Breeze fluctuating between 8 and 18 knots, an overcast sky and a lumpy sea from the southwest greeted the crews of the 11 60ft trimarans competing in the Multihull Grand Prix yesterday.
Over the course of the day three races were held with the young blade of the fleet Franck Cammas once again showing that you don't need a new boat to win races even in this technology hungry class. Winning the first two races, Cammas' Groupama was beaten in the third and final race of the day by Jean-Luc Nelias' newly repainted Belgacom.
The first race held in 8 knots, saw Steve Ravussin made the best start on starboard at the committee boat end of the line sailing his new steed, Banque Covefi. However Cammas overhauled the fleet to reach the top mark ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux' Geant with Thomas Coville' Sodebo and Lalou Roucayrol's Banque Populaire in close combat for third. These position held for the two laps of the course with Cammas winning by a margin of 1 min 35 seconds from the Vendee Globe winner.
For the second race the wind had built to 12-15 knots and gone round to the south. On this occasion it was Banque Populaire who made the best start at the committee boat end and made it to the top mark first having taken the left hand side of the course. Hot on Roucayrol's heels was Alain Gautier's Foncia, sailing on this occasion without his England star crew, Ellen MacArthur, with Groupama in third by just two seconds. The tussle at the first mark rounding was such that Belgacom had to reround and found herself in last place.
Groupama took the lead during the second run and there was all change in the positions on the third and final run with Geant pulling up to second. In the fight for third Banque Populaire's float touched that of Marc Guillemot's Biscuits la Trinitaine resulting in her having to make a penalty turn and drop to sixth place.
Aside from this there was one other protest against Foncia for failing to give water at the weather mark (easily done in 60ft wide boats...)
Conditions had picked up some more to 15-18 knots for the third race. On this occasion it was finally Belgacom who made the committee boat end of the line and dominated proceedings. He arrived at the weather mark ahead of Jean Maurel, who has taken over the reigns of the Irens-design Bayer CropSciences from Tornado Olympian Fred le Peutrec and with Sodebo in third.
While Belgacom clunge tenaciously to her lead, Groupama had once again wound her way up through the fleet to take the second spot from Sodebo. Coville's red trimaran lost a further place to Geant on the final run to finish third.
The first day proved that the competition is extremely tight between the top eight boats in this fleet with Banque Covefi, Sopra and Gitana still trying to find their feet.
The following two days of racing look set to be lively with 20+ knots southwesterlies forecast. Hopefully racing will be out of the way before an intense low crosses the south of the UK on Monday which will see Lorient lashed by 50 knots winds.
Provisional results after three races:
1 Franck Cammas ( Groupama )1+1+2 = 4 points
2 Michel Desjoyeaux ( Giant ) 2+2+3 = 7 points
3 Jean-Luc Nélias ( Belgacom ) 4+5+1 = 10 points
4-Thomas Coville ( Sodebo ) 3+8+4 = 15 points
5-Marc Guillemot ( Biscuits Trinitaine ) 6+3+7 = 16 points
6 Jean Maurel ( Bayer CropScience ) 8+4+5 = 17 points
6-Lalou Roucayrol ( Popular Bank ) 5+6+6 = 17 points
8-Alain Gautier ( Foncia ) 9+7+8 = 24 points
9 Stève Ravussin ( Covefi Bank ) 7+9+9 = 25 points
10 Laurent Bourgnon ( Sopra Group ) 10+10+11 = 31 points
11 Lionel Lemonchois ( Gitana ) 11+11+10 = 32 points