Photo: Maria Muina

Groupe Bel leads Barcelona World Race start

Light wind departure for the 14 doublehanded IMOCA 60s

Friday December 31st 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Despite forecasts yesterday of 10-15 knots for the start of the Barcelona World Race, so the pre-start hours were not looking promising with the morning filled with torrential rain and the wind all but shut off.

In the event with just half an hour to go, as the 14 IMOCA 60s milled around bearheaded, so the rain had stopped and the sun put in its first appearance of the day with 5-7 knots of NNWerly breeze to get the boats out of their own way.

Unlike the start four years ago, the strong 200-strong spectator fleet was kept well away from the start area where the hotshots Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart on Foncia and surprisingly the less highly ranked Forum Maritim Catala of Gerard Marin and Ludovic Aglaoar made the best starts. However heading up to the first turning mark Kito de Pavant and Sebastien Audiagne’s Groupe Bel had the bit between their teeth and were able to overhaul the double Vendee Globe winner. The ‘laughing cow’ boat was first to the turning mark but then struggled as Audiagne leapt up and down on the foredeck attempting to ease the sock up the kite. Meanwhile the crew on Foncia saw less urgency in making the change to the big gear and briefly overhauled Groupe Bel.

Impressively third around the turning mark was Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella on Gaes Centros Auditivos. A gaggle rounded in close proximity next with finally the newly united crew of Wouter Verbraak and Andy Meiklejohn on Hugo Boss and, surprisingly, old hands Dominique Wavre and Michele Paret on Mirabaud among the final group with Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti bringing up the rear on We Are Water.

At the latest sched at 1530 GMT Groupe Bel continued to lead but with Jean le Cam and Bruno Garcia up to second on President followed by Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron on Virbac Paprec 3. Foncia was down to fifth just ahead of the Gaes girls.

Soon after the start Groupe Bel skipper Kito de Pavant commented: “There’s not much wind, but it’s stopped raining! We got off to a super start, we have the right sailplan, the yacht is speeding along and we have had a good fight with Michel [Desjoyeaux]. It’s perfect like that; I hope that the wind isn’t going to drop so that we can get away from Barcelona. This start was magnificent from on board Groupe Bel. We are really going to try and tell a wonderful story over the next three months round the world. We’d better get a little work done now, because there’s some cleaning up to do.

“Naturally there was lots of emotion this morning. There were lots of people on the pontoon and now I’m beginning to understand why I’m embarking on this great adventure. It’s always the same on these occasions. There's a mixture of lots of different feelings. We’re leaving for a race that isn’t commonplace after all! The course is fantastic. Five centuries ago, they were exploring the world, and we’re going to re-explore it! There a nice symbol in this and I’m impatient to see the world in a different way. To sail round-the-world with “tall Seb” beside me is a tall order, but it’s wonderful! We trust each other implicitly. I know that I am going to be able to rely on all his qualities.”

Before leaving the dock, Geas Centros Auditivos’ Dee Caffari spoke about the first stage of the race: “The Mediterranean is complicated and we’ve practised here a lot but we’ve got 500 miles of it to start and finish with and honestly this is the part I dread the most. In stark contrast, Anna knows the Med well but has never sailed in the Southern Ocean so hopefully we can support each other and draw on our strengths in each area.

Compared to her solo voyages Caffari said: “Overall I’m really confident about the race and looking forward to enjoying it. I know there will be some bad times as well as lots of good times and it will be great to have someone to share them all with.”

From Gilles Martin-Raget/




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