Tour de France à la Voile - ‘Grand Surprise’ boats join in + Video

Tour de France a la Voile 2013 - La Seyne, Marseille
© Morgan Bove / ASO
Organisers of the Tour de France à la Voile for two years, A.S.O. is constantly developing this race created by Bernard Decré in 1978 and has at heart its competitive level and shore life. After assessing the future of the fleet for several months, the Tour de France à la Voile is re-establishing the importance of young and amateur sailing, along with professional teams.

To help such teams to enter the race, A.S.O. is opening the fleet to Grand Surprise boats. A 9.54m monohull, it is cheaper than the M34 and a common keelboat amongst young and amateur sailors. The Grand Surprise fleet is now one of the biggest one-design exciting fleets.

Amateur teams will be able to have one professional sailor onboard, but he/she won’t be allowed to steer during the inshore races. The M34 fleet will see high-level crews coming from the Volvo Ocean Race, America’s Cup, Olympics or World Match Racing Tour. Skippers such as Franck Cammas and Thomas Coville chose to enter the Tour de France à la Voile in 2013, catching the media attention. First-class amateurs will also keep racing in M34.

Mixing M34 and Grand Surprise, the fleet will bring even more life to the stopovers and reinforce the competition.

'The Grand Surprise is a well-know, seaworthy and financially optimised one-design boat,' says Amaury Sport Organisation CEO Yann Le Moënner. 'It seemed like the ideal boat to allow young and amateur teams to come back to this race they’ve been dreaming about alongside experienced sailors competing in M34. This evolution respects the event’s historical values. It helps us strengthening the fleet and renewing the history of the race, the door to offshore sailing for youngsters and amateurs.'

Groupama 34 win the 2013 Tour de France a la Voile
@JM LIOT / TFV / ASO

This decision already seems to be accepted by the competitors – several student teams showed signs of interest for the 2014 edition in case of a cheaper option.

After consulting a wide range of experts, sailors, managers and class representatives, the organiser decided to open the race to another class. This open consultation was looking for an appropriate solution ensuring level playing field (one-design), easy logistics (a leaser will deliver the boats ready to sail) and lower budget for competitors.

The French Sailing Federation and its President agree with such change. 'Welcoming a second boat in addition to the M34 for the 2014 edition of the Tour de France à la Voile is surely to best way to attract young, amateur and female teams again. The Grand Surprise fleet will be strictly identical (sails included) and it totally follows the French sailing lines our Federation is supporting,' says Jean-Pierre Champion.

Grand Surprise Class President Jean-François Guilmard is looking forward to see the class’ teams entering the race. 'It’s a recognition for a boat, whose success never stops since launching the class. Over 2000 Federation members have sailed a Grand Surprise in 2012, making it the first one-design class.'

To ensure a level playing field and a strict one-design fleet, the Grand Surprise will be drawn twice: at the start and at the beginning of the Mediterranean part of the race.

The route will be announced in December and should contribute to bring in more teams.



Yann Le Moënner, Amaury Sport Organisation CEO: 'The Grand Surprise is a well-know, seaworthy and financially optimised one-design boat. It seemed like the ideal boat to allow young and amateur teams to come back to this race they’ve been dreaming about, alongside experienced sailors competing in M34.

'This evolution respects the event’s historical values. It helps us strengthening the fleet and renewing the history of the race, the door to offshore sailing for youngsters and amateurs.'

Jean-Pierre Champion, French Sailing Federation President: 'For various reasons – including economical ones, the Tour de France à la Voile is encountering difficulties gathering amateur and young projects.

'Welcoming a second boat in addition to the M34 for the 2014 edition of the Tour de France à la Voile is surely to best way to attract young, amateur and female teams again. The Grand Surprise fleet will be strictly identical (sails included) and it totally follows the French sailing lines our Federation is supporting. I have full confidence in A.S.O. to make this a success in Grand Surprise and M34!

Jean-François Guilmard, President Grand Surprise Class President: 'The Grand Surprise will complement very well the M34 for the Tour de France à la Voile. It’s a recognition for a boat, whose success never stops since launching the class. Over 2000 Federation members have sailed a Grand Surprise in 2012, making it the first one-design class. The class is looking forward to see the Tour de France à la Voile competitors joining our own races. We hope to see a true synergy between the Grand Surprise class and the TFV.'
http://www.sail-world.com/115886