Photos: Bruno Bouvry / Images de mer

Solidaire du Chocolat underway

Downwind start from Saint Nazaire as the 11 Class 40s set out into the Atlantic

Sunday March 11th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

The 22 skippers and 11 boats taking part in the Class40's Solidaire du Chocolat 2012 set off today at 1738 local time in ideal conditions. With ten knots of easterly breeze, spinnakers were hoisted on the line offered a good spectacle for the crowd gathered on the beach off St Nazaire, as the fleet got underway on their 5000 miles journey to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Benoits Parnaudeau and Jourandet aboard Transport Coherence got off to the best start however were quickly outgunning by Stéphane Le Diraison and Adrien Hardy on Agir Recouvrement-Bureau Veritas and race favourites Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on They were followed closely by Groupe Picoty (Fournier-Caso), Mare (Riechers-Lepesqueux), Geodis (Amedeo-Tripon), Poèmes Bleus (Prochasson-Galland) and Initiatives-Alex Olivier (De Lamotte-Galfione).

Before leaving the skippers looked forward to the race: 

Yannick Bestaven ( "Fortunately I set the alarm this morning and I slept particularly well. There really is no stress... The starting conditions ahead are really nice with clear skies... Then it gets complicated: there is more wind. We might have to look at quite radical options in the south. It will either be a roll the dice or very inspired!"

Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement-Bureau Veritas): "The race is very open with lots of variations. There will be opportunities to find the ideal route. Having already won [with Tanguy de LaMotte in 2009], it does not add pressure, but motivation. I feel great confidence and I do not want to make a big mistake or a youthful error in choosing the route. We must be patient and not embark on a radical choice from the start."

Jean-Christophe Caso (Groupe Picoty): "It's beautiful, but complicated! The good news is that we will start in glorious sunshine, downwind under spinnaker... The worse is that there is generally little wind on this journey and the beginning of we will have to juggle transitions in the weather that won't be obvious... "






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