Mixed conditions for first European Grand Slam of 2016

Light winds for the opening day of the 2016 SB20 Grand Slam at Cannes ©Pierre Germain/Yacht Club de Cannes

Light winds for the opening day of the 2016 SB20 Grand Slam at Cannes ©Pierre Germain/Yacht Club de Cannes

The SB20 fleet assembled in glamorous Cannes, on the south of France, for the first European Grand Slam of the season from April 29-May 1.

Sixteen teams from five nations, including several top ranked crews, gathered at the Yacht Club de Cannes this week. Among them were two French Youth teams from the Fédération Française de Voile (FFV), along with Russian visitors ‘Melston Team’ and ‘VIS Team’, the French entry ‘Black Magic’ sailing with Volvo Ocean Race and round the world racer Thomas Rouxel, Briton John Pollard’s ‘Xcellent’ team, and the Alexia Sailing Team of Figaro du Solitaire skipper Alexia Barrier. They were joined by a strong home entry, as well as visitors from Germany and Holland.

The weather forecast on the eve of the regatta predicted light airs for most of the weekend and the first day of racing was true to the forecast. With 4-7 knots, two races were held in an easterly in the East Bay, followed by two races in the West Bay after the wind shifted to the south later in the day.

‘VIS Team’ from Russia was on fire in the light conditions to score two wins and a second place, securing them the top spot by Friday evening. John Pollard’s ‘Xcellent’ team was also very consistent with a pair of second places, a third and a fourth, enough to move them into the runner-up position on the first night. ‘Melston Team’ was third after four races on the first day.

After a relaxing two hours spent awaiting the breeze at the Cannes Yacht Club bar, racing got started on Saturday in the early afternoon with a building sea-breeze from the south. With 12-16 knots, conditions were ideal to get three more races on the scorecard.

With two bullets and a third place, ‘Xcellent’ secured the top spot with an 11 point lead.  The team included two members of last year’s World Championship-winning crew, Marine Boudot and Emeric Michel, together with two new additions.

Stronger breezes kicked in on the final day of the Cannes Grand Slam, with 25-30 knot gusts

Stronger breezes kicked in on the final day of the Cannes Grand Slam, with 25-30 knot gusts

On Sunday was a difficult call for the Race Committee, with was a strong front moving through and gusts of up to 30 knots expected. However, as the wind was closer to 20 knots it was decided that the fleet should head out onto the race course. The SB20s were rewarded with several memorable photo opportunities on the downwind legs as the wind steadily built, combined with the short chop of East Bay. When the gun was fired for second race, the wind had built to a steady 25 knots, but within a few minutes, it was closer to 30 knots. There were numerous boats sailing close to the edge on the last downwind leg, but the ‘France Juene’ team held steady to win both races of the day.

Despite their efforts, with an 11-point lead, John Pollard and his ‘Xcellent’ team prevailed for the win, as the rest of the podium remained unchanged from Saturday evening’s results.

The next Grand Slam events take place at the North Sea Regatta in Holland, May 13-15 2016, and during Cowes Week, on the Isle of Wight (UK), from August 6-9 2016.

Overall Results

1st 3724 XCELLENT (GBR) John Pollard, Bob Smith & Steve Proctor 20pts

2nd 3653 FRANCE JEUNE (FRA) Gabriel Skoczek Bernard, Lucas Chatonnier, Marine Boudot, Emeric Michel, Hugo Feydit 25pts

3rd 3707 VIS SAILING TEAM (RUS) Vadim Pushev, Timur Sabirzianov, Alexander Mikhailov 38pts

4th 3708 MELSTON TEAM (RUS) Kirill Frolov, Alexey Murashkin, Egor Ignatenko 38pts

5th 3034 OCEANTEAM (FRA) Johan RAvier, Helene Urrutti, Mahaut De Villeneuve, Marc Nieuwbourg, Frederic Peroche 40pts.

Full results here

Cannes Grand Slam winners Team Xcellent (GBR)

Cannes Grand Slam winners Team Xcellent (GBR)