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TF35 fleet welcomes a new team ahead of Nyon Cup season opener

Yacht Racing Podcast

After a long winter break, racing for the TF35 high-performance one-design foiling catamaran resumes this week with a new team joining the fleet and crew changes on all the boats ahead of the TF35 Nyon Cup. The first of a six-event series raced on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

Eight months ago, season three for the TF35 concluded in Malcesine, on Lake Garda, in Italy. Throughout the 2023 season, Esteban Garcia’s Realteam Sailing was an exceptional force, winning all seven events. For 2024, skipper Jérôme Clerc and tactician Sébastien Col’s biggest challenge will be to keep the momentum: “This year’s objective for Realteam Sailing is even more difficult. When you win everything, the bar is set high, and you can only do worse,” Clerc points out.

To keep the team dynamics fresh for 2024, Realteam has recruited Swiss SailGP sailors Jeremy Bachelin on the mainsheet and Eliot Merceron as bowman.

“We’re aiming for quality sailing. Our training sessions enabled us to integrate the new crew members and build our team spirit and performance, preparing us for the first regatta. The competition will be tough, with the new software smoothing out the boats’ performance, making the fleet even tighter. We’ll have to be creative to stay ahead,” he adds.

Last season, Yann Guichard and Dona Bertarelli’s Spindrift Racing was the biggest challenger to Realteam’s lead. For 2024, the team has rebranded to Sails of Change and will run a two-boat programme, with Guichard handing the helm and crew of Sails of Change 10 (was Spindrift) over to mainsail trimmer Duncan Späth.

At 26, Späth is the youngest helm in the fleet, but having sailed with tactician Yann Jauvin and his crew for the last three years and guided by Xavier Revil, the team is easily a contender for the podium.

“Last year, I was in Yann’s (Guichard) crew on the mainsail trimming and I’ve competed in three TF35 seasons, so I know exactly the challenge ahead of us,” says Späth. “Both Sails of Change teams have a lot of potential, and we’re targeting areas where we know we can make further progress. That’s our aim from the start of the season.”

Guichard will return this season with a brand new boat, Sails of Change 8, and a brand new crew led by French 49er olympian Noé Delpech as tactician alongside sailors François Morvan, Bruno Mourniac, Adrien Mestre and Solune Robert.

“The TF35 circuit is extremely competitive. It features some of the best sailors in the world,” explains Guichard, Skipper/Helmsman and President of the Sails of Change sailing team. “We’re looking forward to revealing our full potential over the course of the six events in the 2024 season. It’s going to be a great year racing against determined opponents.”

In third place overall at the end of 2023 was Bertrand Demole’s Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier. Just one point off second, the team was on the event podium all season, winning the Genève-Rolle-Genève long-distance race. This year, Thomas Le Breton will be taking over tactics from Erwan Israel, while ETF26 skipper Matthieu Salomon steps onboard as bowman.

“We were happy with our season. But with the adjustments we’ve made this year, we need to put things into perspective and be very realistic,” explains Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier’s Billy Besson. “What we want is to get to know each other and try to work efficiently together. The most important thing is group cohesion on the boat, but the desire to perform remains the same.”

Guy de Picciotto’s ZEN Too also has a fresh influx of crew for this season with 44cup bow woman Celia Willison taking over boat captain duties and spare crew, 69F sailor Valentin Sipan stepping onboard as headsail trimmer and French olympian Franck Citeau joining as coach.

The ZEN Too team always seems to be ‘in the hunt’, but struggles to put together a consistent series as helm Loïc Forestier admits: “We set our goals three years ago and have tried to make progress on as many aspects of the project as we can. Last year, a deep result at the Bol d’Or Mirabaud affected our annual ranking and our result at the end of the year didn’t reflect the progress we felt we had made.”

“We have integrated three new members into the team and have focussed on the data this spring during training with the help of Franck (Citeau) as coach. We’ve adopted a different approach, and most importantly, we are focusing on hours on the water,” Forestier adds.

Having joined the fleet for the first time at the start of the 2023 season Julien Firmenich’s Ylliam 17 hopes to continue its ascent with improved consistency after scoring second at the Genève-Rolle-Genève and fourth in the Bol d’Or Mirabaud long-distance races.

For 2024, they will be leaning on the experience of their all-star crew, including SailGP grinders Ed Powys and Stewart Dodson and Swiss sailors Nelson Mettraux, Guillaume Rol and Matthieu Ravussin.

“Ed and Stew bring a constant search for performance and valuable experience. Nelson and the local talent do an outstanding job, they know the lake like the back of their hand; it’s like they’ve been sailing there since birth. It makes for a very cool combination with unique diversity and know-how. We’re enjoying sailing together and feel better prepared this year, so we’re looking forward to racing and competing,” explains Firmenich.

The TF35 Nyon Cup hosted by Société Nautique de Nyon will start this Friday, 24 May.

Image © Loris Von Siebenthal