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12th Défi Azimut Lorient Agglomération - 40 variations on a theme for the speed runs off Lorient

by Défi Azimut 14 Sep 2022 12:26 PDT 14-16 September 2022
12th Défi Azimut Lorient Agglomération © Vincent Curutchet

The 12th Défi Azimut is up and running. Tradition has it that in the largest offshore racing event in the Lorient basin, which this year gathers together a first-class line-up of 28 IMOCA monohulls, it is with a session of 'speed runs' that festivities commence out on the water.

  • LinkedOut (Thomas Ruyant) and V&B - Monbana Mayenne (Maxime Sorel), winners in their respective groups
  • APIVIA (Charlie Dalin) posts the fastest time of the 12 finalists
  • Live tracking of the runs and the results can be found on the new Surlo application developed by AZIMUT

The persistent mizzle and light W'ly breeze that set the tempo in the early afternoon in no way dampened the spirits of the skippers, crews and guests, all of them eager to set off down the course in Les Courreaux de Groix as if it were a stadium sprint.

The wind didn't take long to pick up a notch today, giving the foilers that little extra lift to show off their spectacular potential. Following a short 0.76-nautical mile course, a series of speed runs were released down the course from 14:30 hours, with the fleet split into two groups of 14 boats, each of which were given two cracks of the whip initially. Two groups, one final round and forty timed sprints later, podium honours for today's speed runs went to APIVIA (Charlie Dalin) in first place, followed by the new Charal (Jérémie Beyou) and the international crew on 11th Hour Racing Team (Charlie Enright).

A crescendo of times

As the curtain rose on this 12th edition, wind conditions (6 knots) were not very conducive to high speed and powerful acceleration. However, one by one, the 14 crews in the first group decided to try their luck, MACSF helmed by Isabelle Joschke opting to go first on what proved to be a series of relatively slow runs.

Out on the racetrack, the initial attempts favoured the boats equipped with classic daggerboards, starting with Groupe SETIN, which topped the leaderboard for a considerable time. However, the wind filled in after the first few passages, serving up ideal conditions for the foilers to zoom along carrying all their sail area (mainsail, gennaker and J3).

The best time in this first series went to LinkedOut, which managed to latch onto a favourable gust, devouring the course in two minutes 22 seconds. Also of note was the fine performances by newbies Charal (2'34) and Holcim-PRB (2'44), despite rather different flying techniques. Indeed, the former enjoyed a stable ride incorporating long strides, whilst the second was able to rear up very high on a gallop. Prysmian Group (2'59) and Biotherm (03'02) complete the list of six foilers which managed to secure their ticket for the final. The 7th and first daggerboard boat Monnoyeur-Duo for a job narrowly missed out. However, they finished on a high with a better time than TeamWork skippered by Justine Mettraux, who was making her race debut at the helm of this IMOCA (ex-Charal) for today's series of speed runs.

12 foilers in the final

Next up was the second group. The wind was still a little shifty between Ile de Groix and the coast but as the start line opened, it decided to ease for the remaining 14 protagonists on these runs. The focus at that point was on making sure the trimming was optimised so the boat was perfectly balanced for teasing out the best constant speed for a matter of minutes. Once again though, the W'ly wind picked up after the first attempt. This time it was V&B - Monbana - Mayenne which racked up the quickest time (2'16).

Again, the speediest six were all foilers, which have the ability to accelerate in the slightest puff of wind. Featuring appendages able to keep them delicately poised over the water in upwards of just twelve knots or so, the foilers filled the starting grid for the final. At 17:00 hours, all of them came together on the racetrack for one more run each. APIVIA was as impressive as ever racking up the best time on this 3rd and final run of the day (2'42) and, all too soon, it was time to return to Lorient La Base for the prize-giving on this first day of the competition. Tomorrow, the entire fleet is expected to take the start of the 48 Heures Azimut at 14:30 hours, in the Courreaux de Groix, a strait between Lorient and Groix Island.

Ranking for the final of the speed runs

1. APIVIA (Charlie Dalin): 02'43
2. Charal (Jérémie Beyou): 02'45
3. 11th Hour Racing Team (Charlie Enright): 02'53
4. LinkedOut (Thomas Ruyant): 02'54
5. Holcim-PRB (Kevin Escoffier): 02'58
6. Guyot Environnement - Team Europe (Benjamin Dutreux): 03'04
7. DMG MORI-Global One (Kojiro Shiraishi): 03'10
8. Hublot (Alan Roura): 03'30
9. V&B Monbana Mayenne (Maxime Sorel): 03'30
10. Biotherm (Paul Meilhat): 03'31
11. Prysmian Group (Giancarlo Pedote): 03'33
12. Groupe Apicil (Damien Seguin): 03'36

Today's quotes from the boats

Romain Attanasio (Fortinet-Best Western): "The format of the runs and the sprint around the island of Groix gives us an opportunity to get our partners out on the water with us. It's just like they're racing so they love it. They're in awe of the fact that the boats sail so close to one another. Today, I'll also have the pleasure of sailing with 2 kids from the CNL, my son Ruben's Optimist club. It'll also be an opportunity to see the new boats in action on the water. Everyone's saying we're not ready, but we'll see... As soon as they're sailing, you can see that some of them get airborne in precious little breeze. In today's light airs, the most interesting thing will be to see who takes off the earliest, though I've still got Vendée Globe in my line of sight so all that doesn't mean a lot in the grand scheme of things."

Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil): "A year ago, I switched boat whilst retaining the same main partner, which is important in terms of continuity. The team is based in Lorient and we've fleshed it out, so we're currently raising our game. The new boat is more high-performance and we'll continue to work her up with the Vendée Globe as our main goal. The project is very professional, well put together and it's fantastic to get together again in Lorient. It's a race on home water and a festival of sailing of sorts! We've done a lot of sailing this year during the early season and in August. I'm very familiar with the boat and I know what I'm capable of. Groupe Apicil certainly isn't the fastest boat with her small foils, but she has the ability to perform well in solo format. I'm confident in her and I won't think twice about pushing her hard."

Nicolas Lunven (Malizia-Seaexplorer): "We're still discovering the intricacies of this new boat. Conditions will be pretty light today, which isn't a strong point for the boat. However, it's always appealing to make progress. This competition pits us against other competitors, which always teaches us something, even though on such a new boat there's still a lot to do to finalise the details and optimise her. We've done quite a bit of work on the boat and it's good to have these types of sports events to fix things in place a bit. After this, the Route du Rhum is creeping up very quickly for Boris (Herrmann) and The Ocean Race won't be far behind for all the crew. During the runs it's less about results, it's the form that we're most interested in, having to take a start, with a clean and clearly configured boat, and a crew that works well as a team."

Charlie Dalin (APIVIA): "Even though the runs are always a random exercise, it's always nice to win as the competitive instinct is strong and I have my team with me that works flat out all year too! I was also keeping an eye on the new boats. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. Charal finished just seconds behind me, which means the boat performs well. They're at the start of their development whilst Apivia is at the end of the road on that score so there's a chance they'll be faster than us one day. Holcim PRB also demonstrated great potential, but now I'm looking forward to the 48-hour sprint. We're going to be sailing in a range of more varied conditions and in the open water, so we'll see how the new boats with spatulated bows perform in particular."

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