A decent start
It proved a fairly productive day for the Gitana Team courtesy of a superb first round for an on song and on time Gitana 11 and a dogged display from Gitana 12!
At 10.30 on the dot, the race committee launched the start procedure for the first stage of the day. Gitana 11 made an excellent start with Geant and Groupama, while Gitana 12 took the starboard option in the left channel at Marseilles, the scene of this Grand Prix until Sunday. Gitana 12's choice paid off but it involved additional tacking to pass the windward buoy and she consequently crossed just behind Gitana 11 and well ahead of Geant. The latter tried the near-impossible task of coming back but Thierry Duprey du Vorsent held firm and managed to keep Michel Desjoyeaux behind him. Out in front, Gitana 11 was unable to catch up with the ever-impressive Groupama-2 but far from being left behind, Loick Peyron and his men actually managed to reduce the deficit. In the end, Groupama-2 took the round ahead of Gitana 11, Gitana 12 and Geant. “We started on the port tack, in touch with Groupama and Geant. 12 opted for the starboard tack with a little leg in the middle there where there was a bit more pressure, but with an extra change of tack, he crossed behind us. We soon started to leave Geant behind on port side, which forced her to change tack and slowed her down, allowing 12 to tack in front of her. Then, we were able to keep in contact with Groupama, in an unstable wind which eased up a lot towards the finish,” commented Gitana 11 tactician Frederic Le Peutrec.
For the second round, the scenario did not develop to the advantage of the Gitanas. Too early on the line, Gitana 11 was forced to change plan and tack to the left, leaving Geant and Groupama free to break away. Despite making some successful choices, 11 could not make up for this delay. Gitana 12, meanwhile, hampered by a faulty winch, finished the round in 4th place. We made a complete mess of the start by going for it too early. Geant stuck to our starboard, so we were forced to change tack and take the starboard option. After that, the wind came back a bit and things got going properly but it was coming back in from the right so we lost a bit of time,” added Frédéric.
The start of the 3rd round nearly went down sailing history. Having started from a long way off, Gitana 11 effected a superb manoeuvre but passed the line 1 second ahead… which was still too early! And she paid the penalty for jumping the gun … as the boat had to make a 360° turn which left her far behind her rivals. In spite of all this, Loick Peyron still managed to catch up with Gitana 12 but had to cede first and second places to Groupama-2 and Geant. “A false start, when we were red hot and almost right on the line. Only 1.5 seconds but at this speed, that's practically the whole boat!” pointed out Le Peutrec.
“It's pretty hard going… but most of all it's encouraging, exciting and really interesting. The conditions are perfect and the water surface is a dream. Personally, I'm a bit lacking in practice and I need to get up to speed on a few points, but that's normal… it doesn't all come back in 2 days!, concluded Gitana 11 skipper Loick Peyron.
Tomorrow is another day… 12's young crew proved today that they can be a force to be reckoned with and on Gitana 11, Loick Peyron is getting his bearings again. What's more, it should be emphasised that this was the two crews' first Grand Prix day in this new configuration!