After a seven year gap from Open 60s, Michel Desjoyeaux is showing how it's done


The maestro is back. Michel Desjoyeaux’s victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre in his new Open 60 Foncia is a dazzling endorsement of the new Farr design and a talent honed by multihull racing in the years since he won the 2000/1 Vendée Globe. With this win, which he achieved without any outside weather routeing, Mich Des becomes the firm favourite once again.

Talking to me about his boat in Le Havre, he said: “The boat has 150% more righting moment than PRB [the boat which won that last two Vendée Globes and is now Sam Davies’s Roxy]. For the same weight, the sail area is 15% more on a 2m higher mast.”

Asked about how it compares with racing his 60ft trimaran, he replied: “In fact it’s not easier to sail than a multihull. The sails are same, though the sheet loads are half of what we had. But it is safer, and less stressful because you can’t capsize.

“The safety factors are higher than we had on the other boats, but the boats are also more complex so we have to be very careful. We can break a lot of things if we don’t sail correctly. For example, two weeks [before the start of the TJV] we made a big mistake and nearly lost the rig.”

Desjoyeaux and his former stable mate Vincent Riou, who is lying 2nd in the Barcelona World Race in PRB, seem to be a good head in front of their rivals, and there’s no coincidence in this. The two have worked hand-in-hand since the late Nineties. Riou was part of Mich Des’s shore team, then took over PRB, modified it and won the next Vendée Globe, and the pair have developed their sistership Farr designs in close collaboration.

They are basically the same platform, with minor changes to allow for slightly different sailing styles and preferences. One very individual choice on Foncia is the gimballed chair pictured above, which is Mich Des’s navigating and sleeping position, flanked by an instrument display and a computer monitor. There is no nav table and not a single other comfort below.

He and Riou have also shared crucial information about the wingmast rig – Riou’s failed last year – and the canting keel mechanism, which Desjoyeaux beefed up by an extra 5kg.

As to who will be the faster when they first line up alongside each other in a race, probably in the Transat next June, Mich Des says: “I know we are a bit lighter than PRB and even though the keel is a bit heavier than on the drawings we should be a bit faster.”