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Azimut Challenge, a useful rehearsal before the Vendée Globe
Armel La Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) vainqueur du Défi Azimut - Vendée Globe © Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

Vendée Globe Azimut Challenge

The sixth Azimut Challenge took place this weekend with ideal conditions. Starting from Lorient, the event was an opportunity for some of those about to take part in the Vendée Globe to see how they measured up against each other.

We look at the outcome with the sailors and with Jacques Caraës, the Vendée Globe Race Director, who was also in charge of the Azimut Challenge.

The sixth Azimut Challenge aimed to be a prologue for the Vendée Globe and lived up to its promise. At 1708hrs CET on Friday 24th September, the start took place of the Azimut – IMOCA 60 24 hr race, a 215 mile solo race, in which twelve of the future competitors in the non-stop solo round the world race took part.

“The aim of this course was to put the skippers through their paces in all the points of sail,” explained Jacques Caraës, the Race Director. “The priority was also to avoid any major incidents. We didn’t want to expose the racers to any unnecessary risks on a course too close to the coast, where they may have encountered crab pots and fishermen without any AIS. We therefore came up with a course a long way out to sea. The race began with a long reaching tack, which favoured the IMOCAs with foils. Then the sailors continued with a long upwind leg for ten hours or so. We could see that the foilers have made progress in this point of sail and are practically up there with the boats with straight daggerboards. The course ended with a downwind run with several gybes required. The weather was in our favour with good wind and sea conditions (from 8 to 20 knots).”

Azimut 24-Hour race: Three foilers in the top three spots
Leading the way practically from start to finish, Armel Le Cléac’h won this long race in the Azimut Challenge, crossing the finish shortly before midday on Saturday. “It’s true that this wasn’t the big one from Les Sables d’Olonne, but it is always interesting to see how we are doing against our rivals,” declared the skipper of Banque Populaire VIII at the finish in Lorient. “We were close to each other in a fleet of good performing IMOCA boats on a relatively short course, but where there were a lot of changes in points of sail and in very varied conditions. We came out on top against this opposition, which is good for our confidence and gives us a boost.”

Azimut Challenge, a useful rehearsal before the Vendée Globe

The Azimut Challenge – Vendée Globe Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe ©

20 minutes after Armel Le Cléac’h, Morgan Lagravière came in second, which pleased the young skipper of Safran. “We have carried out quite a few changes on the boat over the past few months, in particular with the foils. We needed to do battle to reassure ourselves about how the boat is performing. The result is positive. Coming in second behind Banque Populaire and ahead of the big names in the circuit means I am pleased about how we’re doing. We knew we had a great boat, an efficient team, and it’s always nice to prove that to the others. We’ve won some points here, but we were already confident.” The IMOCAs with foils took all the podium places, as Jérémie Beyou’s Maître CoQ took third place.

“It’s amazing as this course should have favoured the traditional boats, but the foilers were out in front, because they sailed the best legs,” was how Paul Meilhat, fourth on SMA, analysed the situation. Yann Eliès, seventh on Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir said the same thing, although he was not looking for any excuses. “The foilers did best, but that is down to the fact that we others on boats with traditional daggerboards, didn’t do so well sailing on these legs. We sailed a bit higher, but we ought to have gone for speed. In the end, they sailed better and got ahead, as the course didn’t favour one boat over another.”

Round the Isle of Groix: the straight daggerboards get their revenge
The racers were out again on Sunday, but this time with a crew, comprising members of their shore teams and guests. The day began with speed runs over a distance of one nautical mile. Morgan Lagravière’s Safran set the best time. After that, the boats lined up for the start of the traditional Azimut-Round Groix Race. The battle raged throughout the twenty-mile course. Paul Meilhat and his men came in first just ahead of Vincent Riou’s PRB, whose sheet got caught in the radar in the final change of tack. However, Vincent Riou remains the record-holder for the race around Groix with a time of one hour, eight mins and 10 secs set last year.

Azimut Challenge, a useful rehearsal before the Vendée Globe

Paul Meilhat (SMA) vainqueur du Tour de l’ïle de Groix – Vendée Globe © Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

Results of the Azimut 24h Challenge
1) Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): finished at 11h56’26’, race time 18h48’26’
2) Morgan Lagravière (Safran): finished at 12h16’26’, race time 19h08’26’
3) Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ): finished at 12h20’30’, race time 19h12’30’
4) Paul Meilhat (SMA): finished at 12h24’24’, race time 19h16’24’
5) Vincent Riou (PRB): finished at 12h27’58’, race time 19h19’58’
6) Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild): finished at 12h28’17’, race time 19h20’17’
7) Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir): finished at 12h49’40’, race time 19h41’40’
8) Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord): finished at 13h26’17’, race time 20h18’17’
9) Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac): finished at 14h26’48’, race time 21H17’48’
10) Bertrand de Broc (MACSF): finished at 14h29’45’, race time 21h21’45’
11) Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-Coeur): finished at 14h36’00, race time 21h28’00’
Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy)- retired

Rankings for the Round Groix Race
1. SMA – Paul Meilhat / 1h32’41’’
2. PRB – Vincent Riou / 1h33’07’’
3. Safran – Morgan Lagravière / 1h34’30’’
4. Edmond de Rothschild – Sébastien Josse / 1h36’17’’
5. Maître CoQ – Jérémie Beyou / 1h36’32’’
6. Le Souffle du Nord – Thomas Ruyant / 1h43’50’’
7. Initiatives Cœur – Tanguy de Lamotte / 1h44’22’’
8. MACSF – Bertrand de Broc / 1h47’33
9. 100% Natural Energy – Conrad Colman / 1h52’41’’
10. Bureau Vallée – Louis Burton / 1h53’50’’

Speed runs
1. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) – 3’19’
2. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) – 3’26’
3. Paul Meilhat (SMA) – 3’46’

by Vendée Globe

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