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news - Groupe Bel back at sea!

July 07 2011

The red monohull, skippered by Kito de Pavant, has been undergoing a complete checkup in Port Camargue for the last six weeks. After forty days in the yard, the VPLP-Verdier plan, which has already sailed 75,000 miles - the equivalent of three round the worlds - since it was launched in September 2007, has returned to its full potential and has a brand new keel.

Friday evening, under the sun and the watchful eye of the technical team and Yann Régniau, Kito's co-skipper in the next Transat Jacques Vabre, Groupe Bel left her tent, was lifted, launched and then masted. At last ready, the boat with the Laughing Cow® will now get down to a good series of training sessions, in which DCNS 1000, skippered by Marc Thiercelin and Luc Alphand should take part in July. Delighted to see his boat back in the blue Mediterranean Sea, Kito took advantage of it to review this particular season, since it is already aimed at the Vendée Globe 2012.

What news do you have about Groupe Bel after this yard work?
“Groupe Bel now has a latest generation keel.  Although it is still based on the same philosophy as the previous one, it meets 2011 design and production standards. The performance of this new part remains to be confirmed under sail. We have also worked on the general condition of the boat. After tests "from roof to sole", we observed that Groupe Bel's structure has not changed in any way, which is important after three years of use, particularly in difficult seas such as this winter during the Barcelona World Race. We were able to reduce the weight inside the boat further by 150 kg, with a view to the Transat Jacques Vabre, which is a double-handed sprint that lasts about twenty days, and has very little relation to a round-the-world. Finally, we are postponing one job to August. This will be devoted to changing the roof.  We hope to improve the protection and comfort of the helmsman at his station, with a view to the Vendée Globe and to confirm this during the Transat Jacques Vabre."

Over to training with your co-skipper Yann Régniau. What are you going to work on?
"The first part will be devoted to optimizing the electronics on board during a series of trips out in the bay. The second part will focus on "offshore" sailing. We have planned a few days sailing offshore with DCNS 1000. The purpose of this is to strengthen our watch rhythm and our sailing together double-handed. Finally, we will conclude with ten days or so of maneuver-based sailing. Our boats are complicated as a result of the wide variety of trimming points. We will need to work on the speed of execution since we can gain a great deal by being good in transitional weather areas and points of sailing. We must be able to anticipate, and sail smoothly without rushing!"

Since 2009, the Transat Jacques Vabre has taken you to Costa Rica and not to Brazil, what does this change?
"Our boats are increasingly high-performing and there is little scope for progress. In my opinion, this course heading to Costa-Rica reserves a greater number of pitfalls than the one that took us to Brazil. It is more tactical and there are a greater number of options to be taken. It is almost a Route du Rhum format. For example, I think that the final in the Caribbean is not easy to handle with a strong wind and a very short sea. It could even be a very close finish with the predominant storms at this time of year. We will need to be vigilant. It will be intense and this will make it all the more interesting."

You are already working towards the Vendée Globe 2012. After this Barcelona World Race in which Groupe Bel rounded the three capes, do you have a better idea of what competing in a round-the-world represents?
"I am much more confident! I admit that mentally these last few months have not always been easy. I am very happy that Groupe Bel is back sailing again. I really missed this! I get the impression that the Vendée Globe will be here before we know it! Four years ago, at the same time, we were still building her, but that feels so long ago. Today, I feel that I am already in line with this single-handed round-the-world. The Barcelona World Race (double) strengthened my confidence in Groupe Bel's qualities on hostile seas, and in my own ability to handle this type of sailing, which is particularly demanding in the long term."

What motivation do you have for setting off again and again?
"The desire, the trust I have in my boat and particularly the unfailing support of my partner Bel, and its workers. And finally, of course, my team, which once again has carried out a huge job."

The Bel Group is one of the world leaders in brand name cheeses.
Its portfolio of different products on an international scale, such as La Vache qui Rit® (The Laughing Cow), Kiri®, Mini Babybel®, Leerdammer®, and Boursin®, as well as 25 local brand names, enabled it to make a turnover of approximately 2.4 billion Euros in 2010. Nearly 11,300 workers divided among thirty international subsidiaries, contribute to the success of the group. Its products are developed on 25 production sites and distributed in more than 120 countries.

“Thumbs up for Kito” campaign!
Since June 2007, 7,500 thumbprints were collected from the Group's 11,300 workers worldwide, in 25 countries, and placed on the 60 foot monohull's mast as a sign of support for the skipper. And it's not over yet, the count is rising.

Project website : www.sharingsmilestour.com

Background Photo: © Chris Cameron / DPPI

© Scuttlebutt

© Groupe Bel

© Groupe Bel