· Beijaflore win Coastal Race to extend lead
· Light winds prove frustrating
· #sailingarabia finish 12th drop back to fourth
The fleet went afloat this morning off a nearless windless Dieppe Plage with Beijaflore skipper Valentin Bellet saying the first Coastal Race of this 41st Tour Voile would be a chance to measure up their rivals.
But as the Tour leaders after Act 1 Dunkirk clawed their way back up the fleet, from 12th early in the 23 nautical miles course to take the lead, win and extend their overall lead, it might well be the first coastal race was more instructive for their title rivals who learned more about the all round strength and depth of the team which many tipped as potential tour winners.
From the winners’ podium Bellet emphasized:” It’s a huge pleasure to win this first coastal race. It’s important as we face our opponents. We have shown them that we’re a force to be reckoned with in these races and not just in the in-port races. That’s what is most important about our win today.”
For many of the 26 crews it was a frustrating, long, very hot day. The coastal course started in very light conditions, punching the outgoing ebb tide. For all the world it looked like #sailingarabia, the Oman Sail team had made the best start. When Beijaflore were deep, in 12th, the Stevie Morrison and Thierry Douillard skippered #sailingarabia were already over 100 metres clear of the second placed boat.
But, as is often the case in these light winds and strong currents, the leaders simply marked the transitions and changes in the breeze and those behind could change their course accordingly. In the case of #sailingarabia they were passed by boats inshore when the wind died more and the current gripped them. Indeed at one stage, off Dieppe’s Penly nuclear power station, there was virtually no wind and the grouped were all but going backwards on the current.
But Beijaflore showed their prowess and were able to extend slightly as the 12kts breeze filled in late afternoon, much later than expected, and crossed first with a good lead over second placed Lorina Limonade-Golfe du Morbihan to win comfortably.
For #sailingarabia their 12th is a weighty unwanted early ballast after such a promising start over the weekend in Dunkirk. The Oman Sail development team, lead by Pierre Le Clainche, also had the lead just before the power station shut down but held out for a useful seventh place.
If the day was disappointing for #sailingarabia it was doubly so for Swiss round the world racer Bernard Stamm on Cheminées Poujoulat who finished 21st of the 26 starters.
Beijaflore now sit clear at the top of the Tour Voile rankings on 195 pts from the three stadium Finals and one coastal race so far with 2016 champions Quentin Delapierre’s Lorina Limonade-Golfe du Morbihan second on 193pts and the new Team Réseau IXIO – which finished fourth today – third on 191pts. The top Oman Sail team drop back to fourth seven points off Team Réseau IXIO. Team Oman Sail move up to tenth.
“It was painful.” Reported #sailingarabia’s Douillard. “First mark and the second mark we had a good lead. We did what we wanted. As the wind died we were right with Beijaflore and Lorina Blue but we did not manage to catch what they got for ten minutes. That is the way it is. It is more like what you maybe get in the Med but not here. We don’t feel like we did too much wrong. It is part of the game, move on, keep going forwards.”
Most teams made changes to take on board their specialist navigator, or coastal race specialist. On Sailingarabia that meant Thierry Douillard was on for Mat Richard and on Beijaflore Julien Villion is coastal navigator. Villion worked originally as a stagaire (trainee) with Antoine Koch and has been mentored by Jean Luc Nélias. He was part of the routing group which last winter worked with Francois Gabart on the solo round the world record of Macif and he has been interested in meteo since he trained at Port-La-Fôret where he was spotted by Nélias. And with Beijaflore he won the Sailing Arabia Tour.
Beijaflore skipper Bellet summarised: “Some great work from the team. We did a lot of work on this set-up during our training after the Oman Tour back in February. We work things out well together. We trust each other a lot, even when Julien chooses options that appear a bit risky. When we turn back to pick up some more wind or a shift, we have no hesitation in doing it. We trust him. That’s what we did today. We left an area where there was no wind to find some more. That’s when we managed to overtake the leading group and made our getaway. We’re pleased about that. In the team, we all want to congratulate Julien on finding such inspiration at that point. In these races, nothing ever goes to plan. There are so many parameters to take into account. You have to adapt your plans all the time and that’s what we did today.”
Pierre Le Clainche, skipper on Oman Sail: “We took a good opportunity just before the power station and we lead then but then the breeze shut down. All the guys inshore with less current got better wind. It was a race when you are fourth or fifth position, you see all the mistakes and you jump forwards at just the right time. It is like the cycle racing.”