From the 17-21 April, hundreds of monohulls will converge on the Quiberon Bay for the 36th edition of the Spi Ouest-France Intermarché regatta. For the first time, two boats from Safran will race in two very eminent categories.
25ème SPI Ouest-France Intermarché - Safran 5,70
Morgan Lagravière will line up among the hundred J80s entered this year. Marc Guillemot will defend the title he won in 2013 in the Open 7.50m class. The two sailors, who both own their boats, decided to wear the colours of their partner Safran.
Established 36 years ago, the largest gathering of living monohulls in Europe will host more than 400 this year. For five days, the crews will race in Quiberon Bay, famous for its often random weather.
The category of J80 (eight-metre monohulls) is probably the most important class in the competition, both in the number and the quality of the crews. This year, more than 107 boats will compete in this event which will count towards the Coupe de France.
An owner of a J80 since last February, Lagravière decided to have his own boat in the colours of Safran. 'This year I started sailing in the IMOCA with Marc (Guillemot),' Lagravière said. 'To complete my training I decided to expand the range of boats I was sailing. I bought a J80 specifically for my preparation, to be in the best shape for the 2016 Vendée Globe.
This monohull is the perfect tool to train in. It does not need to be constantly upgraded technically to have a chance of getting good results, only the choices by the sailor when racing make the difference,' Lagravière, who does not see himself sailing without the colours of Safran anymore, added. 'It is natural for me to wear the colours of my partner and I am very proud to do so. Mentally it makes me feel stronger on the starting line and since the boat was painted with the colours of Safran, I have found it even more beautiful.'
The owner of his Open 7.50m since 2005, Guillemot is a regular at the Spi Ouest-France Intermarché and his results are always near the top of the class. First in 2012 and 2013, fourth in 2011 and third in 2010, the skipper from Saint-Philibert has worn the colours of the Safran Group since 2007 in this event. It was a decision taken by Guillemot.
'This event fits easily into my sporting calendar,' Guillemot said. 'My priority is to sail a really responsive and progressive boat with a crew involved with our IMOCA (Alexander Marmorat is part of the Safran Sailing Team and Caesar Dohy works on the sails). If the presence of the boat also means we are enhancing the profile of Safran in sailing, then our mission is a double win. As a professional team, we naturally draw more attention than those who are amateur. When you are carrying the flag of a group like Safran it fills you with real pride and forces you to try even harder.
Also, there is a certain common logic to sailing an Open 7.50 at the same time as sailing an IMOCA 60.' This one-design with a powerful hull and impressive sail area is often considered the most demanding boat at the Spi Ouest-France Intermarché. The competition is always of a high level and does not look like breaking that rule this year. 'For this 2014 edition, our main competitors are Nicolas Groleau, Loïck Peyron and a very sharp English professional crew,' Guillemot said. 'Two or three other teams could also rock the boat.'
The first big event of the sailing season in France, the Spi Ouest-France Intermarché is a perfect playground for skippers. As both a full-scale training exercise and a competition, the opportunity is ideal for fine tuning, refining strategy and self-assessment at the same time as being a great event.