Just as when the Tour Voile started in Dunkirk one year ago off the same Plage Malo-les-Bains it was a new team which overshadowed the established favourites. The young Réseau Ixio team based out of Marseille, formed only this year, managed to maintain their high level of consistency right through from their five knockout heats to win the first of Act 1 Dunkirk’s three Finals.
They left the 41st Tour’s top tips Valentin Bellet’s Beijaflore team to second and 2016 champions Lorina Limonade-Golfe du Morbihan to third. #Sailingarabia steered by GBR Olympian Stevie Morrison open their Tour Voile with a well earned fourth place.
Last year’s Tour opener, raced off an historic beach which was the scene of a massive WWII evacuation, saw the pre-event favourites Lorina Limonade shoot themselves in the foot when they had a collision, holed a hull and so missed two races. There was no such drama today as the Sandro Lacan skippered south of France crew– average age just 23 – freed of the favourites’ pressure simply set the bar higher. With crisp starting and good speeds they qualified top, counting with two first places, two seconds and a fourth. Almost seamlessly they then went on to win the Final.
Although Réseau Ixio came into their first Tour Voile saying ‘we want to be outsiders’ the young crew won the Diam 24 OD Grand Prix held on their training waters, La Grande Motte and finished third in the French national championships, they made a significant impression on Day 1 of the 17 day tour.
Talented helm Robin Follin steered the French entry in the Youth America’s Cup, was twice French Youth Match Race champion and won the 2015 SB20 World Championships and skipper Sandro Lacan who was also with France’s Youth America’s Cup team in Bermuda last year.
Drenched in champagne on the winners’ podium Lacan grinned: “This morning we’d have been very happy to get this result. Based on what we’d done before, we thought we could achieve this but now we need to be consistent. We’ll see what happens in the future. We have seen that we can do it. We were free of any tension that comes at the start of the Tour. Our risks were measured and the boat is going really well. There is still a lot to improve on .”
As an opener fourth was a satisfactory start for #sailingarabia. Helm Stevie Morrison admitted to a few ‘horrendous’ starts in the qualifying heats and still – like many – getting used to the idiosyncrasies of the newly provided gennakers but they were consistent and appeared to be quick enough in the light 5-7kts breeze which built on cue to 11kts for the Final.
“It was good today. It is a funny format in that you have to make the top four in your group and that is so much about not making mistakes. There is a tendency to be conservative only if you are confident in your abilities, you need to make the final. It is hard. If you get a BFD you are done for in terms of making the final but if you don’t push and start well then you don’t get in the top four.” Said Morrison, “The really good thing was the boat was going fast around the course today and that is important. The starting was not good enough. It is something to work on. We felt really fast.”
For the non French debutants Dunkirk Day 1 proved something of a baptism of fire. For the Dutch student team on Delft Challenge their day was capped by a penalty on the last run on their last race. Skipper Xander Van Beurden said “We were in fourth and a boat gybed in front of us and we were penalised, we ended up in the wrong place. We improved successively on starts which is good and downwind our decisions need to be quicker. We are learning.”
A third in their first race for the European team on Pink Lady -Pays De L’Or – Hérault came before a 10th and a BFD start disqualification. Skipper Pieter Tack said, “We have a lot of potential, we can see that. We all trust each other that we will be in a Final soon.”
Valentin Bellet (Beijaflore): “With Guillaume (Pirouelle) and Valentin (Sipan), we worked well on board today. We must continue like this, with the same regularity and make the least mistakes possible. “
Bruno Mourniac (Lorina Limonade Gulf of Morbihan): “We had a halyard problem early in the day. It almost kept us from starting the first heat so we are doing well. It’s a very solid day with no big mistake, which will have be the same all along to win the Tour. All the favorites will make mistakes during the races and so you have to limit them and stay strong mentally.”