On Sunday, aboard their 18 metre monohulls, - nine boats, (five crew per boat) - will take the start of the Calais Round Britain Race ; a trip of 1850 miles around the British Isles, reserved for the IMOCA class.
At 1430 hours (French time), the start of the first Calais Round Britain Race will be taken in front of the two headlands (Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez), the same site where a crowd of spectators gathered to greet the mulithulls in the Course des Phares last year. Between the start and finish in Calais, the competitors will experience a fabulous sail of 1850 miles around the rugged coastlines of England, Ireland, Scotland, the Hebrides and the Shetlands far away to the north. This race, which combines the pleasures of coastal regatta sailing with those of ocean racing, will be performed in clockwise fashion without stopovers.
In the running are nine 60 foot monohulls, lead by French, British, Belgian, Swiss, New Zealand and Australian sailors : an opulent line-up which promises eight to nine days of knife-edge regatta sailing.
The experts : Golding, Stamm, Jourdain, Seeten and De Radiguès
Among those taking part will be veterans of the class, led by Mike GOLDING, second in the last Route du Rhum. His crew includes Brian THOMPSON who knows the course well having raced it four times aboard a multihull in record conditions.
The 'Swiss-Breton' Bernard STAMM, winner of the Around Alone, will also form part of this group aboard Bobst Group Armor Lux, led by a team of sailors, some of whom where present during his transatlatlantic record.
Roland JOURDAIN, third in the last Vendée Globe, President and great driving force of IMOCA, couldn't miss this first meeting of the season provided with a coefficient 2 for the class. At the heart of the Sill crew is the notable presence of Jean le Cam who is climbing aboard to " freshen his memory "
of the Open 60 footers before taking command of his own boat for the Vendée Globe 2004.
Third in the last Route du Rhum and currently poised to take victory in the "Skippers d'Islande" race, Joé SEETEN, will be on board Arcelor Dunkerque. There he will be in the company of a crew of "northerners" including Eric Dumont, who will sail with him in the Transat Jacques Vabre.
The latest entrant is the former Belgian motorcyclist, Patrick de Radiguès, will be in command of Garnier (the former Aquitaine Innovation) on which he sailed the first leg of the Around Alone and finished seventh in the Route du Rhum. To back him up, he has recruited a mainly Belgian crew.
The newcomers : Riou, Josse, Malbon and Denton
Three skippers enrolled in the Calais Round Britain Race form what might be termed the "relief guard" in the Open 60 foot class as they are just starting their first real season this year. All of them are equipped with excellent, proven boats.
Vincent RIOU, will be at the helm of PRB (winner of the Vendée Globe under Michel DESJOYEAUX) and is calling upon the services of a crew of sailor-technicians who know as much about sailing as they do about the art of lamination and rigging.
Sébastien JOSSE on VMI (ex Sodebo) will be making a comeback after his Route du Rhum was brought to a premature end after dismasting. The former Figaro sailor has recruited a crew of pros with the notable inclusion of Isabelle Autissier who is making her "return" to crewed ocean racing and will sail with Josse in the Transat Jacques Vabre . Also on board will be Jean Baptiste Epron and Ronan Le Goff aboard with whom he sailed aboard Orange, all three, holders of the Trophée Jules Verne.
Finally, the British crew of Team 888 is led by two British co-skippers Jonny MALBON and Mark DENTON. They will be on the former Kingfisher (whose sail number was 888) and a young New Zealand sailor, Fraser BROWN, who has already made numerous successful attempts at the record around the British Isles.
The convert : Hedrich
A new name in the sailing world is that of Charles Hedrich. This sports adventurer who is more accustomed to vertical rather than horizontal extremes, has three objectives in mind - hence the boat's name, Objectif 3. He has already taken part on a motorcycle in the Paris-Dakar rally and plans to take part in the 2004 Vendée Globe before making an ascent of Everest. To help him prepare for the Vendee he has taken on a mentor in Frédéric Dahirel, who will act as both teacher and technical manager on the boat. Tactician Pierre Pennec, who competed in the Sydney Olympic Games in a Tornado and was tactician on the trimaran Sodebo, will help them evade the pitfalls of the course.
>> Patrick De Radiguès (BEL) - Garnier
To be confirmed :
Michel Kleinjas (BEL)
Luc Heimans (BEL)
Stéphane Hervé (FRA)
Jonas Verckens (BEL)
>> Mike Golding (GBR) - Ecover
Miranda Merron (GBR)
Graham Tourell (GBR)
Bruno Dubois (BEL)
Brian Thompson (GBR)
>> Charles Hedrich (FRA) - Objectif 3
Frédéric Dahirel (FRA)
Matthieu Hars (FRA)
Armand Coursaudon (FRA)
Pierre Pennec (FRA)
>> Sébastien Josse (FRA) - VMI
Isabelle Autissier (FRA)
Jean Baptiste Epron (FRA)
Ronan Le Goff (FRA)
Pierre Emmanuel Herissé (FRA)
>> Roland Jourdain (FRA) - Sill
Jean Le Cam (FRA)
Gaël Le Cléach (FRA
François Scheek (FRA)
Bruno Béhuret (FRA)
>> Jonny Malbon et Mark Denton (GBR) - Team 888
Will Oxley (AUS)
Fraser Brown (NZL)
Richard Hulme (GBR)
>> Vincent Riou (FRA) - PRB
Jérémie Beyou (FRA)
François Laurent (FRA)
Jean Marc Failler (FRA)
Nicolas de Castro (SUI)
>> Joé Seeten (FRA) - Arcelor Dunkerque
Eric Dumont (FRA)
Frédéric Seeten (FRA)
Luc Meurisse (FRA)
Gilles Colubi (FRA)
>> Bernard Stamm (SUI) - Bobst Group Armor Lux
Christophe Lebas (FRA)
Benoît Lequin (FRA)
Bruno Jourdren (FRA)
Hervé Ricou (FRA)