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A Great Opportunity - Letter from Andrew Hurst, Editor Seahorse Magazine

When David Adams, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's race director for the VELUX 5 OCEANS singlehanded round the world race, first broached the idea of running two divisions for Open 60s in the next event it sounded like a winner. A year or so later, there is some flesh on the bone of Adams' original suggestion, and with the first notice of race just published it looks better still.

For too long ambitious, aspiring, but most usually Corinthian solo racers have been made to feel like second-class citizens when they try to line up in the best events alongside fully sponsored rivals onboard the latest boats. No one ever set out to create this two tier sport, it just evolved as a consequence of the enormous budgets that some singlehanders have attracted in the past seven or eight years. The gulf has widened and attempts to bridge the gap with the introduction of a small Open 50 and also Open 40 failed as one or two skippers always seemed able to get enough money together to be ahead from the start. One new Open 50 can make five Corinthian, budget Open 50s look pretty rubbish, even if the new boat is sailed by an extremely average skipper.

Now Knox-Johnston and Adams have come up with a practical alternative with a nice redistributive twist... The issue with any grand prix class is that some people will be able to fund a new boat, and they will go faster than the old boats. Always have, always will. The cute part of the scheme being launched for the 2010-2011 VELUX 5 OCEANS is that the Corinthian sailors will be 'funded' to a large extent by professional projects. How so? Well, what is the biggest component of a campaign budget with a shorthanded (as opposed to crewed) design... Depreciation. And who cops the biggest chunk of the depreciation... the lucky first owner.

Doesn't work too well if you just have a smaller class of boat for the 'poor people', as Neil Diamond memorably shouted up to the 'tree people' around the LA Coliseum (he survived). But if you encourage the 'poor people' to buy up a bunch of pre-owned frontline boats, no longer of use to rock stars but plenty good enough to have a great race around the world... There is a steady supply of fine third-or-so generation Open 60s (mustn't call them IMOCA 60s, or they will get cross), and now the organisers of the VELUX 5 OCEANS have provided them with an honourable home. Bravo.

PS: the IMOCA class is magnificent, but they should pay careful heed to the news that the 2009 Calais Round Britain has been cancelled due to a lack of entries, and to the fact that an 'A Grade' IMOCA budget is now up around the cost of campaigning one of those great but late ORMA 60 trimarans. Just a thought, mes amis.

Read Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's column on Seahorse Magazine Online:


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