The eleventh and final monohull arrived in Bassin Ouest of the port of Calais on Wednesday morning. Alexandre TOULORGE (FRA) and his crew join the ten other boats which have been gradually filtering into Pas de Calais since last Sunday from Lorient, Port La Forêt, Brest and Saint Malo. To celebrate this latest arrival, the race village has opened its doors to large crowds from Northern France, who relished the day's clear skies and light breeze as they eyed up the 18.28 m boats, each preparing to be driven by their five crew. On the programme in the coming days are two coastal races on Friday and Saturday with some rather pleasant weather conditions on the horizon, blown by a moderate southwest to westerly wind and the promise of blazing sunshine on Saturday in particular.
In fact, though the west of France is being swept by the passage of successive fronts, the north is benefiting from a fairly mild forecast. Sunday's start of the Calais Round Britain Race may even see light winds with an area of high pressure filling in gradually from the south. If all goes to plan, the eleven competitors will set off towards the Shetlands in a westerly air flow, but the direction of the circumnavigation of the British Isles will not be decided by the Race Management and skippers until Friday evening, once the five-day forecast is more defined. However, it already looks likely that sailing conditions will be fairly complicated with several depression systems passing over Scotland in the days following the start.
The first race of the IMOCA season, the Calais Round Britain Race has become an unmissable rendezvous every two years, providing the original monohulls, principally geared towards solo sailing, with a chance for some fine-tuning. This event is such that each boat will have five crew enabling them to drive the monohulls hard on what is an extremely varied course in terms of weather: gales, calms, upwind and downwind conditions, coastal phases, stretches of offshore, Channel, Irish Sea, Atlantic, North Sea, Pas de Calais, tidal currents, effects of the land… the pitfalls are numerous in the 1,850 mile race!
Each skipper will be assisted by a wealth of talent with a number of Figaro sailors including Liz WARDLEY (GBR), Gérald VÉNIARD (FRA), Jeanne GRÉGOIRE (FRA), … match race specialists such as Philippe LEGROS (FRA), Hugues DESTREMAU (FRA), Bruno JOURDREN (FRA)… crew and skippers with vast offshore experience like Pascal BIDÉGORRY (FRA), Yvan RAVUSSIN (SUI), Miranda MERRON (GBR), Graham TOURELL (GBR), Michèle PARET (FRA)… and even single-handed round the world sailors like Sébastien JOSSE (FRA), Conrad HUMPHREYS (GBR) and Joé SEETEN (FRA), or crewed circumnavigators such as Sidney GAVIGNET (FRA), Sébastien AUDIGANE (FRA), Jacques CARAËS (FRA)… This looks set to make for a close-fought battle with any one of the 11 monohulls potential victors, particularly as four of the entries are brand new prototypes keen to see how they measure up against the others in the very different weather conditions. As was the case in the past two editions, regrouping will be an inevitable part of the action, with numerous restarts and upsets in the rankings all the way to the finish in Calais from around 9 June onwards.