Newsletter : Tuesday 16th of May, 2017
The 11 to 14 May 2017 witnessed the unfolding of the Riva Cup, the opening act for the GC32 Racing Tour in Italy. Team France Jeune was on the start line, alongside ten other international crews. An important regatta then on this the final opportunity for the team of young racers to train before the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. We review the competition, which saw the team place 8th in the overall ranking.
The Riva Cup, a final warm-up lap before the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup
The GC32 Racing Tour is an international competition organised around a circuit comprising several legs. For the 2017 edition, it will make a stopover in five European cities, spaced out between May and October.
And what better destination to herald the start of the competition than the wonderful setting of Lake Garda? Nestled at the heart of the Alps, this stretch of water encircled by mountains offers a fantastic playing field on which to host the eleven crews racing on GC32s for the first of the Italian races of the GC32 Racing Tour, at Riva del Garda.
In this way, eleven teams set a date for the start of the Riva Cup, organised from 11 to 14 May. Among the competitors were several professional teams familiar with racing on GC32s. Two more young crews preparing for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup also stepped up to the plate: Team Tilt (Switzerland) and Team BDA (Bermuda). Substantial competition then for Team France Jeune, who was preparing for its very first international competition on the GC32. For the squad from the Filière d’Excellence Team France, it was primarily a question of one last work regatta in the run-up to the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
In addition, the race rules called for teams to race with five crew members (rather than the six who will compete during the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup). In order to prepare for the event in the best possible conditions, Team France Jeune got in some practice in this new configuration during a week-long training session off Quiberon back in April.
Three days of intense races at Riva del Garda
The eleven crews came up against the vagaries of the wind gods from the first day of sailing. Indeed, the wind failed to put in an appearance altogether on Thursday and no race could be run. Fortunately, this situation only lasted a day and then the competition was able to be fired up again on Friday.
After a timid start (9th place in the first race), the crew of Team France Jeune, led by Robin FOLLIN, quickly found its bearings within the fleet, securing a 4th, 5th and then a 3rd place in the next three races. The following day, the team continued to post a consistent performance, finishing 7th, 3rd, 4th and 6th in the four races run on Saturday. By then, Team France Jeune was lying in 5th place in the overall ranking and there was no limit to what the team could hope for in the last day of racing.
Unfortunately, from the first start signal, the team’s GC32 found itself poorly positioned:
« We headed out onto the water with the aim of winning back some places and being on the attack… During the bear away, we unfurled the gennaker just as a gust hit. It all played out very fast: I was violently ejected from the boat, as were Solune and Bruno. Timothé and Valentin managed to remain aboard. In the time it took to get my head out of the water and get a grasp of what had just happened, the boat had capsized… This type of incident brings us back down to earth and reminds us that it’s an extreme sport we’re involved in…. You have to know how to be humble! A big thank you to Team Argo (United States), who leant us a helping hand and to the medical support and the general regatta organisation, who rapidly took charge of those who were slightly wounded aboard, all now happily back on their feet,” explains Robin FOLLIN, skipper of Team France Jeune.
They were more frightened that hurt… Nevertheless, this incident signalled the end of the competition for the team.
« Our involvement in the Riva Cup was primarily a work objective, geared at dealing with constraints, which the team would be likely to encounter in competition. This is exactly what we were able to put into practice at this venue and workwise we’re very pleased with the event. Though the end result does not reflect our level on the water, we’re taking away a lot of positive elements from this competition,” says Robin FOLLIN.
Ultimately, the young racers secure 8th place overall and the podium is shared by the three Swiss crews participating in the event: Realteam, Team Tilt and ARMIN STROM Sailing Team. A stellar national performance!
It’s now time for the crew to take a bit of a breather before they attack the last – and by no means the least important – sporting event that awaits them: the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
« We’re going to have a ten-day break before we take off for Bermuda. The final debriefing in Riva was very important as it enabled everyone to be part of this same spiral, which could take us on to our final objective. Today, we are on the attack and keen to head over to Bermuda (qualification phases will take place on 15 and 16 June for Youth Team France). We’re itching to get on the start line alongside the five other AC45Fs and get down to action!” concludes Robin FOLLIN.
Three questions for Baptiste MEYER, coach from the French Sailing Federation:
What is your analysis of the team’s performance in the Riva Cup?
« There are some positive and some not so positive elements. There was a real need for this working regatta so the team could familiarise itself with flying boats in close-contact phases like the starts or the mark roundings. It’s not an easy exercise and can be very overwhelming. As such, it’s par for the course that there were some failings against the teams who are used to racing on the GC32 circuit. As soon as the crew has room to manoeuvre, we can see that the work over the winter has paid off as they’re posting some decent performances, regularly picking off the competition.”
What are the final elements the team needs to work on?
« They’re heading off to Bermuda in ten days’ time and will have to prepare themselves for another exercise in style aboard a boat (AC45F) on which all the teams have sailed for a maximum of seven days. That will put everyone back on an equal footing in terms of knowledge of the craft. The team will have to quickly get a feel for the boat to continue to raise its game in the start and contact phases. In Italy, they didn’t come close to showing the crew’s potential.”
What advice have you given them?
« Whether it’s individually or collectively, we’ve strongly advised them to be even more rigorous as the boats they sail on are very demanding and very fragile. They mustn’t leave any room for doubt or approximation. They have a month and a half left, during which time we’ll require their full commitment so as they can make the very best of this unique experience that awaits them. »
Photo credit : Emmanuel DUCLOS / Easy Ride