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Team VanUden-TU Delft-Van Oord ready for Tour de France à la Voile

Lucas Schröder navigating for VanUden–TU Delft–Van Oord The Delft Challenge Team announced on Friday 27 June that it is ready for the start of the Tour de France à la Voile 2008. The Mumm 30 fleet will cover approximately 920 nautical miles along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts in July. The VanUden-TU Delft-Van Oord has been measured and is now in the water at Dunkirk in northern France. The final team members arrived this evening and the demanding race will begin next Sunday with the prologue and the first inshore. Two or three inshores will follow on Monday afternoon. Monday evening the contestants line up for the first 93-mile offshore to Dieppe. Transat sailor Lucas Schröder will join the team as the navigator/tactician.

“The sails have been measured and approved and the safety inspection is now under way,” reported helmsman Michiel van der Meulen from Dunkirk. “They only spot-check the boats, so they’ve now measured just a few of them. If any teams really put on the speed later, their Mumm could still be subject to inspection in Dieppe.” Preparations in the Dutch camp are running smoothly. Nine team members were hard at work Friday morning. The other eight will be arriving in the course of the day. “I’m working with Lucas on preparing the navigation,” said Van der Meulen. “It looks like we’re in for changeable weather, with a high-pressure area above the Gulf of Biscay preventing the low-pressure area from moving in. There’s also a high-pressure area developing above Germany that’s blocking everything.” According to Van der Meulen, the wind may therefore be “all or nothing” during the first offshore.

Offshores should offer biggest gains

The VanUden-TU Delft-Van Oord team wants a spot on the winner’s podium this year. Van der Meulen is guessing that Insa and Hec will present the biggest challenge. “But there are also a few newcomers who claim to be good. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’m also not sure where we stand. We were sixth in 2007 and it was the offshores in particular that were troublesome. That’s precisely where we hope to make our biggest gains this year. We got Lucas to join up and we’re preparing everything step by step. We’re also working with both an inshore and an offshore crew this time. That’s new for us, and I think it’s where our strength will lie.”

Lucas Schröder: “Great challenge and good experience”

Last October, solo sailor Lucas Schröder finished fifth in the Transat 6.50, the best Dutch performance to date in this solo trans-Atlantic yacht race. Now he’s joining the VanUden-TU Delft–Van Oord as a navigator/tactician during the Atlantic offshores. “This is a great challenge because computers are allowed and that gives you more navigation options. It’s also a good experience sailing in a team. I’ve spent the past three days preparing with my old trainer, Tanguy. He’s competed in the Tour three times and will coach me through a few stages.” To understand the challenges he faces, Schröder has divided each stage into strategic components. “I’ve analysed all the defining factors – the coastal effects, currents and what happens when the wind turns. That gives me a framework for taking decisions during the race. I’ll discuss all this with the rest beforehand, so that everyone has a grasp of the race and can help think things through. It’s also very motivating.” Schröder believes that his offshore experience will be of added value during night sailing. “I’m going to try and turn that to our advantage.”

This will be the fifth time that the Delft students attempt to win the student class of the Tour. The old team came close in 2006 by capturing third place.

About the Tour de France à la Voile

The Tour de France à la Voile consists of a series of demanding short-track and long-distance races. The fleet – made up of professional, amateur and student teams – will cover 900 nautical miles in July. The contestants will sail from Dunkirk, covering the English Channel, the Gulf of Biscay, and the Mediterranean Sea in ten stages. Three of the stages exceed 180 miles. The first six offshores will bring the teams along the Atlantic coast to Royan. From there, the boats will be transported by road to Saint-Cyprien on the Mediterranean for the second part of the Tour. The race ends on 24 July in Hyères.

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