It was at 2318 hrs 51 seconds BST yesterday that PRB crossed the finish line of the first edition of this Calais Round Britain Race taking 9 days 9 hours 48 minutes and 51 seconds.
Covering the 1850 miles at an average speed of 8.19 knots with skipper Vincent Riou, the crew comprised of Jérémie BEYOU, Jean Marc FAILLER, François LAURENT and Nicolas de CASTRO. The former winner of the Vendée Globe skippered by Michel Desjoyeaux was under full mainsail and solent.
Earlier yesterday at noon, Vincent RIOU was serene and satisfied "We're sailing in the sun and the conditions are impeccable. We're checking our little comrades but the pressure is gradually falling away. All the weather patterns seem to agree with each other and after tacking near Belgium we will carry out a few tacks inshore but nothing too complicated. The seas are not too big, there's just a little chop. We're sailing under mainsail and solent and 16 knots of wind. This morning we were making an average of 10 knots in 17 knots of wind and slaloming between the sand banks and oil rigs… the conditions are idyllic".
They have lead a virtually faultless course. Good speed, good tactics and high spirits. They were in the lead for seven out of nine days only losing their pole position twice: once to the benefit of Bobst Group Armor Lux, and the other time to the benefit of Sill.
On 13 July at 15h43'09'', 75 minutes after the start of the race, the passage of the Approche de Boulogne mark proved auspicious: PRB was in the lead and remained there until the morning of the 16.
After sailing downwind out of the Channel, the rounding of the Scilly Isles and the climb up towards Ireland saw the start of a long stretch of tacking, very well negotiated by Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group Armor Lux. PRB held on, but on the night of 15 July, the crew had to stop for three quarters of an hour to repair its staysail stay. The next day, Stamm was in the lead, Riou fourth. At the midway point on the evening of 17, they took the lead again, making use of the easterly wind shift and the long tack with cracked sheets towards Saint Kilda.
Until the 19 July, they had to fight hard to conserve their position as the battle was particularly fierce between the first five crews. Behind PRB, in fact, Bobst Group Armor Lux, Sill, Ecover and early on VMI, were grouped together into a handful of miles, constantly chopping and changing position.
The 19 July marked the delicate passage of the Shetlands, the highest point of the Calais Round Britain Race. The wind was evanescent and still on the nose forcing the leaders to tack close to shore, at times enveloped in mist. At midday, Sill came within 0.1 miles of PRB, before passing into the lead at the noon rankings. It was the red boat of Roland Jourdain who lead down the home straight : a descent of 600 miles in the North Sea along the English coast. Until 20 July at 1900 BST, Bilou and his crew lead the ball, with PRB sticking to them like glue. The fragile solent of Sill which ripped for a second time, greatly assisted by the comeback of Vincent Riou.
From the evening of the 20 July and until the arrival, they not only managed to contain their adversaries (Sill and Bobst Group Armor Lux then Sill and Ecover), but to stretch out a fine lead which has given them a well deserved gold tonight.
First Reactions: "I've never done an offshore race with so much contact. We left without any pressure and without obligation. We sailed without any stress but it was still pretty aggressive. With our Figaro experience we are used to contact. Today was the only day we haven't seen a boat. The crew was fabulous. None of us really had any experience of large boats but we adapted to the abilities of each person. Jeremie and I helmed a lot, like Nicolas. As for Jean-Marc and Fanchig they did everything else like the manoeuvres and the day-to-day stuff. We didn't really have an organised watch system. We handled our sleep patterns well; we're tired but nothing extreme. We will take some rest now the race has finished as we had to work on the boat a lot. We're really happy to have reached our objective. Now the next project is to learn how to make the best use of the boat and above all be able to sail it single-handed."