The much anticipated Bol d’Or Mirabaud starts this Saturday (17th June) at 1000h. This year will see the 79th edition of the 123-mile race from Geneva to Bouveret and back, with over 500 boats competing in the event, the biggest inland water race in Europe.
Ladycat and skipper Dona Bertarelli will be competing in their 11th Bol d'Or Mirabaud. The first woman to have won the event in the 2010 edition, Dona Bertarelli's team also won two new titles in 2014 and 2016 adding her name to a prestigious list of multiple winners of this iconic race.
This edition has a special significance for the black and gold team. Should they again secure the top podium position they would keep the Bol d’Or Trophy in perpetuity having secured three victories in five years. But to achieve this would be no mean feat. The Bol remains a difficult race, strewn with pitfalls, and Saturday’s weather conditions will only add complications with the anticipated arrival of the Bise, a strong northerly wind from the Alps. Ladycat powered by Spindrift racing and her crew will have to remain focused and on the attack if they are to succeed in achieving the top podium position.
Dona Bertarelli, skipper of Ladycat, sums up her views in advance of the starting gun of this famous event:
How did you prepare this 79th edition of the Bol d'Or Mirabaud?
This year, with Spindrift racing, we chose not to participate in the D35 Trophy championship as the team is already committed to three other major sporting objectives - the Jules Verne Trophy with Spindrift 2, the World Match Racing Tour in M32 and the Bol d'Or Mirabaud with Ladycat.
While we have sailed less on the D35 than in previous years, we have had a number of training sessions and last weekend took part in the Geneve-Rolle-Geneve, which was a good opportunity to measure ourselves against the rest of the fleet and get back into our stride.
Is the boat ready?
We carried out a complete check up and prepared the boat this winter at our base in St Philibert, in Brittany.
Is the crew ready?
Yann and I are very fortunate to have a talented crew. They are a huge asset and we all know each other well and work well as a team. We have sailed together on other Spindrift team projects, including the round the world race on Spindrift 2 last year.
What do you like about the Bol d'Or Mirabaud?
Aside from the fact that it is racing in Switzerland on a magical lake, the race really has soul and a special character. After the winter all around the lake, you begin to see sailors of all ages starting to prepare their boats, and all are focused on one goal: to take part in the Bol d'Or.
In addition, I also like the difficulty of the race, it requires a huge amount of mental and physical commitment year after year. But the Bols are never alike, each edition is full of surprises, turnarounds, unexpected elements, changing weather conditions, sprint races or in light airs, sometimes match racing, and very tight finishes!
You have already won the Bol d'Or three times, are you looking for the definitive win with three victories in 5 years?
We will race without worrying about this. We know that we have the potential, and sporting performance has always been at the centre of our projects. To once again win the Bol d'Or Mirabaud would be exceptional and definitely a great reward for the whole team. We have been a part of this race for many years, investing our time, effort and passion, so we are very aware of the preparation that is required to have a race-ready boat and a competitive team. We will give our all to this race, but we remain realistic as we are very aware of how difficult it is.
What are your best memories of Bol d'Or?
After three years of competing, and the first time at the helm, I won my first Bol d'Or against some of the big names in sailing. I have great memories and emotions from that race as well as personal and sporting satisfaction. The 2014 edition was incredible and energetic with consistent winds of about 25knots for the express course around Lake Geneva. We crossed the line in first place after 5 hours and 38 minutes, the second fastest time in the history of Bol d'Or Mirabaud. Inevitably my strongest memories all relate to editions that we have won, because the race is so difficult each victory is a feat in itself. But I also remember the slowest on record in 2009, when Ladycat took almost 24 hours to complete the course.
What are the difficulties on the course of the Bol d'Or Mirabaud?
Not only do you sail against the rest of the D35 class, but also against other multihulls and close to 500 competitors - so this can prove to be tricky and getting off to a good start is essential in this race. First there is a mark that has to be left to starboard off Versoix. The cards are then often reshuffled when the boats reach Bouveret (at the eastern end of the lake), as there is often a lack of wind in this area, so a new race starts, albeit that for this edition strong winds are expected. As we leave Bouveret, for the return leg to Geneva, you have to negotiate the transition of wind across the middle of the lake. Then it is a sprint down to the lower lake where also the cards can be reversed dependent on arrival time, thermal winds and storm systems. Many changes in fortune can occur just a few miles from the finish. Given the possible forecast this weekend, it is possible that the 79th edition of the Bol d’Or Mirabaud could be a record-breaker.
The team of Ladycat powered by Spindrift racing on the Bol d’Or Mirabaud:
Dona Bertarelli, skipper
Nicolas Debordes: boat captain