Clean start for Transat Jacques Vabre
Published on November 7th, 2021
Le Havre, France (November 7, 2021) – The sun shone, the wind blew and 79 boats in the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre got off the start line at Le Havre bound for Martinique. The weather conditions offered a north-westerly wind between 15 and 20 knots on a choppy sea for the 5 Ultimes, 7 Ocean Fifty, 22 Imoca and 45 Class40s.
The four classes headed, first of all, to a turning mark before heading through the English channel, after which they set a course towards the Atlantic. A long journey lies ahead; 7,500 miles for the largest and fastest class, the Ultimes. The IMOCA and Ocean Fiftys will sail around 6,000 miles with the smallest and slowest Class 40s completing around 4,500 miles.
As the only US team in the IMOCA class, 11th Hour Racing Team’s two boats will see what they can build on after competing in the 2019 race for the first time.
Charlie Enright (USA) who co-skippers the team’s newly launched 60-foot boat ‘Mālama’ alongside Pascal Bidégorry (FRA), is on the newest boat in the IMOCA fleet. Her enclosed-cockpit design and creative livery has drawn a lot of attention to this state-of-the-art ocean racer.
“Although we wish we had more time in the new boat – just two weeks of sailing before the start here – we do feel adequately prepared,” explained Enright. “The forecast for the race doesn’t look too heinous, which is a bonus for us, but it is very complicated.
“We’ll get out of Le Havre with some good breeze, but it will then taper and it will be tricky conditions as we pick our way across the Bay of Biscay and down towards the Cape Verde islands. These conditions bring additional pressures, but I’m looking forward to taking this on.”
The team’s second entry, ‘Alaka’i’, is co-skippered by Justine Mettraux (SUI) and Simon Fisher (GBR), one of five mixed male/female crews across the 22-strong IMOCA fleet. Currently on top of the IMOCA Globe Series World Championship leaderboard with Fisher, Mettraux was confident for the upcoming race.
“With many strong teams and boats in the fleet, it might be a bit over-optimistic to say we’re going for a win as the level is really high,” shared Mettraux. “But Simon and I work really well together and the dynamic between us and our complementary skills onboard compensate for the fact that our boat is slightly older than some others in the fleet. I am super excited and ready to go.”
Fisher hopes to find clarity in the forecast once they get underway. “The forecast is pretty complicated and we have spent a lot of time in the last few days looking at the files with our meteorologist, Marcel Van Trieste.
“We are expecting 15-20 knots at the start with a tricky sea state, and after rounding the turning mark off Étretat and through the English Channel, the big decision will be whether we head out west or down the rhumb line across the Bay of Biscay. It will seem more straightforward when we get out there and are racing alongside the other boats.
Mālama’s Pascal Bidégorry, a Transat Jacques Vabre veteran, with seven editions under his belt including a win in 2015, and a fourth with Enright in the last edition, was looking forward to getting going:
“Charlie and I raced the Transat Jacques Vabre together in 2019 and know each other well. Despite coming from different backgrounds and countries, we communicate well together and share the same competitiveness. Sailing the race on a brand-new boat is a big adventure, and I look forward to doing this with him. As we look ahead to the conditions, we’ll need to be patient and keep a cool head especially in these early days and nights. Anything can happen, let’s see how things will play out!”
For the first time in the history of the race, the sailors have a new course to tackle. Once the fleet has passed through the English channel, the IMOCA fleet will then head south down the Atlantic Ocean, through the Doldrums, before rounding the island of Fernando de Noronha off the Brazilian coast.
The fleet will then head north, once again through the Doldrums and turn north west towards the finish line off Martinique. Current predictions have the IMOCA 60 fleet arriving in Fort de France, Martinique around November 25, after around 17 days and nights offshore.
Race details – YouTube – Facebook – Tracker
The Transat Jacques Vabre is a double-handed race featuring four classes of boats (Class 40, IMOCA, Multi 50, and Ultime) starting November 7 from Le Havre, France. The course endures often brutal winter conditions, with a shift this year for the finish, moving from South America to Martinique in the Caribbean, in addition to various mid-Atlantic turning marks for the four classes. At nearly 30 years old, having first run in 1993 and every two years since, the 15th edition in 2021 attracted a record-breaking 79 boats.
Source: Transat Jacques Vabre, 11th Hour Racing Team