Panerai Transat Classique - Sailors face the elements

2012 Panerai Transat Classique
Sailing is all about adapting to the conditions and the 2012 Panerai Transat Classique sailors were willing to face the elements but the race committee preferred to suspend proceedings. Barcelona has become an unexpected interlude to the second leg. In port, the atmosphere has a touch of frustration about it, although everyone understands the situation. Monday will see the competitors lining up for a new start as the race to Cascais, via Gibraltar, picks up from where it left off.

'It was a difficult decision to make but I don't regret it,' says François Séruzier, race director of the Panerai Transat Classique 2012, himself an experienced sailor and not one to shirk his responsibilities. During the latest race briefing, the skippers were obviously a little frustrated. They had been preparing for weeks and months, had crossed the starting line in perfect conditions, had enjoyed a fine twenty-four hour run under spinnaker and... then had to call it off without a shadow of a score. Nothing to be pleased about! Some also regret not having passed through the gate to the north of Palma, on the island of Majorca in the Balearics (a gate is a GPS-defined line which indicates the route of the race, and sometimes a finishing line if the route has to be reduced in length, and across which the yachts must pass).

'At the time of making my decision, the forecast was changing all the time and the conditions could have deteriorated earlier than expected... or perhaps later,' explains François Séruzier.'Sending the boats in the direction of Palma was also sending them into the path of a fifty-knot wind. In the coming hours the conditions might prove me wrong but I am responsible for ensuring their safety.'

This forced call into Barcelona, where the competitors have been warmly received by the Real Club Nautico, might be a big problem for one of the boats. White Dolphin, a formidable yawl with an impressive track record, lost her propeller on the final approach to the Catalan capital and can only continue if she gets a new one fitted. The rules prohibit, of course, any yacht using her engines to gain an advantage during the race; however she must have an operational means of mechanical propulsion when she takes the starting line. After that, like every vessel at sea, she’s on her own. Finding the right spare propeller in two days won't be easy, especially on a weekend. Her crew will be counting on the solidarity of the nautical community to find a solution in the coming hours to ensure White Dolphin continues the race.

On Corto, the fast Dick Carter designed sloop, the crew are assessing their performance. 'In the first few hours of the race we thought the yacht was performing well,' says Maxime Abbar, the owner’s son. 'We were sailing well under a light spinnaker before the wind started to pick up and the watch rota was set up. We really thought we could go as far as Palma. But the organizer thought differently and we understand his decision.' Despite this little setback, the crew remain positive and are determined to enjoy their stopover in Barcelona before the restart on Monday.

Any delay of this kind always creates logistical problems for the crews. Most of the sailors are amateurs and will be expecting to get back to their professional activities once they arrive in Cascais.

'Even if they had gone to Palma, we would have been obliged to interrupt the race,' notes François Séruzier.'We expect to restart the race on Monday and we’ll designate two new gates, one off Cartagena and another 25 miles before the Straits of Gibraltar.'

Gibraltar is still 500 miles away and then the yachts will have to sail up the Iberian Peninsula to Cascais. That gives the competitors plenty of time to show their courage, character and skill aboard these magnificent sailing machines.

Panerai Transat Classique website