Leg from Dunkerque to Dieppe
It took them 22h30 to reach Dieppe in these nerve-breaking conditions. In the lead, Nicolas Troussel and Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite are in sight of the Normandy port. They cross the line at 7.53am! First offshore leg victory for the Brittany crew, one of the favorites of this Tour de France à la Voile 2012. In their wake, Île de France is the second M34 to cross the line. It’s getting lighter behind them, the spinnakers deflate and the speeds drop below two knots. TPM Coych completes the podium.
War of nerves
Troussel’s guys controlled both the racetrack and the boat all along the 95 miles. They may not be very well place at the start but they quickly get back in front. The sea breeze drops down at the Cape Blanc Nez and a weak and shifty wind replaces it. Five of them are fighting for the lead since Calais : TPM Coych, Île de France, Nantes St Nazaire, BAE Systems and Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite. The game is so changeable that, in the middle of the night, under a storm, Martinique Médiabat goes from the 12th to the first place!
Drop the anchor!
Night time. In light airs, the boats have to drop their anchors not to go backward with the current. “There were lots of sail changes. We even moored for half an hour to an hour during the night,” explains the winner Nicolas Troussel. Dropping the anchor when racing certainly is a nervous thing to do, yet it allows the crew to rest a bit before a tight finish. “We dropped the anchor for 30 minutes. In that case, a guy is steering and another one is trimming to know if we can start again or not. The other ones can sleep,” says Tugdual Becquemie, TPM Coych’s helmsman.
Chasing the dawn and the wind
The wind comes back at dawn and the boats make the most of the lightest breathe to get closer from the line. Troussel and co. are leading again. Île de France is not giving up neither. Next to each other, they do everything to win this first offshore.
At 7.00am, the wind drops again. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite increase their lead – enough to cross the line first. Île de France takes the second place and Fabien Henry the third one with TPM Coych – they keep the overall leader’s blue spinnaker.
Time is running out for the ones behind. There is no wind anymore and they need to reach Dieppe before 10.26am, when the line closes. Nantes Saint Nazaire E. Leclerc is the last one to make it to the line in time, even though they had to drop their anchor five meters from the line.
Behind, way behind, Fascinating Seas International doesn’t even make it to the final Daffodils mark, six miles off Dieppe. Two boats are Do Not Finish on this leg – Leonid Klepikov’s one and Bienne Voile. Four other teams (Côtes d’Armor Bretagne, Iskareen, Région de Bruxelles – Capitale / Brussels Hoofdstedelik Gewest and Martinique Mediabat) are ranked without crossing the finish line. Their positions at the Daffodils mark is used instead, minus two points overall.
Dockside, the sailors look tired and slightly sleepy. Eyes half closed, cautious smiles, their faces tell a laborious story. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite’s average boat speed was 4,49 knots – the slowest M34 average speed ever in an offshore leg!
The fleet will race technical legs tomorrow, in front of Dieppe beach, from 10.00am on.
Daniel Souben, skipper of Courrier Dunkerque:
“We did badly at the beginning of the leg because of a bad strategic choice. Last night has been rather good, we were behind for a long while but then the fleet compressed and we managed to get back. We dropped the anchor twice for half an hour. Thankfully the wind came back a little – it would have been difficult to finish without. We took turns in the light airs and managed to stay fresh. And we managed to come back at the end because we were fresh indeed. We gained two or three places.”
Tugdual Becquemie, skipper of TPM Coych :
“It was both fun and very stressful: it didn’t have to be longer! The finish was very tensed because the first two boats overtook us. We weren’t far but the wind totally disappeared… We really wondered if we were going to make it to the line. Thankfully the wind filled in. It happened once or twice before so there was some kind of a hierarchy. Every time the wind dropped down, it would start again from scratch. You had to be cool. Eric (Péron) did a great job navigating us, he speaks through his decisions so we know what we are doing and we understand what he is thinking. Then it’s for us to tell him we trust him and his decisions. We spent time analyzing the racetrack and the conditions. Our brains were smoking by the end of it. We are all over it, Eric is on it, it’s promising.”
Nicolas Troussel, skipper of Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite:
“This first offshore has been really tricky and I’m happy we didn’t do badly because everything was there for us to fail. Happy to win ‘cause we fought well, we always believed in our options even though we lost ground at times. We remained calm. We kept working to push the boat and got back in the lead in the morning. Lots of sail changes, too. We even dropped the anchor for half an hour to an hour during the night. Now we will take a good breakfast since we didn’t have that much food onboard. Then – bedtime!”