A good breeze and damages have shaped the first day of the Port de Fécamp Grand Prix. The event of the day is Fujifilm dismasting in the second race, hopefully leaving the crew unharmed.
At ease in these weather conditions and manoeuvring well, Alain Gautier (Foncia) is today's big winner. He preceeds Franck Cammas (Groupama) and Jean-Luc Nélias (Belgacom) in the provisional standings in the 9 TELECOM Championship's fourth event.
Things had started off very well for Fujifilm. After winning on the edge the first race and leading comfortably in the second one, the green multihull was off for a perfect day.
And yet, this morning, as the wind was blowing on the docks, Fujifilm's crew could be heard muttering a few words about their mast. Will it be OK or not ? … Well, it wasn't, and the crew knew very well it was a possibility. Back in Cap d'Agde it already had the tendency to arch too much, and in Cagliari a few fissures even showed up (too much compression) : the mast was clearly the Achilles' heel of Fujifilm. It finally dismasted in Fécamp, and happily the crew came out unharmed. But this is a hard blow for Fujifilm : not only is the Fécamp Grand Prix over, but the one in Zeebrugge two weeks from now doesn't look good either. Loïck Peyron's objective is now the Jacques Vabre transat, but he will need a new, or borrowed, mast in order to take the start.
Apart from this unfortunate accident, several other boats suffered some damage today. Fila and Bonduelle collided at the start of the first race. Aboard Fila, only one foil was slightly damaged, but it did not prevent her from sailing the two races, although it did handicap her on the port tack. The damage was more serious for Bonduelle : with the crossbeam showing a few cracks, Jean Le Cam had to come back to the docks and stay ashore the whole day. But he felt confident : "We will be at the start tomorrow. We could have raced today, but taking risks is not a very good option with the Jacques Vabre only one month and a half away".
Banque Populaire also had a few worries : with the gennaker pole torn away, they were never able to use that sail.
After two such rounds, the race committee decided not to take any more risks, a good news for Bonduelle as they avoid another DNS (Did Not Start) penalty.
Tough moments for the others !
" It was tough, we were starting to submarine quite a bit, ideal conditions to break something" commented Pierre Mas back at the docks.
Indeed, the weather conditions the eight multihulls encountered today are the worst a Grand Prix has to offer : "With 18-20 knots winds, we have to choose between the solent and the staysail. Either we overload the boat, or we are unbalanced on hit the waves" confessed Groupama's skipper.
These conditions did not prevent Foncia from performing very well twice, and she is thus taking the overall lead. "We benefited a bit from the other boats' worries, but we were really at ease, we manoeuvred very well. We know our boat in and out, even in a strong breeze, which certainly helped us a lot. It's a good day for us, we're quite satisfied !" declared Mick Kermadec.
Groupama, slightly behind at first, ends up fine. For Franck Cammas, "We were not brilliant, but we didn't want to break anything on the boat especially on the first race. We took some time to let all the crew get a nice feeling. We played it safe, there are quite a number of races ahead."
A good day also for Banque Populaire, always in a good position on the first upbeat leg (even ahead at the first mark in the first race), but the damage on their gennaker pole penalised her severely. Julien Cressant, trimmer : "The breeze suits us really fine. We knew it already, it is now confirmed. We took good starts. It's really a shame to have suffered some damage." Indeed, Banque Populaire had to sail all the downwind legs with only her solent.
"For the moment, we have spend more time at the boatyard than training," explains Giovanni Soldini. "Today is the first time where we were in Fila's optimal configuration, and in the end we are happy, the boat is a real bomb, but we still have to work a lot with the crew as quite a few of them come from dinghies."
Baygon, after making it just barely to Fécamp, was left behind today. Yvan Bourgnon offers some explanations : "We tried to do our best. On the two races, we kept on getting better. We would have liked a third and a fourth race. Our speed is good, but we lack training. Baygon is adjusted for offshore sailing, more than for Grand Prix events. Our objective is to train for the Jacques Vabre transat (with Yvan Ravussin), if we manage to find sponsors".
Tomorrow, only seven multihulls will be on the water to take the start of the inshore race, before or after two sausages, weather permitting.
With Camille Elbeze and Catherine Ecarlat, Sail-online
Port de Fécamp Grand Prix provisional standings after 2 races
1- Foncia (Alain Gautier) 2+1 = 3 points
2- Groupama (Franck Cammas) 2+4 = 6 points
3- Banque Populaire (Lalou Roucayrol) 3 + 5 = 8 points
3 ex aequo Belgacom (Jean Luc Nélias) 5+3 = 8 points
5- Fila (Giovanni Soldini) 6 + 4 = 10 points
5 ex aequo Fujifilm (Loïck Peyron) 1+9 = 10 points
7 - Baygon (Yvan Bourgnon) 7+6 = 13 points
8- Bonduelle (Jean Le Cam) 9+9 = 18 points