Photo: Maria Muina/Vuelta a España a Vela

Overall victory for Safran

As PRB claims the final leg of the IMOCA 60's Vuelta a España a Vela race around Spain

Thursday July 1st 2010, Author: Maria Bertrand, Location: Spain

Marc Guillemot, Charles Caudrelier and the crew of Safran ghosted into Barcelona very early this morning as winners of the 2010 Vuelta a España a Vela race around Spain for the IMOCA 60s. Crossing the finish line in second place just 15 minutes behind their compatriots, Vincent Riou, Jean Le Cam and the crew of PRB who ensured the French monopoly of stage wins remained intact by adding Leg 6 to their Leg 2 victory into Santander.

The final stage, 225 miles from Palma to Barcelona, proved a fitting and intense climax to a long and challenging race round Spain which has tested very many different dimensions of racing IMOCA Open 60s fully crewed.

There were at least nine lead changes over the course of a final leg which left Palma on Tuesday just after midday and was contested in the lightest of breezes. Crews needed to manage key transitions between the yesterday’s Mallorcan thermal breeze, the light gradient winds overnight and today’s sea breeze and land breezes off the Costa Brava on the approach to the final turning mark of the race at Palamos and back down the coast to the finish line off Barcelona.

In the end, PRB took the lead with less than 16 miles from the finish to dash hopes of a final Spanish victory from Leg 6. After Movistar and Estrella Damm took the points bonuses for being first and second around the Palamos scoring mark, Riou, Le Cam and crew found a nice little late evening breeze inshore which carried them down the coast to overhaul their rivals who were only a little further offshore.

It was a tense, cliffhanger of a finish. W Hotels Nova Bocana took third only two minutes behind Safran and Movistar’s fourth was hard for Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez after they led at Palamos. Estrella Damm were fifth, one minute and 11 seconds behind Movistar.

At different stages in to and out of the Palamos scoring gate there were less than two miles between the first and fifth placed boats.

While PRB emerged to win the stage, the overall victory of Safran’s team - Marc Guillemot, Sébastien Audigane, Loic Lingois, Charles Caudrelier Benac and César Dohy - had been assured when they rounded the Palamos gate in third place. Following up Safran’s winning record in last November’s Transat Jacques Vabre, IMOCA world champion Marc Guillemot now adds the Vuelta a España a Vela to his growing list of race wins, claiming four of the six stages.

Guillemot commented: “We can’t be disappointed even if we did not win this leg. We were well beaten and it was a really hotly contested leg, right up to the finish line, there were things to try. At different stages we thought we could win, and at others we looked like we might be fifth. It was that close. From Palma to Palamos we were quite happy with the way we sailed, but then in the really light airs we suffered a little bit against PRB with its tuna boat rig, which can carry sails. But during the leg we really believed that Iker and Xabi could win this leg.”

This left PRB – winner of the other two legs – second overall. Skipper Vincent Riou said: “It was an odd leg. We all seemed to head off in different directions after leaving Palma with big variations. And in the end we arrived very tightly grouped and it was finished off with a really great battle over the final 30 miles, with lots of contact and strategy. We are happy to have taken second place overall and to have pushed Safran but because they have sailed their boat so much it is not easy to be in front of them. We have all improved over the course of the race and it was good to see all the crews fighting hard to a high level today. The Spanish really are in the game now for sure, and today they had the potential to win the leg. We are happy with this internationalisation of the class and it bodes well for the future."

The battle for third place overall could not have finished closer. Barcelona-based Estrella Damm edged out W Hotels Nova Bocana only on tie break after both finished on 32 points.

Pepe Ribes, co-skipper of Estrella Damm said: “We are very happy with the overall result. At the beginning of the race we never thought we could be so high on the rankings at the end. Compared to last summer when we did the round Europe, we are much faster than we were. When it has not been upwind we have been quite good, so are very happy with the performance of the boat so far.”

His navigator, Simon Fisher added: “There was a lot going on. It had a bit of everything. It was a lot of fun all the time. The best bit for us was between the top of Majorca and Palamos and we fought pretty hard there. We had figured out what was going on with the breeze and it ended up being a cloud system which came and we got on the right side of it and gained on boats on both sides, so we did our best to manage that and got around the top mark in second place. It was so up and down, there were so many transitions – from sea breeze, to not very much, and then had the cloud system, then a land gradient breeze, and then sea breeze. It was very close and we were within a couple of miles of each other because it compressed with the sea breeze, then when the sea breeze died it got very exciting again.”

Leg 6, Palma Mallorca to Barcelona

1- PRB, Vincent Riou (FRA), 00:06:11hrs
2- SAFRAN, Marc Guillemot (FRA), 00:21:56hrs
3- W HOTELS-NOVA BOCANA, Pachi Rivero/Toño Piris (ESP) 00:23:59hrs
4- MOVISTAR, Iker Martínez/ Xabi Fernández (ESP) 00:30:27hrs
5- ESTRELLA DAMM, Pepe Ribes/Alex Pella (ESP) 00:31:38hrs
6- GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS, Dee Caffari (GBR)/Anna Corbella (ESP) 03:24:36hrs
7- CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA, Juan Merediz/Fran Palacio (ESP) 04:17:48hrs
8- PAKEA BIZKAIA, Jaume Mumbrú/Cali Sanmartí (ESP) pending to arrive

Vuelta España a Vela, final standings, after 6 stages.
Place, Boat, Skippers, Nationality, Total pts(Leg 1, Leg 2, Finisterre, Leg 3, Gibraltar, Leg 4, Leg 5, Palamós, Leg 6)

1. Safran, Marc Guillemot, FRA, 11,5 (1+2+0,5+1+0,5+2+1+1,5+2)
2. PRB, Vincent Riou, FRA, 18,5 (2+1+1+2+1,5+6+2+2+1)
3. Estrella Damm, P.Ribes/ A.Pella, ESP, 32 (5+5+2+4+1+4+5+1+5)
4. W Hotels-Nova Bocana, P.Rivero/ A.Piris, ESP, 32 (4+4+1,5+3+3+8+3+2,5+3)
5. Movistar, I.Martínez/ X.Fernández, ESP, 35,5 (3+3+2,5+6+2,5+10+4+0,5+4)
6. GAES Centros Auditivos, D.Caffari/ A.Corbella, GBR/ESP, 40 (6+6+3+5+2+12+6)
7. Central Lechera Asturiana, J.Merediz/ F.Palacio, ESP, 49 (7+7+3,5+7+3,5+14+7)
8. Pakea Bizkaia, J.Mumbrú/ C.Sanmarti, ESP, 56* (8+8+4+8+4+16+8)

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