The Tour de France à la Voile competitors are preparing for the start of their next offshore leg which is scheduled to start later this afternoon

The Tour de France à la Voile 2002 fleet of Mumm 30s are on their way to the St-Nazaire startline for their next offshore race which starts later this afternoon.

The 98-mile race from St-Nazaire down the Vendée coast to La Rochelle course will start at 1700 and, according to Isabelle Autissier, navigator onboard leading boat Région Ile de France, it will be once again pretty much a speed race. “The start will be most important as we’ll be sailing upwind and will have to play with the current. It will be important to be in the leading pack right from the start as after that it will be more or less a speed race with not many opportunities to come back in the race,” explained Autissier who has a good local. “It could be tricky near l’Ile d’Yeu as the course will force us to sail really close to the island. There might be a little tactical issue there. L’Ile de Ré shouldn’t be too tricky as we’ll leave it to starboard,” added the former round the world single-hander.

Alain Fédensieu, project manager of Marseille, is sailing on this leg and says pretty much the same as Autissier: “It will be a fast race and everything will be decided during the first 25 miles, between the start and Les Boeufs. Therefore, it’ll be crucial to be in the race right away. It might be a little tricky at l’Ile d’Yeu and towards the finish, but apart from that it will be straight and fast,” said Alain Fédensieu.

Round the world navigator, Larry Rosenfeld has stepped on British amateur boat Royal Thames and commented: “I’m very excited about it. I spent last year in France with The Race and was looking forward for a chance to come back. The Tour de France à la Voile is a quite spectacular event and everything I’ve heard about it is true.”

Mike Broughton, navigator onboard Panther Team GBR also commented on the forthcoming race: “It will be another upwind race. The crucial part will be in the middle of the islands with tricky wind bends and shadows.” The crew onboard the British boat will be the same as for the last offshore race. Rob Greenhalgh and Mark Rushall swapping over at the helm and doing the tactics along with Mike Broughton.