EuroDisney, Paris, was once again the setting for a gathering of some of the world’s top offshore racing skippers, builders and designers, as Bruno Peyron brought his dream project, The Race, closer to reality. This non-stop, no-rules (apart from a few french ones) race around the globe, will kick-off from a Mediterranean port on 31st December 2000.

Conspicuous by their absence were Brits Lawrie Smith and Tracy Edwards. Edwards claims to be ‘close’ to signing at least part of her ‘8 million budget, and was represented at the conference by one of her most experienced crew, Helena Darvelid.

Lawrie Smith and team apparently refused to attend following some strong disagreements with The Race organiser, Bruno Peyron. These were centred over the lack of a signed up deal on the television rights. Smith is not alone in showing his frustration at the lack of a confirmed TV package – a key element in selling a multi-million pound package to a sponsor. Peyron actively avoided direct questions on this issue throughout the conference, but did indicate that he was close to getting this sorted and the delay was more to do with confirming the technology that will be on the boats, and hence what exactly can be in the TV package, eg live transmissions from the boats at all times. By signing up France Telecom as Race sponsor, he as least moved this forward, but there is no question that until the TV rights are confirmed, there will be a number of syndicates that will simply not be able to move forward.

Apart from the already much publicised designs of Pete Goss, the largest model at the conference was that of Henk den Welde who was sporting an enormous scaled version of his Brett Crowther design. He is currently negotiating with a number of sponsors including Sony, and like everyone aims to commence a build in March or April.

Most impressive performance at the press conference at least, was that of Kiwi Grant Dalton – who plucked up enormous amounts of courage to start his briefing in French to the applause of the entire conference room. Having broken into native Kiwi, he had a similar story to the others – talking to potential sponsors, cut off time May. Ross Field, in a typically polished speech, had the same news. Along with project partner Halvard Mabire, he has a tobacco sponsor ‘on hold’, and 2 other companies ‘in discussions’.

Another Irens design (Smith’s intention in an Irens design as well) has been taking shape, at least in terms of tooling, in La Trinite, France. Laurent Bourgnon will be hoping that his excellent victory in the Route du Rhum will prove to be a springboard for gaining the support he requires to continue the work.

Amongst other technical and marketing decisions that were made during the 3 day conference, the entry fee was settled at a cool $500, , and whilst not confirmed the start looks good for Barcelona – which will no doubt help the new Spanish entry headed by Guillermo Altadill. A Whitbread veteran and Olympic coach, he hopes to securing sponsorship in the coming months for a 30 metre catamaran or trimaran – as yet undecided.

Another decision made during the conference, was a ruling on ‘pitstops’ – boats will be able to stop in a port for limited repairs, but will be forced to stay a minimum of 24 hours, a significant penalty for anyone considering running the race as a multi-stage event.

Pete Goss’ campaign continues in its usual positive way, despite the fact that full funding is not yet in place. Goss does however state that they have the funds to complete the boat – although sailing it may be a different issue – certainly the choice of a very unconventional rig for this size of boat, there will need to be significant development funds in place when the boat hits the water, currently scheduled for November 1999.

Lionel Pean, fresh from skippering Mari Cha to a new transatlantic monohull record, was bullish about his Winning Edge campaign – one of the few big monohull pr