Visit Pensacola

Disaster strikes Transat Jacques Vabre

Published on November 15th, 2017

(November 15, 2017; Day 11) – At 18:15 UTC, Maxi80 Prince de Bretagne dismasted just 93 miles from the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Salvador de Bahia. The 80ft trimaran, Prince de Bretagne was sailing off Palame, in north-east Brazil near the end of the 4,350-mile race from Le Havre in Normandy, France.

The Transat Jacques Vabre race office and the team supporting the two skippers, Lionel Lemonchois and Bernard Stamm, are assessing what needs to be done because the boat is only 18 miles from the coast and drifting at 0.9 knots, pushed by the easterly trade wind.

The Franco-Spanish duo of Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella on Arkema are due to finish at around 07:00 UTC tomorrow to win the Multi50 class, smashing the race record to Salvador for the Multi50 by over four days.

At the 15:00 UTC ranking, Arkema had 331 miles to go to the finish in the Bay of All Saints and were 127 miles ahead of FenêtréA-Mix Buffet. Both were reaching at 23 knots in 15-17-knot westerlies off Recife, north-east Brazil.

Latest ETAs

• Arkema – Thursday, November 16 at 07:00
• FenêtréA-Mix Buffet at 11:00
• Réauté Chocolat at 23:00

Multi50: Attack is the best means of defence
“We’re going fast; speed is stress,” Lalou Roucayrol said this morning. “But the sea is flat and we’re under pilot, to allow us to trim the sheets. We’re sailing with spikes of speed at 30 knots. We’re balancing pacing ourselves with extending the gap and preserving the boat. But saying that, we lost the protective screen on the port helm cockpit. We’ve widened the gap with the others, the conditions are quite lively. Alex and I don’t have much time for chat during watches – we’re concentrating on the basics.”

The victory will cap a stunning reversal that saw them overtake the favourites and multiple winners, Erwan Le Roux and Vincent Riou on FenêtréA-Mix Buffet, who had a 100-mile lead as the entered the Doldrums.

In the space of 42 hours over the past two days, Arkema took 160 miles off FenêtréA-Mix Buffet.

Any chance of catching Arkema, seemed to evaporate this morning as FenêtréA-Mix Buffet slowed in the shelter of the island of Fernando de Noronha, 200 miles off Natal, Brazil, and Le Roux climbed the mast to replace the gennaker halyard that snapped two days ago when they were in Doldrums. The operation took an hour and a half.

Roucayrol and Pella, who have both finished second in the Transat Jacques Vabre, but never stood on top of the podium, kept attacking.

Imoca: St Michel-Virbac prosper from Doldrums but face upwind battle
With 1,000 miles to the finish St Michel-Virbac are holding a 71-mile lead over their ever-keen pursuer, SMA.

Its lead is a cushion, but not a comfortable one, according to Yann Eliès, co-skipper on St Michel-Virbac: “We’ve headed west, so now we’re up close. We know from the training with them in Port-La-Forêt that they go one knot faster at this angle (headed by 13-15-knot south-easterlies). We have 48 hours until Recife before it favours us.”

That disadvantage has only cost them five miles so far today.

Having been caught up during the first few hours of the Doldrums by SMA on yesterday morning, St Michel-Virbac had felt the heat, but not for too long. “It’s always a relief to exit the Doldrums,” Yann Eliès, St Michel-Virbac’s co-skipper said. “But we managed to anticipate the sequences and not to change the sails too much.”

First to exit, St Michel-Virbac accelerated first.

182 miles behind the leader, Des Voiles et Vous! is still in the Doldrums and looking over its shoulder at the phalanx of five boast behind them.

They have stabilised the gains made by Malizia II, who were very fast overnight but have lost 18 miles during the stay and are 68 miles behind in fourth. The rear group, led by Vivo A Beira, entered the Doldrums this morning.

Class40: 6 skippers, 3 boats, 1 mile
The 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, could provide its closest finish. At one point this morning (Wednesday) just a mile separated the three boats that are fighting it out at the front of the Class40 fleet. At the 15:00 UTC ranking it was still only five miles, with the Anglo-Spanish duo of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde, always marginally in the lead as they prepare to enter the Doldrums overnight.

Only time and luck will tell who has taken the best entrance to the notorious Doldrums with Imerys Clean Energy to the west, V and B, which finished second in 2015, to the east and Aïna Enfance and Avenir in between. The three boat have a lateral separation of just 26 miles, but those distance are enough in the in this zone (officially the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone), where boats can come to a standstill while ones within sight go past them.

Sharp is due some luck. As well as parrying flying fish and keeping an eye on the attendant circling birds, he continues to be unable to download satellite images and weather files, because of bandwidth restriction on his spare satellite phone (the primary one is down after antenna failure last week).

Pit stop
Eärendil (Class 40) will take a little longer after breaking the lower bracket on its starboard rudder and informing the race office that they will be stopping in Cape Verde to make repairs.

Esprit Scout (Class40). After a technical stop in Tenerife (Canary Islands) with delamination of their hull on the port bow, they relaminated the hole in the boatyard and headed back out for Salvador de Bahia at 17:30 UTC.

Race detailsEntry listTrackerFacebook

13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre
• Biennial doublehanded race now 24 years old
• Two founding partners: the city of Le Havre and brand Jacques Vabre
• Four classes on the starting line: Class40, IMOCA, Multi50, and Ultimate
• Starting November 5 in Le Havre (FRA) for the 4350nm course to Salvador de Bahia (BRA)
n 2013, and again in 2015, all the boats flew past Salvador de Bahia, sails filled by the trade winds of the south-east, under the tropical sun…One imagines that they dreamt of finally finishing their race in All Saints’ Bay. In 2017, it will be a reality!

After the start line and a coastal route as far as Etretat, the duos will head towards Brittany to get out of the Channel as quickly as possible, where the currents are powerful, cargo traffic dangerous, and a lot of attention is needed.

They will then enter the Bay of Biscay, where, depending on the position of the Azores anticyclone, they will either find downwind conditions, easy and fast, like for the last Vendée Globe, or tougher and slower conditions in the passage of some late autumn depressions.

Four hundred miles later, having passed Cape Finisterre, the northern Portuguese trade winds should propel them quickly towards Madeira, and then the Canary Islands, where awaiting them will be northeast trade winds, which could be strong or weak.

Passing close to the Portuguese coast, or offshore, to the east or west of the Canary Islands and then the Cape Verde islands – you have to choose the right options. The next goal is to establish your position for the crossing of the dreaded Doldrums, located a few degrees north of the equator. At this time of year, it can change position very quickly, extend or contract, because even after carefully studying of the satellite images, sudden squalls can develop and stall the competitors under a good shower without wind for hours.

This passage is crucial in the Transat Jacques Vabre racecourse. Further west… Further east… After the calms, rainy squalls, with too much or no wind… The final goal is to get out well-positioned enough to benefit first from the southeast trade winds and to cover the remaining 850 miles towards the finish,passing along the islands of Fernando de Noronha, along the coast of Brazil and finally heading northwest into the magnificent All Saints’ Bay.

This transoceanic racecourse from North to South is more demanding than a transat from East to West; it requires the skippers to have sharp tactical and strategic qualities, good weather training, to be in excellent physical condition to maintain a sustained speed in the trade winds… And to have a lot of patience to cross the equator.

Source: Transat Jacques Vabre

comment banner

Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.