Winter refit work has clearly paid off. Gitana 11 is not that far behind Groupama-2 (who finished just one and a half minutes on the prologue race round Groix. Gitana X has found her feet as she was hot on the heels of Géant, just 24 seconds behind ! Weather was perfect for this taste of what lies ahead in this 2 600 mile long offshore race, setting out tomorrow, Sunday at three o'clock in the afternoon. 12 knots at the start and a flat sea, increasing to 15 knots, to finish with gusts of up to 18 knots. Even the odd ray of sun shone on the granite cliffs of Groix. Superb !
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent did rather mess up the start in a laborious tack having opted to head off on the starboard tack to try and block the port fleet. Franck Cammas moved into the lead in the company of Pascal Bidégorry and Frédéric Le Peutrec, the three boats lining up for a very long beat upwind close to the coast of Larmor Plage. Michel Desjoyeaux was not on form, somewhat out of the game further behind, his air disturbed by the three leaders. In fact the going was so tough for him that Gitana X stayed tightly glued in for the first two rounds of the course. Foncia was not frankly ready and soon gave up the prologue.
So the match was played out by the three most finely tuned trimarans - Groupama-2, Gitana 11 and Banque Populaire-4. Their speeds differed little and it was essentially in the manoeuvres and tactical options that the hierarchy became clear. Frédéric Le Peutrec pulled off an excellent first upwind beat and even came in really close to Pascal Bidégorry's bows just before rounding the headland of Pen Men, at the north-west point of the island of Groix. The crew of Gitana 11 even came back to within a few lengths of Franck Cammas. The finish confirmed quite how close the two boats are in terms of potential.
As for Gitana X, the performance of Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and his crew had clearly improved. Their tri continually put the pressure on Géant. See you on Sunday at 15h00 for the start of the IB Group Challenge, in a light to moderate northerly wind (thus downwind) of around 5-10 knots, due to strengthen in the Bay of Biscay.
Result of the IB Group Challenge Prologue
1-Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas) 1h 54' 32''
2-Gitana 11 (Frédéric Le Peutrec) + 1' 31''
3-Banque Populaire-4 (Pascal Bidégorry) + 4' 02''
4-Géant (Michel Desjoyeaux) + 9' 11''
5-Gitana X (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent) + 9' 35''
DNF-Foncia (Armel Le Cléac'h)