has been set up to engage and perpetuate an and workshops will analyse and look at how business is set to evolve.

“Visionary entrepreneurs of the Club of 100 are not sponsors. They are also the actors of THE BRIDGE and embark as skippers on the Queen Mary 2, “explains Damien Grimont, creator and organiser of THE BRIDGE.

TV FOOTAGE OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE AVAILABLE HERE

Shot list
00:00-1:35 Images of the press conference
01:36 – 02:56 Interview with François Gabart, skipper MACIF Ultim’ (French)
02:57 – 03:52 Interview with Yves Le Blévec, skipper ACTUAL (French)
03:53 – 5:10 Interview with Damien Grimont, THE BRIDGE organiser

#TheBridge2017  #IDECSport #FrancisJoyon #Sodebo #MACIF #ACTUAL #FrancoisGabart #ThomasCoville #trimaran #multihull #YvesLeBlevec #NYC  #QueenMary2 #VerrazanoBridge #Verrazano #NewYork

 

Maxi Trimaran IDEC SPORT, Skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, prior to their Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, crew circumnavigation, in Brest on November 20, 2016 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Maxi Trimaran IDEC SPORT, Skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, prior to their Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, crew circumnavigation, in Brest on November 20, 2016 – Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Francis Joyon and his crew of five took the decision yesterday morning to turn back after six days of sailing in their attempt at the round the world record. Aboard IDEC SPORT, they are heading for Brest to await a better opportunity to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy.

After what was a more than satisfying start until the Cape Verde Islands, the maxi-trimaran IDEC SPORT found herself taken prisoner in the Doldrums, which were very active and expanding in front of them. Even experienced sailors like Francis Joyon, Bernard Stamm, Alex Pella and Boris Herrmann were surprised by the situation.

Francis Joyon looks back at this episode for us. “Aboard the red and grey bird, we are approaching the Doldrums feeling upbeat after these first few days at sea. We’re on schedule and our virtual rival is alongside us on the tracker. The weather models and satellite photos indicate a fairly rapid crossing of the 200 miles separating the winds in the North and South Atlantic. We’re entering a zone of leaden skies and heavy rain, but feeling quietly confident.”

“If you total up the experience of the six of us, you’re looking at several dozen crossings of this zone. But it is hell out here with rain that is getting heavier and heavier leaving several centimetres of water on the deck, while the skies are so black that it’s like night. Sudden violent gusts hit us, and we have to sail downwind for a few minutes before finding the sails flapping with no wind at all.”

Under full sail in the dark just to get out of there
“That was just the introduction to the thirty hours that would follow. I can remember one particular moment at night with Alex at the helm under full mainsail and big gennaker, when we were forced to run downwind in 40 knots of wind. This wasn’t one big gust, but wind that lasted a fairly long time, to the extent that we wondered how long it would be before the boat capsized if it got any worse. Under full sail in the dark with sails wide open, we sped along in the dark without paying attention to the route, just to get away from the worst. Last time Alex found himself in such a situation, aboard a MOD70 a few months ago, (Musandam Oman Sail – Transat Quebec/Saint-Malo, editor’s note), the wind proved too strong for the boat to keep her balance and she suddenly went over with Alex trapped under the net. It was a very lucky escape for him and this experience has strengthened his courage. Then, there were the calms with the trimaran drifting at 1 knot, a snail’s pace.”

Heading north to Brittany for another start
“The skipper’s mood sank as did that of the crew that are usually so upbeat. We saw the hours slipping by. Hours when we should have been hopping onto a low a long way south, which was heading for the Cape of Good Hope without us. The following morning we should have been in the SE’ly trade winds, but it was too late. The stopwatch, usually on our side, was against us, so all we could do was head north to go back across the Doldrums and towards Brittany to give it another go later. There’s no getting away from the Doldrums…”

Training for the maxi tri IDEC Sport, skipper Francis Joyon, and his crew, prior to their circumnavigation crew record attempt for Trophy Jules Verne, off Belle Ile, on october 12, 2016 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Training for the maxi tri IDEC Sport, skipper Francis Joyon, and his crew, prior to their circumnavigation crew record attempt for Trophy Jules Verne, off Belle Ile, on october 12, 2016 – Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

It was at 21:14:45 UTC on Sunday 20th November that Francis Joyon and his crew crossed the start line for the Jules Verne Trophy, the outright round the world sailing record, on IDEC SPORT.  “All we can see is the Créac’h Lighthouse. It’s pitch black. But we have the impression that this is the start of something big,” commented Francis Joyon, the skipper of IDEC SPORT, who was in a hurry not to avoid the weather opportunity ahead of the bows of the 31m long trimaran.

24 knots crossing the line

Francis Joyon, Bernard Stamm, Alex Pella, Gwénolé Gahinet, Clément Surtel and Boris Herrmann left the harbour in Brest shortly before 1845 UTC. They had intended to wait a while in the light airs at the centre of the low before making the most of some powerful and favourable winds generated to the west of this system. The weather however meant they did not have to remain patient for long, as they ended up crossing the line much earlier than scheduled. This commando force of exceptional sailors set off on Sunday to break the record, propelled along at 24 knots after a change of headsail over the line between the Le Créac’h lighthouse on Ushant and The Lizard at the SW tip of Britain.

The situation is very unusual for a record attempt and this is a first for Francis Joyon. The voyage is beginning with light airs, but northerly gales are on their way to the tip of Brittany. This is the system that Francis and his router, Marcel van Triest have been looking at. The skipper hopes to pick up these winds later this Monday morning to speed across the Bay of Biscay and get to the trade winds off Portugal and the Canaries without hitch.

The first few hours were more of a slow trot as they make their way across a ridge, where there are light winds and calms. So the maxi trimaran is practically stopped waiting for the big blow to head towards the SW. As usual, the sea state will determine how fast they can go. The storms which swept across Western France this weekend led to a heavy swell, but this has eased and is in the same direction as the wind, so it should not be too much of a problem for the multihull.

Maxi Trimaran IDEC SPORT, Skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, prior to their Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, crew circumnavigation, in Brest on November 20, 2016 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Maxi Trimaran IDEC SPORT, Skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, prior to their Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, crew circumnavigation, in Brest on November 20, 2016 – Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Same people to try again

After making an initial attempt last year and getting ever so close to the record, the crew of IDEC SPORT has set off in the same configuration as last time. There is no point in changing such a fantastic combination. To smash the record set by Loïck Peyron and his crew of thirteen dating back to January 2012 and see his name in the record books for the eighth time, Francis Joyon along with his crew of five must return to cross this same line between Brittany and Cornwall by 10:56:38 UTC on 5th January 2017.

Gwenole Gahinet portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Gwenole Gahinet portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Clement Surtel portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Clement Surtel portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

xxxx portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

xxxx portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Bernard Stamm portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Bernard Stamm portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

xxxx portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

xxxx portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Alex Pella portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Alex Pella portrait, crew member of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

 

Francis Joyon portrait, skipper of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Francis Joyon portrait, skipper of IDEC Sport Maxi Trimaran, prior to their circumnavigation record attempt, in La Trinite sur Mer, France, on october 13, 2015 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

A few of the 29 skippers in the line up for the 2016 Vendee Globe (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe)

A few of the 29 skippers in the line up for the 2016 Vendee Globe (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe)

Sunday 6th November 1302hrs (local time), 1202 UTC the start gun will send 29 intrepid
solo skippers off on the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. In a modern age where the
pursuit of instant gratification and always-on social interconnection prevails in even the
most remote corners of the world, the challenge of racing non stop around the globe
without outside help – one person, one boat non stop 24,020 nautical miles Les Sables
d’Olonne to Les Sables d’Olonne via the three great capes for somewhere between 75
and 120 days, retains an enduring, magical appeal.

The purity and simplicity of the race remains unchanged since the first edition in 1989 when 13 pioneering soloists started. But it is testament to its incredible magnetism that the race which starts Sunday will be the most international yet as for the first time the challenge is taken up by soloists from the Australasian and Asian continents. Twenty French skippers and nine from Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the USA will answer the start cannon Sunday. Ireland, New Zealand and Japan are represented for the first time. The performance and age spectrum of the skippers and their respective View the online version

2016 Vendée Globe: The Focal Point
IMOCA 60 foot racing yachts has never been greater. Set on January 27th 2013 by the youngest skipper ever to win the race, François Gabart at the age of 29, the benchmark of 78 days 2hrs 16m 40 secs is thought likely to fall. Since the last race four years ago there has been a technological leap as innovative hydrofoiling daggerboards have been adopted on the IMOCAs of seven skippers. These new foils generate substantial lift on the hull, literally allowing the 7,5 tonne boats to fly almost clear of the waves to sustain speeds averaging 2-4kts faster than their conventional modern generation counterparts. When they were first used in a full ocean racing environment just over one year ago there was a high proportion of mechanical failures associated with these foils. Even after months of further development and reinforcement of the hull structures there are still question marks over their potential reliability and seeming susceptibility to hitting objects. Briton Alex Thomson on his latest generation Hugo Boss took third place in the last edition of the Vendée Globe race. After numerous failures in different high profile ocean races Thomson’s choice of a solid, slightly older proven design – which he pushed hard and sailed smartly to finish third – this time sees him back to pushing the technology frontiers. His new boat bristles with the latest design interpretations and technology. He is widely considered a major threat to
the top, all-French hierarchy. Last night Thomson and his team sailed one final, overnight
testing mission, checking different foil and sail set ups. During the summer his Hugo Boss
proved to have race winning potential when he lead the New York – Vendée warm up
Transatlantic Race before electrical problems compromised his winning challenge. Since then, despite having to resort to his set of first generation foils after the second generation set failed, Thomson asserts that Hugo Boss is even faster.

Even among seasoned race watchers the perennial question ‘Who will win the Vendée Globe?’ has many different answers. Including Thomson there are six highly experienced, top skippers equipped with foils. Armel Le Cléac’h has finished second in the last two Vendée Globes, only three hours behind winner Gabart in 2013, the conclusion of a mind bending match-race all the way around the world when the two near identical IMOCAs raced all the way as if joined by bungee elastic. Sébastien Josse lead the epic 2008-9 race at different stages before he was forced to abandon with rudder damage. Edmond de Rothschild is the highly optimised, immaculately prepared new IMOCA aboard which he won last winter’s solo Transat Saint Barth’s-Lorient race before finishing second in this year’s New York- Vendée race. His experience racing the Edmond de Rothschild Multi 70 trimaran crewed and short handed has fine tuned his ability to race on the edge for long periods. Jean Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac is a multiple winner of big ocean races, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre and two Barcelona World Races around the world. He missed third in the last race when his keel failed 1500 miles from the finish, dropping to fourth. Jéremie Beyou has yet to finish the Vendée Globe despite starting twice. He is the only skipper to retro-fit foils, to his Maitre-Coq, the 2010 launched boat which finished second in 2013 as Banque Populaire.

The only skipper to have won the race before who will be on the start line this time, 2004-5 winner Vincent Riou on PRB, has stayed with a conventional, non foil set up. But his March 2010 launched boat is considered the most optimised, furthest refined IMOCA which possesses a great all round potential. While the foiling IMOCAs are at their best fast reaching in winds over 15kts, they are still felt to have a disadvantage in increased drag in lighter airs and less efficiency upwind. Riou is a firm believer that his choice will give him an at least even chance over the long game. So too Yann Eliès has a well optimised IMOCA with more conventional boards. A three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, he returns to the Vendée Globe eight years after being rescued 800 miles south west of Australia. Eliès lay stricken and unable to move suffering from multiple leg fractures inside his yacht for two days before being taken to safety.

An unprecedented five sailors will be racing the Vendée Globe for their fourth time. Riou,
Thomson, Dick and veterans Jean Le Cam and Bertrand de Broc. Two of the 14 first timers will start with realistic aspirations of emulating Gabart’s feat, winning the Vendée Globe at their first attempt, never having raced solo in the Southern Oceans. Morgan Lagravière, 29, is an Olympic skiff sailor turned Figaro sailor turned Vendée Globe racer. He was selected by Safran as the best of the new, younger generation talent to fly their colours and he has a foiling, March 2015 launched design. His programme has been managed latterly by Roland Jourdain’s organisation. Similarly Paul Meilhat’s SMA is the leading IMOCA programme for double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée stable. Meilhat, 34, is also an ex 49er sailor who moved through the one design Figaro circuit, winning the 2014 Transat AG2R. There are set to be many races within the race as different generations of boats and skippers compete against each other. A posse of skippers with 2006-7 designs are expected to have equally intense, hard fought battles. Tanguy De Lamotte on Initiatives Couer which publicises acharity which provides life saving heart surgery for children, Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée, Arnaud Boissieres on La Mie Caline, Jean Le Cam on Finistere Mer Vent and Thomas Ruyant on Le Souffle Du Nord, are all expected to form the middle and upper middle order of the fleet.

The race has drawn an engaging cross section of adventurous skippers of all ages who set off with the only common theme being their shared dream of finishing the race, completing the circle. Twenty four year old Swiss soloist Alan Roura has a low budget campaign which
bottomed out financially when he did not have enough money to put fuel in his team van.
KiwiAmerican
Conrad Colman starts his third round the world race having only just secured a last
minute sponsor for his 100% Natural Energy. He is looking to be the first skipper to finish the race using only naturally generated electrical energy. Sébastien Destremau will realise an almost fleeting ambition which only took him over when he was reporting for TV at the start of the last race. Irish businessman, adventurer and sailor Enda O’Coineen on Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland is looking to fulfil a lifetime ambition but also to spearhead a lasting legacy for Ireland which also encompasses building a sail training vessel and, in the future, a sail training academy. Similarly Holland’s Pieter Heerema is a successful businessman looking to fulfil a sailing ambition, racing a latest generation foiler. Hungary’s Nandor Fa, 64, starts his third Vendée Globe twenty years after his first one, racing a boat he mostly designed and built himself. American Rich Wilson is driven to compete in his second Vendée Globe, the oldest skipper in the fleet, by the burning desire to share the educational values of the race. His Sites Alive program run from on board Great American 4 will reach over 1 million youngsters, including 3000 schools in China, an educational program approved by the French Education Department, and 50,000 students in Taiwan.

Fair weather expected for the start The weather is now becoming clear and more precise for Sunday: 15 to 20 knot northerlies, ideal conditions to get the world’s most extreme race underway. “A north to NW’ly air stream blowing at between 15 and 25 knots out at sea, probably lighter on the coast with squally showers possible around Les Sables d’Olonne. The NW’ly swell should remain below 1m,” announced the Great Circle team, the official weather partner for the 8th Vendée Globe. Decent conditions are expected for the 29 IMOCAs as they cross the Bay of Biscay in a northerly flow offering good speeds on seas that remain slight, before they reach Cape Finisterre and then the coast of Portugal in stronger winds (gusting to 35 knots).

In other words, we can look forward to a fast start for the non-stop solo round the world race allowing them in theory to sail downwind all the way to the Equator. “Conditions should enable us to get a good time for this first portion of the race with everyone going down quickly to the Equator. We could see a day less to get there than it took four years ago. We’re not about to be shaken up like in 2012. This weather should favour the foilers. That much is clear,” explained Vincent Riou (PRB).

A relief for the sailors and their families “We’re not looking at a deep low and strong headwinds . I can remember how complicated the start was eight years ago. This time we’re not getting thrown in at the deep end and so that removes some of the stress,” admitted Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), who is already drawing up his route for the first part of the course. A huge relief too for the families. Arnaud Boissières, (La Mie Câline) told us this morning, “The weather is looking decent for the start I’m pleased in particular for my family and friends and sponsors, as that makes it easier to
bear, even if there is bound to be some stress. That means that the fleet should remain intact for longer, which is good.”

Quotes
Rich Wilson, Great American IV:
“I can’t wait to get going. It’s time we were out there. It’s a huge pleasure casting off, even if there is always some stress and apprehension. But we’ve all been working hard on that. The weather suits me. I prefer to set sail in these winds with less than 20 knots expected, even if know that later in the South, we will get some tough conditions. It was hard for me back in 2008.”

Morgan Lagravière (Safran):
“The weather looks good as it will allow us to ease ourselves into the race. That means we can get used to being at sea more easily and avoid getting seasick, while gradually putting our foot down. I was looking forward to this sort of weather, and it seems to be happening now. I’m particularly apprehensive about the morning of the start, as I can get very emotional and I attach a lot of importance to the human aspects ashore. I guess I’ll probably be in tears. But we must not see the start as a punishing separation. I’ll soon get into race mode and put the rest behind me.”

Vincent Riou (PRB):
“Less than a year ago, it was seen as risky fitting foils on these boats. Now it seems that the risk has shifted, making it harder for those without foils.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac):
“On Sunday, I’ll be setting sail on my fourth VendéeGlobe, but in spite of that, I feel
apprehensive. But who can set off without any worry though, as if they were nipping into their garden to pick some strawberries? No one! In any case I don’t know this superman. You can’t take anything for granted in top class sports and that is even more the case, when we are looking at the sea. In my previous attempts, I always found it tough settling into the race at the start. The fact that the weather looks decent is good news for me. But I’m not celebrating, as during the round the world voyage, we’ll all have to deal with harsh conditions at some point.”

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII):
“The start of the race should favour the boats with foils with the wind coming from a good angle. We know how to sail quickly in these conditions. It’s something we worked on during the training sessions in Port-la-Forêt. We should be able to find our feet relatively easily after this long period ashore. But the second night looks like more of a battle with fairly strong winds along the coast of Portugal. We can’t rule out beating the record to the Equator (held since2004 by Jean Le Cam with a time of 10 days and 11 hours).”

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean):
“Some skippers have huge pressure on them. They must win. Today, when you see skippers
refusing to shake your hand because they are afraid of catching something, I applaud them with both hands. That’s fabulous. It was my personal choice to go off to Australia last week to see goodbye to the children. I wanted to talk to them and tell them that I was doing something very important, but that was risky. I wanted them to know I loved them before setting off.”

#VG2016 #VendeeGlobe #Vendee #France
guo-chuan-by-jean sebastien-evrard/AFP/Getty Images

Guo Chuan (Photo by Jean-Sebastien-Evrard/AFP/Getty Images

China was in shock on Thursday after a search was called off for a hugely popular sailor who went missing as he attempted to break the world record for a solo trans-Pacific voyage.

Guo Chuan’s trimaran was spotted about 600 miles (1,000km) off the Hawaiian island of Oahu after he was reported missing on Tuesday.

But after finding only his lifejacket onboard, the US Coast Guard called off their search late on Wednesday.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday that “millions of his compatriots are praying for his safe return”, and officially Mr Guo remains “missing”.

Guo Chuan sailing out of San Francisco (Photo by  XINHUA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK )

But the man who led the search for the 51-year-old appeared to have given up hope.

“Our deepest condolences go out not only to his family and friends but also to his racing team and the sailing community,” Captain Robert Hendrickson said.

Mr Guo set sail from under San Francisco’s Golden Great Bridge on October 18 on his 97-foot sailboat, which is called ‘Qingdao China’, after his home city on the country’s east coast.

He was hoping to complete the 7,000 nautical mile-journey to Shanghai in 20 days.

Mr Guo was an experienced sailor, becoming the first of his countrymen to take part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2006, and also the first Chinese to traverse the Atlantic Ocean by himself.

He became the first Chinese sailor to solo nonstop circumnavigate the globe in 2013, when he also broke the record for doing it in a 40-foot yacht.

In this image released by he US Coast Guard on October 26, a 97-foot super trimaran is seen sailing in the Pacific, after contact was lost with the skipper Guo Chuan
Guo Chuan’s 97-foot super trimaran is seen sailing in the Pacific, after contact was lost with the skipper Guo Chuan CREDIT:  AFP/GETTY IMAGES / US COAST GUARD

Mr Guo was greatly admired in China for his love of his country and his family.

He dedicated his record-breaking achievement to his late father, and in one of his most recent reports from his voyage he spoke of how he listened to recordings of his young son laughing. He called it “the most beautiful song in the world”.

Zhai Feng, a close friend of Mr Guo and a fellow sailor, said: “I have been in shock since I heard this news.

“We know that falling into the water is certain death. If you cannot climb onto the boat within half-an-hour, you will surely be dead.

“My wife cried floods of tears when we learnt the news, and we are both praying for him.”

ETERNAL REST

What happened to Guo remained unclear.

Guo’s team said they had observed his speed slowed on Tuesday and attempted to contact him, but he did not answer either satellite calls or internet communication.

The US searchers had found a broken sail in the water, they added.

The US Coast Guard said it was called when Guo’s team had not received notification from him for 24 hours.

The sailor had previously been “in constant contact” with his shore team and family and was “not likely to miss scheduled calls”, it added.

Chinese fans expressed fears for the mariner, with one writing that it was “likely he was adjusting or repairing the sail when he was struck or an accident occurred and he fell”.

Others urged rescuers to continue the search.

“Absolutely do not stop the search and rescue! It’s only 24 hours, the water is warm enough, Guo Chuan’s physical abilities are fine, if money’s an issue the shore team must immediately open a donation account… You can’t give up!”

But a tone of mourning and tribute also appeared, with one writing that sailors, like mountain climbers, embraced challenge to access a vast perspective, with “captains’ hearts always facing the sea”.