A new multihull circuit is tempting top solo racers away from the Vendée Globe

This week’s announcement that Seb Josse is to skipper Baron de Rothschild’s new trimaran Gitana marks something of a fork in the road.

It confirms the growing momentum of the new Multi One Design 70 class and its circuit of classic transatlantic races and a crewed round the world race in 2013. Josse is the latest to defect from IMOCA 60s, and thus step off the road that leads to the Vendée Globe.

He follows Michel Desjoyeaux and Roland Jourdain, both of whom are building MOD70s.

The fourth team to date is lead by the Swiss sailor and former ORMA 60 skipper Steve Ravussin.

The hull of the first boat was launched last week and is pictured above about to come out of the Keroman yard in Lorient.

There are plenty of others who I’m sure are interested if they can raise the money. Thomas Coville and Pascal Bidégorry both had input into the VPLP one-design. They have been focussed on round the world record-breaking on the trimarans Sodeb’O and Banque Populaire V respectively, but supposing they can get those records and complete the projects surely this is where they will turn their focus next.
Franck Cammas was also consulted in the design but his sponsors, Groupama, are signed up to the Volvo Ocean Race later this year and in 2013/14.

So already it’s reasonable to predict a migration of the top French sailors and sponsorship rainmakers to this class. That may cream off some of the top layer of Vendée Globe sailors.

The Vendée benefited from the demise of the ORMA 60 trimaran class
as many of its chief exponents followed the money into monohulls. With
the option to return to three hulls, these ‘ambidextrous’ sailors are
looking hungrily at the bigger, faster world most of them love best in
their heart of hearts.
The costs are comparable, and many of the solo sailors we’ve followed round the world actually prefer sailing offshore in company.

The Vendée Globe will survive this diversification, though. And if you want to see how quickly some of the most talented newcomers can come up through the ranks you need look no further than the Barcelona World Race.

Olympic champions Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez are hard on the heels of Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron. Who could have predicted that?

Look, too, at the German/US combination of Boris Hermann and Ryan Breymaier. These sailors are proof that it is possible to come in new to IMOCA 60s at the highest level and be competitive.

Perhaps the only gloomy aspect to the two roads ahead, from a UK perspective, is that the costs of taking part in the MOD 70 class, for instance, including the cost of building a boat are in the region of €2-3 million per year. That is a huge, huge sum in the wasteland that is British offshore sailing sponsorship right now.

It may be full ahead for sailors in France and Spain but over here there’s only tumbleweed rolling along the road.