Some 41 Mumm 30s line up for a hotly contested 1,000-mile series of races, including two promising British crews

This week, a fleet of 41 Mumm 30s are assembling at Dunkirk for the annual Tour de France à la Voile, which starts on Friday. From young Olympic sailors and Figaro sailors to some of the top names in French offshore sailing, it attracts intense competition. The series is made up of 10 offshore races and 26 inshore races and it takes the fleet on a 1,050-mile route from the north of France to the Mediterranean.

In the last few years the series has sparked growing interest outside France. Many think the combination of technical and physical disciplines demanded by the mixture of long and short races makes it an ideal training ground for races such as the Volvo Ocean Race or even the America’s Cup. A crew from Team New Zealand have competed three times, though they have never won. Two years ago Britain’s Adrian Stead (now with GBR Challenge) won in Barlo Plastics.

Entries are split into three classes – professional, amateur and student – with roughly the same number in each. Some of the names on the entry lists this year are Isabelle Austissier, Yves Parlier, Catherine Chabaud, Marc Thiercelin and Nick Moloney, Figaro and Volvo sailor Pascal Bidégorry, ORMA 60 sailor Steve Ravussin, who won last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre with Franck Cammas, and last year’s Mini Transat winner, Yannick Bestaven.

This year, there are two British entries. The Royal Thames Yacht Club has a crew in the amateur division, assisted by Larry Rosenfeld, who was part of Cam Lewis’s crew on board Team Adventure during The Race. One to watch in the professional division will be Rob Greenhalgh’s Panther: Team GBR.