Gildas Mahé leads Cap Istanbul

We were expecting the thoroughbred Mediterraneans to do well in the coastal course around the Baie des Anges, but finally it was a true Breton who slipped past the throng of sailors from southern climes.

Gildas Mahé, a sailor from Concarneau, brought up on oyster juice and buckwheat galettes, was first to dip southwards. Behind him were a disparate gathering of locals from nearby Marseilles and the Var region in general, as well some ‘gatecrashers’ from La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic coast. The Bretons will have to wait before they can settle the argument with guns.

Decidedly the Baie des Anges enjoys upsetting any hierarchies. Robert Nagy, who was positioned last in the Alpes Maritimes Trophy, had the bit between his teeth right from the outset this time. And he has since remained in the leading pack thanks to a few judicious tack changes in a still capricious wind. Paul Meilhat, took the fleet by surprise once again, positioned third at the windward mark… However, the sailor who really stole the show was indeed Gildas Mahé, as he rounded the Alpes Maritimes Conseil Général mark with a comfortable lead of around ten boat lengths. 'I have just one criticism to express' he joked at the Alpes Maritimes Trophy prize-giving, 'it’s the number of tack changes you need to make down here in order to stay in the running…' Visibly the skipper of Comptoir Immobilier retained the lesson whilst the circuit’s usual top players clearly had a few difficulties.

Behind the newly accredited ‘band leader’, Gildas, the sailors from south of the Loire were clearly better off in the race for the head of the pack. This was evident by the fact that after Gildas, you had to wait till tenth place before the next true Breton sailed into the frame in the shape of Thomas Rouxel, skipper of Défi Mousquetaire. Out the front though, second place went to Robert Nagy from the Var coast, third to Christophe Bouvet, a mountain dweller from Annecy now living in La Rochelle, and fourth Nicolas Bérenger who confirmed his brilliant prologue from the day before. You could argue the case of the fine sixth place by François Gabart’s Breton boat (Espoir Région Bretagne), but some would venture that the skipper himself actually learnt his trade in Nice. The top names in the French Championship were so busy marking each other that all of them were positioned between eleventh and twentieth place. As luck would have it at the start of the psychological war, the three leaders in the French Championship, Gildas Morvan, Fred Duthil and Erwan Tabarly, were all neck and neck during the coastal course.

We know all too well that there’s a long way to go and there could be a number of upsets in the ranking between here and Cagliari. This is particularly true given that the weather is proving sufficiently crafty to offer the sailors a marked deck of cards. At start time it was a real meteorological brainteaser. Should the sailors play the W’ly card to try and pick up the remains of the Mistral feeding the Var coast over the past few days? Or would it be better to sneak in a card with a bit of easting and rack up some miles in the NE’ly air flow, which could fill in along the coast of Corsica. With some opting for the right, whilst others went for the left, you’d have thought that some of them would have ended up being the laughing stock. However, the wind finally shifted round to point due south enabling the solo sailors in the Cap Istanbul to make a virtually direct course towards the extreme west coast of Corsica. Nevertheless, the race has only just begun and Météo France is forecasting some small windless zones across the route between the mainland and Corsica. At the current time, the fleet is bunched together and it would appear difficult, according to information from the support boats, to hazard even a vague prediction. However, between those from southern France who want to remain the masters of their own territories and the Bretons set on revenge, the cover of darkness will likely bear witness to some frenzied activity on every boat.

1244 hrs: Passage at the end of the coastal course in the Baie des Anges.

1 - Le Comptoir Immobilier, Gildas Mahé, 2 - Théolia, Robert Nagy, 3- SIRMA, Christophe Bouvet, 4- Kone Elevators, Nicolas Bérenger, 5- TS Régate Créteil Val de Marne, Paul Meilhat, 6- Espoir Région Bretagne, François Gabart, 7- MACIF, Gérald Véniard, 8- Capitol, Marc Emig, 9- Docteur Valnet, Aromathérapie, Laurent Pellecuer, 10- Défi Mousquetaire, Thomas Rouxel, 11- Financo, Nicolas Troussel, 12- Luisina, Eric Drouglazet, 13- Cercle Vert, Gildas Morvan, 14- Distinxion, Fred Duthil, 15- Marseille Entreprises, Jean-Paul Mouren, 16 - Athema, Erwan Tabarly, 17 - DCNS 62, Romain Attanasio, 18 – Gedimat, Armel Tripon, 19 – Banque Populaire, Jeanne Grégoire, 20 – Agir Recouvrement, Adrien Hardy, 21 – Synergie, Isabelle Joschke, 22 - DCNS 97, Christopher Pratt, 23 – Suzuki Automobiles, Thierry Chabagny, 24 - Dégremont Suez Environnement Source de Talents, Jean-Charles Monnet, 25 – L’esprit d’équipe , Eric Péron, 26 – Entreprendre Laffont Presse, Mathieu Girolet, 27 – Nanni Diesel, Louis-Maurice Tannyères, 28 – Senoble, Arnaud Godard-Philippe, 29 – Baïko, Antonio Pedro da Cruz.

The first complete ranking will be available at 1700 UT on the race site: