Times are tough in IMOCA land. Despite a ‘full grid’ for the recent Barcelona World Race, the budgets to be competitive in the Open 60 class get bigger and bigger. Even with the advances in offshore communications and the development of multiplayer games that engage tens of thousands of people, the list of companies with cheque-books is dwindling. With the ultimate Open 60 race – the Vendee Globe on the horizon, many sailors are struggling to find the money to get to the start-line – let alone be in a position to win.
Now The Transat™ has been dropped from the pre Vendee Globe calendar by its promoters OC Thirdpole.
The release says that the race has “been rescheduled away from its habitual 2012 slot.” Ordinarily, the event has been organised every four years since its inception, but it is not the first time the event has struggled.
The race was “Rescued at the last minute” for the 2004 edition by current promoters – OC ThirdPole and in 2008 the event became a monohull only race with a strong commitment made to the 60-foot monohull IMOCA Class tothe exclusion of all multihulls.
Having Artemis as title sponsor enabled the event to rebuild, and the event’s success, including a very well attended pre-start village in Plymouth, the historical ‘home’ of the event, probably had a lot to do with Plymouth’s successful bid to host a round of the America’s Cup World Series.
The rescheduling of the Transat allows another IMOCA event, also starved of entries, to be run before the next Vendee Globe. The Istanbul Europa Race had been due to start in July, but insufficient entries forced its cancellation. OC ThirdPole says that their actions to postpone the Transat will help solve a difficult position for Istanbul Europa Race organisers – Olay Nautic.
OC ThirdPole understands IMOCA better than most. They have been involved at an event and team level and their involvement and support includes the creation of the Barcelona World Race, the organisation of the Artemis Challenge, as well as management of numerous IMOCA campaigns including Kingfisher, Skandia, Estrella Damm, BT, and Artemis Ocean Racing.
But OC Thirdpole is also a commercial organisation where yacht racing is not just an activity for its own sake. It’s not just the America’s Cup that is having a hard time reinventing itself as a commerically sustainable sporting event – OC Thirdpole’s statement suggests that IMOCA needs to revisit how the class stays relevant:
OC ThirdPole hope that IMOCA will now work on a much needed long term strategic marketing plan and vision, in order that the Class can once again attract new sponsors at both team and event level.
In terns of the Transat – OC ThirdPole will now re-evaluate, along with its partners, the future timing and format of the race. One plan is for a biennial event, alternating between the historical solo and duo formats, supporting IMOCA’s key pillars of a round the world race every two years (Vendée Globe, Barcelona World Race).