Pushing hard at Transat Jacque Vabre

Published on October 30th, 2019

(October 30, 2019; Day 4) – As he continued to push hard at the front of the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre fleet, Britain’s Sam Goodchild on Leyton admitted a shiver went down his spine, and probably his mast too, when he realized what had happened to fellow Briton, Luke Berry, on the first night of the race.

“It definitely hit a nerve because it happened to me last year (in the Route du Rhum) basically in the same point in the race in the first couple of days and the mast dropped down,” said Goodchild, speaking for the first time since Berry was dismasted on earlier this week, just 18 hours after the start of the race.

“Lamotte were a mile ahead of us, it was night time, but we saw them on the AIS (Automatic Identification System), and all of a sudden they weren’t there anymore and we saw a few flashing lights on their deck go past us. We discussed it between us (with co-skipper Fabien Delahaye), what do you think’s happened, neither of us wanted to say it, but we both kind of thought they’d lost the race.

“So, we called our shore team and said if you can find out how they broke it, it would be nice to know because we’ve got exactly the same boat and exactly the same rig, so it definitely hit a nerve when I did it last year and you’re in a transatlantic race and on the first night it’s game over. It hurts quite a lot, so I feel for the guys and hopefully they’ll be back stronger next time.”

At the 15:00 UTC ranking as they entered the fourth day of racing, Leyton were keeping pace and were just five miles behind Aïna Enfance and Avenir (Aymeric Chappellier / Pierre Leboucher), at the front of the 23-boat Class40 fleet (Beijaflore became the fourth boat to abandon this morning).

The race in Class40 looks like a battle of attrition as they exit the Bay of Biscay and approach Cape Finisterre. The conditions only eased of temporarily today – giving Goodchild a moment to talk – and dry some clothes.

Compared to the IMOCA, the fleet is much more homogenous, with only Crédit Mutuel, opting to go a little further west, which for the moment does not look very successful. It has been hard going for all as they head upwind at under 8 knots as cautiously as one descends steps covered in ice.

“Today, it’s easier physically, but mentally harder because the wind is really not very stable, it’s shifting through 30-40 degrees and going from 10 knots to 18 knots, which is not very relaxing,” Goodchild said.

“Looking forward to being able to dry that off again today, because tonight and tomorrow again look a bit more bumpy going upwind again. We’re just to keep things in one piece and stay in the game until we get into slightly nicer conditions.”

The extraordinary split in the IMOCA fleet continued yesterday with a band of five mavericks fully investing heavily in the west and heading into the large low-pressure system which they hope will slingshot them into the trade winds faster than the southerners. If they are right we will almost have to turn the leaderboard upside down as it currently shows Hugo Boss in 22nd place in the 29-boat fleet, 171 miles behind the new leader, PRB.

Thomson said today (Wednesday) that heading west was not a strategy but had been forced upon he and co-skipper, Neal McDonald by sail damage – but that it might still pay off.

“It’s been pretty tiring out here for the first days, lots of little niggles and stuff. Not quite right. But still, very happy with how we’re doing. We had a storming VMG, or reach, out of the Channel. It was pretty amazing. Startlingly fast, very happy with that,” Thomson said in his first communication after this pulsating first 72 hours.

“And then at Ushant we had some sail damage. One of our reaching sails, the tack loops of it ripped off the sail for some reason so that was a bit of a pain. And hence we lost a load of miles and basically it stopped us from following the south route hence our push the west, which may still work out. It’s certainly not a forgone conclusion that it’s going to be wrong.

“The boats to the south are going to have to cross a ridge, quite a light ridge of high pressure, so very light winds. For us, we’ll be crossing the similar reach around about Saturday and it should be easier for us and it should be a very good angle, wind angle – a fast run down to the equator. Neal and I are both very tired. Not much sleep but we’re not in bad shape. We’re about to get stuck into this sail repair. We’re still in the race so pretty happy.”

With Thomson in the west are Boris Herrmann (Germany) and Will Harris (Britain) on Malizia II Yacht Club de Monaco; and three French boats, Bureau Vallée II, Maître CoQ IV, and Prysmian Group. The weather files show 35 to 40 knots and a very confused sea state for ten hours awaiting them. They are all banking on that ridge stopping the southerners, who are back in much more benign reaching conditions as they approach Lisbon.

Leading since Ushant, Charal, has been overtaken by PRB, knitted a masterstroke on the tip of Galicia, tacking just a mile away from the coast as they threaded the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) at Cape Finisterre. Britain’s Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) third overnight, has slipped back to fifth, but only 11 miles separate the front five. America’s Charlie Enright (11th Hour Racing) is only seven miles behind in sixth.

To catch the trade winds, the southerners will have to cross an area of high pressure around the archipelago of Madeira.

Meanwhile, German skipper Isabelle Joschke and French co-skipper Morgan Lagravière on MACSF are heading to Lorient today to try and fix their keel and re-start the race. They had diverted to Brest early on Monday (October 28) evening.


1 – Aïna Enfance & Avenir
2 – Leyton
3 – Made in Midi

1 – Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP

1 – PRB
2 – Apivia
3 – Charal

Estimated race times:
Multi50: 11 days
IMOCA: 13-14 days
Class40: 19 days

Race detailsEntry list – TrackerFacebook

First held in 1993, the biennial Transat Jacques Vabre has three fleets of doublehanded teams – Class40s, Multi50s, and IMOCA 60S – competing from Le Havre, France’s to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. The 4350nm race started October 27, 2019.

Source: Transat Jacques Vabre


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