Having had to endure the pain of abandoning the Vendée Globe early in the race when his mast broke, Nicolas Troussel is proving how competitive the Juan K designed Corum L’Epargne is among the IMOCA fleet in the early stages of The Ocean Race Europe.
Corum L’Epargne won a very, very close finish into Cascais, Portugal only just ahead of 11th Hour Racing on the IMOCA which took second in the 2016-17 race as Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss, and is presently lying second on the second leg from Cascais to Alicante, chasing Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut.
Finishing last Wednesday only 83 seconds separated winner Corum L’Epargne from 11th Hour Racing. Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée 3 paid for an option going north of the TSS, brought up the rear 15 minutes and 18 seconds behind Nicolas Troussel's crew. Third was LinkedOut at 3'12 behind, just fiveseconds ahead of Offshore Team Germany, with their 2011 Owen Clarke designed, non foiling boat which started life as Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso's ex-Acciona.
This 1300-mile route, with a waypoint in the Azores, 500 miles from the Portuguese coast, offered everything: a start in very light winds, a descent of the Bay of Biscay downwind in medium breezes and a great speed test on the passage to Cape Finisterre to the way point and on the route to Cascais all followed by a big compression and catch at the TSS before Cascais on the entrance to the Tagus entrance.
The light winds at the finish allowed Offshore Team Germany to profit from their daggerboards after the ‘re-start’ while Corum L’Epargne caught up nearly 20 mileson the leaders.
Nico Troussel was delighted,"We knew it was possible to come back to get first. And we did it. It's an intense race, but there were a lot of speed differences between the boats depending on the angle and conditions. We are very happy with this victory, we fought until the end and the final was really magical for us. The VO65s played with 11th Hour and we took the opportunity to get round them. This situation where you catch up with the leaders and stay with it is quite rare. We didn't really know how to tune the boat, or how it was going to go. »
In these conditions the IMOCAs in the light wind conditions, are obviously not so far ahead of the VO65, the Volvo Ocean Race boats designed for their 2014-2015 edition.
But when the breezes are up downwind and reaching the IMOCAs are quicker. Pascal Bidégorry, 11th Hour Racing says : “I'm happy because we sailed really well. In performance terms the boat is doing well and downwind I really enjoyed myself. We pressed as hard as we could it was super cool. We managed to hold multihull averages with the boat over several minutes, and I had never done that before. "
A leader for a long time, Thomas Ruyant liked the stage, but not necessarily his third place: “We all had a lot of fun. It was a great first stage with a great team, with lots of different conditions and a turnround at the end of the course as we like in IMOCA! I'm a little disappointed with the finish, but that's the game, and there are two races left (and two coastal races, note). There was a complicated front to pass; we were the first to come to a halt. »
Fifth, Louis Burton and his crew unveiled his brand new boat, the ex L’Occitane-en-Provence, so fresh from the yard that it arrived at the very last moment on the starting line. Modest in his speed ambitions at the start, the skipper who was 3rd in the Vendée Globe said they pressed the foot on the gas when conditions were right: "We started to attack after passing Cape Finisterre, reaching. Before, we had not dared do too much because we are still in the phase of observation and discovery. Bureau Vallée is very powerful, much more than my previous boat so we do not yet know where to place the cursor between the use of its full potential and its limits. »