Team Delft Challenge has made a strong recovery in the rankings since the Tour de France à la Voile reached the Mediterranean on 15 July. The young sailors left the disappointment of the Atlantic behind them and fought hard to regain lost ground. The tide turned during the inshores along the Saint Cyprien coast, where the team gained its first victory. They continued their strong showing in Port-Barcarès with an 8-9-13 series, followed by a somewhat less successful day. Sunday night the vanUden-TU Delft-VanOord team finished smartly in eleventh place in the race to Marseille. Despite their points disadvantage, Team Delft Challenge moved out of last place in the overall rankings. The team rose four places and is now fifth in the student rankings.
'It was very exciting,' said helmswoman Suzanne Leinders this morning, recalling the offshore to Marseille. The race was to have begun Saturday evening in Port-Barcarès, but was called off owing to the lack of wind. Once in the water, the race committee provided the coordinates of the new starting line. That meant that the 27 competing Mumm 30s had to run their engines the entire night. 'The wind was crazy and there were heavy storms,' said Leinders. 'We had to contend with gusts of up to forty knots. By morning it had died down.' The 60-mile-long race began at 6 a.m. The vanUden-TU Delft-VanOord team was on the right side, but could not pick up enough speed. 'There was little we could do in the tactical sense,' said Leinders, 'because the course forced us to sail one behind the other. At Marseille we had to choose between hoisting the spinnaker high and staying at sea or lowering it and heading for the coast.' Initially the Dutch team stayed at sea, but conditions soon proved to be unfavourable. 'So we crossed over to shore again. We thought we had won there, until the teams that had stayed at sea passed us and we lost again.'
The wind finally died down at sea, but the Delft team was able to take advantage of a breeze along the shore. 'That meant we were able to make up for lost ground until the breeze died down everywhere. We had to gybe to get through the gate, which turned out to be the finish. Then the breeze turned even more and we lowered the spinnaker and raised the genoa. A group of eight boats at sea picked up the fresh wind first and so they were able to finish.' The vanUden-TU Delft-VanOord team managed to pass the Val Thorens and ended in a respectable eleventh place.
From the moment the Dutch Mumm 30 touched the waters of the Mediterranean, the revitalised Team Delft Challenge made an impressive showing. 'We did very well,' said inshore skipper Michiel van der Meulen. 'Our tactics improved and the boat just flew along.' The sailing conditions ranged from light to fairly strong winds, but the Delft students performed well in both cases.
There was a strong mistral in Marseille, preventing the inshore races from continuing. The closing inshores in Hyères are scheduled for today. 'It’s a shame that the races in Marseille have been cancelled,' said Leinders, 'because now we probably won’t be able to close the gap with the fourth student team.'
After 28 races, the French team Courrier Dunkerque heads the overall rankings. CSC/HEC/Ecole Navale is at the top of the student rankings and in tenth place overall.
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