Mistral takes over in Marseille

Sailing, Sports, Weather, Yachting — By on July 26, 2017 at 3:35 PM

Act 8 of the 40th Tour de France a la Voile did not get off to the most auspicious of starts in Marseille as the region’s notorious Mistral wind put paid to any hopes of sailing today. While the Tour has so far encountered conditions crossing the spectrum from light and shifty to big and blustery, this is the first time since the event got underway in Dunkirk on 7th July that the 29 teams have been kept ashore.

After a transfer day and some rest, crews were anxious to get back on the water for a chance to gain precious points before Saturday’s Super Final of the Tour de la France a Voile. Unfortunately it was not to be as Marseille’s Mistral, barrelling along the coast at up to 50 knots since yesterday, showed no signs of abating to acceptable levels in time for today’s Coastal Race. Although racing had already been pushed back to the afternoon, with a forecast of 23 – 26 knots with gusts of over 30, it was no surprise when the Race Committee announced at the morning briefing that it would be cancelling today’s scheduled Coastal Raid in the face of such heavy conditions.

Experienced round-the-world racer Bernard Stamm understood the safety issues behind the decision: “The Race Committee is responsible and has to make good decisions. Whether the sailors want to race or not is not really relevant. The Race Director won’t take risks. We are here to race. Not to break the boats.”

The top of the leaderboard is tightly packed, just 20 points separate the first four boats: Fondation FDJ – Des Mains et Des Pieds (1st), Team SFS (2nd), Tresors de Tahiti (3rd), Team Oman Sail (4th), while Team Lorina Limonade – Golfe du Morbihan and Beijaflore Sailing are just a further four points behind. These teams will now be feeling extra pressure as only two race days remain before Saturday’s Super Final in Nice where the top eight teams of the overall classification will gain instant access to the decisive final race.

Speaking at this morning’s press conference, several of the leading skippers revealed something of their strategy heading into the final straights.

Damien Iehl (Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains): “This first place is down to sailing well, without putting ourselves under too much pressure, concentrating on our performance. Being the leader puts us under a little extra pressure, before we were chasing but now we are the ones being chased.”

Sofian Bouvet (Team SFS) : “The strategy to get back into first place? Concentrate on our own performance, not look at our opponents too much, avoid making any big mistakes and continue sailing well like we have done from the start.

Thierry Douillard (Team Oman Sail): “There are ups and downs for everyone in the Tour de France. We missed out on the Final in Roses by a hair. Then the Act in Grau du Roi did not go brilliantly. It’s all part of the game. We have reached a fantastic level with the Oman Sail project but we are still aiming higher. The objective is a podium finish – six crews are battling for those three places.

Happily, the forecast for tomorrow looks almost perfect for the Nautical Stadium races rostered. The Mistral should drop off to around 15 – 20 knots in the morning, swinging left a little and settling at 10-15 knots in the afternoon.

Team Lorina Mojito – Golfe du Morbihan should be feeling a little more relaxed than most, having already bagged victory in the separate Youth classification with an unbeatable lead of 121 points. However given their ninth place position in the general classification, co-skipper Robert Solune will not be taking his eyes off the ball over the next few days:

Our objective was always to finish first among the Youth teams. We sailed a lot pre-season and we got more practice than our opponents. But we are not stopping at that and we are aiming for a good place in the overall scorings. We will be concentrating on getting into the Super Final in Nice on Saturday.”

Qualifiers in the Act 8 Nautical Stadium phase are scheduled to kick off at 11.15 tomorrow, Thursday 27th July in Marseille.





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