Published on 01/06/2019
It has probably never been harder for international sailors, those who were born and brought up outside of France, to break into the French dominated solo and short handed racing scene. Piqued by a huge interest in the Vendée Globe, the sport’s pinnacle solo non-stop around the world race as well as a national fascination for solo and crewed successes in giant Ultime multihulls, ocean sailing in France is enjoying a golden age.
But each and every year there a hard core group of international solo racers take the start. Some achieve success and manage to return year on year. During the first 50 years of the race 631 different skippers have sailed the race at least once. Of those, 68 were non-French and although several have performed extremely well, even winning legs, not one managed to break the French monopoly. The late Franco-Swiss racer Laurent Bourgnon, became the only skipper to win the event outright on his first attempt way back in 1988.
To become genuinely competitive in this rarefied discipline there is no option other than to race and train against the best. That means moving to France, learning the language. Being accepted into the French offshore racing culture takes serious financial and time commitment. Training, logistics, coaching, technical support and of course fundraising for something that is essentially only really French makes it extremely hard.
But we are on the cusp of what should prove a new era for shorthanded offshore racing as it is to be considered for the 2024 Olympics. At the same time the Ocean Race (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race) is shifting to the IMOCA 60 class for the 2021-22 edition and it will be essentially shorthanded, So a successful grounding in the Figaro scene has never been more valuable.
With that in mind, to recognise the extraordinary efforts made by the non-French contingent in this and future Solitaire URGO Le Figaro events a new trophy, the VIVI Trophy, will be presented annually from 2019, to the first non-French skipper overall in the race.
The VIVI Trophy has been presented by Meagan & Marcus Hutchinson and Elianne & Bernard Lalanne. These four have worked in the background over the past 20 years to support, encourage and mobilise non-French skippers to compete in the Figaro class.
“We hope and believe that by presenting this trophy a new and different focus will develop to communicate the non-French presence in the race. It will help with the recognition they so badly deserve, in much the same way that the event already recognises the first rookie each year, and maybe even becoming an objective for other non-French skippers looking in from the outside,” explains Marcus Hutchinson.
Underlining their commitment, the Hutchinson and Lalanne families have two Figaro Beneteau 3s on the circuit that are sailed by two young non-French skippers Will Harris (GBR)(Hive Energy) and Joan Mulloy (IRL)(Believe in Grace/Buisness Post.ie).
Apart from these two skippers five other non-French skippers are in the running this year to be the first winners of the VIVI Trophy – Justine Mettraux (SUI)(Teamwork), Alan Roberts (GBR)(Seacat Services), Tom Dolan (IRL)(Smurfit Kappa), Alberto Bona (ITA)(Sebago) and Conrad Coleman (NZL)(Ethical Power).
You can follow the race on the event internet site, on the YellowBrick race tracking App and on the official English twitter account. The rankings for the VIVI Trophy will be displayed in the ranking section alongside the Rookie/Bizuth Trophy, the leg rankings and the overall rankings.
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