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Thread: Perfect Conditions For A Dress Rehearsal

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    Perfect Conditions For A Dress Rehearsal




    It’s full house… The pontoons of Lorient – La Base are a hive of activity this Tuesday 8 September, on the eve of the start of the Défi Azimut. “All eyes will be on this event. Weather conditions are not forecast to be rough so it’ll be more a case of gently getting into the swing of things!” admits Gildas Morvan, Race Director for this tenth Défi Azimut.




    19 skippers have stepped up to the plate and are preparing to get down to business in a dream setting with a varied programme comprising speed runs and a 500-mile solo passage, rounding off with a lap of the Ile de Groix…

    An Indian summer. Glorious sunshine, a reasonable N’ly wind fuelled by a zone of high-pressure settled in nicely offshore of the Azores… Lorient-La base is witnessing a magical start to September. “The 10th edition should enjoy some wonderful light with some hotly-contested races and plenty of tactics and strategy for all the skippers.” Gildas Morvan (22 Solitaire du Figaros to his credit) has taken the reins this year as Race Director of the Défi Azimut, with full knowledge of the facts: “It’s everything I love. Drawing up a course with the skippers, listening to them, sorting out the on-the-water logistics and ensuring that the Défi Azimut is a fabulous prelude to the Vendée Globe.”







    An imposing picture postcard

    From tomorrow, Wednesday, at 15:30 hours local time on the dot, the 19 IMOCAs will take part in a series of speed runs between the harbour of Lorient and the Ile de Groix in Brittany. Spanning 1.5-miles, the contenders will be on the stopwatch with 2 to 4 attempts allowed. “Despite these summery conditions, the northerly wind will pick up over the course of the afternoon so the magic of speed should certainly be on display!” promises the Race Director of the Défi Azimut. The same will be true of the 48-hour sprint scheduled for this Thursday at 15:30 hours, with a favourable forecast on the cards coloured by a mixture of strategy and outright speed. “The idea is to get the skippers to go around an initial GPS position out to the West of the Bay of Biscay, then send them down to a second point offshore of Arcachon before they head back due North towards Ile de Groix. Essentially, it’s a 500-mile sprint on a direct course”, adds the sailor from Aber Wrac’h in the Finistère. This long triangular course should see the solo sailors returning safely to port over the course of the day on Saturday after two nights at sea.


    The traditional Tour de Groix Azimut on Sunday will serve as a closing ceremony of sorts, it too likely to feature good weather conditions. A sporty and sociable meeting awaits then and what better way to show the guests and journalists present aboard the IMOCAs how demanding these machines are and the level of commitment required to sail them.


    Armel Tripon, L’Occitane en Provence
    “The Défi Azimut represents a great deal to me. After having to retire from the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne it’s a great way to do battle with my fellow IMOCA sailors. The 48-hour race in solo configuration will be an important opportunity for me and my boat to size up the competition. The event is also essential for partner relations! This is what adds value to our sport and it’s a must. We have to demonstrate and explain what our sport is all about. I’m happy to have qualified for the Vendée Globe. I get a huge amount of pleasure from being on my boat. I feel quietly confident and I’m eager to get out sailing this weekend in Lorient!”

    Sébastien Simon, Arkea-Paprec
    “This will be the final clash before the Vendée Globe! I really like this fairly full-on format, as there will be quite a few of us in the start phases. It’s pure racing and that’s what I love! The 48-hour sprint will be crucial for me. I’m really looking forward to it as I need to spend some time on my boat. I’ll have foils, but not the ones I’ll be using in the Vendée Globe. That said, what counts is getting out sailing and having some fun. I’m so eager to go out sailing and purely and simply get some racing under my belt.”

    Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée 2
    “I haven’t missed a single Défi Azimut since it was created ten years ago. I love the varied and sociable format. It’s always interesting to face-off against the competition just a few weeks before the start of the Vendée Globe. I’m not putting any pressure on my shoulders, but the solo 48-hour sprint will be vital in my bid to rack up more experience, even though Bureau Vallée 2 is technically ready to set sail on the Vendée Globe.”

    Samantha Davies, Initiatives-Cœur
    “It’s the last event before the Vendée Globe but I’m not pressurising myself. The real test was the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne, which went very well. I’ve already proven myself, I know that I feel good aboard my boat and that I can perform well. The Défi Azimut will primarily be about enabling me to continue getting to know my boat, validating it and drawing up a small jobs list if need be. I’m going to have some fun, but I know what I’m like, I’m competitive so I won’t be able to stop myself from doing the best I can.”


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    48 Hours At Top Speed



    Finally alone! The 17 competing IMOCAs set sail from Lorient this afternoon on a long triangular sprint in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. Leading the way, Charal is battling it out with Arkea Paprec and L’Occitane en Provence, with the foilers already flying along towards the first mark some 143 miles ahead of their bows. After this bracing start, a first night at high speed awaits all the fleet

    To look impressive and steal the show, nothing can beat nailing a start! Heading the fleet this afternoon offshore of the Pointe du Talud for the 48 Heures Azimut, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) was soon being hounded by the pack of new IMOCAs led by reigning champion Charal. Indeed, as was demonstrated in yesterday’s speed runs, the boats with daggerboards and the new foilers clearly aren’t punching at the same weight....

    In any case, the entire fleet put on an absolute showstopper this afternoon with the IMOCAs virtually aligned in an established medium breeze and glorious sunshine once again off Lorient. Unfortunately, there were two no-shows with Newrest–Art et Fenêtres and Bureau Vallée II confined to port due to insurance problems...

    Passing Pen Men at the northern tip of Ile de Groix, Jérémie Beyou’s black foiler was still leading the way, with Arkea Paprec hot on her heels, whilst the skipper of L’Occitane en Provence had managed to shake off the chasing pack to quickly complete this first provisional podium.


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    TRACKER






    The foilers have the edge in the first two sections of the course


    Prior to the start, all the skippers were in agreement that the first stretch of the course to the Azimut 1 waypoint in this 48-hour sprint would be a drag race in which the latest generation foilers would be able to excel. “The leaders will get richer as the breeze will gradually flesh out and the first racers to gain westing will be able to reap the benefits. We’ll gybe at the mark and then we’ll switch onto the other tack with roughly the same angle”, explained Kevin Escoffier (PRB), positioned in 7th place this evening.

    Already powered up at 18 knots, the top foilers will see the wind lift and strengthen before gradually shifting round to the North. The gennakers and other FROs (the new large genoas that are all the rage in IMOCA) will be out in force to further pick up the pace in this rapid 143-mile flight to the first course mark.

    The second half of the night and tomorrow morning will give the skippers a chance to ease off the pace a little, which will doubtless please the leaders who won’t have had time to get much shut-eye. This short break will likely lead to some bunching up of the fleet too.










    An uncertain finale

    The second half of this 48-hour sprint is shaping up to be more random, as noted by Charlie Dalin, fourth on Apivia: “The final section will be quite long, close-hauled with some changes of tack. The finish is still uncertain as there’s a chance we’ll encounter a windless zone”. As such, Race Management has given itself until 20:00 hours tonight to announce a possible course modification to the competitors, which would likely consist of moving the Azimut 2 mark to a different latitude.

    In the meantime, Sébastien Simon took the top spot off Jérémie Beyou for a few minutes, the first five boats bunched within a two-mile radius with fierce racing at every stage of the ranking.

    QUOTES FROM THE BOATS

    Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence)
    “It’s an interesting course. Conditions are summery but they’ll enable us to really size up the competition. On the first stretch to waypoint 1, which we’ll likely negotiate at dusk, my boat should be able to make good headway and everyone will be flat out. However, upwind, conditions will be less favourable as the scow bow on L’Occitane en Provence lacks waterline length. Today, we don’t really have any reference compared with the others. That’ll make for a very interesting climb up to Lorient as we launch onto a beat with the wind becoming lighter and lighter. The downwind VMG in light airs is not very good for me either and there may well be some of that at the end of the second stretch.... It’s going to be interesting as I don’t have many good references in terms of the weight of the boat in relation to the others.”

    Kevin Escoffier (PRB)
    “The first section promises to be a drag race. The leaders will get richer as the breeze gradually fleshes out and the front runners will be able to reap the benefits. Added to that, the breeze at the start is not very strong and those boats with large foils will be able to take off earlier than PRB with her 2018 foils. It will be more favourable for me at the end of the second stretch where the wind is set to ease on the climb back up to Lorient, which when PRB performs very well. Upwind, inevitably there will be some strategic choices to be had and the potential separation between the boats may enable some miles to be made up.”

    Charlie Dalin, Apivia
    “There will be 13-15 knots for the start. We’ll be on a near reach on starboard tack. It’ll be quick after that as the wind is set to pick up to around twenty knots. We’ll have some good peaks of speed. Next up, there will be a gybe at the Azimut 1 mark, then we’ll switch up a gear on a reach, but then the wind is set to ease. The final section will be quite long, close-hauled with some changes of tack. The finish is still uncertain as there’s a chance we’ll encounter a windless zone. In any case, the first stretch will be great. My goal over this 500-mile course is to continue to get in some practice and some manœuvres, work on my trajectories and get in some training as it’s the last competition before the Vendée Globe”.

    Benjamin Dutreux, OMIA - Water Family
    “These 500 miles are shaping up to be pretty good! It will be my first race manoeuvring the boat singlehanded. It will also be an opportunity to get some first-hand experience. Conditions will favour the foilers. On a personal level, I’m going to try not to look at what the others are doing and just focus on my own navigation. I’m really itching to get back into racing solo. I’m keen to up my game and sail in contact with the others. The different sections will be interesting as there will be lots of tactics and lots of choices to be made.”

    Miranda Merron, Campagne de France
    “It’s likely to take me more than 48hrs, but I’m very happy to be competing in this 500-mile sprint. It’s the last solo race before the Vendée Globe. We won’t do much sailing after this. We still have a lot to do as we’re a small team. My goal is not to break anything. I still have a fair few things to validate and I need to check all the chafe points on my boat. One thing for sure is that I’m very happy on my boat. She’s old but solid.”









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    Dancing In The Dark



    TRACKER


    The 17 Défi Azimut IMOCAs are now all heading north since Miranda Merron on Campagne de France rolled up the Azimut 2 waypoint at 5:34 pm, a little over 7 hours after the first Charlie Dalin (Apivia).

    On this last 186-mile stretch, anything can still happen: a great battle of tacking begins at the start of the evening and to add a touch of suspense, in the early morning, a big brake application awaits the skippers at 30 miles from the coast! Arrival of the first in Lorient scheduled between 10 am and 3 pm.










    In this north-easterly wind, varying in strength and direction (between 7 and 10 knots), no direct route to the finish line. The skippers will therefore have to apply themselves to positioning their tack well at the option of small seesaw and work their trajectory with the gust of wind. Nothing is yet decided for the leader of the pack, Charlie Dalin (Apivia), in the lead since last night at sunset! On this rise, the gaps are narrowing despite the small lags: Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Armel Tripon (L'Occitane en Provence), Thomas Rettant (LinkedOut) and Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec) have never been so close to the yellow and blue boat transom. The first 4 are held in less than 4 miles, but the approach to the seesaw could disrupt the established order given the lateral deviations.








    Duels and nice matches in the heart of the fleet

    6th in the scoring, Kevin Escoffier (PRB) followed by Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) and Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) extended the stride hour after hour, just 8 miles from Charal. The trajectory of this trio is tighter than that of the leading quartet which lets itself slip.

    A good match is also being played between the young Clarisse Cremer (Banque Populaire X), first of the IMOCA with drifts, and Isabelle Joschke (MACSF). The two women are only 3 miles apart and display the same speeds on the odometer. Not sure that neither of them closed their eyes tonight!







    Compression from the back

    After the 11th Damien Seguin (APICIL), 4 IMOCAs are held in less than 8 miles, including a certain Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA - Water Family) who is racing solo for the first time on his 2007 Farr plan. The Vendéen is playing elbows. with Maxime Sorel (V and B-Mayenne) and Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans), 14th and 15th respectively. For this group up to Miranda Merron, the gap of more than 40 miles (64 miles for Campagne de France) with the head of the fleet should narrow considerably. It is indeed likely that the last ones will benefit from the thermal wind tomorrow when they approach the coast of Lorient.

    Between a start with fanfare and an end in a random wind, these 48 hours alone are definitely not lacking in salt!

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  4. #4
    And no reports of gear failure or foils failing!

    Maybe there IS hope for the next generation on the Vendee!

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    A Tight Race To The Finish






    It took a strong composure and a bit of success to win these 48 hours Azimut.

    Undecided until the end, they consecrate for the second consecutive year Jérémie Beyou (Charal), opportunist hunter finding at the level of the island of Groix the breath of saving air. Samantha Davies takes second place and Isabelle Joschke completes the podium.

    The minimal differences at the finish owe a lot to the conditions but also demonstrate the high sporting level of the event.



    “ We knew it was going to catch fire with the wind falling before the line. With Sam (Davies), our position as hunters was not bad and we had to pull the right edges to get the ball to the bottom. I missed others and I contributed enough in my life to know that all this is fragile but it's still nice to win! Jérémie Beyou had the modest triumph on the pontoons of Lorient-La Base after this incredible finish of the 48 Hours run as a stage of the Solitaire du Figaro.

    All morning, however, observers relied on Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who was still in the lead 12 miles from the line after dominating 80% of the course. Then on Kevin Escoffier (PRB) who slipped in his wind and still seemed to be in control of the situation 4 miles from goal. But this edition was not for them ...



    Hunters and hunted
    Transformed into a lake at the stroke of 11 o'clock, the body of water took on the air of wasteland. With clear ideas, Jérémie Beyou was heading for the coast, keeping the wind the longest and touching the new zephyr at the best angle, followed a few lengths by Initiatives-Coeur. The return of the breeze also propelled Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) onto the podium, while Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) followed in fourth place. Three women in the top four, many were enthusiastic on the pontoons of Lorient-La Base about this unprecedented result in ocean racing.



    Performances on all floors
    If Charal signs the double in the Défi Azimut and remains undefeated this year, these 48 hours Azimut also honor the boats of previous generations. Because before the finish upset the established order, Clarisse Cremer, fifth, had shown that Banque Populaire X remains a formidable machine up close, capable of winning over the best. PRB dating from the same period but equipped with foils was also the author of a nice comeback following the tackings last night.

    And in terms of new foilers, these 48 hours Azimut also confirm the potential of L'Occitane en Provence by Armel Tripon. Very comfortable on reaching of course but also in the upwind stroke, the Nantes skipper finished in twelfth place which does not at all reflect the appearance of his race contested at the forefront.



    The whole fleet tonight
    While the first thirteen are moored in the port and everyone is doing the regatta again, Lorient-La Base is now awaiting the last competitors who should cross the line in the early evening. An ideal timing which will give everyone a good night's rest before the tour of the island of Groix tomorrow. Departure tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. for the last act of this tenth Azimut Challenge.



    Top 10 ranking
    1. Charal (Jérémie Beyou), 1d 20h 56min et 59sec
    2. Initiatives Cœur (Samantha Davies), 2 min and 38 sec from the leader
    3. MACSF (Isabelle Joschke), 17 min

    4. Banque Populaire X (Clarisse Crémer), at 23 min and 40 sec
    5. PRB (Kevin Escoffier), at 36 min and 34 sec
    6. Arkéa Paprec (Sébastien Simon), at 42 min and 44 sec
    7. Seaexplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco (Boris Herrmann), at 42 min and 56 sec
    8. Apivia (Charlie Dalin), at 1:14 and 10 sec
    9. Linkedout (Tomas Roût), at 1:17 and 41 sec
    10. Groupe APICIL (Damien Seguin), at 01:33 and 12 sec
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