Sailors prepare for the Vendee Globe

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The Independent Online

The Barbarians were at the gates of the Bois du Boulogne yesterday as over a third, 11, of the skippers lining up for the big French launch of its singlehanded racing pride and joy, the Vendée Globe, were not French and the most powerful threat was one of the seven British skippers, Brian Thompson in Pindar.

An amazing 20 of the boats are new since the race was last staged four years ago, and they include Mike Golding's Ecover, third last time despite losing his keel three hours from the finish, Jonny Malbon's still untried Artemis, and Dee Caffari, trying to do the double singlehanded round the world both ways in Aviva.

Racing hard will be the only other woman in the race, Britain's Samantha Davies, whose eight-year old Roxy is the former PRB, in which Michel Desjoyeaux won in 2000.

But Seb Josse, who takes over the reins of BT for Ellen MacArthur's Offshore Challenges - she made her name coming second in 2000 - says that, while the boats had steadily been designed to be more and more powerful, Juan Kouyoumdjian, the Argentinian at the centre of both the British America's Cup challenge and the simmering row over the Ericsson entries in the Volvo race, had made not one leap forward but two.

Former winner Michel Desjoyeaux agreed. "There is no doubt that Pindar is the fastest boat out there," he said.

There had been a meeting in Plymouth ahead of the singlehanded Transat to Boston to consider modifying the design rule for the 60-footers, but no decision was taken on some suggestions that would outlaw boats like Pindar and possibly Malbon's Simon Rogers-designed Artemis.

Yesterday the Open 60 class's new president, Switzerland's Dominique Wavre, a long-time buddy of Golding's, hinted that the subject might have to be revisited. But Desyoyeaux said that not only was there no chance of Pindar being prevented from racing when the fleet leaves Les Sables d'Olonne on 9 November, the rule should have been modified three years ago if the class wanted to prevent boats like Pindar, much bigger and heavier than her rivals, from being built. Thompson knows that so much power in the hands of one man cannot always be utilised.

Meanwhile his near namesake, Alex Tomson, was emphasising that he had learned the limitations of what he could do with his new Hugo Boss, especially singlehanded compared with his double-handed non-stop Barcelona Race round the world with Andrew Cape.

"I'm not expecting to do 500 miles in a day in the Vendee Globe," he said.

'"And so say all of us," said the French.



Listen: Stuart Alexander talks to Brian Thompson about taming the beast of the Vendée Globe

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