Photo: Maria Muina

Safran leads into Santander

French 1-2 on the opening leg of the Vuelta España a Vela race around Spain

Sunday June 13th 2010, Author: Maria Bertrand, Location: Spain

Marc Guillemot and his crew on Safran won the first 90 mile leg of the Vuelta España a Vela, crossing the finish line off the Real Club Maritimo at 00:42:42 during a dirty, drizzly night about 22 minutes ahead of Vincent Riou on the new PRB, completing a French 1-2 on the 90 miles opening stage westwards along the north coast of Spain from Hondarribia.

Just as he did when he won last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre, IMOCA world champion Guillemot paid tribute to an accurate plan and weather forecasting prepared by Charles Caudrelier Benac which they were able to follow on deck, while Riou later admitted that a couple of small errors had cost them a little time against their older, well-proven near sistership.

On their first competitive race in the IMOCA Open 60 fleet Spain’s 49er world champions Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez on Movistar took third place just over 25 minutes behind PRB, finishing into an area that has long been a regular training ground for their highly successful 49er Olympic programme.

Winds peaked at a between 23 and 25 knots during the middle of the race, which had started in light breezes for a short three miles circuit off Hondarribia.

The hometown hero Martinez delivered the ideal opening storyline when he guided Movistar around the initial short loop in the lead, but Safran overhauled them and then PRB on the 10 mile leg across to an inshore turning mark close to the beach off San Sebastian.

According to Guillemot, Safran timed their key tack offshore and the return back near perfectly, with Caudrelier Benac also working the pattern of currents along the steeply shelving shoreline to their best advantage. Riou was relatively happy with their second place, pointing out that they had lost time when they had sailed downwind to roll away their bigger genoa to replace compounding a first mistake when they had continued offshore further than they needed to.

“First stage, first win which is pleasing," commented Guillemot. "Charles Caudrelier was navigating and made a very good strategy and we delivered it from on deck I guess, making sure that the boat went well up to speed. It was pretty close but there was always one side tack favoured more than the other and Charles worked well on that. After the start we tacked first as Charles had said the breeze would be favoured there and so we clearly had good forecasts. It looks good from this leg but PRB and Movistar are close and so we are happy to have got that stage because it might not be so for the next ones. The wind peaked at 23 knots and it was necessary to be careful in the difficult sea, but it was not too bad. There were many currents and big differences in the depth of the water.”

Vincent Riou, skipper of PRB, added: “We could have believed we were at home in Brittany with the rain and the waves. Except that here the waves are very particular. We have all sailed here quite a bit in the Figaro and we know that the westerly wind always kicks up a big, heavy sea with the big difference in depths close to the coast. But it was a beautiful race with not much difference between the top five.

“We made the first mistake by going a little too far offshore and tacking just a little bit late and the second was when the wind got up more we were just a bit too prudent, choosing to bear off downwind to roll up the genoa and unroll the Solent, whereas our rivals went up to wind so that lost us a little time.”

Iker Martinez said: “It was a very good race. We sailed with wind all the time, a little bit less from the start round to San Sebastian and after the mark at San Sebastian the wind was building to maybe 20-25 knots. The two French boats escaped a little bit during the middle of the course. In the last but we could not close the gap on them, but at least they did not extend any more. We are happy with the result. We knew that Safran and PRB would be very difficult to beat but we are in the race against them. I was very happy to see so many people out to watch in Hondarribbia, it made for a spectacular send off.”

Pachi Rivero and Antonio Piris took fourth on W Hotels-Nova Bocana ahead of Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella and their crew on Estrella Damm.

Britain’s Dee Caffari, co-skipper Anna Corbella and the crew of GAES Centros Auditivos were sixth. Caffari concluded that she was pleased with their boat speed on the leg, pacing both W-Hotels and Estrella Damm well and enjoying a spirited tacking exchange with Estrella Damm during the approach to Santander.

Dee commented: “It was bit soggy but it was a good, busy start. We are happy with our boat speed but our manoeuvres let us down a bit, just like rounding the marks with the different sail combinations it took us a bit of time. We started well and then set off down the main leg in the pack and it was pretty much a procession after that. It was quite wet and windy.

"At the end we closed quite a lot on W Hotels and Estrella Damm and we were tack for tack with Estrella Damm on the really narrow channel in the approach here, so it was all full on at the end. It was interesting and good. I am basically happy that we stayed with the main guys. Boat speed-wise and tactically we were in the right place at the right time."

Vuelta España a Vela, Leg 1, Hondarribia to Santander

1. Safran, M Guillemot (FRA). Finished 00:42:42h.
2. PRB V Riou (FRA). Finished : 01:05:01h Sunday
3. Movistar I Martinez/ X Fernadez (ESP). Finished : 01:26:17h
4. W Hotels-Nova Bocana P Rivero/A Piris (ESP). Finished : 01:49:23h
5. Estrella Damm P Ribes/A Pella (ESP) Finished : 02:01:16h
6. GAES Solidaria D Caffari (GBR)/A Corbella (ESP). Finished : 02:04:22h.
7. Central Lechera Asturiana J Merediz/F Palacio(ESP). Finished : 02:48:14h.
8. Pakea, J Mumbru/C Sanmarti (ESP) Finished 04:29:55h

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