PRB secures IMOCA lead in Transat Jacques Vabre

Published on November 10th, 2015

(November 10, 2015; Day 16) – Rather than see their position eroded in any way during what should be their final day at sea, Transat Jacques Vabre IMOCA class leaders Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col on PRB have actually bolstered their lead. They have added more than 20 miles since passing the latitude of Rio and now have 71 miles in hand with 245 miles to sail between them and victory in Itajái.

With only a few miles to until they reach the actual latitude of Itajaí itself, the top duo are taking no chances, setting up a classic defensive position against Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly on Banque Populaire VIII. They are waiting as late as possible to turn right, to gybe in directly towards the finish line. ‘Stay directly between your opponent and the finish line’…is the maxim most coaches will promote and these first principles will hold true for the PRB duo no matter what happens.

Riou is on track for his second, back to back IMOCA class victory in the Transat Jacqes Vabre. The only other skippers to have won the premier monohull class twice in consecutive years are Yves Parlier, triumphing in 1993 on his own and 1997 with Eric Tabarly. Three times winner Jean Pierre Dick won consecutively in 2005 and 2007.

Going into this final night at sea, Riou will be as confident as he can be. Not only did he and Jean Le Cam secure their win from slightly smaller margin at this point in 2013, 50 miles or so on Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry, but Col is at his side this time, one of France’s most accomplished match racers and monohull all-rounders. If it gets close and messy, as the forecasts do suggest it will, then Col is a calm, cerebral purveyor of winning tactics.

Riou picked Col as a ‘polyvalent’ sailor who competes as strategist, tactician, helm, across many grand prix classes who – the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner says – has a great feel for making a monohull go fast and stay fast. Col has already finished fourth in the Transat Jacques Vabre sailing with François Gabart in 2011 on Macif and was sixth with Kito de Pavant on Groupe Bel in 2007. He has already won the Rolex Fastnet Race this year with Riou.

The forecast is for a tricky finish, as second placed Armel Le Cléac’h confirmed today from second placed Banque Populaire VIII : “The winds will be very light, there will be stormy gusts and a real mix. In these conditions gaps can open or close quickly. If we have any chance to win, believe me we will go for it.” But bear in mind that this morning in Itajaí the scene was more like an English horror movie, swirling fog, no wind at all, glassy seas and high humidity.

Behind the leading trio of IMOCAs the duel between Souffle de Nord and Initiatives Couer loses nothing of its pace and passion . Thomas Ruyant and Adrien Hardy are about 35 miles ahead, descending into the stronger breeze giving them the chance to open the gap slightly on Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies.

In the Multi50…
With their comfortable lead of 240 miles over Ciela Village, FenêtréA Prysmia co-skippers Erwan Le Roux and Giancarlo Pedote have looked after their damaged mainsail and even managed to push harder all day. And with that margin it is hard to see how the Franco-Italian duo could not win the class. Their ETA is 0700hrs UTC on Wednesday.

In the Class40…
The race has completely restarted for the top three duos. All are now out of the Doldrums and making nine to 10kts close reaching in the S’ly trades. Having seen their margin slashed from 315 to 30 miles, Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur are still in the driving seat, with the confidence that they have already pulled away from their pursuers – albeit the last time their lead was at 30 miles was at the latitude of Lisbon 11 days ago – they can do it again!

They said:

Erwan Leroux, skipper of FenêtréA Prysmian (Mulit50): “We’re making decent progress and are just getting out of the squalls and clouds, so the speed is good again. We’re fairly pleased as things didn’t work out as forecast yesterday. The wind wasn’t as strong. We just had to carry out a few manoeuvres to get away from the calms. There are lots of oil rigs around here so we had to slalom our way around them. I think we made some friends there, as we got chatting to them. Giancarlo called up all the boats on the VHF and they did what they could to get out of our way. We still have a few gybes left before the finish in Itajaí. We have even thought of moving to full mainsail if the wind drops off. The weather for the final few miles is a bit complicated. Jean-Yves is ripping out his hair trying to find the way through for us. The northerly wind is expected to pick up, but we don’t know much more for the moment. We can’t wait to finish. We’re certainly tired after all the sail changes last night. We’re going to try to get some rest to be in good shape for the finish late tomorrow morning.”

Sam Manuard, co-skipper of V and B (Class40): “We got out of the Doldrums during the night 6-8 hours or so ago. We had a huge squall on the way out. We’re upwind in the SE’ly trade winds. Now we’re equal with Le Conservateur. The gaps are more or les what we had before we got stuck in the ridge of high pressure a few days ago. It’s great for the race to have boats fighting alongside each other. Carac-Advanced Energies moved off to the west looking for a way through the Doldrums, but for us the most important thing was getting south. We made the most of a few squalls. Luck was with us too. I’m rerally happy about the boat and the way to handle her. We’re looking good in comparison to Le Conservateur, particularly when reaching. We’re fully motivated but not celebrating just yet, as we still have nine days of sailing left. The end of the race is going to be tricky, so our goal is to be in good shape for the final 5-6 days.”

Bertrand de Broc, skipper of MACSF (IMOCA 60): “It’s going quite well with some fantastic conditions. 20 knots of wind and calm seas and we’re in our t-shirts. It was a good night with pleasant conditions. A few little squalls and the stars were out. We’re moving well again now. We’re going to try to keep this place right up to the finish. It’s nice having boats close to us and being able to fight with them. We want to avoid the area of oil rigs and fishing lines, so we’ll have to see whether we go around them. As for the competitor in the lead, that doesn’t change anything for us. We’re managing our manoeuvres well and feel, quite rested, even though we’re bound to be a bit tired after a fortnight of racing. There is a great atmosphere. It’s been a few years since we sailed together. Marc is still just as determined and it’s good to sail like that. There have been a few bits of work to do around the boat, but we haven’t had any sail problems. We still have a full set. We still have three days ahead of us, and so we’re going to enjoy that as much as we can.”

Thierry Bouchard, skipper of Ciela Village (Multi50): “We have to play around with local effects by sailing close to land. I’m pleased that Lalou has made it to Salvador. What’s important is that he can repair his boat. The Transat Jacques Vabre is the longest transatlantic race. We’ve come a long way and managed things well. Since stopping in the Cape Verdes, the boat has been sailing really well, and we haven’t had any problems. The most important thing for us is managing our speed. These boats can easily capsize and you have to find where to place the cursor. We’re currently sailing downwind and playing it safe. We remain at the helm as the autopilot can’t keep up in these conditions. According to our routing, we should finish late on Thursday.”

Adrien Hardy, co-skipper of Le Souffle du Nord (IMOCA 60): “There’s a fantastic battle going on out here with boats close together. We took it in turns during the night for the first time changing over every hour. If we look at the situation over the past three days, we have managed to keep our lead. We’ve been watching our rival and the wind shifts and trying to juggle between the two. There is a huge transition a few miles from the finish,. It would be nice to have a comfortable lead at that point. We’re still in the discovery phase with the boat, even if we have already learnt a lot. I really enjoy sailing with Thomas. We should finish around midday on Thursday.”

Eric Bellion, skipper of Comme un seul homme (IMOCA 60): “We’re under gennaker. We’re just heading up to get around the coast and trying to keep our place. It’s a tough fight. We’re staying at the helm and need to carry out a lot of sail changes ahead. The wind isn’t very stable in strength or direction. It’s going from 6 to 20 knots and swinging around 50°. This is a long race and you have to keep at it. I’m not used to doing that. It’s very physical and I can see now how demanding it is as a sport. We should finish in three days at around noon on Friday.”

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12th edition of the 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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