Since the end of the day yesterday the first boat of the Istanbul
Europa Race fleet has entered the Atlantic, leaving the Mediterranean
in its wake. One by one, on the same single tack, the crews have
followed in the tracks of leader Michel Desjoyeaux, who has been
leading the way towards Brest for more than the last 24 hours. Though
all 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…
For its first edition, the Istanbul Europa Race has the pleasure of presenting a fleet of around fifteen boats, helmed by the top sailors of our time. The trust the sailors display in the organising company, together with the scale of the event and the course on offer, greatly appeal to sailing professionals.
In terms of image, the skippers are perceived as adventurers, sacrificing everything for their passion and a far cry from overpaid stars. In addition they practise a sport which, though given a lot of media coverage, is sheltered from the numerous excesses you can observe in other sports (structured finance, doping), and benefits from a ‘clean’ image in every sense of the word.
As such these top level offshore racers have expressed a desire to accept the invitation to what is to be an unmissable race in their professional career. Among them we can already mention:
The Istanbul Europa Race, in the prestigious IMOCA class, is the latest great sailing race in the yachting calendar. Its long course through Europe is to make it a major sporting event from its very first edition. In the great tradition of stage races, the Istanbul Europa Race will bring together a fleet comprised of some of very best sailors of our time, taking them on an ideal course and offering a genuine invitation to travel.
A human, competitive and cultural adventure, the Istanbul Europa Race has a wealth of assets to bring to the table. A public, comprising amateur sailors and enthusiasts alike, is bound to come out in force to view the spectacle, to witness this new encounter between man and the natural elements, at the forefront of which are the waters of the Mediterranean, as well as the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. The excellent line-up of sailors offered, the original aspect of the race ports and the course together with the public presence, all go to ensure massive, international media coverage, given the infatuation that is prompted by sailing.
Desjoyeaux leads the race and Jourdain is in Second. There is no room for pretensions, no hiding place from fear, no fast boat s quicker than the skipper.
The die is very much cast and it now up to them to make what they can. In somewhere around 33-37 days the winner, all things being equal should be back in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Some at the rear end of the fleet have the ambition of simply completing the round the world race to show that their dream was not impossible. Sedlacek (Nauticsport Kapsch) and Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) knew when they set out from Les Sables that this was more of an adventure than a race. However, their motivation is just as strong: for the former it is a question of completing a project he began in 2000, while for the latter the challenge is finishing the voyage without using fossil fuels.
Rich Wilson (Great American III) and Jonny Malbon (Artemis), representing different ends of the skippers’ age spectrum chose to enter this race to test their aptitude at facing the unknown. Whatever their reasons, they all know that they will have learnt something about the world around them and, perhaps more about themselves.
For some, the deep south is a revelation: you just need to see the joy on the faces of Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas), Sam Davies (Roxy) and Steve White (Toe in the Water) to know that they will be back again at the start in four years time.
They are truly in the race itself, while their humility is clear.
They accept their vulnerability and that is what makes their pleasure almost indestructible.
Then, there are those, whose ambitions have had to change. We are thinking of Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) who had a remarkable race until he hit a UFO and admits he is finding it difficult to move way from the idea of winning. Then, there is Marc Guillemot (Safran), who went through every emotion possible and now simply wants to finish the race honourably.
Dee Caffari (Aviva), after a great start, could not keep up the merciless pace set by the leaders, and for Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar), he will certainly want to come back to see what he can do on another occasion on a boat which has been fully race tested.