Fighting to the Finish in Nice
There is very little that is predictable about the racing in the Tour Voile and this 42nd edition is no exception. From the top eight boats that qualify for the Nautical Stadium Finals to the daily winners and even the wind conditions, anything can and does happen on a regular basis. Today in Nice, with tension building to maximum levels, the Tour delivered precisely the kind of twists and turns that are known for keeping teams and spectators on the edge of their seats. The ongoing duel between overall leaders Team Beijaflore, skippered by Valentin Bellet and Guillame Pirouelle, and their closest rivals Cheminées Poujoulat provided for thrilling viewing once again. Cheminées Poujoulat enjoyed another smouldering day, winning the Final comfortably ahead of Beijaflore, moving one point closer to them, and sewing up the leadership of the Youth Ranking at the same time.
Five points now separate the top two boats, meaning that Cheminées Poujoulat, skippered by Robin Follin, needs to finish ahead tomorrow and put two boats between themselves and Beijaflore to guarantee victory. Team Beijaflore, on the contrary, needs to ensure that doesn’t happen to ensure their name is added to the list of Tour Voile winners. Behind them in the classification both Réseau Ixio – Toulon Provence Méditerranée in third place overall, and Golfe du Morbihan Breizh Cola, in fourth, suffered a major blow as both missed out by a whisker on making the cut for the Final. These two must now wave goodbye to any hopes of a catching up with the second-placed boat, but will battle each other for the final place on the podium. The Oman Sail team on EFG Private Bank Monaco notched up a tidy third-place finish today, which leaves them in fifth place overall.
Robin Follin of Cheminées Poujoulat revealed that things were not as simple as they may have looked today in the Bay of Angels. “Sailing so close to the shore like this is complicated, and here in Nice you also have the Castle Hill which disturbs the breeze a lot. It’s a real conundrum.” He was also philosophical about what could unfold in the Super Final: “We’ll make our calculations tonight and we’ll discuss what we need to do tomorrow. I’m sure Beijaflore will mark us but we don’t have anything to lose so we’ll put our foot down. We’ll try to sail well, like we have been doing for the past few days and we’ll see.”
Team Beijaflore will be avoiding thoughts of how they narrowly missed out on victory during the Super Final in 2018 “We have taken part in the Super Final the past two years. You have to give it your all in this final race. We’re hoping for good conditions. We aren’t thinking about what happened last year, that’s ancient history. We’ve been in the lead since the start of the Tour, that’s what’s important.”
The second of the four competing Oman Sail teams, Renaissance Services led by skipper Stevie Morrison, placed fifth and enters the Super Final in sixth place overall. “We had a good start but the first leg wasn’t as good as we would have wanted. We got caught up in the middle of the pack and that’s difficult. We didn’t want to be in fourth place and so we went on the attack, perhaps too much,” conceded Morrison.
In fairly light and shifty winds, the big surprise of the day came when the two boats sitting in third and fourth position overall failed to qualify in the top eight to enter the Final. Golfe du Morbihan Breizh Cola picked up a U Flag Disqualification in the first qualifying race for their group and although they gathered themselves over the course of the next five qualifiers, missed out on the Final by two places. Réseau Ixio – Toulon Provence Méditerranée started on a roll, posting 1-2-1 in their first three races, however the following three results were decidedly less than brilliant and left them missing out on qualification by just one place.
While some familiar faces were missing in the Final of the day, as has been the case throughout this Tour, a few newer ones were happy to step up to the mark. Team Ocewood #Waterfamily qualified for their third Final out of nine held, and were joined by the amateur team on Gregory Lemarchal Les Sables d’Olonne, both of whom sit in the Top Ten and have earned their place in the Super Final. Helvetia Purple by Normandy Elite team, an all-female crew skippered by Pauline Courtois, also made the final for the second time.
Before tomorrow’s Super Final gets underway racing will take place to decide the final placings for the Bronze and Silver groups in the 23-boat fleet. After which Nice’s Promenade des Anglais will host the final showdown followed by the crowning of the ultimate winners of the Tour Voile 2019.