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7 August 2007, 11:53 am
French Clinch Victory In Archipelago Raid
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Jean-Christophe MOURNIAC and Franck CITEAU

Archipelago Raid 2007
Sandhamn, Sweden

The seventh edition of the Archipelago Raid, the extreme race through the 100,000 islands of the Archipelago region, finished with Jean Christophe MOURNIAC and Franck CITEAU (FRA) clinching victory in an exciting and drama-filled finale.
In a tight fought battle between the French, the local Team Thule of Mathias ALMSTEDT and Martin STRANDBERG (SWE) and the F18 European Champions, Yamaha Red of Mischa HEEMSKERK and Bastiaan TENTJI (NED) it was the French that finally secured victory having completed a solid and consistent event.

Winner MOURNIAC said at the finish line, 'It is a fantastic race. It has been really difficult physically and the navigation is very tough. We are tired now and happy it is over.'

The double Olympic medallist STRANDBERG and ALMSTEDT on Team Thule were first in Sandhamn and finished third overall. STRANDBERG commented on the race: 'It is so fast, really full on all the time and you hardly have time to experience what is going on. It is long - you have time to be happy, enthusiastic, angry, frustrated and tired. It was especially hard when we made a mistake in our navigation, hit a rock and started to take in water in the hull. After each leg we had to empty the water.'

The Archipelago Raid is notorious for the range of conditions it throws at the sailors, the magnificent landscape that the competitors must navigate and the obstacles that stand in their way. And this year was no different - there were two dismastings, a near sinking and numerous collisions with rocks causing significant daggerboard issues for the teams as well as broken gennaker poles and ripped sails. The victory for the French was even more significant as they have never competed in the event before so also win the rookies prize.

But the event is an extreme race through one of the world's most fascinating wonders and provided some world-class sailing. Olympic medallists lined up next to America's Cup sailors and Raid rookies were pushing the old timers to the limit. At every stage of the event there were personal battles being fought as sailors were trying to maintain their speed, navigate and make the right tactical decisions. The German Nissan team sailed a great race till the fourth day when they suffered irreparable daggerboard damage and were forced to retire.

However this event is not just about the sailing, with teams from ten countries coming from around the world including a team from New Zealand, it is also about the unique area that the teams sail in and the islands they visit. Due to lack of wind on the first day the fleet spent an extra night on the pristine beach at Bjorno before moving on to the small island of Fejan where the crews were able to shower for the first time. From Fejan the fleet headed north via a number of checkpoints to the small island of Lappo in the Aland archipelago. From there, the teams head back south to the town of Mariehamn before crossing back across the Baltic Sea to the finish in Sandhamn.

Twenty-nine boats started the race with five retiring due to a number of things ranging from dismasting to broken daggerboards. But in the spirit of the Raid for those that could, they made every attempt to finish this unique endurance event. One team, White Knuckles Express managed to purchase another boat after a near sinking and continued the race. Another, Voltaren, managed to hold a sail up when their mast came down and 'sail' to the beach to fix their mast and carry on.

HEEMSKERK of Team Yamaha Red, commented, 'It is really nice to finish this race. There is a lot of paddling but it is very satisfying to have done it. It is Bas's [crew] first year and we have either won or come second in all the events we have entered so we are really happy. We had a few days of great sailing, the event is fun to do - to get up at 4 am and to sail till 8 is pretty fun. It is also a unique place to sail, the obstacles you have to pass and the navigation you have to do - overall it is good to have got round and finished.'

Archipelago Raid (As Amended By ISAF)
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