The Race Around's Emmanuel Versace gives his take on Covid-19 and the world of shorthanded offshore racing...
With a departure date of 2023 The Race Around’s organising authority is well aware of the extremely difficult situation sailing and the wider sports industry is facing. Those particularly affected are those at the helm of their own campaigns, those looking to cross the start line of their next race, to tackle their next adventure or to carry the colours of a commercial partner around the world. Confined like many of the worlds 7 billion global citizens, sailors are somewhat more used to the types of storm and isolation we as a larger population currently face. Proof of this can be found within the number of sailors currently being interviewed by the world’s press on the topic « How to survive confinement? A sailor tells it all » .
A skipper’s reality is no different to others that call planet earth home. Finding financial resources and obtaining commercial partnerships are definitely the first source of worry for those that call the ocean their racetrack. The fear is not only of the next sponsorship ice age but the shortage of races in which competitors ply their trade. In times of uncertainty clarity is craved.
Many sailors are preparing themselves for the ‘after’ World. This is where French offshore legend Lalou Roucayrol stands. In the eye of the storm, Lalou is getting ready for the first edition of the Race Around due to start in late summer of 2023. Time has never really stopped in Medoc, France, where Lalou Multi, is located, since general confinement has been enforced, he and his team have carried on the construction of his second Multi50 due for completion in a couple of months.
Meanwhile his Class40 campaign is hotter than ever. « We are facing a very awkward situation, but better times are coming, and we should get prepared », he says. « Sponsors are shying away for now but they will come back. We believe Class40 provides the best platform to answer the challenges we face on sustainability and ecology. We are working on a private-public solution to finance our project when better times come. » Questioned on the priority of local government after the crisis on investing in primary resources, Lalou’s answers go beyond expectations: « from the early days of humanity, intellect defined our nature. From the within their caves, Homo sapiens showed interest in art. So sooner or later, people will need sport and culture for their sanity. And not only food. » Sport has been a wonderful tool for uniting global populations and now more than ever the general public are able to understand the many facets of isolation that are intrinsically linked with solo or double-handed sailing. This provides sailors with a wonderful opportunity to engage with members of public on a different level with perhaps a greater level of understanding.
To stay focused — and stay sane, other skippers are using their weather analysis skills online via the platform Virtual Regatta. This is the case of the Race Around’s organising authority (who currently sit 1044th) as well as 60,000 other armchair sailors taking part in the virtual ‘Transat AG2R - La Mondiale’ that was supposed to leave from Concarneau Sunday, April 19th. Amongst them, Teva Plichart, racing under the nickname « Aumoana » (« Ocean lover » in Polynesian).
Teva, the most titled Tahitian sailor — along with French Sail GP Skipper Billy Besson — is keen to learn and master weather modeling before launching his Race Around/Class40 project. « I come from Inshore racing (D35, Match-Racing, Diam24) so learning how to sail on a transatlantic course in real time weather is very interesting.» Confined in Vannes (Brittany) where he is building ‘Yliam Comptoir Immobilier’ a new TF35, he recognizes « it will never replace real sailing but no one can escape this crisis so that’s the best we can do to train right now! »
Sam Holliday, Founder of The Race Around commented: «We want potential competitors to realise that sailing hasn’t gone away. It is a sport we love and a sport that we believe can be influential in the coming together of our various worlds. While we suffer together, we’re also rebuilding for the future together. As a race we’re using this time to finalise our communications strategy and help competitors build the partnership proposals, budgets and timelines they require to be on the start line of this new global race. We believe the world will be different but we see this as an opportunity to reunite people, further protect our environment and use offshore yacht racing as the platform in which to do this. »