Marseilles bracing itself
The pressure is mounting at the Société Nautique de Marseille, where both organisers and volunteers from the Marseilles’ club are preparing to play host to a fleet of over 170 boats over 2-5 April for the 45th running of the Semaine Nautique Internationale de la Méditerranée (International Nautical Mediterranean Week). There is an especially abundant and refined line-up for this ‘anniversary’ edition of the SNIM, which again bodes well for some gripping action on this legendary race zone. Indeed, whatever the weather over the Easter weekend, this will be a seminal event to open the international Mediterranean IRC season.
The opposing armies
With amateurs and professionals alike crossing swords on the same race zone, with a high sporting level guaranteed, the event is a perfect reflection of the fundamental characteristics of the SNIM and hence the very essence of what the organisers are after. Coming from all over, top racers will converge on Marseilles to take part in the competition - names like Sébastien Josse (Nikimar – Farr 52) and Marc Thiercelin (Great Circle - Class40) from the Vendée Globe – a race which local sailor Marc Emig (Axelle S – Swan 45) is preparing for in 2012 – Figaro sailors and other names familiar to the Tour de France à la Voile circuit like Jean-Paul Mouren (Marseille Entreprises – Figaro 2) and Dimitri Deruelle (Kuujjuaq-PMSIpilot – Swan 42) will also be present at the grand opening to the sailing season. The same will be true for those involved in the America’s Cup, such as double Olympic medallist Thierry Peponnet, Gilles André (Nikimar) and even Thierry Fouchier, the victorious local aboard the American boat BMW Oracle Racing in February in Valencia.
As regards the non-professional contingent, some familiar faces from the large Mediterranean meetings will be racing, as well as a host of past winners with names like Jean-Claude Bertrand (Tchin Tchin – A 35) Jean-Pierre Dréau (Lady First – Grand Soleil 50) and the reigning French IRC champion, Dominique Tian (Glen Ellen V – A 40 RC).
As far as the series boats are concerned, there promises to be a fierce battle in the First 31.7 – a particularly well represented class this year -, as is the case for the Dufour 34, the J/109, the First 36.7 and the A 35. Each and every one of them will get to taste the joys of racing their counterparts; with separate results being guaranteed where there are more than 10 boats registered in the same one design class.
Red-eye flight for the Class40s
By playing host to the Class40 fleet for the very first time, the Société Nautique de Marseille is adding an offshore flavour to the SNIM events. “Our aim is to develop a race programme in the Mediterranean” explains Thierry Bouchard, skipper of Mistral Loisirs and President of the racing committee within the Class40 association. “The idea is to be able to offer a race schedule for the Class40s, who originate from this area, as well as contributing to the class’ development in southern Europe”. The message seems to have gone down well since seven of the class’ monohulls are expected at the 45th SNIM, notably including two Italian boats and one Spanish boat. These speed machines will battle it out in the harbour of Marseilles, as well as during an overnight race, the latter organised uniquely for them around the nearby Porquerolles islands.
Among those participating in the event is the Routes du Large, a 100% Mediterranean Class40 aboard which Cécile Poujol notably raced in the Route du Rhum and the Transat Jacques Vabre. Great Circle is another contender, owned by Belgian skipper Gérald Bibot and currently waiting for a favourable weather window to attempt a crewed Mediterranean record from Marseilles – Carthage (Tunisia).
An influential patronage
Though France and New Zealand share a passion for sailing, rugby and sailing just as easily share common values such as team spirit, drive and fair-play. It is a strong message carried to the heart of the mêlée through the patronage of the 45th SNIM by the Marseille Vitrolles Rugby Club team and its prestigious Kiwi player, Jonah Lomu. The star of the rugby fields will personally come and support the crew taking part in the race, as well as meeting up with the 80 volunteers who work year round with the club to ensure its success at the Société Nautique from noon on Friday, 2 April.
The Programme on shore and on land
Thursday April 1: Confirmation of registration, scrutineering
Friday April 2: 1100 hours briefing with competitors, 1500 hours first possible start – start of the night race for Class40 (weather permitting)
1900 hours, traditional country buffet
Saturday April 3: 0930 hours briefing with competitors, 1100 hours first possible start, with a “goûter géant” (giant afternoon tea) on the quayside after racing, free evening
Sunday 4th April: 0930 hours briefing with competitors, 1100 hours first possible start
1900 hours, spit-roasted bull evening
Monday April 5th: 0930 hours briefing with competitors, 1100 hours first possible start
1900 hours, prize-giving at the Société Nautique and cocktails