4 stages, 1,520 miles in total, 16 competitors and a highly unpredictable Mediterranean: these are the factors which form the context for the competition in which Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and Kito de Pavant have just launched themselves on the Gitana Team's Figaro vessel, Domaine du Mont d'Arbois. Stretching between Marseilles and Istanbul, the course will be a testing one due to highly diverse weather conditions, the stages of different distances and a technically demanding latter part of the route on the approach to Istanbul, the bridge between Europe and Asia.
The starting gun was duly sounded in Marseilles at 3 pm, under a clear sky and a 15-knot southerly wind which is expected to pick up strongly from Sunday evening. And Domaine du Mont d'Arbois has got off to an excellent start, occupying second place at the 1st marker.
A few changes of tack are in store before nightfall, as the participants take to the ocean proper, leaving the French coast definitively behind before descending upwind at a lively pace towards Corsica and Sardinia and then heading towards Sicily, where the competitors are expected in less than 3 days.
The pursuit of learning and performance...
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent shared his first impressions before leaving the pontoon in Marseilles' old port: “after the prologue, which took place amid almost no wind, I'm really desperate to get out onto the water and get to grips with the others. The fact that Kito is with me is making me even more determined to do well as I'm learning so much from being alongside him, and learning it fast too. I couldn't hope for a better way of preparing for the Solitaire this summer, which is my main target for the season. With a partner like Kito and myself getting sharper all the time, I hope to steer the colours of Domaine du Mont d'Arbois to glory in Istanbul in a few weeks time. We've prepared the boat really well and it's ready at last. The mainsail is new and the spinnaker that was torn during the BPE Trophy has been repaired perfectly.”
Kito de Pavant, a 2nd place finisher in this same event last year, offered a few pointers to understanding the 2007 edition: “the 4 stages will all be very different. The first should be very fast, less than 3 days. The boat that catches the first north to north-westerly wind is likely to be hard to shift from first place all the way to Trapani. The second stage, which is the longest, will also be the most technically complex as we'll be crossing 3 different areas: the south of Sicily, the Peleponese and then the Aegean. There are going to be plenty of pitfalls and the gaps between the boats are likely to grow quite a bit. The final stage leading up to the finish in Istanbul will take place in a sea that's generally quite dirty and where any of the competitors could quite easily get a plastic bag stuck under the keel, which could slow down the boat's progress. But in principle, and plastic bags permitting, the leaders should be able to control their direct adversaries on this last stage. At the same time, what's good about the Mediterranean is that everything can easily turn around in 24 hours!”
Loïck Peyron, the manager of the Gitana Team who came to see Thierry Duprey du Vorsent off at the start, could not hide his satisfaction at seeing Domaine du Mont d'Arbois lining up for the Cap Istanbul: “Symbolically, this is quite an interesting race, linking these two nations up via the sea. From a sporting perspective, it's a complex maritime region, so it's the superior strategist who will probably prevail. For Thierry, it's a chance to sail with Kito, who has more experience than most. He'll need to watch every detail of life onboard closely if he is to continue to progress and be ready for the Solitaire in August.”