Det 40th anniversary edition of the Tour de France la Voile does not disappoint

Sunday, 30 July 2017

 

Twenty-nine teams, nine Acts, eight Coastal Raids and more Nautical Stadium Races than you can shake a stick at are just a few of the numbers that cannot possibly sum up a marathon sailing event that is as exciting as it is exacting.

The nine host ports touched on in the 40th Tour de France à la Voile: Dunkirk – Fécamp – Jullouville – Arzon Port du Crouesty– Les Sables d’Olonne – Roses – Le Grau du Roi Port Camargue – Marseille – Nice; represent some of France’s most iconic sailing grounds and the Tour is an institution in French competitive sailing.

Leadership changes, black flag disqualifications, the full spectrum of wind and sea conditions, equipment damage and - in one case - failure to comply with the measurement rules, all played their part in this rollercoaster edition which saw seven different crews chalk up wins over the course of 17 race days. The new format adopted in 2015 - alternating Coastal Raids of up to 40 miles with short, fast Stadium Racing heats leading to a grand final on each leg – is a challenge to crews’ skills and endurance whilst providing spectator friendly racing.

As may be expected with such a long and demanding event, in which fatigue and stress are factors not to be underestimated, consistency was key. Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains, skippered by double Paralympic champion Damien Seguin and three-time Tour winner Damien Iehl together with crew members Benjamin Amiot and Mathieu Bourdais, calmly collected one solid result after another to lock up their overall win a day early.

“It was a difficult Tour, not stressful but tiring. We were consistent on the water and we didn’t have any equipment problems.” said Seguin, who went on to underline the importance of preparation. “There was a very high standard in this edition. We saw from the start of the season that this would be a close one because the standard was so high and we trained hard from

February. There was a massive battle between the top 10 boats.”

The incredibly high level of competition was a recurring theme throughout this anniversary edition. The unique format of the Tour has seen sustained growth since the adoption of the Diam 24 in 2015 and attracts sailors from all spheres of the sport – from multihull to ocean racers. The return of a large number of Olympic talents after last year’s games undoubtedly raised the bar, however a series of pre-season events as well as some serious training programmes also contributed.

While Fondation FDJ had their win wrapped up with a day in hand, the

runner-up places were only assigned at the conclusion of a thrilling Super Final in Act 9 in Nice. Tresors de Tahiti, skipperd by Teva Plichart, and Beijaflore Sailing, skippered by Valentin Bellet, emerged as the cream of a tightly-packed crop, claiming second and third place respectively in the general classification.

International teams competing in the Tour ranged from two Swiss boats - representing Geneva’s CER regatta training centrefor the 30th time - to young British Team Maverick SSR, Spanish-Russian collaboration New Territories and amateur Belgian team BE Brussels, all making their Tour debut.

Piers Hugh Smith, skipper of Team Maverick SSR, whose youngest crew member celebrated their 19th birthday during the Tour, saw this inaugural participation as a learning experience for future campaigns. Considering the fact that they were for some time the only crew sailing a Diam 24 in the UK, simply completing this tour de force in the company of such experienced teams can be considered a success.

“It was harder than we expected.” confessed Hugh Smith. “We were blown away. It’s been an incredible event. We’ve learnt ahuge amount and the whole roadshow aspect of the tour is like nothing else. It’s a really exceptional event. We have a five-year plan to compete in the next editions of the Tour and get up to a really competitive level.” Asked what advice he would give to other new teams joining the Tour for the first time he had clear ideas: “Get to France and sail as much as you can here on the Diam 24s. Don’t be afraid to do this event on a small budget. It’s very accessible and the organisation put a huge effort in to make it accessible, we’re really pleased with all the help they’ve given us. Just come and sails: h

Sented by Cathy McLean

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 July 2017 )