While Team SFS triumphed in spectacular style in today’s Coastal Raid, a third place finish in Nice was more than sufficient to assure Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains overall victory in the 40th edition of the Tour de France à la Voile. Eighteen points clear of Team SFS in second, the crew led by Damien Seguin and Damien Iehl with Benjamin Amiot and François Morvan can no longer be caught, and will add their name to the illustrious list of teams who have raised the Tour’s Cup since 1978.
Solid, consistent and never far from the top of the classification ever since the event got underway in Dunkirk on 7th July, the crew of Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains placed outside the top 10 just once over 16 race days (an eleventh position in Act 4 in Arzon). And they displayed their usual cool, calm and collected character today when the time came to seal the deal. Paralympic sailor and co-skipper Damien Seguin has sailed in the Tour for the past three years and – in addition to his two Paralympic golds in the 2.4mR – has once again achieved his goal of proving that physical disability does not preclude top performances.
“We went crazy with joy when we crossed the line. We were concentrated right up to the last jibe. We sailed well. We did a good start and it all went well from there. It was a difficult tour, not stressful but tiring. We were consistent on the water and we didn’t have any equipment problems” commented a smiling Seguin.
He explained how preparation and teamwork were key given the rising standard in the teams and over the duration of the Tour: “There was a very high standard in this edition. We saw from the start of the season that this would be a close one because the standard was so high and we trained hard from February. There was a massive battle between the top 10 boats. This is a special win as it’s my first title as part of a team. When I started on this adventure it was a big challenge. Thanks to everyone involved we built a great team. We got here solid and our level went up as we went along.”
Today’s Coastal Raid in Nice represented the last chance for each of the 29 teams competing in the 2017 Tour de France a la Voile to lay away crucial points before the fleet is split into three groups for tomorrow’s Super Final. The 25-mile race was held in light conditions over more than three hours, with the start and finish lines positioned right in front of Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and the Race Village. Star of the day was undoubtedly Team SFS whose skipper Sofian Bouvet, hailing from nearby Antibes, put his local knowledge to good use. After bagging an excellent start, leading off the far right of the line, the team competing in their first Tour Voile increased their advantage throughout the Raid to cross the finish line well ahead of Trésors de Tahiti (third overall) and Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains.
Bouvet, an Olympic sailor used to performing under pressure, reflected on how a potential Tour win slipped from his hands: “We are happy. We congratulate Fondation FDJ -Des Pieds et Des Mains. They were more consistent than us. We were capable of winning, we have the most wins on this tour but we lost a lot of points at other times. Thirty points on a dismasting cost us dearly. Our aim now is to defend our second place tomorrow.”
In the end there was no change in position for the top six boats in the overall classification (separated by just 30 points this morning) who all put in solid performances and stamped their ticket for tomorrow’s grand finale. Behind Fondation FDJ – Des Mains et Des Pieds, each of Team SFS, Trésors de Tahiti, Beijaflore, Team Oman Sail ,Team Lorina Limonade – Golfe du Morbihan are in with a chance of a podium place tomorrow.
The battle for the remaining two Super Final slots then boiled down to three teams: Lorina Limonade – Golfe du Morbihan, Vivacar.fr and Cheminees Poujoulat. A collision with Team Occitanie – Sud de France left Bernard Stamm’s Cheminees Poujoulat with a hole in their hull and taking on water, effectively thwarting their hopes of qualifying for the top group in the Super Final. The young crew of Lorina Mojito – Golfe du Morbihan, already assured victory in the separate Youth classification, finished strongly in fifth place today to take the penultimate Super Final slot ahead of Vivacar.fr Cefim.
Among the international teams competing in the Tour Voile, Oman Sail has performed beyond expectations, floating just outside the podium for most of the event. Having failed to qualify for the Final of yesterday’s Nautical Stadium stage in Marseille and slipping down to fifth place they had a lot to play for today.
“Yesterday was a bit frustrating” admitted co-skipper Stevie Morrison, who has twice represented Britain in the Olympics, prior to today’s race. “We sailed a lot better but we had one race where we were over the line early and in this series it is fairly painful if you get one of those. It was nice to feel we were sailing the boat better so we feel more positive. The reality is that the points are very tight and we’re looking forward to today and a big race in the bay. At the minute it’s looking pretty light, it’s a big bay, a lot is going to happen and we just have to keep fighting to the end.”
Positive thinking and a fighting spirit clearly paid off as Team Oman Sail picked up a fourth place finish today and head into the Super Final in fifth place, on equal points with Beijaflore in fourth.
While the top eight boats in the overall classification will race to decide the runner-up positions in tomorrow’s Super Final, the rest of the fleet will be split into silver and bronze groups to contend the remaining positions.