Ocean Fifty

The Ocean Fifty class fills up

The Ocean Fifty Class has unveiled the 2024 calendar for the Ocean Fifty Series, the successor to the Pro Sailing Tour, along with the creation of a commercial subsidiary and the announcement of an eleventh ongoing project. Ten boats will be entered in the five new races this season.

After three years on the Pro Sailing Tour, the Ocean Fifty class is turning the page on this circuit created for these 50-foot multihulls. “There was a failure to respect the agreement that bound us to the organiser Upswing Prod, to the point where the balance of funding was reversed,” explains Thibaut Vauchel-Camus, skipper of Solidaires en Peloton and new president of the class in place of Erwan Le Roux. “While initially the circuit was supposed to be self-financing and provide us with resources, in the end it was the class that bore around two-thirds of the costs of the 2023 season. What’s more, there was a huge delay between the filming of the images by the on board reporters, completed in June 2022, and the broadcast of the series on Canal + in December 2023, creating impatience among our partners.” 

Another stumbling block in the eyes of the teams: schedules delivered too late, prompting Thibaut Vauchel-Camus to say: “Our objective today is for three-quarters of the programme to be known two or three years in advance, which will involve drawing up agreements with our partners.”

After the separation with Upswing Prod, confirmed at the beginning of 2024, the class had to bounce back quickly to build its 2024 calendar, which is based on two new major events. The first, the Route des-Neuvas, is a 100% Ocean Fifty transatlantic race, organised by Ultim Sailing and the Route Saint-Pierre et Miquelon association, with the support of the start and finish territories, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon and the Saint-Brieuc conurbation.

“The idea is to tell a story of today’s sailors retracing the route of the fishermen who came back from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon with their holds full of cod,” explains Franck Seret, Director General of the Saint-Brieuc conurbation. The choice of support was a natural one, since we’ve been forging strong links with the class for over fifteen years by hosting the Bay of Saint-Brieuc Multihull Trophy.” The 2,120-mile race in crews of three – plus an OBR – will set off on August 17. “It’s the first time that the Ocean Fifty class has had its own transatlantic race, so it’s exciting to be breaking new ground,” explains Emmanuel Bachellerie, co-founder of Ultim Sailing, who quotes a budget of “just under a million euros”.


The Med Max double-handed
and without routing


The other flagship event of the season is the Med Max, supported by Kito de Pavant, which will set off from Port-Camargue on 29 September and finish in Saïdia (Morocco). His ambitions? To put the Mediterranean back at the heart of ocean racing by organising an ambitious race every four years for the Class 40s and Ocean Fifties, which tend to be spectators during the Vendée Globe years,” answers the Mediterranean skipper. The event will be raced double-handed and without onshore routing“Until now, the class rules have allowed solo and double-handed routing, but we wanted to test this format”, explains Thibaut Vauchel-Camus.

Another special feature is the absence of entry fees“The galloping inflation of these fees is a disease of ocean racing,” says Kito De Pavant. “It’s hard enough for the racers to find partners and put together a budget. So it’s Med Max, with its sponsors, which is bearing the organisational budget of a million euros.”

Three Grand Prix events, between coastal and offshore sailing, supported by members of the class, complete the season’s agenda. The first will take place from 22 to 26 May in Saint-Malo, home to four Ocean Fifty boats (Réalités, Viabilis Océans, Solidaires en Peloton and Le Rire Médecin-Lamotte). The second from 20 to 24 June in La Baule, where Primonial and Inter Invest are based. The last from 16 to 20 October in Sainte-Maxime, near Marseille, where Wind of Trust (Christopher Pratt) is based. The class has also voted to create a commercial subsidiary, Ocean Fifty Sailing, to promote the brand and its events.


An unprecedented 10 boats


“All the teams are ringing off the hook with requests to come aboard,” says a delighted Thibaut Vauchel-Camus of this season’s line-up, which has reached capacity with ten boats entered. This, according to the class president, rewards a strategy put in place back in 2017“We proved that the choice to focus on modern boats with equivalent potential with the integration of one-design foils was a good thing, which doesn’t stop them from progressing each season to keep pace with the new boats.” The last two boats to be launched are Primonial and Réalités, in the summer of 2023, while the oldest date back to 2009.

The versatility of the boats, the ease with which the public can be welcomed on board and the controlled budgets – around 3.5-4 million euros for a new boat, between 800,000 and 1.6 million for a second-hand boat and between 450,000 and 1.2 million euros for annual running costs – are all assets which attract new entrants to the class.

When Matthieu Perraut expressed a desire to switch from Class40 to Ocean Fifty, his sponsor Inter Invest was not hard to convince, according to Jérôme Devaud, his deputy managing director. “This more ambitious and more extreme support, which allows our employees to live incredible experiences, seemed to us to be an obvious choice! This smaller class of around ten boats also makes it easier for us to emerge as a brand.”


A woman at the helm, a first 


Laurent Bourguès (Mon Bonnet Rose), who bought the former French Touch Oceans Club, also appreciates the reasoned and reasonable approach of the class. Always on the lookout for partners, the former technical director of TR Racing is aiming for an annual operating budget of 950,000 euros in order to build the most successful project possible.

One of this season’s four rookies is a woman – a first for the class. Francesca Clapcich has joined the Upwind by MerConcept project launched with 11th Hour Racing, which aims to “develop high-level women’s ocean racing”, explains team manager Louis Giard. “We are recruiting six female sailors from different backgrounds to join this 100% female project”. One of them will take the helm of the former Les P’tits Doudous for the Route du Rhum 2026. “The call for entries, which runs until 24 March, has been a great success, with 65 entries already received from 15 different countries,” says the former Olympic windsurfer. Twelve female sailors will be chosen during physical and sailing tests from 15 to 19 April in Concarneau.

The fourth rookie, Baptiste Hulin (Viabilis Océans), takes the place of Pierre Quiroga, who has left after one season. The reasons? Servane Escoffier, co-founder of the BE Racing stable which hosts this project, explains that “that’s the life of a company, and as in life in general, there are encounters that are made, or not. We’ve decided to look to the future with this talented, unifying and very committed sailor, who has already sailed as a crew member on the trimaran in 2023.”

A new and eleventh Ocean Fifty will also complete the fleet in 2025. In addition to the numerus clausus of ten boats, since 2023 the class rules have stipulated that two wild cards can be awarded to “major players in the Route du Rhum 2022” wishing to build a new boat. One of these wild cards has already been awarded, but the identity of the lucky winner has yet to be revealed.

Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

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