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Route des Princes - Leg 1 victory for Oman Air-Musandam + Video

'Oman-Air Musandam - 2013 Route des Princes'    © Marcel Mochet

In the 2013 Route des Princes, Sidney Gavignet and the international crew of Oman Air-Musandam broke the finish line off Lisbon at 12:41:38 hrs local time (11:41:38hrs TU) to win the first leg from Valencia to Morlaix, France via stopovers in Lisbon, Dun Laoghaire Dublin and Plymouth.

Since starting from Valencia, Spain on Sunday afternoon the crew of Oman Air-Musandam have been the most consistent race leaders, only passed twice since the first and only turning mark at Benicarlo, 30 miles north of Valencia. Each time they were overtaken it proved only very temporary and, sticking with their strategies, they drew ahead again to win into Lisbon by 44 minutes and 52 seconds ahead of Yann Guichard’s crew on Spindrift.

Skippered by France’s Sidney Gavignet, Oman Air-Musandam, has the most international team in the race, composed of two crew from France, two from Oman, one from England and one from Ireland.

After finishing a disappointing fourth on the six race inshore series in Valencia, Oman Air-Musandam bounced back with the perfect first offshore leg, earning maximum points – 40 for winning the leg and two points apiece for leading at the Benicarlo and Gibraltar marks. The Oman flagged team now lead the overall standings on 44 points, four ahead of Spindrift.

2013 Route des Princes - Arrivée de l’équipage de Oman Air-Musandam -  © Dominique Le Roux   Click Here to view large photo
When Gavignet and his team pushed out to the west early this morning in search of the favourable shift in wind direction on which they were pinning their hopes of securing their victory on, they ceded their long standing lead to their pursuers Spindrift but the shift came and they were able to extend away again to win.

Though they lead for most of the course, holding a margin of some 20 miles or thereabouts for the majority of the course through the Mediterranean out into the Atlantic, the race for the Multi 50 class proved to be incredibly close.

Most of the time the two main protagonists fought it out within sight of each other with an intensity which was more akin to a round the buoys regatta. In the end it was Lalou Roucayrol’s Arkema-Région Aquitaine which prevailed by just 13 minutes and 18 seconds ahead of Yves Le Blevec’s Actual after 3 days 3 hours 46 minutes and 15 seconds.

'It was an incredible race. Since the start with Actual we sailed more or less side by side, covering, watching each other, even luffing like we were racing round three buoys. Yves Le Blevec and his crew sailed really well and so we are very proud to win, especially as this is our first big race.' Smiled skipper Roucayrol after finishing their first major race with his recently launched boat with a win.

In fact skipper Gavignet himself was the architect of the key move which allowed Oman Air-Musandam to earn an initial small lead during very early Monday morning which they were able to multiply to become more than 20 miles.

With no designated, specialist navigator in their crew, Gavignet assumes most of the responsibility for drawing down the weather information and preparing strategic choices which he then discusses with his main lieutenants. As they passed the first point on the descent of the Mediterranean, Cabo de la Nau he chose to stay further offshore than their rivals, thereby sailing a few more miles but they were able to stay with a more solid breeze and so build the lead which was to prove decisive.

'To be honest I was asleep when Sidney made that call so he deserves all the credit for that, which really was the key move of the race.' laughed British veteran round the world racer Neal McDonald.

'The move to stay east offshore on the first night was Sidney’s call, it was tradeoff between sailing the breeze and sailing more miles and it was probably the call of our race, we made that ten or 15 miles buffer on that one call.'

Gavignet paid tribute to his one prerace day seminar with renowned French meteo specialist Jean Yves Bernot for bolstering his confidence in his Mediterranean weather strategies: 'I had just one day with Jean Yves Bernot on the weather before the delivery to Valencia and to be honest that made a lot of thing more clear in my mind. I would dedicate the leg to him. It was just one day but I would say that before I felt the weather might be a weakness, because we don’t have a dedicated navigator, but after that day I was feeling much more confident. I was feeling strong, so it feels good to have made these calls.'

Final standings Leg 1

Multi 50’s

1 Arkéma - Region Aquitaine, Lalou Roucayrol finish 12/06/2013 15:46:15 average 8.9kts
2 Actual, Yves Le Blevec finish 15:59:33, 8.87kts
3 FenêtréA – Cardina, Erwan Le Roux, 17:14:40, 8.73
DNS Rennes Métropole - Saint Malo Agglomération, Gilles Lamiré

1 Oman Air – Musandam, Sidney Gavignet, finish 12/06/2013 11:41:38h average 11.08kts
2 Spindrift, Yann Guichard, 12:26:30, average 10.96kts
3 Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse, 15:31:36, 10.51kts
4 Virbac - Paprec 70, Jean-Pierre Dick, 15:43:25, 10.49

1 Maxi 80 Prince de Bretagne, Lionel Lemonchois 13 12:20:58, 10.98

Rankings after Valencia Inshore and Leg 1 Valencia to Lisbon

MOD 70
1 : Oman Air – Musandam (48 pts)
2 : Spindrift (44 pts)
3 : Edmond de Rothschild (42 pts)
4 : Virbac-Paprec 70 (34 pts)

1 : Maxi 80 Prince de Bretagne (44 pts)

Multi 50
1 : Arkema – Région Aquitaine (42 pts)
2 : Actual (36 pts)
3 : FenêtréA-Cardinal (32)
4: Rennes Métropole - Saint-Malo Agglomération (28)

Sidney Gavignet (FRA): 'We are happy, we did some good work and made only a couple of small mistakes but it is a good feeling. This just means we are working well together as a team. Last night it was a bit difficult. We had Spindrift and Prince de Bretagne inside us on the coast and they were catching, catching and the wind shift we were looking for was not coming, so that was tricky.

'In fact we were all together coming out of Benicarlo but when we stayed further offshore that was where we got our lead that we extended to 20 miles. We were well positioned then and I suppose if there was a key moment of the race that was it.'

'I had just one day with Jean Yves Bernot on the weather before the delivery to Valencia and to be honest that made a lot of thing more clear in my mind. I would dedicate the leg to him. It was just one day but I would say that before I felt the weather might be a weakness, because we don’t have a dedicated navigator, but after that day I was feeling much more confident. I was feeling strong, so it feels good to have made these calls.'

'With no dedicated navigator I bring down all the weather files and examine them and we make the calls together.'

Neal McDonald (GBR) Oman Air-Musandam : 'It is good. I think the two days of inshore racing in Valencia did not really reflect our level and maybe this proves what we are capable of. It is a reward for all the hard work that we all put in before, it has paid off a dividend now.'

'Last night was a bit tense. There was no half measures when they were ten or 15 miles behind us because it would not have made sense to go back and try and cover them and you can’t see them so we had to do something different. We were pretty confident in our option.'

Spindrift Racing - 2013 Route des Princes -  Chris Schmid/Spindrift Racing   Click Here to view large photo
'The move to stay east offshore on the first night was Sidney’s call, it was tradeoff between sailing the breeze and sailing more miles and it was probably the call of our race, we made that ten or 15 miles buffer on that one call.'

'Either your calls are brave or conservative at different times and I think we got the balance right. We were confident in our option last night, but it was a bit tense at times. There was always going to be some compression as we were going into the lighter breeze, but there was no really big surprise when we extended away again today.'

Yann Guichard (FRA) Spindrift: ' I feel good because Oman sailed really well. There was not the wind for us to finish better than second. We sailed really well after the first mark. I am happy with the speed of the boat, with the team spirit, so I am really confident for the future.

The balance is not to take too many risks. They were first after the first mark and so then you had to decide whether you pass inside the DST at Cabo de la Nau, so they stayed outside. But even just after that at sunrise at 0500hrs we saw Oman were only three miles in front of us but they then left with the breeze and that was it.

When you have to pass Gibraltar with a W’ly wind you only have one good way and so everyone took the same way, with 25kts maximum. We only sailed upwind. The situation was clear after Gibraltar we stayed on starboard for a long time and the wind increased and increased all the time, us waiting for the shift and it built and built until we had a small shift to the left and then we went directly to Faro. We were too close Faro, only two miles off, when the wind dropped for us a little.

I did not think we would get past them this morning. For sure I was saying we have to keep the pressure on them, because anything can happen. But we could see the shift coming and there was no real chance to get past them.

The first mark and just after that we made a big, big mistake. The wind was just 200 metres in front of us, we tacked away and lost five miles. So after that we decided to be focused on sailing fast in a good way and we sailed really, really well after that.

It does not feel very different from last year, but we have three different crew. But we have a really good crew. The rhythm and feeling with the team was really good. I am really confident.

Gibraltar was great but so was finishing. To finish in sunshine, with 20kts of wind and in second it is not a bad result. For me the best team, our main adversary this year, will be Gitana. Oman were really impressive on this leg.'

Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema-Aquitaine):'It was an incredible race. Since the start with Actual we sailed more or less side by side, covering, watching each other, even luffing like we were racing round three buoys. Yves Le Blevec and his crew sailed really well and so we are very proud to win, especially as this is our first big race. The guys worked very hard with very little sleep, we gave it everything as we had to stay in the game. It was beautiful, what a race. And if Actual had won I would have been proud for them too!'

Lionel Lemonchois (Prince de Bretagne): 'It was complicated but a good race. The weather in the Mediterranean was just as it normally is, a bit random. Suddenly there was too much wind then just as suddenly not enough. It was very close. Oman Air-Musandam managed to escape but the others were close and mostly were behind. We were with Edmond de Rothschild and did better at the Strait of Gibraltar which was fairly simple and then we sailed hard and close against Spindrift. We were fighting with them for a long time. It was good on board. We have a youngster in Jean Luc Nélias who is not too bad at the navigations (note: Nélias won the Volvo Ocean Race recently and is one of the most experienced around). Since last night we got back at Oman Air-Musandam a bit and then they disappeared over the horizon. They did well, bravo! Getting here to Lisbon is great. It is a city people love to come to. I am happy, the boat was good and it is going faster and faster.'

Route des Princes

by Sabina Mollart Rogerson


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7:34 PM Wed 12 Jun 2013GMT

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