Crowds thronged the dock in the Lorient Race Village to bid farewell to the Volvo Ocean Race fleet as they set out for the final offshore leg to Galway, after a vibrant stopover in France’s sailing capital.
The sailing savvy local race fans cheered loudly as the six teams paraded down to their boats before leaving the dock one by one, to meet a contingent of dignitaries including Norbert Metairie, Mayor of Lorient, and his Galway counterpart Terry O’Flaherty.
Local priest Père Michel le Bouar blessed the fleet before they left to their individual theme tunes.
Contributing to the unique pontoon party atmosphere was a local Celtic pipe band joined for the ceremony by a lone Irish piper.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest cheer was reserved for the final team to depart, Lorient’s local heroes Groupama, who now lead the race by 25 points overall after a spectacular win yesterday in the Bretagne In-Port Race.
The six boat fleet are expected to complete the 550 nautical mile leg in less than two days, arriving in Galway between 0100 UTC and 0500 UTC on Tuesday.
The team of roving reporters were dockside in Lorient to catch the parting words of the Volvo Ocean Race crews as they head out to start Leg 9, the final stage of the round the world race.
Franck Cammas, skipper, Groupama:
“I think if we finish fourth it’s enough, so we just need to keep that in mind. This night could be very hard – wind is coming, 25-30 knots, with a lot of danger around us with cargo ships, islands, current. There will be some hard hours for everyone. For us it’s about sailing simply and not taking too much risk during the night. Then for the finish it will be a little bit lighter, and we have to be fast on this part after Fastnet Rock.
“The conditions are not so bad for our boat for sure, but the routing is very easy, it’s almost straight, and in these conditions all the boats are very fast. If we have one issue on our boat we could lose a lot of miles so it’s a little bit stressful in these conditions! We prefer high speeds on Groupama 4 so I’m happy with that.”
Ken Read, skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG:
“Everyone’s shaken off. We had a team meeting this morning and you wouldn’t even know there was a race yesterday. Here we go again.
“[In the next leg] we have an idea to send one or two people down once in a while to get some rest but apart from that it will be full hiking all the time. It’ll be a tight reaching drag race. If you were to draw it on paper it fits – it goes right into the wheelhouse of Groupama. I guess they’re licking their chops over there thinking this couldn’t have been any better, but it’s up to us to try to upset the card a little bit. We’ll see.
“In a leg of this length there probably won’t be too much stretching out, maybe two or three miles. In essence it’s a rhumb-line race — I’d be very surprised if teams separate out laterally across the race course.
“I wouldn’t say it’s emotional now but it will be when we finish the race. Everything you do this morning is like ‘wow, I may never do this again’. It’s been a great team, a great group of people. I’m really proud of this team, win, lose or draw.”
Tony Rae, helmsman, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand:
“I guess everyone will be treating this leg like an in-port race — we’re going to have to get some rest somehow but only a few people and a few hours, maybe 10 mins at a time. This is a sprint leg, it’s going to be all on.
“We always treat the start as really important, I mean you never know what it can turn into after that, it makes it very easy if you can get off the line well and be first round the first mark and get away. There won’t be too much chance of separating from the rest of the fleet. There will be small gains and losses with the corners, obviously we’ve got this 400 mile reach from the island down here to the fastnet and then we’ve got the corners, then we reach Galway Bay. All this can change placings pretty radically.
“Really looking forward to getting to Galway – this race is coming to an end so quickly. Can’t wait to have a Guinness.”
Richard Mason, watch captain, Team Sanya:
“It’s always important to get off the start line first as gives you a chance to get clear and stretch your legs. Groupama will be looking to get off without doing anything stupid. Those boys have so much pace that if they keep their noses clean; with this forecast — which is a lot of reaching across the remainder of bay of biscay, and then the Fastnet, the Irish Sea, these guys are just going to go — they’ll be off.
“We’ll just try to make a good clean start and we’ll try to minimise the damage doing the reaching.
“Looks like a VMG run, which means dead down win, lighter run, as we get towards Galway which may give us a few opportunities so we’ll be looking to try to stay as close as possible to the other boats and see if we have a go towards the end there.
“We try our guts out every time we put the boat on the race track. If we make one mistake it gets compounded as we are significantly slower than the other boats. We need to sail a perfect race to get on the podium and we’ll be doing everything we can. We’re determined to get the boat up there and we’ll have a damn good go at it.
“It’s going to be great. the reception we had at Galway in the previous race was absolutely awesome to say the leaast. We’re looking forward to a bit of the Irish ‘craic’ — the ‘slainte’.”
Pepe Ribes, watch captain, Team Telefónica:
“It’s going to be a very short leg, between 36 and 40 hours and quite windy all the way. It’s starting here with 15 knots and tonight we’re going to have to reach in 25/30. Arriving to the Fastnet it will be dropping a bit and then another low is coming and we will be going downwind until the bay of Galway with 25 knots so… it’s going to be fast and quite exciting.
“The next leg will be a misx of inshore and offshore. I think maybe we are going to be all on deck for the first 24 hours, maybe you loose the race in the last 8 hours so you ahve to be clever and rest when you can.
“Normally at the beginning of the leg we are going to be off watches and then tonight we are going to be very busy with the front coming and maybe we can have a rest coming to the Fastnet and later depending on how long is left in the race I think everyone is going to be on deck all the time.”
Justin Slattery, bowman, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing:
“It’s going to be an exciting little leg. It’s going to be pretty breezy tonight, a fast trip up, and then probably a complete mess in Galway Bay. You could wake up on Tuesday morning to find six Volvo Open 70s floating around with not much wind. We’ll see how it goes – hopefully we’ll be in good shape by then and fighting all the way to the finish.
“It’ll be great going back to Ireland. My father is already there in town and all my family are travelling there today. It’s going to be fantastic to get there and see everyone. I believe the race village is going off already too so it should be great.”