Devised in 2017, the IMOCA Globe Series Championship, which combines the world’s superlative offshore races, enjoyed its first great success with its inaugural cycle from June 2018 to March 2021.
After three years of top-flight competition, it rounded off in style over the winter with the climax of the Vendée Globe, which ultimately saw Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-YC de Monaco) crowned IMOCA Champion, ahead of Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) and Charlie Dalin (APIVIA).
The title is now up for grabs once more with the official launch of the IMOCA Globe Series 2021-2025 on 29 May as The Ocean Race Europe sets sail from Lorient, Brittany.
With this new cycle of sport come a few major changes. On the one hand, the admission of crewed races as official events and on the other a development of the classification system, which will operate using a more dynamic system designed to increase the value of the sailors’ annual performance.
This first edition of the IMOCA Globe Series Championship allowed for a denser race programme, enabling the preparation of projects to be optimised and regularly shining a spotlight on how remarkable IMOCAs are, as well as the incredible work of the teams on a daily basis and, of course, the talent and personality of the skippers.
All this naturally segues into a wider platform from which economic partners can communicate and benefit from more extensive coverage, whilst perfectly fulfilling the brief of the IMOCA Class: showcasing the quality of the races, the technological evolution, the richness of the stories, the human adventure, the diversity and the commitment of the athletes and their teams to supporting and publicising causes.
“In 2017, we were all highly motivated at the prospect of being able to create a Championship grouping together the major races on the programme,” explains Boris Herrmann. “This system enabled us to rack up the miles with a view to the Vendée Globe, as well as to take part in a host of wonderful and unprecedented events, such as the Monaco Globe Series and La Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne. It’s fantastic to give everyone a platform from which to get out sailing more, regularly have more races and bring together the whole fleet between two Vendée Globes.”
This second edition of the IMOCA Globe Series Championship echoes the change. In addition to an extra year (four seasons instead of three), it also includes more races. Indeed, there are 18 official events in all, including two round the world races, supplemented by an assortment of races grouping together short and long blue-water courses, legendary transatlantic passages, in singlehanded, double-handed and now crewed formats.
For the first time in history, two major international round the world races are accessible in IMOCA. “In practical terms, it’s the apex of offshore racing, since we have both major round the world races on the programme for the first time: the Vendée Globe and The Ocean Race,” says Antoine Mermod, President of Class IMOCA. “We’re going to see sailors who are solo, double-handed and crewed racing specialists competing in every possible type of exercise. It’s going to be interesting to see which skipper will be the best all-rounder at the end of all that.”
This revamp gives the programme for IMOCA projects a new and highly complementary twist since these crewed races will enable the boats to unleash their full potential, which is not the case in solo format, and venture down to the Deep South some two years prior to the Vendée Globe, enabling the skippers to gain an understanding of the place before returning there to do battle singlehanded.
“The IMOCA Globe Series 2021-25 will be of a higher level than the first cycle and will be relatively demanding for the skippers,” continues Antoine Mermod. “This post-Vendée Globe period is just incredible with projects intensifying, new arrivals, a pronounced international dimension, together with an evolving sports programme. In practical terms, the sailor who comes out on top will be the best offshore racing skipper as it’s a vast programme, which encompasses many different domains.”
The Défi Azimut is also registered as an official event. An annual Breton meeting for the IMOCAs at Lorient La Base, the skippers in the Class set great store by “Le Défi” where they can slug it out in three different race formats (speed runs, a 48hr offshore sprint and a circumnavigation of Ile de Groix). This year, the event will be raced in double-handed format from 15 – 19 September.
The new points system now recognises those sailors who regularly compete in the races as well as any new arrivals. “The general philosophy remains the same,” explains Paul Meilhat, President of the Sports Committee within Class IMOCA. “The novelty here is that we now have an annual leader title at the end of each season and one winner of the Championship at the end of the four-year period. We took our inspiration from the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), which gradually reduces down the players’ coefficients. The previous system solely favoured consistency. We are also keen to increase the value of the sailors’ annual performance.”
For each race, the skippers score a certain number of points according to their ranking, the number of participants and a specific coefficient for every event. The principle behind this concept remains the same, but the points scored will now be on a sliding scale from one season of participation to the next. For example, if a team boasts 100 points at the end of 2021, that will drop to 80 at the start of 2022. However, if a team joins the circuit in 2022, the points it scores in 2022 will still be worth their full value and this will only start to drop off in 2023.
In addition to this change, the Overall Leader (equivalent to the world number in ATP) will gain recognition and an annual title, which will be awarded at the end of the season. The grand IMOCA Champion will be crowned at the end of the Vendée Globe 2024-25.
In this way, the slate is wiped clean and the sailors who participate in The Ocean Race Europe, and plan to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre, can already begin to score points with a view to securing their first victory at the end of the year.