Oman Air blasts out of Valencia
Valencia laid on another day of exciting, brisk conditions for the eight trimarans competing in the first Route des Princes race clockwise around the European coastline. With the wind blowing off the land and at times gusting up to 20 knots, all of the trimarans were flying their main hulls in the gusts as they first careered their way around an inshore course set on the familar waters of the 32nd and 33rd America's Cups.
Valencia turned out in force to see the crews of the eight trimarans leave their berths from around the Darsena's iconic Veles e Ventes building. The turn out was equally strong on the the Malvarossa beach.
Making up for an uninspiring first two days of inshore racing, it was Sidney Gavignet’s crew on Oman Air–Musandam who were fastest out of the blocks and pulling out a significant lead over the six-mile circuit thanks to their being the only one of the four MOD70s competing not to be reefed. The Seb Josse-skipper Edmond de Rothschild chased in second with Lionel Lemonchois' Prince de Bretagne 80ft trimaran in the thick of the MOD70s and flying her main hull with the best of them.
The MOD70s and sole Ultimate class boat headed away from Valencia to the northeast as they have to round a turning mark off Benicarló 60 miles away. However due to the forecast for the breeze to diminish, the course for the three Multi50s has been reduced, and they were allowed to head directly off down the course in the opposite direction.
Getting off to the best start in the Multi50s was Yves le Blevec's Actual, rounding the first mark impressively up with the MOD70s. However she was overhauled by the Erwan Le Roux-skippered former Crepes Whaou! 3, now called FenêtréA-Cardinal, before regaining the lead as the smaller group of trimarans exited the bay.
At the time of writing Actual was still leading the Multi50s with FenêtréA-Cardinal in hot pursuit while despite holding almost a mile's lead exiting Valencia, early evening Spindrift had just overhauled her.
For the MOD70s there are two marks where one bonus point is awarded – at Benicarló and Gibraltar. The common cliché is that every point is vital, but many MOD70 crews still have fresh memories of the finale of last year’s MOD70 European Tour, which Foncia won by only two points.
The vagaries of racing in the Mediterranean are legendary.“In the Mediterranean there is no strategy, you look at what is there and go straight!” reminds Charles Caudrelier, navigator on inshore series winner Edmond de Rothschild, and who last year won the European tour navigating on Foncia. “Complicated is normal for the Mediterranean,” adds Sidney Gavignet, skipper of Oman-Air Musandam.
The first to emerge from Benicarló should gain, extending into better breeze but then a compression is expected later on Monday. With the winds set to drop after the brisk, adrenalin fuelled start, particularly in the Alboran Sea (western Med) progress is likely to be slow and patience and concentration will be vital attributes.
Almost all of the first leg is set to be upwind with the breeze from Cabo de Gata to Gibraltar likely to be less than eight knots for much of the time. And, as the present forecasts stand, after Cape Saint Vincent at the SW corner of Portugal, the climb to Lisbon should be yet more upwind work but relatively straightforward. Only the finish into Lisbon’s Tagus River might offer a final slowdown.
Though the first offshore leg for the Route des multihull race around Europe is set to cover some 800 miles from Valencia to Lisbon - Portugal, the stage winner might well be decided before the fleet even leaves the Mediterranean. With up to four successive transition zones predicted, this was consensus among the skippers of the four MOD70s prior to docking out at lunchtime.
The leg is expected to take between three and a half and four days, perhaps finishing between late on the night of Wednesday and into Thursday.