Yacht Racing World Newsletter – Issue 13

Monday November 8

Transat Jacques Vabre – 79-boat fleet sets off in champagne conditions

The sun shone, the wind blew and 79 boats got off the start line at Le Havre bound for Martinique. The four classes headed, first of all, to a turning mark before heading through the English channel.

There was an emotional send off for the crews as they left the Le Havre docks, with family and fans shouting them on. The weather conditions were ideal. The boats were able to hit a north-westerly wind between 15 and 20 knots on a choppy sea lit by beautiful sunshine - a perfect backdrop for TV viewers across France and around the world.

The 5 Ultimes, 7 Ocean Fifty, 22 IMOCA 60s and 45 Class 40s pointed their bows towards Etretat to round the first course mark before setting course towards the Atlantic. A long journey lies ahead; 7,500 miles for the largest and fastest class, the Ultimes.

The IMOCA and Ocean Fifties will sail around 6,000 miles with the smallest and slowest Class 40s completing around 4,500 miles.

The fleet set-off on port tack heading to a turning mark off the village of Etrat, where hundreds of fans lined the white cliffs for a perfect view of the boats screaming in towards them. Then they turned to head west along the busy English channel where they face a tricky night of strong currents and lightening breeze. Decisions taken in these early hours of the race may prove crucial to the outcome.


52 Super Series – Sled scoops world and season titles as storms prevent racing on final day

Winning by the slimmest of margins Takashi Okura’s TP52 Sled team were crowned 2021’s 52 SUPER SERIES champions and Rolex TP52 World Champions Saturday in Palma, Mallorca. They join Azzurra and Quantum Racing as only the third crew to have won the circuit’s top honours.

Holding a lead of one single point on both championships scoreboards the team which won two of this season’s three regattas had a nervous wait ashore today until scheduled racing had to be finally cancelled because of gale force Mistral winds on the Bay of Palma.

Theirs is a popular victory for a hugely experience team which represents the New York Yacht Club but which is a potent, truly multicultural mix including veteran America’s Cup winning New Zealanders such as Don Cowie, mainsheet trimmer and project manager, five times America’s Cup winner Murray Jones as helmsman and NZ’s youthful Finn Olympic ace and more recent Cup winner Josh Junior.

Their overall victory required them to overcome successive crew line-up changes imposed by travel restrictions. All of their core Japanese sailors had to miss the second regatta and substitutes found. Usual Australian ace Adam Beashel called tactics for the first regatta win in Puerto Portals in August but Italian Francesco Bruni then had to step in cold when Beashel could not travel for the second and third events.


The Ocean Race – New exciting racecourse features epic Southern Ocean leg

The race course for the 14th edition of The Ocean Race around the world has been updated and it includes an epic crossing of the Southern Ocean - the longest leg in the history of the Race.

The next edition of The Ocean Race will feature the longest Southern Ocean leg in the 50 year history of the event, an incredible 12,750 nautical mile marathon between Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil.

This is just one of the highlights of the updated race course, confirmed this week.

The race route for the 14th edition of the event has been rationalised in response to the logistical realities of an around the world race in a COVID-19 environment and will start from Alicante, Spain in late December 2022 / early January 2023, with the final date to be announced.

From there the IMOCA and VO65 fleets will sprint out of the Mediterranean Sea to Cabo Verde, visiting this African island nation for the very first time, before racing down to a perennial favourite among stopovers, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Then, a return to the roots of the Race, with a massive sojourn through the Southern Ocean, over 30 days of racing, to Itajaí, Brazil, host of the past three stopovers in South America.

This will be the longest leg in the history of The Ocean Race, dating all the way back to the very first fully-crewed around the world race in 1973, and will see a transit of the three great Capes - the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn - in succession, without a stopover, for the very first time.

“We believe the 12,750 nautical mile leg from Cape Town to Itajaí is a very special element - unique in history - in the next race,” explained Johan Salén, the Managing Director of The Ocean Race. “The ongoing and unpredictable effects of COVID have meant it is impossible, at this time, to do the planning necessary to ensure successful stops in China and New Zealand."

“China and New Zealand remain important to the present and the future of The Ocean Race, and we plan to return to both countries again,” said Race Chairman Richard Brisius.

“We will work diligently with both to explore ways for them to have a meaningful presence in this edition as well.”


World Match Racing Tour – Dates for 57th Congressional Cup confirmed for 2022

Long Beach Yacht Club has announced the 2022 dates for the prestigious Congressional Cup and Ficker Cup regattas, according to Chair Lisa Meier.

The 57th edition of the Congressional Cup will be hosted from April 18-23, 2022 including a practise day and five days of spirited world-class match racing. Eight elite invited competitors will battle for the Crimson Blazer, joined by the top two finalists from the Ficker Cup, slated for April 13 to 16.

LBYC announced the dates, riding a wave of glory from the 2021 event. After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Congressional Cup racing resumed in mid-September 2021 with rousing success.

The regatta had an ‘Endless Summer’ theme and vibe and conditions complied; with sunny, breezy days ideal for sailing and balmy evenings for pool-side mingling.

“The 2022 Congressional Cup will return to April, with stellar conditions for highly competitive match races between the world’s best skippers and crews!” announced Meier.

The Congressional Cup has long been considered a gateway to America’s Cup and advancement in the sport, and Meier as added: “The 2021 young guns (skippers who had qualified in Ficker Cup) performed well against the seasoned veterans, as they all vied for a shot at the legendary Crimson Blazer.”

“LBYC has a warm tradition of hosting visiting officials and sailors,” she continued. “We invite competitors from around the world to make Long Beach their home during Ficker Cup and Congressional Cup; and invite the community of Long Beach to watch the action, with great viewing from the Veterans Memorial Pier in Belmont Shore.”

“The Congressional Cup is sailed on the very waters where Olympians will be competing in the 2028 Olympiad,” Meier pointed out. “Long Beach has a lengthy history with the Olympic Games, hosting on-the-water events for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 and 1984 and the yacht club and community are already preparing to ensure the 2028 Games are a success,” she said.

Founded by LBYC in 1965, the Congressional Cup features five days of world-class competition in the waters off Long Beach, Calif. The Congressional Cup is recognised as the ‘grandfather of match racing,’ and LBYC further revolutionised the game with the introduction of on-the-water umpiring.

One of the flagship championship events of the World Match Racing Tour, the 57th Congressional Cup will kick off the 2022 WMRT season.


Stuff – America's Cup teams forced to open doors

America’s Cup teams will be forced to open up their operations like never before as the regatta looks to feed the growing appetite for fly-on-the wall TV shows.

The Cup has long been a secret society as teams have jealously guarded their compounds and equipment, wary of performance advantages leaking.

But a key point in the protocol for the 37th America’s Cup to be released on November 17 is a demand that teams allow film crews access for behind-the scenes footage that will reveal the inner-workings - and conflicts - of the syndicates.

The success of Formula One’s stunning “Drive To Survive” series that airs on Netflix has encouraged the America’s Cup to go down this path, realising they have a product that can benefit from some of its mysteries finally being unveiled.

Production houses have been contacted and there is genuine excitement at the potential of the America's Cup scene to produce a series with similar intrigue to motorsport’s showpiece event given the characters involved, the pressures that come with huge budgets, and the sheer speed of the new AC75 foiling monohulls.


Afloat – Do sailing’s public spats clear the air or muddy the water?

Would Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise have still won the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 if it had been sailed on the old course, with Plymouth rather than Cherbourg as the finish? Imponderable it may be, but it's a question of renewed interest as the row rumbles on about the in-race shortening of the recent Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021 – writes WM Nixon.

This course shortening was done in view of a developing northeasterly storm which soon made the harbour-mouth finish dangerously impossible for smaller boats still at sea. But as everyone is now well aware, it meant that Sunrise – already finished and in port along with two-thirds of the fleet – had to make do with second overall, after looking for a while as though she was about to achieve the magnificent double of Fastnet and Middle Sea overall victories in one season, achieved with such style that it would all have been done and dusted within the space of three months.

But the unhappy outcome instead caused an almighty row, and some of us sought shelter in trying to analyse it from a different point of view. The affable but very keen and obviously extremely effective Tom Kneen is a loyal member of the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth, and he happily admitted that in the RORC members' poll about the change to the Fastnet course, he had voted in favour of the traditional finish in Plymouth rather than race the extra 90 miles to a new big-scale welcome in Cherbourg.

The traditional Fastnet finish at Plymouth and the 2021 version with the finish at Cherbourg. It's possible that the extra 90 miles to Cherbourg gave the Plymouth-base Sunrise her overall win.

The traditional Fastnet finish at Plymouth and the 2021 version with the finish at Cherbourg. It's possible that the extra 90 miles to Cherbourg gave the Plymouth-base Sunrise her overall win.

Ironically, it may well be that the extra 90 miles "imposition" gave Sunrise her clearcut win. She had been reasonably well-placed but not winning at earlier stages, thus it was the lengthened final stage after the Bishop Rock and up the middle of the English Channel in a private breeze – a feat repeated with almost equal success by Ronan O Siochru's Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire – which saw Sunrise get so clearly into the Glitter Zone.

But having been given a portal to overall success by the long-planned extension of the Fastnet Race, Sunrise then found the door to a Middle Sea repeat slammed shut in her face by the sudden imposition of a course shortening. Some may raise their eyes to heaven and say: "The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh Away". But the more grounded have raised – not for the first time – the question of whether well-meaning amateurs should have ultimate control of the running of any major event in which the combined long-term expense of involvement by a huge fleet – whether amateur or professional – is a figure running into tens and probably hundreds of millions of euro.


Vendée Globe – 21 skippers from 2020/21 Vendée Globe take on the Atlantic in 20121 Transat Jacques Vabre

No fewer than 21 skippers from the last Vendée Globe 2020-2021 will leave to cross the Atlantic Sunday from start line of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the double handed race which this year follows a 5800 nautical miles course finishing in Martinique. The strong IMOCA class sees 22 boats racing, a phenomenal fleet for the immediate post Vendée Globe period.

By comparison with the 2017 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre – the last post Vendée Globe edition – then there were IMOCAs lining up after an edition won by Armel Le Cléac'h. And so there is a direct reflection of the incredible interest in the next edition which will start in November 2023. In the fleet of 22 boats, 17 of them raced the last edition of the solo non stop round the world race.

The IMOCA 60-foot race program continues to grow and increasingly is an essential part of the tougher qualification process for the race. Combined with the technical rules imposed on the boats this has made them more reliable to the point that 75 per cent of them finished the last Vendée Globe in comparison with a usual average closer to 50 per cent. The benefit is that more than ever, sponsors and partners are continuing and extend their commitments from one edition to the next.

With the notable exception of Jean le Cam, Boris Herrmann and Maxime Sorel, seven of the top 10 of the Vendée Globe 2020-2021 are present on the Le Havre starting line. While racing their existing boats which they took round the world recently, Yannick Bestaven ( Maître CoQ), Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) have all announced the build of a new boat in their pursuit of glory on the 2024 race. Jérémie Beyou (Charal) and Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) are both also building new.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) will be racing the boat which is new to him. He bought L’Occitane-en-Provence from Armel Tripon. And it will be a first big trans ocean race for Romain Attanasio (Fortinet - Best Western) as well who has got his hands on SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco from Boris Herrmann.

Unfinished business

Others still have scores to settle, Charlie Dalin maybe won the last edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre with Yann Eliès, but wants to keep up a winning run that surely helps salve any lingering disappointment of being overtaken by Yannick Bestaven on the strength of his time compensation, even after crossing the Vendée Globe finish line first.

That chimes with the drive of Paul Meilhat who is his co-skipper on Apivia, who abandoned the Vendée Globe 2016 into Tahiti. So too there is some unfinished business for Thomas Ruaynt, whose Vendée Globe was compromised by the loss of his port foil, here partnered with the highly driven Morgan Lagravière who pulled out of the 2016 Vendée Globe into South Africa.

Jérémie Beyou’s 2020-21 race was not anything close to what was wanted by one of the pre-race favourites. On this TJV he again sails with his friend of some fifteen years Christopher Pratt. They have to erase the twin frustrations of the Vendée Globe 2020, for Beyou who finished 13th after leaving Les Sables again three days after the fleet. But this duo especially have to exorcise memories of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019. They led into the Doldrums but got badly stuck and suffered as Apivia slid away to and take victory.

Sébastien Simon (Arkea Paprec) has chosen Eliès, to accompany him in this rematch. Simon knows his contract will not be extended with the sponsoring partners and really intends to make his mark on this race, a way of preparing for the future. The Vendée Globe was cruel to him as well, forcing him to retire before the Cape of Good Hope. Also in that category, sailors who abandoned and are out to fight for a strong result to take them into the next quadrennial are Sam Davies and Isabelle Joschke (MACSF). Nicolas Lunven is the co-skipper for Davies and Fabien Delahaye for Joschke.


Sunrise Racing – Official statement on the Rolex Middle Sea Race

Statement from Tom Kneen, skipper of Sunrise

First and foremost, on behalf of the Sunrise crew please can we extend our congratulations to every competitor who completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race this year. It was certainly the toughest offshore race in which we have ever competed, and we have enormous respect for everyone who took part.

Congratulations to Comanche & Argo for winning their respective line honours and their race records, the class winners and especially to Jangada for winning the double-handed class. This race was tough when sailed fully crewed so to come out on top double handed is an inspiration.

Secondly, the crew of Sunrise would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has shown their support for our plight both directly and via social media - it has really been overwhelming. We are also aware that there has been a lot of rumour and hearsay surrounding what happened so to set the record straight this is our official statement of the events and our position.

We don’t go sailing to win watches and trophies. We go sailing because we love the sport, the adventure and building memories with special people. This year's Rolex Middle Sea Race certainly did not disappoint when it came to building memories. Sailing the boat at 28 knots from Stromboli to Ustica is something I’ll never forget. We also achieved our second conclusive class win of 2021 and built new friendships with members of the Dawn Treader crew with whom we raced the Rolex Middle Sea Race and are sure to share more adventures in the future.

The race was also unforgettable for the wrong reasons and the chain of events that unfolded after we finished the race were extremely upsetting. I am usually not a fan of sharing my thoughts in the public domain however on this occasion time is not proving to be a healer and I find myself increasingly troubled by what has happened.

Given the astonishing level of support we have received from the wider sailing community and the potential impact that events in Malta could have on a sport with which I am infatuated, I feel that it is important to make a formal statement on behalf of the Sunrise team. I believe that what the young crew of Sunrise has achieved this year is nothing short of astonishing.

Winning the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race in the same season really is a once in a lifetime achievement and I believe to have it taken from us in the way that it was is totally unacceptable and fundamentally wrong.


New Zealand Herald – 'Slap in the face' as Auckland removed as The Ocean Race stopover

Auckland has been removed as a stopover city from the next edition of The Ocean Race, a move labelled a "slap in the face" of fans.

The course for the 14th edition of The Ocean Race - formerly the Volvo Ocean Race - has been updated and competitors will no longer sail to Auckland due to New Zealand's ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Auckland has been a stopover city in all but three of the previous editions of the round-the-world event, raced every three years, including the last time it was held in 2017-18.

But after initially being set to once again host the fleet in 2023, race organisers have instead opted to bypass New Zealand in favour of a marathon leg across the Southern Ocean from South Africa to Brazil.

"We believe the 12,750 nautical mile leg from Cape Town to Itajai is a very special element - unique in history - in the next race," said race managing director Johan Salen.

"The ongoing and unpredictable effects of Covid have meant it is impossible, at this time, to do the planning necessary to ensure successful stops in China and New Zealand."

But Mayo & Calder, organisers of the Auckland stopover, said they had been informed of the decision less than 24 hours ago, and as the event was still 17 months away any concerns from race officials were unjustified.