In four days time, there will be six Open 60 footers and 30 sailors setting off from Calais bound for the mythical Fastnet lighthouse.
The lack of quantity will be more than recompensed by the high quality of the competitors participating in the first event in the IMOCA season, the "1000 milles de Calais".
For the Open 60 footer racers, the main event circled on this year's calendar is the Vendée Globe. And in anticipation of this great single-handed loop of the world, the "1000 milles de Calais" have a lighter, crewed race, a return trip between Calais and the Fastnet, a technical and tactical race to get the season off to a cracking start.
Golding, Dick, Jourdain, Riou, Seeten were all amongst the top ten in the IMOCA world championship 2003 and will all be taking the start of the 1000 milles de Calais on Sunday 9 May. Joining them will be a newcomer to their club who is far from being a raw recruit in the world of ocean racing : Jean LE CAM, who will have the naming ceremony for his brand new monohull, Bonduelle, the day before the start.
The six skippers and their four respective crew have an eloquent track record. The Brit Mike GOLDING, was always amongst the top three in 2003, and took line honours in the Défi Atlantique; Jean Pierre DICK is the recent winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre; Roland `Bilou' JOURDAIN made the podium in all the events in 2003 and won the Route du Nouveau Monde; and finally, Vincent RIOU won the Calais Round Britain Race last year, while Joé SEETEN took third in the last Route du Rhum. As for Jean LE CAM, he is a triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and has raced his last miles aboard his ocean-going trimaran Bonduelle whilst managing a fine third place in the Challenge Mondial Assistance.
All will not be raced on a level pegging in Calais with the varying generations of boats making for an all the more poignant success. Firstly there will be the state-of-the-art yachts which were worn in last season like Ecover (Mike GOLDING) and Virbac (Jean Pierre DICK).
Then there will be the 60 footers which date back to the Vendée Globe 2000, starting with the winner, PRB (Vincent RIOU) and the most ancient of the fleet, Arcelor Dunkerque (Joé SEETEN). Finally, the 1000 milles de Calais will be the first race for the two sisterships fresh out of their moulds, Bonduelle (Jean LE CAM) and Sill (Roland JOURDAIN).
A natural balance should come into play as the skippers tease out the superior performances of the most recent 60 footers and the assured reliability of the older models. Everything is geared up for a 1000 mile roller coaster of a regatta spanning four to six days.
To celebrate the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, the Royal Navy and the French Navy will be delegating `HMS Quorn' and `Pégase' to Calais, from where the start line for the 1000 milles de Calais start will run off the foot of the cliffs of the Cap Blanc Nez. Double Olympic gold medallist in the Tornado (Seoul and Barcelona) Nicolas HÉNARD, will be triggering the start gun at precisely 1500 GMT followed by the great cavalcade towards the Fastnet.
Joé Seeten/ skipperLuc Meurisse
Jean Le Cam/skipperRonan Le Goff
Mike Golding (GBR)/skipperMerfyn Owen (GBR)
Brian Thompson (GBR)
Graham Tourell (GBR)
Bruno Dubois (BEL/CAN)
Vincent Riou / skipperYann Eliès
Jean Marc Failler
Albert Barguès (ESP)
Roland Jourdain /skipperGaël Le Cléach
Jean Pierre Dick/skipperNicolas Abiven
Jean Yves Gau