Leg 4, Cascais Marseille: the long route
The fleet of MOD 70s left Cascais this Thursday at 1500 hours local time bound for Marseille, the French stopover for the European Tour 2012. Over the course of the 1,071 nautical miles to be covered before the finish, Edmond de Rothschild Group and its four adversaries will have to contend with a wide range of conditions: prevailing light to medium winds in order to make the Alboran Sea and Cape Gat, then what could be a windy section between the Balearic Islands and Marseille. The fourth offshore leg of the event promises to be long and the trimarans’ route to the Mediterranean could feature a whole series of obstacles. Indeed the latest routing indicates between four and five days at sea, which is the same amount of time it took the one-design trimarans to traverse the Atlantic back in July In this way, the crews are going to have to keep pace and go the distance if they are to stand a chance of making the finish first.

With today being start day, the weather files were foremost in everyone’s minds and most conversations prior to kick-off. It has to be said that once again, the five competing crews in this European Tour are preparing for a complicated session. Light airs, some potentially tricky transition zones, timings not be missed for particular passages, not to the mention the hazards which give the Mediterranean its reputation: all the ingredients are there to create one almighty battle on the water for this penultimate leg. Antoine Koch, navigator for Edmond de Rothschild Group explains the course between Cascais and Marseille in the conditional tense, given how fluky and hence how unreliable the forecasts are:

From Cascais to Cape St-Vincent

“Our departure from Cascais this afternoon will be reminiscent of the Around Portugal Race. It will be pretty light with a WNW’ly air flow of between 5 and 7 knots. As we make our way along the coast on our way down to Cape St Vincent, we can expect some thermal breezes to kick-in until the end of the afternoon, which will result in a slight increase in wind strength. However, this wind will die out at nightfall. St Vincent is around a hundred miles from Cascais and we’re likely to round it some time between 2100 hours and midnight tonight. This initial section is fairly classic and is likely to be played out in downwind conditions close to the direct route: a little further inshore if there’s a thermal breeze and a little further offshore it isn’t there or isn’t very strong.”

From Cape St Vincent to Gibraltar

“There may well be a few things happening by the time we reach St Vincent! Nadine, the former hurricane, which settled over the Azores a few days ago, looks to be closing on the European coast and disturbing those systems currently in place. After that, it would appear that we’ll have to negotiate the passage of a trough level with the bay of Cadiz. This will be a relatively tricky passage with varying degrees of stalling according to how we tackle it. The grib files aren’t yet clear about whether or not we can latch onto the easterly breeze, which is at the front of this trough: yesterday it was a yes, but today the answer is more likely to be no. The routing is indicating that we’ll pass Gibraltar on Friday evening. It’s a long time to cover 180 miles! However, these estimations may easily become more favourable according to the conditions we actually have on the water at the start of the race.”

From Gibraltar to the South of the Balearics

“For now, the Gibraltar passage promises to be very calm, but it’s a zone where the wind funnels so you always have to be careful. After that, Nadine, the former hurricane we spoke about earlier, will climb up towards the Bay of Biscay and Ireland at the end of the week. It’s turning into an Atlantic depression and is overriding the other systems present in the Mediterranean (small depression formed over Algeria and a zone of high pressure centred over the Mediterranean) because it features a very large front, which is dropping down just to the South of Spain. Our crossing of the Alboran Sea is likely to take place in some very light conditions. As such the fleet will have to opt for either the Spanish or the Moroccan coast, as there’s a traffic separation zone in the waters between these countries, which we can’t traverse. The direct route would take us down the European coast.”

As far as the finish

“A SW’ly breeze is expected over the course of Sunday in the zone which concerns us. The forecasts are suggesting around fifteen knots with the breeze shifting round to the WNW for the finish.”

A native of nearby Nice, Sébastien Josse is very familiar with the Mediterranean and knows that just about anything can happen. In this way it was a forearmed and forewarned skipper who set sail from Cascais bound for the Mediterranean this Thursday lunchtime:The grib files aren’t in agreement about the course as a whole and the forecasts, once we make it into the Mediterranean, appear to be very fluky. The routing is long with an arrival in Marseille on Tuesday, but it’s hard to completely trust it because a few hours with steadier breeze than forecast, thermal or otherwise, would enable us to get to the finish quicker. The Mediterranean remains the Mediterranean! We’ll need to be opportunistic, make do with the wind we’ve got and, most of all, base our strategy more on our observation and our sensations on the water. I’ve done a lot of racing in these parts but I’m not the only one!”

Standing in the European Tour (after the Around Portugal Race)
  1. Foncia – 12 + 50 + 3 *+ 10 + 46 + 8 + 3*+ 50 = 182 points
  2. Spindrift Racing – 11 + 46 + 1*+ 12 + 50 + 2* + 11 + 42 = 176 points
  3. Edmond de Rothschild Group – 10 + 42 + 2*+ 11 + 38 + 3* + 10 + 2* + 34 = 152 points
  4. Race for Water – 8 + 38 + 9 + 34 + 1* + 9 + 46 = 145 points
  5. Musandam – Oman Sail – 9 + 34 + 8 + 42 +12 + 38 = 143 points

* corresponds with the points’ bonus awarded to the top three boats at the end of the coastal section contested at the start of each offshore leg.

The crew of the MOD Edmond de Rothschild Group

Offshore: Sébastien Josse (Skipper), Olivier Douillard, Florent Chastel, Antoine Koch, Thomas Rouxel, David Boileau

The European Tour in five legs

The second event in the Multi One Championship, after the Krys Ocean Race (a transatlantic race between New York and Brest contested in early July), the European Tour comprises five legs: the five competing crews set off from Kiel bound for Dun Laoghaire (Dublin) on 2 September, prior to setting sail for Cascais (Portugal) and Marseille (France), not to mention Genoa (Italy), where the finish will be decided on 2 October 2012 and with it the name of the winner of this first edition. In total there are over 5,000 nautical miles to cover in five weeks!

Kiel (Germany)
Kiel City Races: from 31 August to 1 September
Leg 1 – 1,188 miles: Kiel – Dun Laoghaire (Dublin), start Sunday 2 September

Dun Laoghaire (Ireland)
Dublin City Races: from 7 to 8 September
Leg 2 – 1,215 miles: Dun Laoghaire (Dublin) – Cascais, start Sunday 9 September

Cascais (Portugal)
Cascais City Races: from 14 to 16 September
Leg 3 - 213 miles: Cascais – Cascais (Around Portugal Race), start Monday 17 September
Leg 4 – 1,071 miles: Cascais – Marseille, start Thursday 20 September

Marseille (France)
Marseille City Races: from 28 to 29 September
Leg 5 - 672 miles: Marseille – Genoa, start Sunday 30 September

Genoa (Italy)
Finish of leg 5: Tuesday 2 October
Closing race: Wednesday 3 October

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