Plans for European sailing event revealed in Lorient

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The first of what could be a dozen new trimarans to contest both a European and world race circuit was given a baptism of tranquil approval in Lorient today. There is also a strong political message as part of a campaign to conserve water and protect the oceans of the world.

Among the first four to sign up are Stève Ravussin, Roland Jourdain, Michel Desjoyeaux and Sébastien Josse. A further three have been sold, says the man who is combining both the sailing and environmental initiative, Marco Simeoni.

So far, the British connection is through the Isle of Wight-based Offshore Challenges, now part of the ThirdPole sports event organisation group. Mark Turner, who also runs another multihull racing spectacle, the Extreme Sailing Series, is helping to put the tour together.

His wife, Anne-Cécile, is the director of the Multi One Attitude Foundation, which has chosen both the project and Ravussin’s boat, Race for Water, to spearhead its campaign. There will be an extensive international schools programme.

She also can call on the support of a popular, though not yet widely known in Britain, cartoon character called Titeuf. Race for Water and Jourdain’s Véolia are expected to line up for an already over-subscribed Fastnet Race in August.

But each half of the new event has a life of its own, says race director Franck David. He is putting together a five to six week-long European Tour, the first next year, which will see 80 per cent. of the points won on the offshore legs between host ports, the remaining 20 per cent. coming from inshore races at each of the stopovers. You do not have to sign up to the water saving campaign to take part.

France has, for a very long time, been ken on multihull sailing, has its own sailing Tour de France, and there have been previous tours of Europe, at times backed by the Council of Europe. However, both Simeoni and Franck recognise that the new 70-foot trimaran version comes at a time when budgets, particularly those of cities and regional councils, are being squeezed.

Whether there would be a British leg depends on that finance being available and, to a lesser degree, whether there is a British-backed competitor.

Listen: Roland Jourdain outlines his new project to Stuart Alexander:

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The successors to the spectacular 60-foot trimarans which hit a brick wall of breakages and capsize will all be to the same Van Peteghem Lauriot Prevost (VPLP) design and next year will contest a European tour starting in the north and ending in the Mediterranean.

In terms of cost, the programme comes a long way above that for an Extreme 40, is about double that for a TP52 on the Audi MedCup circuit, but a Volvo round the world race campaign would be about two and a half times as much and even a frugal America’s cup campaign about five times as much.

The adoption of a more robust new 70-foot design which is the same for all competitors should eliminate the previous problem of wanting to design 60-footers light enough to be competitive in inshore conditions and then finding that they were too light for ocean racing.

The round the world race planned for 2014, starting from France, hopes to take in the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle and Far East, Australia, both the west and east coasts of the United States, and South America.