Tour Voile

The Tour Voile confirms its return to its roots

The Tour Voile sets off from Dunkirk on Wednesday 26 June, finishing in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo on 14 July. 103 sailors, including 36 women (from 15 crews), will be battling it out in Figaro Beneteau 3 on coastal races and offshore legs. Tip & Shaft takes a look back at this 45th edition. 

Since last year, the Tour Voile has been raced in Figaro Beneteau 3 with crews of four sailors, including at least one woman and two young people aged between 16 and 26. In 2022, the French Sailing Federation, in collaboration with the Figaro Beneteau class, wanted to relaunch this competition so that it would return to its original essence, the transmission and training of young people in ocean racing.

Ultim Sailing, the company co-founded by Emmanuel Bachellerie and Mathieu Sarrot, has been entrusted with the organisation up to and including the 2025 edition. “For Act 1 of the renaissance of the Tour Voile, in 2023, we had partly grafted ourselves onto the organisation of the Tour de Bretagne, due to a lack of time, but for this 45th edition, we are alone at the helm,” explains Emmanuel Bachellerie.

Ultim Sailing has enlisted the services of a new race director for the occasion, Yann Eliès, who has agreed to take up the challenge: “Firstly because I’m very attached to the Figaro circuit, which trains the great sailors of today. But also because by allowing young people to compete on equal terms on a seaworthy, technical support and to set off offshore in complete safety, the Tour has returned to the essence of what it should be. What’s more, it’s a legendary event! I remember seeing Paul Cayard and Dean Barker, the America’s Cup sailors who came to compete against the best French crews and mix with student crews who had come to gain their first experience”.

It’s in this spirit that the three-time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, who has taken part in the Tour in the past in a Jod 35 and Mumm 30, has built his course: “In parallel with the coastal races on the stopover days, my aim is really to get them out on the open sea over 24 or even 36 hours, and not just on the rally legs. If, for example, from Dieppe, I can get them to cross the English Channel, go as far as Cherbourg and return to Deauville, all in 36 hours, I’ll do it.” 

“The choice of transmission”

French Sailor Sophie Faguet, who has taken part in the Tour de Voile a dozen times, is also following in her footsteps at the head of a crew of young sailors from Normandy. “The Tour is the event that introduced me to the offshore racing and allowed me to explore all the positions on board, while being accompanied by experienced people. For this edition, I’ve also chosen to pass on my experience by recruiting a crew of six young people whose vocation is to go ocean racing and who are trying to set up their own projects.” What about the budget? Although she finds it difficult to isolate the part purely devoted to the Tour Voile, the sailor from Normandy estimates that the whole project, with the hire of the boat and participation in the various races, comes to around 70,000 euros over the year.

Swiss Valentin Gautier, who also skippers a crew of youngsters from the Centre d’Entraînement à la Régate de Genève (CER), is delighted with the revival of the event. Taking young people to the Tour Voile is a tradition within our association, points out the man who, after three years in the Mini 6.50 and four in the Class40, has become a member of the directory of the CER. “If the Tour had lost some of its flavour when it switched to the Diam 24, this return to the Figaro with a format including rally stages was great news for us. It’s an opportunity to introduce the young people at the CER to the marine environment, to sail at night, in currents and rocks.”

15 crews, compared with 12 last year, will be lining up at the start in Dunkirk on 26 June, ready to battle it out over a condensed format of 14 days of racing, the aim being not to exceed budgets that are too high for the crews, because the longer a race is, the more it costs”, explains Mathieu Sarrot. To build the route (see the programme), “we went to see towns that we felt were fairly iconic in the history of the Tour, such as Dunkirk, which is hosting the Tour for the 35th time”, he continues.

The Tour is also stopping off abroad, in Blankenberge, Belgium, “because we are convinced that it is very important to showcase French boats, events and expertise abroad”, explains Emmanuel Bachellerie. As for Yann Eliès, he notes that “this is also a return to our roots, as there has always been a tradition of Belgian teams in the Tour Voile”. This will also be the case this year with Région Bruxelles-Capitale, led by Timothée Deplasse.

An increased budget, 
the Mediterranean postponed

What about the event’s budget? According to the organisers, it has risen from 150,000 euros last year to 300,000 this year, with public funding accounting for around 60%, the remaining 40% coming from technical suppliers and boat registration fees (3,500 euros excluding VAT per crew). “But as with all our events, we’re aiming for a 50-50 split,” stresses Emmanuel Bachellerie. “We’re gradually breaking even, and next year we should have a consolidated budget of around €420,000. A well-organised, well-produced and well-publicised Tour should turn over between €400,000 and €500,000 per season.”Talking of the future, after the Atlantic in 2023, the English Channel and the North Sea this year, the Atlantic coast will once again be the playground for the Tour Voile in 2025. The original ambition was to alternate between the three basins – Atlantic, English Channel-North Sea and Mediterranean – but the Mediterranean passage has been postponed. It’s premature in terms of date, fleet, and above all CSR, because it wouldn’t make sense to send the boats by lorry or cargo ship, and the delivery would be relatively long,” explains Mathieu Sarrot. However, Emmanuel Bachellerie points out that the organiser is “very committed to finding a solution to go to the Mediterranean”.

As for the question of whether the Sun Fast 30 One Design, the new one-design launched this year, could make its debut on the Tour from 2026, the co-directors of Ultim Sailing reply: “In the co-construction of the project with the FFV and the Figaro class, our desire is to continue with this tried and tested one-design boat, especially as we are in a context where society is calling for the use of what already exists, rather than building and rebuilding. It would be a bit strange to switch to a brand new boat that seems less tried and tested, when we have a fleet of 70 boats built, of which a dozen or so are still available.”

Photo: Jean-Marie Liot

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