Groupe Bel enters Barcelona World Race

Fast turn around for Kito de Pavant's IMOCA 60 post Route du Rhum

Thursday September 16th 2010, Author: Julia Huve, Location: France

Groupe Bel has announced its participation in this winter's Barcelona World Race with their red IMOCA 60 set to be skippered as always by Kito de Pavant and round the world and Figaro veteran Sebastien Audiagne.

However before then there is the small matter of de Pavant competing in the Route du Rhum, after which Groupe Bel, along with Michel Desjoyeaux's Foncia and Jean-Pierre Dick's new Paprec-Virbac 3 will be making a shift turn-around, their boats put on a ship bound for the south of Spain and the 31 December departure of the Barcelona World Race.

For three years now, between races and her other sailing expeditions, Groupe Bel already has sailed the equivalent distance of two round-the-worlds however neither the yacht nor her skipper have completed a race around the world - Groupe Bel dismasted early on in the Vendee Globe, a race they plan to tackle again over 2012-2013.

Since the start of their association in 2005, with first the Figaro and then the IMOCA 60, de Pavant and Groupe Bel being using the sailing project as a means of communicating with employees of the company world-wide. This has included visits to subsidiaries, the 'Thumbs up to Kito' campaign (thumb prints of all the employees adorn her mast) and more recently, the 'Sharing Smiles Regatta', which brought together 200 employees from 31 countries.

Groupe Bel is an international company, whose products are distributed in 120 countries around the world with 80% of its turnover coming from outside France. To compete in a really international event, such as the Barcelona World Race, is beneficial both in terms of external development and internal mobilisation.

“In the six years alongside Kito, we have shared both racing and human emotions, bringing us together in France, as well as in the 31 countries in which we are established”, explains Guillaume Jouët, communications manager of Bel Group. “We wish to offer our teams, as well as our customers and partners, a really exciting international adventure such as the Barcelona World Race. This is a coherent step up the ladder matching our Group, our sailing sponsoring program and our skipper, especially, since with Sébastien, the combination of skills and affinities is ideal."

With two years to the next Vendée Globe, the Barcelona World Race represents good training and Groupe Bel is up for this kind of challenge. “I am extremely happy to participate in the great Barcelona World Race and I am incredibly lucky to have such an enthusiastic partner as Bel”, explains de Pavant. “Our 60 footer was designed for round-the-world racing. We prepared her for the Vendée Globe which came to an abrupt end (dismasting). Since then, we have optimized the yacht even further. Our team is now in its stride and very united. We feel well armed and in phase with such a challenge.”

Kito and Seb: mutual respect and friendship

To share the same yacht for 90 days in the most hostile seas in the world and under pressure from other contenders is already a test in itself. For a good duo, you need good casting and Sébastien Audigane is an obvious choice for Kito: "We sailed against each other in the Figaro, then together with Jean Le Cam, and then Seb joined us for the Istanbul Europa Race 2009 on board the Groupe Bel 60 footer. This is where the idea of racing the BWR together came to fruition. We then took part in the Transat Ag2r in the spring (in the Figaro class). We recognise human qualities and skills in each other, because you need to trust your partner completely. Seb is highly experienced and very good at sea. He is real sailor, in harmony with the elements, and he lives his yachting life on the ocean. He is easy to get on with, always calm no matter what the conditions and makes good decisions. Such people are few and far between.”

Audiagne is one of the most sought after crewmen in the world. An expert on large oceanic multihulls, he has already competed in the Jules Verne Trophy aboard Bruno Peyron's Orange 2 and is happy to return there. “The Barcelona World Race is a wonderful race which enables top international sailors to race against each other in this round-the-world with a limited crew”, he explains. “For me, it is important from a competitive point of view, since I am thinking of racing in the next Vendée Globe. With Bel, Kito has built up a solid program, and to be able to share this experience with him is a real pleasure. We are not very talkative together; quick looks are how we work. We like to experience the same adventures at sea and share good times even when the conditions are difficult. A round-the-world is an adventure interspersed with pitfalls, which you have to work hard for. You need to set off with a friend, which is the case for Kito and me .”

The time is tight

To follow the Route du Rhum with the Barcelona World Race, with so little time in between is already a major challenge. “We have four months to prepare this round-the-world with two transatlantic races in between”, continues the skipper. “I must first concentrate 100% on the Route du Rhum, an important objective in our program, and I’m not taking part as an extra! From Guadeloupe, Sébastien will deliver Groupe Bel to Port Camargue with a crew, to get the feel of her while I’m resting. We will also need to adapt the boat to be able to live on board together and configure her for a round-the-world before heading to Barcelona in mid-December. There is a lot to do, but I have a wonderful boat, and great sponsor and I’m very lucky to be able to take full advantage of this!”

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