Some say the Vendée Globe leader's boat is out of class. But it's not quite that simple, bien sûr


With all that boat show and copy deadline madness, I’m afraid I’ve only just caught up with the storm in a teacup about whether or not Vendée Globe leader Mich Desjoyeaux’s boat Foncia has a valid measurement certificate and is in class, or not. As far as I can make out it doesn’t?and yet it does.

The official position is that the Vendee race committee looked into a small technical infringement before the start. This concerned the rules relating to the working deck area.

These stipulate that guardrails should go outside the working deck area but on Foncia they follow a semi-circle aft and the gennaker blocks lie outside this. You can just make this out in the photo above. Mich Des didn’t make the necessary changes before the start but the race jury ruled him in class.

Was this another ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ judgement, like Vincent Riou’s redress? I guess so.

It made no material difference to anyone. Other skippers (who after all are the ones who decide and vote on class rules) weren’t inclined to make a fuss as they considered it pretty trivial and no performance advantage, and the race organisers weren’t about to let the great Mich Des sit behind on the dockside over an argument the equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Others did make changes, though, and the main repercussion seems to a bit of ill-feeling about Mich Des’s high-handedness, seen by some as typical arrogance.

As for the IMOCA rules, these are up for discussion at present. The programme for a redraft is to be romped through by the end of February. Far more important is that the skippers look again at the rules relating to keels and escape hatches (a far more serious controversy – more of that later). The risks versus benefits of lifting rudders is also to be examined.

Read more about these issues, and a detailed round up of the race in the March issue of Yachting World.