In recent months, ocean sailing has undergone a series of changes that will undoubtedly and hugely condition the future of this sport. On the one hand, the announcement of the new IMOCA GLOBE SERIES World Championship and, on the other hand, the new agreement between the IMOCA class and the VOLVO OCEAN RACE that will allow all races to be raced in the same boat, the IMOCA60.

Las June, the new world championship of the class, IMOCA GLOBE SERIES, known to date as IMOCA Ocean Masters, was presented in Monaco on occasion of the new Monaco Globe Series race. It is not just a name change; the board of the class has made a profound strategic rethinking.

In this first cycle there are six regattas between 2018 and 2021, which could see one more added in the spring of 2019. Unfortunately, the suspension of the Barcelona World Race in January 2019 will prevent the Barcelona regatta from being part of this initial cycle. The Vendée Globe solo in 2020-2021 will mark the end of the championship, and will decide the title of World Champion IMOCA GLOBE SERIES 2018 - 2021.

The planned regattas are: Monaco GLOBE SERIES, Route du Rhum, a regatta in spring 2019 (still to be defined), Transat Jacques Vabre, The Transat, New York Vendée and finally the Vendée Globe.

 The FNOB’S petition has been heard

The championships new approach comes from an idea already expressed some time ago in the IMOCA General Assembly, as well as in its Steering Committee, and which consists in including the organizers in the decision making of the class. This idea, raised by OSM and the FNOB in 2016, reflects the need for the race organizer, who often risks significant investments, as well as institutional commitments, to have a valid voice when considering the calendar, the regulation or the communication strategy of the class. At that meeting it was decided to move forward with the idea of ​​creating a steering committee with the participation of the organizers, which would intervene in the management of the class.

In this sense, the fact that the two round the world IMOCA races, which are the most demanding for teams and organizers, are led by public institutions: SAEM Vendée, which organizes the Vendée Globe every three years, and the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona, ​​which alternates with the French regatta. In both cases, the clear objective of strengthening the territory coincides, both from the point of view of promoting the sport and its dissemination as a tourist attraction, and, in a prominent way, as a booster of the nautical sector, which is strategic for both. The fact that both cases involve public institutions has facilitated a series of bilateral meetings in which lines of action and common strategy have been agreed.

At the IMOCA Steering Committee, the FNOB voiced the urgent need to raise the international profile of the IMOCA class, which mainly targeted the French market and its audience at the time. By expanding the potential sponsorship market, and reaching out to a greater territory a main concern to the media. In fact, the Barcelona World Race has been the only exclusively IMOCA class regatta held in non-French territory for some years. Hence the awareness of the Catalan organizer in this regard, which, for its new edition and to reinforce this desire for internationalization, proposed a stop in Sydney, a change that was welcomed very positively by the class and the sponsors.

In 2017, the Steering Committee of the class met in Barcelona, ​​with organizers that were already at the negotiating table (Origin Sports Group, the Transat Jacques Vabre Association, OC Sport, the SAEM Vendée and the FNOB), and began to draw a first Globe Series proposal, presented by President Antoine Mermod at the meeting.

Xosé-Carlos Fernández, CEO of the FNOB, reflects on this transition period: "The FNOB has been a part of IMOCA decisions in recent years, providing a lesser French vision, but more attractive to international sponsorship. In this sense, the frequent meetings with the SAEM Vendée, with whom we share the condition of being a public organizing entity, together with the IMOCA management team in an attempt to coordinate objectives and needs, have been fundamental to reach consensus on this proposal."

The Vendée Globe is, to date, the race of reference to the class, the Everest of ocean racing. There is no doubt that a solo, nonstop-unassisted round the world race is the great goal for any professional offshore sailor. It is no less true that in order to achieve the optimum conditions to participate in this race, there is a long road ahead for these sailors. In order to qualify for the race, one must have participated in many ocean races before. In many cases, some of these more affordable from an economical and sporting point of view.

"The Vendée Globe is a legendary regatta and has confirmed its success once more in its last edition. However, between each edition of the Vendée Globe it is important that the skippers propose a set of Globe Series quality races that are acknowledged by the public at large as well as their sponsors. This allows those who join the championship to qualify and pre-qualify for the next Vendée Globe, " Yves Auvinet, president of SAEM Vendée explains.

 

The IMOCA GLOBE SERIES proposes a series of regattas, put together in the form of a championship that, in addition, preselect and qualify to dispute the dream race for many, the Vendée Globe.

The new championship aims to establish a link between regattas that are interesting and attractive, encouraging seafarers to participate in more and more events, as explained by Antoine Mermod, president of the IMOCA class.

"For us it is important to value our calendar around the class’s race of reference, the Vendée Globe. This will undoubtedly help the skippers and their sponsors to better capitalize their investments. A guarantee of top level races, both for skippers and the media. "

At this moment, SAEM Vendée, FNOB and OC Sport are the three entities that have participated in the design of this new proposal, but, little by little, other organizers will undoubtedly join this interesting initiative.

The VOR on IMOCA

The other major announcement is the confirmed agreement between the IMOCA class and the VOLVO OCEAN RACE. Rumours started some time ago, when it was announced that the full-crewed round the world race with stopovers had decided to switch boat class. It speculated on the possibility of incorporating multihulls or a monohull based on the IMOCA60.

The FNOB met with owners of both classes and, naturally, the approach was very sporting and reasonable and highly interesting from a cost effective point of view. The possibility that all the relevant monohull round the world races are contested in the same type of boat, multiplies the possibility of growth and implementation of the class. A class that will represent, from a return on investment point of view, a clear example of profitability and therefore facilitate the incorporation of new sponsors. From a sporting angle, it will open the door to new skippers, coming from other classes. With five new IMOCAs currently in the planning or construction phase for the following Vendée, the perspective of the VOR will drive new projects, and new designers working for new equipment. The consequence will be the revitalization of the second-hand market and an easier access to new sailors with fewer resources. This will undoubtedly be a formidable support to the IMOCA class and a turning point in the future of ocean sailing.

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