After 17h 34m 28s of racing in an almost non-existent breeze, the TF35 race within the 84th edition of the Bol d'Or Mirabaud came down to an intense duel at 3 am between Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Realteam Sailing, with Esteban Garcia's Realteam Sailing, with Jérôme Clerc at the helm, emerging triumphant.
"We're very happy with what we did today," enthuses Alinghi Red Bull Racing helmsman Maxime Bachelin, who joined the TF35 team this weekend from Barcelona. "We always stayed in the game, made good transitions and good choices, and it was a great race. I'd like to emphasise the great team spirit aboard, as we complemented each other very well. In the end, it came down to the finish line with Realteam. For a few minutes, we almost thought we could overtake them ahead of Vésenaz. Despite that, we're very happy with the result."
From the outset, the forecast was marginal, with the best-case scenario predicting 8 knots of wind and the worst-case scenario indicating just 2 knots. So when the TF35 fleet lined up alongside the 421 other crews to drift across the startline in a meagre 2-knot breeze, it set the tone for the day.
In anticipation of the light wind forecast, Realteam Sailing made a strategic decision to swap their T-foils for C-boards, specifically designed for non-foiling conditions in long-distance races. Switching to C-board provides a significant advantage, reducing water drag and shedding approximately 100 kilograms of boat weight. However, having never sailed with the C-boards before, it was a daring move for Realteam to incorporate them into the race.
During the initial half of the race, the fleet remained closely grouped, navigating the French side of the lake until leaving the Petit Lac on the approach to Rolle. At this point, ZEN Too encountered a wind hole, falling behind, while Realteam Sailing masterfully manoeuvred through the light winds, propelling themselves into a slight lead over the entire fleet.
At the turning mark in Bouveret, Realteam Sailing was not only the first TF35 but in first place for the whole Bol d'Or Mirabaud fleet. Twenty-eight minutes later, Alinghi Red Bull Racing was the next TF35 to round, following M2 boats Patrimonium and Swiss Medical Network. Of the chasing fleet Spindrift, Ylliam XII - Comptoir Immobilier and Ylliam 17 rounded the mark in relatively close proximity to each other, but in the battle to take third on the podium, Spindrift split from the other two on the return to Geneva and capitalized on better pressure closer to the Swiss shore past Morges, whilst Ylliam XII - Comptoir Immobilier , Ylliam 17 and ZEN Too struggled to keep moving past Evian-les-Bains on the French side of the lake.
In the battle for the finish line, having led for the majority of the race, Realteam Sailing started to lose her grip on the lead after dark as they drifted at three knots of boat speed past Versoix. The first to overtake was D35 W-Team and M2s Patrimonium and Swiss Medical Network, but of bigger concern to Clerc's team was the fact that Alinghi Red Bull Racing was steadily closing the gap on them.
"After a good start, we got away pretty quickly and then we were always pushing hard in the transitions," explains Alinghi Red Bull Racing's Matthieu Sistek. "We had a good climb up Séchard and in my opinion, it all came down to Lutry. We crossed back over to the French coast and managed to extricate ourselves from our rivals. The manoeuvres at the end were complicated and intense for us, as Realteam and its daggerboards were faster than us. All in all, I'm very happy with the regatta in general and the experience on board."
Having done an excellent job of somehow finding pockets of breeze on the fickle lake after dark, Alinghi Red Bull Racing momentarily took the lead around 2k from the finish line, but current TF35 tour leaders Realteam refused to give up. As they made their final approach towards the bright lights of Geneva and the finish line off Société Nautique de Genève Realteam pulled back in front to finally take the TF35 win.