At least five new Open 60s are not yet qualified for the Vendée. But a way will be found...


An interesting email from reader Alex Howorth, who says regarding Dee Caffari’s dismasting yesterday: ‘I think she has done enough miles to be qualified for the Vendée in this boat (not the new one). Mike Golding seemed to indicate at the time of his problems that he had completed enough solo miles in his new boat to qualify it?despite not finishing the race.

‘Crucially Dee’s issue might be that she is not able to qualify the new boat until places are already full?.she would then be forced to do the Vendee on the current boat.’

On the first point, unfortunately not. The Notice of Race for the Vendee Globe stipulates that you have to qualify by completing a solo race of at least 2,700 miles (ie the shortest transatlantic, the Transat) and finish classified. On this race, skippers had to complete the course within 9 days of the first finisher to be classified.

What is interesting, with all these dismastings and other problems, is how many new Open 60s are yet to qualify and must now complete the Transat in May: Mike Golding’s Ecover 3, Delta Dore, Estrella Damm/Team BT and Marc Thiercelin’s new Mars, yet to be launched. I’m racking my brains and I don’t think that even the new PRB has completed a solo qualifier yet.

They can all do the Transat next year to qualify. But what if they don’t all finish, quite likely considering this is invariably an upwind shocker? Well, what one has to understand is that rules are aspirational.

Jean Le Cam and Roland Jourdain were in just this situation three years ago, when keel problems forced their new sisterships out of the Transat. Lo and behold, a new NOR was produced to allow them to do their own ‘race’. That replicated a similar solution created for Bernard Stamm and Javier Sanso four years earlier.

Unsurprisingly the rules were negotiable in the Barcelona World Race as well. I don’t think a race organiser or IMOCA wants to see bluechip multinational sponsors spending £2m on a new boat that is then unable to race.