British Olympic sailors take on French Mumm 30s

Weymouth Olympians Chris Draper and Hugh Styles have just arrived back from achieving a bronze podium position at the Mumm 30 Route Des Isles regatta in France, where they sailed together on board the top-ranked British boat, ‘Asterix’.

Event winners, ‘Le Defi Partage’ (winners of last year’s Tour Voile) sailed consistently throughout the whole regatta to clinch first place. Second and third were hotly contested, but it was ‘Coch y Hyeres’ who just beat the fast-improving British boat ‘Asterix’ by one point.

Draper, 26, who won a bronze medal in Athens in the 49er class, said: “We are pleased as we showed moments of brilliance.” Styles, who represented Britain in the Tornado in the 2000 Sydney Games added: “We beat the boat which won the Tour de France de la Voile this year, which is always a hotly contested event.”

The Route Des Isles was beset by the French mistral wind that blew from the second day of the regatta, just in time for the coastal race. The first reach turned into a succession of broaches for a number of the teams as they tried to pass to windward of a rocky outcrop in a steadily increasing Force 5-6. This was not the only thrill for the week as, in an attempt to get another coastal race sailed, the fleet were sent out early to get a race completed before the mistral kicked in. However, the wind strength increased significantly, resulting in a forced abandonment — the boats were being blown faster sideways and than they could sail forwards in the 38kt gusts!

The French organisers did a fantastic job with both the sailing and social events – the 30-strong fleet of Mumm 30s were parked in pride of place in the centre of Marseille Marina on the town quay with the record-breaking 120ft catamaran, ‘Orange’ parked just next door. The races were a mixture of inshore windward/leeward courses and some passage races around the islands situated down the coast.

This was the first time the duo has raced together and, for some members of the crew, it was also their first offshore racing. Styles concluded: “The team gelled together well and we steadily improved throughout the regatta. By the end of the event we were only one point from finishing second overall, which was great, but a little disappointing too.”