The super-powerful but ill-fated new Pindar finally shows what she can do by winning her comeback race


If Brian Thompson were the type he’d have whooped for joy when the IMOCA 60 Pindar won the Artemis Challenge exhibition race round the Isle of Wight on Tuesday. But Thompson is not a chest-beating kind of man. In his typically mild-mannered and gentlemanly way he simply beamed with delight, shook his crew’s hands and said thanks.

But perhaps the dominant emotion was really one of relief. The new and super-powerful Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Pindar has been a trials-and-tribulations project that has taken a year of grinding hard work, dedication and lots of cash to shake down.

Yesterday’s 50-mile Artemis Challenge race was the first race Pindar has completed since her launch in July 2007. She was dismasted on this same race during Cowes Week last year and lost her rig again before she even reached the start line of the Transat Jacques Vabre. With a new and beefier wingmast and the expediture of a rumoured £1 million since her launch in New Zealand, Pindar is at last potentially a force to be reckoned with in this year’s solo Vendée Globe.

We tore off from the start line, Brian Thompson on the helm and Mike ‘Moose’ Sanderson, the originator of this alleged smoking gun design on the mainsheet. The boat felt rock solid and we were quicker than our rivals upwind. Despite the “sharp bullets” coming off the island shore (as I now know gusts are called in TeamOrigin circles) Pindar stayed firmly on her feet.

We edged in to the lead within the first couple of miles and never relinquished that lead for the rest of the race, despite hard chasing by Seb Josse in BT. Around the back of the island, Pindar was clocking 17-19 knots and bounding over rather lumpy seas in a tumult of white water. The gunshot sound of the mainsheet being eased and the accompanying judder of the hull as it flexed are all signs of a boat that will be fast but undoubtedly unforgiving for Thompson as he sails it solo around the world later this year.

So Pindar, at the extreme end of the IMOCA 60 design, has made first steps towards vindicating the hardcore ideas of Mike Sanderson and Juan Kouyoumdijan, and Brian Thompson has succeeded thus far in making that concept work. Now all eyes are on another 60 superbeast, the Simon Rogers-designed Artemis 2.

With her measurement certificate fresh in the team’s hands after a late launch, a slimmed down rig, new rudders and a deal of problems in meeting the class rule, the new Artemis was on her first competitive outing. Finishing 2nd last gave no clue as to what the boat could do, and observers were left wondering if this much-touted (and, in France, controversial) weapon will indeed be able to hit the mark. Or, given Pindar’s protracted preparations, if there will be anywhere near enough time before November to do so.