After exactly one month of racing since leaving Kiel, Germany on the afternoon of Sunday September 2nd the first ever MOD70 European Tour finished this Tuesday morning amidst a beautiful dawn in Genoa, Italy with a hard won overall victory for FONCIA, the crew of Michel Desjoyeaux’s MOD70
After more than 4400 miles of the five offshore racing stages and the 23 City Race series heats at four European Cities, FONCIA’s triumph was only secured in the final mile and 22 minutes of the course.
In a typically audacious last throw of the dice, the double Vendée Globe winning skipper and his crew came from behind to cross two rivals within sight of the finish line. Stealing second place, immediately behind Yann Guichard’s title rivals Spindrift racing, was enough to give overall victory to the FONCIA team who set their foundations with a clean sweep of maximum available points in Kiel and from the Leg 1 offshore into Dun Laoghaire.
Just two points separate FONCIA from Spindrift racing on the final standings, exactly the same delta between Stève Ravussin’s Race for Water which wrestled third from Sidney Gavignet’s Musandam-Oman Sail on the same slow motion, high tension two miles of chess board.
When they left Marseille on Sunday afternoon for the 651 miles showdown stage to Genoa via Menorca and La Giraglia at the north of Corsica, FONCIA had a six points lead to protect from Spindrift racing. Musandam-Oman Sail needed only to keep Race for Water behind to be sure of third.
The fickle early morning winds tested the nerves of the crews. After winning the final leg the Spindrift racing team had to watch as Desjoyeaux and crew crossed Race for Water and Musandam-Oman Sail in one strand of breeze to finish second on the water. The final mile or two was equally painful for Sidney Gavignet’s Musandam-Oman crew.
“When we crossed the finish line I congratulated the team but then in the last mile to the finish we could see that FONCIA had gone off to try and do their own thing and started to think that he could pull something.” Recalls Spindrift racing’s Guichard,. “ Before nightfall last night we had already thought that we could win because they were so far behind.”
In this exciting new strict one design class, this first season has consistently delivered incredibly close racing inshore and offshore. The MOD70’s are fast, but ultimately it has been – as intended - people power: the skill of the sailors and not the technology that has prevailed:
“Sailing is a sport of experience, it is not just a sport about technology and so the more experience you have together the faster you can keep the boat going, the faster you can adapt to new conditions.” Says Desjoyeaux. “It is a real pleasure to sail like this with this crew. Everyone gives their best any hour of the day and night. And even if we make mistakes together, we move on.”
In preparation for this MOD70 programme which is Desjoyeaux’s final events in the colours of his longtime sponsors FONCIA, last year they started a D35 catamaran programme on the lakes with Xavier Revil, Antoine Carraz and Alban Rossolin.
To that core was added outstanding helm-trimmer Manu Le Borgne with whom he won the Transat Jacques Vabre and, as navigator, Charles Caudrelier, a key member of the Volvo Ocean Race winning crew. Others included America’s Cup winning grinder Nicolas Texier, helm-trimmer Thierry Chabagny, Julien Falxa and Antonio Carraz. Desjoyeaux’s management approach is very much to let the crew deliver on their strengths.
FONCIA’s one minor aberration over the event was their fifth in the City Race series in Cascais, Portugal. Otherwise they finished on the podium in each points scoring event. Except for temporarily in Cascais before they won Round Portugal, FONCIA were on top of the MOD70 European Tour leaderboard.
Spindrift racing, winners of the Krys Ocean Race and leaders overall of the Multi One Championship, proved durable close rivals to the end for FONCIA. They won the spectacular Dun Laoghaire City Race series, the Marseille City Race series and the Dun Laoghaire to Cascais offshore leg as well as this Leg 5 offshore into Genoa. But skipper Yann Guichard’s identified the two places deficit on the Round Portugal which, they suffered when FONCIA won as the main contribution to their final difference.
“I think that the mission has been accomplished on this race.” Guichard smiled, “FONCIA wins the MOD70 European Tour by two points on a 240-point aggregate, that pretty much speaks for itself. The third place came down to the final metres on the last leg. Then we had three boats finish in just 77 seconds in Dun Laoghaire. Here it was really close at the finish, well all legs have been very close. We have really enjoyed the racing and I am sure that it has been quite gripping to follow from ashore.”
Circuit and class co-founder Stève Ravussin’s Race for Water finished third overall on the strength of improving consistency. Musandam-Oman Sail suffered a final disappointment in losing that overall finish, but –as one of only three teams to win events – can take great pride in winning the Cascais City Race Series and their big win into Marseille.