Jules Verne champion Brian Thompson celebrates the return of (proper) offshore multihull racing with the MOD70 class
First, the history. It all really began with the British designing two refined 60ft multihulls in the late 1970s and early 80s – Apricot (designed by Nigel Irens) and Paragon (Adrian Thompson). These two boats moved into the previously French-dominated multihull scene of much larger, but generally less sophisticated 80-footers, and soon started kicking some derriere. It did not take long for the French to realise where this was all going and quickly they too were jumping into new 60-footers as well.
For solo racing especially the 60ft size was simply much more practical and before long the Orma 60 class was on its early way. As we now know, the Orma fleet delivered 20 years of amazing racing before it neatly priced itself out of existence, the final blow delivered with the launch of Frank Cammas’s virtually unbeatable Super-60 Groupama 2.
With the best sailors supporting it, such as Laurent Bourgnon, Mike Birch and Loïck Peyron, the Orma fleet had grown to 12, 15 then 18 boats for the biggest races like the Route du Rhum. However, when the class finally imploded, primarily due to the explosion in costs but also due to an explosion of boats during the 2002 Rhum, most of the skippers switched allegiance – some of them unwillingly – to the Imoca 60 monohull circuit.
But one of the Orma skippers who stayed loyal to multihulls, lapping the world with Groupama 3 and racing D35s on the Swiss lakes, was Steve Ravussin. Throughout the post-Orma era Ravussin worked away on a plan to recreate the Orma circuit but in a more sustainable way. Teaming up with Marco Simeoni and windsurfing champion Franck David, the threesome went on to create the MOD70 one-design, offering similar performance to an Orma 60 but with much better reliability plus a level playing field.
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