Barcelona World Race launched earlier today could become the Vendee Globe 'warm-up'

The Barcelona World Race – the first ever two-handed, non-stop around the world race in monohulls – should be one of the most well supported events of its kind if the interest at this morning’s launch in Barcelona is anything to go by see news story here. 

Following years of careful planning Offshore Challenges and Fundació per la Navegació Oceànica de Barcelona, who are running the event as a joint venture, have designed Open 60 race to fit into the four-year IMOCA circuit, so rather than running in competition with the already established global races such as the VOR or the Vendee Globe, the Barcelona World Race will run alongside. This means for example, those IMOCA sailors planning to take part in the next Vendee Globe in 2008 will be able to use the Barcelona World Race as a serious ‘test run’.

Chatting about new race’s position within the IMOCA circuit Vendee Globe skipper Conrad Humphreys said: “Yes for sure it’s a big calendar. The 5-Oceans, the Barcelona race and the Vendee – three round the world races in three years is a tough order for any skipper let alone any sponsor. For me the Vendee is the ultimate race but the concept of this race is good. I see it attracting skippers who don’t want to do the singlehanded Vendee. Two handed sailing is great because you still get that feeling of being alone and it’s not quite as daunting. This will also give people a chance to step onto the circuit.

“Personally, this race will provide the perfect opportunity to push the boat hard round the world, prior to the Vendee so I’ll be using the event as a test bed for my new boat.”

Although Humphreys didn’t want to talk about his new boat at this early stage he says there’ll be just enough time to squeeze in a new build and be on the startline in Barcelona in 2007 – a year before the Vendee Globe.
Humphreys continued: “We’re looking at an April 07 build to be completed by February 2007, so then we’ve got about eight months to prepare.”

Fellow Vendee Globe skipper Nick Moloney who lost his keel while competing in this year’s Vendee Globe, is keen to complete some unfinished business and reckons this race will provide an ideal opportunity. Commenting at today’s event Moloney said: “I’m not going to finish my offshore sailing career with my experiences in the Vendee. This will be the ideal way for me to sail the route again and, in a perfect world, with a new boat, with the option to do the Vendee.

“For me it’s really important to have a laugh, something I desperately missed in the Vendee. The loneliness was killing me. I was also frustrated about the fact that I couldn’t push the boat on my own, so this doublehanded race is the perfect option.”

“Of course my focus is to do both races [the Vendee and Barcelona World Race] but I think it’s going to be really hard to back one round the world race one Christmas, and then go again. We shall see.”

While it’s difficult to judge exactly how many boats will be on the startline in 2007 it seems that because the event has been sanctioned as part of the IMOCA 2007/08 calendar and will form part of the point-scoring IMOCA World Championship raising the entry is not, according to Mark Turner (CEO Offshore challenges), going to be a problem, commenting: “the least thing I’m worried about is having enough skippers and boats for this race.”

Turner also confirmed that although there’s still room for a commercial sponsor the race is fully funded and will definitely go ahead, adding: “There’s no question about the race not going ahead, the funding is there, not just for this one but for the next two editions. There is of course, room for a commercial partner to come onboard as title sponsor but this time round we won’t change the name of the race. It will be known as the Barcelona World Race. In addition to that we’ll find communications sponsors.”

And finally, as joint owner of the Offshore Challenge Group will Ellen MacArthur find time to compete in ‘her own’ race? Non-committal at this stage, MacArthur concluded: “I’m not able to answer that at the moment. I’m not saying I won’t but after I’ve completed the Transat Jacque Vabre which starts next week, I’m taking time out. I’ve never had a break. I’ve sailed year after year for 11 years so what I’m going to do is to head down to South Georgia this winter, which will give me time to think about the future. I’ll be going there for six weeks with a cameraman and I’ll be very much involved in a Petrel and Albatross survey.

“In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to the TJV with Bilou because he is a good sailor, good fun and I know it’s a really good boat.”