The Europa Warm’Up came down to a difference of just over an hour. That was the final gap this Sunday morning between past Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou and this coming edition’s ‘rookie most likely to…’, Francois Gabart on MACIF.
It was the final night which decided the outcome of the inaugural edition of the Europa Warm’Up and it was Riou on PRB which proved slightly quicker and smarter to hold off the hard driving Gabart who has shown a maturity beyond his years in how he paced himself and pushed on this second leg. Thirty miles before the Occidentale de Sein buoy and PRB and MACIF were separated by less than one mile. Riou attacked by setting a big spinnaker. He stuck to the helm to drive hard with PRB overpowered for much of the time, building a gap which finally allowed him to add another win to a list of honours. Riou is not short of podium successes in his career, but this is his first victory since winning the 2011 Fastnet race with Jean Le Cam. It is a win which is a good reward for PRB a very supportive and passionate Vendée supporter, but which proves how close the top of the IMOCA Open 60 fleet is, and how well prepared PRB is.
Gabart is proving the talented IMOCA Open 60 rookie with no pretences or ego. He is clearly talented and hard working who is showing the benefit of his early mentoring by Michel Desjoyeaux but also his ground work at the centre if excellence at Port La Foret. Already having won the BtoB on his first IMOCA Open 60 solo outing, Gabart is surely worth ranking among the Vendée Globe favourites.
Armel Le Cléac’h never gives up and it is not for nothing that the soloist from the Bay of Morlaix has been dubbed The Jackal. But on this occasion it was a broken halyard lock hook on his mainsail which annulled Le Cléac’h’s predatory instinct. He managed to keep finding workable solutions which kept him just ahead of Cheminées Poujoulat, Bernard Stamm’s stalking black cat which took fourth.
Photo Credit: © Olivier Blanchet / Europa Warm’Up
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