we’re keen!

With new solo and shorthanded round-the-world races being proposed one after another, it’s only fitting that yet another entity would try to enter the increasingly overcrowded fray. As the Barcelona World Race, BOC Challenge, Around Alone, Velux 5 Oceans, Class 40 Global Ocean Race and others have all gone the way of the dinosaur, it would seemingly make sense to take the largest fleet of shorthanded round-the-world capable boats ever created and give them a venue with which to race around the globe, no?

Conceivably better than requiring antiquated shitters or tiny, slow home-built plywood death traps, the Class 40 was literally conceived to race around the world. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of pulling together a modest budget and having a go at a round-the-world race on a Class 40?

We were quick to almost write this race off as just another dream among dreamers until we did a bit more digging. While researching for the piece a couple of days ago about young Kéni Piperol’s new recyclable Class 40 build, we found multiple campaigns that are actively preparing and planning to race around the world with the up-and-coming Race Around.

A new round-the-world race that is fully sanctioned by the Class 40 class, the Race Around is run by Atlantic Cup director Hugh Piggin and English race promoter Sam Holliday. In an effort to separate the bullshit and marketing hype from reality, we fired up WhatsApp and got on the horn to England to get the straight scoop on this new race from event promoter Sam Holliday himself.

“In mid 2019, Class 40 President Halvard Mabire asked us to do a feasibility study on a round-the-world race – with stops – for the Class 40s. As part of this study, we spoke to a bunch of skippers and designers in both the Class 40s and in other classes as well. Mini’s, Figaro’s, shorthanded IRC sailors, Class 40 guys, etc. We spoke to everyone. The results that came back were overwhelmingly positive.  We found that there is a huge amount of interest in such a race. We are confident the race will work, and even more confident after the Vendée Globe that the class 40s are both strong enough and fast enough to get around the Southern Ocean.”

“I think that what the Race Around does is bridge a pretty big gap in the sailing world… We look back at the old BOC and Around Alone races and hope that we can create something to bridge that gap between a Trans-Atlantic race and the Vendée Globe, or hope that the Race Around can be someone else’s pinnacle of sailing or personal Everest… If you look at the budgets required to run even a shoe-string Vendée Globe project, and then look at other boats, and then look at the Class 40… The Class 40 is just the perfect platform. It’s pretty interesting.”

It’s no secret that the now defunct Class 40 Global Ocean Race endured some challenges that led to poor participation and a political climate that eventually killed the race. Declining to throw any shade at any parties past or present, Holliday explained the situation with the diplomacy characteristic of a true professional and related the main difference between the old GOR and the Race Around being due to more of a maturation of the Class 40 class, boats and it’s skippers than anything else.

“I think the race (the Global Ocean Race) just came far too early in the class’ evolution. 1.) The number of boats that are actually available is far greater at this point in time than it was when the Global Ocean Race was around, and 2.) The design and speeds available now far exceed that of the old boats. The class has really evolved and grown from a very much amateur led class with relatively slow 40 foot monohulls back in 2008 to now having boats that are campaigned by shit-hot amateurs and professionals alike, and being capable of posting 450 mile days in the right conditions.”

“We’ve seen a staggering amount of interest. Around 45 teams have inquired thus far, of which about 27 of them have boats and have funding. Of course, not everyone on those lists will get there. In terms of real interest however, we have over 40 candidates. That interest is split very nicely between current Class 40 sailors and from those in other classes. Some of those are Mini sailors, IMOCA sailors, IRC sailors, etc… I think people will be pretty surprised at some of the really big names that enter the Race Around.”

While the schedule and the event format is not 100% dialed in yet, the basic format is that the race will start from the west coast of France in the summer of 2023 and race to Cape Town, and then likely Auckland, before stopping again in Brazil and then racing to the finish back in Europe. Exact port cities have not all been confirmed as the COVID crisis has relegated the scheduling of a yacht race down the list of priorities for many legislative bodies and city councils.

With a solo division recently being announced in addition to the doublehanded division, and many teams actively preparing for the race, we’re stoked to follow the progress of this new Class 40 sanctioned round-the-world race! Big props to Sam Holliday for the chat and feel free to get in touch with him if you’re keen.  – Ronnie Simpson.