New York hosts classy debut


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The Independent Online

It will take something to grab the attention of New York in the week of the 4 of July, but five 70-foot trimarans set off from Newport, Rhode Island to pass the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French, up the Hudson River and to North Cove Marina 130 miles away on Monday.

The Americans, thoughtfully, will be organising a huge firework display on Wednesday, perhaps not in their honour, but it will act as one of the preliminaries to the launch of a new class, a new racing circuit, and the re-emergence of French multihull racing around Europe.

The famous five leave on Saturday for a transatlantic race, the Krys Ocean Race, to Brest on the western tip of Brittany and will also, later, race to and in Kiel, Dublin, Cascais, Marseille, and Genoa.

Importantly, there is also a round the world race, with stopovers, down the line and, in that, the trimarans share an important feature with the recently announced plans for the next Volvo round the world race.

These are the Multi One Design 70-foot trimarans, all built the same, all equipped the same, and all tied to strict rules which forbid any significant changes by individual teams. The new Volvo boat, at 65 feet, will be funded by a consortium, built by a consortium, and sold as a package to teams which, as in the MOD70s, will win or lose on their wits and endurance rather by the size of their cheque books.

Not that cheque books do not play their role. Not least, as the MOD70 concept has been launched by Switzerland’s Marco Simeoni, and the teams, which include long-time French sailing sponsor Foncia, long-time French sailing supporter Edmond de Rothschild, and determined Middle East player Oman, with French skipper Sidney Gavignet, have all bought their boats. Gavignet is being joined by Britain’s Brian Thompson, a vastly experienced round the world and multihull man.

Foncia skipper Michel Desjoyeaux is right at the top of the big names in French offshore sailing, especially singlehanded, and is known for an individual approach. But he is remarkably schoolmasterly about taking on an MOD70. “If you want to change things you should not be here,” he says. “All the boats are the same, with weight adjusters to make doubly sure, the electronics and software are the same, the sails are the same and the number of crew is the same. All that can be different is that you can choose your own computer and you can have your own paint design on the boat.”

What will also be different is that MichDes will find his own way around the race course. “I’m not used to following the others,” he says. But there are few opportunities on the short run to the Big Apple. And even he may find it difficult to make any stealthy moves in what looks set to be a drag race all the way across the Atlantic with the possibility of the following Sunday lunch in Brest.

Breakfast in Galway this Tuesday should see the six boats in the Volvo round the world race complete the final offshore leg from Lorient, but the finish order was still in doubt as, with 100 miles to go, the American-flagged Puma took the lead round the Fastnet Rock just a couple of hundred yards ahead of the New Zealand-managed Spanish entry Camper.

The second Spanish boat, Telefónica held third and the overall leader Groupama, of France, was fourth with a 17-mile cushion over fifth-placed Abu Dhabi and knowing that fourth would be enough to secure the 2011-12 win regardless of what happens in this weekend’s inshore race finale.