Text: Vincent Gillioz
The 2011 season will without a doubt be engraved in the memory of all the Vulcain Trophy competitors. For the first time since their launch in 2004, the Decision 35 tasted sea water in the Mediterranean. The icing on the cake, these two Med events followed five other Lake Geneva meetings which were as exciting as ever.
New teams, new format
Looking at the line-up, ten competitors took part in the Championship, including three new crews. Michel Desjoyeaux took over from Alain Gautier on Foncia. The Geneva Regatta Training Centre (CER) had lined up a boat helmed by Jérôme Clerc, after having given up the idea of a participation in the Tour de France à la Voile. Artemis Racing, representing Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Swedish challenge for the America’s Cup, had once more decided to come and play with the kings of Lake Geneva. Led by Paul Cayard (the 34th America’s Cup Challenge of Record’s skipper), the team’s objective was to acquire maximum multihull experience.
Most of the circuit’s regulars were present. So Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi, Nicolas Grange’s Okalys-Corum, Marco Simeoni’s Veltigroup, Guy de Picciotto’s Zen Too, Philippe Cardis’s De Rham Sotheby’s, Fred Moura’s Nickel and of course Dona Bertarelli’s Ladycat were on the start line of the first meeting of the season, the Grand-Prix Les Ambassadeurs by the Beau-Rivage Palace.
With the new formula, the regatta started with a rallying leg between Ouchy and Geneva, then went on with races in front of the SNG. The weather unfortunately did not allow for sailing by the Beau-Rivage Palace so the fleet finally started this first confrontation from the bay of Rolle, on May 6th.
Artemis Racing, the class’s freshman, helmed by Paul Cayard, was the surprising winner of the coastal leg. The CER boat then also showed that it was possible for a team to make its mark without a lot of training. Jérôme Clerc and his team won at the end of the six legs on the small lake. Alinghi finished second just one little point behind, ahead of Artemis Racing, on this first meeting with relatively little wind.
The Championship continued with the Realstone Cup, raced between May 20 and 22 in Crans. The meeting ended in light and fickle winds with Foncia’s victory. Only one race could be completed on the Saturday and four on the Sunday. Alinghi, which won the first regatta, lost its momentum and Foncia and CER both won two legs. Veltigroupfinished third, showing great regularity.
The Yacht Club of Geneva’s Classic race, -the famous Geneva-Rolle-Geneva- was the third event of the season. For the occasion, Pierre-Yves Firmenich’s Ylliam could not help but join the fleet on this essential June event. The first half of the race took place in very light airs, until the breeze finally blew on the last part of the course, between Nyon and La Tour Carrée. Although Foncia managed to keep the lead from the beginning to the end, other competitors played a “your turn, my turn” game during the different weather changes. Michel Desjoyeaux quite logically won, Artemis Racing and Veltigroup completing the podium. Fred Mourra was also able to make the best of the difficult conditions and finished fourth, just in front of Alinghi.
The Sogeti Cup followed the Geneva-Rolle, so as to optimize the weekends devoted to racing. The wind was much more sustained for those two days of particularly intense racing, off Bellevue. On that occasion, the Decision 35 competed the season’s best meeting. Veltigroup performed superbly, finishing four out of the six races on the podium, followed by Artemis Racing, Foncia and Okalys-Corum.
The ultimate Geneva Lake meeting before moving to the Med, the Bol d’Or Mirabaud was feared by all. All crews remembered the two previous editions, almost devoid of wind. Fortunately, a Southwest wind started blowing on the morning of the big day and the 500-competitor fleet was finally able to set off at high speed towards Le Bouveret. Well, heavy rain did come and spoil the fun a bit, but in the view of all participants, a wet and windy start is far better than a sunny one with no wind. In the end, Alinghi, -already in the lead in Le Bouveret- made no mistake and won at the end of a totally mad race. Ernesto Bertarelli resisted all attacks by his pursuers and crossed the line first, just four minutes ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux.
The Finale at sea
The onshore teams then dismantled the boats to organize the transport to the Mediterranean. Nine competitors met in Beaulieu Sur Mer early September for a first confrontation at sea, and Alinghi proved to be as comfortable at sea as on the Lake. Bertarelli and his team won five out of the ten races of the meeting.
The Grand Finale was finally held in Antibes late September. Three teams could still theoretically win the Vulcain Trophy going into it. The meeting took place in light winds, quite typical of the region. Although Zen Too troubled its contenders on the first day, Foncia soon was back in the driving seat with two wins at the end of the four days of racing: the Grand Prix and the Vulcain Trophy. CER, which certainly made a name for itself several times during the season, finished second, Zen Too completing this prestigious podium. For the Championship, Alinghi was second in front of Veltigroup.
Satisfied with their season, the teams returned to their home ports with plenty of memories. The Mediterranean experience will not be repeated in 2012, but in everyone’s opinion, it will remain engraved in the history of this unique Championship.