La Rochelle bound

The Tour Voile continue on down the coast of France later this afternoon reports Isabelle Musy

Thursday July 11th 2002, Author: Isabelle Musy, Location: France
After yesterday's non-scoring race to Nantes, the fleet of the Tour de France à la Voile 2002 will be off again for another offshore race this evening. The 40 Mumm 30s left the docks in Nantes this morning to sail down the Loire back to St-Nazaire. There, the gun will fire at 7:00pm today for the start the 98-mile offshore race to La Rochelle down the Vendée coast.

The course will take them down to l'Ile d'Yeu which they will leave to starboard before going on to round l'Ile de Ré which they will leave to port.

According to Isabelle Autissier, navigator on board leading boat Région Ile de France, it will be once again pretty much a speed race. "The start will be most important as we'll be sailing upwind and will have to play with the current. It will be important to be in the leading pack right from the start as after that it will be more or less a speed race with not many opportunities to come back in the race", explained Autissier who has a good local knowledge as she comes from La Rochelle. "It could be tricky near l'Ile d'Yeu as the course will force us to sail really close to the island. There might be a little tactical issue there. L'Ile de Ré shouldn't be too tricky as we'll leave it to starboard², added the former round the world single-hander.

Alain Fédensieu, project manager of Marseille, is sailing on this leg and says pretty much the same as Autissier: "It will be a fast race and everything will be decided during the first 25 miles, between the start and Les Boeufs. Therefore, it'll be crucial to be in the race right away. It might be a little bit tricky at l'Ile d'Yeu and towards the finish, but apart from that it will be straight and fast".

Former Team Adventure navigator in The Race, Larry Rosenfeld, has stepped on British amateur boat Royal Thames: "I'm very excited about it. I spent last year in France with The Race and was looking forward for a chance to come back. The Tour de France à la Voile is a quite spectacular event and everything I heard about it is true", commented the American navigator.

"I've sailed out of Bay of Biscay but I've never sailed along this coast. I've checked the chart and the tide. There will be a front coming in from the North-West and a lot of the race will be decided with who gets the shift first in order to start reaching and go faster. It will be tricky going inside the island and making sure you don't get too big wind shadows," he added.

Mike Broughton, navigator on board Panther Team GBR also commented on the coming race; "It will be another upwind race. The crucial part will be in the middle of the islands with tricky wind bends and shadows." The crew on board the British boat will be the same as for the last offshore race. Rob Greenhalgh and Mark Rushell swapping over at the helm and doing the tactics along with Broughton.

Famous multihull offshore sailor Yvan Bourgnon is also sailing in this race. As a former winner of the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre and the Mini Transat, he's welcomed on board student boat Jacques Vabre ­ESC Le Havre. "I'm really happy to participate in such a competitive regatta with extremely close racing. I've wanted to sail in the Tour de France à la Voile for a long time but I'm always busy sailing my 60-footer trimaran. This year is different as I focus on the Route du Rhum," explained the younger Bourgnon brother.

The race will start at 7:00pm and the boats will be expected in La Rochelle early Friday morning.

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