Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Marcus Hutchinson of Kinsale & Howth in the Thick of it in Vendee Globe Management

31st October 2020
afloat_wmnixon
Thanks to main support sponsors Advens Cybersecurity, Thomas Ruyant's new Marcus Hutchinson-managed Vendee Globe-entered IMOCA 60 is providing major publicity for the not-for-profit social organisation LinkedOut Thanks to main support sponsors Advens Cybersecurity, Thomas Ruyant's new Marcus Hutchinson-managed Vendee Globe-entered IMOCA 60 is providing major publicity for the not-for-profit social organisation LinkedOut Photo: Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

Marcus Hutchinson has been having a good Autumn in his role as a sort of benign marine Svengali with an Irish flavour, operating largely behind the scenes at the sharp end of the French big-time offshore racing scene. But it would miss the sense of his way of working to suggest that he has a finger in several important pies, as that would imply a certain messiness in his modus operandi.

On the contrary, it's better expressed by saying that he has some very sensitive fingers on several important pulses, and when push comes to shove, he has access to the resources and knows which buttons to activate, and levers to pull, in order to achieve optimal results.

Thus he has been long-established as an effective go-to man if you're a rising offshore star, and wish to get into the pressure-cooker which is the Figaro Solo circuit. Leading on from that, he was a key facilitator in providing the Figaro 3 boat with which Pam Lee of Greystones and Cat Hunt recently established a very solid Two-Handed Female Round Ireland Record.

Round Ireland two-handed record holder Pam Lee of Greystones at the helm of the Figaro 3 Iarracht MaigeantaRound Ireland two-handed record holder Pam Lee of Greystones at the helm of the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta, whose use by RL Sailing for the successful record challenge was facilitated by Marcus Hutchinson

Their sense of reassurance in Uncle Marcus's very positive confidence in their ability to do it shone through in almost every progress report they filed, and they certainly didn't let him down in a great achievement which brightened the entire Irish sailing scene in a time of otherwise gathering gloom.

But the Figaro circuit is relatively straightforward in that it involves One Design boats. It's in another area of special Hutchinson interest - with the leading-edge development class which is the IMOCA 60 and the Vendee Globe at the apex of its increasingly high-profile programme - that we find we're definitely in jungle territory with some very big beasts on the prowl.

Yet here too the word is that Marcus is one of those who have control over a veritable warehouse in Brittany of IMOCA 60s of varying vintages, such that when some ambitious talent reveals that they harbour notions of having a go at the Vendee Globe, starting with an initial campaign with mid-range "affordable" boat in order to aim towards a full-blown campaign the next time round, the usual test is the seemingly harmless question: "Have you sat down for a coffee and a bit of a chat with Marcus?"

Marcus Hutchinson in "protective manager" mode, responding to questions at a Vendee Globe press conferenceMarcus Hutchinson in "protective manager" mode, responding to questions at a Vendee Globe press conference

A contemporary and friend of super-sailor Gordon Maguire when both were learning the ropes while growing up in Howth (later they won the Half Ton Worlds together), his complex career since has included a yacht design degree from Southampton, a stint in the Rob Humphreys design office where he produced his own Quarter Tonner Quest which is still competitive and much-admired in Dublin Bay, then he edited the RORC Magazine Seahorse while continuing to build his own already extensive offshore experience, and in time he got involved in the French short-handed scene with sundry legends – there's no other way to put it – until he and his wife-to-be Megan (she's from New Zealand) found themselves running the Communications Office for the America's Cup when the contest was Spanish-based for some years in Valencia.

There were many other projects and campaigns, but it was the high-powered French solo and double-handed scene which seemed to best fit his multiple organisational, technical, and sailing talents which – when allied to his engaging manner and apparently unflappable nature – made his input so much in demand that though he and Megan and their two daughters have made their home in Kinsale, where he tries to relax with a spot of sailing with the local Squib fleet, he actually spends much of his time in France. He would have been completely cut off from the home base with the latest increased limitations has his daughter Mea – on her transition year – not been able to join him before the shutters came down completely.

With the buildup to the 2020 Vendee Globe start on November 8th and its record fleet of 33 Imoca 60s developing to its climax in Les Sables d'Olonne, the atmosphere is trebly spooky, as the fabled Race Village – normally a three-week focus of ultra-crowded uber-sociability – has been a high-security very socially-distant bubble since Thursday, with the strictest possible limitations.

the Vendee Globe Village has become a spooky placeNormally a scene of heightened sociability, since midnight on Thursday the Vendee Globe Village has become a spooky place.

The latest wave of COVID-19 was clearly about to hit France in overdrive, but the authorities were acutely aware of the morale-boosting benefits of getting a major sporting happening like the Vendee Globe successfully up and away. So both sides kept closely in touch - with Marcus involved as Team Manager for Thomas Ruyant's Advens-LinkedOut campaign – and the word from the authorities was that if everyone involved with the Vendee Globe went along with the strict lockdown conditions which came into force at Port d'Olonna on Thursday night, then the authorities would do everything they could to make sure the fleet got away.

With high-profile professional stadium sports already being recognized as vital safety-valves for an increasingly oppressed locked-down population, it was reasonably argued that a continuous trackable event of the Vendee Globe's epic proportions would be a real mental tonic for people already somewhat jaded by last winter's crop of eSailing contests. Ingenious and all as they are, they cannot remotely bear comparison with the Vendee Globe's mixture of high-level sport, personal drama, and live transmissions from far at sea beamed into a population in the Northern Hemisphere which would be otherwise sinking into a sepulchral gloom with low resistance to infection.

At the moment, therefore, it's all systems go. So how come that this time round, Marcus Hutchinson is the Team Manager for Thomas Ruyant's Advens-LinkedOut campaign with one of the newest boats in the fleet? And come to think of it, who on earth are Advens and LinkedOut when they're at home?

"The Deal in Lille". The association of Marcus Hutchinson and Thomas Ruyant may have something to do with a boat sale deal in Lille in northern France struck by Enda O'Coineen (left) and Thomas Ruyant"The Deal in Lille". The association of Marcus Hutchinson and Thomas Ruyant may have something to do with a boat sale deal in Lille in northern France struck by Enda O'Coineen (left) and Thomas Ruyant

Well, as with many complex stories at the off-the-wall end of international Irish sailing, you don't have to dig very far until the name of Enda O'Coineen comes up. Back in the previous Vendee Globe in 2016-17, Enda ended up in New Zealand with his Kilcullen Team Ireland dismasted. And also retired damaged in Kiwi-land was the lone sailor whom the French refer to the Northerner, as Thomas Ruyant's base is remote indeed from glamour spots of the French yachting scene, for it's in the no-nonsense department of Nord where he had managed to persuade 50 businesses to put up the money which produced Souffle du Nord, a competitive IMOCA 60 which was very much in the hunt until the determined Ruyant craft was damaged in the Southern Ocean, and did well to get to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Marcus Hutchinson had his own problems, as the boat he was managing had ended up – after being right in the frame in the race – in a wounded state in one of the Pacific islands. All personnel were okay, but with the technical and repair side of the Vendee Globe so Europe-centred, there were considerable logistical problems if the three boats were going to be restored to racing order.

The Kiwi Transformation…..in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe, Thomas Ruyant's Souffle du Nord arrived in a damaged state in New ZealandThe Kiwi Transformation…..in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe, Thomas Ruyant's Souffle du Nord arrived in a damaged state in New Zealand. When she finally sailed away again after major repairs, she'd become Team Ireland Souffle du Nord, and Enda O'Coineen was in command

Doubtless, there are other versions of this story, but we do have a photo which proves that Enda O'Coineen popped over to Lille in the heart of Ruyant-land in order to buy Souffle du Nord. He knew he could get her repaired in New Zealand, where she re-emerged as Team Ireland Souffle du Nord to provide Enda with a mount to successfully complete his round the world odyssey, while the other two boats were shipped back to Europe to join that ghost fleet of IMOCA 60s which is always available to be re-commissioned as economically as possible for the next edition of the Vendee Globe.

Team Ireland Souffle du Nord (foreground) was raced by France's Thomas Ruyant and Ireland's Joan MulloyIn a two-handed IMOCA 60 series in Monaco, Team Ireland Souffle du Nord (foreground) was raced by France's Thomas Ruyant and Ireland's Joan Mulloy, and won

Meanwhile, Team Ireland Souffle du Nord had some final moments of glory under that name when she was raced by Thomas Ruyant and Joan Mulloy in the high-profile IMOCA 60 two-handed regatta at Monaco, and won. This was a stylish exit, as The Northerner was already working towards his next Vendee Globe campaign, searching out backers among the rising companies in the far north of France. But although Marcus Hutchinson was now focused on other things including the Figaro Solo and the family business – the Vivi Trading Company – in Kinsale, where he also does consultancy work with Rob Doyle Yacht Design, by 2018 he was already back in the Imoca 60 maelstrom with an input for the Thomas Ruyant campaign, and that soon became the full role as Team Manager and an increasingly hectic schedule with the boat being built in Northern Italy in a city called Bergamo.

It's a picturesque place with some remarkable high-tech industries in the classic North Italian style, but by the time it leapt into world headlines in January 2020 as the world's Number One COVID-19 hotspot, the new Ruyant IMOCA 60 was well away from basic construction with Persico Marine in Bergamo, and had moved to Lorient for finishing before testing in the Atlantic.

Maiden sail, with initial prime slot given to key sponsors AdvensMaiden sail, with initial prime slot given to key sponsors Advens. Photo Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

Thomas Ruyant and the new boat in LorientThomas Ruyant and the new boat in Lorient, with the re-styled livery giving prominence to LinkedOut, although the campaign continues to be under-written by Advens. Photo: Pierrre Bouras/TR Racing

Initially, the main sponsors were simply Advens, the Boulogne-based cybersecurity outfit. But their top honcho Alexander Fayeulle became an enthusiastic supporter of Jean-Marc Potdevin's new not-for-profit social organisation LinkedOut, which has been doing some very worthwhile work in France for those at the bottom of the employment ladder who would not be able to access the high-powered networking strength of LinkedIn.

The upshot of it all was a re-direction as the 2020 season – such as it was – got underway, with the Ruyant boat appearing in attractive new livery in which LinkedOut are freely given the kind of promotional space they formerly wouldn't have dared dream of.

And on top of that, the new Volvo Super 60 type boat – designed by Guillaume Verdier who had previously designed the Class 40 with which Ruyant had won the Route de Rhum – was showing great promise. For although ambitious plans for a two way Transatlantic Race for the Vendee Globe-preparing IMOCA 60 fleet had to be abandoned in the face of the pandemic, a shorter race to the Arctic was sailed in July, with LinkedOut leading for much of the way, and placing a close third at the finish.

However, the team hadn't been happy from an early stage with the performance of the foils, but though a re-designed set had been ordered from Persico for delivery in May, the pandemic shutdown meant they weren't available for installation until September, so trialling has been minimal, but the initial performance indicators are good.

Nevertheless, as with many other teams, the pandemic-induced delays will mean that the race itself is going to be part of the testing process, a situation made even more acute by the lockdown on the Race Village and those within its bubble. Access to outside experts is thereby curtailed, and consequently there was some urgency in getting LinkedOut to sea on Thursday for some test sailing while outside specialists could still be on board.

The Vendee Arctique Race in July saw LinkedOut leading at the turn west of Iceland, and she was close third at the finishThe new foils do the business……LinkedOut riding high and fast in the Bay of Biscay on Thursday. Photo: Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

All went well, but as Marcus Hutchison observed to Sailing on Saturday on Thursday evening:

"As ever, the abiding impression is how astonishing it is that just one person – admittedly a very special person – can race these fantastic machines single-handed right round the world. There were five of us out today, the wind was 20 to 30 knots, there was a good three to four metre sea running, so even with five, moving sails around and the many other tasks were often sheer brutal hard labour.

And yet one person has to be prepared to do it all alone when they sail away on Sunday week. Most of the drone vids we'll see will show the boats with everything properly set up, tearing across the ocean seemingly without effort, and the lone skipper – if he or she is even visible – apparently relaxed as if it's all happening by magic. I can assure you it doesn't happen by magic – it's sheer hard grind both mentally and physically, right from the very moment when the notion of a new campaign begins to take shape". 

Afloat.ie will be featuring more stories on the upcoming Vendee Globe 2020 in the countdown to the start and during the course of the race. 

This cloud building over LinkedOut off Les Sables d'Olonne on Thursday afternoon would put even the toughest mariner in a thoughtful frame of mindWith the start of the Vendee Globe 2020 just eight days away, the weather predictions are starting to become more precise even though the North Atlantic is in an extremely volatile mood. This cloud building over LinkedOut off Les Sables d'Olonne on Thursday afternoon would put even the toughest mariner in a thoughtful frame of mind. Photo: Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton dob
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

quantum sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating