Competitors are continuing to prepare their yachts for The Transat which starts at the end of May

Transat competitors are this week continuing to prepare their boats ready for sea while those further advanced are setting out on their 1,000 mile singlehanded qualification passages.

Among those who are planning to set out shortly on their qualification passage are Franck Cammas on Groupama, Lalou Roucayrol on Banque Populaire, Roger Langevin on his much-campaigned Open 50 Branec III and Etienne Hochede, who finished third in his class aboard his 35ft monohull four years ago, back this year on board his Open 50 PIR2.

All eyes will be on the progress of Cammas, for he is unquestionably one of the favourites for the coveted first place among the ORMA 60 multihulls. This class is highly competitive with 12 boats competing in The Transat, but last year out of six events on the ORMA circuit there was only one event the 31-year-old Frenchman did not win. In 2000 Cammas finished third in The Transat, retired from the 2002 Route du Rhum (as did most of the boats) and will be looking to The Transat to gain his first singlehanded transatlantic victory. Cammas will be relying on his existing ORMA world championship-winning multihull Groupama rather than the new Groupama constructed over the winter.

The most radical boat in The Transat will be Yves Parlier’s Médiatis Région Aquitaine, the first race for this revolutionary new machine. Unlike the ORMA trimarans, Médiatis Région Aquitaine has two hulls rather than three and with a beam of 50ft is exceptionally wide for a 60ft long catamaran. see news story here.

The boat has been sailing for less than a month now and has already clocked 29kts. Parlier believes the boat to be capable of more than 40kts. At present the team are in the middle of a 10-day sea trial during which they hope to see how the boat behaves in gale force conditions. A week after their return Parlier will set out singlehanded on his qualifier for The Transat.

Currently Portsmouth Harbour is a hive of Open 60 activity with both Pindar AlphaGraphics and Alex Thomson’s AT Racing relaunched this week after winter refits. In a break with their traditional sponsoring of female crews Emma Richards’ sponsor Pindar are instead backing New Zealand sailor Mike Sanderson for The Transat. Sanderson is an elite level sailor when it comes to crewed racing having competed in both the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, but this will be his first ever singlehanded race. After a disappointing performance in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year, Sanderson is under no illusions of what is in store for him. He said: “I am really going to be the new boy on the block and I am in awe of the other competitors and what they have done. I am definitely keeping my head down and just trying to get as many miles in under my belt singlehanded as well as putting some hard pushed miles on this boat which so far we’ve never managed to do.”

Formerly Graham Dalton’s Hexagon, Pindar AlphaGraphics has had her single daggerboard replaced with two new asymmetric boards developed and built in New Zealand. Sanderson will be out testing the new gear with a full crew shortly before setting off on his qualifier at the end of the first week in April.

Despite having gained much credibility when he set a new singlehanded monohull 24 hour record in Le Defi Atlantique last year on his Open 60 AT Racing, Alex Thomson is still looking for a sponsor that will get him to the start line of both The Transat and November’s Vendee Globe.