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The Water Shed - 4

Dragon Gold Cup - Eve of Douarnenez battle

by Véronique Guillou Le Bivic on 19 Aug 2013
2013 Gazprom Dragon Gold Cup Jacques Vapillon et François Van Malleghem
The Gazprom International Dragon Gold Cup will commence tomorrow on the water at Douarnenez, the bay that on numerous occasions has been a lauded setting for sailors from all over the globe.

Over the course of the week 78 teams will come head to head; some on a quest for the prestigious ‘Holy Grail’ of the Gold Cup, others for the sheer elegance of the Dragon class and the majority to face the elements.

Whether Olympic medallists, offshore specialists or sailors with a passion for the art of racing, over the next six days they all have one main factor in common– the Bay of Douarnenez along with all its mysteries and beauty.

Three sailors met this morning in the port of Tréboul: - Jean-Luc Nélias, one of the best French navigators and specialists in offshore meteorology; the French academician Erik Orsenna, whose passion for writing and travel is joined by a very privileged relationship with the sea and Brittany in particular; and Yann Kersalé, the artist from Douarnenez and renown worldwide for his talent of sculpting light.

Whatever their differences, all three have come together to share a theme which is truly enchanting the bay of Douarnenez. Whether from the offshore sailing world, the Academy or an artist’s workshop, their words may have differed but their message was the same.

'It’s similar to any bay, except that we are talking about Douarnenez,' Jean-Luc Nélias is quick to state. That may be so, but what is it exactly?

'It’s wild and beautiful. There are no buildings, and you sail among blue surrounded by green. The bay is closed in on three sides and there is some high ground. The current hardly interferes (or not at all) in your strategic choices. The wind finds its own way through and makes its way down there. It’s tricky. You have to try and get a reading of a wind which is often mischievous. When it comes down from the Ménez-Hom (which overlooks the Bay of Douarnenez from 330 metres), it sketches its wake and moves from one side to the other. The hardest thing here is being able to predict it and what is going to happen in the next two or three hours of racing.'

'As it’s going to be good weather all week, there is another factor that will also make a difference when reading the water and that is the thermal wind. When the thermal wind sets in, you feel it coming and you might get a smell of cut hay or sun cream depending on its direction,' explains Yann Kersalé, 'There is a ‘Vent des Mages’ (lit. Magician’s Wind) which is what they call the toboggan that comes down from the Ménez-Hom and which we all go after, as well as the ‘ascenseur’ (lit. ‘the lift’) which is the thermal. The whole fleet might set off to the left for the toboggan and you take ‘the lift’ all on your own. That is the ideal situation ! The toboggan is a safe option and the lift is a possibility.'

Whether in descriptions or paintings the Bay of Douarnenez is the queen of colour. 'There is a continuity in the tones,' explains Erik Orsenna. 'It flows, and has a really melodic sequence of metamorphosis; there is a certain musical order. The sea doesn’t state its presence with the coast coming up to interrupt it. In painting this is called the value of grey. When you are reading the water you have the wind, but you also have the light and its contrasts on the water which also tell us the path that the wind is tracking. The winner of the race is the best reader. Books are far from having the monopoly of the place to be read, the whole planet can be read there.'

Twenty boats may win the Gazprom International Dragon Gold Cup.

'Knowing the bay is a serious advantage, but what you really need is a triple Olympic title,' explains Jean-Luc Nélias.

'The Dragon is a learning experience in humility and you can’t win all the time, even if you do have those Olympic medals behind you,' adds Yann Kersalé.

'Yes Yann is right, you need humility and determination. And there isn’t just one right way. It’s like love,' concludes Erik Orsenna.

From Monday 19th to Saturday 2th August – there is one race a day starting at 15h. The boats will leave the dock at 13h.

Since 1954, Gazprom International has been the first producer and the first exporter of natural gas in the world. In 2005, Gazprom International became a major player on the global oil market. Today, the corporation is managing over 30 projects in 15 countries Dragon Gold Cup
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