Vendee Globe update

In about a month, Vendee Globe 2012 skipper Dominique Wavre will be done with the drydock work on his boat.

The 56-year-old Swiss skipper, who is based in La Rochelle, is now taking care of the last details before lifting Mirabaud in the water. 'We have about one more month of work ahead of us and then we’ll finally get to hoist the sails and sail on the boat in real Vendée Globe conditions. That should happen around April 18', explains Wavre, who has already raced in three Vendée Globes. And then the time will come for the first sailing sessions, with a small crew, to become familiar with the specificities of the boat operation.

'All our sailing sessions will have a clear purpose that we are currently in the process of determining. We usually go out for about twelve hours, which is a tidal cycle. It basically means we sail for five hours and then five more hours on our way back. And we test as many things as possible every time, depending on the day’s weather and schedule.

'In a single outing, we may get to test a new reaching (crosswind) sail, specific boat operations, the hydro-generator and the bilge pump… And the time after that will be about something else, and the list will get shorter and shorter session after session.'

In addition to these training sessions, there are also many technical meetings (rescue organization, presentation of the floating ice tracking devices…) scheduled before the Vendée Globe starts. Like most other skippers, Dominique Wavre is not likely to have a lot of time on his hands before November 10…

Louis Burton still has not entirely secured the financing he needs to be on the start line of the Vendée Globe. But the 26-year-old skipper remains confident.

François Gabart, who just turned 29, may very well lose his status of youngest yachtsman in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe soon. Louis Burton, who will be 27 in June, is actually doing all he can to raise enough money to be part of the round-the-world solo sailing adventure for the first time. Bureau Vallée - an office supplies, toner and stationary company - has been Burton’s sponsor since 2010, right before the Paris-based skipper competed in the Route du Rhum on a Class 40 boat and finished 20th. So far, the French skipper has raised 50% of the budget he needs. He has not set a specific deadline to get the rest of the money yet but Burton, who is also the director of a communication agency, is very optimistic about the future.

In the meantime, Louis Burton’s boat is still on dry dock and is undergoing transformation to be ready for the Vendée Globe start in November after Burton finished seventh in the last Transat Jacques-Vabre with his brother Nelson. The work on the monuhull should be over by the beginning of this summer.

Kito de Pavant chose the town of Port-Camargue, in the Gard area, to put his monohull Groupe Bel back at sea, which is the last symbolic step before the Vendée Globe starts in November.

De Pavant’s and his team share the common goal of clocking up nautical miles on board the boat so both the skipper and Groupe Bel are ready for their next big challenge.

There have been many launches of 60-foot IMOCA boats lately, mostly from teams who will face the challenge of the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe, as the winter dry dock work period is coming to an end. But Kito de Pavant chose to do things slightly differently from his fellow yachtsmen – and soon to be rivals – by having his boat come back to her natural element in the Gard department, and more precisely in the town of Port-Camargue, while a large majority of the latest launches took place in Brittany or in the Pays de la Loire region. That important step for the Herault-based skipper went well and the crane lifted Groupe Bell in the water right on schedule. The operation, which was organized in the marina, marks the end of an intense period of work and modification, the last before the Vendée Globe starts.

The boat was first thoroughly serviced with close attention to the structure as the monohull has already sailed around the world three times. New computer and electric systems have been installed, the ballasts volume has been extended and heavy specific work has made Groupe Bel more efficient at speeds where there was room for improvement. With such a well-prepared yacht, Kito de Pavant now has one priority and one only : experience what it feels like to sail on his boat, now that she is in offshore racing mode.

The skipper will not have to wait for too long as he is scheduled to start a ten-day period of various tests off the coast of Port-Camargue this coming Saturday before he engages in more offshore sailing in the Mediterranean sea in mid-April. It is therefore a broken-in boat in perfect working order that some Groupe Bell employees will get to see in the end of June. 150 of them – coming from more than thirty countries – will sail together and visit the monohull sponsored by their company with Kito de Pavant. But the ones who were not lucky enough to attend the regatta have had another opportunity to show they support the project by placing their thumb fingerprint on the Groupe Bel mast. More than 7,500 fingerprints have brought an original touch to the boat’s design as well as a proof for de Pavant that even when racing solo, he will never be alone on the ocean

Vendee Globe website