NY-Vendée: Horses are on the Track

Published on May 29th, 2016

(May 29, 2016) – The cream of the IMOCA 60 fleet sets sail today from under the shadow of the Manhattan skyline in the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode, the fourth event of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship 2015-2016.

Just as they did on their dry run on Friday during the Currency House New York-Vendee Charity Race, the boats started upwind from a line directly off Manhattan’s North Cove marina. At 1530 local time, the 14 boats will regroup off the Ambrose Light buoy off the entrance to New York Harbour ready for the start of the transatlantic race proper.

This brand new event is being sailed singlehanded and has been conceived by the race’s Lausanne-based organisers Open Sports Management (OSM), as an uncompromising training run for the singlehanded non-stop round the world race, the Vendée Globe, that sets sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on 6 November.

Sir Keith Mills, Chairman of OSM commented: “The race from New York to Vendee is a landmark moment in singlehanded ocean racing. We are going to see several new boats foiling, capable of speeds well in excess of 30 knots in largely a reaching or downwind race. We could absolutely see the singlehanded transatlantic record broken and a new era for shorthanded ocean racing. So this is a bit of a mile stone for the sport and given the size of the fleet and the new boats, it looks like the IMOCA Ocean Masters is in great shape.”

In the meantime, 3,100 miles of North Atlantic lies ahead of the 14 solo sailors as they turn their bows towards the finish port of Les Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée region of west France. The course includes a substantial ice exclusion zone to keep the boats south of the Grand Banks and away from the threat of any rogue bergs that may have drifted south from Greenland on the Labrador Current. But at present the weather, and especially the more-southerly-than-usual track of depressions in the North Atlantic this week, looks likely to force boats south.

The line-up for the race includes all of the potential Vendée Globe race winners, including the latest generation IMOCA 60s. They, along with Jeremie Beyou’s Maître CoQ, are all fitted with state-of-the-art foils. Representing a significant break-through in yacht design, these make the boats partially fly and thereby capable of unprecedented performance.

Among the frontrunners are Armel le Cleac’h on Banque Populaire, winner of The Transat bakerly, the westbound singlehanded race that finished recently in New York. Le Cleac’h finished second in the last two Vendée Globes. He will be up against former Volvo Ocean Race skipper Sebastien Josse on the equally well developed Edmond de Rothschild, winner of December’s IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt.

Of the four non-French competitors, favourite is Alex Thomson on another latest generation boat, Hugo Boss. For the British skipper, who finished third, behind Le Cleac’h in the last Vendée Globe, this race represents a further step in getting his futuristic-looking, black and silver flying machine reliable for November’s round the world race.

Between relaunching Hugo Boss this spring and arriving in New York, Thomson has put considerable miles on the clock. “We sailed it to Lanzarote in 25-40 knots all the way. Then we did some good testing in Lanzarote and then I sailed from there to here. So I am pretty confident now.

“For me the boat feels amazing. It behaves brilliantly – the best I have ever felt about a boat, although it also scares the living daylights out of me. The speed potential is obscene – I have been over 30 knots some 20 times now, more than I have ever been before.”

US interests in the race are represented by Conrad Colman, who is half-American and grew up near New York City. Like Shiraishi, he is another 11th hour entrant and his yacht 100% Natural Energy only arrived in Manhattan last night, ready for today’s start.

Coming from furthest afield is Japanese three time round the world sailor Kojiro Shiraishi, sailing Spirit of Yukoh, the boat which Thomson raced in the last Vendée Globe: “All the potential Vendée Globe winners of are here and it’s a great privilege to be competing among them. I’m really looking forward to it.” Having only recently acquired his boat Shiraishi is using this race to qualify for the Vendée Globe. “It is also the first time I’ve sailed this boat singlehanded and I want to test it to ensure it’s ready for the Vendee Globe. I need to have a safe race and not break the boat, or myself!”

New to IMOCA 60 sailing is Pieter Heerema. The highly successful Dutch businessman has raced at the highest level in other areas of sailing, particularly inshore fully crewed one design racing and he was 2009 champion in the elite RC44 class. However this will be his first attempt at a major singlehanded offshore race and, to make matters all the harder, his No Way Back, is one of the six latest generation boats.

The frontrunners in The New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode are expected to finish in just over nine days.

Delma 24 hour record
The overall Delma Record for the race will go to the skipper of the boat which has recorded the best 24 hour run during the race who will receive a special Ocean Masters-branded Delma Shell Star chronograph watch.

Delma, the Swiss watch brand, is Official Timekeeper for the New York Vendee Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode.

The outright IMOCA 60 24 hour record currently stands at 545.34 miles, set while crossing the Indian Ocean during the last Vendee Globe on 9 December 2012 by the race’s eventual winner, Francois Gabart and MACIF.

Armel le Cleac’h, skipper Banque Populaire: “Physically I recovered a maximum of The Transat bakerly and the boat is fully prepared once again. The first hours of the race look quite simple, perfect to ease ourselves into it. I can’t wait to see what will happen. It will be a very interesting part of the build-up to the Vendée Globe, as we’ll have conditions very close to those of the Southern Ocean.”

Sebastien Josse, skipper of Edmond de Rothschild: “The weather conditions for the first hours of the race will allow us to remain close to the direct route. It’ll be pretty quick – a crossing between eight and 10 days, with few weather phenomena to manage that could slow us down a bit at the end. It is a fantastic line-up, with all the boats and foiling boats so that competition will be really interesting. The race will be short, the pace extremely high, but care must be taken not to exceed the limits.”

Race detailsTracker

Background: Fourteen solo skippers started the NY-Vendee Race on May 29, a 3100 mile course from New York (USA) to Les Sables d’Olonne (FRA) in the IMOCA 60 monohull class. For some skippers, this is the last opportunity to qualify for the Super Bowl of their sport — The Vendee Globe.

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