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Frances former winner lines up for Legends Regatta

by Volvo Ocean Race media 11 Oct 2011 18:10 BST 1-5 November 2011

Lionel Péan, the original skipper of Whitbread 1985-86 winner L’Esprit d’Equipe, will reunite with his crew and his boat for the Volvo Ocean Race Legends regatta and reunion in Alicante from November 1-5. The 58’ sloop will join a growing fleet of boats from the first 10 races including race winning yacht Steinlager 2.

"Twenty-five years ago, I gathered together a team of 10 amazing sailors who built a campaign like no one had ever done before,” says the veteran skipper who was 29 years old when he realised his dream of entering the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1985-86.

“Winning was our wildest dream and to achieve it we prepared carefully, trained hard and optimised the boat to the limits of possibility. It was all this preparation combined with the talent of our crew that allow us to be – so far – the only French team to win this race around the world.

“I am very pleased to reunite with this same crew, the heart of L’Esprit d’Equipe, and we are proud to support the start of the Volvo Ocean Race alongside the other crews who have created the legend of Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race. We will be there too, to support Groupama 4, France’s entry this time,” he adds.

Back in 1985, the French sailor had chosen a boat built for the previous race. The former 33 Export was a lightweight Briand design that had shown great promise until losing her mast in the Southern Ocean. Péan asked the designer to update the alloy yacht and, after spending three months in a shipyard, she re-emerged as L’Esprit d’Equipe, meaning ‘team spirit’.

By the time of the Fastnet Race, held a month ahead of the Whitbread, Péan and his crew were ready. They finished second among the Whitbread contenders, behind the 80’ maxi Atlantic Privateer.

L’Esprit d’Equipe arrived in Cape Town at the finish of the first leg with nothing more than flaked paintwork to take an 11-hour lead over nearest rival, the Dutch yacht Philips Innovator. On leg two she was becalmed for two days on the approach to Auckland, which allowed Philips Innovator to take the advantage. But, during the New Zealand stopover, the crew noticed the mast was bent. A sleeve was bolted to secure the damage and Péan set off again into the Southern Ocean.

Eleven days out into the ice-strewn South Atlantic, Péan reported to race control that the mast had split in two places below deck while surfing towards Cape Horn. More sleeves were constructed by the crew but they didn’t hold back and much to Equity and Law’s consternation, they continued to push the boat as hard as they could. By the time they reached the Uruguayan stopover, L’Esprit d’Equipe had recaptured the lead and had a five hour advantage. Equipped with a new section of mast, Péan and his crew sailed the perfect final leg to claim the winner’s position.

L’Esprit d’Equipe will be joined at the Volvo Ocean Race Legends by some of the most interesting and famous boats ever to race around the world. Original crew from over 60 boats which have competed in the past 10 races are planning their journeys to Spain, but by plane and not by boat, in order to reminisce about past victories and meet up with old friends.

About L’Esprit d’Equipe:

Rig: Sloop
Designer: Philippe Briand
LOA 58’ (17.6m)
Crew: 8-9
Finished: WINNER
Elapsed time: 132.00
Skipper: Lionel Péan

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