Transat Jacques Vabre: Every day is like war

Published on October 28th, 2015

(October 28, 2015; Day 3) – The challenge of the Transat Jacques Vabre remains constant on the third day of the 5400nm doublehanded race from France to Brazil.

The leading pair of Ultime multihulls, setting the course from Le Havre to Itajaí, are fighting through light winds just a few miles off the West African coast between Western Sahara and Mauritania while the last of the Class 40s are contemplating another Bay of Biscay bashing still 220 miles NW of Cape Finisterre. In the IMOCA Class, Britain’s Alex Thomson and Spanish co-skipper had been hove to since 1530hrs this afternoon trying to deal with an unspecified technical problem.

Since 1530hrs HUGO BOSS (Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill) have been struggling with a technical problem which they are trying to solve. They have slowed their boat. The two skippers are in regular contact with Transat Jacques Vabre Race Direction and with their own Technical Team ashore.

Stewart Hosford Managing Director of Alex Thomson Racing says “It is important that we ensure the repairs are made before continuing across the Atlantic. The skippers are well and working hard to ensure a swift solution to the problem if possible.” See update below.

As the leaders of the IMOCA class passed the latitude of Cape Finisterre this afternoon, hopefully with the worst of the weather left behind in Biscay, the leaderboard has a very familiar look as the teams from the Pole Finisterre occupy the top four places.

Yann Eliès and Charlie Dalin on Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir lead PRB 4 by 12 miles with Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly up to third on the new Banque Populaire VIII as they reach again in WNWly winds The foil assisted Banque Populaire was quickest these afternoon by 1.5 to 2 knots, 16 miles behind Queguiner. And so to date Banque Populaire is the only one of the latest ‘foil’ generation to have not reported any technical issues so far.

A broad swathe of light airs caused by an elongated Azores high pressure ridge has forced Sodebo Ultim’ and Macif to skirt the coast to avoid the no-go area which bars the most direct route. This Wednesday afternoon the race leaders, Thomas Coville and Jean Luc Nélias on Sodebo Ultim’, were only three miles off the beach, gybing downwind in 10-12kts of SE’ly breeze. They are south of the latitude of Madeira, still making good speeds.

In the lighter airs the newer, lighter Macif had caught back some miles on Sodebo Ultim’ but Francois Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry were still over 34 miles astern and on the opposite gybe from the leaders. Both will almost certainly pass east of, or through, the Canary Islands.

Life may appear easier for the two leading giants. They have done their time scything through the depressions to their north, indeed largely outrunning the worst of the conditions, but the smaller Class 40s still have bad weather to come before they can escape Biscay. After the retirement of Team Concise yesterday with structural damage, this morning it was their Frenc sparring partners Nico Troussel and Corentin Horeau who confirmed they have had to retire.

Persistent problems with the autopilots on Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite had rendered the duo exhausted. A gashed lip for Horeau this morning only served to underline how beyond tired they were and with no possible fix the pair which had lead the race until yesterday had no choice but to tell Race Direction of their retirement.

Class 40 has been pared back to a head to head match race at the front of the 12-boat fleet. 2011 winner Yannick Bestaven on Le Conservateur with Pierre Brasseur have Maxime Sorel and Sam Manuard on the 2015 Manuard design V & B five miles off their starboard hip but seeming to be significantly quicker on the mid afternoon position report.

Speaking late last night, Lionel Lemonchois told of the capsize and subsequent helicopter rescue from the upturned Prince de Bretagne, the 80ft tri he was racing with Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain.

“It is the sky falling on your head,” double Route du Rhum winner Lemonchois said. “The helicopter arrived above us and then a guy lifted us off, one after the other, Bilou first and then me. In total, it lasted twenty minutes. It was very impressive to see it after its cable swung around above the boat swung in all directions, but soon we could see they do this kind of thing all the time because it was very slick and very professional.”

They said:

Vincent Riou, skipper PRB (IMOCA): “Like every day, it’s war. The boat is making 20kts and we have to be on it all the time. Last night we had a slightly quieter time, 20-25kts of wind and we made two tacks. And here, again we have the SW’ly win. It should drop again quickly but we are not at all comfortable at this speed. On board life is simple. We rest, we push, we rest. The thing that is getting us down is the wetness. We have been soaked since Sunday. We are upwind and we should have better conditions than those who are behind us. It will not be so windy tonight with a small calmer zone to pass through. In fact I think there will be wind all the time. We work at it all the time, pushing to and finding the limits, staying reasonable. We make some manoeuvres, course changes. The worst is behind us now. We have two days on starboard, some sail changes to manage. I start looking to the Azores, which side to pass – windward or leeward – what is clear is that we will pass close to the islands. It is going well on PRB, for the moment, we’ll keep it up!”

Charlie Dalin, co-skipper of Queguiner – Leukemia Hope (IMOCA): “To move around the boat on deck you are soaked. There was a lot of wind, between 30 and 40 knots. We are very happy with our position, everything is fine on board. We sleep well since the start of the race even if sometimes a little one gets “airtime” in the bunks, like this morning banging my forehead with a cross sea. To sleep in such conditions is not simple. We still have a few hours of strong wind with gusts which hit regularly. We are at over 20 knots, but it will ease in the next 3 to 4 hours. Then we will enter a zone of light winds before it strengthens with another strong depression with 40 knots, maybe more. All is well on board Queguiner, we were able to repair all the problems, the boat is 100%.”

Tanguy de Lamotte, skipper Initiatives Heart (IMOCA): “It is going well. Let’s say it’s pretty invigorating sailing conditions. You are jumping waves when you are over 20kts. We have 2-3 small minor problems, little damages on the boat, like a damaged hydro (generator) and one reef. But we are happy to be where we are. The wind is set to drop in the day. It was a nice introduction to the race, well tough conditions. Now now we’re going South. It’s good for morale. I eat better now. I struggled to eat but I feel better. We are not so far from the three big guns. We are happy with our position. We are in good shape. Sam is pushing the boat, we are making over 20kt averages. There is a lot of waves and the boat is submerged every 15 seconds. The sea is white and above it bobs our white boat.”

Renato Auraujo, co-skipper of Zetra BRA (Class40): “We are completely wet. There are really a lot of water on the boat. Last night was not so quiet, like the first, the wind blew hard. We already expected for this condition on the Bay of Biscay. The last hours have been very hard for us, but the boat is still all good. In theory, the worst has already happened!”

UPDATE: After several hours at sea Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on board HUGO BOSS made the difficult decision to return ashore. After attempting to address the issue it has not been possible to ensure a sufficient repair whilst at sea to withstand an Atlantic crossing. Alex and Guillermo have made a suitable repair to get to the nearest port where they can analyse the situation. The current sea state and weather forecast have not aided the situation on board.’

The technical team are currently enroute to Vigo, Spain. Where the boat will be repaired and hopes to be back racing shortly.

Technical Director Ross Daniel explains: “It is disappointing that the current sea state and approaching weather system have forced us to return to land to make the repair. But it is early days in our training programme as we understand the new boat and work towards the start of the Vendee Globe 2016. We will do everything we can to try and return to the Transat Jacques Vabre as soon as possible.”

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Transat Jacques Vabre in brief
• A legendary race 22 years old and 2015 marks the 12th edition
• Two founding partners: the city of Le Havre and brand Jacques Vabre
• Four classes on the starting line: Class40, Multi50, IMOCA and Ultimate
• Starting October 25 in Le Havre (FRA) for the 5400nm course to Itajaí (BRA)


Report by event media.


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