Sunday, November 24, the fourth and final day of the St. Barth Cata Cup, was decisive, with four boats still in contention for the top prize before the last two races. There was still a huge sense of suspense as the boats set sail, and even more so at the end of the first race when Gurvan Bontemps and Benjamin Amiot (Eden Rock St Barth) found themselves with the same number of points as Jean-Christophe Mourniac and Antoine Rucard (Eden Rock Villa Rental), after their victory in race n°6. The tension, already palpable, increased to the max after the start of the seventh and final race, with Argentineans Cruz Gonzalez Smith and Mariano Heuser (Architectonik) and the French duo of Orion and Antoine Martin (Mext Cardio) still on the attack. Under pressure, Mourniac & Rucard, who were in the leaders’ spot as of Saturday evening after the race around the island, did not waver, winning the last race, and as a result, the overall regatta.
Just nine points separated the top four boats in the general ratings as of Sunday morning. The last two races kept their promise of suspense and decisiveness. The first race, between the bay of St Jean and the small islands of Boulanger and Pelé, was competitive and put the pressure on more than one duo, starting with Jean-Christophe Mourniac and Antoine Rucard. Leaders at the end of the first three days of racing, with an advantage of six points, the tandem was finally placed seventh, while Gurvan Bontemps and Benjamin Amiot sailed to victory. This meant that the two teams had exactly the same number of points. So for both of them, it was all down to the final race toward the beach in Public, via Roche le Bœuf.
“Starting the seventh and final race, we were well aware that we couldn’t make any errors if we wanted to win. We did what we had to at the beginning and very quickly found ourselves out front, battling against Cruz Gonzalez Smith and Mariano Heuser. We managed to pass them downwind and take the lead, but we knew nothing was set in stone, as there was an important tactical choice to make near Bœuf. The Argentineans shifted into the wind, but we were able to stay downwind, hoping not to hit low winds. We were lucky and able to stay in first place all the way to the finish,” comments Jean-Christophe Mourniac, who solidified his victory in the overall ratings, and improved on his third place finish in this regatta in 2010, when he sailed with Christopher Jonsson.
First Time Winners
“We are extremely happy, as this is the first time that Antoine and I have sailed together on an F18,” states Mourniac, who initially planned to sail in this regatta with Erik Maris. But as Maris had conflicting professional obligations, Ruchard, a young sailor from Finisterre, replaced him at the last minute “We have frequently raced together on Diam24 OD, the boat for the Tour de France sailing race, but this was the first time with the Cirrus R2. We rather rapidly got our bearings and gained ground, in spite of the strong competition,” notes the sailor whose nickname is Kinou.
If he had a huge smile on his face as he got back on shore, there was real disappointment seen on the faces of Gurvan Bontemps and Benjamin Amiot, whose goal this year was to stand on the top step of the podium, following their third and second place victories in 2015 and 2016. “Victory in the St. Barth Cata Cup continues to elude us. It’s hard as I think we were never this close. To be in front before the last race, that had never happened to us before. The good news is that even if we are getting older, we continue to make progress. Maybe we will eventually win it one day!” says Bontemps, who in spite of everything has maintained his sense of humor. “After three consecutive race victories, we were in a good place. We set sail for race n°7 thinking we would continue to sail in the same manner, not necessarily wanting to control our adversary as we knew that would be hard to do with unstable wind conditions. At the end of the day, we came in fifth, losing one place right before the finish line after being caught in a big lull, but we were able to retain second place overall,” explains Bontemps, who finished in a tie in terms of the same number of points as Argentineans Gonzalo Smith and Heuser, yet who has the advantage based on the number of race victories.
Ready To Return Next Year
“A podium is a podium but we are clearly a little disappointed not to be able to stand on the highest step. The tour around the island, with its coefficient of two, cost us big time. We finished in sixth position, our worst score over the four days of sailing, while our direct competition did better. This was the worst possible scenario for us. Things were very close right to the end, but in spite of our placing second twice on Sunday, we were not able to win, even though that was our goal,” comments Cruz Gonzalez Smith, who leaves with the bronze, as during the world championships for the F18 class in Spain last summer.
“Even so, we really enjoyed sailing in Saint Barth, and we will come back to get our revenge next year,” says the South American skipper. Antoine Rucard, who sailed in this regatta for the first time, made the same promise, and plans on coming back right away. “The St. Barth Cata Cup is a fabulous event, at a very high level, with incredible races, and exceptional sailing conditions. I will do all I can to be back in 2020,” concludes the winner. Save the date!