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news - Tour de France à la Voile : Wet Boots and Tired Smiles

July 01 2013

Wet Boots and Tired Smiles

The first offshore leg of the Tour de France a la Voile was a wet, intense and happy sprint from Dunkirk, France to Breskens, Holland. The fleet started at 9pm yesterday in calm conditions: sailing downwind in 12 knots from the west on flat seas.

At the first transition buoy Oman Sail Team took the lead. Trouble soon followed. Contact between Bretagne Crédit Mutuel and Sodebo broke the bowsprit off Thomas Coville’s boat (Sobedo). Sobedo’s crew improvised their spinnaker from the bow causing the boat's performance to suffer.

After dusk the wind reached 20 knots, peaking to 25 knots during the night. In the dark of night, surfing down the face of waves at speeds approaching 20 knots, the sailors had to navigate numerous perils: cargo ships, fishing buoys and geographical hazards.

The sailors completed the leg in 12 hours, surfing downwind under spinnakers from 9pm – 2am. They rounded a mark just of Rotterdam and then sailed upwind to Breskens until 7am. The fleet was rewarded with a final hour under spinnaker before crossing the finish in Breskens.

Groupama (1st) overtook OmanSail (2nd) just 20 nautical miles from the finish, finishing 54 seconds only ahead of them. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel (3rd) finished on the podium. Courrier Dunkerque took 4th after some ships came a bit too close for comfort.

The 96 sailors are now going to get dry, get some rest and some food. In-port racing resumes tomorrow with three races weather permitting (coefficient 1 per race). Departure time from the dock at 9am.

© Jacques Vapillon