The hours leading up to the start of an offshore race are always an exciting time, and the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 is no exception to this age-old rule. In Saint-Tropez, a port accustomed to hosting these kinds of events, the quays are literally buzzing with anticipation.
A light easterly breeze, mild temperatures and a superb sunset gave a tropical atmosphere to the start of the second leg of the Panerai Transat Classique 2012. At 1800 hours the committee gave the signal to race, finally relieving the competitors from the pressures of last-minute preparations. Every entrant was clearly determined to impress from the word go. Observers witnessed an elegant parade as the yachts crossed the starting line in unison. The crews were busy with the lines, happy to be out on the water and living the moment that they had been dreaming about for weeks.
Since sunrise there had been a buzz of excitement on the quays of Saint-Tropez. Despite months of preparation, there is always a thousand and one things to do before the starting gun fires. The competitors in the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 had their fair share of pre-race chores, and the decks and pontoons were alive with incessant toing and froing. And yet the atmosphere remained calm and friendly between the owners, skippers and sailors.
In fact everyone was ready to lend a hand in the spirit of fraternal passion for these elegant classic yachts. The final packs of bottled water were shipped. Drills passed from hand to hand as hurried repairs or modifications were made. Riggers swung around the masts, gaining the admiration of the public who had decided to make the most of the magnificent weather and take a walk along the quays to see the boats.
An hour before setting sail, Laurent Cosson presented Sea Lion and her owner Manuel Champalimaud with the Mount Gay Prize. This award is designed to promote the values and traditions of classic sailing: elegance, team spirit, generosity and tenacity.
Earlier in the day race director François Séruzier, along with the chairman of the race committee Jean-Claude Travert and the chairman of the protest committee Patrick Celton, assembled the skippers for a weather briefing. The most recent forecast justified the decision for moving the start of the race forward to avoid the bad autumnal weather expected in the Gulf of Lion. In the first few hours of the race the yachts are expected to enjoy a comfortable breeze from the east.
It will then swing around to the west before settling into the north where it will increase progressively, turning into a heavy blow on Friday night. By that time the boats should be near the Balearic Islands, although the race committee recommends that they hug the Spanish coast to avoid the worst of the weather. The next problem will be a succession of lows in the Straits of Gibraltar, south-westerlies coming in from the Atlantic. The first yacht to sail through the Straits will be awarded the Capbiotek Prize.
The racing began in earnest as the night closed in and already The Blue Peter is gaining a significant advantage over White Dolphin, Corto and Sea Lion. But the race has only just begun and the tactical options available to the competitors will certainly make a profound difference in the hours and days to come. Cascais is a long way away and anything can happen between now and their arrival
Costa Lourandakas (Sea Lion): 'We had to change a crew member at the last minute but I'm sure the new guy will fit in very quickly. At first we'll treat it like a day race and try and get the best possible start. We’re expecting light winds so we're really going to have to work hard to get Sea Lion's forty-four tons moving. In the evening we'll organize watches of two hours, each watch comprising two crew members. But if the conditions require it, the whole crew will be ready to come on deck at the drop of a hat. We wish our fellow competitors an excellent race and look forward to having a drink with them in Cascais.'
Mathew Barker (The Blue Peter): At the end of a very studious weather briefing: 'The meeting was very serious because of all the recommendations made by the race committee. That’s normal but we mustn't forget the most important aspect: fun! I hope all the competitors get their fair share.'
Louis Duc (Corto): 'I think we're ready for the off. I know, I shouldn't say that because there is always something else to do, to improve. The crews are motivated and can't wait to get to sea.'
Transat Classique website
by Isabelle Delaune
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5:02 PM Thu 25 Oct 2012GMT
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