The 2014-15 Barcelona World Race is off on its 23,000-mile doublehanded dash around the planet. As the only two-crew round-the-world event on the IMOCA calendar, the Spanish-run race has always set out to offer something a bit different, but the contrast between the BWR and the Grande Dame of IMOCA racing, the Vendee Globe, could not have been more marked yesterday.
The Vendee Globe start, from the French port of Les Sables d’Olonne in November, is normally marked by almost unbearably heightened emotions, often with lashing rain adding to the intensity. Meanwhile the combination of Spanish sunshine, super-light breezes, and impending New Year’s Eve festivities means that the BWR start feels more like the beginning of a great big party, compared to the sense of a looming gladiatorial battle which accompanies a Vendee send-off. That’s not to say there weren’t tears: as Alex Thomson and his son Oscar – who was born shortly after the start of the last race – hollered “Goodbye!” to each other there was plenty of surreptitious sniffing on the dock.
But theoretically, whilst sailing doublehanded reduces the tint of fear, it should intensify the competition. The boats could potentially be sailed at full pace for far longer than by a solo skipper. This theory has been slightly blown out of the water by the past two Vendee Globes, with Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart maintaining the sort of averages that any doublehanded duo would be proud of. In fact Gabart smashed the previous 24-hour IMOCA record, set in the 2011 BWR by Jean Pierre Dick/Loick Peyron of 506.3 miles, clocking up 534.48miles on ‘Macif’ (22.27 knots) singlehandedly in the last Vendee.
For this race all eyes are on Thomson/Ribes on Hugo Boss, and Stamm/Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat – fingers crossed the two boats sustain a proper duel around the world to keep those intensity levels high.