May 26, 2008 - #91
Saint Barth Athletes In The Spotlight
Transat ag2r Concarneau-St-Barth
The start of the 9th edition of the Transat ag2r took place on April 20, 2008 in The Bay of Biscay (Brittany, France). The only race on identical boats—all 31-foot Figaro Bénéteau sailboats—the fleet set out for Saint Barth and a three-week transatlantic voyage.
This year, 30 boats were on the starting line. The two-sailor teams included Figaro racing regulars such as Erwan Tabarly, Nicolas Troussel, and Antoine Koch, who returned to the Figaro circuit after two years of racing aboard multi-hulls. Other noted duos: Dominic Vittet/Armel Tripon, Thierry Chabagny/ Corentin Douguet, and also well-known skippers such as Jean Le Cam and teammate Gildas Morvan, who raced in the Transat for the sixth time, plus Bertrand de Broc with Joe Seeten as co-skipper. Eric Drouglazet, another regular holds the record with nine entries (every edition of the race). On of the surprises this year was the appearance of Englishman Phil Sharp—winner of the 2006 Route de Rhum—back in the Figaro Bénéteau 2 class, with his co-skipper, Czech sailor David Krizec (who came in third in the Mini 2007 series and has an eye on the 2008 Olympics). The women in the race included Jeanne Grégoire, Liz Wardley, and for the first time Elodie Riou.
An island resident for over 25 years, 57 year-old Luc Poupon participated in the Transat for the fifth time this year. A seasoned sailor, this Brittany native has navigated all the seas of the globe alongside the most well-known sailors: Florence Arthaud, Marc Guillemot, Jean Le Cam, Eric Tabarly, and of course his brother, Philou. He can no longer count the number of international races he has done (Transat Jacques Vabre, Fasnet, Tour of Europe, Whitbread aboard Pen Duick VI, Admiral Cup, Québec-St-Malo…) and he also participates in the Figaro circuit and many different Caribbean regattas (Heineken Regatta, Swan Rolex Cup, etc.). Aboard the trimaran, Fleury Michon 8, he beat the transatlantic racing record in 1987. For the 2008 edition of the Transat ag2r, he opted to sail Ronan Guérin from La Rochelle (a 35 year-old professional sailor from France who lives in Saint Martin with this wife, and who knows the Port of Gustavia rather well as this marked his fifth entry into the Transat). Although they were sailing together for the first time, the two sailors knew and admired each other for quite some time, having frequently sailed in the same races.
Miguel Danet and Eric PéronAboard boat number 79, which was flying the colors of Concarneau and St. Barthélémy, the duo of Miguel Danet and Eric Péron symbolized the alliance of these two ports as the hosts of this famous race. At the age of 23, Danet—a young sailor from Corossol—participated in the Transat for the first time. He has been a professional skipper aboard a catamaran based in Saint Barth for the past two years, and learned to sail in the island’s sailing school at the Saint Barth Yacht Club in Public. His racing record includes the Martinique Laser Championship in 2001, and the French Laser Championship the following year. He finished ninth in the Mini-Med in 2004.
A sailor from the Finistere region of France, Eric Péron started sailing on small boats before graduating to First Class 8 and Mumm 30. He participated in the Transat for the first time in 2004, and then sailed in the Générali Solo. For the past four years, this 27 year-old sailor has flirted with high-level international racing: Fasnet and Nieuwpoort Channel Race on a 60-footer, and has participated in numerous solo events and team races in the Figaro Circuit.
In The Bay of Biscay, the fleet spread out in longitude as they decided which direction to take as far as the buoy at Maderia. After three boats abandoned the race, the 28 duos still on course had to choose the classic northern route across the Atlantic, or opt for a more daring route to the south, as they all sought to reach the trade winds. While the majority of the boats stayed to the north as they headed to Saint Barth, those who were daring enough to head south seemed to be falling behind. However, the pendulum began to swing when the winds in the north never materialized and those to the south found themselves in a better position of attack as they approached Saint Barth… and win the race.
Luc Poupon, Jean-Paul Mouren,
Laurent Pellecuer and Ronan Guérin
On may 13 at 3:55am, after 22 days and 19 hours at sea, the team SNEF et Cliptol Sport, with skipper Jean-Paul Mouren and Laurent Pellecuer, crossed the finish line in Gustavia, followed at 7:45am by the team of Luc Poupon/Ronan Guérin. Just 24 minutes later, Concarneau/St-Barth, skippered by Miguel Danet and Eric Péron, anchored at the Quai Général de Gaulle, with a large, enthusiastic crowd on hand to welcome them. Cercle Vert and Banque Populaire, having followed a more central route, came in fourth and fifth. Financo, the first of the northern boats, came in 13th, 29 hours after the winner. The last boat crossed the finish line on May 15 at 7:13am, with David Krizek and Phil Sharp, who had stuck to the northern route the longest and lost. The record time for the race established by Kito de Pavant and Pietro d’Ali in 2006—20 days, 8 hours, 49 minutes and 3 seconds—still stands.
Final results for the race: www.transat-ag2r.com
Antoine Questel Tops The List In French Windsurfing Championship
While Saint Barth awaited the arrival of its sailors in the ag2r, another native son was completing his season of windsurfing with the French Championships in La Rochelle. For the past eight years, Antoine has been among the five top windsurfers of his generation and represented France in international competitions. On May 10 and 11, he won the second leg of the French championship, a challenge considered good training for the European championships in July.
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More to come