Istanbul Europa Race

The first boat of the Istanbul Europa Race fleet have entered the Atlantic, leaving the Mediterranean in its wake. The sailing crews are now followed in the wake of leader Michel Desjoyeaux, who is leading the way towards Brest. Though all boats are making modest speeds, the passage of the Straits of Gibraltar has mixed up the competition on this third leg more than ever, particularly among the boats vying closest to take on the leader.

Veolia Environnement and Groupe Bel have been having quite a battle, which Paprec Virbac 2 is doing its utmost to join. Further back, the Spaniards aboard 1876 have been contending with a mast problem which has slowed them down, while the Mediterranean has yet to finish with the men of DCNS…

Fresh scenery, new charts but still the same routine aboard the IMOCA monohulls of the Istanbul Europa Race. In this third and last leg, from Barcelona to Brest, the wind continues to hold in the 15-20 knot range. As if to leave them with a good impression, the Mediterranean has allowed the crews to leave its clutches on a single tack, and with a daylight passage of the Straits of Gibraltar for the leaders.

The transition from one sea to another allows no respite for the crews however, and so as Cape St. Vincent appears before the current leader of the fleet, Michel Desjoyeaux, the weather situation is keeping the strategists working full-time. While they may be mourning the end of surfing along under spinnaker, now it is time to start preparing for an upwind trip along the coast of Portugal.

The name of the game is to play the shifts as well as possible – to keep the pace on at the front, while the pursuers chip away at the lead. Textbook Performance from Foncia Comfortably installed in the lead, the crew of Foncia are keeping untiringly to their rhythm, maintaining the pace and following the ideal routing minutely. With practiced ease, Mich’ and his team are making the most of their advantage, both physically and psychologically. Behind him though nobody is giving up yet, least of all Veolia Environnement, next in line.

Although their earlier-generation boat was at a disadvantage in the first two legs, marked as they were by light airs, Roland Jourdain’s crew have been on top form the last few days and their good humour has been a pleasure to witness.

Upwind, Bilou’s boat has lost nothing of its class. Groupe Bel and Paprec Virbac 2 remain determined not to let him escape, both Kito de Pavant and Jean-Pierre Dick focussed not only on catching the red and white boat in front, but keeping alive their hopes of regaining the front of the fleet as well. Aboard 1876 the mast has been giving trouble, but not so severe as to force Guillermo Altadill to throw in the towel. While giving nothing away on the extent of the damage, the Spanish crew remain in the race, and have managed to limit their losses at present to 80 miles from the leader.

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