Light air
At the Portugal Grand Prix in Portimao on Saturday, we were treated to a race within a race, as Loick Peyron on Gitana 11 and Michel Desjoyeaux aboard Géant gave a demonstration of “the art of sailing” during their game of cat and mouse in the light air of Portimao bay. And it was Gitana 11 who came up trumps by confirming her second place in the provisional rankings by taking a three-point lead over her closest rival at the end of this second day.

Onboard Gitana 12, expectations were also largely fulfilled! The contest between Géant and Gitana 11 forced her to manoeuvre much more, which allowed 12 to make up for starts still lacking in aggression by getting much closer to her opponents on the day's two rounds. These races contested at such close quarters will surely have served as a considerable tonic for the troops!

Loick Peyron, skipper of Gitana 11…

“It was a nice little derby, especially as 12 was not far behind on the second round. Because we couldn't afford to lose any time if we wanted to keep fighting for supremacy with Géant, we ended up forgetting Gitana 12, which gave them the chance to come back! Our overall tactics were to try to get her to squeeze in behind us, not just because she's a fellow Gitana, but primarily because it would mean we'd pinch an extra point off Géant! But at least we're a few points ahead of her anyway! And then of course, what's most important about sailing is having a proper race, even in such an evanescent breeze, and that was certainly the case today. Everyone on the water was in the mood for a race… which is what causes the problems and makes it interesting at the same time!”
In conditions like these, the role of onboard tactician is essential…

Yann Guichard, tactician on Gitana 11... explanation of text:

“The aim of the game is not to follow the one in front and if you're in front, it's to control the one behind you so she doesn't get away from you. Everyone knows Groupama's faster, so it's all about getting clear of her from the start so she doesn't block us. Then, we try to stay with Géant while trying to block her because an extra point is important! In practical terms, when we're in front of her, we're controlling her. By that I mean that, up close, we try to mask her, either in the centre with wind abeam and downwind, the game is to stay between her and the marker so we always have priority when we arrive at the mark on the leeward side. But if you're behind, you have to try to differentiate yourself from the boat in front, so at close quarters, you have to keep changing tack and gybing downwind, while always prioritising the finish at the marker buoy. We came out on top in this little game today, but it often hinges on the smallest of things!”

Nicolas Raynaud, trimmer on Gitana 12…

“It's the first time we've sailed in wind conditions like these. In our first Grand Prix at Marseilles, there was plenty of breeze and now we find ourselves in 5 knots of wind… it takes a bit of time to get your bearings! But we're making progress, and we really weren't far behind today… Tactically, we pulled off some good tricks thanks to our performer, Benjamin de Rothschild, who was giving us the onboard lay lines. It was excellent! On the second round, we were only a length away from going past 2! On the first round, we messed up our start and then opted for the direct course, which was not such a good choice… Afterwards, we managed to come back by dint of perseverance and refining the trimming. We're all still really up for it on board, and despite being far behind, we're still in the game and can therefore make some more nice comebacks! We need to work harder on our starts, especially with such a high standard of competition on the water. These are not just local races!”

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