Today saw another round of races in Hyères for the Tour de France a la Voile and more points bagged by Groupama 34 in their bid to catch up with the leader of the overall ranking. Indeed, Franck Cammas and his crew are inexorably continuing on with their comeback. Some would say Franck is building up, whilst others reckon that the skipper of Groupama is simply dishing out the orders, enabling each of his crew to express their talent at a solid pace.
Since arriving in Granville, Groupama 34 has never had as small a deficit in relation to Courrier Dunkerque. From 22 points she is now just seven points shy of the leader. A lucky number for some... Whatever happens, in the last two days, they've made up a total of 12 points. At this pace, it is entirely understandable that the team from Dunkirk are beginning to question themselves, their brains working overtime.
During the start of the first inshore race this anxiousness was translated by Courrier Dunkerque being declared as OCS. Forced to go back to the start and cross the line again, the overall leader was a long way behind Nantes Saint Nazaire, Normandy and Groupama 34 by the time it was up and running again. Third at the windward mark, Franck Cammas and his crew managed to snatch the lead shortly before the finish, whilst Dunkirk finished in a very poor sixth place.
The second inshore race was unfortunately cancelled whilst Groupama was lying in a solid second place astern of Bretagne Crédit Mutuel after leaving Courrier Dunkerque at a virtual standstill as they headed off under spinnaker in an evanescent breeze, which ultimately led the Race Committee to cancel.
After waiting several hours, a southerly wind deigned to pick up to around ten knots, enabling the Race Committee to launch a shorter coastal course than the one initially scheduled around the island of Porquerolles. Getting off to an absolute peach of a start at the committee boat, Bretagne Crédit Mutuel led the race from start to finish, shadowed by Groupama 34, which also had to focus its efforts on covering the occasional threat from Courrier Dunkerque.
'We sailed well, without any particular pressure on our shoulders but with the desire to do well,' explained Christophe André, bowman on the inshore race.
For Groupama's supporters, the tension was a lot more palpable than yesterday, the battle on the water having gained in intensity. For the onlookers, nothing beats the suspense generated by the fantastic comeback by the reigning champion, which seems to have its heart set on toppling the leader.
Down but not out, Courrier Dunkerque will have to come up with a response tomorrow if it wants to hold onto its position at the top of the leaderboard after the two inshore races scheduled between 10:00 and 15:00 hours. After that it will be time at 20:30 hours to take the start of the final 110-mile offshore leg between Hyères and Nice, which is labelled as a coefficient three race. This final leg could well be where the champion of the 2014 edition of the Tour de France à la Voile is decided... Provisional overall ranking after 27 races
1. Courrier Dunkerque 3 with 851 points
2. Groupama 34 with 844 points
3. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel with 803 points
4. Team Omansail with 794 points
5. Ville de Genève with 738 points
6. Normandy - Acerel with 729 points
7. Toulon Provence Méditerranée - COYCH with 711 points
8. Nantes Saint Nazaire with 699 points
9. BE.Brussels Bienne Voile with 632 points