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Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta entry from French yachting dynasty

by Volvo Ocean Race Legends on 3 May 2011
Whitbread Round The World Race 1981-82. ’Gauloises III’ Barry Pickthall / PPL
Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion is taking place in Alicante from 1st to 5th November this year.

The extraordinary story of the French Viant family, whose name is engraved with salty letters in the history of the first three Whitbread races, has taken a new turn as the ‘clan’ charters Gauloises III (1981-82) to enter the Legends regatta in November this year.

The family will race again, joining once more with some of their former teammates from Grand Louis (1973-74), Japy Hermes (1977-78) and Kriter IX (1981-82), highlighting the pioneering history of French offshore racing.

André Viant was the patriarch of the Viant family. He was an outstanding sailor, a highly respected French yachtsman in England - he was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron - and was also one of the first presidents of the largest racing yacht club in France, UNCL (the national union for the offshore racing).

Back in 1973, André Viant chose young members of his family and those from several families of very close friends living nearby on the Gulf of Morbihan in France to compete on his own boat, Grand Louis, in the first Whitbread Round the World Race.

Among the 16 rotating crew were Jean-Michel Viant (Jimmy), André’s son, Sylvie Viant, André’s daughter, who became an indispensable race director of any self-respecting race in France, Bruno Lunven, a former competitor of the historic Course de l’Aurore (previously the Figaro Race), Philippe Facque, the promoter of the ORMA multihull circuit, Patrice Carpentier, the well-known sailing journalist, and Patrick Eliès, the terror of the Figaro circuit in the 1980s.

Excited by their first experience of a race around the world, the young generation of the Viant clan raced again in a second Whitbread (1977-78), this time with a project initiated by three students from a business school. Jimmy Viant would skipper Japy-Hermès and he sailed with his fiancée Bénédicte Lunven who would become the first Frenchwoman to compete in a round the world race.

Gauloises III’s crew will consist mainly of the Japy-Hermes original line up.

Bénédicte Lunven who co-ordinates the Gauloises III project, explains: 'For the second Whitbread, the Japy-Hermes crew was more a story of young people. We were all between 24 and 27 years old. Jimmy, our young skipper had lots to do as, to begin with, most of the crew had very little sailing experience. In addition, we had a heavy and rolling boat; but, after thousands of miles we learned how to trim her and even enjoy the thrill of surfing downwind with geysers of water reaching to the spreaders.

'The crew stayed in contact and, even though we live very far apart now, we decided to gather together again to compete in the Legends Regatta.

'Grand-Louis, Japy-Hermès and Kriter IX were not available, so we had to look for a boat for us all to sail,' explains Jimmy Viant. 'We eventually chose Gauloises III, which has been based in the Mediterranean for many years. It is ironic really as Bénédicte and I raced against her in the Whitbread 1981-82, when we were sailing on Kriter IX. It is therefore a small nod to history to be sailing on a boat against which we first raced 30 years ago!'

The Volvo Ocean Race Legends will celebrate the long and varied history of the world’s premier ocean race and includes racing and social events in for all those who have competed or been involved in the event since its inauguration in 1973. It promises to be an occasion not to be missed, with many former sailors travelling from all over the world to take part.

About Grand Louis (1973-74)
Rig: Schooner
Designer: Dominique Presles
LOA: 60’ (18.28m)
Skipper: Andrée Viant
Crew: 9 - 11
Overall finishing position: third
Elapsed time 162.01

About Japy-Hermès (1977-78)
Rig: Ketch
Designer: MacCurdy & Rhodes
LOA: 65’ (19.81m)
Skipper: Jimmy Viant
Crew: 9-13
Overall finishing position: 14th
Elapsed time: 164.01.29.24

About Kriter IX (1981-82)
Rig Sloop
Designer: German Frers
LOA 62’ (18.89m)
Skipper Andre Viant (aged 60 at the time)
Crew: 11
Overall finishing position: third
Elapsed time: 134.07.37.42

About Gauloises III (1981-82)
Rig: Sloop
Designer: Ron Holland
LOA 62’ (18.89m)
Skipper Eric Loizeau
Crew: 11
Dismasted on Leg 3, 1300 miles from Auckland and retired from the race

Entries in the Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion
• Copernicus 1973-74 (45’ sloop: the smallest boat ever to race)
• Great Britain II/Whitbread Heritage (Maxi) took part in the first five races
• Rothmans 1989-90 (Maxi)
• Berge Viking 1981-82 (Swan 57)
• Charles Jourdan 1989-90 (Maxi)
• Steinlager 2 1989-90 (Maxi Ketch)
• Gauloises III 1981-82 (62’ Sloop)

For the official Notice of Race and entry form, preliminary schedule of events and more regatta information click here
Bakewell-White Yacht DesignInSunSport - NZNewport Boat Show 2016 660x82

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