Having fielded just one team for the last event in 2012, France is back with a vengeance for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup this July.
Since Géry Trentesaux’s French team stole victory from the powerful Irish in 2006, France has never finished better than third, but this year they intend to put this right. And to give some idea of what the British and Irish teams will be potentially up against you don’t have to look much further than the results from last year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, where an incredible 12 of the top 14 finishers were our cousins across ‘La Manche’. To make the point, France is equalling the British line-up, bringing four teams to Cowes over 19-26th July for this year’s Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup.
Jean-Philippe Cau, who raced the last Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup aboard Eleuthera and put together the selection panel for this year’s French team, shares the French view of the event and why there is such a substantial entry: “I love the Commodores’ Cup. I think it is one of the best regattas. The format is great – there are a lot of inshores, and the offshore are not too long, just 36 hours. Plus now you also have the Round the Isle of Wight Race which is a very, very good race. So it is a good mix of sailing. We also really enjoy racing in the Solent because conditions are never the same there.” Among these 12 are many repeat customers, including all three boats that competed in 2012 – Eleuthera, Beelzebuth 3 and Nutmeg IV. Of these it will be the third consecutive Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup for François Lognoné’s J/122 Nutmeg, while Beelzebuth won its class at the RORC’s IRC National Championship last year.
One of the most faithful French boats to the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup is Jean-Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam, which competed in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Also back, after they took part in 2010, is regular RORC competitor Bernard Gouy and his Ker 39, Inis Mor, which ended the 2013 season fifth overall in the RORC Season’s Points Championship.Emmanuel Le Men’s First 40.7, Pen Koent, raced in France Red in 2008 and has been performing well this year. Now fitted with a new carbon fibre mast, she was matching the performance of the A35s for most of SPI Ouest.
According to Jean-Philippe Cau, while France has strength in numbers, they also have depth across their four teams. Disappointed by the French team selection process and subsequent performance in the 2012 Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup, this time Cau put together the selection committee for the French team comprising personnel from the Fédération Française de Voile, the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large and PropIRC, the French IRC owners association of which he is President. Last autumn he began to drum up interest in the event among French IRC owners.
Whereas in 2012 there was a very stringent selection process that left potential teams hanging until as late as mid-June to find out if they were competing, this time Cau says they are being much more inclusive, or more of a ‘qualification’ than a ‘selection’ as he puts it. Boats wanting to represent France had to compete in 10 races this spring, including for example six at SPI Ouest France. However Cau is keen to point out that the French teams announced haven’t been arranged according to which teams performed the best in these 10 races. In those events for example many were racing with more pro sailors on board than are permitted for the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup.
In addition to the boats returning, the French team also features a number of new boats, including three Archambault models, the A40RC Vitaris-Goa of Gilles and Samuel Prietz, plus two others racing in France Green – Chenapan 3 is the new A35R owned by Gilles Caminade, while Teasing Machine is the manufacturer’s latest A13 model owned by Eric De Turckheim.
Cau rates the new boats highly: “The new A35 is a very, very good boat. For the time being it is the best IRC boat in France. But they haven’t had much time to sail her.” Teasing Machine is only being launched this month. Her pro on board will be America’s Cup sailor, Laurent Pages, who was also part of Franck Cammas’ winning Volvo Ocean Race crew.
A Farr 30 also features in France Green. Cau explains: “In the Mediterranean there are two or three Farr 30s competing in IRC Two and they regularly win races. However they have a modified mainsail and also have an asymmetric spinnaker.” Motive has been modified similarly, her skipper Eric Basset, is an old hand from the Tour de France a la Voile.
Expect the strongest French performance this year since 2006.