At the end of week-long battle, the France Red team conclusively claimed the overall Commodores’ Cup victory with an astounding 62-point lead...

At the end of week-long battle, the France Red team conclusively claimed the overall Commodores’ Cup victory with an astounding 62-point lead…

The France Red team added fuel to the fire when they posted the best score in the Line 7 short inshore race without really having the need to compete on the final day of the Rolex Commodores’ Cup. Their overall margin was 62.5 points clear of the Netherlands with another 34.74 points ahead of the England Red Team.

Throughout the regatta, the France Red team has sailed confidently and with precision, led by former winner of the RORC’s Yacht of the Year, Courrier Nord, an IMX-40, skippered by Gery Trentesaux. He was admirably backed by another IMX-40, Eric Fries’ Fastwave 3 and the X-442, Clin d’Oeil of Jean-Yves le Goff.

On the final day, Clin D’Oeil was second, Fastwave 3 fourth and Courrier Nord ninth. The next best score, by the Commonwealth team, was eight places lower. It was a demonstration of the strength of this French team, sailing boats which were very much in keeping with the Corinthian spirit of the event. ‘I’m racing my own boat,’ said Trentesaux, ‘it’s my pleasure to steer her.’

There was twelve knots of south-westerly breeze for the last race of the series and it was held in the Eastern Solent and, as usual, the fleet was over eager to be underway, causing a general recall. At the second attempt, with code flag “Z” flying to indicate an unhealthy penalty for any transgressor, the start was clean. Peter Morton’s Mandrake (Ireland Orange) with Stuart Childerley behind the wheel, made a perfectly timed start at the left hand end of the line.

From the middle of the line, Peter Harrison’s Chernikeeff 2 (Commonwealth) was early to show and the 52 footer was soon spearheading the fleet. At the first mark, Chernikeeff 2 led by 30 seconds from Kit Hobday and Tim Louis’s Bear of Britain (England Red) with Mark Campbell-James steering, just five seconds clear of Mandrake. The big boat fleet was having its own race.

Behind the big boats was a highly aggressive pack of Ker 11.3s led by Nick Harrison’s Natti Vee (Commonwealth) and her team-mate Blue Belle, chartered by Tony Clare. Then came Charles Dunstone’s Communicator (Ireland Orange), a 42 foot Corby design splitting the Ker II.3s, before Fair Do’s V (England Blue), I-Site (Wales), Kerisma (England Red), and El Gringo (England Blue). The three French boats were among the next group and it was noticeable how cautious their rounding of this and the other marks were on this race; they were determined not to foul.

Two runs and two beats later, the order had changed among the smaller boats although in the bigger ones Mandrake had managed to hold on sufficiently to beat all the Farr 52s on corrected time. Blue Belle was the corrected time winner from Clin d’Oeil with El Gringo in third place, ahead of Fastwave 3. Mandrake was fifth and Courrier Nord ninth.

‘We were surprised to win,’ said Trentesaux, ‘and we were surprised it was so easy. We thought the England Red and Wales teams would be good as we were impressed by the speed of the Farr 52s, but while they are good in IRM events, they are not as dominant in IRC racing.’

Trentesaux had assessed the strength of possible opposition when he came to Britain to race in the IRC National Championship and must have gone home with a feeling that he could put together a strong team as he had won that championship in June. ‘We thought we would be good in strong breezes and were none to happy when we saw the forecasts at the beginning of the week.’

He admitted that they had tried from the start to adopt a team strategy, even before the team was finalised. ‘We knew Courrier Nord and Fastwave 3 would be picked, but it was not until after the [RORC’s] Dinard Race that Clin d’Oeil was invited to the team.’ He has kept the same crew for several years and was happy to have been able to do so. He says that they are as much a part of his success as the boat.

Using IRC for this event was a sealing factor in the appearance of the two French teams. ‘We have many IRC owners in France who do not wish to build extreme boats,’ he said, ‘but despite this, and possibly as a result of our success, the French will try next year to organise an Admiral’s Cup team.’

‘This has been a great week,’ enthused Trentesaux, ‘the organisation and the beer have been extremely good. The feeling and the spirit are very good. We will be back in 2004 to defend the Cup.’

Kate Maudslay