Transat Jacques Vabre: Reviewing the 2013 edition

Published on December 9th, 2013

The eleventh edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre double handed race set the longest course yet in the 20 years history of the coffee route, transiting the 5450 miles course from Le Havre, France to Itajaí, Brasil.

The MOD70 one design multihulls set a blistering pace with a head to match race, while the IMOCA Open 60 fleet featured 10 boats from the last Vendée Globe and the flourishing Class 40 fleet drew 26 entries and delivered a truly international podium. And the Multi 50 class also enjoyed a thrilling match race between the top two protagonists.

MOD 70: Atlantic Match Race
There were two MOD70s on the start line in Le Havre. Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 70 capsized whilst training and broke their rig, just as Spindrift Racing also did in the summer. But the two, Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier) and Oman Air-Musandam (Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall) produced a close and engaging high speed race all the way from the start line off Le Havre to the finish line in Itajaí.

Whilst Edmond de Rothschild may have lead from the first mark of the course, and extended after breaking away slightly at Cape Finisterre, it was really only in the final hours of the race that Gavignet and Ireland’s Foxall had to concede they were destined for second place. The maximum delta was around 100 miles but in the latter stages of an express race, over which they averaged over 22kts boatspeed, the differential dropped to about 27 with 36 hours to the line.

It was the first time the MOD70s were raced two up, as a duo, and indeed the longest oceanic course yet for the closely matched one design multihulls.

At Ushant Edmond de Rothschild had a lead of just three miles but as they approached Cape Finisterre in five metres seas and 30knots of wind, conditions Gavignet described at the time as the worst combination of wind and seas that he had yet experienced on the MOD70. But Edmond de Rothschild pushed a little harder when it was tough and got to the Portuguese trade winds first, off Porto, and were able increase their margin as the long, relentless sprint to Brazil really started.

In the trades they were averaging 25kts and sustained speeds of 30-32kts at times. And with the Azores high well positioned to the north for them it was a veritable motorway run south at top speeds. Between the Canaries and the Cape Verde islands Josse and Caudrelier were 101 miles ahead.

In the Doldrums there is a small mistake by Edmond de Rothschild when they set up to the west of Oman Air-Musandam which manages to escape to their east with a measure of leverage which allows them to come back at the leaders as they converge towards the Brasilian coast the lead cut to 60 miles off Salvador de Bahia and 20 miles off Vittoria. But as they negotiate a stormy little frontal system off Cabo Frio Oman­ Air-Musandam drop off the back of the front and Edmond de Rothschild are able to sail away at speed again, finishing some five hours ahead of their adversaries.

“These eleven days of racing were really intense and difficult. We have lead from the beginning to end but as we approached the Brasilian coast we saw that lead melt away and it was difficult to hold on. These boats are great, but physically very tough. We had no respite from start to finish. We had some difficult periods and times of extreme fatigue. It is great to finish, a bonus to win. ” Josse said.

Multi 50, Winning feels better as skipper
Six Multi 50s crossed the start line off Le Havre, four finished and the match race between FenetreA Cardinal and Actual was won by FenetreA-Cardinal, sailed by Erwan Le Roux and Yann Eliés. Maître Jacques retired after losing the bow off their port float, and Arkéma-Région Aquitaine capsized 200 miles off Cascais and had to be towed to Madeira, upturned.

In many respects the Multi 50s got the worst of the weather in the Bay of Biscay as they hit a big, fast moving low. It was Le Roux and Eliés who lead at Ushant after making their passage inside. With 35kts and big seas on the passage across Biscay it was Actual which broke through the front first and were able to extend to be in command by the latitude of Porto.

Actual stopped quickly in Porto Santo, Madeira to replace their wind vanes. It was short and sharp but it still cost them their lead, FenetreA Cardinal moved ahead. In the Doldrums Actual came back at them in the west but the leaders were able to increase their margin in the disorganised and slightly variable trades. They suffered with many squalls and unsettled winds, but in the reaching conditions FenetreA Cardinal is quicker. Off Vitoria the delta is down to 20 miles again as Actual works inshore as the breeze moves north.

By Rio the lead is shaved back to 15 miles but this time the leaders are first to benefit from the new regime on the approach to Itajaí and after 14 days and 17 hours of racing at an average of 16.5kts, Le Roux and Eliés win by a matter of 70 miles or five hours. Around five days later Gilles Lamiré and Andrea Mura (Rennes Métropole-Saint Malo Agglomération) complete the podium. For Le Roux it is his second win in the Multi 50 class, winning as co-skipper in 2009 with Franck-Yves Escoffier.

“This win, as skipper, has a different feel for sure. It is a win for the whole team, from the technical guys to out sponsors who have been with me since 2010. It is very satisfying because we stuck to our guns. We never wanted to push the boat too hard in the early days of the race, we took more care. And so off Salvador de Bahia the boat was still immaculate. We had many hard days, Yves Le Blévec and Kito de Pavant kept us under pressure the whole time” Erwan Le Roux concluded.

IMOCA Open 60 Won in Ten
Ten IMOCA Open 60’s, all past competitors on the last Vendée Globe, started in Le Havre. Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam combined their skills to each score their first ever Transat Jacques Vabre victory. They won by four hours over Safran after 17 days of racing. Only one IMOCA Open 60, the pre-race favourite MACIF of Vendée Globe winner Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux, did not finish. They were dismasted off Salvador de Bahia when they were leading.

The finishers in Itajaí spoke of the relentless pressure, the intensity of the competition and the wet, fast-reaching conditions, which characterised the continuous sprint from Le Havre to Brazil. Only in the Channel after the start were the conditions relatively moderate. Otherwise this north to south Transat course was taken flat out.

Of the five new generation boats, all lead at one stage or another. And the battle among the older generation boats was no less intense, nor hard fought.

It was really in the middle of the Bay of Biscay that the first real break was made. As it was expected on this course, MACIF were first to break free on the south side of the depression at around 100 miles to Cape Finisterre and they were simply able to press the accelerator with a small, but acknowledged speed edge. But their high speeds came at a cost, and pair of Vendée Globe winners had to relinquish their early lead, having to make an express pit stop into Peniche 70 miles to the NW of Lisbon, to repair a broken rudder. Their five hour halt lost them the lead.

Then, just after they had passed the latitude of the Canaries it was the turn of PRB to confirm that they had rudder problems too, and would stop into Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands. With between 60 and 90 miles of an advance on the pack, the lead returns to MACIF.

The duo match race only miles apart as they emerge from the Doldrums, in a close reaching speed test more reminiscent of a Port La Foret training session. Sure enough MACIF does ease ahead, gaining small miles, stretching to a solid looking lead until their mast came crashing down. They make it Salvador de Bahia under jury rig, the golden duo feeling the same disappointment they last shared in the Barcelona World Race when they lost the tip of their mast SW of Cape Town.

PRB are well placed to take advantage to return a great win for the duo which became close after Riou rescued Le Cam from his upturned IMOCA Open 60 off Cape Horn. Safran takes second with Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry. The closest finish is that between Initiatives Coeur and Team Plastique which goes down to nine seconds in favour of Tanguy de Lamotte and Belgian actor Francois Damiens ahead the Italian pair Alessandro di Benedetto and Alberto Monaco.

“I feel we did a good job, we had good speed and we were good in changing our rudder, and I think we sailed well from the beginning to the end of the race. We made few mistakes but we have a boat with good potential all round but it may not always be the best. I admit that I made a big tactical error at the start in the Bay of Biscay, but apart from that, it was a good race. We never missed a manoeuvre. We were always pushing, always steering when we could and made a good course. And when we broke the rudder we looked at the routings and figured it was worth a go. There were just three days to get the rudder and get there. So with plane timings it was close”, said Vincent Riou on arrival at Itajaí.

Class40’ Pressure drop
With 26 boats Class 40 was the biggest and most international fleet of this 11th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre. Underlining that fact, after the French duo which won on GDF SUEZ – Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye – second place went to the all Spanish pair Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde on Tales Santander 2014 while Germany’s Jorg Riechers took third on Mare sailing with French co-skipper Pierre Brasseur. First and third placed boats were Sam Manuard designed Mach 40 designs while Tales is a new Botin Partners design.

Looking at the course and the weather files pre-start this was always going to be a race, which would advantage the leaders, a rich get richer scenario. That put considerable pressure on from the start as there would be few opportunities to get back at boats in front other than by dint of pure speed.

The Class 40 start was given along with the three other classes but they were to stop into Roscoff to allow the worst of the weather to pass, before restarting in order of times into the Breton haven.

So it was that after about 26 hours of racing GDF SUEZ (Rogues-Delahaye) lead into the new port of Bloscon with a very small lead ahead of Mare (Riechers-Brasseur)Tales Santander 2014 (Pella-Santurde) and Watt & Sea-Région Poitou Charentes (Bestaven-Ducroz).

After waiting 37 hours in the marina it is GDF SUEZ which leads off into a dirty, windy very early morning with very big, unruly seas. But with 30kts of breeze from the NW they are able to extend immediately for the exit of the Channel into the Bay of Biscay. Rogues, partnered by the rising young star of the Figaro circuit Delahaye – winner of the MACIF SKIPPER scholarship – manage to build enough of a lead that they can make a carefully timed technical stop into Muxia to replace their wind vanes and still emerge with a lead of 15 miles ahead of their sistership with the German-French duo pushing hard.

While the Spanish duo are fortunate to be able to stop into La Coruna to repair their own rudder problem, downtime which round the world racer Pella believes ultimately costs them the overall victory, the British duo on the new Ker designed Concise 8 are not as lucky and they have to retire when their port rudder gives way.

There is a certain attrition which takes its toll through the fleet. Britain’s Miranda Merron and partner Halvard Mabire are up to third when they lose their main spinnaker which costs them places all the way down the course on Campagne de France. Similarly Brian Thompson and Mike Gascoyne suffer sail damage off Porto, and have to drop their mainsail for the best part of 36 hours to repair it. Ultimately they have to stop in Recife after their handiwork finally gives way for the last time.

But it does prove to be a leaders course. GDF SUEZ are challenged by the very fast Spanish who make a small mistake in the Bay of Rio, but they finish a good second only four hours behind the team which started the race as favourites after winning five races or regattas back to back.

The Austrian duo on Vaquita, entrepreneur Christof Petter and ex Volvo skipper Andreas Hanakamp finish in eighth, just ahead of Mabire and Merron.

11th Hour Racing, the final Class 40, with the british skipper Hannah Jenner and the New Yorker Rob Windsor crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Itajaí, Brasil at 0600hrs 43min UTC, to finish in 23rd place in Class 40. They covered the course in a total elapsed time of 30 days 4 hours 28 min and 25 seconds. Over the theoretical course of 5450 miles from Le Havre to Itajaí they averaged 7,45kts. Effectively having sailed 6297 miles and averaging 8,69kts.

“To win the legendary race that is the the Transat Jacques Vabre as my first big ocean race win makes be very proud. The boat is great , it has reached astronomical speeds, up to 24.7 knots. I am a happy man because my season aboard GDF SUEZ has been so successful. We had to stay focused until the end because the pressure from behind was intense. We worried when we lost two spinnakers. My partnership with Fabien went very well. I sailed with one of the most talented sailors of his generation. But I also made a friend”, said Sébastien Rogues on arrival.

Final rankings after jury (Class40’)
1-GDF SUEZ (Sébastien Rogues-Fabien Delahaye): 20j 21h 41’ 25’’
2-Tales Santander 2014 (Alex Pella-Pablo Santurde ESP): 21j 01h 22’ 15’’
3-Mare (Jörg Riechers GER-Pierre Brasseur): 21j 03h 21’ 55’’
4-Watt and Sea-Région Poitou Charentes (Yannick Bestaven-Aurélien Ducroz): 22j 08h 14’ 46’’
5-Groupe Picoty (Jean-Christophe Caso-Aymeric Chappellier): 22j 10h 26’ 47’’
6*-SNCF Géodis (Fabrice Amédéo-Armel Tripon): 22j 11h 54’ 39’’
7-ERDF-Des pieds et des mains (Damien Seguin-Yoann Richomme): 22j 12h 14’ 14’’
8-Vaquita (Christof Petter-Andreas Hanakamp AUT): 22j 13h 39’ 33’’
9-Campagne de France (Halvard Mabire-Miranda Merron GBR): 22j 23h 02’ 22’’
10*-Phoenix Europe (Louis Duc-Stéphanie Alran): 23j 03h 40’ 07’’
11-BET1128 (Gaetano Mura ITA-Samuel Manuard): 23j 10h 29’ 48’’
12-Fantastica (Stefano Raspadori-Pietro D’Ali ITA): 23j 11h 43’ 40’’
13*-Solidaires en peloton (Victorien Erussard-Thibaut Vauchel-Camus): 23j 15h 02’ 05’’
14-Caterham Challenge (Mike Gascoyne-Brian Thompson GBR): 23j 16h 36’ 10’’
15-Matouba (Bertrand Guillonneau-Sébastien Audigane): 24j 22h 12’ 15’’
16-Proximedia-Sauvez mon enfant (Denis van Weynbergh-Jean Edouard Criquioche): 24j 22h 24’21’’
17-Mr Bricolage (Damien Rousseau-Matthieu Alluin): 24j 23h 40’ 40’’
18-Eärwen (Catherine Pourre-Goulven Royer): 25j 00h 43’ 45’’
19-April/Deltacalor (Lionel Regnier-Tim Darni): 25j 16h 24’ 15’’
20-Obportus3 (Olivier Roussey-Philippe Burger): 26j 17h 28’ 15’’
21-Croix du Sud (Michelle Zwagerman-Patrick Conway AUS): 26j 23h 23’ 28’’
22-EcoElec-Frantonic (Eric Darni-Florent Bernard): 28j 04h 49’ 20’’
23-11th Hours Racing (Hanna Jenner-Rob Windsor): 30j 4h 28′ 25”

*Penalty included

Final Rankings of the IMOCA class Transat Jacques Vabre (10 started)
1-PRB (Vincent Riou-Jean Le Cam) : 17j 00h 41’ 47’’ à 13,30 nœuds de moyenne
2-Safran (Marc Guillemot-Pascal Bidégorry) : 17j 04h 43’ 23’’
3-Maître CoQ (Jérémie Beyou-Christopher Pratt) : 17j 05h 15’ 07’’
4-Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm SUI-Philippe Legros) : 17j 12h 19’ 44’’
5-Bureau Vallée (Louis Burton-Guillaume Le Brec) : 20j 02h 18’ 45’’
6- Votre Nom Autour du Monde (Bertrand de Broc-Arnaud Boissières) : 20j 02h 34’ 05’’
7-Energa (Zbigniew Gutkowski-Maciej Marczewski POL) : 20j 10h 47’ 17’’
8-Initiatives Cœur (Tanguy de Lamotte-François Damiens BEL) : 21j 03h 55’ 46’’
9-Team Plastique (Alessandro Di Benedetto-Alberto Monaco ITA) : 21j 03h 55’ 55’’
ABN-MACIF (François Gabart-Michel Desjoyeaux)

Final Rankings Multi-50 of the Transat Jacques Vabre (6 starters)
1-FenêtréA Cardinal (Erwan Le Roux-Yann Eliès) : 14j 17h 40’ 15 à 16,60 nœuds de moyenne
2-Actual (Yves Le Blévec-Kito de Pavant) : 14j 22h 47’ 30
3-Rennes Métropole-Saint Malo Agglomération (Gilles Lamiré-Andrea Mura) : 19j 16h 03’ 46
4-Vers un monde sans Sida (Erik Nigon-Samy Villeneuve): 20j 01h 11’ 18
ABN-Maître Jacques (Loïc Frequet-Loïc Escoffier): broken hull
ABN-Arkema Région Aquitaine (Lalou Roucayrol-Mayeul Riffet): capsize

Rankings for the MOD-70 Transat Jacques Vabre
1-Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse-Charles Caudrelier): 11j 05h 03’ 54 at 22 knots average
2-Oman Air-Musandam (Sidney Gavignet-Damian Foxall IRL): 11j 10h 04’ 09

2013 Title Defenders

Edmond de Rothschild
Sébastien Josse-Charles Caudrelier
11j 05h 03’ 54

Vincent Riou-Jean Le Cam
17j 00h 41’ 47’’

FenêtréA Cardinal
Erwan Le Roux-Yann Eliès
14j 17h 40’ 15

Sébastien Rogues-Fabien Delahaye
20j 21h 41’ 25’’

Source: Race media,

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