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The Défi Azimut Proves A Useful Test

© Y.Zedda

The 21 IMOCA duos are pretty much set up in race mode, making ready for the Transat Jacques Vabre which starts from Le Havre in five weeks time. There was a blustery start to this Défi Azimut offshore race, a chance for the IMOCAs to unleash their power potential on a fast broad reach and a bit of a sting in the tail with some upwind work to the line. Over the piece the race proved the standard is already high and competitive and a lot of work has gone in through this summer.
Standout performance was, again, that of Charal which lead from start to finish and so Christopher Pratt and Jérémie Beyou add to their winning record on the Rolex Fastnet. Beyou bet on launching his new generation VPLP design early, the boat going in the water last summer, and therefore risking the chance that this summer’s crop of later launches could copy, or at least learn, from his showing his cards early. But at the moment the Charal team are reaping a dividend in achieving a certain level of reliability and for sure seeming to be able to sustain and control their foiling phases. They do mark themselves out as clear favourites for the upcoming Transat Jacques Vabre.
Older gen. boats keep pace? If there is a fear that the gap between the latest foilers and the conventional daggerboard IMOCAs then it was not really proven on this race. The speed differences are notable and important, but the consistency and reliability around the course, and some smart sailing, allowed some of the older, non foiling boats to impress. Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme were fifth on Groupe Apicil (2007 launch Finot-Conq ex DCNS-Comme un Seul Homme) and finished ahead of Banque Populaire X (ex Foncia-SMA) sailed by Clarisse Crémer and Armel Le Cléac’h, both non foiling boats getting in among the foilers which will please all those who are contemplating the Vendée Globe ‘without wings’.
Worth watching…… Proving a duo to watch on the TJV, Kevin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven on the updated PRB repeaeated their Fastnet performance by taking second behind Charal. They have a good, well seasoned and optimised boat and Escoffier and Lunven are both two high quality, hard driving successful co-skippers who are out to prove themselves in this shorthanded IMOCA arena. They are still learning.
Sam Davies and Paul Meilhat were seventh aboard Initiatives Coeur and Yannick Bestaven was fourth on Maître CoQ sailing with Roland Jourdain who dusted off his seaboots for the occasion and showed he has lost nothing of his skill and tenacity.
Take note of the third place by 11th Hour (ex Hugo Boss) in the hands of  American Charlie Enright sailing Pascal Bidégorry on their first IMOCA race together. Like Escoffier and Lunven, both are veterans of the Volvo Ocean Race but they are out to test their IMOCA as they set out on the long road to the first edition of the Ocean Race but 11th Hour will build a new boat. Also good from the outset are Isabelle Joschke and Morgan Lagravière, eighth on the recently relaunched MACSF. Joshchke said later she did not imagine that her boat, equipped with new foils, would be so competitive from the ‘off’, but also good news for her for the future.
A little disappointed? It did not go so well for some. Sébastien Simon and Vincent Riou (Arkéa Paprec) bluntly admitted their result was not up to their expectations. Their new monohull, they said, is suffering from a lack of speed and is more complex to handle than they had expected. So they have some work to do before leaving Le Havre next month. Thomas Ruyant and Antoine Koch (Advens for Cybersecurity) are less troubled as they had lower expectations because their boat was only just launched. The Défi Azimut was only their fifth outing and so was much more about testing and data collection. The new Verdier design held its position but lost out near the end of the course. But for most this race was an opportunity take stock of their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their rivals. But Rome was not built in a day.

Rankings…
1. Jérémie Beyou - Christopher Pratt (Charal) 1 day 18 h 43’46’’

2. Kévin Escoffier - Nicolas Lunven (PRB) 1 day 20 h 08’52’’

3. Charlie Enright - Pascal Bidégorry (11th Hour) 1 day 20 h 45’47’’

4. Yannick Bestaven - Roland Jourdain (Maître Coq) 1 day 21 h 19’08’’

5. Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme (Groupe Apicil) 1 day 22 h 11’26’’

6. Clarisse Crémer - Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) 1 day 22 h 16’51’’

7. Samantha Davies - Paul Meilhat (Initiatives Coeur) 1 day 22 h 18’31’’

8. Isabelle Joschke - Morgan Lagravière (MACSF) 1d 23 h 42’27’’

9. Maxime Sorel - Guillaume Le Brec (VandB - Mayenne) 2 d 14’48’’

10. Louis Burton - Davy Beaudart (Bureau Vallée 2) 2 d 20’54’’

11. Sébastien Simon - Vincent Riou (Arkéa - Paprec) 2 d1 h 28’22’’

12. Nicolas Troussel  - Jean Le Cam (Corum L’Epargne) 2 d 2 h 2’25’’

13. Giancarlo Pedote - Anthony Marchand (Prysmian Group) 2 d 2 h 16’57’’

14. Fabrice Amedeo - Éric Péron (Newrest Art & Fenêtres) 2 d 2 h 20’31’’

15. Alan Roura - Sébastien Audigane (La Fabrique) 2 d 2 h 40’33’’

16. Thomas Ruyant - Antoine Koch (Advens for Cybersecurity) 2 d 2 h 41’11’’

17. Arnaud Boissières - Xavier Macaire (La Mie Câline - Artipôle) 2 d 2 h 57’34’’

18. Manuel Cousin - Gildas Morvan (Groupe Setin) 2 d 4 h 28’39’’

19. Romain Attanasio - Sébastien Marsset (Pure) 2 d 4 h 43’2’’

20. Stéphane Le Diraison - François Guiffant (Time for Oceans) 2 d 5 h 33’

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