10 minutes to the start. Fresh cold breeze, a grey sky, helicopters. Current, old swell and waves of hundreds of yachts, ferries and spectator boats have created a boiling sea. Veolia Environement heads downwind under full main towards the line. The start will be downwind and the first leg towards Cap Frehel will be a close reach, something between big kite and gennaker if the wind stays like this. Foncia and Virbac have their kites ready, DCNS is hard to see and the rest of the IMOCA open60 fleet have their furling gennakers up. Three ribs escort Veolia on her way through the chaos in a formation, one to starboard, one to port and one on the centre line a bit behind.
Bilous complete team is either in the ribs or on board. The climax of a years’ work. All energy is dedicated to make this start beautiful and safe. I observe the scene from the port rib. Our eyes scan the scene for potential threats, we yell at some boats, we accelerate to keep up with Veolia, surf down the waves and we decelerate to not nosedive in the chaotic sea.
4:30 minutes. The spinnaker hits the mast head, still in his socket. The starboard rib jumps up and down alongside Veolia and everybody jumps in the rib. Loud sheering from the ribs for some seconds. He sets the pilot, checks the timing, has a quick look around, then runs to the foredeck to pull up the spinnaker socket. But the socket is stuck. Everybody stares at Bilou fighting with the socket-line. He stays calm, pulls and pulls again. But the time is ticking down, Virbac and some others are dragging away under full sails. Panic in the team members’ eyes. With one loud shout Bilou releases all energy and manages to get the dam sock up finally, runs to the cockpit and grinds the sheet in, Veolia heels over, full throttle for the rib engines and off we go. Bilou crosses the line, a bit behind but we feel the anger. He is furious and ready to fight back. A loud collective hurrah-screaming and cheering from the three ribs. He turns around for a last time and then never looks back.
see the video here (In this video you see people standing on the shore holding a banner saying ” SEULE LA VICTOIRE EST JOLIE” they refer to this book, written by French sailing personality Michel Malinovsky who became second behind Mike Birch 1978 with only 98 seconds.)
Tonight, Bilou is in second place!! More RdR-news here: http://www.routedurhum-labanquepostale.com
tomorrow we will have a look at the class40 fleet and the only German entry in the race…