Panther tastes first blood
The Royal Thames boat gets off to a good start
The 40 Mumm 30s participating in the 25th Tour de France à la Voile have lined up today at the start line of the event's prologue, a non-point scoring race.
Rob Greenhalgh's Panther - Team GBR won this tune up race that took place off Dunkerque in force four strength winds, that at times built to 20 knots and was blessed by constant sunshine.
After a long postponement the race got off to a clean start. The bulk of the fleet started to the pin end and split into two with Panther: Team GBR taking the clean air and going right up the beat. At the windward mark the fleet was tightly packed with Panther: Team GBR being quickly followed by Jimmy Pahun's Region Ile de France.
The first run proved particularly dramatic with Sylvain Chtounder's Theoule Mandelieu getting their spinnaker caught on a spectator boat and on the second run CSC Essec, skippered by Hervé Gautier, crashed gybing and taking out several other boats in the process.
After the round up of the third buoy the top positions for the race were well established, and Panther: Team GBR went on to take victory. Their strong lead established caused French spectators to liken Panther: Team GBR's style and flare for sailing to that of Adrian Stead's winning Barlo Plastics in 2000.
"We're pleased with the boat speed and the way things went. We're looking forward to doing some proper racing tomorrow", said Rob Greenhalgh once back
on the dock.
The top ten held places for three other foreign boats but also heralded surprises in the form of the student boat Ensam HEC who finished second overall. The latter is skippered by Marc Emig, a professional sailor, who has participated many times in this event.
Royal Thames, the other English boat, skippered by Owen Modral, had a successful race as they finished third in the amateur division. Although none of these places count for points, the British teams are demonstrating that they mean business and intent on reaching their goals. The test will now be consistency and achieving a string of solid results, which are essential in order to win the Tour de France à la Voile.
This first days racing sets a precedence for close racing and just goes to show that you never will know what will happen with the Tour de France à la Voile.
1. Panther : Team GBR / Rob Greenhalgh
2. ENSAM-HEC /Marc Emig
3. Nantes St-Nazaire / Pierre Loïc Berthet
4. Région Ile de France / Jimmy Pahun
5. Ville d'Antibes-NEC / Julien Farnarier
See page two for photos...