Mike Sanderson is bitten by the Open 60 bug and suddenly the Vendée Globe is "never say never"


“I want to win a single-handed transatlantic race,” says Volvo Ocean Race winner Mike ‘Moose’ Sanderson of his next big ambition. His new Open 60, funded by British print company Pindar, began building last month at Cooksons in New Zealand, and it could considerably raise the stakes of a class that is seriously on fire.

The Open 60 class is being infused with huge influx of new skippers and design teams, but even the old hands are anticipating something a bit different — and extra-potent — from the collaboration of Sanderson and designer Juan Kouyoumdjian. It will benefit from the R&D process carried out for the all-conquering ABN AMRO boats, plus some. “We towed nine models for the ABN AMRO black boat and five are 100% relevant to the Open 60,” Moose says. “The 60 was model 6 and we’ve done another four since then.”

The new Open 60 is for a three-year programme of Atlantic races: next year’s two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre and the solo Transat and Route du Rhum races. But there’s a marketing element, too, and he says: “It will definitely be a Vendée race winner. My idea is for me to be heavily involved in a second boat. The development cost is $1.5 million and we’ve paid a third of the costs, so we’re committed to Juan selling two more Open 60s.”

However, the assumption of an ongoing design spiral that would lead towards a new Juan K design for the 2008 Volvo Ocean Race took a knock when ABN AMRO announced they would not be sponsoring an entry. Moose comments: “I haven’t been asked to do [the VOR] yet, but for sure I’d love to. I’m very relaxed for it to be up in the air. I’m not sure if I’ll look for a sponsor myself or let a marketing company go looking and we’ll do a deal, but I think my time’s better spent making boats go fast than pounding the streets.”

Having said his sailing style didn’t fit long solo races, he now thinks he might — just might — think again about the Vendée Globe. Like the Volvo Ocean Race, the next race is in 2008, and many of us see it as the bigger deal. Moose volunteers: “I’ll never say never on the Vendée. This Open 60 has really bitten me.”