Storms clear for Transat Jacques Vabre
Published on November 4th, 2023
It has been all about caution for the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre as storms disrupt the course for the doublehanded teams. With a planned start on October 29 for the biannual race from Le Havre in northern France to Martinique in the French Caribbean, only Class Ultim were deemed fast enough to outrun the destructive conditions.
While the Ocean Fifty multihulls and Class 40 fleet started on schedule, they have been on hold in Lorient where they were stopped to avoid the storm force winds and big seas. They will resume their race on November 6.
As for the record fleet of 40 IMOCAs, they remained docked in Le Havre but the passage of storms Ciaran and Domingos now offers a suitable weather window to start on November 7.
“The sea will have calmed significantly in the Bay of Biscay as in the English Channel,” explains Christian Dumard, the race meteorologist. “The general westerly flow continues from the Atlantic but the starts should be completed in manageable conditions. A new front does look set to come in and hit the Atlantic coasts from Wednesday (Nov. 8) but we are seeing winds of 30-35 knots which is much less violent than these recent storms.”
The program is as follows:
Class40 and Ocean Fifty: The race will restart in Lorient on Monday morning (6th November)
Monday at 1030hrs local time, the six Ocean Fifty will set sail on the second leg between Lorient and Fort de France leaving the island of Sal (Cape Verde) to starboard. This 4320-mile long course will mean that the duos will have to dive south as soon as they are out of the Bay of Biscay. Their speeds should allow them to get away from the front moving into the near Atlantic on Wednesday.
At 1045hrs local time on Monday, the Class40 boats will set sail on a 3500-mile long course to Fort de France. “They will have to leave the island of Santa Maria (Azores) to starboard. This more direct route will mean that the monohulls will have to cross the front, but unlike Storm Ciaran, the winds will not be as strong and there are many more opportunities to avoid them, including in the Bay of Biscay,” explained Christian Dumard.
“The first boats will leave the pontoons in Lorient at eight in the morning,” added Francis Le Goff, the Race Director. “The start line will be set up between Talud Point in Lorient and a mark positioned offshore at a distance of around one mile with a buoy in place for both classes.
“To avoid the worst winds and the deep low forecast for the 11th-12th, we have put in place a mark that the sailors will have to pass to take them to the South. That is to say Santa Maria in the Azores for the Class40 boats and a waypoint in the south for the Ocean Fifty boats that we are working on with the Race Directors based on the latest weather forecasts, and which won’t limit the skippers’ options too much.”
Two boats have officially retired in the Class40 class (Movember and Acrobatica). Three boats are undergoing repairs (Crédit Mutuel, Sogestrans-Seafrigo and Dékuple) and they have said they intend to set sail again on Monday. As for P-Rêve à perte de vue, the crew has not officially retired, but the boat is still in the harbor in Le Havre.
“At this point, we cannot give a precise figure for the number of boats that will set off again. We will discover that at the last moment depending on how repairs have gone,” added Francis Le Goff. “It is important to stress that the start line will remain open for another 72 hours after that.”
IMOCA: big departure Tuesday November 7 at 9:30 a.m. from Le Havre
The 40 IMOCAs will start from Le Havre on Tuesday at 9:30 am local time. They will leave the Paul Vatine basin from 4:00 am and the sea lock gates will be open at 4:45 am until 6:00 am.
The IMOCA’s 3,750 mile course also leaves the island of Santa Maria (Azores) to starboard as do the Class40s. “They will hit the front leaving the Channel on Tuesday evening and Wednesday night with 35 knots from the South/South-West and seas not exceeding 4 meters,” according to Christian Dumard.
“In collaboration with Race Management and the classes, we have calibrated everyone’s courses and timings according to the weather windows to prioritize the safety of sailors and boats,” noted Gildas Gautier, co-director of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre. “That was the prerequisite.
“At the same time, we have done everything possible to ensure that the start of this superb fleet of 40 IMOCAs benefits from the best possible media coverage and we have no doubt that once again, the images will be superb.”
ETA arrivals in Fort-de-France in Martinique of the 4 classes:
• ULTIM: between November 12 in the evening and November 13 in the morning
• IMOCA: November 17
• Ocean Fifty: November 18
• Class40: November 22