Panerai Transat Classique : A deserving winner

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

White Dolphin takes the second leg of the Panerai Transat Classique 2012. The competitors are now turning their attention to the main event, a race across the Atlantic to Barbados. Proceedings start 2 December.

Sailing on the Mediterranean in late autumn is always a challenge, and one that many sailors decline to take up. So here was an opportunity for the crews in the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 to demonstrate their determination and tactical prowess and, of course, put their charges through their paces—and don’t forget one of the yachts was over eighty years old! One of their number, the winner of this testing and eventful leg, ran an exemplary race. White Dolphin, the 1967 ketch belonging to Pascal Stefani, endured a roller-coaster ride but her crew, led by skipper Yann Delplace, never stopped believing. After the fleet was forced to stop off in Barcelona to avoid the fury of the storm threatening to sweep across the race route, White Dolphin saw her opponents get a five hour head start while she was stuck in port receiving essential repairs. But thanks to some fine navigating and inspired tactical choices, the big white ketch came storming back into the race which she ended up winning in real and corrected times. Another performance which requires respect was that of Corto, a 1970 Carter design owned by Hacène Abbar. Her crew gave it their best all the way to the line.

Knocked about by some very heavy weather, Sea Lion and The Blue Peter were forced to withdraw and finish the leg under power despite being leaders in the early stages.

In a few days’ time the boats of the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 will be mooring up in Cascais, the home of Portuguese yachting, where they will have barely one month to prepare for the main event: a race across the Atlantic to the Caribbean island of Barbados. In the coming weeks the crews will analyse their performances in the legs from Douarnenez and Saint-Tropez in the hope of gaining some precious advantage over their competitors. But before these stylish thoroughbreds set forth once again into the fray, they will first be taking part in an elegant parade on the Tagus which will take them to the foot of the Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon. Local schoolchildren will be given the opportunity to discover the world of yachting heritage and follow, from the warmth of their classrooms, the progress of these superb sailing boats as they cross the Atlantic in a few weeks’ time. Children in Barbados will also be getting involved and keeping track of their favourites.

In the meantime the crews will be enjoying some great events ashore, in particular the grand dinner which will be the occasion for the winners of the second leg to receive their prize. The crew of White Dolphin will be awarded a sumptuous barometer made by the watchmakers Panerai, the event's main sponsor, as well as the Bailli de Suffren sabre from the town of Saint-Tropez. The final leg of the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 will be starting on 2 December. Follow the race in real time at

Pascal Stefani, owner of White Dolphin and winner of the Saint-Tropez to Cascais leg, reflects on the events of the last few days:

“The race was an emotional roller-coaster. We left Saint-Tropez in a rush (Editor’s note: professional commitments meant that the owner and some of the crew arrived barely an hour before the starting gun was fired). The light winds at the start of the race gradually picked up, eventually forcing the race committee to suspend proceedings. It was a good idea while there was still time. We encountered our first major problem on the approach to Barcelona when we lost our propeller. Then it was a race against time to find a new one, lift the boat out of the water and carry out the repairs. In the end we left Barcelona five hours after the rest of the fleet and we weren’t optimistic about our chances. But then we received a sort of sign. The wind was on our quarter so we set our big black spinnaker which bears a white dolphin. Then four dolphins appeared out of nowhere and stayed with us for a good couple of hours, and before we knew it we had made up at least half of the distance between us and the rest of the pack. Later, we had to face all sorts of conditions, from the deadest of calms to 45 knot winds. But the atmosphere aboard was excellent throughout, the most important factor being for the crew to keep faith in their colleagues and, above all, the skipper. The other secret is to eat well because it keeps moral high. This leg was useful preparation for the forthcoming Atlantic crossing, both for the boat and her crew. And we got a win too. That's great."

See Classic Boats > Transat Classique images

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 November 2012 )