This year’s Azimut Challenge, a fun annual sports event, will be back from 23-25 September at La Base in Lorient – the heart of the Sailing Valley.
Taking on particular importance this year just ahead of the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe, it’s a final chance for the skippers to check out the competition on the water one last time before their solo round the world.
“The 2016 edition has all the trappings of a Vendée Globe prologue, a real dress rehearsal with lots of night-time manoeuvres. It’s a key opportunity to gain precious race miles and we don’t want to miss it,” confirmed Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII). A stalwart of this event, Armel can’t wait to get into race mode to compare himself to the top-of-the-range podium contenders: Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), Yann Eliès (Guéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), or Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss).
A Tailor-made 24 hour race course
The weekend kicks off on Friday afternoon with the “24-hour Azimut-IMOCA60” on a course specially designed by Race Director Jacques Caraës to enable the skippers to sharpen their weapons ahead of the season’s major confrontation. In view of the Vendée Globe, this year’s event is single-handed – a tactical battlefield regatta requiring quick wits on the bridge and strategic tactics at the chart table. Let’s not forget that the 2012 edition was won by a certain François Gabart who – a few months later – went on to win the great global solo circumnavigation event. So this is no ordinary race and it holds a special place in the skippers’ calendar, who see it as a unique opportunity to make the final adjustments aboard their ocean racer or to score points against the competition.
Beating the clock around Groix
Over and beyond the racing aspects of this event, everyone loves the simplicity and conviviality of this IMOCA family gathering around the race headquarters in the Cité de la Voile-Eric Tabarly. During Sunday’s team time trial – the Azimut-IMOCA60 Time Trial, Tour de Groix, skippers will embark team members and partners on board in a bid to push their boat to its very limits. We can be pretty sure that, weather permitting, the contestants will do everything in their power to beat the record of 1h08.10 set by Vincent Riou and the PRB boys last year. The Vendée Globe 2004 winner is back to defend – or beat – his Tour de Groix time.
Onshore too, the Defi Azimut 2016 programme has brought together all the ingredients required to fulfil its promises. This edition will come out to meet the public. It kicks off with an opening conference organised by Eurolarge on the theme of human adaptation to the power induced by technological progresses aboard these hi-tech machines, and moves on to a collective performance “In the Streets of the Globe” on the fleet’s return to the La Base port in Lorient on Saturday afternoon: artists will create live – through drawing and charcoal – a giant fresco depicting the solo round the world.
by Marion Cardon