Trophée Clairefontaine has now come to an end and the winner has been crowned. Following on from Loïck Peyron in 2010, it was Nicolas Charbonnier's turn to add his name to the list of winners.
Trophee Clairefontaine 2011
This year, the event was held at La Grande Motte. As always in this unique competition, the difference was made in the very last meters of the ninth and final regatta.
Nicolas Charbonnier finished ahead of François Gabart, who was taking part in the competition for the first time, with Pascal Bidégorry taking third place just one catamaran's length ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux at the finishing line of the final race. Michel Desjoyeaux was fourth.
Nicolas Charbonnier won by garnering points during the first of the two days of the Trophée Clairefontaine, including winning the first Raid which started the competition on Saturday, 10 September. He then demonstrated all his skill and strategy, taking four second places, and not seeking to make any spectacular feats but avoid penalties. His crew members were Tanguy Cariou and Christophe Espagnon.
François Gabart was taking part in the competition for the first time, but the young prodigy from the French Offshore Racing Centre in Port La Forêt still impressed the public and professionals alike with his quicksilver talent. With two wins in the Runs and clockwork-like regularity, François Gabart was a threat to Nicolas Charbonnier right up to the finishing line in the last heat.
Pascal Bidégorry seems to have bad Saturdays and good Sundays in the Trophée Clairefontaine, with one win of a heat. Once again, at the very last minute he took third place on the podium. Despite having an equal number of points with Pascal Bidégorry, Michel Desjoyeaux finished the last heat just behind him and so took fourth place, also with one win in a Run.
Saturday was also doomsday for Dutch skipper Carolijn Brouwer but she dazzled on Sunday with three wins in four Runs. As is often the case, and once again this year, the foreign newcomers to the Trophée Clairefontaine constantly improved from regatta to regatta, finishing in style on the Sunday afternoon to remind their French colleagues of their superb talent.
Armel Le Cléac'h won a Run on Saturday and fought for all he was worth to make the podium, but the last two regattas were fatal (taking sixth and eighth places respectively), and had to be content with sixth place. Roland Jourdain and Jean-Pierre Dick had alternately good and bad spells, and closed the overall standings in that order.
Overall standings (nine heats):
1- Nicolas Charbonnier, 58 pts (1,7,3,2,2,4,2,2,6)
2- François Gabart, 55 pts (3,4,1,1,6,3,5,4,3)
3- Pascal Bidégorry, 48 pts (7,5,2,6,4,2,6,1,4)
4- Michel Desjoyeaux, 48 pts (2,1,5,5,3,8,4,3,5)
5- Carolijn Brouwer (NL), 43 pts (8,6,4,8,7,1,1,8,1)
6- Armel Le Cléac'h, 38 pts (6,3,7,4,1,7,3,6,8)
7- Roland Jourdain, 35 pts (4,2,8,3,AB,5,8,7,2)
8- Jean-Pierre Dick, 24 pts (5,AB,6,7,5,6,7,5,7)