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Sailing Daily NewsPage

Published Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

5 November 1999

Issue 85

Sobedo wins Jacques Vabre

Although at time Whirlpool seemed to have a mortal lock on this race it was Sobedo that came out the winner.  Taking the lead on the last nite of the race Sobedo finished this morning in a time of 19 days 17 hours and 31 minutes an average speed of 9.29 knots.  This time is a new monohull race record beating the time set by Yves Parlier and Eric Tabarly in 1997 by 5 hours 48 minutes.

This victory establishes Thomas Coville as king of the transats in the monohull Open 60's.  Last year he was the winner of the Route de Rum.  Coville, age 31 is also a member of the team that hold the current record for the Jules Verne Trophy.  Co-skipper for this race was Herve Jan aged 41.

For Sobedo this victory also adds to this Finot designs track record.  Sailed in the Route de Rhum last year by Raphael Dinelli Sobedo finished 3rd.

At the finish Coville stated, ""Up to the end we had a hell of a fight against Catherine in a dantesque dual we eventually managed to win. This victory represents for me an immense sporting achievement."

Finishing 1 hour and 10 minutes later was the boat that had led up until last nite Whirlpool-Europe 2.

3rd place was not decided until the finish was in sight.  Group 4's Mike Golding describes their winning move: "Just before the line we changed from genaker to spi and managed to get the better of the conditions. This third place was inspired for us, those few minutes making the difference."  Group 4 finished at 08 03.

18 minutes later was a disappointed Sill Enterprises.  Sill's Jean Le Cam said: "" We thought we might make one, two or three but never 4th."

For Mike Golding and Group 4 this is vindication after not finishing Around Alone and sailing a disappointing Fastnet in home waters.  In another connection to the Jules Verne Trophy Group 4 co-skipper Ed Danby was on board ENZA when she claimed the record.

With the top 4 boats finishing within two hours this is one the closest and highest caliber races on record.  On the water decisions of the sailors made or broke each teams race, the way it should be.  

Jacques Vabre: Analysis

Going into this race it was predicted to be very competitive.  The fleet had potential winners from two designers: Finot and Lombard.  The fleet had boats that had already sailed around the world, and boats there were racing for the first time.  Many of the sailors were French, but a significant number were from Britain.

In the end a Finot design was 1st and 3rd with Lombard's designs 2nd and 4th.  However, both designers gave the sailors fast boats it was on the water decisions that made the very small differences.  The Finot's beat an average of 2.6 boats while the Lombard's beat an average of 4 boats.

Contrary to pre race predictions the newer boats proved as fast as expected and more reliable.  It was the tried boats such as Aquitaine/Kingfisher and Fila that had problems or dropped out.  Also, it was Somewhere's skipper Marc Thiercelin that complained of boat speed problems and predicted a post race refit for his 5th place boat.  The just launched Sill Enterprises proved fast and had no problems finishing the race.

The winners were French and so were the 2nd place team.  However, Group 4 managed to gain Britain a spot on the podium with a strong finish.  British sailor Ellen Macarthur was in contention until Aquitaine/Kingfisher developed rig problems.  Gartmore/First Call was effectively taken out of the race by a bad routing call.  Experienced French skipper Marc Thiercelin struggled.

There really are no hard and fast conclusions to be made.  The race showed there are a variety of fast boats with tremendously skilled sailors pushing them expertly along.  Most of these boats plus several more should comprise an incredibly competitive fleet for next years non stop Vendee Globe Around the World race.