stop and go

stop and go

This one is a bit stale due to the long weekend here in the states, so apologies to you Tour fans.  This from our friends at Oman Sail from aboard Renaissance, with pics from Jean Marie Liot and Mark Lloyd.  For daily updates check the official site.

This year’s Tour de France a la Voile has had a slow start. The first teams to arrive were faced with something they had never seen before the start of a Tour: The sun! The start of the Tour is in the North-East city of Dunkirk which is well known for it’s wind-beaten waterfront but on the morning of the 26th June it was very unseasonable. For one team, Oman Sail’s Renaissance, it was a welcome sight as the Omani contingency of 5 sailors were sorely missing the always-on sun from back home.

The first day was a practice race but as any sailor knows, you either race hard or you go home, so the results would be scrutinised by each team to see who was on form and who wasn’t. Going into the Tour, Oman Sail’s team was looking very strong after a second in Pornichet and a first in Le Havre, so naturally, we had a target on their backs. The light winds clearly didn’t suit the Renaissance team though, as they crossed the line in 8th. The team were still upbeat ,as they knew they were facing strong currents and in the light winds we all know that that can set up a lottery system on the finish line.

The 27th saw the first day of racing, the atmosphere in Dunkirk alive as the 28 matching Farr 30s lined up along the waterfront. Again, light winds but two races were sailed with Renaissance scoring an 8th and a 2nd to put them in 3rd overall with the ever-fast and highly consistent Nouvelle-Caledonie (skippered by Bertrand Pace) in 1st followed by Safran in 2nd.

Crews hoped for some breeze to fill in for the first offshore, from Dunkirk to Calais, and there was enough to get the boats going forward, but with strong tides against, it was the slowest of starts.  Renaissance had a good start, leading around the top mark, but it all went to pieces when they hit a sandbank and were lodged for a few very painful minutes. They rejoined at the back of the fleet, but pushed hard to get back up to tenth before they found a submerged wreck and again fell to the back of the fleet. Ten was their lucky number, as that is again where they recovered to by the finish line. Frustrating, but considering the events of the day, a good result. 

Once they arrived in Calais they immediately got the boat out of the water and checked for damage. It looked a lot worse than it was, as it was gelcoat cracks and scratches, nothing structural. After a long night of repairs and polishing, Renaissance took to the water and showed the fleet a clean set of heels, taking first in the inshore racing.

The second offshore race to Dieppe was an abysmal one for everybody. There was no wind with current of 3-5 knots against. It was only a 90 mile leg but the leaders took 28 hours to complete it!  Soon after the start, much of the fleet had to drop anchor to stop from going backwards.  A common thing for the Solent sailors, but for this fleet, with the summer sun beating down, highly unpleasant. Renaissance managed to take the tail end of the eight lead boats that broke away but even still, the race had to be cut short as they ran out of time for the finish and results had be taken way back at Fecamp mark. Only ten boats even got a finish.  Renaissance’s eighth puts them in seventh overall with Toulon Provence Mediterranee in first, followed by Nouvelle Caledonie and Courrier Dunkerque.

Teams were glad to see some rain after they all arrived in Dieppe, seeing it as a sigh that the weather is about to change, and the brutal breezes they’ve all been hoping for are about to come – and they got their wish!  The 200 NM leg between Normandy and Brittany started upwind in 20 knots of breeze and 1.5 knots of tide, but after Cherbourg up to 6 knots of current flooded in.  The second half of the leg – between Guernsy and Jersey saw some tough reaching conditions, especially hard on helmsmen Robert Greenhalgh and Cedric Pouligny.

One hears "it’s a long regatta" at the beginning of every event, but it’s never truer than for the Tour De France a la Voile.  We’ll check in again soon!