Vendee Globe – From the 28th-30th September, IMOCA skippers were expected in Lorient to take part in the second edition of the Azimut Trophy (a 210-mile single-handed race) and Challenge (around Groix Island with a crew). It was the perfect change to get together 40 days before the start in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and face each other in a competition one last time before November 10.
The message was clear: The Azimut Trophy was not only a great opportunity to practice solo regatta one last time but also a fun event. The pre-start briefing saw Azimut founder Jean-Marie Corteville - aka ‘Steve Jobs’ according to Louis Burton – set the tone: 'The Azimut Trophy is a friendly race with a fun route and priority is given to relaxation and having a good time. This is why you won’t see an Azimut showroom or anything because our main goal is to have fun.' On the start line at 5.30PM, the seven competitors were looking forward to follow these guidelines and kill two birds with one stone: Enjoy themselves and train hard.
After the race, Armel Le Cléac’h totally agreed with the director of the communication company about the pleasant atmosphere surrounding the Breton event: 'Of course it is a race, with rankings and competition involved, but the atmosphere is so relaxed, no one is taking anything too seriously. It’s not the World Championships!'
The Banque Populaire skipper, who is basically the co-organiser of the race, appreciates the presence of the event in the IMOCA schedule: 'It’s now been a year since we launched that IMOCA race with Azimut as a practice event a few weeks before major races. Last year, we were preparing the Transat Jacques Vabre so we sailed the Azimut Trophy with two skippers. This year, it’s the Vendée Globe so we’re sailing single-handed. The idea is that we want a route that allows us to work on what we need to work on so that every skipper is satisfied.'
He actually designed the route himself, with the input of the other yachtsmen: 'I drew up the route with Azimut, after discussing it with each skipper, and we also had to take the weather conditions into account, with last-minute adjustments because of changes in the weather. We had all sorts of conditions and situations and everybody was happy. It needed to be an efficient training for us, that was the point, and we got exactly what we wanted.'
Jean-Pierre Dick eventually won that friendly regatta, proving too strong for the other competitors. The Virbac-Paprec 3 skipper actually covered the 210-mile distance in less than 21 hours, leaving his closest challengers 20 miles behind. 'The key moment was during the night, when I made a good decision, picking the right sail which, as the wind grew a little stronger, helped take the lead. I managed to glide ahead of the others and keep the lead all the way to the finish line. I’m really satisfied with the fact I was able to keep a good speed throughout the race, which is really good.'
Armel Le Cléac’h finished second, leaving Marc Guillemot and Vincent Riou fight for the third position, with the latter eventually finishing on the podium. Jérémie Beyou took the fifth place, less than fifteen minutes behind Safran while Louis Burton and Tanguy de Lamotte, respectively sixth and seventh, showed they may still be lacking single-handed sailing experience.
The mood was light and festive during the trophy ceremony, with Vincent Riou coming on stage while a Lady Gaga song was playing, Marc Guillemot asking the public to pay attention and listen or Louis Burton joining them with his baby in his arms and a bottle in the back pocket of his jeans. As for Jean-Pierre Dick, he spoke about the night he had spent under a beautiful moon while the PRB skipper explained how impressed he had been with the dolphins ‘making the same sound as they do in marine amusement parks’.
On the next day, Sunday September 30, Bertrand de Broc and François Gabart joined their fellow Vendée Globe skippers to participate in the Défi Azimut (Azimut Challenge) featuring the same yachtsmen except for Armel Le Cléac’h. Competitors had to deal with very weak wind conditions and, even though Macif won, Vincent Riou is still holding the round-the-Groix-Island record.
All skippers finished their speeches with warm thanks to Azimut for organising this two-fold competition, Trophy + Challenge, and set a date for the same time next year.
Jean-Pierre Dick: 'It’s definitely a very interesting training. You get to practice and do things that will be very useful in a month. It’s important to trust the boat and to keep learning, even after sailing around the world on this yacht twice, there are still things you can learn. It was my last training against other boats and after that, I’ll be pretty much on my own.'
Armel Le Cléac’h: 'The toughest part was dealing with sleep but this is very different from what we’ll experience on the Vendée Globe, where the race is obviously much longer and we’ll never stay an entire day without getting any sleep. The Azimut trophy has been a satisfaction when it comes to preparing for the Vendée Globe. The preparation period is coming to an end and this was a nice opportunity for me to sail alone and check that everything is fine.'
Vincent Riou: 'It was a fun race and a very close one at that. We’ve sailed a lot with PRB this year, and this was the last one in race configuration. It was a beautiful night, we had some very good moments. Everything was just perfect, I want to thank the organisation team.'
Marc Guillemot: 'It was a very pleasant race, even though it was physically demanding and intense. With such a major race around the corner, it’s always great to get such an opportunity to train.'
Jérémie Beyou: 'The conditions we faced weren’t difficult so I was able to check everything was ok. It was a nice race, without any pressure, and I’d like to thank Jean-Marie Corteville for his initiative.'
Louis Burton: 'What a pleasant rehearsal before the Vendée Globe! Bureau Vallée is doing just fine, I’m very satisfied.'
Tanguy de Lamotte: 'I’m really happy I could participate. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to race before the Vendée Globe.'
1 - Jean-Pierre Dick – Virbac-Paprec 3, finished at 14h 16mn 19s
2 - Armel Le Cléac'h – Banque Populaire, at 14h 36mn 22s
3 - Vincent Riou – PRB, at 14h 40mn 51s
4 - Marc Guillemot – Safran, at 14h 47mn 18s
5 - Jérémie Beyou – Maître CoQ, at 15h 06mn 36s
6 - Louis Burton – Bureau Vallée, at 16h 52mn 35s
7 - Tanguy de Lamotte – Initiatives-Cœur, at 18h 01mn 20s
Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe
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5:58 PM Mon 1 Oct 2012GMT
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