Photos: Olivier Blanchet/Europa Warm Up

Victory to Riou, by an hour

Narrow victory for PRB on leg two of the Europa Warm'Up

Sunday June 3rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

The conclusion of the Europa Warm Up's second singlehanded leg from Cascais to La Rochelle via the Azores and the Fastnet Rock was won this morning by Vincent Riou and PRB, arriving at 09:22:50 UTC followed in just over an hour later by Francois Gabart on MACIF at 10:33:58 UTC.

Riou's elapsed time was 7 days, 18 hours, 22 minutes and 50 seconds and on leg two he sailed 2542 miles at an average speed of 13.54 knots.

It was the final night which decided the outcome and it was Riou who proved slightly quicker and smarter to hold off the hard driving IMOCA 60 newbie Gabart who has shown a maturity beyond his years in how he paced himself and pushed on this second leg.

30 miles before the Occidentale de Sein buoy, PRB and MACIF were separated by less than one mile. Riou attacked by setting a big spinnaker. He stuck to the helm to drive hard with PRB overpowered for much of the time, building an advantage which finally allowed him to add another win to his list of honours.

Riou is not short of podium successes in his career, but this is his first victory since winning the IMOCA 60 class in last year's Rolex Fastnet Race sailing doublehanded with Jean le Cam. It is a win which is a good reward for PRB a very passionate Vendée supporter. It also proves how close the top of the IMOCA 60 fleet is, and provides some insight into what we can expect for this autumn's Vendee Globe.

“This week was only 2,300 miles long, but it was a very intense week," said Riou. "Apart from the first leg of the course where we had lighter weather, we sailed in sustained strong winds and that brings with it a certain amount of stress in hard racing conditions. The boats are finely tuned and the level is very even. The level has never been higher six months out from a Vendée Globe.

"What did it take to win? Some success at key times, I suppose. You need to make the difference at key times and for example this morning I took an early risk to set the big spinnaker, because I really wanted to make the difference.

"Winning is great and obviously this gives me confidence. But you can see the overall level. There are a few who have made real progress and it is very interesting today. And there is only six months to go until the start, six months of work, six months to fill in the gaps we have seen during this Europa Warm’Up. There is no time to rest.”

Second-placed Gabart is proving the talented IMOCA 60 sailor with no pretences or ego. He is clearly talented and hard working, showing the benefit of his early mentoring by Michel Desjoyeaux, but also his ground work in the Figaro class at the centre of excellence at Port La Foret. Already having won the Transat BtoB on his first IMOCA 60 solo outing, Gabart is surely worth ranking among the Vendée Globe favourites.

"I finished second, behind a winner of the Vendée Globe, Vincent Riou so for my second solo race in the IMOCA, I could not ask for more," said Gabart. "In real terms, I have a job list on the computer which must fill two full pages. I've learned a lot about this boat since it was launched and that learning does not stop. What is reassuring is that I have almost nothing broken on the boat. We had conditions which really were not easy and I'm glad the boat held up so well. I think I have a great machine for the Vendée. Vincent sailed a great race. Just after his nice tactical move by moving to the west of Sao Miguel he followed up by showing he had an ability to accelerate. In any event, it is very reassuring to see that we are in the game. Now, the Vendée Globe, that is something else again but there is still lots of work to do before getting to the starting line. "

Banque Populaire arrived in third place at 13:11:15 UTC today to complete the podium. Her skipper Armel Le Cléac’h never gave up and it is not for nothing that the solo sailor from the Bay of Morlaix has been dubbed The Jackal. But on this occasion it was a broken halyard lock hook on his mainsail which kept Le Cléac’h’s predatory instinct at bay. He managed to find workable solutions to keep himself just ahead of Cheminées Poujoulat, Bernard Stamm’s Cheminees Poujoulat which took fourth.

"It was really hard," said Le Cléac’h. "Just after rounding the island of Santa Maria, Azores, I broke my mainsail hook. I was able to do a rough, makeshift repair which held to the Fastnet. But once we were upwind, the mainsail halyard itself broke. I had to find an alternative by hoisting the sail on the spinnaker halyard and taking the first reef. But the operation has forced me to hoist and lower a dozen times to make it work ... Anyway, this race is excellent preparation for the Vendée Globe. It was more than 4000 miles of sailing from Port-la-Foret and that is invaluable ... "

At the 1800 the only remaining boat at sea was Javier Sanso's ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered, which had 225 miles left to sail.

Pos Boat Skipper Time arrival Elapsed time
1 PRB Vincent Riou 09h 22mn 50s  7d 18h 22mn 50s
2 MACIF Francois Gabart 10h 33mn 58s  7d 19h 33mn 58s
3 Banque Populaire Armel le Cleac'h 13h 11mn 15s  7d 22h 11mn 15s
4 CheminéesPoujoulat Bernard Stamm 15h 16mn 17s  8d 00h 16mn 17s




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