With The Ocean Race done and dusted and the Fastnet which has started (on Saturday July 22) in the Solent, the ‘race for miles’ for Vendée Globe 2024 selection is at full chat and as it stands the number of candidates still outstrip the 40 places available. For some skippers, the qualification stakes are also crucial. Tip & Shaft takes stock of a slightly complicated, dynamic situation.
A quick recap, to be allowed to start the next Vendée Globe, on November 10, 2024, skippers must validate their qualification AND their selection, two very distinct processes. “To date, there are 14 new boats and 29 candidates for miles, so 43 projects [for 40 places available, editor’s note],” details Hubert Lemonnier, the race director. “The final list of entrants will be known on July 1, 2024, at the end of New York-Vendée-Les Sables. This is when a wild card will be granted, if needed.”
On the qualification side, the Notice of Race stipulates: “To be qualified, each skipper-boat duo in the Vendée Globe 2024 must have taken the start of a minimum of two single-handed races (including one in 2022 or 2023 and one in 2024) AND have finished classified in at least one of these two races. In addition, the skipper will validate his/her qualification only if his/her race time is less than or equal to the race time of the first in the event plus 50%.“ The five events are the Vendée Arctic-Les Sables d’Olonne and the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in 2022; Retour à La Base in 2023; The Transat CIC and the New York-Vendée-Les Sables, in 2024.
In 2023, Retour à La Base is therefore the only race to validate the first qualifying phase for the Vendée Globe. Sailors who have not taken the start of the Arctic Vendée or the Route du Rhum in 2022 with the boat on which they will compete in the Vendée Globe are therefore absolutely obliged to enter this solo event between Martinique and Lorient, raced at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre (starting on November 26).
Several skippers are involved in this, not least: Charlie Dalin, Thomas Ruyant, Yoann Richomme, Éric Bellion, Clarisse Crémer and Sam Goodchild. Two skippers have yet to launch their boat: Jean Le Cam and Phil Sharp. Contacted by Tip & Shaft, Jean Le Cam’s team reveals that the launch of the David Raison design, sistership of Eric Bellion’s boat, should be in mid-October in Port-la-Forêt. The skipper of Tout Commence en Finistère – Armor Lux will therefore not be at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre and will go direct to Martinique on a delivery trip to take part in the Retour à La Base.
Qualification: skippers under pressure
Phil Sharp hopes to launch his new Imoca OceansLab at the end of September. “The boat will be delivered to the Black Pepper yard in Nantes, mid-August when all the systems will be added.” explains the British skipper. “I will be good for the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre and Retour à La Base. I will not be in race mode on the Transat Jacques Vabre, rather in “prep” mode to arrive in Martinique and be able to qualify for the Vendée Globe.”
Another sailor in this situation who plans to be on the start of Retour à La Base to validate the first phase of his qualification: Sébastien Simon, who should very soon formalize the acquisition of the Imoca winner of The Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing.
Also in this situation is Fabrice Amedeo, who lost his ‘golden ticket’ when he was shipwrecked on the Route du Rhum. “I have to qualify again with the boat that I bought after this accident. The obligation to be at the start of Retour à La Base changes the way I approach the Transat Jacques Vabre. The objective is very clear: it is absolutely necessary to get the boat to Martinique.”
Finally, contacted by Tip & Shaft, Armel Tripon reveals that the build of his new Imoca has not yet started. So he will certainly not be at the start of Retour à La Base, but he still seems to hope that he has the possibility of racing his second edition of the non-stop solo round the world race.
Clearly, then, if one of the sailors mentioned above is not at the start of Retour à La Base, participation in the Vendée Globe will become theoretically impossible. Race Director Lemonnier recalls that “the rules were published in September 2021” and that there are therefore “no surprises”. But in the notice of race, however, there is an exemption clause: “In the event of major damage occurring in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 making it impossible for the pair (skipper-boat, editor’s note) to participate in the return race of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023, the OA (Organizing Authority) may grant a derogation and accept that the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 replaces the start of the return race.” The race director is cautious on this subject: “With this derogation, we leave ourselves a possibility, just in case, but don’t count on it.”
The mile race is in full swing
The other hot issue is that of the selection of qualified skippers if the number of candidates exceeds the quota of 40 participants. This represents the famous “race for miles” which, with 43 candidates announced, will surely be needed. In the event of demand outstripping the places available, competitors will be selected on the number of miles accumulated over the 12 races of the Imoca Globe Series, together with a system of coefficients (1 for the single-handed race, 0.5 for the double, 0.25 for The Ocean Race – to a limit of 5,000 miles – and 1.5 for New York-Vendée because the Saem Vendée wishes to encourage racers to compete in this last dress rehearsal before the Vendée Globe, which it also organises).
NB, an Important point: the rule does not specify that these miles must be obtained with the same boat as that for the Vendée Globe. This a sailor like Sam Goodchild, who has not yet racked up any miles on his Imoca For The Planet, has already accumulated 5,000 miles by participating in several legs of The Ocean Race aboard Holcim-PRB. This is also the case for Nicolas Lunven, who has clocked up more than 10,000 miles, but has no project of his own, so far….
Some candidates have fallen behind, like Louis Burton who is paying for his two dismasting in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021 and the Route du Rhum 2022. “I am now obliged to finish all the races, he admits. This changes his situation in terms of technical choices and managing the races”, Burton says “this mode of selection generates stress.” The twice Vendée Globe finisher is tied with the Chinese Xu Jing Kun and Nicolas Rouger (3,550 miles), ahead of Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi (2,643 miles).
Clarisse Crémer has zero miles and is going to start her counter on the Fastnet: “I tried to do stages of The Ocean Race, it wasn’t possible, so it’s very important for me to be on this Fastnet”, explained the sailor last week to Tip & Shaft.
The puzzle of new boats
Finally, there is the specific rule regarding sailors lining up with a new boat. These don’t need to be in the race for miles, but with a limit: the notice of race specifies that only the first 13 new Imocas to have started one of the five qualifying races detailed above will be guaranteed to be on the starting line. However, now there are 14 skippers who are candidates for the Vendée Globe with a new boat. The recent arrival of Sébastien Simon on the list has reshuffled the cards a bit, since his Verdier design bought from 11th Hour Racing Team is the first of the boats built after the last Vendée Globe.
In this list, we also find Kevin Escoffier, but it seems very unlikely that he will be able to line up at the start of the Vendée Globe, after his case alleging “sexual assault or inappropriate behavior” for which the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation on July 6. According to our information, the sponsor has not yet made a decision on the continuation of the project. But Holcim-PRB is entered into that quota for new boats and could remain in the qualification and selection process for the Vendée Globe, provided that it takes – at least – the start of Retour à La Base with a new skipper.
If 14 skippers are well committed on new boats, one of them will not be automatically selected. Which ? This will be played in order of validation of the qualification. In other words, Retour à La Base will act as a decider, the lowest ranked of the 7 latest generation Imoca skippers not yet qualified to date – Charlie Dalin, Thomas Ruyant, Éric Bellion, Sébastien Simon, Yoann Richomme, Jean Le Cam and Phil Sharp – will be put back into the mile race… The skipper finally replacing Kevin Escoffier at the helm of Holcim-PRB will also be affected.
Counting the 13 new boats automatically selected and the only attributable wild card, there are therefore 26 places available. The table counting the miles for each other is regularly updated by the Imoca class. It will be closely scrutinized over the coming months.
Photo: Jean-Louis Carli / Guyader