Following the announcement of the 50-foot class last week, today's confirmation of the 60-foot class entry takes the total number of boats competing in The Transat race to 40 boats.
"To have close to 30 fully professional sponsored campaigns entered, combined with the 50-foot class, is a sign of the good health of this part of the sport of sailing, and one could argue the sport of offshore sailing in general,"
said Mark TURNER, CEO of Offshore Challenges Events, organisers of the 2004 race. "It's going to be an extraordinary gathering in Plymouth in May - a total of 40 race boats representing 7 nations, in the one ocean race that has history, adventure and cutting edge technology. We don't doubt that the 2004 race will be adding another exciting chapter to the rich history of this race."
The 60-foot ORMA multihull class will be fielding 12 entries in an event described as, "an English ring with French diamonds"
by two-time winner Loick PEYRON (FRA). Eleven of the ORMA skippers are from France together with just one non-French skipper, Giovanni SOLIDINI from Italy, who will cross the starting line to race nearly 3,000 miles across the North Atlantic to the finish port at Boston, USA. They will be endeavouring to beat the multihull record set by Francis JOYON of 9 days, 23 hours and 21 minutes - Joyon recently returned from setting a stunning 72-day solo, non-stop round the world record.
The ORMA entries include 2002 Route du Rhum multihull winner Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) on GEANT, who competed in the 2000 event on board his monohull PRB before going on to win the Vendée Globe in 2001; 2003 ORMA Champion, Franck CAMMAS(FRA) on GROUPAMA; and female skipper Karine FAUCONNIER (FRA) on SERGIO TACCHINI, who finished third on the 2003 ORMA circuit and is following in the footsteps of her father, Yvon FAUCONNIER (FRA), winner of the 1984 event. Yvon crossed the line after Philippe POUPON (FRA), having rescued another skipper, Philippe JEANTOT (FRA), mid-Atlantic. He was awarded 16 hours for standing by Jeantot, and Poupon learnt of the race committee's decision in the middle of his victory press conference - the realisation of which reduced Poupon to tears. In addition, Yves PARLIER (FRA)will be entering his new twin-masted catamaran for its first real solo, offshore test.
"With a very competitive field of 12 ORMAs helmed by the very best multihull skippers, we can look forward to an exciting and hard-fought battle in this class,"
said Mark Turner. "Joyon set an immense record in 2000 by crossing the Atlantic in under 10 days, and with the right weather we could see a few of these boats going the same pace, if not faster. But the reality of this race is that it is a gruelling course that not only takes its toll on the skippers but the boats too. Storm force conditions can dog the fleet along with the risk of icebergs...in the last race six of the 60-foot class never made it across, three dismasted including Yves PARLIER and Thomas COVILLE (FRA). You have to finish to win."
Today's announcement sees a total of 16 IMOCA 60-foot monohull entries confirmed for the start. Many of the Class 1 monohull skippers who competed four years ago, have now transfered their attention to the multihull class, such as, Desjoyeaux, Yves PARLIER and Thomas COVILLE, but some of the skippers are back for a second time. Mike GOLDING (GBR) (ECOVER), Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) (SILL), Marc THIERCELIN (FRA) (PRO-FORM) and Dominique WAVRE (EX-TEMENOS) know only too well the challenges they will face in this sprint across the North Atlantic that can deliver gales, icebergs and dense fog. French skipper Jourdain finished second in the 2000 race, behind class winner Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR), with Britain's Mike GOLDING coming a close third, just 72 minutes later. The 16-strong field competing in the 2004 edition currently represents five nationalities - French, British, Australian, New Zealand and Swiss - and the winner's podium is wide open.
Few will underestimate Jourdain and Golding, who will be racing their new Open 60's. Equally, the performances of Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA), Alex THOMSON (GBR), Vincent RIOU (FRA), Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) and Nick MOLONEY (NZL) will be closely watched following their epic solo battle in last year's Defi Atlantique.
The full entry list is available on the event website at the address below.