Published on 2020.06.03

Newsletter 2

  • Dear Bol d'Or Mirabaud Friends,

    History, anecdotes, encounters... we invite you to discover or rediscover the marvelous history and anecdotes of the BOM. We suggest that you carefully read this newsletter in order to prepare for a little surprise awaiting you next week! Even without a regatta… we’ll have fun anyway.

    - Winners in the Shadows -

    Cyrus Golchan and His Triple Surprise Crowning 

    Cyrus Golchan is one of the great Bol d’Or Mirabaud winners “in the shadows”. Crowned in 2011, 2013 and 2014 in the most disputed class, Surprise, he earned the right to keep the trophy, an honor bestowed on anyone winning the monohull scratch ranking three times in five years (Bol d'Or and Bol de Vermeil). 
    With a hundred competitors (at least!) each year, the Surprise winner is often considered the “real” BOM winner. So how did this 47-year-old Genevan achieve this?

    “I know the boat very well after having done the ‘5 Jours du Léman’ Surprise regatta series twelve times. Furthermore, we had good equipment with the Mirabaud Surprise, thanks to the project led by the bank’s then CEO, Antonio Palma. Finally, psychologically, when you’ve won once, you know you can do it again. You have the boat and sails you need, and a crew with proven capability. Notably, I was accompanied by Alan Roura and Patrick Girod for these victories. In 2014, I won the Geneva-Rolle. Olivier Peyron, with whom I sailed, told me that nobody could possibly win both. But I knew it could be done. And we did it! We even won in handicapped time as a bonus. Unforgettable!

    Winning the BOM is special. It’s a very particular regatta. The days leading up to the race, filled with preparations and an atmosphere found in no other sailing event. Champions from all over the world travel to Geneva to participate. At the time of our cup, we had the cream of the crop here, and still do mostly aboard Décision 35s. The BOM is an event uniting international racers with amateurs in an atmosphere that we look forward to impatiently each year! We share the experience with the same people we see Sunday evening, especially in an edition like last year’s. I still get shivers when I talk about it! The result is almost secondary in the end. What counts is the adventure we had and shared.

    Now my goal is to win in my class, on a Psaros 33. They are magnificent boats, hard to sail and designed specifically for the lake! We’re not far off from this victory! And if I dream a little… finish as the first monohull aboard a Psaros 33! If we do everything right, and the others make a few mistakes… why not believe?

    - People -

    Peter Leuenberger, Multihull Pioneer and Record Holder

    Peter Leuenberger’s trimaran, Triga IV, BOM record holder, was later sold to Stève Ravussin for a symbol franc. It’s with this boat that he raced and won the 1998 Route du Rhum in his class.
    As early as the late seventies, Peter Leuenberger started developing increasingly sophisticated and fast multihulls. Ophthalmology professor at the Geneva Cantonal Hospital, he doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of a sailing speed trailblazer – and yet! In 1979, he raced his first multihull Bol aboard a Tornado. A year later, his first trimaran was a Typhoon, equipped with two Tornado hulls as floaters. He designed an oversized rig. Then came a British trimaran designed by Derek Kelsall based on Christian Comin’s Formule 40, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, adapted to the Léman with a giant mast and special sails.

    In the good company of Edouard Kessi, Gérard Gautier, Elie Ohayon and Martial Baertshy, Leuenberger won the 1994 Bol d’Or and smashed the record in 5:01:51’. This record still stands! “All records are there to be broken and ours will be too someday, but it won’t be easy,” he says. On this beautiful day in June 1994, the Bise (sustained northerly wind over Léman region) was blowing hard – 40 knot gusts – forming large waves. “Offshore from Thonon, on the return leg, we shook out our reef. With our 110 square meter flying genoa as the only sail, we were going very fast.” Triga IV crossed the finish line in the lead, ahead of Happycalopse (Bertrand Cardis) and Poseidon, Bertarelli’s trimaran, which crossed the finish line capsized…

    “We immediately knew it was a great record that would be difficult to beat. But I never thought it would stand for a quarter century! I observe the continuum of technological developments up through 2020, with Ernesto Bertarelli’s trimaran, Black. Then we moved on to D35 one-designs and since, there’s been no more evolution. D35s never interested me. Its hulls aren’t voluminous enough, and when the wind hits 20 knots, you need to slow down. It’s not a sailboat designed to break records.”

    Next hoped to break the record: the new TF35 hydrofoil catamaran. “It will certainly be fast, but in up to how much wind will it be able to sail on its foils?” asks Leuenberger. “It will need ideal conditions, without too much wind or waves on the entire racecourse. These are actually quite rare conditions. In my opinion, the ideal boat to beat the record is a trimaran, powerful but also light: about a ton vs. Triga IV’s 2,150 kilos. Starting next year, if there is more than 20 knots of wind, I wonder if these vessels will hold up…”

    Retired from the regatta world since 2008, but still active professionally, Peter Leuenberger continues to closely follow lake regattas – and especially the Bol d’Or Mirabaud. Is he proud of his record? “No, that’s not the right word. You need to stay humble. On the other hand, I’m delighted to have been able to race at the highest Léman levels for fifteen years and to have won almost every race once, and always with great sportsmanship between the crews. The 1994 Bol d’Or was the best victory; that’s where we really pulled everything together, equipment, crew and sailing conditions. It’s an unforgettable memory.” 

    - History -

    Nausicaa, the Mercier family’s 6.50 m, came close to an upset in 1962, leading the race for a long time before being passed by the prestigious 8 m JI Glana.  © Gilles Favez

    Three Hanged by the Bol

    Winner of the Bol d’Or in 1949 and 1950, Vaudois Henri Guisan is one win away from keeping the trophy. But another crew prohibits it: André Firmenich, Charles Stern and famous helmsman Louis Noverraz.
    The Genevan champion’s victory over the Vaudois colonel and his expensive sailboat stirs up the longstanding conflict between Guisan, and the SNG and Louis Noverraz. Guisan takes it out on the Genevan skipper and gets himself banished from the Société Nautique de Genève, which slams the door on the Swiss Yachting Union, presided by… Henri Guisan! 

    The SNG is now isolated and its members prohibited from racing under their club’s flag, including in the Olympics. Similarly, Swiss and international sailors are formally prohibited from participating in races organized by the SNG – including the Bol d’Or – or face the penalty of exclusion from all other regattas. The boycott is generally adhered to, but a handful of intrepid sailors, realizing the absurdity of the situation, ignore the ban. Among them, three Vaudois crews aboard Satanic, Lalo and Nausicaa race in the 1957 Bol d’Or, ignoring the Swiss Yachting Union’s sanctions.

    André Mercier and the skippers of Satanic and Lalo know that if the rules are applied to the letter, they will be excluded from all other Swiss regattas, including those of their own club. André Mercier’s response is the best, projecting humor and mockery He designed a large canvas flag on which he painted three men hanging, each adorned with the name of one of the three sailboats. He then writes the “Ballad of Three Hanged Men” – a parody of François Villon’s poem – to a tune inspired by the Marseillaise.The story ends around a barbecue with the three “hanged” sailors being acquitted. A year later, the SNG race commissioner, A. Robert, salutes “the participation of boats from Vaud, Berne and Neuchâtel – proving that despite a theoretical schism, ties of friendship and sportsmanship are still alive and well between Geneva and the other Swiss sailing clubs.”

    Since that day, Nausicaa, sailed by André’s sons, Pierre and Antoine, has hardly missed a Bol. Splendidly restored by Philippe Durr, we also see her regularly on the formidable “Translémanique en Solitaire” starting line.

    - Partners -

    A New Institutional BOM Partner: Just for Smiles Foundation

    The Bol d’Or Mirabaud is proud to be associated with Just for Smiles. After three years alongside the International Red Cross Committee, the BOM Organizing Committee is introducing its new institutional partner. Just for Smiles is the premier wellbeing network (sport, culture, leisure activities) dedicated to all kinds of disabilities in Switzerland. Its mission: “to relentlessly search for incredible achievements, to bring all those impaired in their daily activities closer to a normal life.”

    The foundation had planned to enter two handivoile catamarans in the 2020 BOM allowing disabled people to experience the regatta from inside on the water. But also, on land, the foundation will allow its members to watch the start from the Société Nautique de Genève. “We are very proud to welcome them next year and to allow them to experience the event as insiders,” says Organizing Committee President, Rodolphe Gautier. “We hope to contribute to this fantastic institution’s visibility, and the extraordinary work of its volunteers on behalf of its members.”

    - Bateaux -

    The Surprise, Idol of the Léman

    The Surprise monohull was born in 1976, and quickly became the most popular sailboat on the Léman, with almost 800 units sold in Switzerland*. It’s the deserving descendant of the Corsaire, which the Amiguet naval yard built two and a half per week during the sixties.

    “I went to see this boat at the Archambault naval yard, and it clicked immediately,” tells François Séchaud, the man who had the nose to discover, import and promote them in Switzerland.

    “It had a light displacement and was very innovative for its time. I brought one to Switzerland and exhibited it at the Geneva Nautical Show, which was huge at that time, in the Parc des Expositions, current location of Uni Mail. Success was immediate. Then we raced in the Pâquerette regatta with strong Bise winds. We won with a large margin. That played a role in the Surprise reputation.” Twelve units were sold in Switzerland the first year, and seven of them faced off in the ‘77 Bol d’Or. A one-design class was quickly established, with precise rating rules, and an attractive racing calendar. “It cost 21,000 francs, including sails, at the time,” remembers Séchaud. “It was a multipurpose boat, allowing cruising-camping and racing. But it’s mostly racing that drove its development.”

    The best Léman racers succeeded one another, such as Christian Wahl or Dominique Wavre at first, then Jean-Marc Monnard, Michel Vaucher, Alain Marchand, Kiny Parade, Etienne David or Arnaud Gavairon, who raised the class to nobility and turn its annual championship into one of the most sought after challenges in Switzerland, with up to 70 sailboats on the starting line. Today’s best talent still sails in Surprises. “At the beginning, people looked down on us,” remembers Séchaud. “But the connotation changed and, today, the Surprise ranking has become prestigious.”

    “It’s the hardest class to win,” confirms Gérard Gautier. “Among multihulls, there are only twelve boats in the best of cases. Surprises, on the other hand, are more than a hundred and I have much admiration for whoever manages to win.” Thousands of crewmembers and owners discovered sailing, racing and the lake aboard a Surprise. For them, the scratch ranking has no importance: only the Surprise ranking counts. Thumbing their nose at history, skippers of these modest 7.5m polyester sailboats look at the lake’s Formula 1 with disdain; they know who the real winners are… Michel Glaus was one of the principle class promoters, attributing its success to its strict one-design rules and its reasonable cost. “It’s the class that includes the most sailboats in Switzerland, and also the one with the highest competitive level.”
    “Today, winning the Bol d’Or Mirabaud on a Surprise is probably the most difficult,” confirms Pierre-Yves Jorand. “And it’s possibly the most deserving Bol d’Or crew.”

    1,750 units were built by the Archambault yard up until 2011, of which 40% sail in Switzerland.”

    - 2019 Winners -

    Alain Gerber, TCF3 Winner

    We continue our presentation of 2019 winners. After TCF4, it’s the TCF3 winner’s turn: Alain Gerber and his Longtze Premier Osteo 7/7. “I’ve participated in the Bol on and off since I was 18 and regularly since 2000 with my different boats. I regularly ranked in the top 10 of my class with Jeudi 12 SUI 6, Nanook, including a beautiful 3rd place in 2007. Last year, I sailed with Christophe Dunand, Pierre-François Sauthier and Julien Descombes.

    For this first edition with our new boat, we took advantage of our light weight in the weak winds early in the race. Despite its small size and feather weight, the boat handled the storm well. And although we spent 15 minutes with the mast in the water, the time necessary to get the mainsail down... we then proceeded on to the Bouveret with only the jib, moving 12 to 15 knots in 10 meters of visibility. Our race was won during the storm when we passed from sixth to first place. The return to Geneva was more peaceful in spite of the night’s cold on our wet clothes!

    It’s an immense pleasure for a sixty-year-old sailor to take the Bol home after all these great lake adventures over the past twenty years. We were in the starting blocks for the 2020 edition and we’ll be there for the next ones, as long as our joints allow.”

    “It’s happening on the social networks!”    

    Return to the 2019 edition, thanks to the BOM’s official photographer, Loris Von Siebenthal, who received the prestigious Swiss Press Award in the Sport 2020 category. A remarkable recognition for a series of photos of rare intensity!

    In an exclusive interview for the BOM, he describes the exceptional circumstances in which these pictures were taken, and especially his feelings as a passionate and experienced sailor in the face of the storm.
    To discover these classic backstage images, join us on the BOM social networks.

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