This year’s Seychelles Regatta will be remembered for its stiff winds and even stiffer competition between visiting foreign skippers as they found themselves surreally suspended between Seychelles’ cloudless, cobalt skies, and the stunning backdrop of her inner islands.
Previous editions of the Seychelles Sailing Cup and Seychelles Regatta have sometimes failed to live up to the expectations of sailing purists on account of the lack of wind that sometimes reigns over the periods between the opposing trades.
Not so the Regatta that began on the morning of Sunday, May 23 at Mahé’s Eden Island, when the sound of sailcloth snapping edgily at the first winds of the southeast monsoon immediately set a new and encouraging tone to this popular, annual event that showcases the Seychelles islands as a dream sailing destination.
With a turnout that included some of the most illustrious personalities of the European sailing scene: Michel Desjoyeaux, Armel Le Cléac’h, Samantha Davies, Yann Eliès, Romain Attanasio, Jérémie Beyou, Servanne Escoffier, Jean Claude Dupouy, and Yvon Bénéteau, from the very start, the 2010 Seychelles Regatta appeared primed to deliver results befitting the premier sailing event in the Seychelles calendar.
After a spectacular launch at Eden Island, attended by Vice President Joseph Belmont where the teams were introduced to the sound of toasting champagne glasses and speeches by Mr. Peter Smith, Eden Island’s director of marketing, Seychelles Tourism Board’s Alain St. Ange, and Mr. Regis Elahouel of Publie Voile, one of the event’s chief organizers, the competitors went under the starting gun the next morning, destination Beau Vallon.
With an average wind speed of 12 knots, the pace of this first leg was fast, with Michel Desjoyeaux repeating his success of last year by finishing in first position (with handicap) in the Champagne Nicolas Feuillate boat, followed by Yann Elies on Hyundaï and Armel Le Cléac’h aboard Chateau Perenne Grand Vin de Bordeaux. The second leg, which took the race from east of Silhouette to Praslin’s Anse Lazio, was won by Yvon Bénéteau skippering Air Seychelles, followed by Samantha Davies on Eden Island and Yann Eliès captaining the locally sponsored Leopard 47’ Hyundaï.
From this point on, fortune began to favor Hyundaï, with Yann Eliès coming out on top in each of the next two races ahead of fellow racers Samantha Davies on C’est La Vie and Michel Desjoyeaux’s Champagne Nicolas Feuillate. This was an eventual place on the victor’s podium in the making – one that Eliès would not surrender despite gaining only fourth place in the sixth race and being only two points ahead of his closest rival, Michel Desjoyeaux, coming into the final, nail-biting leg from Cousine back to Eden Island. This Hyundaï won as a result of finishing second over the final 100 meters, but with an overall score of 10 points, sufficient to win top honors in the regatta by a margin of 3 points, with Armel Le Cleac’h earning 3rd place overall.
While such a victory by a local team was still resonating throughout the islands and speeches at the spectacular Eden Island closing ceremony by education minister Bernard Shamlaye, Alain St. Ange and Regis Elahouel were all proclaiming the 2010 Regatta a great success, and plans were already afoot to widen participation in next year’s competition to include boats from South Africa and Italy. “This year’s event has been the best so far in terms of the weather and the overall organization,” enthused Alain Alcindor of the Race Committee, “So let’s hope for more of the same next year, along with greater participation from locals and foreigners alike.”
Meanwhile, as the victors and organizers bask in the limelight, Seychelles continues to build on to its reputation as one of the premier sailing spots on the planet, offering an exceptional sailing experience against a backdrop of breathtaking beauty in the land of perpetual summer.