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29 May 2005, 10:48 am
Sill et Veolia Takes Victory
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Calais Round Britain Race 2005
Calais, France

At 05:13:21 hours GMT this morning the crew of the 60 foot monohull Sill et Veolia, skippered by Roland JOURDAIN (FRA), crossed the finish line of the Calais Round Britain Race 2005, taking victory in the 1,815 mile race.
The Lombard design took 6 days, 16 hours, 43 minutes and 21 seconds to cover the 1,815 miles of this clockwise race around the British Isles from Calais to Calais at an average speed of 11.29 knots.

Sill et Veolia's crew comprised of Jean Luc NELIAS (FRA), Gaël LE CLEAC'H (FRA), Philippe LEGROS (FRA) and Ronan LE GOFF (FRA).

Since her launch in April 2004, JOURDAIN's Lombard design, victim of recurring keel problems, had never finished a single race. This Calais Round Britain Race 2005 is therefore a première for the boat which has proved her worth in the extremely harsh and varied conditions.

JOURDAIN and his crew were the first to pass the Boulogne mark around 15 miles from the start of the race, setting the pace for the first day of racing. They remained in the top trio in the company of Ecover and Bonduelle as far as Shetland, staying neck and neck in an enthralling battle with Ecover right to the end, just slipping ahead at the last hurdle in the light winds.

Speaking of his victory JOURDAIN said, 'I am very, very, very satisfied with this victory. It has a very special taste. It's really Sill et Veolia's 'renaissance' because it was a year ago when it started to break up here [during the 1000 Milles de Calais]. Now I hope that this is the first of a long series of successes and that we have broken the spell.'

'I am really happy. First of all because it was a fantastic match and secondly that our crew was a dream team. It was a really hard race. It was hard in terms of weather forecasting, hard technically (you can see that by the breakage and the lack of crews at the finish), and then it ended with a match-race. I have to say that the battle with Mike was fabulous.'

On the decisive battle with Ecover JOURDAIN said, 'Well we're going to have to discuss that with them over a beer because even we didn't understand everything! At the end of the night and early morning yesterday, we quickly got back level with them so I think they were a little tired. We had some air yesterday, up to 35 or 40 knots, and Sill et Veolia is visibly very good upwind in the storm. We never let up and the crew were superb. We had the right sail up at the right moment and the good timing paid off. Gradually, it was enough to make two tacks, a judicious change of sail and a touch of success to pass in front. And then, at the end of the race, when the wind is set to drop out, it's always best to be in front. The slight lead immediately becomes a big gap.'

'I think we were all impressed by the passage around the Shetlands. The last day of downwind was beautiful with some big, fine waves. We were on the limit! We didn't overrun the edge of the track, but we weren't far off. It was magnificent. We saw some superb landscapes. It was a really marvellous race. Hard but fantastic.'

'We were all hungry for victory, beginning with Gaël [LE CLE'ACH] and myself, who have accompanied the boat since it was created. And my friends too. Ronan [LE GOFF], Philippe [LEGROS] and Jean Luc [NÉLIAS] are some very good friends and some very great professionals. It was really aggressive aboard!'

It has been a tortuous finish to an exciting and demanding race for Ecover, who looks set to take second place on the Calais Round Britain Race after a final 24 hours that has taxed the patience and concentration of the five man crew.

After six nights and six and a half days, and over 1,830 miles of sailing in good, breezes there was a 'park up' at the final mark off Dover where they struggled to stem the contrary tide in very light winds.

Despite having spent most of the last 18 hours trading tacks, and matching them move for move, Sill et Veolia escaped around the buoy and went on to take first place.

'We had a couple of bits of bad luck but the bottom line is that they overtook us and that's it. I think it started when we had our problems with the cable laying ship yesterday when we had to sail in the wrong direction until we got the OK from them to cross their cable. We probably ended up going three miles straight across the course, maybe nearer to four miles when we thought we were going to have to go round the front of the vessel,' admitted Ecover skipper Mike GOLDING (GBR) this morning as they headed for the finish line at Calais, 'We had some other issues with a dagger board and other small things but the worrying thing is that Sill did overtake us upwind when we didn't have the speed upwind but did seem to have speed downwind. We were worried that we may have had something on the boat because the numbers [the actual boat speeds compared with the target speeds for the actual wind speeds and direction] were all down and were getting strange weather information. It was just a catalogue of small things, but Sill coped with the wind shifts and gave us a great race. But it's a yacht race and it's frustrating to end like this.'

'Sill had to fight to get round the mark but not nearly as long or as hard as us. We were close together until five miles out and now we're still struggling to get to the finish. We are probable going to set a record for the slowest crossing from Dover to Calais!'

'It is very disappointing, but the race itself has been fantastic. We've had a bit of everything and some very memorable sailing. It's a good course, a tough, challenging course and it was a good turn to break the record, it's just a shame it wasn't us.'

Sill et Veolia's race in figures

Start from Calais: Sunday 22 May at 1230 GMT
Finish in Calais: Sunday 29 May at 0513 GMT 21 seconds
Course time: 6 days, 16 hours, 43 minutes and 21 seconds
Average speed: 11.29 knots

Kate Jennings/Andi Robertson (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The winners celebrate:© Chris Ison
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