Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Vendée Globe : Comments from IMOCA Class President Luc Talbourdet in regard to proposed changes to the IMOCA Class Rule

Virbac Paprec, with Jean-Pierre Dick (centre) and Loïck Peyron (far left), wins the Barcelona World Race 2010-11. Luc Talbourdet of Absolute Dreamer is on the far right in the image. Image copyright Nico Martinez/Barcelona World Race.

Discussions were held in French, with a summary produced here in English

by Anne Hinton

Luc Talbourdet enjoys sailing for pleasure, and participates on, for example, a JP54 in races such as the Tour de Belle Ile. In addition to being the current IMOCA class President, Luc Talbourdet heads the Absolute Dreamer company, primarily set up around Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec sponsored boats, but which also finds sponsorship for other sailors, such as Jean Le Cam, who was sponsored by SynerCiel in the 2012-13 Vendée Globe.

The proposed changes to the present IMOCA class rule are two-fold:

1     1. Changes to construction of the keel, following the loss of keels from a number of boats on the last Vendée Globe. Two options are on the table, with a view to improved safety. These are either:
         a. Changes to the construction of the keel to make this tighter and safer, but not necessarily involving specification of materials from which the keel is to be composed 
         b. A change to a “forged” keel, meaning that the current carbon keels would be required to have a metallic casing

      2. A change to make the class rules more strict and more of a one design, but without ruling out the use of older IMOCA boats with some modifications. This may, perhaps, be best described as a move towards a tight “box rule”, and would also involve removal of the need for individual boat designers, so taking out some of the cost of creating a new IMOCA boat. However, the idea is definitely not to have a strict one design.

The impetus for the second change proposed is given by Luc Talbourdet as economics in the current period of global financial crisis. A new class sponsor would be used to help fund the design of the new class of IMOCA boats by a chosen firm of naval architects. 

The idea behind this is to maximize the number of boats on the starting line for the next Vendée Globe, by cutting the costs to sponsors and competitors. While some, such as Macif, are still sponsoring campaigns fully, there is increasing financial hardship for many former sponsors of international sailing teams, whose budgets have been substantially reduced. The aims are to try to:

      i. ensure that many sailors still have the opportunity to fulfil their dream of competing in the Vendée Globe during this period of more difficult financing of, in particular, smaller budget campaigns, and 
      ii. level the playing field for all, to counter the disparities in funding of different campaigns, so that all teams have a chance of winning and not just participating in the Vendée Globe

The changes to the IMOCA class – subject to a vote on 19th April 2013 - will be implemented prior to the next Barcelona World Race, the two-handed around the world race, starting and finishing in Barcelona in 2014-15, so Vendée Globe competitors will have plenty of time to prepare their boats for the next race, starting in 2016.

At present, Luc Talbourdet comments, the balance of votes seems likely to be about 50-50 in regard to the proposed IMOCA class rule changes. If the move towards a more one design rule is accepted, it is likely that a French food firm with a strong association with ocean racing will come on board as IMOCA class sponsor.