The weather forecast on Friday did promise to be tricky for the 11 competitors entered in the Grand Prix de Fécamp. The 20 knot south-westerly breeze that was blowing this morning was set to strengthen to 30 knots at the end of the morning. A last briefing was planned to decide whether the boats would race this first regatta day. The Committee eventually announced that a start would be given at 0830 GMT
. The fleet of 11 multihulls set off at a cracking pace, with messy seas and a persistant rain providing a spectacular backdrop, but Gitana X capsized three minutes from the finish. In 3rd position at the time, ahead of the new Groupama, Gitana X, was at full throttle when the bow dug in before falling onto the wrong side during a gust of over 30 knots, pitchpoling under gennaker. As a result the skipper was unable to control the boat which tipped gently upside down. The whole crew was picked up without any serious injuries. There were some knocks to the elbows, leg and back, fortunately not deemed to be bad by the first medical examinations.
Gitana Team's shore crew was immediately on the scene to assist the crew in difficulty 2 miles off the pier of the Port of Fécamp. On their arrival on the pontoon, the crew of Gitana 11 spontaneously went to their aid so as Marc Guillemot and his crew could take the time to deal with their injuries, change and rest a little. Baron Benjamin de Rothschild paid close attention to the rescue operations and took the time to greet the crew who were inevitably disappointed after such a fine leg.
ITV with Marc Guillemot
« We were 500 metres from the finish. We had three minutes left of racing. We were preparing for the final gybe of the leg and we had really fought well since the start of the leg. Just before the finish, we were fighting to contain Groupama who were trying to cover us on the line. It would have been magnificent to have the two boats from Gitana Team on the podium of this first leg. The Grand Prix is finished for us. The weather forecast remains poor until tomorrow morning. The wind will continue to blow from the south-west at 25 to 30 knots with a 2 metre swell and heavy rain which will make any technical manoeuvre very dangerous. With this in mind, we will leave the boat upside down in its capsize position until tomorrow so as not to put our shore crew in any danger as they will have to dive down and clear the platform of its rig. For now the boat is attached to a mooring and marked by a system of flash-lights. As soon as the weather allows tomorrow, Gitana X will be towed upside down into the port of Fécamp while plans to get it back to Brittany are made. »
Results from the first leg
After a very successful start, Gitana 11 kept up with the front of the fleet throughout the course of this first leg, passing nearly all the marks in second position. In so doing the boat confirmed its potential in the breezy conditions with a crew that was coordinated to perfection, pulling off a great series of manœuvres despite the feisty conditions that presided over this first confrontation. It was no surprise then that Gitana 11 took second place in this first leg, just behind Sergio Tacchini who had the controls. Sergio Tacchini dominated from the first course mark followed by Gitana 11, with Foncia unable to keep pace after its initial burst of speed up with the frontrunners. The capsize of Marc Guillemot enabled Franck Cammas to take third and Mediatis-Région Aquitaine was forced to retire.
Results from the first leg of the Grand Prix de Fécamp :
1 - Karine Fauconnier (Sergio Tacchini)
2 - Fred Le Peutrec (Gitana 11)
3 - Franck Cammas (Groupama-2)
4 - Alain Gautier (Foncia)
5 - Lalou Roucayrol (Banque Populaire)
6 - Stève Ravusssin (Banque Covefi)
7 - Michel Desjoyeaux (Géant)
8 - Thomas Coville (Sodebo)
9 - Philippe Monnet (Sopra Group)
Retirement - Yves Parlier (Mediatis-Région Aquitaine)
Retirement - Marc Guillemot (Gitana X)