Russell Coutts & co prove their America's Cup form

Team New Zealand on Sun Microsystems has easily won the first two legs of the Tour de France a la Voile 1999. Good starts, good tactics. .. Russell Coutts and his crew have impressed all the spectators of these two short runs raced off Scheveningen beach with a south-south west wind (15 knots).

The change of the course decided by the race comittee during the first run confused some of the boats which ended up sailing upwind towards the downwind mark! French skipper Marc Emig on In Extremis who was second at the first upwind mark suddenly found himself at the back of the fleet. The lucky one was Jimmy Pahun on Region Ile de France. Realising early enough what was happening he quickly dropped his spinnaker, tacked and managed to place his boat in the track of Team New Zealand crossing the finish line second.

The wind had slightly blown up before the start of the second leg. After a general recall, the race comittee decided to set up the black flag. Team South Africa, which was about to make a premature start had to pull away to avoid Armor Lux and unfortunately dragged the start buoy with them. Disqualified, South African skipper Dave Foord and his team had to head back to the harbour.

The swiss boat Ville de Geneve Carrefour Prevention helmed by Jean-Marc Monnard (8m JI World Champion in 1998) raced perfectly all the way through the second leg finishing second and was first amateur of the day. The Belgian Mumm 30 of Luc Dewulf helmed by American Dee Smith has done a good jod crossing the finish line fourth in the first leg and third in the second leg. It was a beautiful display today in Scheveningen with a tight racing, so tight in fact that there are a few protests that the jury will have to sort out tonight.

Tomorrow the fleet of the 30 Mumm 30 will leave at 0800 on the first offshore race of this Tour de France a la Voile. They will be expected in the evening in Oostende (Belgian).

Comment of the day: Russell Coutts Russell Coutts is helming the Sun Microsystems Team New Zealand Mumm 30 until Dieppe.

“It’s a good thing for us to do the Tour de France a la Voile. We’ve been practising a lot in New Zealand and it’s a good change for the team to go away in a different and also very competitive environment. As the defenders of the America’s Cup we don’t have a chance to race against other teams during our training sessions. This gives us a good opportunity.

“Hamish Pepper is the skipper of Team New Zealand for this campaign. He’s one of our new crew member since joining in 1995 and is also one of our best prospects. It’s very good experience for him to organize this campaign and be responsible of everything on board and onshore. Last year we tried to win this race but we had lots of different crew members and hadn’t prepared very well. This year we only have members of Team New Zealand sailing team on board and have done a more serious preparation. Will we do better or not I don’t know yet.

“It’s my third participation in the Tour de France a la Voile (1995 with Alain Fedensieu and 1998 with Team New Zealand). I really like this race which was the first one to take me down the Brittany coast, one of the best spots in France. I regret not to be able to stay long enough to race in Brittany. But I have to go to Sweden next week for an early Match Racing regatta.”