Panther disappears

Tour Voile fleet expected in tonight after first offshore race - but where is Greenhalgh and co?

Thursday July 4th 2002, Author: Isabelle Musy, Location: France
The fleet of the 40 Mumm 30s participating in the Tour de France à la Voile 2002 left Dunkerque yesterday at 17:15 and are expected in Cherbourg during the night after a 187-mile race. They are currently sailing at 7-8 knots in a south-westerly breeze of 18 to 20 knots. It is a most tiring race as they will have sailed upwind for more than 30 hours.

Région Ile de France, Marseille, Kenzo, Nantes-St-Nazaire and Force EDC are in the lead with the rest of the fleet following close behind. Cassis Mauguio Carnon helmed by Australian Nick Moloney is in sixth. It seems to be very tight and intensive racing in the Channel.

There are questions about British boat Panther Team GBR. She had been in the lead, battling for first position, but has not been seen by the race committee at one of the course's mark that all the boats are supposed to pass close by.

Therefore, there is no position for them and they will probably have to go in the jury room.

Since the start just off Dunkerque, the fleet has remained closed and the race has been a matter of speed and good boat handling. Except at one stage during the night when the westerly wind shifted to the right and was north-westerly for a while. That wind shift gave a chance to Marseille skippered Dimitri Deruelle and to Marc Thiercelin's Kenzo to get back in the race as they weren't in the top ten at the first couple of course's marks.

"We have a very good navigator that made us pass to windward of the fleet which got us into the lead. We're also lucky to have three helmsmen on board
and therefore we can take turns and have some rest. The rest of the crew try to rest while leaning out of the boat", explained Pierre Pennec, one of the helmsmen.

The same explanation comes from Marc Thiercelin on board Kenzo. "We anticipated that wind shift to the right and therefore we favoured the right of the course", explained the former Vendée Globe skipper.

"We're really tired and are impatient to get to Cherbourg." added Marc Thiercelin. On board student boat Force EDC, skippered by Australia's Simon Sutherland, they seem to be too focused to realise that they are tired. "We're doing a great race," said British navigator Sam Stephens during the radio chat.

To the question about their estimated arrival time in Cherbourg, he said: "Hopefully ten minutes before the rest of the boats."

Amateur British team Royal Thames of Owen Modral are also having a good race. They were in 13th position at the last compulsory mark at about 1pm.

Intermediate results
1. Région Ile de France / Jimmy Pahun
2. Marseille / Dimitri Deruelle
3. Kenzo / Marc Thiercelin
4. Nantes-St-Nazaire / Pierre Loïc Berthet
5. Force EDC / Simon Sutherland
..13. Royal Thames / Owen Modral

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