One racer's rain-off is another's boost as crews set off on cross-Atlantic contest


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The Independent Online

Fast, fast, fast was the prediction from all five skippers as they left New York for the Krys ocean race across the Atlantic to Brittany as sailors were set to profit from the same, basic meteorological factors that were causing such problems for Formula One drivers at Silverstone on today.

Less easy to predict was which of the five would be first and how successful this launch of a cost-conscious grand prix-style of yacht racing will prove to be.

In theory, the first man to campaign the Multi One Design trimaran, Stève Ravussin, should benefit from having more time on the water. In theory, Michel Desjoyeaux, one of the brightest stars in the French firmament, should outwit his rivals. In a continuing theory, Yann Guichard and his impressive crew should be able to push hardest, and in the same mould Sébastien Josse could expect to be up front.

The only crew saying that it will be taking things more cautiously is the one on Sidney Gavignet’s Oman Sail, though even there, the American Ryan Breymaier, standing in for the injured Loik Gallon, was starting his seventh transatlantic crossing, Gavignet his 21st, and his right hand man, Britain’s Brian Thompson has way over 30 on his CV.

None of the 30 crew on the identically built and equipped boats would see themselves as pilgrim fathers in reverse, bringing a new culture for modern yacht racing, but the mantra of the Krys – racing on even terms – fits well with the second decade of the 21st century when even possible sponsors making solid profits are cautious about being extravagant. The same conditions affect the reformulated Volvo Ocean Race.

Both need critical mass and, while Volvo boss Knut Frostad is building an opening eight of the 65-foot one design monohull, his MOD70 counterpart Franck David says he is confident he will have 12 on the start for a round the world race starting in October 2013, a year ahead of the next Volvo.

He also hopes for seven or eight on the next European tour – the first starts at the end of this August – and is casting his net as far apart as the United States and China. “The project is growing more slowly in difficult economic times, but it is growing step by step. We think the concept is right,” he said watching the fleet depart from its North Cove marina base at the bottom of New York’s financial centre.

Not many of the joggers and cyclists stopping to take a look could understand the announcements in French; many thousands who will in Brest for the Festival of the Sea will know exactly what is happening if it arrives, as predicted, on next weekend’s Bastille Day.

Kenny Read’s Puma won the final act in Galway of the Volvo round the world race and so gave his American team the consolation prize as overall winners of the inshore race series. Second on the day, and overall, was the New Zealand-managed Spanish entry Camper, skippered by Australian Chris Nicholson.

In Marstrand, Bjorn Hansen won the Stena Cup in the World Match Race Tour after knocking out Britain’s defending world champion Ian Williams and Team GAC Pindar in their semi-final and then going on to beat the veteran Peter Gilmour in the final. Williams beat New Zealand’s Phil Robertson to take third place and goes on to the Chicago regatta this week.