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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

Published in Vendee Globe

Following France's national lockdown measures announced by the President of the French Republic last night as part of the fight against Covid-19, the Vendée Globe Race Village will be closed to the public from Friday, October 30th.

The start of the Vendée Globe will take place as planned on Sunday, November 8th at 1:02 p.m. local time, but behind closed doors without spectators.

It will be broadcast live on vendeeglobe.org and on many television channels.

The Vendée Globe 2020-2021 remains a symbol of our strong will to carry on, despite the difficulties our country is facing, and whilst of course, respecting the health measures as set by the State, said Mr Yves Auvinet, President of the SAEM Vendée and the Vendée region.

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The impressive scale of the record-sized fleet of IMOCA 60 yachts which will take the start line of the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe solo race round the world on Sunday, November 8th was obvious today in Les Sables d’Olonne, France when Yves Auvinet, President de la SAEM Vendée and the Département de la Vendée officially opened the 'Start Village'.

Unfortunately, there are no Irish competitors this edition despite various efforts over the last four years but as WM Nixon reports today, Marcus Hutchinson, who was much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne. 

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People have been unobtrusively getting on with sailing in many places during the pandemic, determinedly maintaining social distance afloat and ashore, reducing their interaction with outsiders to such a minimum it's almost non-existent, and doing it all thoughtfully, with properly-located face coverings.

Where racing has been held, it has been kept low key, and the traditional après sailing became so restrained that many folk, having got in their evening race or mini-cruise or whatever, simply decided to go straight home rather than use the carefully-planned compliant catering which the clubs have worked determinedly and with vision to provide.

Amongst club officials meanwhile, the central thinking is that each club should keep to itself, each boat should keep to itself, and each sailing family should stay within family limits. It's the complete opposite, in other words, of the Hockey Union, which seems to have been penalising clubs because some team members have refused for health reasons to travel to matches at other clubs.

Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening raceThe sense of well-being and feelings of good health induced by evening racing like this is beyond measure. Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening race of Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

Who got Covid-19 through sailing?

Fortunately, the nature of our sailing is such that a comparable situation doesn't arise. The result is that the sailing community has managed to maintain such a high level of good health that incidences of COVID-19 within it seem very rare indeed, often to the point of non-existence. But instead of making such sweeping assessments based on personal observation and hearsay, Afloat.ie would like to put the record on a more substantial footing, so if you know of anyone in sailing who currently has, or has experienced, COVID-19, then please let us know.

Of course, we don't want names – that would be a gross intrusion on privacy, and probably illegal. But if we could get some sort of ballpark figure (if it exists), it would give substance to the arguments of many club officers, who feel that the National Authority has gone too far in declaring that even the humblest club racing is now verboten, and who feel instead that our beloved and exceptionally healthy sport – of which club sailors are the backbone – deserves much the same treatment as that meted out to golf.

The problem, of course, is that while sailing is a peaceful and often solitary pursuit without paying spectators, it is a high visibility activity. Even the smallest boats popping out for a quick race in the bay will be seen – albeit with scant genuine attention – by very many people. And if one sector of the population is finding its activities restricted in the severest possible way, it's only human to strike out and make sure that everyone else has to endure the same restrictions, and preferably worse.

Dun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough ReeDun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough Ree. Casual observers will not be aware of the details of sailing, but they'll certainly know it's going on. Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey

Despite all this, we've had a truncated but interesting sailing season in Ireland in 2020, and at the time of writing this it's still developing, with Pam Lee and Cat Hunt in the process of setting a new women's two-handed round Ireland record (Record established in a time of 3 days 3d 20h 29m 28s subject to ratification - Web editor). Looking ahead, if allowed there are also prospects of late Autumn and early Winter leagues among people who have come to a fresh realisation of just how much sailing means to them.

It's all controllable within a very defined club bubble, but special challenges arise when a major international event comes up on the agenda, and those involved think they can just about run it provided the countdown and the participants have all been careful beyond diligent in preparing themselves and their crews.

Middle Sea Race's impressive turnout

Today's Royal Malta Rolex Middle Sea Race really has bent over backwards to be pandemic-fit. But even in Malta, there are Middle Sea-proven boats and crews who wouldn't dream of taking part. Despite that, the entry of 71 boats with crews from 21 countries is an impressive turnout, and there seems to be a basic underlying feeling that the race must take place as scheduled at 11 o'clock local time today (Saturday), not least for the morale of Malta and the good of world sailing.

This may all sound a bit high-flown for a specialised sporting event, but the Middle Sea Race can happen with no detrimental effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it will further improve the health of those taking part, and it will do us all no end of good simply to know it's taking place.

The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2 on her way to winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2019. Photo Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

So we find every bit of Irish interest that's going. Even the defending champion. the Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2, has a tenuous connection to us. The late Arthur Podesta, the father of the remarkable Podesta siblings Maya, Christoph and Aaron, took a best result of third overall in the Middle Sea Race with the first Elusive, which was an earlier First 45 – a sister-ship of Cormac Twomey's Sarah J which won the Dingle Race in 1997 and 1999 – which had originally been taken out to the Mediterranean by John Sisk of Dun Laoghaire.

Thus we need to claim a bit of Elusive 2, as our key offshore sailors in Malta - Barry Hurley and Brian Flahive who have many outstanding offshore achievements between them - are sitting this one out, though they have been getting in a spot of sailing by both being at the sharp end of SB20 racing in Malta.

Another serious contender that rings a bell is the hugely individualistic Lombard 45 Pata Negra, the vehicle of dreams for many Irish offshore successes. She's chartered this time round by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association.

Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday, and placed third overall Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday and placed third overall

And though Honorary Irish Sailor Jean-Pierre Dick (he was up at The Park, don't y'know) put down a marker for line honours with his JP54 The Kid in Wednesday's 30-mile Malta Coastal Race, the formidable talents of Nin O'Leary of Crosshaven have been shipped aboard the Dutch-owned Maxi 72 Aragon, a Reichel-Pugh design. And there's nothing Nin enjoys more than making a luxury performance cruiser sail much faster than anyone thought possible.

So there's an Irish lineup of sorts, and doubtless once the fleet finally crosses the start line, we'll find that there are others of us among the crews, for there's also representation in the multi-hulls with northerner Mikey Ferguson crewing on the MOD 70 Mana

Nin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender AragonNin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender Aragon - her CV already includes winning the RORC Transatlantic race.

Vendee Globe in November

The pace is then ratcheted with the Vendee Globe getting underway in November. Theoretically, it’s the perfect lockdown event, as it's all about isolation. But there is the problem that if anything happens to one of the contenders, they might have to put into some remote little island which would be just rife for infection from all sorts of novel viruses and bacteria. But that’s an unlikely enough scenario, and either way we can be sure that Marcus Hutchinson, much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne, even if they are going to try and run the legendary village oo socially distanced lines.

 The hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Sydney Hobart holds out

Beyond that, the focus will swing to the southern hemisphere, where the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are determinedly holding out on being able to stage the annual Sydney-Hobart race on December 26th. If it does happen, defending overall ace is our own Gordon Maguire, and the likelihood of top navigator-tactician Adrienne Cahalane – originally of Offaly – being in some key role in the fleet can be taken as read.

America's Cup selection stages

Meanwhile, December will see the first selection stages of next year's America's Cup being raced in New Zealand. New Zealand has of course been the poster-girl for national avoidance of COVID-19, so the anti-viral tests which boats and crews being shipped out to Auckland have had to pass are of the most demanding and rigorous type.

New Zealand has been under almost total outsider-exclusion for quite some time now. Thus the chink of light which may be allowed in by the America's Cup is surely welcome, as the prolonged period of virtually total isolation seems to have resulted in the distinctive Kiwi accent becoming even more different from English as she is spoken elsewhere than it was already. Unless some outsiders get in there quite soon, it's only a matter of time before there won't be anybody who can understand a word they say……..

Auckland, the City of a Thousand SailsAuckland, the City of a Thousand Sails, where the total pandemic isolation of New Zealand is resulting in the development of a strange new dialect of English

Published in Vendee Globe

It was a tough night off Ireland in the Vendee-Arctique- Les Sables d'Olonne as an international fleet of racers navigated the West Cork coast.

During their second night at sea, on their way from Les Sables d'Olonne to Iceland, the fleet has been closing on the southwest corner of Ireland with the leaders coming within a couple of miles of the coast near Kinsale in a bid to get out of the worst of the weather.

It has been a long hard beat into the northwesterly wind which has been hitting 35 knots in the gusts. Throughout, the leader has remained the Frenchman Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut (managed by Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson), the boat named after a charity supporting the homeless.

Thomas Ruyant Linked OutFrench sailor Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut Photo via IMOCA Global Series

 

He has set a tough pace for the leading group which has settled into a collection of four boats with Charlie Dalin on Apivia this morning in second place just one-and-a-half nautical miles behind, then Jeremie Beyou on Charal (+2.5) and Kevin Escoffier on PRB (+3.9) in fourth place.

At a position about 45 miles south of the Fastnet Rock on starboard tack, Ruyant was pushing his foiler ahead at 14 knots with about 800 miles to go to reach the IOC UNESCO waypoint off the southwest tip of Iceland.

"Ruyant was pushing his foiler ahead at 14 knots with about 800 miles to go to reach Iceland"

The last 24 hours have seen a second boat return to port with Damien Seguin following the earlier example of Sebastien Simon (ARKÉA PAPREC) deciding to head for Port-La Forêt on board Groupe APICIL.

Seguin discovered that his alternator mounting had completely sheered off in the upwind conditions that were battering his boat and realised he would not have enough power to run his onboard systems without being able to use the engine.

"I quickly looked at what I could do and realised that unfortunately, I couldn't fix it at all," said Seguin who has never retired from a professional race before. "It seemed very difficult to continue like this upwind without being able to re-charge the batteries on board, so I made the decision with the team to return to Port-La-Forêt," he added.

Seguin was just south of Brest this morning on his way home but had not retired from the race.

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Alex Thomson has returned to the water onboard HUGO BOSS, the boat which he hopes will lead him to victory in the 2020 Vendee Globe.

Thomson who has strong links to Cork Harbour and is a former Afloat Sailor of the Month now has less than five months to go until the start of the round-the-world endeavour, dubbed the Everest of the Seas.

Thomson and his team - much like their competitors in the IMOCA class - were unable to train on the water for some 9 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, however, the team have been able to return to the water to commission the yacht, before re-commencing their training.

The news comes as organisers of the Vendee Globe this week confirmed that the race - which takes place just every four years and is considered the pinnacle event in the offshore sailing calendar - will indeed go ahead as planned on 8th November from Les Sables-d’Olonne in western France.

With less than five months to go until the start of the round-the-world endeavour, Thomson has made clear the team’s sole focus over this period will be maximising their time on the water and optimising the performance of the HUGO BOSS boat.

Over the coming weeks and months, Thomson and his crew will train offshore in a bid to further develop and enhance the performance of the HUGO BOSS boat, which launched in the summer of last year after more than two years in design and build. Thomson will also complete his solo 2,000 nautical mile passage, a final qualification requirement for the Vendee Globe.

“We feel in really good shape” he continued. “Of course, like all the teams, we’ve lost time on the water but that was out of our hands. The team has adapted well and we’ve really made the most of this period. Now it’s about putting the knowledge we’ve gained - and projects we’ve worked hard to develop - to the test. We’re now a few days into our training and I’m very pleased with the decisions that we’ve made so far. HUGO BOSS is performing very well indeed!”

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The Visually Impaired Sailing Association (VISA-GB) today announced that Pip Hare the respected sailor and Vendee Globe competitor has become the Patron of the Association.

VISA-GB is unique amongst disabled sailing charities because the majority of its board of trustees are visually impaired sailors who give a significant amount of their time to create opportunities for others with a visual impairment, to experience the freedom of offshore sailing. The majority of the crew on VISA-GB boats are normally visually impaired and play a full role in sailing and running the yacht.

Eddie Kitchen, chairman of VISA-GB said of Pip’s appointment: "All of us at VISA are thrilled that Ocean racer, and lifelong sailor, Pip Hare has agreed to be our Patron. Our charity will benefit from her enthusiasm, knowledge and determined attitude that will see her on the start line if this year's Vendee Globe race. Pip embodies much of what we stand for, there are many that think we chase impossible dreams, but our blind and visually impaired members are determined not to allow a lack of sight to stop them enjoying and benefiting from sailing. As our figurehead we know Pip will encourage us to achieve our ambitions.”

He added “I also know that Pip will help us to deliver our message to all in the visually impaired and blind community and that VISA-GB will continue to empower our sailors, encourage all to learn new skills and enjoy their participation in our great sport."

When asked about her new role Pip said "I was delighted to be approached by the Visually Impaired Sailing Association with a view to become their Patron. Having met some of the
VISA-GB sailors in 2019 I was extremely impressed by their approach and felt it matched my own. By empowering the visually impaired sailors to manage the complete boat trip it created a wonderfully positive approach to sailing. My own goals have been achieved by the same single-minded determination I saw in these sailors, and I found it inspirational. By
making sailing more accessible and fully inclusive I firmly believe we can make our sport open to all. I am pleased to accept the post of Patron and ambassador for VISA-GB and look forward to supporting and helping them achieve their goals."

With a full programme of events planned for 2021, VISA-GB hopes to have over 100 visually impaired sailors on the water, both cruising and racing. They are currently planning for a circumnavigation of the UK to offer a taste of life on the water to the visually impaired in all corners of the country. Trustees and members will be following and supporting Pip on her adventure in the Vendee Globe.

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Preparations for the start of the next Vendee Globe are going ahead in an uncertain context in terms of public health and the economy. The Vendee Council and the SAEM Vendee are doing their utmost in conjunction with all the partners, skippers from the IMOCA Class, their sponsors and public authorities to ensure arrangements for this ninth edition of the Vendee Globe go smoothly.

Maintaining the start date of 8th November for the race is the goal and everything is being done to achieve that.

In terms of racing, nothing prevents the race from starting on 8th November, as long as the national authorities allow that to be the case. However, for the Vendee Globe, which is a popular event and belongs to the local people, the presence of the public is important for us.

The organisers are therefore studying every possible situation to be able to welcome the public at an event like this in the economic and public health context, the evolution of which is hard to predict. The decision to keep Race HQ in Les Sables d'Olonne throughout the whole race will in fact help to ensure a maximum number of people can fully enjoy the Vendee Globe adventure.

At the same time, the Vendee Globe organisers are working in conjunction with the IMOCA Class towards the goal of adapting some of the deadlines for the skippers, in particular, the final date for registrations which has been pushed back until 1st September and the organisation of a preparatory solo race this summer.

A race from Vendee-Arctic-Les Sables d'Olonne to take place in July

At the same time, the Vendee Globe organisers are working in conjunction with the IMOCA Class towards the goal of adapting some of the deadlines for the skippers, in particular, the final date for registrations which has been pushed back until 1st September and the organisation of a preparatory solo race this summer.

With sailing gradually starting again, the IMOCA Class has been working over the past few weeks on organising a preparatory race, which was initially scheduled for June. In agreement with the Vendee Department, the headline partner for the event, the IMOCA Class proposed a race starting from off Les Sables d'Olonne on 4th July. This will be a solo race taking the sailors up past Iceland and into the Arctic Circle and then down to the Azores with a return to the start location planned around ten days later.

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Vendee Globe solo round the world race boss said this week a 'final decision' will be made about the November start of France's 'Everest of sailing' next month due to COVID-19 concerns.

Yves Auvinet, chairman of the SAEM Vendée told France 3 Television on Tuesday (May 5) that a decision will be made in collaboration with the IMOCA class and  SAEM Vendée around June 15.

A qualifying race is scheduled to start in the French Port of Les Sables-d'Olonne on July 4.

Although the Round the World race is entirely solo and unassisted, thousands of spectators are involved in November send off from Les Sables-d'Olonne and as Afloat reported previously, Auvinet said in April “The technical and sporting preparations for participants have been severely impacted by this unprecedented crisis". 

The latest interview (in French) is below

Two solo transatlantic races initially planned for the Globe Series championship this spring should have allowed some skippers to qualify and others to test their monohull after winter modification work but were cancelled.

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The health crisis that has shaken society for the last month is forcing those who are involved in the worlds of sports and business to adapt amidst this period of uncertainty. The French President’s address on 13th April did, however, lay the foundations for an exit strategy from this global pandemic and suggests a possible recovery period from the middle of July. As things stand today, the Vendée Globe is to remain on course with the race due to start from Les Sables-d'Olonne on 8th November.

Yves Auvinet, president of SAEM Vendée said: “The technical and sporting preparations for participants of the solo non-stop yacht race around the world without assistance have been severely impacted by this unprecedented crisis. We are very aware of this. For several weeks now, SAEM Vendée has been in very regular contact with skippers and all the key players of the Vendée Globe, to discuss these issues and propose solutions. Our aim is for the ninth edition of the race to start on the 8th November in the best possible conditions, while remaining very attentive to developments of the situation.

The two solo transatlantic races initially planned for the Globe Series championship this spring should have allowed some skippers to qualify and others to test their monohull after winter modification work.

The IMOCA class and the department of Vendée, a major partner in the race, are working to finalise an alternative to the New York - Vendée Les Sables-d'Olonne, a dress rehearsal before the Vendée Globe and therefore an essential race allowing for the skippers to prepare. Its format will be revealed soon.

Meanwhile, the Vendée Globe organisers are keeping a close eye on the health crisis linked to Covid-19 and any repercussions it may have.

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Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020