The 40 teams participating in the Tour de France à la Voile 2002 are still on stand-by in Dunkerque. The start of the first offshore race is still delayed.
The boats left the docks this morning at 6 :00 but came back an hour later. When they were in the lock, René Boulaire, the race committee's director, received the an updated weather forecast with a new gale warning and decided that it wouldn't be safe to start a race.
At 12:00, René Boulaire and Manfred Ramspacher, the director of the Tour de France à la Voile, held a skippers briefing to inform the crews of the situation.
"The gale warning is maintained until Wednesday morning. The wind forecast is for force 5 to 6 increasing to force 7 to 8 tomorrow. The waves at Cape Gris-Nez are five meters high", explained René Boulaire.
"There is no way I can start a race with a warning gale. It is too dangerous. So we'll have to wait until the weather situation improves. Therefore, I ask you to stay on stand-by", added the race committee director.
Manfred Ramspacher, who was already in Dieppe where the official village has been set up since yesterday, drove back to Dunkerque to attend the skippers briefing.
"It is disappointing but there is nothing we can do. We want to try and keep the schedule as originally planned, but we have decided that the boats won't go to Dieppe and will sail directly from Dunkerque to Cherbourg as soon as it is possible", commented Manfred Ramspacher. "Hopefully, once in Cherbourg, we'll be able to get back to normal with our programme", he added.
Though disap ointed, the sailors understand the decision. "It was the right decision to take. We just have got to be patient. Sailing is not football. We depend on the weather conditions. We just have to wait and pray for the conditions to improve as soon as possible", commented Pierre-Loïc Berthet, the skipper of the leading boat Nantes-St-Nazaire.
"We feel very frustrated but we respect their decision. It is frustrating though to be on stand-by and not to know when we'll start the race because we can't prepare for it", said Owen Modral, skipper of British boat Royal Thames.
The two British teams decided to go go-karting this afternoon.
"If they change the course of the race, direct to Cherbourg, we'll also have some more navigation work to be done", said Panther Team GBR's Rob Greenhalgh.
The team comprised of Aussies, British and Dutch onboard Force EDC intended to do some work to the boat. "We're taking the opportunity to work on the boat. There are always little things to improve. We're getting ideas from the others", explained Simon Sutherland, the Australian skipper. "Sam Stephens, our navigator, keeps an eye on the weather forecast and will do some navigation work on the new course. I'm disappointed of course especially because I don't know France well and it would be nice to see all the towns we supposed to stop at", added Simon Sutherland.
Sam Stephens said: "It is hard to keep the crew in the right frame of mind. We were ready to do the event and to race every day. And now we're just sitting here doing nothing"
With the wind having increased a lot here in Dunkerque and the waves are starting the get really big, every one realise that the race committee did the right call not to start a race. Some of the student teams who sleep in tents on the "Assistance Village" have been offered to sleep in a gymnasium to keep their feet dry.
The race committee will hold another skippers' briefing on Wednesday morning to keep the crews up-to-date.