(Cherbourg, France)- Ultimately, fifty-seven J/80 teams descended upon Cherbourg all with the intent to be crowned the 2013 Champion for France while others also had their eyes set on taking the overall Coupe de France J/80s for the overall season championship. There were many of the top French teams participating, including those who participated and finished in the top ten in the recent 2013 J/80 Worlds Marseilles. Both women’s and youth teams were well represented, both making their marks in this year’s edition of the French Nationals.
In the end, the extremely demanding weather conditions with breezes often in the 15-25 kts range meant that physically fit teams that could maintain their mental sharpness tactically and still execute on boat-handling and mark-roundings would do well. Fittingly, it was the ascendant “younger” teams that crowded the podium after three days of hard fought racing with six races complete on the fierce seas off Cherbourg. Crowned as French J/80 National Champion was Sylvain Pellissier skippering VOILERIE ALL PURPOSE with a steady 1-6-6-2-2 record for 17 pts net. Taking the silver was Gael Jaffrezic leading his HEMON CAMUS IMMOBILIER Team to an impressive 5-4-1-6-4 record for 20 pts net. Bronze was awarded to Quentin Ponroy’s COURIER DUNKERQUE 5 with a 4-7-1-8-3 tally for 23 pts net. It was a closely fought event for this trio of teams atop this year’s podium!
The first day of sailing looked fabulous, with 12-15 kts southwest winds with relatively flat seas and partly cloudy skies. The RC PRO was intent on making the most of it and announced that at least three races could be sailed for the day. As a prognostication of things to come, Pellissier’s VOILERIE ALL PURPOSE started fast, led the fleet first around the windward mark and took control of the championship from the kick-off! The racing was very challenging for the teams as the breeze was oscillating dramatically, with long “wind lanes” developing which created tremendous changes in fleet positions from leg-to-leg. Taking advantage of the conditions in the second race was Luc Nadal on GAN'JA taking the gun followed by Solomon’s EV CATASCHOOL in second. Ponroy’s COURIER DUNKERQUE managed to win the third and last race of the day with Alexander Jongh on TEAM VENDEE in second with Solomon’s EV CATASCHOOL in third. After day one, EV CATASCHOOL had the three best races with a 3-2-3 and led the overall standings with 8 points. COURIER DUNKERQUE 5 (12pts) was in second and VOILERIE ALL PURPOSE (13pts) third.
With gale warnings in the forecast for Saturday’s racing, it was decided the fleet of 57 boats should leave early, like 0830 hours(!), to try to get in at least two, if not three races before the monster front passed in the late afternoon. As the fleet left the harbour, the sky was dotted by heavy dark clouds interspersed with “jesus rays of sun” and plenty of breeze— at least 15-20 kts from the southwest and getting puffier by the time the fleet started the first race. To say the competitors were entertained and excited could best be described by Brieuc Oger’s twitter before the start- "Beautiful day @ NatJ80_2013 with the @ EspoirJ80 . It's days like this that make us both love sailing and boats! " The day was marked by enormous puffs of wind, "it's been awhile since we had sailed in over 30 kts of breeze in a J/80 championship,” says Gwenn Joulier! For the fourth race, the fleet was greeted by a huge rain squall and gusts well over 20 kts of breeze from the southwest. At the finish of the race 4, and surviving to tell the story, was Jaffrezic’s HEMON CAMUS IMMOBILIER taking first, followed by Pellissier’s VOILERIE ALL PURPOSE in 2nd and Nicolas Lunven’s GENERALI in 3rd.
Then, things got a bit more complicated for the fleet. Between the first two races, one boat breaks a boom and another injures a teammate who gets med-evac’d to the hospital. Then for race 5, the unruly fleet has three re-starts, the last under black flag before completing the fifth race in nasty sailing conditions. BASSSE NORMANDY CHANNEL 1, led by Maxime Cherbourg Mesnil, won the race followed by VOILERIE ALL PURPOSE in second and COURRIER DUNKIRK 5 taking 3rd; only 40 teams finished this race of the original 57 boats.
For the final race on Saturday, the skies continued to darken the the puffs get more violent. As the front approached the fleet, it was well in excess of 2o kts TWS for the first leg, with the wind shifting strongly left up the course. On the first run, everyone sets spinnakers, but a violent rain squall hits with winds blowing 30+ kts TWS and gusting over 35 kts with rapidly building seas. Visibility in the sheets of rain and wind drops nearly to zero! In this race, the “zero to hero” rule applied, with champion teams like Eric Brezellec’s champion INTERFACE CONCEPT 1 team winning quite easily, followed by Clement Commagnac’s ST CAST VITEL FENETRE in second place and taking third was Derand Mathieu’s LE HAVRE MATCH THE WORLD. Sadly, the first day leader, Salomon’s EV CATASCHOOL was dismasted and took a DNF for the sixth race.
As the last day of racing dawned on Sunday, it was quite evident there would be little chance of sailing based on the weather reports. By decision time at 0800 hrs, the RC PRO wisely cancelled racing for the day, it was already blowing a steady 25-28 kts from the west and gusting hard over 30+ kts! Waves were bursting over the dike in front of the harbor and passage to the eastern bay of Cherbourg would’ve proved nearly impossible for the fleet— it was a wise move!
The closing ceremony was hosted by the French Navy and the Mayor of Cherbourg, Jean-Michel Houllegatte. Besides the top three teams, the balance of the top five included Luc Nadal’s GAN’JA in fourth and Alexandre Jongh’s TEAM VENDEE in fifth. Plus, two special prizes were awarded: “Best Female Crew” was given to LA HAVRE- LADIES NORMANDIE team skippered by Marie Corson (19th overall) and the “Best Master’s” skipper was awarded to Pierre Follenfant (22nd overall) sailing TBS.
The French J/80 Nationals in Cherbourg was declared a success, despite the risky weather over Halloween weekend and the limited number of days for competition. The sailors all expressed their warm “thanks” to the organization, RC volunteers and PRO for their efficiency on the water to conduct six great races.
There were some great sailing videos of this year’s J/80 French Nationals, please view them here:
Day One Sailing Day Two Sailing Day Three Sailing
For more J/80 French Nationals Cherbourg sailing information