French Champs Qualifier

Sunday, 28 June 2009 14:55 | Written by  Marc Le Mentec
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Cherbourg, France:  100 single skis registered for the race; one of the final steps in the French series to qualify for the National Championship that will take place in August on the Côte D'Azure...


The 22 km race was 70% downwind. Conditions were quite good with a Sunny 24C, small chop and a 15kt tail wind.

Massive Escort Fleet

After race briefing at the new Cherbourg clubhouse, all the competitors drove to the start line. As usual the club stressed the importance of safety regulations, and made a huge effort to have close to twenty escort boats on the water!



3 pm: The one hundred competitors were on the start line. Everybody was calm, nobody crossed the line before the official signal (no one wanted a two minute penalty!).  The fastest paddlers were all on the left of the start line, Marc Le Mentec and Florent Novakowski taking the lead. The first 2km leg was inside the harbor on the flat water and a group of six paddlers rapidly broke away in a diamond formation comprising Yannick Laousse and Gaetan Séné (respectively 7th and 11th at Eurochallenge, Spain, and that will compete in Durban), Ludovic Gourrichon (90kg of muscle Flatwater sprinter) and his brother Stephan Gourrichon (former ICF K4 Olympian, official Fenn Dealer in France), Florent Novakowski and Marc Le Mentec (will compete in Mauritius and Durban).


1,5 km later

Once out of the harbor, the paddlers immediately had to turn left for a 6 km headwind leg. Yannick Laousse and Gaetan Séné took the better line close to the shore, being sheltered from a strong current at the end of this leg. They took a 20m lead on Florent Novakowski that he never managed to close. Behind, the Gourrichon brothers were paddling together while Marc Le Mentec was trying to save as much energy as possible for the downwind leg.


On the way back to the finish the paddlers diced on the waves, making every run count. Yannick Laousse showed his surfing skills, overtaking Gaetan Séné to win in 1h40. Séné came second with Florent Novakowski in third place, one minute later.

The prize giving ceremony took place a few hours later on the beach, where Yannick Laousse and Gaetan Séné received their prizes in addition to a backpack. Why a backpack ? In order to make sure that they can fly to Durban with all their paddling gear!

They will land in Durban on the 30th June and are keen to paddle with the best paddlers on earth and to train in big sea conditions...  the 2009 French team is determined to avoid the 2007 disaster where all four team members lost their skis and had to be rescued in the huge seas (they were amount some 40 paddlers who failed to finish the race). Third team member Marc Le Mentec will make a stop in Mauritius before joining the others in Durban.


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