Groupe Bel relaunched
"There's a whiff of the sea, as we say! We have just launched Groupe Bel and it's a really good feeling", said de Pavant. "This week, we will sail for the first time in the Bay of Aigues-Mortes before embarking on a season that looks as though it will be both intensive and exciting."
Since dismasting last November during the Vendée Globe, the team has not been idle. "We had a new mast redesigned and rebuilt," says de Pavant. "We have adapted her to sailing with a crew by optimizing, in particular, the efficiency of the sail plan. We took a boat designed especially for singlehanded sailing, for the Vendée Globe, and turned it into a crewed version of Groupe Bel, whether it was inside for the comfort of living on board, or on deck where manoeuvres are optimised to increase performance. Changing the spinnaker, for example, can take 30 minutes singlehanded, while with a crew it is immediate."
The 2009 season will begin by intensive training with the help of Franck Citeau and Guillaume Rottée, who have been Kito's partners for a long time and responsible for the Mediterranean Training Centre. "Their eye on detail will help us quickly perfect the boat in its new configuration, as much in the acquisition of data as in approving the sails, or optimizing the crew's coordination", explains the skipper before presenting the Bel Tchiz Tour 2009 programme.
"As soon as we're ready and a weather window is confirmed, I'll set off singlehanded to attempt the Marseille-Carthage (TransMed) record. This is both a technical and competitive challenge that we really wanted to bring up to date for IMOCA monohulls. As a second part of our programme, we will be taking part in the Giraglia Rolex Cup in June, in which 200 of the finest yachts in the world compete between Saint-Tropez, Corsica and Genoa (Italy). This is an important race in a magnificent setting, where the presence of a yacht like ours will be an event.
"Early August, we will pack our suitcases to cross the Mediterranean, and visit the Bel workers in Alexandria (Egypt), on the island of Lattaquie (Syria) and in Istanbul (Turkey). There again, these destinations are new for an Open 60 monohull, such as Groupe Bel and visiting these places will be a fantastic experience. In 2008, we already made ports of call in England, the Netherlands and then in Morocco and each time we were received like kings! Similar to the thousands of thumb prints on the boat's mast coming, from all over the world, these ports of call in countries where the Groupe Bel is established, but where ocean racing is not necessarily part of the culture, shows the depth of the project and its international nature, which we wished to develop from the start of the Bel adventure.
"End of August, we will enter the main part of the competitive season with the start in Istanbul of the European Pro Tour: a new crew-handed race, for IMOCA monohulls, which will stop over in Nice, Barcelona, Portsmouth and Brest. It is a race that means a lot to me and it is an opportunity to see our usual friends on the circuit again on a magical course between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Finally, we will end the season magnificently at Le Havre in early November, where we will be for the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, which for the first time, will finish in Costa Rica. There again, the setting looks as though it will be incredible!"
May: Stand-by for the single-handed Marseille-Carthage (Tunisia) record
14-20 June: Giraglia Rolex Cup with crew (St-Tropez-Giraglia-Gènes)
July-August: Ports of call in the Groupe Bel subsidiaries in Alexandria (Egypt), Lattaquie (Syria) and Istanbul (Turkey).
29 August 24 Sep.: European Pro Tour with crew (Istanbul-Nice-Barcelona-Portsmouth-Brest) 7-8 Nov.: Start of the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre (Le Havre-Puerto Limon to Costa Rica)