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It says so in the brochure...

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 8 Mar 2020 14:00 PDT
2019-20 World ARC - Espanola - Turtle © World Cruising

You know the one? Where the race there is only part of the complete package... Well when I read the following, I started to pack the bags, and I have gone further afield to chase the dream run as depicted in the brochure - "The wind might be south-east trades or strong westerlies, but the water over the deck is always warm!" So says Philippe Mazard, Cercle Nautique Calédonien (CNC) Commodore.

Since 2008, the strong yachting territory of New Caledonia has welcomed sailors biennially to test themselves against the longest windward/leeward race in the world - the 654 nautical mile GROUPAMA Race.

The GROUPAMA Race is a dream course; a circumnavigation around the 'Grande Terre', or 'main island', for monohulls and multihulls in racing or cruising mode, for either full, or short-handed crews. Sailors navigate among reefs, atolls and small islands along the East coast through the UNESCO listed World Heritage lagoon to the North, and then down the West coast to the finish off the capital Noumea. Turtles, whales, and other sea life are part of the 1200km course. It is right there on page three...

Organised by CNC, with Australia's highly-regarded professional administrator Denis Thompson as Principal Race Officer, the 2020 edition starts on June 21 and is already building a fleet of local, Australian and Kiwi owners and crew who are keen to head to the tropics midwinter, and sample a mixture of French and Melanesian culture and cuisine.

French yachting sensation, Franck Cammas, added weight to Miss Scarlet's Line Honours win in 2018, and a larger-than-usual Aussie and New Zealand field boosted the multinational fleet. Both the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Royal Akarana Yacht Club ran feeder races. The former was reinstated from the 1990s and is now called the PONANT Sydney Noumea Yacht Race. The two sailing nations also dominated the GROUPAMA results sheet, with the prized outright win under IRC going to Tony Kirby's Ker 46, Patrice, before he sold it.

For 2020, David Griffith and Rupert Henry's revamped JV62 Chinese Whisper is the largest keelboat so far. In the multihull division, the gargantuan is Sun Hung Kai FUKU Scallywag skippered by David Witt. The Hong Kong trimaran is sporting modifications too, which the team estimate has increased her reaching and running boat speed by 20-30%.

The last time the Scallywag team visited the region was in 2016 with the 100 foot supermaxi, when they established the current monohull record of 2 days 13 hours 19 minutes and 55 seconds. "Sailing around the atoll with clear, flat, blue water, breeze and high cliffs was one of the best sailing experiences the team has had," Witt shared. This year they are shooting for the multihull record with the ORMA 60 tri, hoping to own the double.

Discount marina berths at Port Moselle are being offered to competitors entered in both the GROUPAMA and PONANT races. Adjacent to the marina, the race village will come alive each evening with interactive race updates and entertainment, then once crews start arriving they will be called onstage to regale the crowd with their seafaring tales.

Entry closes on May 20, 2020 and you can get there by going to www.topyacht.com.au

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the website for you to review when you can - see below. Please avail yourself of it.

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Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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