Photo: Marcel Mochet

New race in town

Route des Princes is the latest event round Europe for the Ultimate, MOD70 and Multi50 trimarans

Saturday June 8th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

The Route des Princes got underway yesterday with the first of two days of in-port racing on the (for us) highly familiar waters off Valencia. The eight trimarans (a ninth is due to join the event in Lisbon) are berthed around the Tracy Island-style Veles e Vents building at the entrance to the Darsena alongside the ghost town of giant team bases, once the thriving home of the 32nd America’s Cup community.

The Route des Princes is a new sailing event on the round Europe race track, solely for multihulls. The origins of this event are a little unusual in that it comes not from one of the usual race organisers such as Solitaire du Figaro/Route du Rhum organiser Pen Duick (whom, to give credit where credit is due, ran the first Course de l’Europe in 1985) but from the sponsor of Lionel Lemonchois’ new trimaran, Prince de Bretagne.

Prince de Bretagne is the brand name for the produce (mostly vegetables, but some fruit too) from a group of co-operatives based over a relatively small area on the north coast of Brittany – between Brest and St Malo and around 40km inshore. One of the biggest of these co-operatives, SICA, based at Saint Pol de Leon near Roscoff, is the driving force behind the sponsorship of Lemonchois’ yacht and creating the Route des Princes.

These co-operatives have a parent corporate entity called Cerafel, which in total represents 2300 vegetable and fruit growers across the co-operatives. Cerafel has Prince de Bretagne as one of its brands, for tinned and fresh fruit and veg you see in supermarkets around France, as well as in the UK and the 30 countries it exports to.

As a complicated sideline, those involved with these co-operatives also own much of the transportation used to distribute their produce. This includes for example Brittany Ferries, which was started 40 years ago solely to deliver their freight to the UK (whereas now their freight transportation is down to 25%). So Jean-Francois Jacob, the mastermind behind the Route des Princes, is not only Secretaire General of SICA co-operative, but also Vice President of Brittany Ferries. Thus it is no surprise that Dublin, Plymouth and Roscoff, the final three stopovers of the Route des Princes, are all ports on Brittany Ferries routes.

Similarly the only mark of the significant mark of the course on leg 1 is off Benicarlo, some 70 miles north from Valencia (ie in the opposite direction to Gibraltar). This town is twinned with Saint Pol de Leon, where SICA is based - both towns being among Europe’s biggest producers of artichokes.

So, all part of a grand plan...

Oddly food co-operatives like SICA seem to enjoy sponsoring yacht racing in France. Other companies that do this include Sam Davies’ Vendee Globe sponsor Saveol, while Campagne de France backs Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire’s Class 40 campaign.

SICA’s aim in creating the Route des Princes was partly to ensure their event visited some of their key markets, but it is also no secret that it was created to have a race in which their new 80ft trimaran could compete (she can race in the Route du Rhum, but not in the Transat Jacques Vabre this autumn for example).

Unfortunately in a fleet of four MOD70s and four Multi50s, the Prince de Bretagne trimaran is the sole ‘Ultimate’ class boat (this class was introduced for the last Route du Rhum when it included the Irens/Cabaret-designed 100ish foot trimarans Sodebo, IDEC and Oman Air as well as eventual winner Groupama 3). Sodebo was supposed to have competed in the Route des Princes, but Thomas Coville’s team pulled the plug at the last minute. Coville is focussing on his M34 campaign this season as build work is completed on his new Sodebo maxi-trimaran, recycling Olivier de Kersauson’s Geronimo maxi-tri.

In fact Lionel Lemonchois’ new Prince de Bretagne 80ft trimaran is also recycled, largely based on Thomas Coville’s Sodebo ORMA 60. Almost all the original boat has been used, apart the three hulls. The new hull have been put under her original cross beams and rig extending her by 20ft. More on her in due course.

The four MOD70s will provide the most competitive racing in the Route des Princes and at present, they are also the fastest boats on the race course, until such time as Lionel Lemonchois and the Prince de Bretagne crew gets their new VPLP-designed steed up to speed (although in a way this is good news - the 80 won’t be doing a horizon job on the rest of the fleet).

The line-up of the MOD70s has also changed since last year with Foncia pulling the plug on its yachting sponsorship, leaving Michel Desjoyeaux on the dock (or in fact doing the Solitaire du Figaro again with TBS) until such time as he finds alternative backing.

Funding has also dried up for Steve Ravussin’s Race for Water, MOD70 #1. However new to the MOD70s this year, making the jump to three hulls following his long tenure in the IMOCA class, is Jean-Pierre Dick. Dick is sailing with many of his former Vendee Globe rivals such as PRB skipper Vincent Riou and Roland Jourdain, who had the Veolia Environement MOD70, until his sponsor also pulled the plug on its yachting sponsorship program (that boat has since been sold to an owner in the US, renamed Orion Racing and will be skippered by Cam Lewis).

While typically there are eight or ten Multi50s actively racing in fact only the latest four are competing in the Route des Princes. To recap, these boats are sort of to the MOD70 class what the Class 40 is to the IMOCA 60, essentially a detuned boat with hulls made of glass rather than carbon, no lifting foils, canting rigs, etc etc. (Read more here)

Newest of these is Arkema-Region Aquitaine skippered by one time Banque Populaire ORMA 60 skipper Lalou Roucayrol. This boat was only launched in March and is a design principally by Romaric Neyhousser with help from Guillaume Verdier's team (of which he is part) and is a development of former Mini Transat winner Yves le Blevec's Actual

The most powerful of the Multi50s is FenetreA-Cardinal, better remembered as Franck-Yves Escoffier's third and final VPLP-designed Crepes Whaou! trimaran. In fact skipper Erwan le Roux won the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre on this boat with her original skipper. Le Roux is an ex-Mini, Figaro and Tour Voile sailor.

Rennes Metropole-Saint Malo Agglomeration is being campaigned by Gilles Lamire who previously campaigned the very very long in the tooth ex-Elf Aquitaine/Gitana trimaran in which eons ago the late Jean Maurel and MichDes won the TwoSTAR. This boat is the former Prince de Bretagne boat designed by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret which Lionel Lemonchois campaigned before it was sold to her new owner. The boat was originally fitted with two daggerboards in each float (catamaran stylee) but catastrophically broke soon after her launch. However fixed, Lemonchois took her to his personal second consecutive victory in the Route du Rhum in 2010.


The course for the Route des Princes is relatively straightforward for the first two legs. Leg one takes the boats from Valencia north up the Benicarlo turning mark before heading back clockwise around the coast of Spain, through the Strait of Gibraltar and on to Lisbon where the boats will be berthed in the heart of the Portugese capital. The weather for the first leg currently looks to be upwind for the majority of the leg, although this the downside of navigating the European coastline in a clockwise direction - the prevailing winds are more upwind.

There is more inshore racing in Lisbon before the fleets head for Dublin on 16 June. The course from Dublin to the third stopover in Plymouth, due to set sail on 24 June, is the one offering the race organisers the greatest flexibility. For example it might include a hitch around the Fastnet Rock or incorporate an attempt on the round Ireland record (for the big boats only). At present the Round Ireland record is held by the late Steve Fossett who all the way back in 1993 set a time of 1 day 20 hours 42 minutes, at an average speed of 15.84 knots aboard the ORMA 60 Lakota (to put this into perspective 15.84 knots is the same average Francois Joyon managed singlehanded around the world...)

The fleet is due into Plymouth on 25-26 June, where inshore racing will take place within Plymouth Sound, just as it did when the America’s Cup World Series visited there in 2011.

The last leg is short cross channel ferry-challenging hop from Plymouth to Roscoff, setting off on 29 June.

Unique to the Route des Princes is that each stopover port around the course will coincide with a food festival of some description. While a variety of food stalls are open around the race village here in Valencia, the biggest food festival with which the Route des Princes will coincide is the Fêtes Entre Terre & Mer taking place over 27-30 June in Morlaix.

The plan is to hold the Route des Princes every two years and according to Herve Favre, who runs the race organisation for OC Group, the event’s backers would like to extend the course next time, possibly finishing in Germany and/or starting in Italy. It is also likely that they will stick with a multihull-only event rather than following Pen Duick in inviting monohull classes such as IMOCA too.


7 June: Inshore racing, Valencia
8 June: Inshore racing
9 June: Leg 1 start, Valencia-Benicarlo-Lisbon at 1400
11-12 June: Arrival Lisbon
14 June: Inshore racing, Lisbon
15 June: Inshore racing
16 June: Leg 2 start, Lisbon-Dun Laoghaire at 1400
19-20 June: Arrival Dun Laoghaire
22 June: Inshore racing, Dun Laoghaire
23 June: Inshore racing
24 June: Leg 3 start, Dun Laoghaire-Plymouth (inc round Ireland record attempt)
25-26 June: Arrival Plymouth
28 June: Inshore racing, Plymouth
29 June: Inshore racing and start of final leg from Plymouth to Morlaix at 2000
30 June: Morlaix arrival at 1400

Crew lists:

MOD 70 Skipper Crew
Edmond de Rothschild Seb Josse Charles Caudrelier, Thomas Rouxel, Florent Chastel, Sébastien Col, Olivier Douillard, Antoine Koch, David Boileau, Cyril Dardashti, Jean-Christophe Mourniac.
Oman Sail Sidney Gavignet Fahad Al Hasni, Thomas Le Breton, Mohsin Al Busaidi, Ahmed Al Hassani, Neal McDonald, Damian Foxall, Gilles Favennec.
Spindrift Yann Guichard/Xavier Revil Xavier Revil, Jacques Guichard, Erwan Tabarly, Pascal Bidegorry, Christophe Espagnon, Sébastien Marsset, Nicolas Charbonnier, Christophe André, Fred Brousse, Nicolas Texier, Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant.
Virbac Paprec 70 Jean-Pierre Dick Roland Jourdain, Vincent Riou, Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, Fred Guilmin, Thierry Douillard, Guillaume Le Brec, Fred Le Maistre.
Prince de Bretagne 2 Lionel Lemonchois François Denis, Matthieu Souben, Jean-Luc Nélias, Alex Pella, Gurvan Bontemps.
Actual Yves le Blevec Luc Alphand, Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant, Ronan Deshayes, Sandrine Bertho, Arnaud Vasseur, Pierre-Yves Lautrou.
Arkema-Region Aquitaine Lalou Roucayrol Quentin Vlamynck, Mayeul Rifflet, Tommaso Stella.
FenetreA-Cardinal Erwan le Roux Didier Le Vourc'h, Laurent Mermod, Gildas Dubois, Martin Kéruzoré, Simon Vasseur, Dominique Lamballe.
Rennes Metropole-Saint Malo Agglomeration Gilles Lamire Nils Boyer, Arnaud Aubry, Pierre Vasseur.

Vital stats:

Boat Designer Launched LOA Beam Mast Upwind Downwind Notes
Prince de Bretagne 2 VPLP 2012 24.38 18.2 30.2 305 400 ex Sodebo ORMA 60, but with new hullls. Launched October 2012
Actual Verdier 2008 15.24 14.8 23.77 180 270  
Arkema-Region Aquitaine Romaric Neyhousser (plus Verdier/Muyl) 2013 15.24 14.7 22     Development of Actual
FenetreA-Cardinal VPLP 2009 15.24 15.2   174 261 ex Crepes Whaou! 3
Rennes Metropole-Saint Malo Agglomeration Irens/Cabaret 2009 15.24 14.8       ex Prince de Bretagne



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