In the Route des Princes, many are wondering if suspense will be a trademark of Dùn Laoghaire. In the early hours of this Wednesday, the MOD70s rounded off the second offshore leg in true style. It proved to be a tense finale, somewhat reminiscent of last year’s finish in the European Tour.
Edmond de Rothschild - 2013 Route des Princes
Indeed, after over 1,000 miles of racing and two and a half days at sea, the one-designs ended up within sight of each other, just miles from the finish line in light winds. Whilst Yann Guichard and his men managed to hook onto a puff of air and secure the leg win, the battle was raging astern of them, with Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air putting on a marvellous display of match racing. Despite a little fright in the very last minutes, Sébastien Josse and his crew won this particular hand-to-hand combat and secured second place. This result sees Gitana Team take second place in the provisional overall ranking.
On their arrival dockside, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier give us a detailed account of the leg they’ve just sailed:
Sébastien Josse: 'It was a very pretty start in the Tagus River. We had a ball aboard the boat with the big wind shifts, which really reshuffled the cards. On passing Cascais, we were in second position at the scoring gate, just 50m behind Spindrift. Unfortunately we got stuck in Guincho and lost 10 miles to the head of the fleet at that point. Things didn’t get off to a very good start… Afterwards though, it was like something out of ‘Stagecoach’! We headed off on a beat, trying to position ourselves better as we tacked towards the low, which was awaiting us in the Bay of Biscay. The wind shifted overnight and we rounded Cape Finisterre on a reach. It was a good phase, which enabled us to make up our lost ground.'
Charles Caudrelier: 'At the start we were in front and, as per usual when we’re ahead, we have a slight tendency to be conservative. We weren’t willing to lose a little bit of ground to later reposition ourselves in front of the group, which seemed to us to be in a good position. That cost us very dear. Ultimately we didn’t come out of it too badly as we could’ve lost a lot more.'
Sébastien Josse: 'We were expecting much bigger seas but in the end the waves where quite long, which enabled us to make faster headway. We had a swell of up to 3.5 metres on the nose and it wasn’t very comfortable – not comfortable at all in fact – but the boat slipped along relatively smoothly. We didn’t think we’d be able to race at such high speeds. After that we negotiated the centre of the low well, despite it looking treacherous on paper. At the start in Lisbon, this section of the course frightened us a bit as conditions were boat-breaking, but everything went smoothly.'
Sébastien Josse, skipper of MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild
Charles Caudrelier: 'In meteorological terms, this wasn’t the most complicated section. The trajectories were pretty clear, but we were more focused on taking care of the gear and the men given the sea state.'
Charles Caudrelier: 'After getting past the depression, during the climb up to Fastnet, we had to deal with a few oscillations. Due to being bunched together, I don’t think we sailed this section well. We were like a flock of sheep just following one another. Oman Air was in a position of control but it was the wind that favoured them and enabled them to get one up on the rest of us and get a good lead.'
Sébastien Josse: 'Sailing as a group of four boats it soon becomes risky to attempt an option. Finishing up fourth is something that can happen quickly I think. Oman trusts itself, it allows itself to go out on a limb and it’s working for now… We’re paying more attention to what our playmates are up to and we weren’t watching what the wind was doing so much. We’re learning from these errors…'
Sébastien Josse: 'Once we were around Fastnet we decided not to follow the fleet along the Irish coast and opted instead to make towards the South-East a bit, before linking back onto our course towards the goal. It was a good move as we made up 11 miles in 20 minutes. We knew that light, shifty wind awaited us up ahead and that anything was still possible at that point. That’s why it was very important to get back in contention again. In these conditions, you have to be patient whilst remaining active. What that means is that you have to constantly be focused on getting the boat making headway.'
Charles Caudrelier: 'The Fastnet was marked by a quick change in the conditions we were sailing in, with the winds easing. Sébastien had a bold idea, which led to us give one obstacle (the TSS at Fastnet) a wide berth and extend the distance to travel, whilst hanging onto the breeze. We were behind and almost certain that there was breeze on the other side of the TSS. When we saw that the others, inshore, didn’t have any wind, we said to ourselves that there was a coup to be had. It was a big gain! Following that, we had to deal with some light airs as we approached Rosslare. The hardest thing over this section of the course was dealing with the lack of breeze and above all knowing where it was going to kick back in: inshore or offshore? In the end there were bands of wind. As soon as the wind was established again, it was better offshore, but the minute you were hunting for fresh breeze, you had to hunt it down inshore. It wasn’t easy and it led to a fair number of manœuvres.'
Sébastien Josse: 'This morning there was a small opportunity for us. The wind picked up and Oman and Spindrift began to match each other’s moves. For our part, we were able to sail our own course without the constraints of adversaries and that enabled us to make up ground on Oman. A fine battle ensued at that point and it was very tense right to the finish. Just as we were getting the upper hand, we fluffed up our final tack change. There were just three boat lengths in it on the finish line. Spindrift had more luck and made off with a little salutary puff of breeze.'
Charles Caudrelier: 'Oman sailed very well in this leg. However, we never gave up and seized an opportunity at the right moment. With all the effort we put into coming back on the head of the fleet each time, we’d have been really disappointed not to secure a good place. second place is a good place and we’re delighted with it.'
Edmond de Rothschild - 2013 Route des Princes
The fatigue and tension amassed throughout this second offshore leg was written on the faces of those sailors competing in the Route des Princes. Indeed, though it was a fast race, the seas in the Bay of Biscay and the final two hundred miles in light airs have really put the men through the mill: 'The sequence of weather phenomena meant that we didn’t get much sleep. And when conditions are light, as they were at the end of the race, you can’t rest because a multihull requires a great deal of attention. You can get some big gaps opening up between competitors in the light airs. They call for everyone to be constantly on the sheets and trimming. Last night the whole crew was on the case, out on the rail so as to claw back the extra metres we needed to get ahead of Oman,' said the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild before heading to his hotel for some well-earned rest.
The crews now have three days ahead of them to recharge their batteries before they compete in the Irish inshore races this coming Saturday and Sunday.
Edmond de Rothschild crossed the finish line at 04h 44 m and 32s GMT, 6 minutes and 44 seconds behind Spindrift and 33 seconds ahead of Musandam – Oman Air. The four MOD70s finished within 34 minutes and 14 seconds of one another.
Race time: 2d 15h 44mn 32s of racing
Theoretical distance: 990 miles, or an average speed of 15.38 knots
Distance covered: 1,180 miles, or an average speed of 18.51 knots
Ranking for offshore 2 (Lisbon - Dublin)
1. Spindrift Racing / 40 + 2* = 42 points
2. Edmond de Rothschild / 36 points
3. Musandam-Oman Air / 32 + 2* = 34 points
4. Virbac Paprec 70 / 28 points
* bonus points awarded to the first boat to pass Cascais (Spindrift) then Fastnet (Oman Air)
Overall ranking for the Route des Princes
1. Spindrift Racing (Yann Guichard) / 94 points
2. Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) / 88 points
3. Musandam – Oman Air (Sidney Gavignet) / 88 points
3. Virbac Paprec 70 (Jean-Pierre Dick) / 66 points