Armel Le Cléac’h: “I’d never won this race before, so I’m all the happier to win it today!”
• Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) wins the 24hr Défi Azimut for the first time in his long career
• Morgan Lagravière (SAFRAN) secures his first IMOCA podium in this fierce race
• See you tomorrow for the speed runs and the crewed Chrono Azimut (race against the clock around the island of Groix)
The smiles and reactions speak volumes at the end of the 24hr Azimut, which was contested in solo configuration with the intensity of a round the cans race, a fact evidenced by the drawn faces and the chatter on the dock. The first event on the Défi Azimut programme certainly lived up to expectations. Indeed, it offered up some breezy conditions along its highly educational 215-mile course, which proved to be the perfect setting for one last dress rehearsal just weeks away from the start of the Vendée Globe.
A podium of foilers
Firmly in position at the head of the fleet from the outset, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) held onto his position as favourite throughout the race. Driven by a raging desire to secure the win, as illustrated by his finish, fully powered up under spinnaker, he wasn’t about to let victory slip from his clutches. In his wake, Morgan Lagravière (SAFRAN), right on the pace, has every reason to be happy tonight. The young competitor earned a much deserved second place aboard a monohull that has just been kitted out with new foils. As for Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who posted a thundering comeback at the end of the course, demonstrated by a peak speed of 18-19 knots, he proves, if there were a need, that he’s very much on his game. This triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro completes the podium for this event, which saw three foilers monopolize the prize haul.
24 hours of mano a mano racing
These ‘moustached’ wonders, as these boats equipped with lifting surfaces are called, may have hogged the podium in this race, but before we jump to overly hasty conclusions, it’s worth noting that 4th place went to Paul Meilhat (SMA), who was right on their tails after a very creditable performance using classic daggerboards as opposed to foils. What we have learned from this race, is that the ‘foilers’ have clearly made great strides forwards, but the runners-up places in this 24hr Azimut were essentially won and lost in terms of tactics and mano a mano racing, punctuated by sound trajectories and sail choices. One thing for sure is that this result certainly adds to the suspense before the curtain rises on the solo, unassisted, non-stop round the world race, heralded as a major planetary showdown.
Tomorrow… Round the Island… of Groix!
After a few hours’ rest and a good night’s sleep, the Défi Azimut will fire up again tomorrow with speed runs and the now traditional Chrono Azimut – a race against the clock around the island of Groix. This crewed race format gives the skippers the opportunity to race with their shore crew and partners. A good fifteen knots or so of westerly wind is forecast and the big question tonight is will this be enough to shatter the race record set last year by the men on PRB of 1 hour 8 minutes and 10 seconds