A tightly-packed fleet in the prelude off Groix
Superb conditions for the coastal course as a prelude to the long passage covering 2 600 nautical miles from Lorient to Nice. The IB Group Challenge had planned a short course between Groix and the mainland for the spectacle and for the public. Franck Cammas came out in the lead at the Pen Men headland (Groix), but Gitana 11 was the first behind, leading the tightly packed group of boats following up the rear. Gitana X also came off pretty well.

Calm sea, lively breeze, sunshine. What more could you ask for on a 3 o'clock start on a Sunday afternoon as the six strong fleet of trimarans set out on a ten mile prelude course which they covered in less than 45 minutes ! A twelve to fifteen knot westerly wind, increasing steadily to 18 knots, almost an identical line to the prologue the day before. And almost an identical situation. Franck Cammas (Groupama 2) got off to the strongest start, leaving Pascal Bidégorry (Banque Populaire 4), Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11) and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana X) to leeward.

Michel Desjoyeaux (Géant) had a tough time of it once again slightly behind with Armel Le Cléac'h (Foncia). Not an easy position to maintain in the long term if you want to avoid losing a lot of ground as they were receive wind spoiled by the leaders. So Géant opted for a speedy change of tack towards the island of Groix, whilst the rest of the fleet was bound for the Talus headland. By the time they reached the windward mark 5 miles off, things had changed again as the peleton had squeezed together behind Groupama-2 who had come closer into the island for a while. Géant only just managed to push ahead of Gitana 11, with Banque Populaire, Foncia and Gitana X hot on her heels.

A long stretch with the gennaker up later on, for another five mile stretch in a breeze which was getting stronger all the time. Franck Cammas confirmed his breakaway as he had almost a four minute lead over a group of three trimarans who were very close together indeed - Géant, Banque Populaire and Gitana 11 followed not even two minutes later by Foncia and Gitana X. yet another tacking session to leave Groix to port and make headway to the Pen Men headland. Wisely indeed, Yann Guichard, tactician on Gitana 11 decided to change tack first which brought her into the lead of the chasers. The others were never far behind as Foncia and Gitana X were still hot on her heels. 

Then the trimarans shook out some canvas to plunge SW towards Cape Finisterre on a very fast leg (more than 25 knots) but the westerly breeze should soon change direction to the east, strictly the opposite ! So, we can expect a transitional zone before the start of the night without much wind, shortly before the wind picks up slightly yet again. The easterly wind will propel the fleet at a good speed towards the NW of Spain. Easrly on Monday afternoon, they should have reached Cape Finisterre. An exciting race in store as there are plenty of occasions for the cards to be reshuffled, lots of tricky weather situations, lots of tactical options. 

Rankings at the leeward mark  :

1-Groupama (41' 58'')  2-Géant (+ 3' 44'')  3-Banque Populaire (+à 3' 59'')
4-Gitana 11 (+ 4' 18'')  5-Foncia (+ 5' 39'')  6-Gitana X (+ 6' 36'')

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