Transat Jacques Vabre: MOD70s in, Multi 50s next

Published on November 19th, 2013

(November 19, 2013) – Sidney Gavignet (FRA) and Damian Foxall (IRL) on the MOD70 Oman Air – Musandam crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre finish line off Itajai, Brasil at 20h 04m 09 sec local time (22h 04m 09 secs) 5 hrs and 15 seconds after the winner Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier). The duo took 11 days 10 hours 04mins and 09 seconds to complete the 5,450 miles (theoretical course) between Le Havre and Itajaí, at an average speed of 19.71 kts. They actually sailed 5968 miles at an average of 21.77 kts.

This transatlantic race for the MOD70s was characterised by a fast, relatively testing exit of the English Channel followed after the Bay of Biscay by a difficult passage of Cape Finisterre in big seas and building winds – which skipper Gavignet later described as the worst he had seen on a MOD70 –before escaping into the Portuguese Trade Winds allowed an initial break by Edmond de Rothschild.

The two MOD70s closed up after the Doldrums and Oman Air – Musandam were less than 30 miles behind on Saturday night before they dropped off the back of the cold front there.

Damian Foxall, co-skipper Oman Air-Musandam: “I think that we made a few mistakes but Edmond de Rothschild made less. The most important thing for us when we finish an event like this is to say we have no regrets, and we have small sporting regrets, a couple of things we could have done a little bit better, but we crossed the finish line and feel very happy with the two weeks we have been at sea, Edmond de Rothschild deserved the win. It would have been nice to have been a little bit closer but we dropped off the back after coming out of the cold front off Cabo Frio, and we had a few little technical things which slowed us down, but to be in is awesome. I guess going around Finisterre we kind of overestimated the conditions, we maybe went a little bit into defensive mode, thinking long term, whereas we really needed to be pushing on then to stay with the strategic game, to go in the right direction and to get south fast. The further south you got, the faster you got there and that was right through into the following week. We dropped off the back of it there a bit. And the other tough moments were putting a lot of work into getting back up to the other guys and I think we were up to 20 miles behind and then we lost the hydraulics and the rake on the rig.

That was about 36 hours ago. One moment that was pretty tough as well was when the port autopilot failed, the display on the helm, and so when the guy was helming on port, the other guy could not sleep, you stayed in the cuddy and every time you needed to trim, you had to call the other guy and so when you were off, you were not off.

There were difficult periods, we realised after the third of fourth day when we started to recover, really how much we had put in over the first couple of days, it does not take much to throw you out of your watch schedule, you don’t realise that you are digging into the reserves a bit.

Obviously one of the objectives was to arrive here in good shape, we have managed to do that and now we are ready for Brazil. The main objective was get here in good shape and if we did that it means we managed the machine well.

Once again we realise how fantastic these boats are, they are very close one designs, and they are really reliable in terms of the structure, we have been doing over 30kts averages through many of the watches, and over 600 mile days, and we had probably a little bit of apprehension going into this event as to how we would manage this machine with two people. But we realised very quickly that we worked out systems that worked, it worked well under autopilot and there are ways to set up the boat so that you can have 100% performance most of the time. And we were really surprised by that. It is brilliant, fantastic.”

Sidney Gavignet, skipper of Oman Air – Musandam: “In sport you have a spectacle and these boats certainly give you that. They are exceptional. When we arrived we had brilliant weather and just wanted to carry on sailing, they are just brilliant racing machines and I hope that there will be more next time. The race is fantastic and I was watching the website and it is great to read about all the boats, the big and the small. It is a beautiful race. It is tough and now that we are on land I look back and am surprised at just how well we were able to adapt, now we are no longer scared and we learnt a lot.”

Long Lining
Meanwhile the two leading Multi 50s continue their duel down the Brazilian coast in steady E’ly trade winds on what is presently just a straightforward head to head boatspeed contest. They have no real strategic options ahead until Cabo Frio at the entrance to the Bay of Rio. They should pass the entrance to Salvador de Bahia today in just a little over 12 days which will stand up well against the 2005 mark set by Franck Yves Escoffier of 12 days and 6 hours 14 minutes.

FenêtréA Cardinal (Le Roux-Elies) and Actual (Le Blévec-de Pavant) remain in close contact with some 25 miles separating this closely matched leading duo.

It is one long straight for the IMOCA Open 60 monohulls, the leaders having crossed the Equator last night. Just as the feedback from the pre-race training sessions for the Famous Five at Port La Foret indicated, it seems MACIF find a sweet spot at times and are simply quicker. From being a matter of half a mile to a mile away from PRB (Riou-Le Cam) yesterday Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux have been able to climb steadily away in the trade winds, opening the gap to over 12 miles this morning, the Vendée Globe winning duo sailing almost a knot faster than Riou and Le Cam as they passed the Fernando de Noronha island group. Presently they are just around one day behind the leading Multi 50s. As their SEly trade winds back E then they should accelerate still further away from the boats behind them.

Italian Vendée Globe skipper Alessandro de Benedetto was on typically excellent form when he spoke to Race HQ in Itajaí from his trusty Team Plastique. He and his co-skipper Alberto de Monaco are enjoying their race against their friends on Energa and Initiative Coeur.

It is a sunny day and we are taking the advantage to be at the helm all the time, to exploit our capacity to sail faster than the autopilot. Energa are a faster boat and it is difficult to keep them behind us, Magic and Gutek are faster, and so is Initiatives Couer. So we are really taking this chance to always be at the helm and push. It will not be easy to stay ahead of them, but we will try and do out best.

The Polish duo Magic and Gutek on Energa were tidying up after an encounter with an unspecified sea mammal or big fish, lying just five miles behind the Italians on Team Plastique. Gutek reported:

After our collision with a with UFO we seem to be all OK after our keel inspection. We washed out all the blood from cockpit. After an inspection with the GoPro we’re sure the keel is OK, no traces of yesterday’s collision. Huge relief… Fish are flying like crazy, but only at night. Temperature – hot!!! Very hot! We wish we’d like some good lightwind sails, but for now we need to go with what we have.

In Class 40 Jorg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur on second placed Mare are waiting for the Doldrums for their chance to pounce on long time leaders GDF SUEZ, sailed by Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye.

Everything is good on board, we are in good shape and the wind is building, we should catch up some miles on GDF SUEZ soon. I still have some pain in my back with the bruising I got when I fell during the first night out from Roscoff. It will pass.” Riechers said today.

“And looking at the Doldrums we can certainly see an option. We have an idea of what we are going to do but we are not saying what.”

Class40 ‘ are still in the NE’ly trade winds passed or passing the Cape Verde islands, most at least 80 miles to the west. Only Phoenix (Duke – Alran) passed through the islands without losing out too much. But now the target seems to be 29 ° W for the most favourable passage which is good for those in the west but those to the east will have to run deeper and slower or maybe make two gybes to get down. So that is the choice for the chasing pack but the leaders seem to have it taped,

Philippe Legros, co -skipper Cheminees Poujoulat: “Congratulations to the MOD70s. They were fast. I sailed with Roland Jourdain at first and they are really fantastic boats. I congratulate them for their performance. Our boat is going well but we are bit down after the Doldrums option which sees us feeling it now, trying to pick up the pieces, to keep getting the rankings and be going backwards, but we are happy to be here and keep attacking. In front of us there is a long, straight line of 1000 miles but after that there is a Cabo Frio where there might be some options, a few potholes perhaps and after that still three or four hundred miles of coast. The Multi 50s have chosen to stay near the coast, but the weather files change , it is not really clear whether it will be as good an option for us when we get there. The gap to MACIF? Well I’d love to say that we can catch up, but in fact we are not really seeing it as possible right now. But nothing is wrong with the boat, it works perfectly, and so there is no reason not to continue to push very hard.”

Sounds in English:

Brian Thompson (Caterham Challenge)

Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique)

Michelle Zwagerman (Croix du Sud)

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