Tomorrow, Friday 7 June will see the Route des Princes fire into action in Valencia. In store in this European tour are four legs from Spain to Portugal (Lisbon), Ireland (Dublin), England (Plymouth) and finally France. It’s in Roscoff, on 30 June 2013, that the winner of this new race will be crowned. With over 3,000 miles on the programme and some three weeks of racing, where the sailors will switch between offshore and round-the-cans races, the 2013 edition promises to be run at a steady pace for those crews who’ve signed up for the event.
Aboard Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse’s crew is tackling its second season on the circuit. Boosted by the experience they racked up in 2012, the men of Gitana Team are making it clear that they have their sights on victory, but they are very much aware of the stiff competition they face: “We made Valencia last Saturday after spending a few days in Marseille. Since that time, the team has been able to make the final technical checks and we’ve been able to do a spot of training so as to get the measure of the race zone and its specific features. In early May, our victory in the Armen Race showed us that we were on the pace and able to maintain a high speed in boisterous conditions. It was the perfect warm-up but the Route des Princes is the first race of the season where the four MODs in this year’s line-up will be able to do battle. On paper, Spindrift is the crew to beat, but Oman and Virbac Paprec will have to be kept a close eye on too, as the sailors in both crews are very talented and, to my mind, have made good progress. The competition is going to be wide open! For our part, we’ve put a lot of work into preparing for the upcoming sailing season and today we’re ready to go and keen for the competition to begin,” Sébastien Josse admitted.
With less than 24 hours to go till the first confrontations, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild reveals his ‘player list’ for the Spanish races: “The crew accompanying me on the inshore races in Valencia is pretty similar to last year with Thomas Rouxel and Olivier Douillard trimming, Cyril Dardashti and David Boileau grinding and then Florent Chastel on the bow. To this hard core is added Charles Caudrelier doing the nav and monitoring performance and finally Sébastien Col, who will be in charge of calling tactics. Sébastien is one of the top French inshore racers and has expert knowledge of Valencia and the bay, having sailed here on many occasions during his years in the America’s Cup.”
Helmsman on the French challenger, K-Challenge, from 2007 to 2009, Sébastien Col is indeed very familiar with the Spanish bay, where the Louis Vuitton Cup and then the America’s Cup were held in 2007. His knowledge of the race zone, combined with his qualities as a fine tactician, will unquestionably be an asset aboard the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. He analyses the weather conditions that may colour the playing field from tomorrow: “I’ve spent nearly two and a half years sailing here. As such I’m relatively familiar with the race zone. In Valencia, this season is characterised by a solid thermal breeze. It’s a very localised weather system created by the difference in temperature between the land and the sea. As the land warms up quicker than the sea, that creates a kind of drawing up of the air in the vicinity. Indeed, the air over the sea is drawn up by the heat rising up off the land. It’s a phenomenon that remains hard to predict, both in terms of strength and direction. That’s why the race zone in Valencia calls for you to remain fairly open-minded and to adjust your strategy according to a direct observation on the water. It’s not always easy: the wind coming from the sea is accompanied by chop and isn’t really something you can spot on the water. In terms of the sea, it’s not unusual to have big seas, especially towards the end of the day if the thermal breeze is blowing at around 20 knots.”
Tomorrow, Sébastien Col will endure his baptism of fire aboard Edmond de Rothschild. He knows the craft well, having been among Michel Desjoyeaux’ crew during the Krys Ocean Race in 2012, but this time the sailor will be participating in the very specific exercise of inshore racing on a 70-foot trimaran: “I’m eager to get down to it! I love this intense, close-contact race format, which reminds me a great deal of match racing. You have to make the right decisions in a very short space of time and, above all, make these decisions early enough for the tactical execution of the manoeuvres to be smooth.”
The attention signal for the opening race is set to be fired offshore of the Real Juan Carlo I Marina in Valencia shortly before 1600 hours local time. The four crews competing in the MOD70 class will have three races in which to establish the first hierarchy.
The crew of Edmond de Rothschild in the Valencia inshore races
Sébastien Josse (skipper)
Charles Caudrelier (navigator, performance monitor) / Sébastien Col (tactician) / Thomas Rouxel (trimmer) / Olivier Douillard (trimmer) / Cyril Dardashti (grinder) / David Boileau (grinder) / Florent Chastel (bowman)
The major dates for the Route des Princes
Inshore races: on 7 and 8 June
Start of leg 1: on 9 June
ETA: on 12 June
Inshore races: on 14 and 15 June
Start of leg 2: on 16 June
Dùn Laoghaire (Ireland)
ETA: on 20 June
Inshore races: on 22 and 23 June
Start of leg 3: on 24 June
ETA: on 26 June
Inshore races: on 28 and 29 June
Start of leg 4: on the evening of 29 June
ETA: on 30 June