The 40 teams participating in the Tour de France à la Voile 2002 are champing at the bit to start the first offshore race. For the moment, they have to be patient as the start of the 94-mile race from Dunkerque to Dieppe has been postponed from yesterday
Planned for yesterday morning at 0800, the start has been rescheduled for today. The boats will leave the quay at 6:00 and then, if the conditions are good enough, there will be a start off Dunkerque at 7:30.
"Otherwise, they will motor the boats for a while and start off Boulogne-sur-mer once they have passed a dangerous part of the coast, the Cape Gris-Nez", explains René Boulaire race committee director. "In that narrow passage, the wind is always 5 to 10 knots stronger and the sea is really rough. As the BMS (gale warning) has been maintained until tomorrow midday, it is more likely that they will start the race off Boulogne-sur-mer."
Most of the sailors understand the race committee decision though they were disappointed not to race yesterday.
"We're pleased to hear there is going to be a race. It is a shame it will be 24 hours late", said Rob Greenhalgh, skipper of Panther Team GBR. "I'm not really sure what the coast is like and what are the conditions out there. Therefore, I have to take their words for truth", comm nted Simon Sutherland. The Aussie skipper of student boat Force EDC along with his navigator, Britain's Sam Stevens, will spend this spare time working out their navigation system. "It's a fairly new comprehensive programme called Seatrack. It takes information from lots of different sources such as the tide, the weather, the boat speed and produces the best course", explained Sutherland.
Mike Broughton, the navigator of Panther Team GBR, comments the coming leg: "It will all depend where and at what time the race starts. The first third of the race is the interesting part with the tide to work out. It could be fun but hard work as the wind funnels so much in the channel near Cape Nez-Gris". "We've been looking at it for the last couple of weeks. I did for Volvo Ocean Race as I was helping Duncan's brother Neal MacDonald and his Assa Abloy team", said Broughton. "Basically, it will be a wet and hard beat. It'll be tough and hard work for the main sheet trimmer", added the navigator of Panther Team GBR.
The boys of amateur British team Royal Thames were killing time watching a film in their camping truck on the 'Village Assistance'. "We just want to race. We know it was a hard decision to take for the race committee. It's a shame the wind is southwesterly. This race might be a hard task for the navigators because of the tide. Our navigator is Peter Whipp. He does not have local knowledge but is meticulous. We're all up for it", said Owen Modral, the skipper of Royal Thames.
Former Vendée Globe sailor, Joe Seeten is from Dunkerque and thinks the race committee took a wise decision: "It would be dangerous to go out there with Mumm 30's. Especially near Cape Nez-Gris. It is a long regatta, it would be a shame to have several boat dismasting during the first offshore race".