Two years to go and pressure building

Published on November 19th, 2018

Held every four years, the Vendee Globe is the grandest achievement in shorthanded sailing. Using the 60-foot IMOCA, the solo around the world race is a massive test, with preparation for the 2020 edition now underway.

New designs are good but only when fully vetted, as nothing shows the weaknesses of a boat like distance racing. And once the boat becomes reliable, success still relies on connecting the sailor with the ship.

A view of the fleet for the upcoming 9th edition was on display as a record fleet of 20 IMOCA boats competed in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race, another classic test that occurs only every four years.

And true to form, teething problems surfaced for Jérémie Beyou on board Charal, the newest boat in the IMOCA fleet. It was the first race for the VPLP-designed Charal, which sports large foils and an innovative hull design, but steering problems would force their retirement.

As there are a maximum of 30 spaces on the Vendee Globe race dock in Les Sables d’Olonne, and with 24 active campaigns with boats and operational budgets, there might be only six more places up for grabs.

Of course, history has shown that some projects will fall by the wayside through lack of funding or other reasons, and others will materialize, but the bottom line is that the levels of activity are extremely high and it will be even more of an achievement to simply get across the start line with a decent chance of finishing.

The selection of the IMOCA now also for the 2021-22 crewed global race (formerly known as Volvo Ocean Race) has heightened interest in the class, but there remain questions as how to mode the boat for both races. But excitement and interest breeds solutions.

With only the trailing IMOCAs still to finish the Route du Rhum, the focus is now two years forward toward the Matterhorn of shorthanded sailing. Here we take stock of who is doing what and where … click here.

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