Leg 5, Marseille Genoa: The finale
Today saw a clean start for the last leg of the European Tour, which took place shortly before 1400 UTC this Sunday, offshore of the Roucas Blanc nautical base. Edmond de Rothschild Group and its adversaries set off at a very slow pace in some erratic winds between 2 and 4 knots at kick-off time in a fine but continuous drizzle. After a coastal course spanning some fifteen miles or so, where the fleet of MOD 70s had to leave the Frioul Islands to port the open ocean finally called to them, with some 650 miles ahead of the one-design trimarans in total. However, the course to Genoa and the finish venue of this European Tour won’t be direct. Indeed the five crews must leave the island of Minorca (Balearics) to port before setting a course for Italy. The frontrunners are expected to make the second Mediterranean port over the course of the day.

Before leaving terra firma, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group explained the crew’s mindset: “We’re setting out from Marseille with every intention of finishing the Tour on a positive note. The past few weeks have been difficult in terms of the results on the water but we still have this final leg to make up some points on Oman Sail and Race for Water and round off this European Tour properly. It will be a short but intense race with a number of tricky passages to negotiate. We are likely to have to go through the entire sail wardrobe as we alternate between light airs and steadier breeze. However, we are already aware that the race will be decided in the Gulf of Genoa, as the wind is set to ease over the final few miles of the race. As such the scenarios for the finishes in Dùn Laoghaire or Cascais could well be repeated.”

There is already some good news within Sébastien Josse’s crew tonight. Having remained onshore to look after an infection of his right hand and uncertain about whether he’d be able to take part in this last leg, Florent Chastel was back in action this Sunday. The bowman was rested and ready to get going on this final sprint: “I will need to be vigilant as the marine environment isn’t ideal for healing infections, but I’m no longer suffering any pain and I’m 100% fit.”

Weather for Leg 5, the view from the navigator aboard Edmond de Rothschild Group

“There will be a lot of transition zones and the cards will often be reshuffled on the way to Genoa.”

Rain and light airs will be on the programme for the five competing crews, as Antoine Koch explained before casting off: “We’re in the centre of a small rain storm of a depression, which is bringing us rain but no wind. This phenomenon is slowly shifting towards the East, which is exactly where our final destination lies… Light winds will mark the coastal course created by Race Management for the start to the leg. It’s around fifteen miles long, with the start off the Roucas Blanc, followed by a circuit around the Frioul Islands, then a final tack off the village and the marina, where the famous scoring gate is located. After that, we’ll set a course for Minorca and the Balearics. The initial miles could take a while, as the grib files don’t exceed 5-6 knots of breeze. There will be loads of small tactical coups up for grabs on the water as a result.”

After a very gentle start, tonight the atmosphere is set to become more lively on the deck of the MOD 70s as they make towards Minorca in the Balearics, which they must leave to port: “the aim is to leave this zone to hunt down a corridor of wind where the Tramontana wind is still blowing in the West of the Gulf of Lion. This NW’ly breeze has the potential to be pretty strong: 25-30 knots. We should latch onto this wind tonight. Initially we’ll be on a reach and then downwind. This windy period isn’t set to last however, as the wind is due to ease as the boats approach Minorca from the influence of a ridge of high pressure moving in from the Atlantic. The best thing would be to round it under the cover of darkness and not at daybreak, when the wind will be even lighter. We’ll also have to cleverly deal with the wind shadows from the island.”

In what one might consider to be the third stage of this leg between Marseille and Genoa, Edmond de Rothschild Group will have to make towards the northern tip of the Island of Beauty (Corsica), before heading for the Gulf of Genoa, which is famed for its very random weather conditions: “We don’t yet have any certainties as regards the wind direction as we pass Minorca. However, for the next stage we are likely to be sailing downwind, as the breeze is set to lift and become an established W’ly and then WSW’ly breeze as we close on Corsica. Our trajectory should be fairly northerly to avoid falling into the buffer zone, which stretches along the West coast of Corsica. The wind could fill as we near Cape Corse and Giraglia, which is one of our course marks. It’s possible that we’ll have big seas in this area. After that, we’ll tackle the crossing of the Gulf of Genoa with a wind which, according to current forecasts, will gradually back. The breeze will ease considerably and it wouldn’t be a surprise for the boats to make the finish in a tight group, as any latecomers are sure to have caught up with the leaders by then.”

For the time being and according to the weather forecasts received before the start, the MOD 70 fleet could complete the 650 miles of this course and be tied up in the Italian port after forty-eight hours of racing.

Standing for the European Tour (before leg 5)
  1. Foncia – 236 points
  2. Spindrift Racing – 229 points
  3. Musandam – Oman Sail - 203 points
  4. Race for Water - 202 points
  5. Edmond de Rothschild Group -194 points

The crew of the MOD Edmond de Rothschild Group

Sébastien Josse (Skipper), Christophe Espagnon, Antoine Koch, Thomas Rouxel, Cyril Dardashti, Olivier Douillard, Florent Chastel, David Boileau

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