The start of this last leg of the Istanbul Europa Race took place yesterday at 12:07, just outside the harbor of Barcelona. The six competitors set off, under a North-Northeast variable fifteen knot wind, for a real battle all the way to Brest.
The course of this 3rd leg is long and full of pitfalls. Following the run down along the Spanish coast, the sailors will have to handle the difficult Strait of Gibraltar, which opens its doors onto the Atlantic. On the ocean, the Open 60 foot monohulls will find a stormy sea and sailing conditions that are often not very pleasant along the coast of Portugal. Then will come the important crossing of the Bay of Biscay.
Even though it is the racer’s usual “playground”, this area located off the shores of France can often be cruel and a "boat breaker". Kito had a sad demonstration of this last November, when Groupe Bel dismasted shortly after the start of the Vendée Globe. In a few days, for the first time since this abandon, the skipper will sail the bow of his red monohull through this region still filled with emotion for all of those who take part in this project. It is also an opportunity to make a break with the past, on board Groupe Bel, which is in great form and currently leading the Istanbul Europa Race after two legs.
At the end of this leg, the race management shall decide whether to maintain the course passing the Fastnet lighthouse (South of Ireland). According to the timing and the weather conditions, Jean Maurel and his team will judge whether the competitors should make this loop around the Channel and the Iroise Sea, again in areas which are not “often sailed” in this season.
Whatever their choice, with nearly 1,500 miles to race, which is nearly half a Route du Rhum, the sailors and their boats will already have had plenty of time to show their metal.