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Fast start on the cards for opening leg of Route des Princes


A fast run to Lisbon, even though the wind strength will be relatively light, was in prospect for the eight-strong fleet of trimarans as they left Valencia on the opening leg of the inaugural Route des Princes.

First, though, they put in a 60-mile hitch north to a turning point off Benicarlo to signify a link between an agricultural region specialising in artichokes at the start and the finish port of Morlaix, which claims the same distinction in Brittany. The race is sponsored by a French agricultural co-operative. Food and drink will be featured at the stopover race villages.

The 3,000 miles in between will be hard fought, particularly among the four MOD70s, who were led off the start line by Oman Air-Musandam, skippered by a Frenchman, Sidney Gavignet, with two top lieutenants, Englishman Neal McDonald and Ireland’s Damian Foxall.

The fresh breeze made for a lickety-spit opening to an 800-mile leg with plenty of traps along the way, including the Straits of Gibraltar, before picking up what they hope will be steadier winds going up the coast of Spain to Portugal.

It also provided some consolation for being tail-end charlies in a series of six inshore races won by Sébastien Josse in the Gitana team’s Edmond de Rothschild, giving him 10 points. Yann Guichard had flown down from Switzerland to resume skipper duties carried out by Xavier Revil during the inshore forays and taking Spindrift to second.

Third was talent-loaded Virbac-Paprec where Jean-Pierre Dick, Vincent Riou and Roland Jourdain form the nautical equivalent of the three tenors, though they are still learning how to squeeze the best from their new boat. Dick and Jourdain will also be partners in the Transat Jacques Vabre across the Atlantic from Le Havre to Itajai, Brazil, starting 3 November.

After Lisbon, where the three 50-foot trimarans will be restored to four entries as they are joined by Gilles Lamiré having been delayed in Lorient to fit a new alternator, they race to Dublin via the Fastnet Rock. Conditions at the time will dictate if they then attempt to break the round Ireland record of 44 hours as part of the leg to Plymouth with the final dash being across the English Channel.