IMOCA give priority to safety and reliability following this year's Vendee Globe

All of those involved in single-handed ocean racing had been looking forward to the IMOCA general meeting (held 17 April), which had to deal with the lessons learnt in the last Vendee Globe. Many felt that some important decisions needed to be taken, particularly concerning the reliability of the boats and the safety of the skippers.

The various measures are the direct consequence of the damage that occurred in this year’s Vendee. The IMOCA class has decided to limit the power of the boats and to limit the speed differentials between the new monohulls and those from previous generations. Three measures were taken to achieve this:

to limit the number of sails to 10 (no matter how many crew onboard);
to limit the number of appendages to 5 (1 keel, 2 rudders, and 2 daggerboards); and
to establish a maximum mast height. This last resolution will also improve safety in the sense that it will limit the strength of the power of the masts.

These measures are intended to make the use of the boom easier when setting up a jury rig and should make the boat easier to handle if she is dismasted.
The problem of keels has also led to a decision to introduce new obligatory keel tests of torsion, bending and vibration, which will help to avoid dramatic retirements.

With regard to the safety of the skippers, Dominique Wavre, President of the Class, spoke of Yann Elies’s experience in which he broke his femur and was unable to reach his first aid kit and other emergency elements. “We are going to try to make it easier for wounded sailors to have improved access to their emergency kits and we will adapt the rules accordingly.” Technical measures will also be investigated in the case of capsizes to avoid the transom remaining under water, thus preventing the skipper to be able to exit through the emergency hatch as in Jean Le Cam’s case in the Vendee Globe.

Wavre added, “the resolutions that have been adopted are very important and I can assure you that it has been an extraordinary assembly.” Since the gruelling Vendee Globe there have been high expectations regarding the new rule changes adopted by the Class, a Class made up of many of the best sailors in the world. “All members are in agreement that the Class needs to continue evolving in order to ensure the success of the Vendee Globe and to offer all skippers, sponsors and followers a good race programme, as we have done up until now. We also need to confront the present economic crisis with a spirit that will ensure the highest possible number of boats at the start of races.”

The members of the assembly also agreed that there is a need to develop new technology especially with regard to sustainable energy systems. One of the future rules will permit the development of electrical engines that will function through wind, solar or hydrodynamic generators.