In the 2012 MOD70 European Tour, following more than 4400 miles of the five offshore racing stages and the 23 City Race series heats at four European Cities, Foncia’s triumph was only secured in the final mile and 22 minutes of the course.
In a typically audacious last throw of the dice, the double Vendée Globe winning skipper and his crew came from behind to cross two rivals within sight of the finish line. Stealing second place, immediately behind Yann Guichard’s title rivals Spindrift racing, was enough to give overall victory to the Foncia team who set their foundations with a clean sweep of maximum available points in Kiel and from the Leg 1 offshore into Dun Laoghaire.
Just two points separate Foncia from Spindrift racing on the final standings, exactly the same delta between Stève Ravussin’s Race for Water which wrestled third from Sidney Gavignet’s Musandam-Oman Sail on the same slow motion, high tension two miles of chess board.
When they left Marseille on Sunday afternoon for the 651 miles showdown stage to Genoa via Menorca and La Giraglia at the north of Corsica, Foncia had a six points lead to protect from Spindrift racing. Musandam-Oman Sail needed only to keep Race for Water behind to be sure of third.
The fickle early morning winds tested the nerves of the crews. After winning the final leg the Spindrift racing team had to watch as Desjoyeaux and crew crossed Race for Water and Musandam-Oman Sail in one strand of breeze to finish second on the water. The final mile or two was equally painful for Sidney Gavignet’s Musandam-Oman crew.
'When we crossed the finish line I congratulated the team but then in the last mile to the finish we could see that Foncia had gone off to try and do their own thing and started to think that he could pull something.' Recalls Spindrift racing’s Guichard,. 'Before nightfall last night we had already thought that we could win because they were so far behind.'
In this exciting new strict one design class, this first season has consistently delivered incredibly close racing inshore and offshore. The MOD70’s are fast, but ultimately it has been – as intended - people power: the skill of the sailors and not the technology that has prevailed: 'Sailing is a sport of experience, it is not just a sport about technology and so the more experience you have together the faster you can keep the boat going, the faster you can adapt to new conditions.' Says Desjoyeaux. 'It is a real pleasure to sail like this with this crew. Everyone gives their best any hour of the day and night. And even if we make mistakes together, we move on.'
In preparation for this MOD70 programme which is Desjoyeaux’s final events in the colours of his longtime sponsors Foncia, last year they started a D35 catamaran programme on the lakes with Xavier Revil, Antoine Carraz and Alban Rossolin.
To that core was added outstanding helm-trimmer Manu Le Borgne with whom he won the Transat Jacques Vabre and, as navigator, Charles Caudrelier, a key member of the Volvo Ocean Race winning crew. Others included America’s Cup winning grinder Nicolas Texier, helm-trimmer Thierry Chabagny, Julien Falxa and Antonio Carraz. Desjoyeaux’s management approach is very much to let the crew deliver on their strengths.
Foncia’s one minor aberration over the event was their fifth in the City Race series in Cascais, Portugal. Otherwise they finished on the podium in each points scoring event. Except for temporarily in Cascais before they won Round Portugal, Foncia were on top of the MOD70 European Tour leaderboard.
Spindrift racing, winners of the Krys Ocean Race and leaders overall of the Multi One Championship, proved durable close rivals to the end for Foncia. They won the spectacular Dun Laoghaire City Race series, the Marseille City Race series and the Dun Laoghaire to Cascais offshore leg as well as this Leg 5 offshore into Genoa. But skipper Yann Guichard’s identified the two places deficit on the Round Portugal which, they suffered when Foncia won as the main contribution to their final difference.
'I think that the mission has been accomplished on this race.' Guichard smiled, 'Foncia wins the MOD70 European Tour by two points on a 240-point aggregate that pretty much speaks for itself. The third place came down to the final metres on the last leg. Then we had three boats finish in just 77 seconds in Dun Laoghaire. Here it was really close at the finish, well all legs have been very close. We have really enjoyed the racing and I am sure that it has been quite gripping to follow from ashore.'
Circuit and class co-founder Stève Ravussin’s Race for Water finished third overall on the strength of improving consistency. Musandam-Oman Sail suffered a final disappointment in losing that overall finish, but –as one of only three teams to win events – can take great pride in winning the Cascais City Race Series and their big win into Marseille.
Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper Foncia: 'We saw three boats overtake us 15 miles from the finish. At that point, we told ourselves that that was it. It was all over for us and we had lost everything. But then, we said that the finishing line hadn’t yet been crossed. We saw Oman and Race for Water get stuck in a calm zone with very little wind. We went right around them and managed to find wind all the time. That was how we managed to finish in second place and save our overall position.
For the time being, this victory is synonymous with champagne, as the guys on Spindrift racing soaked us. It is a rather special moment, as it is the final race for this boat, for me, and the crew in the Foncia colours. It’s nice to end on a high note, as this company enabled me to do so many things since 2007. All good things come to an end.'
Yann Guichard, skipper Spindrift racing: 'We really thought we had it over the final miles of the race, but then three miles from the finish we just kept looking over our shoulder. We had both Musandam-Oman Sail and Race For Water sailing with us and we really saw them finishing fourth. They managed to get round us and then I think between Oman and Race For Water they had their own battle going on for the third spot.
I think that the mission has been accomplished on this race. Foncia wins the MOD70 European Tour by two points on a 240-point aggregate that pretty much speaks for itself. The third place came down to the final metres on the last leg. Then we had three boats finish in just 77 seconds in Dun Laoghaire. Here it was really close at the finish, well all legs have been very close. We have really enjoyed the racing and I think that it has been quite gripping to follow from ashore.'
At the end of the day we are competitors and here to win so finishing second is a little disappointing, we have sailed well overall but for Cascais, which I think was our downfall. The others were also up there, but we did win two city races and finished first or second on each leg. We just lost two points and when you look back it comes down to maybe a city race or on the bonus points at the start of the offshore leg. We get a second on the European Tour and then win the Krys Ocean Race so lead the Multi One Championship overall.
Foncia have earned their victory and it comes down to their consistency over the course of the race as and it is us really us that have lost it with the Cascais to Cascais race.
Stève Ravussin, skipper Race for Water: 'A fantastic finish. A great leg, as we were all together and could see each other. There were some tiny options that more or less paid off. But we can see that once the boats stop, the others catch up very quickly, as they are so close. I haven’t sailed a lot this year. I did poorly in the inshore races, particularly in the starts. In the offshore races, it was better. In the final three races, we were up there with the others. But I think we need to train and sail more, as its very close between us. The finest moment was this third place on the podium today. It’s great for the team, for the youngsters that I got out there sailing this year. We weren’t far off winning. I hope that someday we will do just that. The boats are solid and offer similar levels of performance. On one-design boats, the best man wins in the end and in this case that was Michel Desjoyeaux and his crew.'
Seven boats have been built. If they are all out there in 2013, it will be great. We’re going to be looking for funding for the boat. And the MOD70 Championship will continue, because that’s what really matters most.
Sidney Gavignet, skipper Musandam-Oman Sail: 'We are simply happy with the work we did. Maybe we don’t have so much talent but we work and we are organised and these are values that are important to do the job well. Even though we did not get third place in the end then that is my big satisfaction. This is my first year as a skipper of a team and I really enjoy it, skippering, managing and trying to get good energy on board. I enjoy it. I hope that we can have a few more boats for next year but to keep going like this, one Transatlantic and one European Tour, both were great and the boats are fantastic to sail, really spectacular.'
Sébastien Josse, skipper Groupe Edmond de Rothschild: ' We made a good start on the first two legs but then we did not take our advantages when we could. So after that we did not really make the good moves and then we start to think about why, in another way. So it was a bit difficult psychologically. But on this least leg we were in good shape but we had that damage with the gennaker, which ruined the last leg. The gennaker unfurled with a small tear on it then it was in two parts. We will go back to Lorient and look at what we did well and what we did not. We are certainly the team that has spent the most time on the water with this boat. For me it is my first season in multihulls so I want to go forwards from that.'
MOD70 European Tour website
by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson
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5:06 PM Tue 2 Oct 2012GMT
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