Thirty-Four Teams Continue in Transat Jacques Vabre

Published on October 29th, 2015

(October 29, 2015; Day 4) – The fleet is spreading out along the 5400nm doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre race from France to Brazil.

Suncream and shades are obligatory for the Ultimes as they shave the coast of Morocco, passing the renowned kite surfing spot of Dakhla today. For the Class 40s and the later IMOCAs it is still hard hats and protective eye wear as they battle with big winds and confused seas along the Portuguese coast.

Since yesterday the main goal of the bigger monohulls especially has been to try and outrun the latest, active depression which is hitting the Azores.

The top four IMOCA 60s – PRB, Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir, Banque Populaire VIII and SMA – are already passing to the east of Sao Miguel and should be spared the worst of the low. But all, to a man and woman, will be dreaming of getting out of the worst of the weather, getting the drysuits and boots off, and enjoying downwind sailing. And, in time, some sunshine. When they spoke to Race HQ today and yesterday, the most common shared themes are the wearing, depressing wetness. Water everywhere. And…the inability to keep anything dry.

More detours
After tearing a giant hole in their mainsail last night, IMOCA skippers Arnaud Boissières and Stan Maslard on Le Bateau Des Metiers By Aerocampus reported they planned to return to their base in Les Sables d’Olonne. They confirmed their retirement at 1530hrs this afternoon.

And for the duo on the IMOCA Bastide-Otio, popular Sudiste Kito de Pavant and Yann Régniau, desperation was setting in because they have been working for three days with no Fleet and so no communication, no weather info, and no idea what is going on with their rivals. Adding the fact they have some problems with damaged sails, the duo have decided to head for Cascais, Lisbon, Portugal to evaluate their options.

Who is left?
The race so far has been relentless. Early this morning and last night there was some respite in a bubble of light airs, but it was entirely temporary. Now of the 42 duos which left Le Havre Sunday there are 34 still officially racing.

The eight abandons comprise two Class 40s, 1 Multi50, 1 Ultime and four IMOCA. Two IMOCA 60s are heading for repairs Hugo Boss and Otio-Bastide. In order of withdrawl they are Maitre CoQ, Edmond de Rothschild , Prince de Bretagne, Team Concise, French Tech Rennes Saint-Malo, Safran, Bretagne-Crédit Mutuel, and today Le Bateau de Métiers Aerocampus.

For the Ultimes it is about maximising VMG, net speed made as quickly as possible in the direction of the finish line. Downwind in good conditions the match race between Sodebo Ultim’ and Macif has been about the leaders getting down into the fresher pressure first and gybing angles. Thomas Coville and Jean Luc Nélias have eked out a lead of 53 miles now, but that is still nothing at all considering the active, complex Doldrums ahead.

Vincent Riou (PRB) said yesterday: “I’m happy to be in front, I would not like to be at the back because the winds will be strong.” And so it is proving for the middle and late order of the IMOCA and Class 40 will have gusts over 40kts and big, confused seas to contend with. Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies are having a solid race in fifth, best of the older generation boats on Initiatives Coeur. O Canada have suffered a torn mainsail track and were trying to make a fix 130 miles NW of Cape Finisterre.”

IMOCA Skipper Eric Holden reported today: “I have ascended the mast to detach the headboard as the headboard car is jammed where the track is broken, so we have been able to lower the mainsail. We are in calm winds but the sea state if very uncomfortable for working aloft. We are assessing the situation and what our options are.”

And in Class 40 the duel between Le Conservateur, Bestaven/Brasseur and V & B Maxime Sorel and Sam Manaurd continues at the same high level, three miles apart. But so too the fleet has paired off rather nicely with duels developing right through the fleet. In sixth Brazil’s first ever Transat Jacques Vabre entry in Class 40 is fifth. Eduardo Penido and Renato Aurajo are 20 miles ahead of seventh, while British-South African pair Philippa Hutton Squire and Pip Hare hold eighth. This 12th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre lacks nothing for spice.

They Said:

Armel Le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire VIII (IMOCA): “The conditions were difficult at first. Now it is a little bit better. We will soon have sustained, settled wind and be able to get south. There is a small area to pass in which it is quite windy. We will get through this transition period with bigger seas and lots of manoeuvres. But we are much more into regatta mode, the classic rhytym of the race. We are keeping a close eye on everything with this new Banque Populaire. The start was hard, the sea conditions have been complicated. Everything is not just perfect but it works. And some time soon we will be able to remove the foul weather gear and the boots. And the boat? Well it is still an IMOCA, it is wet and noisy, it is no drier than the old boat from that perspective. Each manouvre or change we are on the deck. We struggled a bit when conditions were hard, but we have a good atmosphere now. We put our shoulders to the wheel together for each manouevre. We enjoy it together. We know we will share some better days.”

Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper co-SMA (IMOCA): “Right now we are moving well. The the wind is very variable, from 30 to 14 knots and right now it is 20 knots. I have my breakfast and and I hope my jam will stay on my bread! These are conditions now are much more fun than yesterday. It was really shaking and bashing. This morning it is going well, we should stay ahead of the strong wind that is getting up. If we can time it well and push it we should be OK. We’re only thirty miles from the leading boats. The horizon clears. The route opens and it is looking better. There are things thrown around and broken. The satellite phone handset was an early casualty. Everything works fine. It’s a bit wet from time to time. But mostly we are quite well protected. We had strong winds but it was reaching and so pretty good. Paul seems to enjoy it all. So far we never had these kind of conditions on board SMA, and so it is a good baptism of fire. We have many feelings, working on settings and speed. We look forwards and anticipate the changes when we can, but all is well. We are happy, we eat, we sleep, we sail!”

Kito de Pavant, skipper Bastide-Otio (IMOCA): “It’s a bugger. We have big communication problems from the start and it is not fun. It is difficult, we had the big seas for three days, a lot of manoeuvres, we do not know where we are going, we can not share information with our partners, it’s super frustrating. From the beginning it was the Fleet (broadband) that would not work. That is a handicap for the race. We have no information, I think the competitors are in the West, I do not know what to do.”

Pascal Bidégorry, co-skipper of Macif (Ultimate) “It is 15 knots, downwind, the wind got up after a quiet night now builds between slightly between 25 and 30 knots. We went very near the Canaries at dawn and it was beautiful. With a moonrise last night it was pretty special. We got close, not for sightseeing but to get some more wind than Sodebo, who have been a little better off than us. We will look for the wind, a little to the west but we will find out in due course. The boat is fine, no problem, we had small electronic worries after Cape Finisterre but no big problems on the boat. It works well on the side where there is the foil, so on port tack. We have not done much on port since we left. The boat is young, a good job has been done. It it is quite satisfactory. The pace is good, it’s going pretty well. Macif is a big boat, no denying it, the boat is demanding. The conditions are nice, the sea is good, 25-30 knots downwind. I am in my little cabin, I look out the windows and can see François, he needs to put on some suncream! Really it’s good. We have friends behind who are suffering…..”

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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)

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