Mark Lloyd / www.lloydimages.com

Musical chairs

Sidney Gavignet heads to Dongfeng as French superstar steps in on the Musandam-Oman Sail MOD70

Thursday May 14th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The next in the growing annual series of Breton offshore races - the Armen Race from La Trinité-sur-Mer - sets sail today but at the helm of the MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail, will be Roland Jourdain, a veteran of offshore racing and – amongst other victories – a two-time winner of the Route du Rhum. Bilou, as he is better known, will stand in for Sidney Gavignet for the rest of May while he steps on to the Chinese Volvo Ocean Race entry Dongfeng for the Leg from Newport to Lisbon. Alex Pella will also continue to sail on board the MOD70 lending great depth of experience.

“Bilou is the perfect fit for Oman Sail, he really understands the Omani sailor development programme and what we are trying to achieve and he knows the MOD70s well. Musandam-Oman Sail is in good hands,” said Gavignet.

“For my part, I’m excited to be returning to an event that I really enjoy and to be doing the transatlantic leg with a team that has such great spirit. There are quite a lot of similarities between Dongfeng and Oman Sail in terms of the development of sailors – we met a few of the Chinese crew in February at EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour which they were using as a training platform.”

Roland Jourdain is excited at the prospect of sailing the MOD70, but is approaching the next few weeks as custodian conservatively: “I was lucky enough to sail with the team briefly for the Tour de Belle Ile, it was a good experience and a chance to get to know everyone. The atmosphere on board is very good and I have been well briefed on the objectives while Sidney is away – the main one being for everyone to continue learning. I was pleasantly surprised at the level and the teamwork amongst the crew.

“You have to be constantly alert on the MOD70, it is a highly tuned beast, but the team already has excellent reactions so we will focus on reinforcing the fundamentals. It is going to be very interesting – I have been following Oman Sail for some time now and this national initiative is an excellent way of using sailing.”

Gavignet is joining Dongfeng Race Team for leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Newport to Lisbon, taking the place of Eric Peron, who is taking a breather before the final two European legs.

“Sidney is an excellent driver,” said Dongfeng Race Team skipper, Charles Caudrelier. “He’s a Volvo Ocean Race expert, and I’ve been wanting to sail again with him for a long time. We sailed together 12 years ago and it went really well so I can only hope this leg will be just as good.”

Gavignet’s experiences in Leg 7, which starts on Sunday, will be watched very carefully by Oman Sail’s CEO, David Graham as Oman Sail is known to contemplating a Volvo Ocean Race campaign for 2017-8.

“The movement of the Volvo Ocean Race to one-design racing has a far greater affinity with Oman Sail, our strategic plans of and its pathway to achieve them,” said Graham. “We are observing the current race with great interest and in particular, the progress of the Dongfeng Race Team, given the similarities between our two entities.” (You join the dots...)

Personally Gavignet is a four-time veteran of the race having competed in 1993-84 on board Eric Tabarly’s maxi ketch La Poste then with ASSA ABLOY (2001-02), winners ABN AMRO One (2005-06) and PUMA Ocean Racing (2008-09).

Crew rotation has been one of the keys to Dongfeng Race Team's success: Jack Bouttell (Australian/British), competed on Leg 3, French navigator, Erwan Israel, on Leg 4 and Irish Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Damian Foxall, on Leg 5.

Elsewhere in the Volvo Ocean Race an arm infection has forced Team Brunel’s bowman, Gerd-Jan Poortman, out of Leg 7. Poortman's place will be taken by the third-placed Dutch team’s first reserve, Timo Hagoort (NED). Rokas Milevicius (LTU) will assume the role of bowman for Leg 7.

The infection, called elbow bursitis, is a common affliction for offshore sailors, especially bowmen. “It all started a couple of days ago. I'm taking antibiotics now,” said Poortman. “According to the doctors, it's not certain that it will be cured within four days. And even if the infection is cured before the start of the next leg, I still can't use my arm on a professional sailing level. Because the next leg is very demanding from start to finish, I have decided, together with our physio (Mark Haak), and skipper Bouwe Bekking, not to participate in the this leg which will take us to Lisbon.“

The popular Dutchman is confident that his stand-in will ensure his absence is not badly missed by the in-form crew, which finished with a podium third-placed finish in the last leg to Newport, Rhode Island, from Itajaí, Brazil.

"Timo is a hard worker and a fine replacement," said Poortman. "And Rokas has enough training to take on the role of first bowman.”

Meanwhile, skipper Bekking is happy that Hagoort has already gained a lot of experience with the Dutch team: "I really wanted someone who had previously sailed on the boat," he explained. "And during the preparation for the Volvo Ocean Race he sailed many miles with us, so that’s why the choice fell on him."

For Hagoort, who has been patiently waiting for his chance ever since joining the crew, the call-up is a dream come true: "I got a call this afternoon," he said. "When he told me that I can sail to Lisbon onboard Team Brunel, I let out a little cry of joy and immediately afterwards I asked who had to be replaced. I know Gerd-Jan very well and I learned a lot from him. Since I became the first reserve, the team has grown a lot, so I don't know exactly which role I will get, but my strengths are that I can trim and work on the foredeck."

Also on board Team Brunel - Javier de La Plaza will be replaced by Adam Minoprio for the remainder of the race, due to other sailing commitments. This is the well-known New Zealand sailors’ second Volvo Ocean Race. He was trimmer and helmsman on Team Camper in 2011-12.

Minopro commented: “It’s an honour that Bouwe Bekking asked me to strengthen Team Brunel. Together with the America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race is the summit of sailing. I think that my knowledge and skills will enable me to make a contribution to the development and performance of Team Brunel. I always go for the best result possible.”

Bekking adds: “Adam has sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race before and has been match race world champion. As an experienced match racer, he could just make the difference in the last three short legs."

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