A thriving fleet

The IMOCAs are in great health. The latest generation of boats, equipped with the revolutionary foils, will take to the starting line of the upcoming Vendée Globe alongside esteemed veteran yachts dating back to the last century, as well as a core block of middle-aged yachts, showing that this class has longevity. Results from recent races have confirmed the success of new regulations and there’s an exciting technological future ahead. Let’s take a look…

Articles SEP 24, 2016 18:30

The IMOCAs are in great health. The latest generation of boats, equipped with the revolutionary foils, will take to the starting line of the upcoming Vendée Globe alongside esteemed veteran yachts dating back to the last century, as well as a core block of middle-aged yachts, showing that this class has longevity. Results from recent races have confirmed the success of new regulations and there’s an exciting technological future ahead. Let’s take a look…

With just under three months to go to the start (6th November), the Vendée Globe entry list is on fire: 30 solo sailors are heading for the race start, among them seven newest generation yachts (2014 and 2015), four from the previous generations of boats (2010 and 2011) and eleven of the “middle-aged” entries (2006-2008) as well as seven boats launched pre-2006, including four from the 1990s. The brand-spanking new St Michel-Virbac (2015) and old hand Kilcullen Team Ireland (1997) sit at either end of the 18-year launch date gap for this round the world fleet. This is a class with longevity, which after the Mini class has pushed ocean design the furthest.

New foilers, the revolution has begun

The latest generation of IMOCA yachts have stepped the game up technologically: foils, an evolution in traditional centreboards which aim to achieve lift and righting moment gains, are set to revolutionise the future design of the class (we’ll examine that more closely in another article). After an uncertain début in the latest Transat Jacques Vabre, where the new appendages ran into a few problems, the second generation of foilers competing in the Transat and the New York-Vendée did so successfully, much to the satisfaction of designers and skippers.

All of the latest designs, except for Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary include the new foils. They are: Safran with Morgan Lagravière, Banque Populaire VIII with Armel Le Cléac’h, and St Michel-Virbac with Jean-Pierre DickEdmond de Rothschild with Sébastian JosseHugo Boss with Alex Thomson and No Way Back with Pieter Heerema at the helm. Of the previous generation of yachts, only Maître Coq with Jérémie Beyou has chosen to incorporate foils in a last minute “retrofit”. Jérémie seized a brilliant win in the New York – Vendée (read article), dominating a battle with Seb Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild and Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss, the only two foilers surviving the destruction caused by unidentified floating objects (see upcoming article).

The adoption of foils on Maître Coq has signposted a shift for the previous generation yachts (launched in the main to take part in the Vendée Globe 2012/13), however, the remainder of the teams chose not to follow the example of Jérémie for a variety of reasons. Budget played a key role; taking on an investment of roughly 300,000€ to incorporate foils to a design conceived with a classic centreboard configuration is a risk that requires some in-depth calculations and careful risk assessment, as well as a lot more training and preparation time, a scarce luxury. The Maître Coq skipper was also sceptical at first and was opposed to the fitting of the “moustache” as the former Foncia and Banque Populaire was a powerful boat with a lot of potential;, but in the end, Jérémie committed to his decision based on the speed gains made by Banque Populaire VIII with Armel Le Cléac’h in the Transat Jacques Vabre: “My question was whether the gains downwind with the foils compensated for the losses upwind. The Banque Populaire VIII performance convinced me that sooner or later everyone would be heading down this route”.

However, Vincent Riou didn’t find any reason to consider this for PRB launched in March 2010: “We didn’t think that the foils would give PRB any extra power in a round the world regatta. They need to offer more significant performance gains for the other boats to be able to beat us in a Vendée Globe”. Paul Meilhat wasn’t convinced either for SMA, a 2011 yacht which was formerly François Gabart’s MACIF, the most successful racing yacht of the previous generation, although in this case, repairs following damage sustained in the Saint-Bart’s - Port la Forêt also meant that the team had disregarded any further refit options.

2006 - 2008, another regatta within a regatta?

Eleven of the entries signed up for the next solo round the world race will be doing so on boats launched between 2006 and 2008. The last transats have lead us to expect some exciting battles in the middle section of the fleet. These are the boats which really prove the longevity of the IMOCAs. Together they make up 16 completed circumnavigations of the globe (including the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race) and they also reveal the success of the introduction of rules some time ago about keels and masts, with negligible damages to these vital organs during the New York – Vendée, which had previously lead to boats dropping out in large numbers.

The amalgamation of designs in this age group transports us to the era of the “studio wars”: five Farr designs (Jean Le Cam, Tanguy de LamotteLouis Burton, Fabrice Amedeo and Arnaud Boissières’ entries), three Finot-Conq designs (Bertrand de BrocEric Bellion and Stéphane Le Diraison on these), and two VPLP-Verdier  (with Yann Eliès and Thomas Ruyant) and an Owen Clarke design (Rich Wilson).

Seasoned veterans

Seven of the registered skippers are at the reins of designs which are over ten years old. Among these are a few which have still not gathered their budget target and for whom the next few weeks will be crucial. That’s the case for Didac Costa who is busy preparing at the FNOB’s transoceanic sailing base with Kingfisher, his loyal companion for the last Barcelona World Race when he and Aleix Gelabert competed with the One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton and finished in a well-deserved fourth place. The oldest boat in this fleet is Kilcullen Team Ireland, with Enda O’Coineen at the helm. It was formerly Ecover3 and then Gamesa with Mike Golding, followed by Président with Jean Le Cam and Bruno García at the wheel in the Barcelona Word Race 2010/11. The circumnavigations of the globe add up here too: 13 (counting the Velux 5 Oceans, Vendée Globe and Barcelona Wolrd Race) and it’s Kingfisher which also holds the record: a Vendée Globe and four Barcelona World Races. This yacht is well-remembered as Ellen MacArthur’s boat from her second-place Vendée Globe finish in 2001 and it is now the most reliable transoceanic yacht ever.

An 18-year span of ages

Here is a guide to the registered entries for the Vendée Globe by age order of the boats (entries which took part in the Barcelona World Race in bold). 30 adventures have already begun, and we look forward to following them all onto the water.

The start date: 6th November 2016

The new generation: 2014 and 2015

St Michel-Virbac, with Jean-Pierre Dick (12th September 2015) with foils 

Hugo Boss, with Alex Thomson (1st September 2015) with foils

Edmond de Rothschild, with Sébastian Josse (7th August 2015) with foils

No Way Back, with Pieter HEEREMA (01 August 2015) with foils

Banque Populaire VIII, with Armel Le Cléac’h (June 2015) with foils

Safran, with Morgan Lagravière (5th March 2015) with foils

Spirit of Hungary with Nandor Fa (1st April 2014)


2010 and 2011

SMA, with Paul Meilhat (1st January 2011) Ex: MACIF

Maître Coq, with Jérémie Beyou (20th September 2010) with foils. Ex: Foncia, Banque Populaire

PRB, with Vincent Riou (11th March 2010)

Bastide Otio, with Kito de Pavant (6th May 2010) Ex: Virbac-Paprec 3Hugo Boss



Comme Un Seul Homme, with Eric Bellion (Finot-Conq 2008) Ex: DCNS

Newrest-Matmut, with Fabrice Amedeo (Farr, 2007) Ex: Gitana Eighty, Estrella Damm, 1876, W Hotels, Renault Z.E., SynerCiel 

Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir, with Yann Eliès (VPLP-Verdier, 2007) Ex: Safran

Le Souffle du Nord, with Thomas Ruyant (VPLP-Verdier, 2007) Ex: Groupe Bel

Jean Le Cam (Farr, 2007) Ex: Foncia,MAPFRE, Mare, Maître Coq, Cheminées Poujoulat

MACSF, with Bertrand de Broc ( Finot-Conq, 2007) Ex: Brit Air, Votre Nom Autour du Monde

La Mie Câline, with Arnaud Boissières (Farr, 2007) Ex: Paprec-Virbac 2Estrella DammWe are Water

Stéphane Le Diraison (Finot-Conq, 2007) Ex: Hugo Boss, Energa

Spirit of Yukoh, with Kojiro Shiraishi (Farr 2007) Ex: Estrella Damm / Veolia Environnement / Hugo Boss / Neutrogena

Bureau Vallée, with Louis Burton (Farr, 2006) Ex: Delta Dore

Great American IV, with Rich Wilson (Owen-Clarke, 2006) Ex: Temenos IIMirabaud


Anteriores a 2006

100 % NATURAL ENERGY, with Conrad Colman (Lavranos-Artech, 2005) Ex Maisonneuve

Alan Roura (Rolland, 2000) Ex: Armor-Lux / Foies Gras Bizac, We Are Water (2010)

Kingfisher, with Didac Costa (Owen-Clarke, 2000) Ex: Kingfisher, Educación Sin Fronteras, Fòrum Marítim Català, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton

Famille Mary-Etamine, with Romain Attanasio (Lombard, 1998) Ex: Whirlpool-Europe 2, Tiscali, Proform, Le Pingouin, Initiatives-Coeur

FaceOcean, with Sébastien Destremau (Finot-Conq, 1998) Ex: Gartmore, Pindar, Spirit of Weymouth, Toe in the Water, Explora

Come in Vendée, with Jean-François Pellet (Romanelli - Finot, 1997) Ex: Fila, Grey Power

Kilcullen Team Ireland, with Enda O’Coineen (Owen-Clarke / Clay Oliver, 1997) Ex: Ecover 3 /Gamesa / Président