[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat began as a small regatta on Lake Geneva, Switzerland with just 26 boats has become today the most important inland regatta in the world. The Bol d’Or (which literally means gold cup or bowl) is certainly among the most spectacular events on this lake.
This 76th edition offered a beautiful and very tactical regatta with winds up to 25 knots. This year the winner was Ladycat on a Décision 35 in just 5h38, the second best time in the long history of the regatta. In the category of the monohulls, Syz & Co won in 8h09 beating the record from 1994 by more than 30 minutes.
[box_light]A little bit of history[/box_light]
It all started back in 1939. Mr. Pierre Bonnet, the chairman of the Geneva Yacht Club, was bored with circling three markers during the long-distance regattas called “Les douze heures” (The 12 hours). He had the idea of creating a course using the entire surface of the lake from Geneva to the other end at Le Bouveret and back. On July 22nd, 26 boats lined up for the start of the very first Bol d’Or. The race was considered as dangerous since it meant spending the night out which was not common back then. All 26 boats finished the first edition, the victory going to Fred Firmenich’s 6 meter boat Ylliam IV in 23 hours and 8 minutes.
The race has taken place every year since1939. During the Second World War, it was prohibited to approach the French coasts so the course was modified with the last marker anchored off Montreux.
Today, the event is called the Bol d’Or Mirabaud, named after the international financial group which became the main sponsor in 2005. During these 76 years, it has turned into a true nautical festival and one of the grand classics on the international racing calendar. Each year sailing champions from across Europe meet at the starting line in Geneva and race across 76 miles to Le Bouveret and back. Apart from these champions on board sailing boats with cutting edge technology, there are also groups of friends taking part on board regular boats and even families with their children.
Over the years, the race also presented advances in sailing technologies. The monohulls dominated the race until 1980. Then, with the advent of the two or three hulls, the multihulls began to revolutionize sailing on Lake Geneva. From 1980 to 2003, the lake turned into a laboratory for boat designers to improve reliability, weight and speed with the help of new materials in order to push the limits. The boats became more competitive each year until the beginning of the new century when Ernesto Bertarelli’s “Black” multihull dominated and won the race four times in a row. He helped to develop a fast multihull adapted to the conditions of the lake. The aim of the boat designer was to offer a standardized design in order to focus on the sport and the tactical aspects of a regatta rather than a race to technological advances. The result was the multihull boat model Décision 35 (short D35). In 2004, eight multihull owners decided to compete with the same equipment. From 2004 to 2012, the D35 won every edition of the Bol d’Or Mirabaud with sailors like Loïck Peyron, Russell Coutts, Franck Cammas, Michel Desjoyeaux or Ernesto Bertarelli. Last year’s edition broke the supremacy of the D35 with the victory of skipper Jean-Philippe Bucher on the new Ventilo catamaran of Zenith Fresh.
[box_light]The 76th edition[/box_light]
Around 3’000 participants on 511 boats prepared for the race on Saturday morning of June 14th 2014. Observing the preparations was an interesting moment. It was clearly visible who was boarding with just the minimal equipment and food to keep the weight as low as possible to better compete in the race while others embarked fully loaded with the idea of spending two full days on the lake.
One of the favorites on the start line was the Hydros.ch, a catamaran designed to improve the knowledge of hydrofoils and collect as much information as possible on the differences between Archimedean (conventional) and hydrofoil modes of sailing. This floating laboratory operated by skipper Daniel Schmäh holds all the speed records for multihulls on Lake Geneva. The weather conditions will show if the flying catamaran can show its full potential.
It was a bright, windy, sunny morning. There were also quite some impressive waves in the lake which made it clear that the only chance to photograph the swift catamarans will be at the start. It would be impossible to follow them, even in powerful zodiacs. After the start signal at 10:00, it only took them about 90 seconds to be out of reach for photography. Thankfully, there were a lot of slower boats offering more than enough photographic opportunities.
Dona Bertarelli won on the D35 Ladycat powered by Spindrift for the second time after her success back in 2010. She won with three minutes ahead of D35 Realstone with skipper Jérôme Clerc and one more minute on D35 Alinghi with skipper Ernesto Bertarelli. The supremacy of the D35 is back.
Hydros.ch was unable to beat the D35. The concept proved to be a powerful and fast competitor on the lake. However, a tactical mistake in judging the wind when passing Lausanne cost the team around 40 minutes which is impossible to compensate on the remaining course. The boat finished at 9th rank.
The 77th edition of the Bol d’Or will take place on June 12th-14th 2015.
These and more photos are under flickr.