Fourteen skippers – ten French and four foreign sailors – will be lining up on Sunday at the start of the New York-Vendée transatlantic race.
They will have 3100 miles to sail, which on paper at least should essentially be downwind. A genuine warm-up with five months to go to the start of the Vendée Globe, this is going to be an interesting race to follow, as all the favourites from the round the world race are there, with their foilers or boats with straight daggerboards. We take a look today at the line-up for this solo transatlantic crossing, where there are going to be races within the race…
Comparing the foilers
Because so many boats were forced to retire from the Transat Jacques Vabre and so few competitors in the Transat, which on top of that was raced chiefly upwind, we so far only have partial information about the real potential of the foilers. The New York – Vendée Race should cure that and maybe even allow us to draw up a hierarchy of these new boats. Out of the fourteen lining up at the start, all six new foiling IMOCAs will be present – Armel Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire, Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild, Morgan Lagravière’s Safran, Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss, Jean-Pierre Dick’s St-Michel-Virbac and Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back. In addition to these six boats, we need to add the only IMOCA from the previous generation to be fitted with foils, Jérémie Beyou’s Maître Coq.
Conditions close to those in the Vendée Globe
For all of these foilers, this is going to be an opportunity for a downwind race across the Atlantic. In other words, the conditions favoured by the foils, which are also those, which prevail in the Vendée Globe. Looking at the results so far obtained (second in the Transat Jacques Vabre and winner of The Transat), Arlmal Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire stands out as the favourite. But the others aren’t far behind, starting with Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild, as the damage she suffered in the Transat Jacques Vabre wasn’t linked to the foils. Then, there is Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbac, which finished third in The Transat. We should find out more about the potential of Hugo Boss and Safran, which were both delivered to New York. For them, it is a real baptism of fire, as they haven’t done that much racing against the others so far. For Pieter Heerema and his No Way Back, this New-York Vendée may be a way to rebuild his confidence after the problems he encountered in the Calero Solo.
A contest involving straight daggerboards too
What about the boats with straight daggerboards? Let’s not forget that in the last two major IMOCA races, we saw the same two boats in first and second place, but not in the same order. With his PRB, Vincent Riou won the Transat Jacques Vabre and finished second in The Transat, while aboard his Banque Populaire, Armel Le Cléac’h took second place in the Transat Jacques Vabre and won The Transat. Will they make it three in a row? It may not be that simple, as the standard seems to be so high in this New York-Vendée race. We may well see the duel repeated between these two boats, but if we look at the statistics, a similar outcome would seem less likely.
Nevertheless, even in a race, which on paper favours the foilers, some boats fitted with straight daggerboards will also be able to express themselves in this new transatlantic race. PRB of course, as she is the boat from the previous generation that has been fine tuned the most, but there is also Yann Eliès with his Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir (the former Safran I), which made it to third place in the double-handed transatlantic race, and Paul Meilhat’s SMA (the former Macif, winner of the last Vendée Globe and record-holder), particularly as the pressure is no longer on him, after he qualified for the Vendée Globe, finishing in fourth place in The Transat.
As for the outsiders…
Both Fabrice Amedeo and his Newrest-Matmut and Tanguy de Lamotte and his Initiatives Cœur are also already qualified and will be lining up on Sunday. They both know that they won’t be aiming to win the Vendée Globe, but will set off with the aim of finishing and getting the best place possible up in the top half of the rankings. That will also be their goal in this New York – Vendée Race… and let’s not forget that they will be able to race against each other in this race as in the Everest of the seas. Each place will be fought over and we need to compare what can rightly be compared. They will also be focusing on not breaking anything, but then, that is true for all fourteen competitors.
Finally, we have already mentioned two international skippers taking part in this race (the Dutch skipper, Pieter Heerema and the British sailor, Alex Thomson), but the general public will also be discovering two other foreign names in this transatlantic race between the Big Apple and Les Sables d’Olonne (on France’s Atlantic coast). There is the young, but experienced New Zealander, Conrad Colman aboard 100% Natural Energy and the Japanese competitor, Kojiro Shiraishi with his Spirit of Yukoh. For these two sailors finishing the race will be the main goal: to fulfil the sailing requirements to register for the Vendée Globe, Kojiro Shiraishi will have to complete a solo transatlantic crossing on his boat and Conrad Colman will have to have sailed 1500 miles alone. With just five months to go to the Vendée Globe, place your bets…
by Bruno Ménard / Mer and Media