Tour Voile 2019 delivers from start to finish

July 23 rd 2019 - 14:38

The Tour Voile is many things, including long, gruelling, and challenging, but it is never predictable, and that is the beauty of this 17-day tour de force that in 2019 brought 23 teams from Dunkirk in the north-east of France to Nice in the south east via 7 Acts in renowned coastal towns and cities. Each two-day Act could be counted on to provide a variety of highs and lows for the crews sailing on board Diam 24 one design boats, and saw a wide range of teams, from professionals and leaders of the classification to amateurs and first-time competitors take to the podium after the daily competitions.

The 42nd edition of the Tour hosted a thrilling fight to the finish between Team Beijaflore and Cheminées Poujoulat which was decided in the last few seconds of a nail biting Super Final in Nice. Beijaflore ultimately came out on top but the duel between the two - along with the many other battles that unfolded across the General, Youth, Amateur and Mixed ranking over the two weeks of the event - made for a typically enthralling Tour Voile. The team on Réseau Ixio – Toulon Provence Méditerranée rounded off the podium while CER – Ville de Genève took the title in the Amateur group and La Boulangère claimed the crown in the Mixed ranking with a 100% female crew.

Each year the Tour adds a new dimension, in 2018 it was running races close to the shore and setting up race villages filled with activities to give holidaymakers and spectators up-close access to the world of competitive sailing. While this highly successful strategy was expanded and built upon in 2019, a new feature was a focus on encouraging female participation in the event. To facilitate this a Mixed Ranking was introduced for teams counting at least one female member sailing each day. The Tour Voile 2019 welcomed 16 female sailors, up from 10 in 2018, and boasted three all-female teams.

The format of the event sees 15 days of competition on the water plus two transfer days and this year touched down in Dunkirk, Fécamp, Jullouville, Les Sables d’Olonne, Port Barcarès, Hyères and Nice. Coastal Raids of 40 miles alternate with Nautical Stadium days where a series of fast and furious qualifying rounds decree the top 8 boats that will progress to the daily finals. While the crews at the top of the classification generally – but not unfailingly – made it to the finals, a few places were always occupied by lesser known faces and teams from across the rankings, giving everyone a chance to experience racing against world-leading Diam 24 sailors. Famous names were not lacking either, with Swiss round the world sailor Bernard Stamm coaching Poujoulat Cheminées and legendary navigators such as Jean-Pierre Dick and Franck Cammas turning up to watch the Super Final in Nice.*

Although the Tour Voile is renowned for its distinctly French flavour, it does attract a good mix of international teams with Belgium and Switzerland represented as well as a European team and no less than four teams from the Oman Sail project participating. Of those two were professional, one composed entirely of Omani sailors and one was an all-female team. The two professional crews placed fifth and sixth overall and the experience for all of the teams was a positive one.

For Audrey Ogereau, skipper of Sailling Arabia The Tour, which fielded the all-female crew composed of two French and three Omani sailors, this Tour was all about gaining experience. “We have been training together since September, on average one week per month. That’s not a lot of time so it’s been great to have these 15 days of sailing together. I’m very happy with the progress the team has made together and that’s what we’re here for. The girls have found their stride and their reflexes have improved so much.”

British Olympic champion Stevie Morrison, at the helm of the professional team representing Oman on Renaissance Services, completed his fourth Tour Voile this year with a fifth-place finish, narrowly missing out on his objective of getting onto the podium. “It’s always, long, tough, and with lots of ups and downs. It’s hard not to look back at the race in Fécamp on the fourth day when our rudder snapped off. We’d have been closer to the podium if we’d have had an average result that day. We won a lot of Acts, we had some great races, compared to other years we were less boring than usual, I’d like to change the end result but at least we had a bit of excitement on the way.” commented Morrison with his characteristic humour.

He also confirmed that all four teams had a fantastic experience and several would return to the Tour in 2020: “We’ve had an all-Omani team that won a stadium final race, we had an all-girl crew with two Omani girls on the boat that won a race, so both those teams have shown they can win races against the best guys in the world on the Diam 24s. We’ve won Acts, the other pro boat won an Act so we’ve got a good pool of knowledge and ability but we need to get back and do some training and see if we can get a few younger guys on the boats and we’ll see at least three or maybe four boats back here next year on the Tour.”

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