The jury is still out among the sailing fraternity, where the new route Volvo is concerned, but many already see the result as a foregone conclusion: ERICSSON WILL WIN IT! Having finished last of the teams that completed the previous edition, Ericsson Racing now seems committed to winning the next. Whilst other potential entrants are still at the "will we - won't we" stage, the Swedes have done computer simulations, tank tests and even run more than 6,000 virtual races around the world with several models. ABN AMRO ONE & TWO designer Juan Kouyoumdjian and his team have joined Ericsson Racing and the new boat's build will be overseen by Killian Bushe, who performed the same role for the successful Dutch team. Kouyoumdjian and his team have been developing what they believe is the best evolution of the VO 70 rule so far. "We have put a lot of effort into CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis", comments Kouyoumdjian. We have based our work on the new route and, today, we know precisely which boat we are going to build and why." Fifteen people have been fully involved in the design of the Ericsson yacht since last November. Their best designs have been built as models and tested in France, at the "Bassin d'essais de carènes de Paris". This tank testing unit belongs to the Ministry of Defence, and has been allocated exceptionally to the Ericsson Racing Team for the duration of the tests. "It is the best tank testing unit in the world." comments Kouyoumdjian. "The boat we have designed represents a clear generation jump from what we have known so far. Its performance will increase noticeably. This boat definitely announces the second generation of VO 70's." For training and crew selection the Ericsson Racing team has purchased ABN AMRO ONE and will take delivery in mid July. John Kostecki, the Ericsson Racing team skipper, who recently competed in (and won) the Heineken Regatta, in St Maarten, on board ABN AMRO ONE said "She is quite different to sail compared to my experiences so far on board Volvo Open 70s. This boat is the current benchmark and will allow us to quantify the improvements we make with our new boat."

FEBRUARY

Reg Gratton joined the Volvo Ocean Race as Communications Director, with the remit to enhance the media coverage of the event and deliver on sponsors’ expectations. “I’m really excited to take on this new and exciting challenge, after two years of helping to raise the profile of the Asian Games which was held in Doha last December.” Gratton commented, when he arrived in race headquarters, near Portsmouth, from the Qatar desert in the Gulf, during the worst snow storms in 10 years.

Volvo Ocean chief Glenn Bourke answered some questions about the race. Asked about progress on port stopovers, he said “In the new territories, our first task has been to focus on education in order for the authorities to appreciate just what the Volvo Ocean Race brings from a commercial and sporting perspective, the infrastructure we require and the interest that can be aroused from our arrival in those stopovers. Beyond that point of introduction and education, we have found a tremendous appetite for the race. We are making headway but, as you might expect, the progress we have been making in places like the Middle East, Singapore, India and China has been a bit slower than I had hoped but the desire is building.” On entries, he said “One thing’s for sure, I certainly don’t feel the same anxiety over entries as I felt in the build-up to the previous race where we carried a great deal of hope and enthusiasm and not too much concrete endorsement in the early stages.”

Bruno Peyron & Thomas Coville were named 2006 Record World Champions. With eight records being improved on, the 2006 season was a great year. Bruno Peyron was a clear winner thanks to his Atlantic record, between New York and the Lizard ( 4 d, 8 h, 23 mins and 54 secs) and the improvement achieved, on this same crossing of his own 24-hour record (766.8 miles). Thomas Coville got the title in the single handed category, after taking the Round the British Isles and Channel crossing records, beating Yvan Bourgnon and Yves Parlier, who both improved on the 24 hour record during the year. Coville said: "I am pleased to see this record circuit becoming more organised and, of course, overjoyed to win the title this year, but I am keen to remain modest, as the adventure continues, and this counts more than resting on your laurels.

Marc Guillemot announced that his new Safran Open 60 monohull would cross the starting line of the Jacques Vabre Transat (Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia) with Charles Caudrelier as co-skipper. Caudrelier was the winner of the 2004 Le Figaro-Afflelou solo race.

The Calais Round Britain Race is shaping up to be interesting, with a great mix of new prototypes and top names from the Imoca circuit. The lap around the British Isles promises to be a pointer for the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Barcelona Race at the end of this year and the 2008 Vendée Globe. Confirmed entries are Vincent Riou (PRB-2), Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux), Jean-Philippe Chomette & Arnaud Boissière (Solune-2) Dee Cafari (Aviva) and Jonny Malbon (Artemis). Other likely entries include Bernard Stamm in Cheminées Poujoulat-2, currently under refit in Caen and its former sailor Jean-Pierre Dick, who has already done trials in New Zealand on the new Virbac-Paprec 2. Michel Desjoyeaux''s new Foncia sponsored yacht is, currently, under construction at CDK Technologies and only likely to have its first sail trials just before the start.

MARCH

Denis Gasquet, Vice President of Veolia Environnement, announced that the company would be backing the SolOceans; the first single handed round the world race to be sailed on One Design monohulls. Later in the month, it was announced that the hulls, decks, main bulkheads would be made, in series, by JMV Industries of Cherbourg. In a bid to break French domination of the Vendée Globe,

Dee Caffari and Mike Golding announced that they had formed a technical alliance, which is to include sharing data during the building of their Open 60s, thus producing two near identical yachts. Two boat test sailing will optimise the set up of each boat and help both skippers in extracting the best performance.

The two sailors say they also hope for a psychological advantage over rivals who will not have such a structured development program.

 

The debut record attempt of the former Orange, ex-Innovation Explorer, in Gitana 13 guise, started off well. After 24 hours, the revised maxi-catamaran was 40 miles up on the Discovery Route record, set by Steve Fossett. Light and capricious airs, around the Canaries, turned that lead into a deficit then, just as winds were turning in Gitana’s favour again, the boat hit an unidentified object and rudder damage ended the attempt. A week later, Groupama 3 went on standby.

What a start to the Transat BPE! Not a good one for Servane Escoffier, who got T-boned by Yannig Livory and had to withdraw, with a dislocated shoulder. The rest of the fleet enjoyed idyllic spinnaker sailing, in what got dubbed “The Brittany Trades”. There were two options - north or south round the Azores high - and for some time, it looked like the “Nordistes” had got it right. Now, it’s still anyone’s race. The northern pack has split to go round the Azores, the “Sudistes” leaders have passed Madeira and 8 of the top 10 are in this group. It’s still incredibly close racing; less than half a mile between first and second; 5 miles covering the first four. What a shame the organisers didn’t think it worth putting out any information in English. Follow it on BYM SPORTS NEWS.

Tony Bullimore was a happy man towards the end of this month. His chances of getting away soon, on his attempt to break the solo round-the-world record, looked better, as a series of lows start to roll past Tasmania. Then, on March 28, he announced new sponsors - Blue Ocean Wireless & Inmarsat. Before that, Steve Hall had been talk to him for BYM News. READ MORE.