Groupama returns

The first New Caledonia Groupama Race since 2018 is currently underway, with the fleet of 21 competing in varying wind conditions.

Photography by SailorgirlHQ - Nic Douglass

21 June 2022


The 654 nautical mile New Caledonia Groupama Race has commenced, with a record of 17 local teams started, including many Australian and New Zealand expats as well as four Australian and New Zealand teams which add to the fleet of 21 boats.

A record-number 28 women are taking part in the race.

The forecast for the start was a low-pressure system with a front, bringing gusts of up to 30 knots from the south. The 160 sailors all prepared for it, but what eventuated was a light northerly.

The seventh edition of the Groupama Race got away under spinnaker for the first time in the history of the race. The parade of colourful spinnakers delivered a magnificent spectacle in front of the 3,000 visitors present at the Rocher à la voile in Noumea.

The start was won at the windward boat end of the line by Sunfast 3200, Tosot Climitisation Ketal, a double-handed entry. At the leeward end of the line is local favourite BCI Brer Fox, a Miller 40.


Antipodes took the lead soon after the start, but it was Rushour who rounded in first position for the Parade of Sail, a lap of the harbour to involve spectators.

In the battle of the Sydney 38s, it was Eye Candy who won, leading the Parade of Sail. However, the second battle was won by Poulpito. The battle continues for both line honours and in the minor IRC placings.

Day one

After clearing the lagoon, the first tactical dilemma arose for the fleet. It split into two around Ile Ouen. The majority aimed to use the favourable currents of the Woodin Canal, while the other half, including the multihulls, bet on a more regular offshore wind.

Current line honours leaders Rushour took the offshore route, while Antipodes opted for the inshore.

The offshore route was the higher risk option, but those brave enough to take it reaped rewards, including Ocean’s Tribute – making good speed around the bottom of the island to move into the mix for line honours. Particularly successful was Poulpito, extending significantly in the Sydney 38 battle.

Of the double-handers, Motorboat II led Clockwork on line honours, after a back and forth dance throughout the Parade of Sail in the lagoon, another who opted for the offshore route around Ile Ouen.

A rough first night

At sunset on the first day, the 21 boats were hit by a front that was expected for the start, encountering heavy seas and winds varying between 25 and 35 knots while skirting the south of Grande Terre via the Havannah canal.

While many reported varying degrees of wear and tear, for the Australians of Ocean’s Tribute, the night was reported to be an exciting ride. On board, everyone was impressed by the number of supporters present at Rocher à la voile to watch the start.

Once again, the sailors were presented with a tactical dilemma, either opt for the direct rhum line along the coast, and thereby sail the shortest route possible, or continue towards the north-east and lengthen the route, hoping for more wind offshore.

The majority of the fleet chose to move away from the coast, which appears to have paid dividends for the multihulls. Aussies onboard Rushour, who opted for the most extreme trajectory, extended their lead on line honours overnight.

However, an individual distress beacon was triggered on board the Australian vessel Antipodes. Unreachable by VHF or satellite telephone, and continuing its course with an unchanged trajectory, a rescue operation was initiated with the MRCC in conjunction with the PC Course.

Three sailboats were thus diverted for several hours and rescue means implemented by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of New Caledonia.

Around 2am local time, the boat was finally contacted and doubts on the whereabouts of the crew person was dissolved. The distress beacon had been triggered by mistake.

All sailors have been reminded that each boat must maintain a listening watch on channels 16 and 77 from the start to the end of the race as per in Sailing Instruction 15.5.

Current leaders and heading into night two

Corrected time positions are continually changing, however for most of the day, Tosot Climatization Ketal has led on IRC overall. They were one of the boats who chose to go inshore, with the more direct route, perhaps playing to the strengths of the SunFast 3200.

BCI Brer Fox is in second, while the three Sydney 38s, Guilty Pleasure, Eye Candy and Poulpito are continually changing with the same distance from the next mark in the far north of Grande Terre.

Line honours is still held by Rushour.

The wind continues to vary between ten and 15 knots. The boats are still under spinnaker and are progressing in a much calmer sea as they head toward the north of the Island.

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