Back into the cut and thrust of boat-on-boat racing, Brian Thompson this weekend was watching his new boat take to the water. It is in sharp contrast to a career often spent beating the clock or beating his brains out on his own.
He set a new world record with skipper Loick Peyron taking the giant trimaran Banque Populaire round the planet in just over 45 days earlier this year and is still hoping to go round again, on his own, in the Vendée Globe non-stop singlehander starting in November.
But for the next few months he will be sailing for Oman and skipper Sydney Gavignet in the debut season for the MOD70 trimarans, starting with a couple of inshore races off France, then taking the boat to Newport, Rhode Island.
From there, after a short feeder race to New York, the class – the multihull one design 70-foot trimarans which have taken over from the sometimes more vulnerable 60-footers – the five so far racing start the 2012 programme with a transatlantic dash to Brest for the Krys Trophy.
“This will be a bit different, racing in much closer proximity, looking at the opposition and jostling for position,” said Thompson just ahead of a launch ceremony in St. Nazaire today.
“These are really exciting boats, lots of acceleration, very sporty, more like a dinghy,” he said, adding that, while the Volvo 70 fleet had failed to break 600 miles in a day on its current round the world race he expected the MOD70 s to be able to make 600 and perhaps up to 700. Thompson has the Volvo on his cv, too.
“These are the fastest oceanic racing boats, all exactly the same, racing against each other, so it is all down to the sailors,” he said.
Explaining how the new 70 fits into the Oman Sailing programme, Gavignet said: “If the Oman Sailing programme is an arrow, this is the sharp tip which will show Oman around the world.” He also hopes that, as things develop, he will be able to fold in aspects of the Oman initiative to introduce more women into sport.
“Why not,” he asked? “They can be very good team members, so we may bring them into the trials next winter. But, for now, the opposition is very strong and we need to develop the best way to race the boat.”
He also hopes that the overwhelmingly French nature of the true class, though he will be flying the Omani flag, will be diluted as teams from other countries join the circuit next season.
In the final four of the Korea match racing grand prix , Phil Robertson of New Zealand chose to face defending champion Bjorn Hansen of Sweden, with the match drawn 1-1 at the close of sailing. The other semi saw Britain’s defending world champion Ian Williams and his Team GAC Pindar already in a commanding position against Torvar Mirsky’s Team Korea, Williams taking a 2-0 lead at the end of the day’s racing. Both matches continue on Sunday.