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12 May 2003, 10:37 am
Fleet Well on Their Way
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Geant at the Start

Challenge Mondial Assistance
Cherbourg (FRA) - Rimini (ITA)

The second edition of the Challenge Mondial Assistance got off to a fabulous start under full mainsail and genoa yesterday afternoon in 15 knots of wind, increasing to over 20 knots in the squalls.
The second edition of the Challenge Mondial Assistance got off to a fabulous start under full mainsail and genoa yesterday afternoon in 15 knots of wind, increasing to over 20 knots in the squalls.

First to steal the start line was Géant, with Groupama, Foncia and Banque Covefi in hot pursuit. Apart from Sergio Tacchini, the fleet were massed together as they passed the first Cols Bleus marker from which they streamed north. At 1430 GMT Banque Populaire was streaking ahead of the rest fleet...

As predicted, the fleet of twelve trimarans crossed the point of Brittany at the end of this first night at sea. Bonduelle and its skipper Jean Le Cam was heading the fleet at 0600 GMT , followed like a shadow by an over-vitamined Sodebo and Belgacom just 2 nautical miles behind the second, the positions changing at every ranking. The tacking fleet sailed close-hauled for the first part of the night and was beginning to open up the sails as they rounded the point of Brittany at around 0500 GMT this morning.

"Call me back in five minutes, it's too full on at the moment!" Just the time to recognise the voice of Kito de Pavant aboard Bonduelle as they were passing the point of Brittany in second place in the ranking at 0400 GMT, 2.7 miles behind the then leader Sodebo. "We're in the middle of the pebbles at the moment just opposite Brest," continued Kito some minutes later. "There is currently 20 to 25 knots of wind from the south-west and a slightly built-up sea. We are currently speeding along with wind on the beam."

Jean (Le Cam) has spent a lot of time on the helm since the start as he's the one that knows the boat best in these powerful conditions. The life onboard? It's leaning over a lot at the moment, a bit too much at times! " concludes Kito sniggering.

It has to be said that Bonduelle had a superb start to the race behind Sodebo who continues to put on a great performance: the former, first in the 0600 GMT rankings, covering 173.90 miles since Cherbourg at an average speed of 7.2 knots. A slightly higher average speed due to the progression against the wind since the fleet made it out of the Grande Rade of Cherbourg yesterday afternoon. Though certain boats like Foncia (Alain GAUTIER), Banque Covefi (Stève RAVUSSIN) and Gitana (Lionel LEMONCHOIS) are riding high to the north-west of the point of Brittany, the majority of the fleet opted to hug the point of Brittany famed for its dangerous, rocky shallows.

"We are currently playing with the pebbles as we pass Fromveur between Ushant and Molène said Jean-Yves Bernot, the navigator on Bayer CropScience then in third position. I won't be able to stay long as there's lot of work on deck at the moment. We crossed Belgacom (currently third) and Bonduelle during the night. Everyone is up and about and it is likely to be like that for a good while yet! ". In a hurry certainly but satisfied with the position of the boat skippered by Jean Maurel : " We're really happy to be in the leading pack, that's great news!".

With 20 knots of wind from the south-west since the start, fluctuating with the effects of the land and squalls, the fleet took 14 hours to escape the Channel and pass the point of Brittany. For the moment everything is running as predicted yesterday morning as the fleet left the pontoons. The night was far from restful and the phases of rest are virtual for now. "There's currently an informal watch system " says Jean-Yves Bernot aboard Bayer CropScience, " I have no voice left because I've been shouting to make myself heard in the wind" whispers Kito de Pavant on Bonduelle… The ambiance is wet with bare minutes of stolen rest.

The Challenge Mondial Assistance is well and truly underway!
Event Media (Translated By Kate Jennings)
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