ESCOFFIER's father, Bob ESCOFFIER, is on one of the rival boats, Adecco-Etoile Horizon, and is the oldest skipper in the whole race at 56 years, bar his co-skipper and best friend Gérard FAYE, who is the same age. They have known each other for 50 years, but only sailed together regularly for two, and are racing mainly for the pleasure.
The main rivalry, which was already exhibited in the Renault Prologue, will be between good friends and competitive skippers, American Joe HARRIS and Brit Josh HALL on Gryphon Solo and American Kip STONE and Brit Merf OWEN on Artforms. Although STONE has thousands of nautical miles under his belt, he is relatively new to professional offshore racing, but characteristically threw himself into the fray and had his own Open 50 built in 2003. He won the Transat 2004 and the 2005 Bermuda 1-2 on board Artforms and determined as ever will be gunning for the hat-trick. STONE's co-skipper is none other than the boat's designer, OWEN, and so this pairing will be undoubtedly formidable, but it must not be forgotten that OWEN also brings to the table a wealth of experience drawn from working with the best Open class skippers on the circuit, and STONE has already sailed 25,000 miles on board Artforms already.
HARRIS has offshore sailing in his blood coming from a family of fishermen and shipbuilders, and is the new owner of the ex-Around Alone Class 2 winning boat Tommy Hilfiger. After coming second in the Transat 2004 behind STONE, HARRIS will be out to redress the balance, and to this end has partnered with the experienced British solo circumnavigator, HALL, himself competing for the third time.
The newest heroine from the Vendée Globe 2004/5, Karen LEIBOVICI (FRA), will be setting off with Jean-Francois DURAND on board Défi Vendéen, the boat which came second in the 2003 Transat Jacques Vabre. They are said to be highly motivated, and will want to better the boat's performance in 2003!
Last but not least, the third Anglo-American pair in this race is Brit Paul METCALF and New Orleans' Ryan FINN, who only came together last month but have quickly established a good bond. On a boat that was designed for the 1990 Route du Rhum, called Polarity Solo, this duo may not have designs on the podium, but are hungry to get out there and learn just by taking part in such a prestigious race alongside great competition.
It is not a class to overlook in the Transat Jacques Vabre, with plenty of characters, winning machines and a whole lot of talent to boot - keep watching all the way to Brazil!
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