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Showdown on the Atlantic

The dash for cash among 19 Open Unlimited 60s will feature such speed machines as Thomas Coville's Sobedo.
Every four years some of the world's most talented, single-handed sailboat racers convene to compete in a race that has become not only a revered tradition, but also an important watershed event in the sport. This year, nearly 80 sailors will depart the starting line off Plymouth, England, on Sunday as competitors in the Europe 1 New Man STAR, some legitimately vying for line honors and others pursuing what has been a lifelong dream of just making it.

This 2,810-mile race to Newport, RI, is unique in many ways, but certainly because it is one of the few high-profile distance events in the sport where less-than-seasoned, would-be adventurers can gain experience alongside the best in the world.

This nexus of amateur and professional worlds also showcases divergent designs, some representing the sport's most progressive and innovative thinking and others reiterating the tried and true.

Among the dreamers who have become doers is Michigan native Jim Otton who will compete in Class IV Monohull aboard his rebuilt Spirit of the Great Lakes.
Take for example Thomas Coville's novel Sobedo, a 60-foot Open Unlimited speedster from the CAD system at Groupe Finot. With its novel, deck-stepped, rotating and inclining rig, the boat tips the scales at 8,400 kilograms (or 18,500 pounds). Sporting 3,107 square feet of working sail area, Sobedo is capable of showing her transom to all of the monohulls, including most of Coville's talented colleagues in Class I (boats 50 to 60 feet), which includes six Open Unlimited 60s built within the last year. Standing in stark contrast to the bright yellow Sobedo is Jim Otton's dark-hulled Spirit of the Great Lakes, entered in Monohull Class IV. Under the name of Cornwall, with Robin Davie at the helm, this 1973 IOR design finished second in class in the 1988 edition of this race. The 43-year-old Otton has dreamed of participating in this event since before buying the boat in 1996.

It's clear that the power to foster dreams has been a core aspect of this event since 1960 when it debuted as the OSTAR. Though only five sailors participated in that seminal undertaking, their exploits captured the imagination of the world and gave the seafaring nation of England a new outlet for its longstanding passion for maritime events. Double victories in this race by the popular Frenchman Eric Tabarly (1964 and 1976), vaulted him into national stardom and sparked a sailing revolution that took little time to sweep that country.

Franck Camma’s 60-foot tri, Groupama Assurances, has a good chance of breaking the 12-year-old course record if he doesn’t break the boat first.
Now, with the most competitive fleet the race has ever witnessed, the Europe 1 New Man STAR continues its captivating presence. Among the Class I monohulls are 19 entrants representing seven countries. Many have their sites set on qualifying for next November's circumnavigating Vendee Globe, and several are capable of establishing a new record for this transatlantic course. Their seven colleagues in the other headliner class, the Class I multihulls, have equal potential for setting records, and prize money is at stake for the first three finishers in each of these two groups ($23,000 for first, $15,000 for second, and $8000 for third).

Mollymawk, Ross Hobson's 40-foot trimaran is one of two entries in Class IV Multihull.
The full fleet consists of five monohull classes (with 62 total entries) and five multihull classes (with 14 entries). Though 12 countries are represented, there are only five Americans registered to race—Bruce Burgess aboard the Class I Hawaiian Express, Ray Mason aboard the trimaran Redhawk; Martin Van Breems aboard the J/44 Monhegan, Phil Rubright aboard the Class III monohull Shamwari, and Jim Otton. But when this armada makes for the starting line off Plymouth on Sunday, nationalities become moot, and whether Yves Parlier's 14-day, six-hour monohull record is in jeopardy, or Philippe Poupon's multihull mark from 1988 (10d, 9h, 15m) will be surpassed hardly matters for these competitors. Their minds will turn to a more immediate concern that race co-founder Blondie Hassler put very succinctly back in 1960: "One man, one boat, and the sea."

Racing Form

It's always a risky business to rank competitors in any event, and particularly in a race known for unpredictable weather and inevitable gear failure. That said, here's SailNet's unofficial run-down on who's who in the marquee class of the Europe 1 New Man STAR—the 60-foot monohulls—including their odds of winning.

Know Your Players
Participant Odds
Thomas Coville—A rookie in this race, this 32-year-old Frenchman owns victories in the Route du Rhum, the Figaro, and the Mini TransAt. His biggest weapon may also be his biggest liability as trouble with the canting rig aboard his novel Finot-designed Sobedo delayed his arrival in Plymouth until just days before the start. 7-1
Michel Desjoyeaux—Though he lost his mast less than a month after launching, Desjoyeaux and his new PRB are ready for action. Minimal sea-trial time puts this 35-year-old Frenchman on the steep side of the learning curve. 8-1
Marc Thiercelen—With solid experience aboard Active Wear, this talented Frenchman is a definite threat to take home silver. His boat is proven, and he somehow always ends up in front near the finish. 8-1
Catherine Chaubaud— At 38, Chabaud is the acknowledged grand dame of solo sailing. Couple her resume over the past decade with a superbly competitive Marc Lombard design Whirlpool and you've got a contender. 8-1
Roland Jourdain—With two Whitbreads and seven Figaros on his resume, the 36-year-old Jourdain has logged more sea miles than most of his contemporaries, and his recently launched Sill Beurre Le Gall ('99) should prove fast upwind due to its rotating rig. 8-1
Mike Golding—Ever-tenacious, Golding has the credentials to be competitive, as well as the motivation: redemption from his troubles in the 98-99 Around Alone. Though it's slightly heavier than the new generation of 60s, Groupe 4 has proven speed. 8-1
Giovanni Soldini—World-renown with little to prove, Soldini will be entering his final monohull race aboard the boat that carried him to victory in the last Around Alone. Look for him to be among the leaders aboard FILA. 8-1
Thierry Dubois—With a strong offshore background and credentials that include the '97 Vendee Globe, Dubois should be a contender. His Nivelt-designed Solidaires errs on the conservative side, but should be among the fastest monohulls in the class. 10-1
Yves Parlier—His uncanny ability as a weather meister stands thiscurrent course record holder in good stead in this strategy ridden event, but his slightly older ('96-vintage) Aquitaine Innovations may have trouble keeping pace with the newest 60s. 10-1
Eric Dumont—With 27 transatlantic passages to his name, the 39-year-old Dumont doesn't lack experience, but his second-generation Finot 60 (the former Baggages Superior) is a little long in the tooth. 15-1
Dominic Wavre—At 45, Wavre has a strong offshore resume, but most of it is not singlehanded. With a stiff, heavy keel on his recently launched Union Bancaire Privée, he may have an advantage upwind and reaching in heavy air. 15-1
Ellen MacArthur—5,000 recent solo miles, good credentials from the Route du Rhum, and a big budget make MacArthur a player, but this is her first race aboard the somewhat conservative Kingfisher. At 23, she wisely expects to make some mistakes. 20-1
Xavier Lecoeur—At 26, Lecoeur, a former dinghy racer, is among the bright new generation of solo sailors, but he is saddled with the old Groupe Sceta, a 1990-vintage machine that will almost certainly lack pace. 22-1
Didier Munduteguy—With a competitive multihull background, the 47-year-old Munduteguy will have the odds stacked against him on board his heavy, 91-vintage ddp-60eme Sud. 22-1
Joe Seteen—Most of this sailor's racing success has come on smaller vessels, and his 1991 yawl, Nord Pas de Calais-Chocolats du Monde, will almost certainly be off the pace unless the entire race is upwind in big breeze. 23-1
Richard Tolkien—A two-time veteran of this race, Tolkien knows the course, but his vessel, the 92-vintage This Time won't be his only liability. 25-1
Patrick Favre—Sailor and adventurer, Favre is a self-proclaimed amateur who is preparing to sail in November's Vendee Globe aboard the 1991 built Afibel. He's game, but the boat wasn't wholly competitive even in its first year. 35-1
Dirk Gunst—From Belgium, Gunst has a number of distance events under his belt, but he'll be hampered by his 1985 Tomidi, which was built for a crew of 15. 50-1
James Miller—This skipper is an unknown with an aluminum craft that weighs almost twice that of its fellow 60s (roughly 32,000 pounds) so count on Project Amazon finishing among the Class II and III boats. 100-1


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