Tour de France a la Voile - First offshore leg to Dieppe

@JMLIOT / TFV / A.S.O. - Tour de France a la Voile
© Jean-Marie Liot
Today was the start of the first offshore leg to Dieppe for the M34 fleet competing in the Tour de France a la Voile.

It was an unusually strange atmosphere for this morning's briefing as the sailors seemed both happy to leave the dock and worried about the unknown.

The weather forecast was for five knots of south-south-east breeze with humidity, rain, some storms and a strong current. These conditions promise a long and technical race, with a possible mooring to avoid going backward against the current.

The teams however are hoping for a sea breeze – even if it’s light! – to make the transition around Cape Griz Nez (North Pas de Calais). This leg is 95 miles-long, with the first part of the race in a rather narrow band between the coastline and the forbidden maritime rail and a larger playground after Gris Nez.

It was a good start for the 15 M34's.

Région De Bruxelles. Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest and Ile de France were to leeward while Nantes St Nazaire E. Leclerc, Bred/La Normandie and Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite were windward of the committee boat.

The Belgians controlled their rivals and rounded the final inshore mark first, followed by Iskareen and Île De France. Spinnakers were hoisted and yachts increased in speed as the crews sailed towards Dieppe, hiking on the rail.

Immediately after the start the wind was almost 10 knots from the west-north-west flow, and yachts had around five knots of boat speed. After a long upwind tack on starboard, sailing west along the Northern coast, the 15 teams reached, ten miles away from Calais. The wind shifted a little to the right. Three boats lowered their spinnakers as the fleet headed upwind - Daniel Souben’s men in front of Côtes d'Armor Bretagne and Fascinating Seas International.

The tactical game was on, as were the sail changes. In the early afternoon, the fleet had already sailed 20 of the 95 miles.

Ile de France took the lead again off Calais. The leaders were very close to each other and this leg was looking like a tight one.

'Everything is fine onboard,' said Alexis Littoz (Île De France). 'Studious mood, we’re sailing in eight knots from 315, heading west, towards Gris Nez, with the fractioned spinnaker up. We’re really happy, the wind is keeping up and we may be able to cross the Raz (strong current area) with the current in the good direction. We ate; some guys even got to rest for a while down below. Now let’s control our rivals behind and hold the pressure.'

Similar mood for TPM Coych, delighted to be with the leaders. 'Because of the wind configuration, we know it was hot and we know there is a bit of a sea breeze effect, it’s a very good thing! We’re all over it, pushing the boat,' says the skipper and navigator Fabien Henry.

Courrier Dunkerque 3 and Côtes d'Armor Bretagne went North but were almost three miles behind at the ‘Calais Approche’ mark.

'We are with Courrier Dunkerque 3, we enjoyed it a lot and are focused on the objective and the strategic choices,' says Arthur Le Vaillant, navigator of Côtes d’Armor Bretagne. 4.5 miles behind the leaders are the Russians of Fascinating Seas International.

The fleet had not yet reached the light air. At Blanc Nez, TPM Coych played with the rocks while trying to overtake Nantes St Nazaire. At Gris Nez, the fight was tough between the first five boats - TPM Coych, Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite, Nantes St Nazaire E. Leclerc, Ile De France and BAE Sytems.

Once they sailed past the Cape, they will turn south and sail with their spinnakers up towards Dieppe.

The weather conditions are good enough not to worry too much about the current and a possible mooring. The sea breeze will drop at the end of the day and with the night will come squalls and showers.

The M34s could arrive in Dieppe tomorrow morning.

Alexis Littoz – Ile de France: 'Everything is fine onboard. Studious mood, we’re sailing in eight knots from 315, heading West, towards Gris Nez, with the fractioned spinnaker up. We’re really happy, the wind is keeping up and we may be able to cross the Raz (strong current area) with the current in the good direction. We ate; some guys even got to rest for a while inside the boat. Now let’s control our rivals behind and hold the pressure.'

Fabien Henry – TPM: 'Because of the wind configuration, we know it was hot and we know there is a bit of a sea breeze effect, it’s a very good thing! We’re all over it, pushing the boat'

Arthur Le Vaillant – Côtes d'Armor Bretagne: 'We are with Courrier Dunkerque 3, we enjoyed it a lot and are focused on the objective and the strategic choices.'

Order at Cape Gris Nez / 17h27
1- TOULON PROVENCE MEDITERRANEE –COYCH (FRA 07) - Fabien Henry / Tugdual Becquemie
2- BRETAGNE - CREDIT MUTUEL ELITE (FRA 18) - Nicolas Troussel
3 -NANTES SAINT NAZAIRE - E.LECLERC (FRA 6) - Corentin Douguet
4- ILE DE FRANCE (FRA 1) - Vincent Aillaud
5 - BAE SYSTEMS (OMA 4) - Cédric Pouligny
6- BRED / La NORMANDIE (FRA 15), skippé par Arthur Herreman / Baptiste Choquenet
7-VILLE DE GENEVE – CARREFOUR PREVENTION (SUI 19) - Jérôme Clerc / Elodie Mettraux
8-ISKAREEN (GER 11) - Christiane Dittmers / Sönke Bruhns
9-BIENNE VOILE - SRS (SUI 22) - Lorenz Mueller / François Kunz
10-REGION DE BRUXELLES - CAPITALE / BRUSSELS HOOFDSTEDELIJK GEWEST (BEL 2) - Bertrand Pacé
11-MARTINIQUE - MEDIABAT (FRA 2) - Mathieu Mourès
12 - COURRIER DUNKERQUE 3 (FRA 08) - Daniel Souben
13- TU DELFT (NED 1) - Pieter Van Notten
14 - CÔTES D'ARMOR BRETAGNE (FRA 14) - Josselin Le Moine
15-FASCINATING SEAS INTERNATIONAL (RUS 023) - Léonid Klepikov
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