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Crédit Mutuel wins the Défi Atlantique

© P. Garenne / GPO
© P. Garenne / GPO

The Bassin des Chalutiers in La Rochelle welcomed the competitors of the Atlantic Challenge on Saturday afternoon and into the evening, the second edition after the 2019 edition. The 13 Class40s arrived in close order at the end of their long journey from Pointe-à-Pitre, via Horta on the island of Faial in the Azores. The cumulative time victory over the two legs went to the Crédit Mutuel crew, Ian Lipinski, Antoine Carpentier and Rémi Fermin. The epic battle led by these three men against a formidable Italian duo, Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Pirelli) and Alberto Bona (IBSA) opened the door to the legitimate ambitions of the French crews of Erwan Le Draoulec, winner of the second leg on Everial, well spurred on by the returning Jules Bonnier (Nestenn - Entrepreneurs for the Planet), and joined on the podium by the British duo of Alister Richardson - Brian Thompson (Tquila). A course rich in meteorological complexities, a mythical stage in Horta, an exacerbated competition between professional skippers and enlightened owners, an intergenerational battle between boats with designs representative of more than 15 years of architectural research specific to the Class40, a gender mix that is set to develop with three women finishing, and an atmosphere and conviviality so specific to this category of 12.18m boats, made this second edition of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe return transatlantic race, organised by Grand Pavois Organisation, a real sporting and human success.

A Franco-Italian duel

A resolutely "decarbonised" race, allowing the competitors of the last Route du Rhum to bring their boats back to the race and by sea from Pointe-à-Pitre, the Défi Atlantique, from its first thundering tacks under Basse Terre and Marie-Galante, set the tone for a lively battle between the favourites of the race, Crédit Mutuel, N°158, the 2019 Raison plan, and two Class40s of a brand new generation, the Mach 40. 5 IBSA, led by a dazzling Italian-Spanish trio, Alberto Bona, Pietro Luciani and Pablo Santurde del Arco, and the runner-up in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Pirelli), supported by the architect of his Italian-built boat, Gianluca Guelfi, and Alberto Riva. From the outset, these three big names set the tone for the first piece of bravery of the event, an interminable tack to the north and starboard tack through the trade winds. To the point perhaps, that they were so rigorous in their marking that it overshadowed the rest of the fleet, where the other "round noses" of the race were happily struggling, the impressive scows now capable of lining up days of over 400 miles. Axel Tréhin and his Project Rescue Ocean, Marc Lepesqueux and his new Lift V2 Curium Life Forward, Erwan Le Draoulec on Everial, were making their voices heard and putting the Italians under pressure. A pressure, perhaps, partly responsible for the masterly move of the race attempted and perfectly succeeded by Crédit Mutuel, when Ian Lipinski and his men interrupted their progression due North, breaking the engagement with the Italian duo, and managed to cut the ridge of high pressure to find the Westerly flow of the depression before their competitors. In the space of one beat, Crédit Mutuel took the lead with a substantial gain of 37 miles, which they maintained until the finish in Horta Bay. The 1 hour and 56 minutes they gained at the expense of Ambrogio Beccaria, and the 5 hours and 36 minutes over Alberto Bona, really sealed the outcome of the race. The 1,300 miles of the second leg to La Rochelle saw the three leaders engage in a severe marking war, which once again opened the door to the stage victory for the other leaders in the class. It was Erwan Le Draoulec who made the most strategic move of the race, setting off far to the north in search of pressure and a favourable angle to the westerly wind. Erwan, the new skipper of Everial following the withdrawal of Stan Thuret, was the best way to get to grips with his Class40. Second in the leg, Jules Bonnier is the returnee and one of the great stories of the race. His Nestenn - Entrepreneurs for the Planet was forced to retire at the start in Pointe-à-Pitre. Jules and his team performed two miracles, that of transporting a spreader bar from Romania, before reaching the Azores in less than 8 days, to take the start of the second leg after only a few hours of rest. His second place in La Rochelle had a powerful flavour of victory. The valiant British duo of Tquila completed the podium of the leg.

A tough and committed race

Ian Lipinski thus succeeds Aymeric Chappellier in the prize list of an Atlantic Challenge destined to become a Class40 Classic. He will have completed the 3,513 mile course in 16 days and 49 minutes, at an average speed of 9.1 knots. He actually covered 4,174 miles on the ground at an average of 10.8 knots. His name appears at the top of all the statistics panels of the event, starting perhaps with that incredible day on 11th April when he covered 407.2 miles in 24 hours, at an average speed of 17 knots... A time that Ambrogio Beccaria was quick to beat, who swallowed 417.12 miles at an average speed of 17.4 knots in Class40! With 84 points in the lead in the various daily rankings, Crédit Mutuel's victory is clearly uncontested. However, it should be noted that IBSA, Alla Grande Pirelli, but also Curium Life Forward and Everial have also, and on numerous occasions, been at the top of the rankings, proof of the fierceness of the jousts.

Ian Lipinski

"We are very happy. We've been a bit scared for the last few hours. That spiced up the race. Our game was to mark Ambrogio Beccaria (Allagrande - Pirelli), as we only had an hour and 56 minutes lead. The Italian boats were very fast and it was a lot of concertina. We lost Ambrogio's marker the day before the finish and that put us under a bit of stress. Overall it was a great transatlantic race, with a lot of strategy and a lot of lessons learned. I'm delighted to be winning again on this boat, with this great crew."

Denis Hugues, Race Director

"This Atlantic Challenge is more than an adventure, it is a major race. It was a race from start to finish, with multiple options. On the water, the fight was fierce. It's a great journey, from the coconut trees of Guadeloupe to the two laps of La Rochelle. The level of the racers is impressive, Mini winners like Ian, the Italians who go fast... we were not disappointed! The race was decided by a coup de Trafalgar between Crédit Mutuel and the Italians. We then saw a marking race and Ian Lipinski did what he had to do to win. The second stage is shorter and less selective. So we saw a lot of grouped finishes. We can see that the crews have not given up, have taken risks and have sailed to the limit. It's a great race in Class40! Crews of 2, 3 or 4 men and women allow the boats to be used to the full. We have seen a very good race, with a very rich course from West to East. It's not just a trade wind race where options are rare. In this sense we have seen many options. Horta is a mythical stopover, with incredibly friendly people and an incredible landscape.

Source / GPO

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