Diam 24: special Diam weekend in Pornichet
The second event of the season, the Pornichet Grand Prix might appear to be a rerun of the Spi Ouest France. However, it will in fact be nothing of the sort, as much as a result of the rising number of entries as the specificity of the programme, which is adapted to this new one-design class.
Amidst the technical courses, the coastal courses as well as and above all the `marine stadium' races, the 24 registered crews are sure to enjoy themselves as they tack their way along the largest beach in Europe. Second in La Trinité sur Mer, south-west Brittany, over Easter weekend, the crew of Groupama 24 led by Pierre Pennec is determined to remain on the podium or even shift things up a gear as Franck Cammas prepares for the Sailing World Cup in Hyères, southern France, within the context of his preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio where he will team up with Sophie de Turckheim on the Nacra 17.
In the Spi Ouest, the 17 Diam 24 entries adapted to the race format, which is the same for all the boats, large and small alike, monohulls or multihulls. In Pornichet, western France, the Grand Prix Atlantique organised by the APCC is for the first time offering a similar programme to that of the upcoming Tour de France à la Voile.
Highly comprehensive in terms of course types, this Grand Prix will crown the crew that excels at the round-the-cans racing, the fairly long coastal courses and also the short courses set along the beach, close to the crowds around La Baule, who will have a front row seat to admire the dexterity of the event's major champions.
At the helm of Groupama 24, Pierre Pennec is itching to get out on the water: "I love this type of inshore racing and its intensity. This is where I feel alive, where my heart really starts pumping. You need to have your eyes wide open and react quickly in the contact phases".
Well-versed in this type of exercise during his previous experience on the Extreme Sailing Series in the colours of both Gitana and the AC 45, Pennec, is a sailor who lets his instinct do the talking. "This type of race isn't necessarily well suited to rational people. Here, the pace is so fast that you don't always have time to think. You have to decide in the moment. With Arnaud Jarlegan, he too a former Extreme 40 and AC45 sailor, the new race rules are very familiar. You also have the ability to anticipate the contact phases so as you end up in a favourable position. In a race such as this, you have to put up a consistent performance. There's not much point in winning one leg if you end up out of the running in the next," continues the skipper of Groupama, who adds: "Arnaud, Quentin and I get on well with each other. We're rigorous but we retain a smile".
What might be considered to be a detail - this good understanding - certainly won't be given the race programme on offer: "To compete in three technical courses after a 40-mile coastal course in 20 knots of breeze, you have to fight hard. Conditions will very quickly sort out the physically well-prepared teams and the others", Pennec continues.
For the first day of the race, Friday, light airs are forecast: "We saw during training sessions under the legendary Marc Bouet in Pornichet that the deficits are very small when there is less than 10 knots of breeze. Sidney Gavignet's Oman Team was quick. It didn't compete at the Spi, so it'll be interesting to see the likes of François Gabart mid race, as well as Banque Populaire and Armel Le Cléach. There is also a certain Quentin Delapierre to replace Thomas Coville on Sodebo" concludes the skipper of Groupama.
However things pan out, through until Sunday sailing enthusiasts everywhere can head to the fabulous beach of La Baule, from where a number of champions have hailed and put in their first tacks.: the Pajot brothers, Marc Bouet and also the Peyron brothers, And who knows, perhaps they'll cross tacks with their successors...
The crew of Groupama 24 at the Grand Prix de l'Atlantique:
• Pierre Pennec, helmsman and tactician
• Quentin Ponroy, trimmer
• Arnaud Jarlegan, trimmer
The 24 entries:
1. 30 Corsaires (Alexia Barrier)
2. Agrival (Pauline Chalaux)
3. Armor Lux - Comptoir de la Mer (Erwan Tabarly)
4. Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac'h)
5. CombiWest (Frédéric Guilmin)
6. Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm)
7. Courrier Choc (Pierre-Loïc Berthet)
8. Dynamique Voile (Emeric Dary)
9. GDF SUEZ (Sébastien Rogues)
10. Grandeur Nature Vérandas (Frédéric Duthil)
11. Groupama (Pierre Pennec)
12. Macif (François Gabart)
13. Made in Midi (Kito de Pavant)
14. Oman Sail (Gilles Favennec)
15. PRB (Vincent Riou)
16. Prince de Bretagne (Lionel Lemonchois)
17. Radio Vinci Autoroutes (Jean-Baptiste Gellée)
18. Sodebo (Daniel Souben)
19. Spindrift Black (Yann Guichard)
20. Spindrift White (Xavier Revil)
21. Vannes Agglo Golfe du Morbihan (Matthieu Salomon)
22. Votre Plus Long Périple (Loïc Fequet)
23. West Courtage Ecole Navale (Simon Moriceau)
24. Zephyr (Charles Hainneville)
Photo : Yvan Zedda/Groupama