To the wire for Edmond de Rothschild
The two horse race in the Route des Princes' MOD70 race went to the wire with honours ultimately falling in favour of Seb Josse's crew on Edmond de Rothschild. The opportunity for the Sidney Gavignet led crew on Oman Air-Musandam to claim overall honours on the race around Europe, which started from Valencia on 9 June, ultimately came to an end on this final leg between Plymouth and Roscoff when the Baron Rothchild's team won the crucial bonus points at the Roche Gautier mark, putting the Omani team out of reach of the overall prize.
Oman Air-Musandam got off to a powerful start on Saturday night and had already pulled out a 30 boatlength lead by the time the three MOD70s had completed their lap of Plymouth Sound.
"We left all guns blazing," admitted Oman Air-Musandam's Neal MacDonald. "We knew we had to make a bit of a stamp on the race to have a chance. Sid got us a wonderful start, it was safe, but good, and it was easy to capitalise on that."
However this bolster didn't last long. According to McDonald after rounding the Eddystone Light to the south of Plymouth and then heading west along the Cornish coast towards the turning mark at Wolf Rock, the wind started turning "wishy washy. We feel out of the breeze a bit - it was a bit odd, the breeze went right, very shortly after Eddystone and the later you went around the more inside the right you were. And to add insult to injury they [Edmond de Rothschild] tacked off because they were fiddling with each other and we thought ‘that’s great, we’re going to lay’ and then they sailed over us in a very different breeze. It was very odd, because they weren't three miles away, they 200m away – they were doing 17 knots and we were doing 12. We thought we had to put the bow down and that just dropped us out of what they were in, so we just prolonged the problem."
Ultimately being offshore came good again when at one point Oman Air-Musandam had been steaming along at 30 knots in 17-18 knots of breeze but it didn't last long enough.
A feature of this last leg was decidedly fog. "I’ve never been around Wolf Rock and not seen it. I could have touched it but I couldn’t see it."
The fog was a feature throughout the leg, including the crossing of the English Channel to the Roche Gautier mark, off Paimpol. "It was pretty eery. There were a couple of ships and without AIS you wouldn’t taken it on," McDonald observed, adding that on boats such like MOD70s and VO70s he's virtually given up on using radar.
Edmond de Rothschild arrived in Roscoff at 14:36:14 UTC, covering the 309 mile long course from Plymouth in a time of 19 hours 36 minutes and 14 seconds. The Gitana team was followed in by Oman Air-Musandma at 14:48:04 with Jean-Pierre Dick's supreme team on Virbac Paprec 70 at 14:51:23.
After 2450 miles of offshore racing, Edmond de Rothschild particularly made their mark on the 16 inshore races of which they won nine, and winning all of the inshore 'regattas' contested, in Valencia, Lisbon and Plymouth. The capsize of Spindrift in Dun Loaghaire, turned competition in the Route des Princes' MOD70 class into a two horse race and going into the final leg Edmond de Rothschild was leading Oman Air-Musandam by just four points.
“It is a good feeling to have won," commented Edmond de Rothschild skipper Sébastien Josse. "I said before the start we had something to prove on this leg and we did it. So we were all very happy when crossed the finish line. There was a lot of satisfaction to have won offshore. We made a poor start. After that we stayed really calm on board and just concentrated on working hard. We had four people on the deck all night with no rest. And we just worked to close the gap with Oman and then took the lead. We just got past them when we are in contact with them this morning and pushed them a little bit more and we got to build a gap again. After that it is team work.
"I am happy. I probably don’t realise how happy at the moment, it will sink in. It is cool to win the Routes des Princes because I know we have a good crew. We missed out on some result last year. Last year we had the potential but my crew were not multihull sailors. They are younger guys with no big CV in multihull sailing, but the deal was to make the team and grow up together over two years. Last year we did some good things right like the Krys Ocean Race Transat and not so well on the Tour de Europe. This year we know the boat, we have confidence in each other, we have confidence in the shore team. It is a really good. I am really proud because I know that when I made this team it was a good team. But it takes time to grow up together.
"It was a real motivation to finish with no excuses, to win the overall and the last leg. On the water there are a lot of things can happen, you can lose the feeling, we lost that less than others and we won the leg.
"It was a pressure to win the offshore leg. It was frustrating for us because we are offshore sailors. When you see the CV’s there are 15 Figaros, Orange Round the World with Florent Chastel, the Trophy Jules Verne, the Volvo Ocean Race but we never won and offshore leg, until now. We won the inshores and so something felt a bit wrong. So now we are pleased to have won one offshore leg."
As the MOD70s docked in Roscoff's new Bloscon Marina the satisfaction on Josse's face, while correspondingly the Oman Air-Musandam skipper Sidney Gavignet could not conceal his disappointment: “I am feeling a little better than ten minutes ago, better already but I am very disappointed to have come so close to winning but to finish second. It is not just down to this last race, it is down to many points that we missed out or lost through the race, here and there. That part of the story of this race has been painful since the start of the race and it is still painful.
"We could have made some better navigation. It was pretty good, but sometimes you have a plan and you don’t execute. We could have done that better on this leg, that is down to confidence as well. You have to be confident to execute your plans.
"Our plan was to move to the east of the others on the leg from Wolf Rock and Edmond de Rothschild did that well. We were very close during the night, at two boat lengths, but we could not execute to get to their east. They did. There was more wind there. This positioning, only half a mile, and little by little they got away.
"On the inshores we could have been better, for sure. Though all my racing life I have been a poor starter and I feel we are better there. I think we made some good starts which is a result of hard work, but then we did not sail well. On the inshores the other teams are better for having big guys and tacticians for example and for us we don’t improve. We sail better with six than with eight. That is life, I am not complaining.”
For Jean-Pierre Dick this was his first ever race aboard his latest three hulled Virbac-Paprec 70: "We got close to Wolf Rock last night and it was a bit stormy and unpleasant and we had a few little suprises. From there we took a bit of a tack which was not so good and cost us. But we came back at Oman Air-Musandam on the downwind and were only seconds behind them at the Roche Gautier mark. But overall it is disappointing to finish third, but we have been close with some of the best names in the game and sailed in contact with them. But then Paris was not built in a day. It will take some time. We have learned a lot. In the transitions we still lack some fluidity and lost a little ground here and there, but hey that is small details. We are a bit disappointed to finish third, but we will move on quickly.”
In the Multi 50 class, the combination of second place into Morlaix and winning the bonus points on the last leg, was enough for the Lalou Roucayrol skippered Arkéma-Aquitaine Region to take overall victory on the first major race outing for the fleet’s newest Multi 50.
Just as the MOD70 race went to the wire, so also did the Multi 50 class but theirs was a three cornered fight for the overall class win. Arkéma - Aquitaine Region’s second place finish this afternoon, added to their points bounty for being first to the scoring mark this morning, ensured they top the podium by 2.5 pts ahead of Erwan Le Roux’s FenêtréA-Cardinal which won the final leg, Plymouth to Morlaix today. The Multi50s raced 2310 miles over their four offshore stages. Arkéma - Aquitaine Region won the first leg into Lisbon, finished third into Dún Laoghaire, second into Plymouth and second into Morlaix. And at three of the four bonus points opportunities it was Roucayrol’s team which pocketed the points.
“We had a great run under gennaker between Eddystone and Minquier and really it was fun making 17-18 knots in the fog," commented Roucayrol. "It was the best sailing by feel, it felt like we were flying and we really were flying. And that let us get up with everybody again after we got stuck a bit of the start line. We got into the race and got passed them one by one. We passed the Minquier buoy in the lead to get the 1.5pts and then got ourselves into light winds and a bit of sea and it was tough then, but we stalled as little then and Erwan Le Roux got through us into the lead. In fact there was no significant chance to get back at them after that. We decided to stay close to the coast but were fighting the current, tacking with the Code Zero at ten metres off the rocks. It was difficult.
"But it is the first event for the boat and the first big win. In total it a great reward for the 17 months of building and 22,000 hours of work. We are absolutely delighted to win, we are on cloud nine really. At the start we felt like we were just going on a training race to learn the boat and so on and here we are winning it. We were not expecting this. This is the result of a lot of hard work by many people. It is really incredible.”
Erwan Le Roux skipper of FenêtréA-Cardinal added: "On this fourth offshore leg I think we had something close to the perfect race. We had to go for it and that’s really what we did. We did well out of Plymouth and attacked on the downwind to Minquiers with a lot of confidence, a little bit ahead of the other guys. But late at night we saw Lalou (Roucayrol) coming up on us, going like a rocket. I think the boat is made for going downwind and we could not do much against them. He did not miss much and managed to steal that infernal bonus points which would have allowed us the chance to win overall. But we did get back at him to win the leg, even if we could not win the Route des Princes overall. We did want to win the leg and pushed it close to the rocks to get out of the current. We did everything that we could. It was nice. I think we showed a good approach and I am very proud of my team. Anyway I am happy for Lalou. His is the new boat in the class and it has been good for him and his sponsors for sure. We kind of feel for Yves Le Blévec who has finished up third, but we will console him together.”
1-Arkema-Région Aquitaine, Lalou Ruycorel, 140,5 pts
2-FenêtréA-Cardinal, Erwan Le Roux, 138 pts
3-Actual, Yves le Blevec, 138 pts
4- Rennes Métropole – Saint-Malo Agglomération, 105 pts
1-Prince de Bretagne, Lionel Limonchel, 166,5 pts
1-Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastian Josse 167.5 pts
2-Oman Air – Musandam, Sidney Gavignet, 159pts
3-Spindrift, Yann Guichard, 147pts
4-Virbac-Paprec, Jean-Pierre Dick, 128 pts