YACHT CLASS N°31 (DECEMBER 2022 / JANUARY – FEBRUARY 2023)
From October 14th to 22nd, the Principality hosted its very first J/70 World Championship. Despite the lack of wind, the tough races, opposing the elite of the discipline, saw the victory of the Swiss Découvertes Geomod.
By Aurore Teodoro – Photos : Mesi , Simone Spada et Studio Borlenghi / Yacht Club de Monaco
The last time Monaco hosted a world sailing championship was in 1976, with the Vaurien class. Since then, it has hosted a good number of major international events and competitions. And yet, this one had a unique flavor. In more ways than one. Initially scheduled for 2021 and postponed because of the pandemic, this J/70 World Championship endorses the choice of the Principality and the Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM) to make this 6.93-meter one-design class – the most distributed in the world – its flagship. “Historically, we had J/24, for which we have organized European championships (in 1993 and 2013). But like all series, this one came to the end. We conducted a survey of the boats available on the market. We looked at the quantity of produced units, the potential for racing, the sportsmanship because we wanted a boat to have fun on, and the J/70 came out. Many of our Monegasque fleet were sailing on J/24… There is a real history with the J/70. It’s an active class that still has many years ahead”, says Olivier Campana, deputy general manager of the YCM and president of the Monaco J/70 Class Association, which today boasts the largest fleet in the Mediterranean.
An exceptional line-up
This much-awaited event required important logistics from the Monegasque club. In addition to the team of four who worked for two years to set up the race direction, logistics, communication and back office, all in collaboration with the international J/70 class of course, and the many services involved in the three months preceding the event, about a hundred people were present on the docks during the competition: “the entire sports section, the marina, the control room, the communication department, the international jury and international class, the measurement team, and volunteers. Not to mention the state institutions: the maritime police and affairs, the palace guards…”, listed Fanny Brouchoud, project manager of the event. A major logistic to ensure a quality welcome for the more than 400 sailors from 23 nations. Among them, about fifty renowned sailors. Like sailing legend Torben Grael, the three-time America’s Cup finalist who has won no less than five Olympic medals and nine world championship titles. Australian double Olympic medalist (470) Will Ryan had travelled to Monaco, as did offshore sailor Bernard Mallaret, Danish Anne-Marie Rindom, just back from Houston where she won the Laser World Championship, and 2016 Olympic 470 champion Saskia Clark, on board the YCM’s all-women boat. Many of the J/70 world champions from previous years also attended: Luis Bugallo, Jud Smith or Paul Ward… An exceptional line-up, guarantee of close encounters. All the more so as this championship was limited to 90 boats, each country made selections beforehand. This quota was set up to “have a quality line-up, with people of a certain level, but also to give them an optimal welcome. This was also the maximum to make only one fleet. Beyond that, we would have had to split it into two, which we did not want for reasons of fairness”, explained Fanny Brouchoud, who also reminded that the starting line for 90 boats spans over 800 meters, for a course of 1.4 to 1.8 nautical miles (2.6 km and 3.5 km), “almost twice longer than during the Winter Series”. It should be noted that Monaco’s fleet also went through selection phases. “Of these nine boats, we selected the top six from the last Winter Series. As host country, we also had two wild cards, which were awarded to the 100% female crew “Pink Wave” of Anne Rodelato, and to that of the YCM vice-president, Pierre Casiraghi. One boat won a direct qualification with international results”, underlined Olivier Campana. Alongside the favorites Ludovico Fassitelli (Junda), bronze medalist at the last European Championship in the Corinthian category and Loïc Pompée (Sailing Racing Team), 5th of the 2021 European Championship, the participants included Pierrik Devic (Leonteq), Giangiacomo Serena di Lapigio (G-Spot) and Cesare Gabasio (TinnJ70).
Climate change in first line
After 3 days of craning and tonnage checking – on the F1 Grand Prix circuit, no less! – and a few practice runs, the participants were unfortunately grounded for most of the championship. “Global warming is what it is, we have these phenomena. The anticyclone up created some pretty strong pressure that prevented the wind. It blocked it, especially as it was very heavy. And then the thermal, local wind could not built up because the water was about 20 to 22 degrees, the same as the ambient air temperature. Since there was no exchange of temperatures between water and land, the wind conditions were difficult to set in motion”, Thierry Leret, the race director of the Yacht Club de Monaco, explained. And yet, the race direction did look for this wind. Tirelessly, every day, they went at sea to find the slightest breeze before coming back empty-handed. And this, from the first day of competition, on Tuesday, to the Friday. “For a world championship, a regular wind is required everywhere on the course and of a minimum of 5 knots. We were not far from it, but we could not have these conditions the first days”, underlined the race director. Fortunately, on the last day of competition, the center of the low-pressure system slightly shifted, offering outstanding conditions. Thanks to a nice 8-12 knot southwest wind, this exceptional group of sailors had three great races to show their skills, as Thierry Leret explained: “To Nessa, Torben Grael’s boat, won the first race with a clear lead, but was in the middle of the ranking in the following races. Nobody managed to reach twice the podium, not even a top 5. This proves the level was really high”.
In the end, Découvertes Geomod won the open class on regularity. The Swiss crew know the Principality’s water body well, having won the Primo Cup last March. They were followed on the podium by Leonteq, the crew of Monegasque Pierrik Devic and of Peter S. Duncan’s Relative Obscurity. In One Pro, Tim Ryan (Vamos), Ludovico Fassitelli (Junda) and Mon Canellas (Outlier) were on the podium. The Corinthian ranking saw the victory of Swiss Quarter2eleven (Nick Zeltner), followed by Marnatura (Luis Bugallo) and Team Youth FFV (Timothé Rossi).
The environment in the spotlight
Organized in partnership with RAMOGE, one of the oldest environmental protection agreements in the world, between Monaco, Italy and France, this world championship was also an opportunity to highlight the Principality’s actions in terms of the environment, as Olivier Campana, deputy general manager of the YCM, explained: “Our committee boat has been running on biodiesel for the past four years. All the small zodiacs of the sailing school, for those that are not electric, operate on bioethanol. We have three electric RIBs. The press boats, Vita yachts, are also electric. Our buoys are dynamically positioned so as not to damage the sea bed. We are fortunate to have a Sovereign-President who is very involved in this issue, as well as proactive teams. We also have the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge, a real laboratory of development to put forward solutions. In addition, for the past six months, we have been reusing the water from the pool, which was destined to end up in the sewer, to rinse the boats.”