Twenty-six new one-design Bénéteau Figaro 2 boats crossed the start line of leg 1 of the Tour de Bretagne a la Voile at approx 1220 hrs Sunday in 12-17 knots of breeze from SSW and calm seas.
Some of France's best-known sailors were amongst the fleet...Loick PEYRON, Bertrand PACE, Marc THIERCELIN to name a few, attracting huge crowds to the coastline of St Malo and hundreds of spectator boats out on the water as TV helicopters whirred above.
A sense of nervousness afflicted the whole fleet as the reaching start was postponed a couple of times. Finally underway the experienced skippers amongst the fleet hoisted their spinnakers - although the call was marginal - ultimately this gave them the lead.
Not surprisingly the leading French names of TABARLY, PEYRON, PAJOT, THIERCELIN all appear in the top 10 finishing boats. But Sam Davies and Emma Westmacott as newcomers to the fleet were in touch with the likes of Mini Transat winner Yannick BESTHAVEN (finished 20) and Gael LE CLEACH (22) - Gael was Ellen MacArthur's Figaro coach in the same race in 1999, and is Roland JOURDAIN's co-skipper on the Open 60 Sill. The quality of the fleet is quite extraordinary.
Winning boat skippered by Erwan TABARLY (grandson of sailing legend Eric TABARLY) crossed the finish line at 1700 hrs...18 minutes later Skandia crossed the line in 21 place. The entire 26-boat fleet finished within 20 minutes of each other.
Leg 2 from Saint-Quay Portrieux to Perros Guirec starts today at 1030 hrs. Similar in length, the Figaro skippers face similar sailing conditions... reaching start and upwind conditions then a triangle course at the end of the leg. Another testing time and little time overnight to prepare the boat and study the all important weather and tidal charts. It is a relentless pace.
Leg One results:
||Erwan Tabarly / Philippe Vicariot
||Ronan Guerin / Yves Pajot
||Benoit Petit / Tangi Mahe
||Jeremie Beyou / Gilles Chiorri
||Yann Elies / Loick Peyron
||Charles Caudrelier-Benac / Pascal Bidegorry
||Thierry Chabagny / Corentin Douguet
||Marc Thiercelin / Cyrille Rognon
||Bruno Jourdren / Jean-Marie Dauris
||Eric Drouglazet / Hans Bouscholte