Keeping watch over the skippers
Race Direction monitor the Barcelona World Race crews around the clock, 24 hours a day, tracking the boats’ progress virtually minute by minute, mile by mile around the world, to – hopefully – Barcelona. They keep the various MRCCs (maritime rescue and surveillance organisations) updated throughout the race. And in times of crisis they are the first point of contact for the skippers and the teams, and thereafter coordinate any actions required.
There are three members of the Race Direction team, Race Director Jacques Caraës, assisted by Hubert Lemonnier and Guillaume Evrard.
The trio will work a rotation of shifts, two in Barcelona at any one time, one monitoring the fleet through the nights based at home, ensuring an improved rest pattern so that all are kept in the best possible shape.
“It's a system that should keep us good over the long term,” commented Jacques Caraës. “We chose this mode of operation, taking into account two factors: fatigue - so we all return home at some point.”
Division of labour
Each has their specialist area. Caraes is Race Director with overall management charge of what happens on the water. As well as being an experienced Race Director, Jacques is a racing sailor with several round the world races under his belt. Lemonnier is multi-lingual and worked on the last edition. His principal role is liaison with the MRCCs around the world. There is a specific standalone website which the MRCCs access, which not only provides updates but all the essential information on the boats and their skippers, medical histories, and images of the boats from all angles. It is a vital one-stop source of rapid information for use in times of crisis.
Guillaume Evrard is responsible for the tracking systems, the measurement and scrutineering of the safety kit and ensuring the fleet are within the IMOCA rules, and leads the collaboration with Marcel Van Triest, the race’s official meteo supplier and ice analyst in association with CLS. Van Triest will supply the daily weather bulletins to the skippers and advises on setting the limits of the ice exclusion zone.
Race Direction have also set their style of management. Hence they have conferred with the skippers for their buy-in to the idea of an exclusion zone (adopted instead of the ice gates which prevailed in the last edition of the Vendée Globe), and they have pressed that this time propeller shafts do not need to be sealed to prove they do not move.
“There are two reasons for this. From a practical point of view removing the seal if there is a man overboard can waste a little time. And also there is the ethical reasoning that it is very unlikely that sailing as a duo, both would conspire together to cheat. They have both signed an undertaking not to break the rules.”