A new era for the IMOCA 60ft monohull class begins in less than three months with the Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race. This will be the first event run by Sir Keith Mills’ Lausanne-based Open Sports Management (OSM), commercial rights holder to the IMOCA class. It is also the first event to count towards the new OCEAN MASTERS World Championship.
The double-handed New York to Barcelona is the only race scheduled this summer for IMOCA, allowing teams ample time to prepare for this autumn and winter’s other major Ocean Masters World Championship events – the Route du Rhum and the Barcelona World Race.
"New York and Barcelona are two of the most iconic cities in the world today and are both perfect venues for the first new race under the Ocean Masters World Championship brand,” explains Sir Keith Mills. “This is part of OSM’s plan to internationalise the IMOCA class and take it to the next level by introducing new events, new venues and attracting new skippers, teams and sponsors.”
The event kicks off with a prologue on Saturday 24 May. Competitors will sail from Newport, Rhode Island on a 142 mile overnight race to New York Harbour.
In New York for the next week, the boats will be berthed at Manhattan’s North Cove Marina, close to the World Trade Centre site in Battery Park. On Thursday 29th May, they will compete in the ‘Hudson River Race’, allowing spectators a bird’s eye view from Manhattan’s western shore. The day will conclude with a reception in the New York Yacht Club’s magnificent Model Room.
The start of the transatlantic race itself will be off North Cove Marina on Sunday 1st June. Competitors will sail pass the Statue of Liberty before exiting New York Harbour. The 3700 mile course crosses the North Atlantic, passing through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, where crews will have to negotiate a tactical 525 miles along the Spanish coast before reaching the finish.
The prizegiving will be held in Barcelona on 20th June. En route competitors will be out to better the 12 days, 6 hours and 3 minutes course record set by Alex Pella, Pepe Ribes and Stan Schreyer aboard the IMOCA 60 Estrella Damm in 2010.
Five teams are officially entered, although more are expected:
Hugo Boss: Alex Thomson (GBR) and Pepe Ribes (ESP)
Neutrogena: Guillermo Altadill (ESP) and José Muñoz (CHI)
Safran: Marc Guillemot (FRA) and Morgan Lagravière (FRA)
GAES Centros Auditivos: Anna Corbella (ESP) and Gerard Marin (ESP)
Spirit of Hungary : Nandor Fa (HUN) and Marcell Goszleth (HUN)
Hugo Boss skipper Alex Thomson finished second in the first Barcelona World Race and famously was third home in the last Vendée Globe. His co-skipper is Pepe Ribes, one of Spain’s most capped offshore sailors with four Volvo Ocean Races to his name. They will be sailing the latest Hugo Boss, previously Jean-Pierre Dick’s 2010 generation VPLP-Verdier designed Virbac Paprec 3.
Thomson looks forward to the race: “There was an opportunity in the calendar this year, so OSM decided to introduce an event that would raise the profile of the circuit and also could support the Barcelona Race. They wanted an international race, so it was natural to go from somewhere in America – transatlantic - back into Barcelona, double-handed. It is also great training for the Barcelona World Race.”
Spain’s most capped offshore sailor is Guillermo Altadill, with six circumnavigations behind him. He will skipper Neutrogena Sailing Team with Chilean José Muñoz, who raced a Class40 around the world doublehanded in 2008/09 Global Ocean Race. They will sail the 2007 generation Farr design that Thomson took to third place in the last Vendee Globe.
“It is going to be a good race for the Ocean Masters programme,” says Altadill. “This will be our first race together. To have this transatlantic race a few months before the start of the Barcelona World Race, we can use it to train, test the boat and sail together. It is perfect preparation.”
The most experienced skipper in the fleet is Safran skipper Marc Guillemot. The French aerospace and security company is starting its third Vendée Globe campaign, but the team is in transition with Guillemot, 54, in the process of passing over the helm to talented 27-year-old Figaro and Olympic 49er sailor, Morgan Lagravière, who will be co-skipper for the race. The duo will sail their highly developed 2007 generation VPLP-Verdier design while their new IMOCA 60 is in build in Brittany.
"I am delighted to participate in this first race between New York and Barcelona,” says Guillemot. "This new race is a very good initiative by the class and it is very much in our interest to participate in it because the strength of the IMOCA class is that its boats can sail in different events like this.”
The local Barcelona team, fielded by the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona, will be that of Gerard Marin and Anna Corbella. Corbella is returning to the race course with GAES Centros Auditivos, who backed her last Barcelona World Race campaign. Marin sailed that same race aboard Fòrum Marítim Català.
Hungarian solo offshore racing legend Nandor Fa will sail with co-skipper Marcell Goszleth, on Spirit of Hungary, a brand new IMOCA 60 due for launch imminently.
“The New York to Barcelona Race will be my first with this brand new IMOCA 60, it’ll be our first trial,” says Fa. “We’ll take it as an opportunity to gather some information on the performance of the boat, and we’re confident that she will be safe and competitive.”