Leighs smashes New Caledonia Groupama record – second victory for Regimbeau

Anthony Leighs named his year-old canting Elliott 35 ‘Crusader’ because he wanted to set off on a crusade of fast offshore racing – and the dream came true in the New Caledonia Groupama Race, when he smashed the record, beating the renowned Franck Cammas for line honours into the bargain.

Three hundred nautical miles downwind along the eastern seaboard and 300 upwind along the western seaboard of New Caledonia, Herve Regimbeau’s Mange Mieux Bouge Plus won overall from BCI Radical Concept (Philippe Mazard) and Chairman PAO Production (Cédric Bouchet), the renamed former record holder, Team Australia Les Nouvelles.

“We had to wait until BCI Radical Concept crossed the line in the late evening to know we had won,” said Herve Regimbeau, who also won the race overall in 2012 and was thrilled to do so again.

The New Zealand owned and built record slayer, Crusader was the first canting boat that Leighs had stepped foot on and was already kicking goals early on, having already taken the 2012 record for the Coastal Classic (Auckland to Russell) by two hours.

This time, Crusader shattered the 600 nautical mile New Caledonia Groupama race record by 4 hours 26 minutes, finishing in 3 days 18 hours 54 minutes and 6 seconds.

“Sensational; fantastic,” was Leighs’ immediate reaction. “For us to come to this beautiful place and do this race, sailing against one of the biggest names in world sailing is just fantastic,” he said, referring to Cammas, who was named 2014French Yachtsman of the Year.

On hearing his record had gone, Tony McKenzie (Team Australia Les Nouvelles) said: “Congratulations to “Crusader. I'll have to go back one day to sail this wonderful race again and win the record back!”

Crusader finished nearly five hours in front of the 35 foot racing prototype with folding keel, Keel Bill Groupama, and over nine hours in front of Mange Mieux Bouge Plus, the Sydney 38 which pulled up third on line and won the race overall.

“Surfing down waves down the east coast was just amazing; that’s what will stick with me. Hour after hour of really fast sailing was wonderful. It’s a great race; a testing and satisfying race, coming back on the wind for the last two and a bit days was hard work,” Leighs remarked, adding, “People should consider doing this race,” he commented.

“We are pleased to hold the record, if some wants to come along and try to beat it, then bring it on,” Leighs ended.

Franck Cammas, on board Keel Bill Groupama, commented prior to the start: “I have been patron for this race since it started back in 2008, but I'd never had the time to take part in it until now.”

After the race, the highly respected French sailor said: “It's a big 600-mile course on paper, but in reality it's nearly 900 on what were often chaotic seas and a pretty powerful breeze of 25 to 30 knots. Tacking on an 11-metre boat in these conditions is very uncomfortable, a lot more so than on a Volvo 70 like Groupama 4.”

Of their competition with Crusader, Cammas commented: “On the first section, we were racing against the future winners. They sailed really well, whilst we were slammed by a 30 degree wind shift the wrong way round downwind, which was completely the opposite of what the grib files announced.

“The separation between us became too big for us to catch up, though I think we sailed very well, particularly on the long beat. Crusader is real little gem, made entirely of carbon. Even her shrouds were streamlined. A superb boat that was well helmed and very quick downwind. I was expecting our own boat to be quicker downwind,” Cammas said.

They did not say it, but no doubt Cammas and boat partner, Patrick Baldi, were disappointed not to call the record and first place their own.

Organised by the Cercle Nautique and dubbed ‘the world’s longest windward/leeward race around the largest lagoon in the world’, the New Caledonia Groupama Race starts and finishes in Nouméa, taking the yachts anticlockwise around New Caledonia.

Seven boats from 11-12 metres took part in the fourth running of the New Caledonia Groupama Race, which originated in 2008 and is held every two years. Organisers are banking on more entries in 2016, after the current crop gave it the seal of approval.

Overall placings:

1. Mange Mieux Bouge Plus (Herve Regimbeau)

2. BCI Radical Concept (Philippe Mazard)

3. Chairman PAO Production (Cédric Bouchet)

4. Crusader (Anthony Leighs)

5. XLR8 Province Sud (Jean Christophe Verge)

6. Catch me OPT (Michel Ferard)

* Keel Bill Groupama (Franck Cammas/Patrick Baldi) did not race for a handicap place

 Line Honours results:

1.     Crusader – finished in 3d 18h 54m 6s

2.     Keel Bill Groupama – 3d 23h 49m 5s

3.     Mange Mieux Bouge Plus – 4d 4h 8m 28s

4.     Catch me OPT

5.     Chairman PAO Production

6.     6CI Radical Concept

7.     XLR8 Province Sud

 – Di Pearson

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