The Défi Atlantique, a new double-handed or crewed race between Pointe-à-Pitre and La Rochelle (in two legs via Horta), will open the Class40 season. While usually the years following on from the Rhum tend to be much slower for the 40-foot boats, 2019 seems to be different with in particular, two new boats and around twenty or so duos expected in the Transat Jacques Vabre.
Finishing with the superb victory from Yoann Richomme on his Lift 40 Veedol-AIC, a Lombard design launched in late June 2018, the last Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe was a good vintage for Class40, with a record number of entrants (53 solo sailors), a winner who smashed the reference time for the event (16 days 3 hours and 22 minutes) and a retiral rate of 33% (18 out of 53), which although the highest since 2006 – when the 40-foot boats first appeared in the Rhum – represents around the same percentage as the rest of the fleet (34%), which can partly be explained by the particularly nasty conditions in the first part of the race. “The technical outcome is good with just two boats dismasting (Sam Goodchild and Maxime Sorel) and no complete losses, as Claire Pruvot’s boat was found,” commented Halvard Mabire, president of the class. In terms of the race, the performances were exceptional with Yoann Richomme finishing ahead of some Imoca boats.”
Now it is time for another four-year cycle and while there tends to be a fall-off in activity following on from the Rhum, 2019 is set to contradict that at least in the second part of the year: “We have twelve boats in the Atlantic Challenge, where we had hoped for fifteen, but some who had hoped to take part were forced to retire in the Route du Rhum and did not return home. For the time being, we only have twelve in the Normandy Channel Race, but for the Fastnet, we are already up to 25 and there are twenty pre-registered for the Jacques Vabre. That’s a nice surprise, as in the last edition, just after the 2015 Rhum, there were only fourteen boats and fifteen two years ago,” explained Vanessa Boulaire, in charge of the class’s office. “We haven’t seen the slump we usually see in the year after the Rhum,” confirmed Halvard Mabire.
He is particularly pleased to see two new projects, which will be there not merely for the long term (three-four years), but also involve the construction of a new boat for Ian Lipinksi (Crédit Mutuel) on the one hand and the Swiss duo, Simon Koster/Valentin Gautier (Roesti Sailing Team) on the other. New boats designed by different architects, David Raison and Sam Manuard, who paid close attention to the results of the Rhum when making their choices. That is certainly true for the latter, the leading architect in the class, who designed three generations of Mach 40, including the 40.3 sailed by Aymeric Chappellier and Phil Sharp, second and third in the solo transatlantic race. “Until now, we were always one step ahead of our rivals, but that is no longer the case, as the standard of racing has risen, so we had to look at things differently this time,” confirmed Manuard.
Clearly, the designer, who has been working at the same time on Armel Tripon’s IMOCA, has decided to change things as far as the hull is concerned. “The change is fairly deep,” he confirmed. “We looked at virtual versions of all sorts of hull over the Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre, Fastnet and the Les Sables-Horta race courses, and in the end opted for one of the most extreme shapes. I’m not about to reveal any particular secret, if I say we have gone to the limit of class rules in terms if the width of the bow, so that it will look like a scow.”
The scow is David Raison’s trade mark, as he was the first to go for that with a Mini and successfully so, as he won the 2011 edition of the Mini Transat on his Magnum. Her successor, the Maximum walked away with victory in the last edition in the hands of Ian Lipinski. Talking about the new Crédit Mutuel, which is due to be launched in late June, the latter said, “My approach was rather different from the others: for example for the Lift [Yoann Richomme’s Lombard design, which won the Rhum], as they came up with the widest traditional boat possible, which makes her look like a scow, while for us the idea was to allow the scow to fit in with class rules. We copied what worked well on the Maximum, that is her ability to sail well under autopilot and to have a boat that does not dig in.”
What sort of gains are expected in comparison to the Lift 40 and Mach 40.3? While David Raison, a novice in Class40, has no basis to compare things with, Sam Manuard talking about the new Mach 40.4 says: “In all of the races we tested virtually, the 4 finished ahead of the 3. In light conditions, she is not quite as fast, but the gains when reaching certainly make up for that. Expected this summer, Crédit Mutuel and Roesti Sailing Team will be closely watched by their rivals, as they look forward to the Transat Jacques Vabre, the climax of the season, in which they may well still be a bit inexperienced, but part of the race course will suit them well. “With their large volume at the bow, they should do well between the Equator and Recife,” notes Aymeric Chappellier. “After that, I wonder about the strains that implies, as they are going to be slamming hard.”
The latter, on his Mach 40.3 Aïna Enfance & Avenir, will be one of the headliners of the set in 2019, just like Luke Berry (Lamotte Module Creation) and Arthur Le Vaillant (Leyton), both also at the helm of the V3 Manuard plan – the latter, which aligns parallel in Figaro, will play only the second half of the season. Should also be among the animators of the Kito de Pavant season on the Tizh 40 Made in Midi (Verdier plan), Jörg Riechers, back on an Owen-Clarke plan built in South Africa, Bertrand de Broc who, according to our information, will rent the Tizh 40 with which Antoine Carpentier ran in 2018, and William Mathelin-Moreaux, whose partner, Beijaflore, acquired the Lombard plan winner of the Route du Rhum (for about 550 000 euros HT).
On the second hand market side, very good boats are still available, such as ex Corum, second Mach 40.3 launched in 2018 (priced at 500,000 euros excluding taxes), V & B (Mach 40.3 of 2015, 420 000 euros HT) or Imerys, that Phil Sharp puts on sale for 320 000 euros HT. For his part, Louis Duc, after a time considered selling his 2017 Lombard plan after the withdrawal of his partner Carac late last year, finally decided to keep it and associate with Aurélien Ducroz in view of Jacques Vabre: “We have gathered a small group of partners. If we get to have 180 000 euros, we put sails and we go in for good conditions, at 300 000 we do all the season, “says the Norman.
Antoine Carpentier, Sébastien Marsset and Loïc Féquet are among the sailors who are looking for a budget to put this back, while Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, after the Défi Atlantique, will try the Vendée Globe adventure for the latter on Rich Wilson’s 2006 Owen Clarke plan, which they have just bought, because of the lack of a Class 40 world tour: “It’s too bad we could not announce anything in 2018, because I am convinced that if we had this affordable global race financially, some would not be tempted to go to Imoca, the success of the Golden Globe Race proves it “. Still, with or without world tour, the inscriptions to the Jacques Vabre show, the Class40 remains very attractive, as concludes Arthur Le Vaillant: “It is a very international class, always interesting sporting with beautiful events and boats that, each year, cross a landing. We can still expect a battle of fools this year on Jacques Vabre.”