by Anne Hinton
Spi OuestFrance - Intermarché 2013 was one of the coldest on record, termed "glacial" by the locals in La Trinité. Single figure temperatures together with a significant wind-chill factor from the stiff northeasterly breezes made it "Southern Ocean" weather.
There were eight entrants in the hotly-contested M34 class. Courrier Dunkerque 3 and Groupama 34 had trained together for some weeks prior to the event, initially in Lorient and then at La Trinité. While France's current ISAF-top match racer, Pierre-Antoine Morvan, was on the Daniel Souben-helmed Courrier Dunkerque 3 from Friday for the inshore races, Franck Cammas and his crew had just won the French National Match Racing Championships, and the Thomas Coville-led Sodeb'O M34 crew had former top French international match racers Mathieu Richard and Damien Iehl on board; all formidable names from the sport in France.
Groupama 34. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Groupama.
The weather commenced cold, wet and relatively windy, and became more windy as the weekend wore on. However, the sun made an appearance on Easter Sunday and April Fools' Day, Monday. Although this did not improve the temperatures, it certainly coincided with an improvement in the results of the Oman Sail M34, who won a race on the Sunday.
Daniel Souben's team on Courrier Dunkerque 3 started as they meant to go on - with a race win in the opening distance race on Thursday. Sodebo was second in this race, and Groupama 34 third.
M34 race start at Spi-Ouest 2013. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Groupama.
The Friday saw a torn spinnaker for the Groupama 34 team, which led to them missing two races as the rules required that they return to the pontoon to change the kite and the race officer did not wait for them to come back with a new sail before sending the fleet off again. Following this set-back, in true Cammas style, they returned with a race win! However, in their absence, Courrier Dunkerque 3 had notched up two more race wins!! Meanwhile, Friday was a day of consistency for Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite, with three fourth places, leaving them in - fourth overall.
On Saturday, Courrier Dunkerque 3 showed her consistency, notching up two race wins and a second place to Groupama 34's 2-4-3. The final race of the day saw the fleet anxious to get away - no doubt to get home to the warm. Both Sodebo and Oman Sail were disqualified under the Black Flag rule. At this point it seemed to be a three-way fight for second overall between Groupama 34, Sodebo and Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite.
Groupama 34 in rough conditions at Spi-Ouest. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Groupama.
Sunday brought brighter conditions. Groupama 34 was the top boat of the day, with 1-3-1, and Oman Sail shone as the second highest scorer on the day, with 3-1-2. The scorecards started to space out.
Easter Monday, 1st April, had the sunniest weather of the weekend regatta. Groupama 34 was again the top scoring boat of the day with a 3-1, while both Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite and Oman Sail had the misfortune to score OCS on the last race, following second and fourth places, respectively, in the first race of the day.
Close racing in the M34s at Spi-Ouest 2013. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Groupama.
Courrier Dunkerque 3 was able to rest on her laurels on the final day of racing, and scored a fifth and second. The fifth place meant that, in races completed, she had slightly lower consistency than the Groupama 34 team, as their worst was a fourth place in the regatta, but these two teams gave notice to all the rest that they are the ones to beat this season, both in the lead up to, and the Tour de France à la Voile itself.
Overall M34 Results
1. Courrier Dunkerque 3 D. Souben 27 points
2. Groupama 34 F. Cammas 43 points
3. Sodebo T. Coville 57 points
4. Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite N. Troussel 61 points
5. Oman Sail C. Pouligny 66 points
6. Ile de France A. Roig 73 points
7. Ville de Geneve - Carrefour Addiction E. Mettreux 73 points
8. Nantes - Saint Nazaire - E. LeClerc C. Douguet 88 points
Spi OuestFrance - Intermarché