Over the last few years we have run a number of articles written by Brian Hancock. I’ve enjoyed most all of them, and I know some of you don’t agree or like them, but they are often thought provoking and generate discussion. There have been mistakes, and it has been my fault not to catch them.
His most recent, all in the family, had a few things glaringly wrong, and ultimately, that is again on me. I just skimmed it and posted it. A few of you have contacted me and I thought this was the most appropriate one to post. I’ll step up my game – ed.
Recently while reading SA, I read an article about the IMOCA 60s racing in the recent Defi Azimut race. The article had a fantastic photo of Sam Davies’ foiling IMOCA Initiatives-Coeur achieving flight somewhere off the coast of France. A bit further down, I read Brian Hancock’s Vendée Globe preview and was a bit shocked when he mentioned quite emphatically that Samantha was sailing a non-foiling boat and stood “a very good chance of winning if the foilers crash and burn”.
There were also several other glaring inaccuracies in Brian’s article, which prompted me to write this rebuttal. As anyone who follows the sport closely will know, Samantha’s boat does indeed have foils. And they are second-gen foils that are reportedly the largest in the fleet at that! Since her boat was built before the 2013 rules were written to allow for foils and one-design masts and keels, Sam’s boat is in fact grandfathered in and could indeed have some big advantages. With huge foils and a stronger mast, it’s reported that her boat could have significantly more righting moment than the newer boats and could be a real weapon. As a mechanical engineer and passionate recreational racing sailor, I love seeing a rule written to allow for loopholes that keeps the older boats very relevant.
Furthermore, Brian says that Samantha’s boat was the same one that Michel Desjoyeaux sailed to victory in the 2008-09 Vendée Globe. When Mich Desj won the ’09 race (the only person to win it twice), he was actually sailing a Farr design that was launched in 2007. Samantha’s boat is actually a 2010 build by VPLP and wasn’t even drawn up until just after the 2009 Vendée Globe. If you will recall, Michel Desjoyeaux and a young Francois Gabart were fighting for the lead of the Barcelona World Race in this boat, also named FONCIA, in early 2011 when the top of the mast broke and forced them to retire into Cape Town. As Brian correctly mentioned, Armel le Cleac’h then sailed the boat to a second place in the Vendée Globe as Banque Populaire, only barely losing out to Francois Gabart who sailed a newer sistership called MACIF.
Way back in the day, Norwegian Vikings gave the green country of Iceland it’s improbable name while referring to a distant frozen nation as Greenland in an effort to confuse their enemies and evade capture. The Vikings successfully settled beautiful Iceland and threw off their pursuers, and apparently got Brian tripped up as well. Brian has repeatedly stated that the IMOCA fleet sailed to a mark off Greenland in the recent Vendée – Arctique race, when in fact they rounded a mark near Iceland. I don’t know many miles separate the two, but it’s a lot.
Lastly, and most importantly, Brian stated that Alex Thomson was “by far the most experienced skipper in this Vendée…”. In November, Alex Thomson will start his fifth Vendée Globe, though he has only finished two of them. Also on the starting line will be Jeam le Cam, who is also sailing in his fifth Vendée Globe, though he has finished three Vendée’s.
Alex surely has a faster boat and a better chance to win, but with three Solitiare du Figaro wins under his belt and the best hair and sense of humor in the game, Jean le Cam and his boat named ‘Yes We Cam!’ will surely be a crowd favorite. Making this story come full circle, le Cam will be sailing Michel Desjoyeaux’s old Farr-designed FONCIA which actually did win the 08-09 Vendée Globe. Should the foilers crash and burn, the crafty old veteran Jean le Cam could be there to pick up the pieces for victory, though this is a bit of a long shot.
Yes We Cam!