SB20 to Southern Ocean

Where do the world’s best sailors like to race? The SB20 fleet.

It’s well known that the current joint leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race, Dongfeng Race Team, have a real mix of experience onboard. While praise is flooding in for how the Chinese crew have performed as newcomers to the professional ocean racing world, the European team members have many solid years of offshore and one-design competition between them. And where do the world’s best sailors like to race? The SB20 fleet of course.

Dongfeng core crew Thomas Rouxel and Eric Peron frequently sail together at the top of the SB20 class. The pair live near each other in Brittany, and in 2010 took second to Rodion Luka in front of a strong international fleet at the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Naval Europcup, racing in the Bay of Douarnenez. Thomas commented afterwards: “That was our first competition in the SB20. I sail in the Figaro Class. Sailing is my job, but if I have another occasion to race in the SB that would be a pleasure.”

They kept the partnership together, finishing sixth at the 2012 SB20 worlds in Hamilton Island, Australia (you can see a fun little video from the team at the event here A year later they returned to a home worlds in Hyères, France, taking 7th overall.

When SB20 sailing together, Thomas skippers while Eric is jib trimmer and tactician. Both are competing in their first Volvo Ocean Race, although both have a great deal of offshore experience – Eric had set his sights on a Vendee Globe campaign before the Volvo came calling, and has 10 Atlantic crossings to his name. When Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race finally sets sail on Wednesday at 9.00 am Auckland time, having been postponed due to development of Cyclone Pam, Thomas Rouxel will this time be staying on the dock – his role as watch leader, helmsman and trimmer has been replaced by the vastly experienced Volvo Ocean Race sailor Damian Foxall for this potentially brutal offshore leg – while Eric will be racing to Itajaî, Brazil.

Eric gives a preview of his expectations for the Southern Ocean here Meanwhile former Volvo Ocean Race CEO Glenn Bourke has just marked his return to the SB20 class by winning the Australian Nationals – see full report