North Sails NEWS

BOL D’OR MIRABAUD: THE COOLEST REGATTA YOU HAVEN’T HEARD ABOUT

Europe’s Biggest and Most Popular Annual Sailing Events

📸 Loris Von Siebenthal

If you don’t know anything about the Bol d’Or Mirabaud, you’re not alone—even though it began in 1939 and today is one of Europe’s biggest and most popular annual sailing events. The 66 mile course looks deceptively simple: start off Switzerland’s Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), sail to a mark off Bouveret, France, at the opposite end of Lake Geneva, and then finish again off the docks of SNG. But every year the course provides a different challenge, which keeps both professional and amateur sailors coming back for more.

26 boats participated in that very first Bol d’Or, and the winner finished in just under 24 hours. The current race record (set in 1994) is just over 5 hours, and today over 500 boats participate; everything from custom carbon multihulls to wooden classic cruisers. In 2017, the largest one design class, the 7.5m Surprise, had 132 entries.

Monohulls and multihulls start on separate lines and round different marks to minimize interactions between the fleets. The lake is known for its light wind and flat water, but every few years some serious weather rolls down from the Alps. In 2019, a well-predicted storm halfway through the race brought Southern Ocean conditions with gusts to 60 knots that kicked up huge waves, as well as hail that reduced visibility to almost zero. Competitors were forced to take shelter and drop sails, but thanks to excellent seamanship (and that accurate forecast), the only damage was to equipment.

📸 Loris Von Siebenthal

For the 2021 Bol d’Or Mirabaud, a new one design fleet of foiling T35s will join the fun for the first time. Pierre-Yves Jorand, Director of North Sails Switzerland and Team Director of Alinghi, has worked closely with the designers of this innovative catamaran for more than two years. “The T35 is an accessible foiler that can be sailed well with limited foiling experience,” he says. “This is possible because of flight control on the T-foils and rudders, for maximum stability and safety.”

The T35 is a direct descendant of Lake Geneva’s pace-setting Decision 35 and achieves lift-off in as little as 6 knots of breeze. They were designed to be easily transported around the world, but one stated goal is to beat the D35s on the longer races of their home waters.

To achieve that, sail and foil designs were carefully coordinated. “To succeed, constant exchanges of information and ongoing coordination is crucial,” North Sails designer Patrick Mazuay explains. “The surface area of the foils determines the speed of takeoff. If this area is too large, it slows the boat at high speed because the “T” foil remains in the water all the time. That affects which sails were suitable… so, everything is linked.” The 3Di 870 RAW sail plan includes a decksweeper mainsail, a low-aspect jib, and a drifter. For winds under 5 knots, there’s also a 3Di Downwind 600 gennaker.

Seven teams have been training and racing on the Swiss side of Lake Geneva since early May, with three Grand Prix events completed. RealTeam Sailing leads the overall results and Alinghi is in second, but it was Zoulou (one of two French teams) that beat Alinghi in the lake’s other iconic distance race, the 30-mile Genève-Rolle-Genève. Foiling in six knots of breeze—and a broach-near capsize by Alinghi when they were hit with an unexpected gust right after the start—enthralled the spectators.

There will definitely be more exciting action during the 2021 Bol d’or Mirabaud, which is available to stream live starting Saturday 13 June at 10am CET.

Click here for more info. 

📸 Loris Von Siebenthal