Published on 08/04/2019
The first event of the Figaro Bénéteau class season is currently in full swing at the Sardinha Cup, and with two of the three legs complete, an early indication of the skippers’ form on their new Bénéteau 3s is starting to emerge before this summer’s 50th Anniversary edition of The Solitaire URGO Le Figaro.
The first leg for the 34 competing boats was the ‘Vendée Warm Up’, a short leg around the Ile d’Yeu and the Gironde estuary. Starting on Saturday 30 March from Saint-Gilles Croix-de-Vie in ideal conditions, it was the first time the fleet of the new foiling boats have lined up competitively, for what proved to be a short, tactical leg.
The course was eventually reduced to 70 miles due to light conditions, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of Alexis Loison and Frédéric Duthil on Région Normandie who won the first stage After 17 hours 22 minutes and 10 seconds.
Just behind them was the 26-year-old Vincent Doman in his very first race on the Figaro Bénéteau circuit with co-skipper Benjamin Dutreux on Team Vendée Training.
In third place, the duo of Anthony Marchand and Paul Meilhat (Royer Group) also showed they are ones to watch, as Meilhat summed up their strategy: “We did not take a lot of risks in terms of strategy, but we did make some good calls, and we had good speed that allowed us to finish third, that’s good.”
The conditions for the second leg were a stark contrast to the warm up leg, with big seas and strong winds forcing multiple retirements on the first night.
After 408-miles of racing, this time it was the turn of Pierre Leboucher and Erwan Tabarly (Guyot Environment) to stand on top of the podium after a thrilling finish and 2 days 1 hour 32 minutes and 16 seconds at sea. The result also saw the duo take the lead of the provisional general classification after two stages.
Skipper Macif 2017 (Martin Le Pape and Thierry Chabagny) took second place while Brittany CMB Performance (Lois Berrehar and Thomas Rouxel) completed the podium.
Alan Roberts, who is racing with Jérémie Beyou on Charal, summed up the conditions on leg 2: “This has to be one of the most brutal legs I have done from 2- 42knts of wind, hail, thunder and lightning and sun. It may only have been 50hours but it felt like a longer leg.
“It is a learning process, the new boats are very sensitive to helming, sailing angles and require a lot of input from the sailor at the helm and on the trim. Although not the result we would have liked we have learned a huge amount on this leg.”
And as the skippers continue to learn more about the new boats, the final challenge for them is the toughest yet – a 600 to 700-mile leg. Originally scheduled to start on the 9th April, Race Management made the decision to delay the start after consultation with the skippers while technical problems on the boats are addressed.
Podium leg 1:
Podium leg 2:
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