Dunkirk Deals Up Surprises and Upsets As Tour Voile Kicks Off
Light winds and strong tidal currents off Dunkirk’s Malo Les Bains beaches conspired to deliver surprises and upsets on the first day of the Tour Voile as the Belgian team Caraibois BE.Brussels won the opening stade nautique Final and two of the top seeds were effectively eliminated from the Final for jumping the start gun.
While the strongly tipped Réseau Ixio-Toulon Provence Méditerranée skippered by Sandro Lacan and Golfe du Morbihan Breizh Cola of Solune Robert and Riwan Perron were both over the line, so scoring minimum points from the final, so also the outstanding favourites Robin Follin’s Cheminées Poujoulat started slowly in the gentle 4-6 knots of onshore breeze and were forced to catch up.
In contrast the Belgian flagged team, considered outsiders among the eight finalists, started smartly and with speed and were quickly able to eke out a small lead which they managed to grow to finish ahead of last year’s runners upTeam Beijaflore in second and Cheminées Poujoulat in third.
Local Dunkirk ace Clément Meister led the team to their surprise win. A product of the Voile Ambition Dunkerque initiative, Meister learned his Tour skills under Bertrand Pacé and ironically was on board the last time the Be Brussels team won, back in 2012 on the M34 monohull.
He raced for three years on the Dunkirk team’s Diam 24 OD. But in today’s very gentle breezes it was more about joining up the dots, racing in the best streams of current and keeping the boat moving.
Meister grinned on the podium where he was accompanied by his family dog, “This morning there was no way we considered there was a chance we might win today. So we are still a bit shocked that tomorrow we will be flying the blue gennaker for the leaders of the General Classification. In the light winds conditions of the day, it was essential to know the water well and especially the flows of current. It’s funny here because I was on board when last there was a win here for Be. Brussels in the M34. “
Neither Beijaflore nor Cheminées Poujoulat may not have won the first day but both top seeded teams finished well on a day their other rivals faltered, Beijaflore’s Valentin Bellet was content with their second, “We hit our goals. We have been consistent through the day. Our confidence took a bit of a dent just before we came here so we needed to re-establish that. We know what to expect and have prepared to try and go one better this time.”
And for Cheminées Poujoulat skipper Robin Follin echoed the words of their rivals, “ We know we have good speed and we generally make good strategic choices so we kept the risk very low today. The start of the Tour in such complicated conditions can be very tricky. So we just strived to stay consistent. That was really the idea. Third place means we realise that objective.”
Neither of the top Oman Sail teams made the eight boat final, Pierre Pennec’s EFG Private Bank finished tenth and Stevie Morrison’s Renaissance Services were 12th.
“It was just a very difficult first day with many shifts in the wind. Sometimes you could be up leading and the next minute you have lost a few boats. We did well but we did not get the right shifts enough. It was hard downwind especially.” Recalled Renaissance Services’ Omani trimmer Abdul Rahman Al Mashari.