New boat, new course – the Tour de France explained

Tomorrow the twenty-eight Diam 24 fleet will start the first race of the Tour de France à la Voile 2015. They will be launched from 7am on the beach of Malo-les-Bains for the start of a 45 nautical mile long Coastal Race at 12.00. New boat, new concept, and new racing format. So how does it work?

For the first time since its creation in 1978, the competitors will not sail from one venue to the next. No more nights offshore sitting on the rail! Instead, they will launch the boat in the morning and bring it back on the Paddocks / pontoons at the end of racing, whether it is a coastal race, or a day of stadium racing.

There will be nine Acts, three in the English Channel, two on the Atlantic side and four in the Med. In each venue, the competitors will have two days of sailing, except for Dunkirk and Nice where there will be an additional day of zero scoring exhibition races on July 4th and 26th

Day 1 of each Act

A Coastal Race (start at 12.00) : these races will showcase iconic points along the French coastline as the Tour de France à la Voile has always done. The starts and finishes will take place in the same town, close to the shore, so that the public audience can really feel part of these decisive moments. In the same vein, the distances will be set according to the weather conditions, so as to be able to host a late morning start and a late afternoon finish.

Christophe Gaumont, race director: “The coastal races will be short and intense and very important for the scoring system. They are worth as much as a full day of stadium racing. And it will be difficult because the crew won’t have much electronics onboard, except a GPS system for positionning the boat and the marks .”

Day 2 of each Act

Stadium Racing (start at 11.30) : the races will take place off the natural grandstands (jetties, beaches, seafronts…) with a PA system so that the public can fully enjoy the on-the-water show throughout the day. The pace will be extremely intense, with very short, close-contact races (around 20 minutes) one after the other in quick succession with live commentary and musical accompaniment.

The fleet will be split into different groups (2 or 3 according to the weather conditions) and each Stadium Racing day will be divided into two phases:

          A ‘qualification’ phase: a minimum of two races per group and up to four, according to the weather conditions.
          A ‘final’ phase: at the end of the qualification phase, the day’s intermediary ranking will be drawn up, enabling the boats to be split into different “Finals” (Gold final, Silver final, Bronze final). The number of finals will be decided according to the weather conditions.

The day’s ranking will take into account all the day’s races from a minimum of two validated races. The “Gold Final” Teams will be competing for the day’s top spots, those from the “Silver Final” will be battling it out for the runners-up places, etc.

The winner from each day of races will receive the maximum number of points, the second will have this number-1, and so on in descending order through to the person in last place.

Christophe Gaumont, race director: “In most teams, the crew will be the same on both the coastal races and the stadium races. They have chosen crew members who can work well together and master the boat, instead of tactics specialists. From a tactical point of view, Stadium Racing requires the same skills as the Coastal Races. And the key will be consistency, because they can win a lot in one day, or lose a lot .”

The rankings

The leaders in each category will have a gennaker of a different colour:

–   blue for the overall ranking

–   pink for the corinthian ranking

–   green for the coastal ranking

–   red for the technical ranking (stadium racing)

And there is a total of 900 points to win from Dunkirk to Nice, 50 per day.

The weather forecast tomorrow in Dunkirk predicts a NNE wind from 7 to 10 knots early afternoon, increasing to 15 knots towards the end of the day and turning NE.

Quotes :

Frédéric Guilmin (CombiWest) : “The Tour in its current format is a new challenge that I’ve taken on since last January, so of course today we are looking forward to the start, as we’ve done all the pre-season events. We did quite well, we’ve worked hard and our efforts will start paying off. We are hoping to start well because there is a long way to go and it will be intense. We cannot wait”.

Nicolas Bérenger (Beijaflore) : “We are feeling good. We will know on July 26th in Nice if we were ready or not, but I am not stressing. I just want to enjoy it because it is a great event. We’ve been talking about it for a long time so let’s go”

Brett Dryland (Team OZ): “Our team is a bit of a family affair as we are self-sponsored and we are here to learn. We’ve sailed the Diam 24 for the very first time yesterday and of course it was chaos, but it’s really exciting!”

Daniel Souben (Sodebo): “We’ve been doing the Tour for a dozen years so we know the playground of the next three weeks. But it is a year of change with a new boat and a new racing format so a lot of things to learn. It’s a total discovery and we’ve worked very hard last winter and we are happy to start and fight”

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