With a new boat and an all-new crew, Yann Guichard’s Sails of Change 8 clinched the first victory of the 2024 TF35 season in a to-the-wire final race at the TF35 Nyon Cup. 

As the sun shone brightly on a sparkling Lake Geneva in Switzerland, the final day of the TF35 Nyon Cup began with a delayed start as the race committee waited for the 8-10 knot northerly breeze to fill in. Coming into the final day, at the top of the leaderboard, Realteam Sailing held a four-point lead over Sails of Change 8, who, in turn, were just two points ahead of Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier. Although the points were tight, the podium felt stable.

In the first race of the day, Sails of Change 8 and ZEN Too seized an early lead by hitting the starboard layline in the first beat. They sailed their own race, maintained a comfortable distance from the rest of the fleet, and finished a clear 3 minutes ahead of third-placed Realteam Sailing. This race upset the overall ranking significantly, closing the gap between the top two teams and allowing ZEN Too to push Ylliam XII into fourth place.

“During the first heats, we were a bit worried. We thought to ourselves, we’re not performing too well,” confessed Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier helm Bertrand Demole. “The second day was more difficult, and that’s when we realized that the level was high, the fleet was compact, and the competitors were very close, so it was not going to be as simple as we expected”.

“This year the starts are hotter. There’s contact at every rounding. We all arrive together at the gates. So it’s fun. Everyone’s in the mix,” he adds.

At the start of the second race, Realteam Sailing, Sails of Change 10, and Ylliam XII were all called over the line early. However, remaining composed and focused, Guy de Picciotto’s ZEN Too stayed out of trouble, got ahead and led the fleet to the finish line, with Sails of Change 8 taking second and Ylliam 17 in third.

Unable to recover from their OCS, Realteam Sailing came home fifth, which meant their buffer in the overall ranking had vanished going into the final race. They were now tied on points with Sails of Change 8.

“What we’re looking for as sportsmen and women is a bit of adrenalin,” explained Sails of Change 8 helm Guichard after racing. “All day, we were conscious we were four points behind Realteam and knew there would only be three races to catch up so we had to be aggressive on the starts.”

Ahead of the final race, Realteam Sailing’s helm, Jérôme Clerc, fell back on his old match-racing ways and was the aggressor in the pre-race dance, trying to force Sails of Change 8 over the line early or off their foils. “It was very hot,” admitted Guichard. “But hey, that’s what we were going for too. I think the other competitors mixed up with us in the battle enjoyed it too.”

Without success, the pair split on the start gun, Realteam heading for the favoured right but mid-pack, while Sails of Change 8 went left and shortly tacked back right in clean air. This winning move put them into second behind Ylliam XII at the windward gate.

The rivals momentarily came together again on the second beat, but Sails of Change 8 were able to outpace Realteam and crossed the finish line in third behind winners Ylliam XII and second-placed Ylliam 17.

At the end of the day, a delighted Guichard and the Sails of Change 8 crew celebrate the event win with Realteam in second and Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier in third.

“It’s incredible to win this first grand prix, especially as Realteam won them all last year. It breaks the incredible rhythm they had and, above all, gives an opening for all the teams for the next grand prix,” Guichard concludes.

“Out of six boats, four have won races, and all have been in the top three; it’s very close. It makes the game even more interesting, but when we make mistakes, we pay for them hard. Starts become key because all the boats are going fast now. There’s very little difference between us. I have over 30 years ofexperience in multihulls and flying boats, and this boat is indeed extraordinary. And now we’ve taken a step up in terms of flight stability, which is encouraging for everyone and even for any new teams that might come along. It’s a fantastic step for the rest of the season and for the future of this class.”

Tied on points but fourth on countback, ZEN Too is happy with its progress in this event. Sails of Change 10 and Ylliam 17 both showed flashes of promise, not least because both teams achieved second-place finishes in races.

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