The Europa Warm’Up, the only fleet event of this size for the Vendée Globe contenders before the big date in November, marks an important acceleration in the preparation of this round-the-world. A line up of seven competitors, among the best of the moment, have joined together for this race in two legs; one with crew and the other single-handed, between Spain, Portugal and France. The skipper of Groupe Bel is impatient to confront his opponents. Kito de Pavant shares what is at stake in this new challenge, just 5 days before the much awaited start of the Europa Warm’ Up, Saturday 19 May 19 in Barcelona!
After several weeks of training between Port Camargue and the Balearic Islands, a single-handed return trip across the Mediterranean to meet the Algerian workers of Bel, and a discovery’ sailing trip last Saturday with his friends from Montpellier Urban Area Handball Team (see the news dated 5 May and the video), it is time for Kito to move into racing mode!
The Barcelona round-the-world racer, Alex Pella, and the formidable match racer’, Damien Lehl, joined the Groupe Bel crew in Port Camargue to hone their preparation in the company of Gwenael Gbick (sports manager) and Brice de Crisenoy (first mate on board). With Kito, the five men make up the crew of the red monohull for the first leg of the event between Barcelona and Cascaïs (near Lisbon). Resolute and determined, the crew intends to take Kito cheerfully to the highest position possible, before he takes on one hell of a challenge single-handed: 2,300 miles (4,250km) non-stop to La Rochelle, via the Azores and the South of Ireland.
Kito, tell us why you chose this crew?
Alex Pella is an excellent sailor who knows the Mediterranean very well, and plenty more! He was one of our contenders in the double-handed Barcelona World Race (on board Estrella Damm). The Vendée Globe rules oblige us to have a substitute skipper. I chose Alex for this role and so for this reason he needs to clock up miles on board Group Bel. As for Damien Lehl, he is the contender par excellence, in particular in match racing (sailing duel) in which he excels. We raced twice in the Tour de France à la Voile together, with one win in 2003, and we felt like racing together again. Lastly, Gwen and Brice know Groupe Bel by heart. It is essential to confirm the transformations carried out this winter in racing configuration, and the presence of these two experts from the Bel team is essential on board!
How are you going to get to grips with this comprehensive and difficult event?
If the first leg is for the boat, the second one is for the sailor. Sailing with a crew means you can take the boat to its limit, which is not possible when sailing single-handed. The first leg will allow us to check out Groupe Bel’s intrinsic performance matching it against those of our contenders, while the single-handed race will be used to confirm how well-prepared the sailor is with a view to the Vendée Globe.
The second single-handed leg (2,300 miles) does not resemble anything that has been done before.
It is not a long-distance race like the Vendée Globe, nor is it a sprint, as in the Transat, for which you can sometimes roll out a medium-term weather picture. Here, between Cascais, the Azores, Fastnet and La Rochelle, there will be many weather changes and maneuvers and there will be no concession-making in terms of the boat’s speed. In fact, this race is quite similar to a giant Solitaire du Figaro leg, which isn’t necessarily very easy. On our very powerful boats, it could even turn into extreme sport!
In short The Europa Warm’Up is:
An offshore race in two legs, one with crew and the other single-handed, reserved for Imoca Class 60′ monohulls (18.28m), as in the Vendée Globe.
Leg 1: 900 miles (1,600 km) free run with a crew of 5 sailors between Barcelona and Cascaïs (Portugal, near Lisbon) via the Straits of Gibraltar.
Leg 2: 2,300 (4,250 km) single-handed race between Cascaïs and La Rochelle via the Azores (Island of Santa Maria) and Fastnet (South of Ireland).
14 May: Finish for the competitors in Barcelona
18 May: Race in the bay
19 May: Start of leg 1 from Barcelona
22-23 May: Finish for the boats in Cascaïs
25 May: Race in the bay
26 May: Start of leg 2 from Cascaïs
5-6 June: Finish in La Rochelle