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Groupama Race 2016 - 12 entries already

by Matthias Balagny 5 Apr 2016 13:19 BST 25 September 2016

With one month left for expressions of interest, 12 yachts have announced their intention to take part in a race over the World's longest Olympic course. Small or big, mono- or multi-hull, all will be on the start-line for the 5th Tour of New Caledonia yacht race.

"There will races within the race" confided Philippe Mazard, New Caledonian Sailing League President. Now that catamarans and maxi-yachts are included in the fleet gives birth to a New Groupama Race.

A record could be beaten

Team Vodafone Sailing, the fastest yacht in New Zealand (formerly Michel Desjoyeaux's 18m monster with a 28m high rig!) is looking to beat last year's record set by fellow countryman Antony Leighs, Crusader's owner/skipper. Crusader is an Elliott 35 Super Sport with a canting keel. The 3d 18h 54m record is expected to be bettered. In this part of the world, there serious rivals to Team Vodafone Sailing. We look forward to receiving their entries...

Two other catamarans have also entered: Birdies Furax 2, a 16m G FORCE 1500 cruiser/racer. Alain Vilas, her experienced owner, will be seconded by Jérome Legal, 2010 Hobie 16 world champion. French Polynesia is not to be left out either: Moemiti, an Outremer 45 from Tahiti Yacht Club has entered.

Other catamarans are expected to enter too. Some pretty fast cruiser/racers, but also simple cruisers, fitted-out for a race that is out of this world!

A unique tactical race

Yes, Groupama Race is magical. The start takes place before thousands of enthusiastic New Caledonians. A sail-past round two marks close to the crowds, then the gun and a 40 mile beat. By nightfall, the thrills begin – it's the start of a 300 mile spinnaker run!!! Exceptional surfs and incredible speeds following the reefs. Next, there is the 40 mile leg through Grand Passage, with its whales and ocean fish. Then there is the return leg. Soaked to the skin, 300 miles on the wind, offshore from a World Heritage listed reef!

Small ones, large ones... all handsome craft

With the introduction of at least four classes, this fifth edition sees the return of smaller yachts alongside the 50, 60 or 100 footers.

At this time, Gummo-Phytocal a Bongo 960 and Ketal, a Sun Fast 3200 that took part in the 2015 Transquadra, are the smallest entries at less than 10m. They will be neck and neck with Boulègue, Vincent Trinquet's Young 9.9. Banque de Nouvelle Calédonie, second on handicap in the 2015 Sydney Hobart, hopes to be on the handicap winners list in this race. She will no doubt have a close run-in with the Sydney 38s, like Eye Candy. Other sister ships are expected to express interest soon. They will try to outdo Odyssey, Bruno Hautier's Dufour GL410, or Notorious, a First 44.7 with an experienced New Zealand crew.

Two canting keel yachts will no doubt create a lot of attention. Keel Bill, the small (35') New Caledonian, co-skippered in 2014 by Franck Cammas, will try to worry her big Kiwi sister, Ran Tan II, an Elliott 50 skippered by Brian Peterson.

With only 30 days left to express interest, and 180 days before the start, 8 New Caledonians and 3 New Zealanders are listed. Half a dozen others are expected... but one question remains... Kiwis, Polynesians and Caledonians are ready... But were are the Aussies? Will they rise up to challenge their near neighbours around the world's largest lagoon? What's the betting?

Expressions of interest so far*:

KETAL - Olivier Decouzon - SUN FAST 3200 - New Caledonia
BOULÈGUE - Vincent Trinquet - YOUNG 9.9 - New Caledonia
BNC LEON - Michel Quintin - JPK 10,80 - New Caledonia
EYE CANDY - Thierry Leseigneur - SYDNEY 38 - New Caledonia
BIRDIES FURAX 2 - Alain Vilas - CATA - New Caledonia
KEEL BILL - Patrick Baldi - SHAW 35 - New Caledonia
ODYSSEY - Bruno Hautier - DUFOUR GL 410 - New Caledonia
MOEMETI - Claude Rigal - OUTREMER 45 - Tahiti
TEAM VODAFONE SAILING - Simon Hull - ORMA 60 - New Zealand
RAN TAN II - Brien Petersen - ELLIOTT 50 - New Zealand
NOTORIOUS - Christiaan Arns - FIRST 44,7 - New Zealand
GUMMO - PHYTOCAL - Alain Varichon - Bongo 9,6 - New Caledonia

* These entries must confirm their entry and pay the entry fee before the 30th April 2016. After this date, the entry fee will be increased by 30%. Entries will close on the 30th June 2016.

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