Earlier this year, the skippers of the IMOCA class rejected almost unanimously a change to the class rules introducing a pure one design presented in a bid to reduce costs in the class.
There are many reasons why, but one of the most compelling is the fact that such a change would eliminate the “human story” aspect of short-handed ocean racing. Where else in the world of mechanical sport can a dreamer buy an old model, and go out on the racetrack to compete against the best?
This week the genetic source of modern IMOCA 60 design arrived in my little town of Concarneau, Brittany. Aquitaine Innovations, as the boat was originally known, is the first Open 60 to incorporate a host of design features found on all the modern boats:
– First wingmast with outriggers.
– Mast placed well aft to keep the nose up surfing.
– Ultra wide hull form for form stability and power, especially incorporating lateral water ballast tanks.
– Ultra lightweight.
The only option lacking is the canting keel. The boat was bought by a new French skipper from the bank for 350 euros, and his plan is to put the boat back together and do the Vendee Globe in 2016 as an adventure. The boat’s most recent competition was the Vendee Globe 2008, with Yannick Bestaven at the helm. However, it also starred in the most famous story in the history of Vendee Globe:
In 1992 Yves Parlier sailing ‘Aquitaine Innovations’ passed the fleet in the Southern Ocean…
“He passed like we were all standing still, he was at least 3 knots faster than all of us, totally in the red” to quote Roland Jourdain.
Dismasting whilst in first place, he jury-rigged the boat and sailed to Stewart Island south of New Zealand. There he anchored, and proceeded to rebuild his mast using his nav. light bulbs and survival blanket as an oven and using battens to create enough angle to lever the mast back up and in to place. He lived off raw mussels collected below the low tide line.
Journalists traveled to watch this amazing feat and a series of photos showing what happened can be found here.
Parlier managed to finish the race in 127 days, living off seaweed, which was growing on the transom of the boat. These incredible acts of determination, willpower and technical savvy are what makes ocean racing such a great sport.
I intend to be on that start line in 2016, who knows; maybe I’ll have an equally epic story to tell. My personal aim? To be the first American to win the Vendee Globe.
All I need is a partner looking to make history.