Wednesday, April 4, 2012

SPI OUEST France Preview

J109 sailing SPI Ouest France regatta (La Trinite sur Mer, France)- Perhaps one of the most significant rights of spring every year in the sailing world in Europe has to be the famous SPI OUEST France sailing regatta held in the quaint, lovely little seaside town called La Trinite sur Mer on Quiberon Bay.  The ambiance is renown, the restaurants delicious, the wine even better, and the international gathering of sailors from all points of the compass make for a highly entertaining venue.  The beautiful harbor often has some of the elite monster multihulls parked stern-to on the main quay (the 130 footer Banque Populaire or 100 footer Groupama, for example) and, due to their enormous popularity the 100+ J/80s are parked on the other side, a commanding presence at the heart of Grand Prix French sailing.

This year another good turnout was anticipated.  A total 438 boats of which 141 (32% of the fleet) are J sailing teams are coming in from across Europe and the UK.  Nine J/111s will be participating in their European One-Design debut, 116 J/80s are racing for class honors and sixteen J/Teams are sailing in the four IRC handicap classes.

J/111 speedster sailing off FranceStarting with the J/111 class, nine boats are represented from across continental Europe and the UK.  So many of these teams have never sailed against one another it's impossible to make any predictions as so many are well-sailed.  Most certainly all the teams will have steep learning curves as they learn to extract maximum performance from their J/111s race-to-race. There are three French teams, LE JOUET (Stephane Blanchards- must see his website-, J-LANCE 7 (Didier Le Moal) and ALPHALINK EXTREME YACHTING (G. Thomas).  Two teams are from the United Kingdom, including J-DREAM (the champion J/109 team of David and Kirsty Apthorp) and OJE (A Hill).  From Benelux are two entries, XCENTRIC RIPPER (John Van der Starre and Robin Verhoef from the Netherlands that sailed the Fastnet Race Doublehanded) and DJINN ( Jean-Patrick Smal) from Belgium.  Long distance awards will surely be contested between JUSTICE (B. Flavio) from Italy and BLUR (Peter Gustafsson's J/109 champion team from Sweden).  For a preview of what it's like to sail the J/111, see the BLUR/Peter montage video-- totally cool!!

The dominant one-design class in SPI Ouest France are the 116 J/80s-- easily the most consistent and largest one-design class the SPI OUEST Regatta has ever experienced over the course of three decades of hosting this famous regatta.  Like their J/111 big brothers, it's going to be pretty hard to determine who's going to the dominant teams, but certainly there are a few standout J/80 sailing teams that are worth mentioning that will factor into the leader board.  From France, you have renown class leaders like GANJA (Luc Nadal), ATLANTIS (Louis Sambron), INTERFACE CONCEPT 1 & 2 (Eric Brezellec and JC Moriceau, respectively) and TBS (Pierre Follenfant-- perhaps the "sleeper" in their group of world-class sailors, Pierre is a former 470 and Flying Dutchman champion).  From Italy you have their class leader JENIALE! sailed by Massimo Rama.  The Spanish contingent have nearly a dozen boats sailing with one of their top boats in attendance, GOLD SAILING skippered Ignacio Jauregui.  The host of the 2012 J/80 Worlds are the United Kingdom and their contingent is pretty strong, including ULTIMATE SAILS (Kevin Sproul, a multi-class champion), RAF BENEVOLENT FUND (Terry Hanlon of the British RAF Sailing Team) and BALTIC WHARF LTD (Henry Bomby, a top youth sailor in the UK).

The IRC Handicap rule grouping has significant competition across all four classes- IRC 1 to IRC 4.  In the 32 boat IRC 1 Class, the big J's are sailing with the J/133 JIVARO leading the charge sailed by Yves Grosjean, followed by a very tough group of J/122s, including NUTMEG IV (F. Lognone), JOLLY JOKER (R. Marchais) and MADE IN LOVE (J. Patier).  Given a good series, any one of these boats has proven over the course of time at various events around France, Italy, the UK that they can win.

In the 32 boat IRC 2 class, the top J is the J/120 RHAPSODIE V (J Godet), with two J/109s taking chase in the form of POULICO 10 (CV Arcachon) and FRANJPANE (P. Mouret), followed by the J/105 J-SQUARED (V. Jomier).

The 46 boat IRC 3 fleet has the J/92s UNISAILS BAINBRIDGE (SP Quiberon) vying for honors against a fellow J/105 MISS J (F. Guillemot).

Then, in the largest IRC fleet, IRC 4 class has 64 boats battling amongst the a wide range of boats, from the J/24 up to the super-fast J/97.  If things go well, the J/97 may prove again that it's the master of its domain, this time the J/97 MISPICKEL V sailed by B. Fagart will be up against some formidable competition.  Thrown into the fray doing battle against all the "modern" boats is the "classic" J/24 with four of them competing against the big boys, including J'ADORE (E. Richard), JINETTE (C. Gury), MARTA (P. Lemaistre) and INSULARIS (A. Garcia).  For more Spi Ouest France sailing information