Britain's hungriest short-handed Open 60 sailors are back gnawing at French supremacy
The Britpack is forming in France for the start of the Calais Round Britain Race on Sunday, the first race of the season for the IMOCA Open 60s. Among a fleet of 11 teams, three are headed by British skippers.
Jonny Malbon (Artemis), Dee Caffari (Aviva) and – at a pinch – Samantha Davies’s French-sponsored Roxy have gnawed off a significant corner of the Open 60 class and the feeling of a reviving force is quite palpable here, even without Mike Golding, Alex Thomson and Brian Thompson. The new Brits are among the younger skippers in a fleet that increasingly has an older profile and they all have a hungry energy and bags of character, vital in a class where personality is an all-important adjunct to technology.
But the infusion of British sailors in this fully crewed race round the outside of Britain and Ireland doesn’t mean they are going to dominate on the race course. Today’s prologue race in light winds and a heavy tide illustrated just how mighty Vicent Riou’s PRB is likely to be. Riou, the winner of the last Vendée Globe, led conclusively from start to finish. OK, so it’s just a prologue race, but it demonstrated that his immaculate new boat is now fully up to speed. Riou, a man of few words, says laconically: “Yes, she is ready.” The nerdy technical genius is poised to renew his supremacy.
So, my money’s on PRB. But where do the energetic Brits fit into this pack? They are all sailing older designs so it’s unlikely we’ll see any of them sticking at the front. But watch out for Jonny Malbon on Artemis, who has a excellent and cohesive crew in ‘Gringo’ Tourell, Paul Larsen, Fraser Brown and Gareth Rowley. And watch, too, for a tussle between Sam Davies and Dee Caffari. That could be an interesting sub-plot.
The 1,800-mile race begins on Sunday. More on the gang later.
(Thanks to Mark Lloyd for the photo above.)