Photos: Yvan Zedda

Gitana for a third time

The Seb Josse-skippered foiler sets a new record in the Tour de Belle Ile

Saturday May 9th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

France's equivalent to our own Round the Island Race - the Tour de Belle-Ile set sail yesterday at 10:00 local from the Baie de Quiberon, with almost 500 boats, taking on the annual lap of Belle-Ile.

This race, the eighth that has been held, was won on the water by the foil-born Multi 70 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, which overtook her less optimised sisterships Oman Sail and Paprec Recyclage. Skipper Sébastien Josse and his crew managed to establish a new race record for the course, while in the monohulls it was Paul Meilhat's new IMOCA 60 SMA (ex-MACIF) that was first home.

Groupe Edmond de Rothschild is becoming something of a perennial winner of the Tour de Belle-Ile having previously claimed the event in 2011 and 2012. This year conditions were ideal, with a clear sky, a moderate sea a southwest wind of around 15 knots.


From the Baie de Quiberon, the multihulls set sail to the right of the committee boat, the giant aluminium exploration schooner Tara at over 20 knots, heading through the Chenel de Teignouse between the end of the Quiberon Peninsula and the island of Houat. They soon became small dots on the horizon for the bulk of the fleet, racing on two courses - 382 sailing 'the Grand Tour' at 42 miles and remainder on the 'Petit Tour' at 39 miles.

“It’s very nice to rediscover the adrenalin of competition," said Josse afterwards. "In fact it was a close-run thing to the south of Belle-Ile with lots of contact with Sidney Gavignet and Jean-Pierre Dick's crews, but I’m not at all surprised by how close it was. It was expected given the size of our boats on this short course, which didn’t allow us to make any major differences in terms of tactics and the weather we had. We were upwind for the first section, but we were able to use a little more of our potential on the final section and get ahead of our rivals to finally take the win. It’s always nice to kick the season off this way.”

In winning, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild set a new course record of 2 hours 24 minutes and 15 seconds, some 17 minutes and 15 seconds faster than the record Josse set in 2011 and with a new average speed of 17.41 knots. As to his Multi70 becoming a full foiler, Josse said: "The changes were beneficial especially on the downwind behind Belle-Ile, when we managed to regain 200-300 meters on Paprec."

As proof of the intensity at the front of the race, Oman Sail finished only 1 minutes 35 seconds behind the winner, with Paprec Recyclage completing the podium 4 minutes 45 seconds after the winner.

The 2014 winner Ocean Sensation skippered by Alain Gautier, finished just off the podium but ahead of Qingdao, the former IDEC; Francis Joyon on board with the maxi-trimaran's new Chinese skipper Guo Chuan.

Erwan Le Roux's FenêtréA-Prysmian won the Multi 50 match race again Lalou Roucayrol's Arkema, finishing 2 minutes and 5 seconds ahead.

Extreme 40 Groupama (Julien Villion) takes meanwhile eighth place, earning for 2 minutes and 15 seconds his fight" fratricide "facing the AC45 skippered by Franck Cammas (*).

In the monohulls, SMA, Paul Meilhat's new IMOCA 60, won on the water, completing the 42 miles 'Grand Tour' in 4 hours 7 minutes and 55 seconds, beating Tanguy de Lamotte's Initiatives Coeurs by 23 minutes and 45 seconds.

A second boat from the Gitana stable, the GC32 Edmond de Rothschild foiling catamaran won the 39 mile 'short Tour' created for the smaller craft. The marginally shorter short course, the short Tour enables competitors to avoid the bigger waves on the western coast of Belle-Ile.

Helming the GC32 was Gurvan Bontemps, a newcomer to Gitana Team but a sports catamaran specialist. The five men on the GC32 dominated their race, winning in just 2 hours and 45 minutes - a good time given the tricky sea state and a encouraging given this the team's first competitive outing on this boat.

Gurvan Bontemps said: “It was a fine race aboard the GC32 Edmond de Rothschild. We didn’t have any rivals but that didn’t dent our enjoyment in the slightest. Over the first section of the course, where we weren’t really at an advantage because it was upwind, we still managed to play around with the AC45 Groupama, which was nice. For our types of boats, the format was reminiscent of an adventure as it was more complicated to deal with the sea state and the gusts of around 20 knots from the moment we left La Teignouse Channel. I’m used to small sports catamarans but the GC32 is a great buzz to sail, as was the case on our return leg downwind towards Les Galères.

The Gitana Team and their GC32, with Sébastien Josse back on the helm, supported by Gurvan Bontemps, Benjamin Amiot, Olivier Douillard and Cyril Dardashti, will next take the start of the Bol d’Or on Lake Geneva on 13 June.


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