Tour de France à la Voile : Damien Iehl and Damien Seguin win the 40th edition
samedi 29 juillet 2017 –
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In a shocking error of judgement on the starting line of today’s Super Final Race for the top eight boats Team SFS, firmly entrenched in second place after relinquishing the lead of the Tour in Act 4, took a black flag disqualification for crossing the line early. Their overzealous tactics earned them immediate disqualification and caused them to miss out on a podium place by just one point.
Heading into the Super Final of this taxing 23-day competition Fondation FDJ Des Main et Des Pieds already had overall victory mathematically secured since yesterday evening. Free from the pressure their adversaries were feeling, Iehl and Seguin’s team sailed a perfect and seemingly effortless race, cruising over the finish line in first place, comfortably clear of the pack. Prior to today FDJ boasted only one outright race win over the course of the Tour, however their steady run of solid results – counting 7 podium finishes and never scoring less than 40 out of a possible 50 - proves that consistency is key in this marathon event. This is Paralympic champion Damien Seguin’s third Tour and his first collaboration with Damien Iehl, ace match racer and three-time Tour winner.
“This victory in the Super Final is the icing on the cake.” commented Seguin today. “To be honest at the start in Dunkirk we didn’t really believe we could lift the Cup in Nice, our aim was to finish in the top five. But as the Acts went on and we hung on to the podium we saw that a win was possible. We were constant, the others made some mistakes. Our team was really solid in the Mediterranean stages.”
By comparison Team SFS had posted six wins (4 in Costal Raids and 2 in the Nautical Stadiums) but suffered heavy losses due to dismasting in Act 6 in Roses, Spain and a penalisation from the jury during Act 4 in Arzon for a lighter than permitted anchor weight. Their highs and lows culminated in today’s disqualification for which they paid the highest of prices. After the Bronze and Silver groups (split according to their overall ranking yesterday evening) completed their conclusive heats to decide places 9 to 29, it was time for the main event, a single race for the top eight boats. The supporters and crowds of spectators gathered along Nice’s Promenade des Anglais on this sunny Saturday to watch the Super Final, held in a near perfect 10-15 knot breeze, were not disappointed by a spectacular final showdown in the Bay of Angels.
With victory all tied up by Fondation FDJ, today’s double-points scoring race was all about the final thrust for podium places. The five boats following the preordained winner (Team SFS, Trésors de Tahiti, Beijaflore, Team Oman Sail, Team Lorina Limonade – Golfe du Morbihan) were separated by just 16 points this morning, and with the Super Final Nautical Stadium race delivering double points (100 for the winner, 98 for second place etc.), the reward for an outstanding final flourish would be the second and third steps on the podium.
The disqualification of Team SFS proved an unexpected gift to the next four boats in the overall classification, already clamouring for a podium place in extremis. Seeing their chance of silverware open up, Beijaflore Sailing did not hesitate and sailed a clean race to finish second and claim the third rung on the podium. Behind them, Tresors de Tahiti fought their way magnificently back up the fleet after a disappointing start and duelled with Vivacar.fr throughout the conclusive legs, managing in the end to cross the line in front and securing second place overall.
Teva Plichart, skipper of Trésors de Tahiti had an incredible day : “SFS gave us another nice present on the starting line but we took a penalty that put us in a bad place. We didn’t give up and we hung in there to finish just behind Beijaflore. We’ve had ups and downs in this, we almost didn’t make it here for financial reasons and finishing second is a great feeling.”
Valentin Bellet , skipper of Beijaflore : “The whole team is happy with this third place. We did the sums this morning and we we knew it would be very tight. SFS opened the door to the podium for us. I personally finished second last year and third this year. I hope I make it to first next year.”
In addition to the highly successful French contingent, the fleet included teams flying the Belgian, British, Omani, Spanish and Swiss flags. Team Oman Sail, however, was the only team in the Super Final not flying the Tricolor. Led by veteran French match race and offshore sailor Thierry Douillard and GBR double-Olympic sailor Stevie Morrison, the team reached fifth place overall in the previous edition and set out with the objective of finishing on the podium this year.
A few niggles on the race course and a fifth place finish in the Final meant that this did not materialise, but Morrison was philosophical about the reasons behind that :
“It was a great race fundamentally. But if you leave it to the last there’s an element of chance, that’s why a sailing event isn’t just one race. We’re frustrated but we sailed a good race today. We had a bad furl which we didn’t see in time. That turned into a loss of 100 metres so that was a team mistake. Would we like to be third ? Yes. But the reality is we should have gained a lot more points earlier on in the event.”
The prize for top Amateur team goes home with Homkia / Les Sables d’Olonne Agglomération while Lorina Mojito – Golfe du Morbihan conquered the Youth classification a few days ago during the penultimate Act in Marseille. Double Vendee Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux awarded the Finagaz prize for Fighting Spirit to Team Installux Aluminium who placed second in the Amateur fleet.
LES CLASSEMENTS AVANT JURY
- Fondation FDJ – Des Pieds et Des Mains – 837 pts
- Trésors de Tahiti – 808 pts
- Beijaflore Sailing – 806 pts
CLASSEMENT JEUNES BY
- Team Lorina Mojito – Golfe du Morbihan – 773 pts
- Ville de Genève – CER 2 – 608 pts
- Team Natixis – YC Saint Lunaire – 595 pts
- Homkia – Les Sables d’Olonne Agglomération – 674 pts
- Team Installux Aluminium – 662 pts
- Dunkerque Voile – 631 pts