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8 August 2002, 08:22 pm
Koch Wins Leg One
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Antoine Koch cracks open the Champagne

La Solitaire du Figaro

The top three of the first leg from Boulogne-sur Mer - Crosshaven are first Antoine Koch (Saunier Duval), second Kito de Pavant (Malice), and third Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore).
He held off well and kept a tight rein on the threats from his pursuers. Antoine Koch showed all his laurels at the end of a leg rich in sudden developments. At twilight, under the Irish drizzle, the young soloist crossed the line in the sea off Crosshaven at 0713 mins and 05 secs (French time) after 91 hours 13 mins and 05 secs racing. In less than 13 minutes, Kito de Pavant (Malice) and Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) came in, one after the other, to complete the line up on the podium of this 437 mile first leg.

Tight, tight, tight… In a west south-westerly wind of 5.5 knots weakening in such a way that the skippers got closer and closer to each other, the arrivals coming in under spinnaker, at an infernal rythmn : 16 soloists have arrived in this fashion, sometimes with only a second between them, and all of those entering the port of Crosshaven within 50 minutes. Antoine Koch, at the height of his 23rd spring, thus took honours, at dawn, under an Irish sky. Pink and grey in the early morning calm. Despite the light rain, the sun, only just risen, saluted this fantastic performance and this first leg victory won at the end of an infernal marathon which will remain in the skippers' memories for a long time. A high-voltage regatta, carried along in the light winds and the caprices of the tides all along the coast, followed by a track race with the return of the wind in the Irish Sea: it was in the permanent close contact that the soloists had to do battle to finish. This first round succeeded in getting their reflexes and their talents finely honed to leave the race largely open. Little gaps open up and the maestros of the Figaro were able to double their efforts once again to come in to take the two first places of honour, in this 33rd edition which could start in no better a place than on the Irish pontoons.

Echos from the pontoons Antoine Koch, 1st at Crosshaven : " With the rain on the welcoming committee, we can be sure that we're in the right place! A victory leg is a beautiful thing, especially as last year I felt that I was very well prepared but things didn't turn out that way. This time around I came into it with a more simple approach and I seized an opportunity when it presented itself. For 98% of the time, I was in contact with the others and so it was only in the remaining 2% that I was able to take the lead. The most satisfying thing about this was to have held on during the climb up to Ireland with a pack of pursuers hot on my heels. That was quite stressful. We have had a very full leg with some extremely varied conditions: light winds along the English coast, more wind at sea. We spent four nights at sea: the first and last were quite nerve-racking, and for the two in the middle, I endeavoured to sleep and let the pilot helm … "

Kito de Pavant (Malice), 4 mins 38 secs from the first home : " It was infernal. On such a leg, you're in permanent doubt. It's especially very difficult at night when you have no idea where the others are. What was also very difficult was to get back up with the leaders again only to lose them once more. But I can't be disappointed with second place after such a regatta. In fact I preferred playing it safe last night and not taking any risks in attempting to pass Antoine. "

Laure Faÿ/News Editor
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