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Sails of Change 8 snatches victory in the 60th Genève-Rolle-Genève

Yacht Racing Podcast

After four hours 41m 02s, Yann Guichard and his Sails of Change 8 crew consisting of tactician Noé Delpech, trimmers François Morvan and Bruno Mourniac, bowman Adrien Mestre, and grinder Solune Robert, mastered the delicate breeze on Lake Geneva to win the 60th edition of the Genève-Rolle-Genève in the final moments of the race.

“The whole battle is a constant game of contact, where you make three good moves and then one bad one and lose it all again,” said tactician Delpech. “Sure, it’s not easy, but the game is great, and we’ve had a blast in this super-dense, super-tight battle between boats.”

On the morning of race day, the forecast for Lake Geneva typically looked perplexing. Heavy cloud cover, the threat of rain, and a solid southwesterly gradient wind up at 1000m, which everyone was hoping would come down mid-afternoon to allow for some good racing.

After the mass start of over 200 boats off Yacht Club de Genève at 13:30, it was the local knowledge of tactician Guillaume Rol that allowed Julien Firmenich at the helm of Ylliam 17 to take the early advantage and lead the TF35 fleet in chasing down the D35s and M2s on the first leg to Rolle. “We had a good start even though there was no wind, and we couldn’t steer the boat because we were so stuck in traffic,” Rol said. At 25, Rol is one of the youngest tacticians in the fleet, but having grown up on the lake, he knows it like the back of his hand.

However, it was a little more tricky for the non-locals, as Sails of Change 8’s French tactician Delpech confessed, “It’s a bit stressful on the lake; there are always lots of twists and turns. We were quite happy with our start but weren’t well positioned in relation to the wind, so it was complicated. We had trouble getting off the ground.”

As the fleet approached Versoix, Ylliam 17 held a comfortable lead, with stablemates Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier in second, but Sails of Change 8 were still struggling. “We found ourselves behind the pack. It was not far, but we had to fight hard to stay in contact for the whole leg up the lake,” Delpech adds.

As the fleet left the Petit Lac Bertrand Demole’s Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier was ahead, but on the approach to the Rolle turning mark and with enough breeze to get up onto the foils, the fleet compressed again. “It was a good battle with the D35s, the M2s, the TF35s, almost everyone at the same speed, so it was cool to finally be able to fly just before the Rolle mark, where we took the lead,” Rol explains.

“When we turned to race back to Geneva, it was pretty magical for us. With the big sails, we could maintain flight for a long time in almost zero wind, just a northerly wind that came and went. It became a new race, very intense right up to the finish. We made good progress along the Swiss coast, and then all of a sudden, you would see a boat with a crazy angle flying along the French coast, and you think, damn, I’d like to be in his shoes.”

Tacking along the Swiss coast past Crans the fleet compresses once more and Sails of Change 8 saw their moment to get back into the game. “Up ahead, we could see the fleet were in the calms,” explained Delpech. “We made the right choices in relation to the wind to break through at the right time in the right place to put us back in contention for the lead. It was extraordinary because it was close between the five TF35s; even SUI 10 came back into the dance and started to worry us.”

With the finish line in sight as the fleet delicately picked their way through the final stages of the race ZEN Too took the lead, but one clever decision from Sails of Change 8 helm Yann Guichard allowed them enough speed to take the win. “Yann made one of the last calls to cross behind Realteam and go a bit extreme on the French coast, and it was this advantage that enabled us to finish in the lead at the end. We were able to hold on to the French coast a little longer than the others. We’re really happy with this victory,” tactician Delpech concluded.

Less than a minute later, Realteam, who had played it safe mid-pack all race, crossed the line in second, with Zen Too following in quick succession in third. Despite being the leading two boats for the whole first half of the race, Ylliam 17 finished fourth, with Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier in fifth and unable to get back into the pack until the final moments, Sails of Change 10 in sixth.

1. Sails of Change 8 (SUI 8 )
2. Realteam Sailing (SUI 7)
3. ZEN Too (SUI 4)
4. Ylliam 17 (SUI 17)
5. Ylliam XII—Comptoir Immobilier (SUI 12)
6. Sails of Change 10 (SUI 10)

Main image © YCG – Mateo Giraud