A round the world race too many? The Open 60 class backs Ellen MacArthur's rival event


Only weeks after announcing that Velux is going ahead with its sponsorship of a second 5 Oceans solo round the world race, organisers Clipper Ventures have hit a major snag: the race has been categorically rejected by the Open 60 class in favour of the rival Barcelona World Race, run by Ellen MacArthur’s and Mark Turner’s OC Group.

IMOCA, the Open 60 skippers’ association, has highlighted what it calls ‘previous problems?with the last two editions of the Velux 5 Oceans’ and says ‘an internal survey showed the race was mostly not part of the skippers’ priorities’.

Instead, the class is putting its full weight behind the fourly-yearly Route du Rhum race in 2010 and a second edition of the two-handed Barcelona World Race later the same year.

This leaves Clipper Ventures with a big problem: it will be extremely difficult to attract top sponsors and skippers to the Velux 5 Oceans. The only certain way of getting them would be to pay.

But with Open 60 campaign costs running at more than £1 million a year, I can’t see how they could afford it. How many top boats do you need to make a world class event? With a 30% retirement rate anyway, they’d need at least three to ensure they didn’t end up with a runaway leader.

The other possibility is that the Velux 5 Oceans becomes a second-tier event, an alternative route for campaigns that are outpriced or outclassed at the top level.

Commenting on the decision, former participant Mike Golding (who is on the IMOCA class executive) says: “IMOCA had to make a choice. There’s no room for three round the world races in the calendar.

“They will struggle to get top skippers. It’s a pity. I like the 5 Oceans: a solo race with stops is a nice format.”

But Golding also believes that the decision increases the risk of a split in the class: “I think the class is getting too expensive. The rules are getting more complicated and expensive to adhere to, and I think you could have a division between IMOCA boats and non-compliant Open 60s. So in 2-3 years there could be quite a few second tier boats around.”

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