40, 50, 60, 70 feet… round the world, stopping, non-stop, crewed, solo… 1 hull, 2 hulls, 3 hulls…One Design or Open… the choices for sailors and the fans of sailing seem to get more and more complicated. There’s only so many sailors, so many sponsors and so many months in the year to try and support a sustainable industry, yet this doesn’t seem to deter both old and new promoters from trying to make their particular model work.
As the MOD 70 gains momentum (up to 9 boats are now believed to have been commissioned), perhaps at the expense of IMOCA, and the Global Ocean Race tries to make the most of a strong Class 40 fleet, the Velux 5 Oceans Race will add a new boat option for its next edition in 2014-15. The ninth edition of the race will continue to extend the life of older Open 60 boats through the Eco 60 Class, but will also allow the SolOceans One Design.
Like the Class 40, the new class is supposed to allow sailors to race solo around the world on a level playing field with ‘reasonable and controlled budgets’. The aim is to increase the number of skippers and sponsors of all nationalities, but in doing so, will have to tempt sailors from other classes or events.
The SolOceans Class has an impressive pedigree on paper, but the project has taken a long time to get off the ground. The 52.5 foot high-tech carbon one-design yacht (16 meters), has been designed by Jean-Marie Finot and Pascal Conq, with Michel Desjoyeaux as Technical Consultant of the Class. Three boats have been built to date with a goal to having 5 to 8 boats on the 5 Oceans start line in 2014.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said:
“…we are adapting to the global economic environment in evolving the type of boat we accept to compete. From our side, we innovated with the Eco 60 Class. We started this approach to favour more modest budgets from 2005, even before the financial crisis hit in the summer of 2008. We are now taking this strategy even further in launching this new category of high tech round the world boats.”
“The SolOceans One Design Class will offer skippers and their sponsors a fantastic opportunity to race around the world on an equal footing, increasing further the emotional intensity of the adventure to the benefit of the general public.”
Jean-Pierre Champion, President of the French Sailing Federation (FFVoile) said:
“I am delighted that the 5 OCEANS is opening its start line to the SolOceans One Design Class. It will offer young skippers coming out of our centres of excellence of training for solo offshore racing a future thanks to a series of high tech, one design boats which are financially, technically and competitively accessible.”
“One design racing allows costs to be controlled. The Figaro Class has shown this each season. It is a philosophy that our federation encourages. It allows not only young racers to build their sporting career, but equally for small-medium size companies to engage sustainably in our sport with a real visibility on budget. In these times of economic crisis, this element takes on even more significance. The 5 OCEANS therefore has the support of the FFVoile in this approach which marks a major evolution in oceanic racing.”
It’s a great concept, but now that concept has to be sold to sailors and their backers. The sponsors couldn’t really care less how long the boat is or who designed it. The one-design nature does appeal to some sponsors because it focusses attention on the ability of the sailors rather than the size of their budget.
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