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2 September 2001, 08:00 pm
Alain Gautier Wins
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The winning team photo:Gilles Martin-Raget

60ft Multihull Grand Prix
Port de Fecamp

Alain Gautier, skipper of the Foncia multihull, wins the Port de Fécamp Grand Prix and makes his lead more comfortable in the 9 TELECOM Championship.
Franck Cammas, second, saw his hopes of catching up with Alain Gautier vanish in the 6th race due to problems with his gennaker, despite a win in the last race. The last reaching leg of the last race was decisive to determine the third seed. Lalou Roucayrol, who had won his first race since Banque Populaire hit the water in March previously in the day, came back into the fight while Jean-Luc Nélias attempted to stay away from the pressure the new generation of multihulls inflict on his 12 year old Belgacom 20.

This Port de Fécamp Grand Prix saw varied weather conditions (eight races sailed in medium, light and some strong winds), and highlights include several moments. A first day during which lots of boats suffered some damage, with Fujifilm (Loïck Peyron) dismasting in the second race, forcing her to retire prematurely from the Grand Prix. Another important fact is the rise of the new generation of multihulls, now more capable of challenging the older ones. But the latter still have good days in front of them … as the first two seeds of this Grand Prix demonstrate : Alain Gautier (Foncia) and Franck Cammas (Groupama).

Foncia, fair and square

With great consistency (4th is their worst result) and very at ease, Alain Gautier (Foncia) and his crew win the event, and comfort their lead in the overall 9 TELECOM Championship standings. Foncia can thus still be considered as one of the top multihulls in the class, as well as Groupama. With a reliable boat and a faithful crew (two strong advantages in the breeze), Alain Gautier immediately took the commands and managed to resist to Groupama in the last few races. Thrilled by his victory, Alain Gautier confirmed at the finish : "we know we have a good boat, Foncia is finely tuned and ready, all is well".

Behind, Belgacom and Banque Populaire fought a close battle for the third seed, ending up in Lalou Roucayrol's favor, excellent during the last day. Bonduelle, severely handicapped by a first day spent at the docks (to fix her damaged fore crossbeam after a collision with Fila), saves her honor with a win on Saturday, but was a little disappointing compared to Cagliari, especially with poor starts. Further behind, Giovanni Soldini confided that Fila was still "under construction". They keep on learning, although not as fast as he had hoped. Last, Baygon, sporting her old sails to preserve the new one for the Jacques Vabre transat, stayed behind the fleet during the three days.

Superb finish for Banque Populaire

In constant progress throughout the event, Banque Populaire finishes with a great day (1st, 2nd and 3rd), which enables her to climb on the podium. The two weeks of intensive training in Lorient in August have paid off, and the Lombard design appeared very at ease in winds greater than 12-13 knots. That plus good starts, good tactical choices and a motivated crew, helped Banque Populaire step out of the shadow. Know Lalou Roucayrol only needs to find his multihull's notice in light winds.

But there is no miracle, or so it seems. Whether it be for Banque Populaire or the other boats, these technological jewels can only reveal their secrets and their whole potential with lots of training, and more systematic analysis of their performances. This is what Banque Populaire has been trying to do, asking for the help of "team coaches", whose major roles are to boost training sessions and bring a "new eye" approach, in Philippe Neiras' terms.

One thing is for sure : the whole fleet has progressed quite a bit, and the boats performances have levelled. Out of the seven races, five different boats (Fujifilm, Foncia, Groupama, Bonduelle and Banque Populaire) each win at least one race and at least six of them have shown sufficient potential to do so : a relatively new fact on Grand Prix events.

Towards a more homogeneous fleet

There is enough room for everybody. At least six among the eight multihulls here in Fécamp are capable of winning a race. The "old" boats, Groupama and Foncia, benefit from their experience, their excellent knowledge of their boat, and reliable equipment. The multihulls from the new generation are not yet optimised, but their speed potential is greater. Thus the two generations tend to perform similarly.

The observations are confirmed by architect Benoït Cabaret, who works with Nigel Irens. He explains : "The boats of the new generation are just about the same. Some are better suited for offshore racing and others for Grand Prix events, but they mostly lack reliability. The crews did not have enough time to test the boats, and none use 100% of their potential.

A good example is Fujifilm's performances in Cagliari : despite a very irregular speed, she manages three good races in Cagliari. The same is true for Banque Populaire, whose performances vary a lot. But all this changes faster than we thought. Before, a boat needed a year or two to be competitive, now it seems that only a few months are required."

And this is just a beginning. In Zeebrugge, two new multihulls will enter the scene : the new Belgacom and Sergio Tachini. See you in Belgium from September 14 to 16.

Port de Fécamp Grand Prix overall standings

1 - Alain Gautier - Foncia - 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 4 + 2 + 1 + 2 = 15 points

2 - Franck Cammas Goupama - 4 + 2 + 3 + 1 +2 + 3 + 5 + 1 = 20 points

3 - Lalou Roucayrol - Banque Populaire - 5 + 3 + 5 +3 +6 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 28 points

4 - jean Luc Nélias - Belgacom - 3 + 5 + 2 + 5 + 3 + 3,9 + 3 + 5 = 30,9 points

5 - Jean Le Cam - Bonduelle - 9 + 9 + 4 + 4 +1 + 4 + 6 + 9 = 45 points

6 - Giovanni Soldini - Fila- 6 + 4 + 6 + 6 + 5 + 6 + 9 + 6 = 47 points

7 - Yvan Bourgnon - Baygon - 7 + 6 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 9 + 9 + 4 = 56 points

8 - Loïck Peyron - Fujifilm - 1 + 9 + 9 +9 + 9 +9 + 9 + 9 = 64 points

9 TELECOM Championship standings

1 - Alain Gautier - Foncia : 30 + 6 + 2 + 10 = 48 points

2 - Franck Cammas - Groupama : 12 + 10 + 6 + 6 = 34 points

3 - Jean-Luc Nélias - Belgacom : 18 + 4 + 3 + 3 = 28 points

4 - Jean Le Cam - Bonduelle : 0,3 + 3 + 10 + 2 = 15,3 points

5 - Yvan Bourgnon - Bayer : 9 + 2 + 0,2 + 0,2 = 11,4 points

6 - Lalou Roucayrol - Banque Populaire : 0,3 + 0,2 + 1 + 4 = 5,5 points

7- Loïck Peyron - Fujifilm : 0 + 1 + 4 + 0,2 = 5,2 points

8 - Giovanni Soldini - Fila : 0 + 0,2 + 0,2 + 1 = 1,4 point

9 - Marc Guillemot - Biscuit La Trinitaine Team Ethypharm : 0,3+ 0 + 0 + 0 = 0,3 point


V.Horeau/News Editor
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