Photo: Richard Sprang / Groupe Bel

Groupe Bel lines up for the Europa Race

Skipper Kito de Pavant announces his crew line-up

Monday May 14th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

After a race around the bay on 18 May, the Europa Race for the IMOCA 60s sets sail from Barcelona the following day.

Among the seven competitors for the two legged race - the first fully crewed to Cascais, then on singlehanded to the finish in La Rochelle (but via the Azores and the Fastnet rock), will be Groupe Bel and her skipper Kito de Pavant.

After several weeks of training between Port Camargue and the Balearic Islands, a single-handed return trip across the Mediterranean to meet the Algerian workers of Bel, and a ‘discovery' sailing trip last Saturday with his friends from Montpellier Urban Area Handball Team de Pavant is getting back into racing mode.

Sailing with him on the first leg of the Europa Race will be Spanish former Mini Transat and Barcelona Round Race Alex Pella and will known match racer Damien Lehl. They will be joined by the Groupe Bel shore team of Gwenael Gbick (sports manager) and Brice de Crisenoy (first mate). They will fire de Pavant up before the single-handed 2,300 mile long second leg starting on 26 May.

“Alex Pella is an excellent sailor who knows the Mediterranean very well, and plenty more! He was one of our contenders in the double-handed Barcelona World Race (on board Estrella Damm)," said de Pavant of his crew choice. "The Vendée Globe rules oblige us to have a substitute skipper. I chose Alex for this role and so for this reason he needs to clock up miles on board Groupe Bel. As for Damien Lehl, he is a contender par excellence, particularly in match racing in which he excels. We raced twice in the Tour de France à la Voile together, winning once in 2003, and we felt like racing together again. Lastly, Gwen and Brice know Groupe Bel by heart. It is essential to confirm the modifications carried out this winter to her racing configuration, and the presence of these two experts from the Bel team is essential on board.

“If the first leg is for the boat, the second one is for the sailor. Sailing with a crew means you can take the boat to its limit, which is not possible when sailing singlehanded. The first leg will allow us to check out Groupe Bel's intrinsic performance matching it against those of our contenders, while the singlehanded race will be used to confirm how well-prepared the sailor is with a view to the Vendée Globe.

“The second leg is not a long-distance race like the Vendée Globe, nor is it a sprint, as in the Transat, for which you can sometimes roll out a medium-term weather picture. Here, between Cascais, the Azores, Fastnet and La Rochelle, there will be many weather changes and manoeuvres and there will be no concession-making in terms of the boat's speed. In fact, this race is quite similar to a giant Solitaire du Figaro leg, which isn't necessarily very easy. On our very powerful boats, it could even turn into extreme sport!”

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