Strategy on the menu for the first leg
The multihull fleet set off from Valencia at 1400 hours local time this Sunday, for the first offshore leg of the Route des Princes; an 805-mile course bound for Lisbon in Portugal. Before they can set a course for Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean though, Edmond de Rothschild and its adversaries will have to round a mark off Benicarlo, some 60 miles to the North of Valencia. This compulsory waypoint complicates what is already a rather uncertain scenario given the weather forecast. Indeed current systems show that the crews will have a long and highly strategic passage to Lisbon. After what proved to be a very beautiful course around the bay thanks to a generous breeze of around twenty knots, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild headed offshore in third position in a group led by Oman Air.

A few minutes before leaving the pontoon of the Marina Real Juan Carlo I, to the applause of a big local crowd, Sébastien Josse gave us his final impressions about the upcoming leg: “This will be a complicated leg during the first few hours of the race as there’s a small depression centre to be negotiated, which will disrupt the wind and cause us to be delayed in reaching Gibraltar. We might well have a leg start coloured by a very shifty wind, which will be very changeable in terms of direction. We’re going to have to lie in wait and try to snap up all the sniffs of pressure that come our way so as we can make Gibraltar as quickly as possible. I’m confident and delighted to be heading offshore. However, the situation is unstable and we know that in these conditions, it can be a bit of a bazaar and that’s just where you can end up with some big deficits between the multihulls. We experienced this kind of situation in the penultimate leg of last year’s European Tour: one boat powered away with the pressure and that was the last we saw of her. I hope things won’t pan out like that this time around, or if it does then I hope that boat is us!”

This morning, before the dockside was ablaze with the “Mascletà”, a kind of big firework display consisting of a series of firecracker explosions typical of the region of Valencia, Charles Caudrelier gave us the lowdown on the weather that awaits them over the 800 miles between Valencia and Lisbon.

The return trip to Benicarlo
“We’ll set off downwind with a strong breeze and, when you look at the weather we have here in Valencia, it’s easy to think that we’ll be there in a couple of hours. Unfortunately though, this wind isn’t established to the North. As such, we’re quickly going to leave it in our wake and we’ll have to traverse a patch of light airs before we latch onto another breeze from a completely different direction, which is forecast to be a NNW’ly. The Benicarlo mark, situated some 60 miles off Valencia, will take us northwards towards a very random area, where we might stall for quite a while. If the routing pans out as expected, we should take 6 to 7 hours to make this first mark, though I can’t say I really see that happening. I think we should be back off Valencia tonight, perhaps a bit earlier, perhaps a bit later. It’s still hard to know as the weather models are lost and with these boats, all you need is two or three extra knots of breeze from a slightly different direction to very quickly be making 10/15 knots headway. We’ll have to adapt to the conditions we find along the way.”

Gibraltar bound
“Right now, there’s a pretty strong breeze to the South of Valencia, an established westerly wind, which would have enabled us to make fast headway towards the goal. By heading North, we’re going to lose time before we can latch onto some pressure. As a result, there will be a lot less breeze by the time we get to it and, according to the grib files, it’s not going to be easy to make up our deficit. However, the first boat to link up with the established westerly wind will manage to hang onto it for longer than the others. In fact, this breeze is set to gradually fade behind us. As such, the closer we are to exiting the Mediterranean, the longer we’ll hang onto this breeze, which means it’ll be very important to be ahead. Once we know how long we’ve taken to make Cartagena, we’ll know how long we have left with the westerly wind. Similarly, the amount of time we spend in the Alboran Sea is really dependant on how long we take to reach Cartagena. I’ve had a bit of look at what goes on there, but my main focus has been on the first 60 miles. The TSS at the first headlands isn’t too marked so I don’t think they’ll be an issue for us. However, the TTS off Gibraltar will influence play a little. In one way it’s reassuring as it means that everyone will have to get around it in the same place. The bonus site is between an area to the North of the TSS and the Tarifa lighthouse, so in principle we’ll switch across to the Spanish shore. After that, we can choose to go to the South and not bag the point if that gives us an advantage for the next stage.”

The climb up to Lisbon
“In principle, there should be some wind for this final section. We’ll have north-westerly wind at the start and doubtless some northerly wind afterwards. As such we will still be on a beat, but this time in a more established wind. I think the section between Gibraltar and Cape Saint Vincent will also be a complicated zone, as the whole of the Bay of Cadiz is very poorly interpreted by the weather models so it’s not easy to define a strategy. In this instance, strategy often involves keeping things simple, namely pointing as high as you can and seeing how the wind develops. On the Saint Vincent – Lisbon section, we should benefit from cleaner breeze, which is easier to deal with. There will be quite a lot of factors at play with the fairly high cliffs of the Portuguese coast, the effects of the headlands and the numerous bays. With regard the finish in Lisbon with the finish line due for now to be set in the Tagus River, that could make for a very lively finish, especially if the boats are close to each other.”

Latest news: Benicarlo waypoint

Oman Air pockets the bonus awarded for being first to reach the waypoint. The MOD70 fleet rounded the mark within 10 minutes of each other and the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild made its rounding of the mark set off Benicarlo in second position.

  1. Oman Air at 19h37’27’’
  2. Edmond de Rothschild at 19h45’15’’
  3. Virbac Paprec at 19h45’47’’
  4. Spindrift Racing at 19h46’26’’


Provisional overall ranking for the Route des Princes
  1. Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) - 10 points
  2. Spindrift Racing (Xavier Revil) - 8 points
  3. Virbac Paprec 70 (Jean-Pierre Dick) - 6 points
  4. Musandam – Oman Air (Sidney Gavignet) - 4 points
The crew of Edmond de Rothschild in Offshore 1

Sébastien Josse / Charles Caudrelier / Thomas Rouxel / Olivier Douillard / Jean-Christophe Mourniac / Florent Chastel

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