The Tour de France a la Voile’s first offshore leg was a wet, intense and happy sprint from Dunkirk, France to Breskens, Holland. The fleet started at 9pm in calm conditions: sailing downwind in twelve knots from the west on flat seas.
2013 Tour de France a la Voile
At the first transition buoy OmanSail Team took the lead. Trouble soon followed. Contact between Bretagne Crédit Mutuel and Sodebo broke the bowsprit off Thomas Coville’s boat (Sobedo). Sobedo’s crew improvised their spinnaker from the bow causing the boat's performance to suffer.
After dusk the wind reached 20 knots, peaking to 25 knots during the night. In the dark of night, surfing down the face of waves at speeds approaching 20 knots, the sailors had to navigate numerous perils: cargo ships, fishing buoys and geographical hazards.
The sailors completed the leg in 12 hours, surfing downwind under spinnakers from 9pm – 2am. They rounded a mark just of Rotterdam and then sailed upwind to Breskens until 7am. The fleet was rewarded with a final hour under spinnaker before crossing the finish in Breskens.
Groupama (first) overtook OmanSail (second) just 20 nautical miles from the finish, finishing 54 seconds only ahead of them. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel (third) finished on the podium. Courrier Dunkerque took fourth after some ships came a bit too close for comfort. Nantes St Nazaire E.Leclerc took fifth and TPM Coych sixth. Sodebo was relegated to 10th place after suffering a broken bowsprit. Martinique - BE.Brussels earned a beautiful seventh, leading the amateur ranking.
The 96 sailors are now going to get dry, get some rest and some food. In-port racing resumes tomorrow with three races weather permitting (coefficient one per race). Departure time from the dock at 9am.
Franck Cammas, Groupama 34 skipper and leg winner, the first part of the race downwind: 'It didn’t come down to much. The race was difficult. We would not have been very happy to lose the top spot having just arrived. It was a very, very good fight with weather that was not easy in the very dark night. At night it was very windy, we were rarely calm gybing the boat in 20-25 knots.'
Dueling with Team Omansail: 'We enjoyed a good fight with Oman from beginning to end. They led for most of the race and at one point we were within a few lengths of each other. The race could have gone either way, but fortunately for us, it ended like this.'
The pace of the Tour de France Sailing and Team OmanSail: 'It wasn’t easy to leave at 21h and sail into such a rough night. We had to refocus heading into the technical beat early this morning, and the crew stayed awake all night. We all need a little rest now!'
Cédric Pouligny, Team OmanSail skipper, leg runner-up: 'We were very fast and strong downwind. We’ve done some nice gybes in strong winds. But we went a bit too far and we got very tired. I’ve been steering most of the time and I’m a bit burnt. We took some risks to be fast. The start was key and we’ve been rather fast downwind, we did well against Groupama. They overtook us upwind. We took some time recovering from it but we did come back on them.'
Christopher Pratt, Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite navigator, third of the leg: 'It was a great leg! It started badly because there was a small accident with Sodebo. We are very sorry that they were not able to sail the leg under normal conditions. The Omanis took the lead and we never managed to catch them.
'The leg was truly magical. We had an amazing downwind ride. It was a very dark night and the waves were incredible. We are quite happy with the result even though we wanted to do better. Groupama has set the bar very high and Team Omansail sailed very well. They almost deserved to win. We had an amazing encounter with a cargo ship and Courrier Dunkerque. Daniel Souben went behind the ship and we just ahead. When you’re sailing in 15-16 knots under spinnaker it is not very easy to manoeuvre. Courrier Dunkerque had to gybe to pass behind.'
Overall ranking after six races before jury:
1 Groupama 34, Cammas Franck 199 Pts - Blue Spinnaker
2 Team Omansail, Pouligny Cédric 180 Pts
3 Courrier Dunkerque 3, Souben Daniel 177 Pts
4 Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite, Troussel Nicolas 174 Pts
5 Sodebo, Coville Thomas 161 Pts
6 Nantes - Saint Nazaire - E.Leclerc, Douguet Corentin 158 Pts
7 Ville De Geneve - Carrefour Addictions, Mettraux Elodie-Jane Et Groux Nicolas 154 Pts
8 Toulon Provence Mediterranee - Coych, Bernaz Jean-Baptiste 154 Pts
9 Martinique - Be.Brussels, Wolters Delphine Et Moures Matthieu 133 Pts
10 Iskareen, Dittmers Christiane Et Bruhns Sönke 133 Pts
11 Normandie, Choquenet Baptiste 133 Pts
12 Bienne - Voile – Srs, Peter Luzius Et Kunz François 113 Pts
Offshore ranking after one race before jury:
1 Groupama 34, Cammas Franck 199 Pts
2 Team Omansail, Pouligny Cédric 180 Pts - Red Spinnaker
3 Courrier Dunkerque 3, Souben Daniel 177 Pts
Technical ranking after five races before jury:
1 Groupama 34, Cammas Franck 124 Pts
2 Sodebo, Coville Thomas 113 Pts -Green Spinnaker
3 Courrier Dunkerque 3, Souben Daniel 111 Pts
Amator ranking after six races before jury:
1 Martinique - Be.Brussels, Wolters Delphine Et Moures Matthieu 133 Pts - Red Spinnaker
2 Iskareen, Dittmers Christiane Et Bruhns Sönke 133 Pts
3 Normandie, Choquenet Baptiste 133 Pts
4 Bienne - Voile – Srs, Peter Luzius Et Kunz François 113 Pts