Alexandre D., 24, 4th year student at INSA Toulouse, participated in the Spi Dauphine boat race in the South-West of France, as team skipper for the winning Team Total Sea Grant ‘Team Voile INSAT’.
“I first started sailing when I was five, on a small sail boat, then on an Optimist at sailing school. I moved on to catamarans and later a regular sailboat. As a registered sailing instructor, I have been teaching at the INSAT sailing club since last year. The Spi Dauphine was a first for me.
We interviewed 12 students at the school as well as two accompanying novices, on two boats (a First 36.7 for the regatta and a Dufour 41 for the novices). It was this factor that made our candidature stand out from the rest. For 2 days we welcomed two young people from Ô Talent, an association that helps youngsters from modest backgrounds in this case unable to pay for sailing lessons. The aim: to share with them our daily lives and to teach them the basics of sailing. Total financed us which covered the subscription fees, boat rental and the sponsor stickers to be placed on the boat for the duration of the race.
Beautiful escapade not without its setbacks
The competition began with two successive setbacks: the start of the race, from Six-Fours les Plages, initially programed for the Saturday, was first postponed until Sunday then again until Monday due to strong winds. We killed time with a game of bowls and volleyball. We were also one of the only teams to have gone out to sea being impatient to get started!
On the third day we were finally able to set sail from Six-Fours along the coast to the Island of Frioul, off the coast of Marseille. The sun was out and the wind was slight (the wind was going to be variable but the sun was going to accompany us for the entire week). For this race we decided to hug the coastline, thinking that the land formation might help us take advantage of the poor wind conditions. It was a bad calculation: we finished twelfth out of sixteen boats, that evening we drowned our sorrows with a drink courtesy of the town hall in Frioul.
On the fourth day (Tuesday), we participated in two activities both of which involved sailing between two buoys, one facing the wind the other with the wind behind us, a trial that involved tacking back and forth to the finishing line. We finished in 6th and 8th place.
On Wednesday, 40 minutes into the race after a flying start, the wind fell drastically to such an extent that we had to finish using the motor. This stage, which originally involved sailing along the coast of Frioul and La Seyne-sur-Mer, was cancelled.
On Thursday we once again braved two heats (one coastal, one between buoys). We finished 5th and 7th. A second buoy race was planned but a submarine exercise by the marines in Toulon prevented us from continuing the race and it had to be cancelled.
On Friday, our last day, the wind again took its time to get up, our last two heats bringing us in at a respectable 6th and 8th place. In the overall ranking we came 8th out of 16 boats and the first in our category (Dacron sails, a material that performs less well than sails made of carbon).
This whole experience will remain a wonderful souvenir for me, between the team and competitive spirit, the conviviality of our evenings together, not to mention the exchanging of business cards with a number of collaborators and company partners. The Spi Dauphine is some 400 students all doing something they love doing, sailing. But it is also a great opportunity to meet new people. More motivated than ever, our team has already gone back into training with a view to participating in next year’s race.