Doing it for themselves

July 20 th 2019 - 13:57

The Tour Voile is a complex and well-oiled machine that brings hundreds of staff and sailors from Dunkirk in the northeasternmost corner of France to Nice in the south-east. The journey covers 17 days and seven Acts in historic locations along the northern, Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Many of the teams are professionals, with coaches, shore crew and sponsors in their afterguard. Others, however, face this gruelling tour de force with minimal resources and on an amateur footing.

Four teams from the Tour Voile 2019 are competing in the Amateur Ranking, and a close match has developed between CER – Ville de Genève (Victor Casas/Laurane Mettraux) and Gregory Lemarchal Les Sables d'Olonne (Emeric Dary) with each putting in more than one top-five performance. Heading into the final two days of competition in fact, both find themselves in the thick of the professionals in the Top 10, with a healthy chance of making it to the Super Final in Nice.

The two other non-professional teams are West Team - BBN – Ecole Navale (Yael Poupon), which qualified for the Nautical Stadium Final in Port Barcarès, and Dunkerque Voile (Titouan Jestin/Antoine Bresson). To enter the Amateur classification of the sailing Tour, participants must not have been paid during the last two years for activities related to competitive sailing and those who enter the Tour in this category are not paid to take part in the event.  

In addition to the Amateur category, there are several teams in the Youth Ranking that are made up of students. These too have limited budgets, and have to take care of the logistics as well as the boat mounting, dismantling and maintenance, under their own steam.

The Diam 24od amateurs are sailors who study or work and use their free time to train and participate in the Tour Voile. "To be successful and to go after high standards, you sometimes have to put aside your professional life and make sacrifices in your personal life. It's like having two jobs," explains Emeric Dary, skipper of Gregory Lemarchal Les Sables d'Olonne.

"We are all students on board West Team - BBN – Ecole Navale. It takes a lot of organisation with our colleges and schools, and negotiations to manage our regular absences throughout the year," notes Corentin Guével. This is also problematic for the young team representing Dunquerque Voile. "We train every weekend but in June we couldn't sail because some of us had exams," says skipper Titouan Jestin. “We adapt to the time and budget that we have. It’s a bit of an adventure.”

On the Tour, the amateurs share the management of the various logistical aspects “It is much more complicated compared to the well-established crews in the sense that the sailors themselves take care of the assembly and dismantling of the boat, of the transfer... everyone has to pitch in. Apart from Bernard Stamm (Ed: coach of Cheminées Poujoulat) who comes to give us to food on the water, we do everything ourselves," says Guevel. "The pace is intense, it’s sometimes very late when we finish getting the boat assembled", confirms Victor Casas, co-skipper of CER - Ville de Genève with Laurane Mettraux.

Delft Challenge is one of several international teams competing in the Tour. Representing the Netherlands, they are competing in the Youth Ranking and can empathise with their amateur colleagues. “All five of us on the team are students and we are organising and running everything ourselves. At times it’s hard to find enough time for everything: sailing, transfers and some rest as well!” noted crew member Casper Hoek.  

But the amateurs are not just along for the ride and have been known to upset the status quo. Gregory Lemarchal Les Sables d'Olonne caused a ripple as they took second place in the Coastal Raid in Fécamp. "Being amateurs can be a strength because you're sailing with less pressure and you’re more relaxed," observed skipper Emeric Dary.

After a good experience in the Tour Voile in 2018, CER – Ville de Géneve is back for 2019 and skipper Victor Casas is pleased with their progress. "We manage to do great things in nautical stadiums. We took second place at Les Sables d'Olonne. There is a nice duel going on with Gregory Lemarchal Les Sables d'Olonne but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves making any calculations for the moment.”

Follow us

Get exclusive information about the Tour Voile