The venue is only a tack or two from the base where the French have built their latest radical challenger for the Louis Vuitton Cup elimination series, which starts in Auckland in October.
Yesterday their trial horse was one of eight identical water-ballasted 80ft Maxi One Designs but it was beaten in the first of a pair of windward- leeward races by Ross Field. The Kiwi former winner of the Whitbread round the world Race, which has now become the Volvo Race, had no trouble outwitting the French in the 12-15 knot north-easterly breeze, which needed tacticians to be alert to take best advantage of its shifts on the south Brittany coast side of the course.
Field, and his helmsman Steve Cotton, were kept busy attacking the man who led most of the race, another Whitbread veteran and skipper of Sweden's 1992 America's Cup Challenge, Gunnar Krantz. But Krantz lost the plot on the last of three windward legs, and then dropped from second to fourth behind South Africa's Geoff Meek on the final run which allowed the French, skippered by Bertrand Pace, to slip through to second.
They were second again early in the next race as Ludde Ingvall, the series leader, powered to the front. But the Portuguese-based, Finnish-born, Swedish national, who is sailing under a Europe flag, could not hold Pace. Field also attacked and held the lead briefly, but the French were not to be denied the cheers of a home crowd waiting on a finish line set well inside the outer harbour.
Pace duly took the evening gun, followed by Field and Ingvall and sailed triumphantly to the inner harbour dock which is hosting an event that, when all seven are completed, will be worth pounds 150,000 to the winner.Reuse content