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Gery Trentesaux and his JPK 10.80, Courrier Du Leon, the Overall Winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Lucky 13th for Géry Trentesaux

Géry Trentesaux and his JPK 10.80 Courrier Du Leon have been confirmed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club as winner of the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race. For this the team will receive the Fastnet Challenge Trophy at tonight’s prizegiving, an event doubling as the 90th anniversary celebrations of the RORC’s flagship offshore race.

In this, the Frenchman’s 13th attempt at the Rolex Fastnet Race since his first in 1977, Trentesaux’s performance was exceptional, beating Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret’s second placed JPK 10.80 sistership, Dream Pearls, by 2 hours 20 minutes. And this was despite being over early at the windless start and taking 40 minutes to restart.

Courrier Du Leon was competing in IRC 3, but managed to beat all of IRC 2 on the water into Plymouth.

Personally Trentesaux is an offshore racing stalwart, who led a French team to victory in the 2006 Commodores’ Cup and was part of France’s winning Admirals’ Cup team in 1991. But he is versatile – he raced singlehanded offshore in the 2006 Route du Rhum and regularly competes inshore in one designs – he currently owns a J/80 and a Diam 24 trimaran.

Courrier De Leon arrives in Plymouth, winner of IRC 3 and IRC Overall of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. Photo: Kurt Arrigo

The race

Courrier Du Leon didn’t get off to an ideal start, as Trentesaux explains:

“It was stupid - we were on the other side of the line eight minutes before the start and we saw the wind was better off the island so we put the motor on but we didn’t see how fast the tide was going. We were 100m on the right side of the line, but couldn’t slow down. I was furious, but I didn’t show it…!”

In no wind and with a fast moving ebb tide, it took Courrier Du Leon 40 minutes to claw her way back to restart, re-crossing 15 seconds before the IRC 1 start. Despite this by the time they exited the Solent they were already one third of the way back up the 90 boat IRC 3 fleet.

In theory this set-back might have been quite devastating for their race particularly as it would magnify their deficit when the tide turned foul off Portland. “It was very important to be in the front of the fleet,” explained Trentesaux, “so we lost seven miles to Philosophie IV [Nicolas Gaumont-Prat’s First 40.7]

Courrier Du Leon nearly got dragged into the east end of the Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme, along with several other boats including Dream Pearls

By Start Point, Courrier Du Leon was up to seventh on the water in IRC 3. With the tide turn, the fleet divided with a group led by Dunkerque Plaisance-Gill Racing Team and Dream Pearls heading inshore and another group, led by the potent Brits Stuart Childerley and Kelvin Rawlings on Jester, heading offshore.

In order to pick up the best sea breeze Courrier Du Leon was the furthest offshore of the boats that stayed inshore for the next section of the course down the Cornish coast to the Lizard. The inshore boats shot ahead of those offshore. While passing the Lizard at 2240 on Monday night, Courrier Du Leon finally overhauled Dream Pearls and Jai Alai, Alain Bornet's J/109 pulling into the lead of IRC 3 on the water.

At the TSS at Land's End, Courrier DuLeon led the charge up its west side just ahead of Dream Pearls. After a slight hiatus to the north of the Scillies, Courrier Du Leon was first into the southwesterly breeze and from there Trentesaux said they had good speed, were first to hoist their small spinnaker causing them to extend.

“With the spinnaker we were doing 17 knots sometimes,” recounted Trentesaux. “Codiam [Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43] was one mile ahead of us before we put up the spinnaker and we gained five miles on them.”

Courrier Du Leon rounded the Fastnet Rock at 05:31:56 on Wednesday, 1 hour 34 minute ahead of Dream Pearls.

From here Courrier Du Leon simply extended. They went inshore at the TSS off the west side of the Scilly Isles saving themselves five miles over the offshore route that Dream Pearls Took. By the time Courrier Du Leon, she was 18 miles ahead of Dream Pearls while Jean Jacques Godet's Rhapsodie V, third in IRC 3 was still passing the Lizard.

After his victory was confirmed by the RORC, Trentesaux said that he was delighted. He had received many messages of congratulations.

As to why he won, part of the reason is down to the exceptional six crew he sails with: Aubry Arnaud, Antoine Carpentier, Jean Louis Couedel, Francois Lamiot, Pierre Ghewy and Jean Pierre Nicol. He has sailed with Lamiot with since they both competed in the Figaro class in the mid-1980s. Five of the crew have sailed together regularly since they competed in the 1999 Rolex Fastnet Race. Jean Pierre Nicol is a leading Figaro sailor in France.

“I think we are very tough on the boat,” said Trentesaux. “If I ask them to hoist the spinnaker, then five minutes we take it down and five minutes we put it up – there are no questions...”

In the crew there were four helmsmen led by Trentesaux who steers upwind and in heavy winds, Lamiot in the light. They run no watch system and if it is windy everyone sleeps on the rail.

Their JPK 10.80 is a works boat provided by the builder, JPK Composites based near Lorient in France. The boat, JPK’s latest offering, has a powerful hull and is light enough that putting the crew up forward in light weather made a difference in this race.

Trentesaux claims that this will be his last Rolex Fastnet Race. He says he likes change and next year will focus on inshore one design racing. However he does not discount a return to offshore racing. 

Michael Boyd, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club said of this year’s victor:

“Géry is a fantastic winner. First of all he is a lovely man and he’s been a great RORC supporter for many years. All summer his has been the boat to watch.

“This is an amazing result – to win by two and a half hours is just extraordinary. Courrier Du Leon’s an exceptional boat and has created huge interest."

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