Alinghi finishes 3rd in the Bol D'Or; Franck Cammas grabs victory
Valencia Sailing was in Geneva this weekend in order to assist for the first time ever in the Mirabaud Bol d'Or, one the most famous European races that take place in a lake. More than a competitive race, the Bol d'Or is a sailing party, a place for everyone to share the lake, from the Sunday sailor to the America's Cup winners.
In this year's edition, more than 600 boats took part, including some innovative designs, since many see the race as a laboratory, a life-sized towing tank.
The concept of the Mirabaud Bol d'Or is very simple. All participating boats start sailing in Geneva and head north east, towards the city of Le Bouveret, situated at the other end of the lake. There are no restrictions on the course a boat might choose, with the exception of the multihulls that have to round an offset mark 3 miles from the starting line.
From that point, they are free to choose their strategy in order to reach the buoy at Le Bouveret. After rounding it they are once again completely free to devise their best strategy in order to return to Geneva and cross the finish line, off the Société Nautique de Genève. The shortest distance between Geneva and Le Bouveret buoy is 66.5 nautical miles.
Up to 2 years ago, all yachts shared the same starting line but the increase in the number and competitive level of the multihul fleet forced the organization to create two different starting lines, 400 meters apart. As a result, the much faster multihulls are not obstructed by the much more crowded monohull fleet.
Our interest was obviously focused on two D35 boats, Alinghi and Zebra 7. The former doesn't ned any introduction and the latter was helmed by Franck Cammas, the French multihull specialist and consultant to BMW Oracle.
Unfortunately, Saturday's conditions were far from perfect and when the starting gun was fired at 9am, there were probably 1 or maximum 2 knots of wind. Both Alinghi and Zebra 7 had a very difficult and painful start, getting stuck in a windless trap. The first half of the race was indeed tough for both of the teams as they struggled to find win near the French coast, on the southern side of the lake.
Zebra 7 rounded the Bouveret buoy 5th, 7 minutes behind leader Zen Too, while Alinghi was 9th, a whopping 28 minutes behind Zen Too. The winning strategy in the second half of the race was to go as close as possible to the Swiss coast, on the northern side of the lake. Although there are no general wind patterns in the region, a nice breeze, reaching 11 knots, picked up after 5pm and paid off handsomely for the two America's Cup rivals, especially for Cammas.
Zebra 7 crossed the finish line after nine and a half hours of racing, holding a 29-minute advantage over Alinghi. The America's Cup defender's catamaran was 2nd in the D35 class and third overall.
Cammas was sailing together with Julien di Biase (BMW Oracle sailing coordinator), Loïc Forestier, Yannick Preitner, Nicolas Groux and Robert Graham.
Alinghi's crew consisted of Ernesto Bertarelli (helmsman), Murray Jones (helmsman/tactician), Pierre-Yves Jorand (mainsail trimmer), Yves Detrey (bowman), Nils Frei (trimmer) and Christian Wahl (strategist).
The 33rd America's Cup
As far as the America's Cup is concerned, all Alinghi crew were tight-lipped and with hardly any exception, "maybe" and "who knows?" were the most frequent answers to our questions. Construction of the multihull that will face BMW Oracle is going ahead as planned, in the team's boat yard in Villeneuve.
One of the thorniest issues the team might face is after the boat has been built. How does one transport a 90ft by 90 ft multihull from a mountainous and landlocked region to the open sea? Villeneuve might be a beautiful, picturesque Swiss city but it is surrounded by the Alps and the closest coastal city is Genoa in Italy, 250km away. It is difficult to see how the yacht can be airlifted over the Alps in such a distance. All we know is that Alinghi is working on ways to resolve this problem but, obviously, we weren't given any further information.
Zebra 7 (SUI-7) and Alinghi (SUI-1), side by side on the multihull starting line. Geneva, 14 June 2008. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Part of the multihull starting line. Geneva, 14 June 2008. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Out of the hundreds of spectator boats of all types, we spotted Grant Dalton, managing director of Emirates Team New Zealand. Geneva, 14 June 2008. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
The Mirabud LX hydrofoil, the first ever sailing boat with no hull. Geneva, 14 June 2008. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Alinghi has rounded the offset mark and embarks on the 60-mile long race under painstakingly light conditions. Geneva, 14 June 2008. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
From left, Murray Jones, Pierre-Yves Jorand and Ernesto Bertarelli. Geneva, 14 June 2008. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing