Le Grau du Roi Port Camargue, 23th July 2017
The 29 teams competing in the 2017 Tour de France à la Voile waited patiently for almost two hours under a blazing Mediterranean sun for the start of today’s Coastal Raid, the seventh in the series. When the breeze did finally kick in, blowing at around 15 knots and hitting highs of 20, it brought a mixed bag for the fleet with some teams rising to the occasion while others struggled to shine. The conditions proved perfect for Team SFS, skippered by Sofian Bouvet, who took control from the start, handling their Diam 24 masterfully in the challenging conditions to glide across the finish line at a speed of 19 knots with a fairly luxurious lead over Pays de l’Or Pink Lady Hérault in second place – in turn their best result of the tour so far.
Local knowledge of the waters off Grau du Roi – Port Camargue played to the advantage of the Pink Lady team as co-skipper Sophie de Turckheim explained: “We are really happy with this result, we trained here this winter so the boat is in its home waters. We had a fantastic start together with Team SFS who we have trained with in the past and we both fought hard, then we made a small error at one of the marks which cost us the lead. We’re usually more comfortable in the Nautical Stadium races but perhaps we are making progress as we go along. We can’t wait for the next stages so we can gain a few more places.”
While today’s results have not changed the podium positions in the overall classification, a sound fourth place finish from Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains sees them shorten the gap from leaders Tresors de Tahiti, skippered by Teva Plichart, to just eight points. After a strong start alongside today’s top finishers, Oman Sail dropped steadily back down the fleet to cross the line tenth just behind Tresors de Tahiti, leaving them 19 points off the leaders and just one point ahead of Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains on the overall league table. With five more races scheduled these four teams have established themselves as serious contenders for the title.
After a decidedly depressing two days in Roses, Spain which saw them unable to finish either the Coastal Race or the Super Final – dismasting in the first and earning a black flag for crossing the starting line early in the second – Team SFS was back on superlative form today. A comfortable win amidst the heavy winds and considerable current that characterised racing in the gulf of Aigues-Mortes today brings their tally of victories thus far to five, three in the Coastal Raids and two in the Nautical Stadium Finals, and will no doubt provide a much needed boost to team moral.
“The win is good but it’s a pity it always has to come after a problem or a breakage. Losing the mast two days ago was really tough and being able to react like this is just great. We are going to do our best to finish in style. After Arzon we said we needed to be as consistent as possible and that’s what we were doing when we had the break in Roses. It was disappointing having that problem but we are going for a clean finish.”
While it was clear early on which teams would likely take the top two spots in today’s Coastal Raid, Team Lorina Limonade – Golfe du Morbihan, winners of the 2016 edition of the event, won a heated four-way battle for third place with Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains, amateur team Homkia / Les Sables d’Olonne Agglomération and Beijaflore Sailing.
Although the Pays de l’Or Pink Lady Hérault crew clearly felt a home advantage having trained in neighbouring Le Grande Motte, home team Team Occitanie Sud de France made a few mistakes on their way around the course and only managed to finish in the middle of the fleet. Team Occitanie’s manager Kito Pavant, a local well known for his three Vendée Globe campaigns and a former Tour de France à la Voile winner, underlined his crew’s ambition to finish in the top ten in this edition of the event: “This is an exciting edition of the tour to follow with real battles going on at every stage. Team Occitanie Sud de France still has a few days to make it into the top ten overall. They are capable of making sparks!”
Racing continues in Grau du Roi – Port Camargue tomorrow, Monday July 24th, with the teams getting to grips with another fast and furious round of Nautical Stadium qualifiers leading to the Super Final for just eight boats.