Archive | Vendée Globe

Work has begun on StMichel-Virbac

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Vendee Globe] Jean-Pierre Dick’s fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe is becoming reality now with the launch of the construction of the hull and deck of his new IMOCA monohull, StMichel-Virbac, a VPLP-Verdier designed boat which is due to be launched in September.

“We’re not putting in the foundations, but rather the first layer of carbon, which is always a key moment for the team, as we are starting to see everything become reality.” It is at the Multiplast yard in Vannes that StMichel-Virbac, the 60-foot IMOCA aboard which Jean-Pierre Dick will set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on 6th November 2016, is taking shape. “The construction of the deck and hull has begun at the same time,” explained the Nice-based skipper. “Meanwhile, the yard is also designing the bulkheads and my team is working on a lot of carbon parts. Then, it will be time to assemble her, to close the box, if you like. StMichel-Virbac will then be fitted out with all her electrical elements, deck hardware, electronics, etc. Finally, the boat will be decorated in the colours of StMichel-Virbac and all my partners.” With her launch scheduled late in the season, on paper in September, the timing is going to be tight to prepare for the Transat Jacques Vabre, which starts in Le Havre on 25th October. But that doesn’t worry Jean-Pierre, who is monitoring the construction of his fourth IMOCA. His experience will no doubt allow him to save some precious time.

“Entering a new era”
It is no big surprise that StMichel-Virbac will be fitted with foils, instead of the straight daggerboards that we can see on the current fleet of IMOCA boats. Jean-Pierre Dick added, “This construction is all the more fascinating as we are entering a new era with boats that fly. The arrival of foils offers a huge theoretical gain in speed for the boat when she is is in the points of sail that are most common in the Vendée Globe, reaching and downwind sailing. We should shave two days off the time to sail around the world, which seems incredible, doesn’t it?”

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Canada to return to the Vendée Globe in 2016?

Posted on 18 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Vendee Globe] Recently named “Rolex Sailor of the Year” in Canada, the Canadian skipper Eric Holden has launched the “Canadian Ocean Racing” project with the aim of competing in the 2016 Vendée Globe. If he completes the voyage, he will become the first Canadian to do so in the Vendée Globe. Eric Holden intends to take part in the Everest of the seas aboard the 60-foot “Spirit of Canada”, aboard which his fellow Canadian Derek Hatfield lined up in 2008. He tells us more.

You recently announced your intention of taking part in the 2016 Vendée Globe. Can you tell us more about your project?

Canadian Ocean Racing launches on the heels of a very successful, but different, round the world race. From 2013-2014, I skippered one of 12 boats on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, sailing over 40,000 miles in 11-months. This race gave amateur sailors a unique opportunity to experience offshore sailing and some to even circumnavigate the globe. As the first Canadian Skipper of the Race and the winner, I wanted to share my journey with fellow Canadians and inspire them to dream big about offshore sailing. I pursued an opportunity to secure the use of O Canada, ex-Spirit of Canada (Owen Clarke 2006), through the support of Wind Athletes Canada for this program.

While the establishment of this project will ultimately support me in my campaign for the Vendée Globe, Canadian Ocean Racing is much more than just that. I founded this program to promote the sport of offshore racing in Canada and offer the opportunity, access and mentorship to aspiring Canadian sailors. During our Launch Tour this Spring, we will be taking on a small group of young Canadian talent for a training journey from West to East Coast Canada. Eager sailors are also being provided the opportunity to work as part of our shore support team in preparation for races. I want to make offshore racing more accessible to my fellow Canadians, so we are building this program on the generous support of private donors and corporate partners.

Have you already found any partners? What sort of partnership are you looking for?

Canadian Ocean Racing is working with partners that share our mission: bringing Canada to the forefront of offshore racing. Our launch partners include Wind Athletes Canada and Sail Canada, who work with us on securing donations and building support for our program. We are currently in talks with potential corporate partners who are interested in aligning themselves with Canada’s premier offshore racing team for branding, events and content marketing. There is still an opportunity for title sponsors to partner with Canadian Ocean Racing, we are open to new ideas and relationships that can help us build this program.

Have you had any experience of sailing on a 60-foot IMOCA before?

Apart from working in the shore team of Spirit of Canada during her launch, this will be my first Open 60 program. I have sailed on a series of high performance boats in offshore races, and have already successfully completed one circumnavigation with Clipper on their 70ft one-design fleet.

What is your training schedule and which races do you intend to compete in?

Our training schedule will begin immediately once we launch O Canada out of Vancouver this Spring. The Launch Tour around North America will serve as Phase One of training, which will conclude with an appearance at the Toronto Pan Am games. This will provide us with 10,000 miles of experience on the boat before our first race. Phase Two of training will include a Transatlantic passage in late Summer 2015, to begin preparations for the Transat Jacques Vabre. We are currently intending to compete in both the Transat Jacques Vabre and BtoB races at the end of this year. It is likely that we will compete in the other IMOCA Ocean Masters races in the first half of 2016. The rest of the year will be dedicated to solo training for the Vendee Globe. My intention is to get as much exposure and competitive opportunity in preparation for the Vendee Globe in November 2016.

What image do Canadians have of the Vendée Globe?

Canada has had two previous entrants in the Vendee Globe, first with the tragic loss of Gerry Roufs in 1997, and Derek Hatfield’s retirement in 2008. There is a sense of unfinished business with this race and Canada is eager to have its first success.

Will you be getting any advice from Derek Hatfield about the boat and about the Vendée Globe?

Derek has been supportive of the launch of this new campaign and is happy that this Canadian built boat will have another opportunity to compete in the Vendee Globe.

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Jérémie Beyou first to register for the Vendée Globe

Posted on 18 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: Vendee Globe] The skipper of Maître Coq was the first skipper to complete the official registration for the next non-stop solo round the world voyage. On 6th November 2016, Jérémie Beyou will be setting out from les Sables d’Olonne to compete in his third consecutive Vendée Globe. His first two attempts ended with him being forced to retire with a mast problem (in 2008/2009) and keel damage (in 2012/2013).Second in the 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre and the 2014 Route du Rhum, as well as winning the Solitaire du Figaro three times, Jérémie has clearly bounced back from these disappointments.

In 2016/2017, he will be a serious contender for a place on the podium and maybe even for the top spot… He will be competing aboard his VPLP/Verdier designed boat launched in 2010, which came second in the last edition of the Vendée Globe, when she was skippered by Armel Le Cléac’h.

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2016 Vendée Globe: up to 25 boats at the start

Posted on 09 December 2014 by Reporter

[Source: Vendee Globe] With less than two years to the start of the Vendée Globe, Bruno Retailleau, President of the Saem Vendée, gave a complete rundown of the situation concerning the eighth Vendée Globe at the Paris Boat Show this afternoon (Tuesday). As well as confirming the start date for Sunday 6th November 2016, we also learnt that around fifteen sailors are already certain to compete and that 20-25 were well advanced in their project. This press conference was also an opportunity for Sodebo and the town of Les Sables d’Olonne to announce that they have renewed their commitment to the race. Many skippers were also present to present their projects.

The start date is now official. The start of the eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, will take place on Sunday 6th November 2016. Bruno Retailleau, President of the Vendée Council and the SAEM Vendée, the event organiser, appeared very optimistic. “Everything seems to be looking favourable for this edition, both in terms of the race and the organisation.” After showing a teaser video, Bruno Retailleau reminded everyone of some very impressive figures. “The Vendée Globe is already France’s leading sporting event in terms of media coverage along with the Tour de France and Roland-Garros with coverage representing 200 million euros. We can also see some other data about the 2012 event, which illustrated how exceptional the impact was for such an ocean race. 9 million single visitors looked at the website during the three months of the race, 285 million pages were viewed, 30 million videos watched, 500,000 players joined in with the Vendée Globe Virtual Game, 85 hours of live TV were watched, 1,700 accredited journalists attended the Race Village at the start…”

Sodebo back as partner to the event

The digital boom with Internet and social networking means we can look forward to even greater coverage for the 2016-2017 edition. Bruno Retailleau explained, “New media arrangements and innovative editorial formats will mean increased coverage of the race, the skippers and the partners. During the race, the Vendée Globe will have its own Web TV broadcasting 24 hours a day with three live daily broadcasts and two weekly shows. People will be able to follow closely the lead up to the race with a video magazine “Aiming for the Vendée Globe” which will throw the spotlight on all the news concerning the various projects.”

In addition to this, 90 % of the budget for the event has already been secured, in particular, because the three major partners for the Vendée Globe, the Vendée Council, Sodebo and the town of Les Sables d’Olonne have renewed their support for the Everest of the Seas. Patricia Brochard, President of the Sodebo Group and Didier Gallot, Mayor of Les Sables d’Olonne, were on the stage to express their support for the Vendée Globe, alongside Jean-Pierre Champion (President of the French Sailing Federation), Jean Kerhoas (IMOCA President) and Denis Horeau (Race Director).

20 to 25 boats at the start

As for the race, the Notice of Race has been drawn up. The DNA of the Vendée Globe has of course been respected and there are no major changes. The Jury and Race Committee have been appointed. The President of the Jury will be Bernard Bonneau, “one of the most famous judges in the sailing world, who will also be President of the Jury at the Rio Olympics in 2016.” Bruno Retailleau handed over the microphone to Jean Kerhoas, who spoke about the new IMOCA class rules and the question of the use of foils, which should add to the technological attraction of the Vendée Globe.

The sailors were quite naturally given pride of place at this conference. Bruno Retailleau reminded everyone that there is ongoing contact with all the solo sailors. “In this difficult economic context, the Council and the SAEM Vendée offer their help to the skippers, who are looking for sponsors, through the use of marketing and communication tools, but also with joint meetings in order to explain the high return on investment that an event like the Vendée Globe with such media coverage offers.” No fewer than around thirty sailors hoping to compete in the Vendée Globe made the trip to present their projects (see below).

To sum up, “We already have fifteen teams committed, which is much more than we had with two years to go to the 2012 race, and we are confident that we should have between 20 and 25 boats on the start line on 6th November 2016,” declared Bruno Retailleau. “We’re looking at quality too, as a third of this fleet will be made up of new boats, which is an exceptional proportion and even a unique situation in such ocean races.” The President of the Saem Vendée concluded, “The 2016 edition of the Vendée Globe looks like being an exceptional one from every point of view. Firstly, with a line-up offering quantity, quality and diversity, which promises an exciting race out on the water. Then there is the coverage, which is being stepped up. Finally, with solid partnership agreements, we are able to work without any worries. All of this will strengthen the Vendée Globe in its position as the greatest ocean race in the world.”

The 15 sailors already committed 

Aboard seven new boats:

  • Morgan Lagravière (FRA / Safran),
  • Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA / Banque Populaire),
  • Alex Thomson (GB / Hugo Boss),
  • Sébastien Josse (FRA / Groupe Edmond de Rothschild),
  • Andrea Mura (ITA / Vento Di Sardegna),
  • Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac),
  • Nandor Fa (HG / Spirit of Hungary).

Aboard eight existing boats:

  • Vincent Riou (FRA / PRB),
  • Yann Eliès (FRA/Groupe Quéguiner),
  • Jérémie Beyou (FRA / Maître Coq),
  • Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA / Initiatives Cœur),
  • Louis Burton (FRA / Bureau Vallée),
  • Eric Bellion (FRA / Comme 1 seul Homme),
  • Rich Wilson (USA / Great America IV),
  • Armel Tripon (FRA / For Humble Heroes).

Other projects that are underway: with varying degrees of progress, some of these sailors also attended the press conference: Sébastien Audigane (FRA), Yannick Bestaven (FRA), Nicolas Boidevezi (FRA), Arnaud Boissières (FRA), Ryan Breymaier (USA), Christophe Bullens (BEL), Guo Chuan (Chine), Bertrand de Broc (FRA), Fabien Delahaye (Fra), Kito de Pavant (FRA), Eric Defert (FRA), Alessandro Di Benedetto (ITA), Raphaël Dinelli (FRA) Corentin Douguet (FRA), Marc Emig (FRA), Roland Jourdain (FRA), Jean Le Cam (FRA), Eric Loizeau (FRA), Nicolas Lunven (FRA), Paul Meilhat (FRA), Gildas Morvan (FRA), Alex Pella (ESP), Jeff Pellet (FRA), Juan Carlo Pedote (ITA), Christopher Pratt (FRA), Jorg Riechers (ALL), Phill Sharp (GBR), Bernard Stamm (SUI),… and this list is not exhaustive…

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Alex Thomson Racing announces the build of the new HUGO BOSS IMOCA 60

Posted on 01 September 2014 by Reporter

[Source: Alex Thomson Racing] Alex Thomson Racing is announcing the build of the new HUGO BOSS IMOCA 60 to be launched in summer 2015, with the aim of winning the 2016 Vendee Globe.

The plans the Alex Thomson Racing Team are making in this period will have a significant effect on the competitiveness of the skipper and the boat years in advance of races such as the Vendee Globe. The Team aims to put Alex Thomson on the start line of the Vendee Globe with a boat that is good enough to win.

Financially, building a new race boat is a considerable investment and Alex Thomson Racing are privileged to have the support of their sponsors and financial backing to announce this boat build.  Whilst the IMOCA class have made a number of rule changes to increase the reliability and reduce the costs of the class, the investment is still upwards of €3million. The Alex Thomson Racing Team have been sponsored by HUGO BOSS since 2003 and have secured continued sponsorship until 2018.  “We have a great sponsor in HUGO BOSS. Our team has developed into not only being capable of delivering our sponsors marketing objectives, but also putting a winning campaign together.  Today, we take a big step forward in our ambition to be a winning part of the Ocean Masters circuit and delivering on our shared ambition” said Team CEO, Stewart Hosford.

The Team have chosen Guillaume Verdier and the VPLP Team to design the new HUGO BOSS. Technical Lead from Alex Thomson Racing, Ross Daniel said “To date we have had an incredible experience with working together with Guillaume and Vincent at VPLP/Verdier. These guys are incredibly down to earth, extremely talented, and have a passion for creating winning IMOCA boats.” Aware of the importance of delivering the project on time, on budget & to quality, the Alex Thomson Racing Team understand the significance of having the right project manager and the right builder to lead the project. The Team are currently in negotiations with Hythe based Green Marine to complete the build. Simon McGoldrick, the Team’s Naval Architect said “We hope and believe that the team at Green Marine are the right partner for this project, they are experienced and capable in building custom composites on time and on budget.  Given the choice we would always chose to build the boat in the UK as we are a British Team and want to support the industry and local suppliers that we rely on day to day”. The boat will be launched in summer 2015, withthe objective to be race ready to compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre in late October 2015.

With the IMOCA rule still essentially an open rule, where aside from the one design mast and keel, the designers and the teams are still able to seek competitive advantage through design and build.  A key element in producing a successful build is to be willing to take some risks and innovate.  The hull shapes of the 2016 Vendee Globe IMOCA 60s are likely to be an evolution of the current boats, but one area that has seen significant R&D is the new types of appendages.  The IMOCA class has always led in the development of new concepts in offshore racing and will again push the boundaries during the 2016 cycle. McGoldrick said; “This Vendèe Globe cycle will be particularly exciting as we will almost certainly see the use of foils not too dissimilar to those used in the Americas Cup.  The foils should significantly increase the performance of the boats, an increase we have not seen since the canting keel was invented.  Today all the simulations are theory based and of course theory can be very different to reality, so it is going to be a fascinating next 12 months to see what emerges”.

Lastly, the Alex Thomson Racing Team believes it is crucial to ensure the build is in phase with the competition.  There are four new boats that have already been announced- Safran, Banque Populaire, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Saint-Michel-Virbac.  These teams are in various stages of design and build and will be hitting the water from January through to late summer 2015to compete in theOcean Masters circuit and the Vendee Globe 2016.

“We want to take advantage of the very latest design thinking, but also get the boat in the water early enough to ensure reliability.  We have a simple objective and that is to put Alex Thomson on the start line, with a boat that is as good, if not better, than all the other boats that will line up on the Ocean Masters circuit” said Hosford.

In the meantime, Alex Thomson is preparing to take on the Barcelona World Race, the double handed, non-stop, round the world race, on December 31st 2014 together with co-skipper Pepe Ribes. Alex’s perspective: “We have worked hard to put together the right combination to make a successful project. We feel that we have put ourselves in-phase with the right designers and the right team internally and externally to be fully competitive through this cycle. I feel honored and privileged to have this opportunity – I cant wait!”

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Alex Thomson and HUGO BOSS announce renewed sponsorship deal

Posted on 18 December 2013 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Alex Thomson Racing] Alex Thomson Racing together with Five West have today announced a new four year sponsorship deal with HUGO BOSS.

The signing marks the continuation of one of the most successful sponsorships in sailing. HUGO BOSS has sponsored the British skipper since 2003.

As part of the renewed commitment to the solo-round-the-world skipper, Alex will be participating in the 2014 Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race, the 2014 Barcelona World Race and has his sights firmly set on winning the 2016 Vendee Globe.

Earlier this year Alex broke the British solo monohull non-stop round-the-world record when he finished on the podium of the Vendee Globe for the first time in his sailing career, coming in after 80 days alone at sea in the gruelling race.

HUGO BOSS will be sailing with Alex Thomson for another four years

Speaking at today’s announcement of his participation in the Barcelona World Race alongside Pepe Ribes, Alex Thomson said: “It is an absolute honour to continue our sponsorship with HUGO BOSS. The past ten years working together has been incredible, the pinnacle of which has to be my third place finish in the Vendee Globe this year. We aim to work together in this vein of success into the future starting with the New York to Barcelona Race in June next year, followed by the Barcelona World Race.”

Five West Managing Director Stewart Hosford said: “It is a great asset for the IMOCA class to have this renewed sponsorship deal going forward. The success of the Alex Thomson / HUGO BOSS partnership has been clear to see not only in the race results and the records Alex has set, but off the timer as well in all the activity they work on together. With an enhanced IMOCA programme over the next few years, HUGO BOSS and Alex Thomson will continue to bring something special to the class.”

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Paul Walker, Vendée Globe and Kate Middleton

Posted on 18 December 2013 by Valencia Sailing

If there was any doubt whatsoever left regarding the immense popularity of offshore sailing in France, yesterday’s figures announced by Google will put it to rest. The world’s leading internet search engine publishes each year, around Christmas, the “Google Zeitgeist”, a snapshot of what people had been searching in the last 12 months. It certainly is an interesting overview, reflecting the interests of the public, often triggered by major news events, fads, natural disasters or the popular celebrity of the moment.

Why should we care? Because the figures in France, once again, confirm that sailing and, especially, offshore racing are tremendously popular. Not only was the search term “Vendée Globe” ranked ahead of major events of international renown, such as the Roland-Garros tennis tournament, the Eurovision song contest, the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Dakar rally or even the Cannes film Festival, it was the second most popular search on Google France in 2013, behind “Paul Walker” and ahead of “Kate Middleton”!

French sailing prodigy François Gabart won the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe

This clearly shows that even the birth of a British Prince can’t generate more interest than the legendary round-the-world solo race and only the tragic death of a celebrity Hollywood actor stirs more curiosity among French internet users. It is fair though to add that this edition of the Vendée Globe was also one of the most exciting ones. Young French sailing prodigy François Gabart took the win after a thrilling match race with Armel Le Cleac’h. Not only did Gabart set a new race record with 78 days and 2 hours, the delta of 3 hours and 17 minutes between first and second was also the shortest ever. Finally, the race saw the 24-hour singlehanded distance record repeatedly reset by several competitors.

One thing is for sure, there will be a lot of skippers putting the Google figures on the first slide of their Powerpoint presentations and marketing pitches. It’s also certain that marketing managers around the country will be welcoming them as they have been doing for all those years, despite the financial crisis. If a company is solely interested in targeting the French market, there doesn’t seem to be a more compelling sports product. If your market is selling fireplaces, frozen vegetable, verandas, insurance or dairy products to the French consumer then the Vendée Globe is the perfect fit for a handful of millions per year.

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Sir Keith’s ambitious plans for the IMOCA

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Valencia Sailing

Sir Keith Mills, 62, has spent his entire working life in the advertising and marketing business. He quit school at the age of 15, with no qualifications, and worked his way up from the bottom, founding his own advertising company in 1985. In 1988 he set up Air Miles, an incentive scheme that filled spare capacity on planes, and eventually sold it to British Airways, making a small fortune.

In 2001 he created Nectar, a brand loyalty program that became the biggest one in the UK with over 19 million customers, nearly half of the adult population. According to London’s Guardian newspaper, the other half “can buy T-shirts that pithily answer the eternal question with the response: ‘No I haven’t got a fucking Nectar card.’” He then sold Nectar and netted £160 million.

In September 2003 he became Chairman of London 2012 and embarked on two major marketing campaigns. The first one was to pitch the London candidacy to the International Olympic Committee, something he was successful in as the UK capital was selected as host city in July 2005. The second major marketing campaign involved the actual London Olympics and Sir Keith’s team was able to bring in more than £1 billion of sponsorship money.

If such a successful, self-made businessman that has been selling and marketing products for nearly half a century states in a press conference that he has found an “extraordinary business opportunity” for him and that he will invest “several” million euros of his own money, there must be little doubt he knows what he’s talking about. If he then closes the same press conference by saying that he spent his entire career marketing products and that this one is “one of the best” he has seen then you wish you could have invested some of your savings there as well.

What does all this have to do with sailing? A lot, especially with single-handed and double-handed offshore sailing, and all these enthusiastic statements were made during the international press conference Sir Keith Mills held in Lausanne, Switzerland last Saturday.

From left, Georgio Pauen (OSM Executive Vice Chairman), Luc Talbourdet (IMOCA president) and Sir Keith Mills. Lausanne, 27 April 2013. Photo copyright Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / OSM was one of the invited media at the two-day event Sir keith and his newly-founded company Open Sports Management (OSM) hosted in the posh Beau Rivage hotel on the shores of Lake Léman. On Friday afternoon, François Gabart, recent winner of the Vendée Globe, was presented with the IMOCA World Champion trophy while on Saturday morning, Keith Mills, together with Georgio Pauen (OSM Executive Vice Chairman) and Luc Talbourdet (IMOCA president) held a press conference and talked about their vision for the IMOCA and their four-year plan to “take IMOCA global”.

Keith Mills bought the global commercial rights of the IMOCA class and in October 2012 he set up a new company, Open Sport Management (OSM) to manage them, becoming in a way the Bernie Ecclestone of offshore racing. Our report here will focus on the Saturday press conference which we will have to warn, was long on ambitions and enthusiasm but, unfortunately, short on details. This isn’t a criticism but rather an observation after two days of talks with most of the people involved.

Enthusiasm and huge potential
Again, to state that Keith Mills is enthusiastic about the IMOCA class and its prospects would be the understatement of the year. He strongly feels it is a “truly unique” sport. He has been involved with many sports and feels he has never seen “anything like that.” To him, the IMOCA class is very similar to the French wine. According to Mills, “France kept the best wine for itself for too long. It also kept the best sailing races for itself for too long.” He was quick to stress that this doesn’t imply it will lose its French accent. It will simply expand internationally. It’s important for him and his company to maintain the incredible support offshore sailing has in France. This view was seconded by Luc Talbourdet, IMOCA President, who stated that “the IMOCA Class was undervalued outside France and Keith saw that.”

All three panelists conveyed the same message. Single-handed offshore sailing is the only sport in the world where an athlete competes 24 hours per day over a period of three months. It is unique in its ability to demonstrate the personal endeavor of sailors and produce tremendous stories. This is what in their view the media want and this is what they will strive to provide. For Mills it is important to “capture the stories and bring them to life.” He took the example of a broach or a serious incident onboard a yacht. The skipper’s first and foremost priority is to secure his boat and then report, maybe two-three days later.

Four Key objectives
For Sir Keith there are four clear key objectives:

First of all it is important to bring more international teams, that means more non-French teams. This will make the races much more appealing to international sponsors. According to Mills, for most skippers it is much tougher to make it to the start line than compete in a race. It is extremely difficult to find sponsorship outside of France because precisely these races lack the public appeal they have in France. In that stage, Sir Keith passed the microphone to Ronnie Simpson who is a US sailor, aspiring to race in the 2016 Vendée Globe. Simpson pointed out that even if personal stories and human quality are one of the essential characteristics of these races, it is extremely hard to sell them in the US since people aren’t even aware of them.

Secondly, it is necessary to have more races that go to more places, that visit more venues. That will mean the participation of IMOCA 60 boats to other races, the creation of transoceanic races as well as Grand-Prix style races where the boats race to a certain venue and then stay there for a week.

Third key objective is to build a bigger, more international audience which in turn will eventually bring more international sponsors, the fourth key objective.

My obvious question was what OSM would be doing to achieve these goals. Sir Keith’s answer was that there was an “outline plan” that would be discussed with all the stakeholders this week and would be made public in their near future.

Sir Keith answering one of VSail’s questions. Lausanne, 27 April 2013. Photo copyright Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / OSM

Two 18-month cycles
Sir Keith’s ambitious plans will not be realized overnight and OSM has a four-year plan to to hopefully “unlock the huge potential” of the IMOCA class. This plan will evolve in two 18-month cycles.

The first 18-month cycle will mainly focus on double-handed sailing and its culmination will be the 2014 Barcelona World Race whose start is scheduled on the 31st of December.

After the end of the Barcelona World Race, OSM has scheduled a brief break that could allow sponsors to organize their own racing, although no further details were given. Georgio Pauen (OSM Executive Vice Chairman) called that a sort of “breathing space.”

The second 18-month cycle will focus on single-handed sailing and its culmination will obviously be the 2016 Vendée Globe.

Following the end of the press conference, OSM sent out an official press release with the racing program for 2013 and 2014 as follows:

2013 Program
August: Fastnet Race
November: Transat Jacques Vabre, from Le Havre (France) to Itajai (Brazil)

2014 Race Program
Spring: Double-handed Transat
Summer: a 1,000 miles long race
November: Route du Rhum
31 December: Barcelona World Race

Finances and sponsorship
There is no doubt Mills is putting his money where his mouth is. Although he didn’t provide any precise figure he said that his total investment would be “several million euros”, even he hasn’t spent “a lot” to date. He sees that investment as a business opportunity and OSM will actively seek all kind of sponsors, including for the naming rights. They will use the same “techniques” they had used for the 2012 London Olympics which had very strict rules and where branding wasn’t even allowed.

One thing that isn’t clear though is the exact relationship OSM will have with the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race, the cornerstones of single- and double-handed offshore sailing. These are well-established races, at least within the sailing world and we couldn’t see how they would work with OSM. What commercial rights will OSM have over them? Both Mills and Talbourdet were quick to point out that both races welcomed the arrival of OSM and despite their relative success they will strongly benefit from OSM’s knowhow. They both “look forward” to OSM’s involvement and will “closely” collaborate with Mills and his team.

Although there were very few details unveiled, it is very encouraging to see one of the UK’s most successful businessmen investing his own money, trying to make the sport of sailing more popular. At least it’s the case of a brilliant marketer that loves sailing and tries to market it, rather than a brilliant sailor that thinks he’s smarter than everyone else in marketing and fails, as it often happens in our sport…

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